‘Special, poignant’ day as centenary of Beggar’s Bush handover is marked

On February 1st, 1922, British forces began their withdrawal from Ireland, handing the barracks over to the Free State army.
‘Special, poignant’ day as centenary of Beggar’s Bush handover is marked

By James Ward, PA

Relatives of the Irish soldiers who marched through the gates of Beggar’s Bush have hailed the centenary as a “special, poignant” day, 100 years on from the British handover of the army barracks.

On February 1st, 1922, following the adoption of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by the Dáil, which established the Irish Free State, British forces began their withdrawal and handed the barracks to the new Free State army.

Among those present at Beggar’s Bush in south Dublin that day was Commandant Patrick J. Kelly, whose grandson Lt Col Denis Hanly proudly marked the centenary on Tuesday.

“My grandfather, Commandant Patrick J. Kelly, was a member of the original garrison here in Beggar’s Bush,” he told the PA news agency.

Beggars Bush handover centenary
Lt Col Denis Hanly with a picture of his grandfather Patrick J. Kelly, who was present in 1922 (Niall Carson/PA)

“He would have been a member the IRA beforehand, and then he would have joined the National Army and served here in Beggar’s Bush and other places.

“It’s kind of a special, poignant day for me to be here on the anniversary of the National Army taking over the first post.”

“My granddad died in 1963, so I never knew him,” Lt Col Hanly said.

“I knew him from stories by my mother particularly, and my aunts and uncles as well. They were always very proud of him and his connection.

“But interestingly, he never really spoke about his time during the revolutionary period.

“So it was only during my research of the various bits and pieces that I was able to discover the records of the military archives and a copy of his file, and see that he did serve in Beggar’s Bush, and his previous service with the second battalion of the IRA.”

Beggars Bush handover centenary
Defence Forces troops at a ceremony to mark the centenary of the handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks, Haddington Road, Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Lt Col Hanly said the peacekeeping missions undertaken across the world today are “built on the shoulders of the men that marched through the gates here 100 years ago”.

“When we think of what that rebel army was, that marched through the gates, they got their uniforms, they drilled, and they practised for what they had to do,” he said.

“They marched through the gates, and then that rebel army set the foundations of the army and the wider Defence Forces we have today, that serves around the world and serves all over the country as well.

“It’s very special to think of those foundations, the men and women that got them there, the men that marched from here, where we are today.”

He added: “The Defence Forces, like any organisation, the army and the Defence Forces is not without its flaws.

Beggar's Bush handover centenary
Grainne O’Connor Townsend, 83, and her nieces Caitriona Nic Mhuiris and Eadaoin Morrish show General Anthony Cudmore a photo featuring Grainne’s father during the handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks (Niall Carson/PA)

“But I really think about what we’ve achieved in those 100 years, we serve around the world now, the difference we’ve made in places, the difference we’re making today.

“There’s colleagues of mine serving all over the world today, be it Lebanon, Kosovo, Bosnia, Golan, all over.

“And I really think that the foundations that that is built on is on the shoulders of the men that marched through the gates here 100 years ago.”

Also, at the ceremony on Tuesday was 83-year-old Grainne Townsend, who had four family members at Beggar’s Bush that day, her father Sean O’Connor, his brothers Padraig and Michael O’Connor, and her mother’s brother Jim Harper.

She recalled how she had grown up surrounded by stories of the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

Members of the army recreated the march through the gates undertaken by their predecessors a century ago, before the tricolour was raised as the army band played the national anthem, Amhran na bhFiann.

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