Pádraig Ó Conchubhair

(14/03/1901 - 10/05/1953)

Pádraig Ó Conchubhair, born in Limerick in 1901, was a soldier and revolutionary renowned for his fierce spirit and dedication to the cause of Irish nationalism . Pádraig took part in the burning of the Crumlin Police barracks, the attack of the Halfway House in Walkinstown, an ambush at Sally’s Bridge and lived locally in 9 Mangerton Road, Drimnagh.

His father, Seana Sheán O’Connor, a staunch trade unionist and Irish-language enthusiast, Pádraig imbibed the spirit of rebellion from a young age. Alongside his brothers, Mícheál and Seán Óg, he honed his ideals at Killaloe Boys School in Co. Clare, under the tutelage of his father. The family moved to live in Celbridge on request by the Gaelic League where his father worked as a Irish teacher.

Pádraig claims membership of the Irish Volunteers from 1914.  In the years leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916, Pádraig and his family found themselves entrenched in the struggle for independence. From joining the Celbridge company of the Irish Volunteers to procuring arms at Howth alongside his father, Pádraig was an integral part of the fight for freedom.

Despite his tender age, Pádraig’s commitment to the cause knew no bounds. Shot and wounded during a skirmish in Inchicore and later arrested for his involvement in IRA activities, he faced adversity with his resolve. He was arrested in October 1919 and imprisoned until March 1920 in Derry and Mountjoy prisons. Rising through the ranks to become a captain in the IRA, he played a pivotal role in key operations, including the burning of Crumlin police barracks and the Custom House.

Burning of the Crumlin Police Barracks (May 1920) – Witness Statement from Pádraig

“Instructions were given that vacated police barracks in the Battalion Area were to be destroyed. Our Company was detailed to burn down Crumlin Barracks. This Barracks was a strong building and it was decided that it should be blown up as well as burned. There was one party detailed for the burning and a small party of engineers were responsible for the mining of it, one of whom was Joe Larkin of Balbriggan. There was also a party in the telephone exchange to hold the telephone exchange and when the operation. was over, to destroy it. After the building had been saturated with petrol someone made the mistake of opening a dark lantern and the building went up in flames immediately. The engineer, Larkin, was trapped inside, setting his charges, and he was severely burned before he got out. There was an alarm given that military were approaching so the Company withdrew, bringing Larkin with them. Larkin was brought to Miss Bushel’s house in Inchicore and as it was after curfew we couldn’t get a medical officer to attend him until the following day. Three doctors turned up – Dr. Cox and Dr. Reddin, I brought him from the Coombe: I can’t remember the third doctor. It was Doctor Cox handled the case. After consultation it was decided he should. They moved Larkin to a house in Bluebell – Miss Flood’s – and he was in grave danger for about three weeks, but he recovered completely. The burning operation was a failure. The building was too strong to destroy without the aid of the mines.”

In December 1920 Patrick O’Connor joined the Dublin Brigade Active Service Unit and in 1921 took part in attacks on British forces/targets at Dolphin’s Barn, Ballyfermot, Inchicore, Halfway House and the Customs House.

Halfway House Ambush May 1921- Witness Statement by Pádraig

Following on the destruction of military transport by the Active Service Unit, the British authorities provided armed guards for all their transport. In the case of troops going on local leave from Baldonnel into the city they were taken in by two trucks and an armed guard was provided for them in a third truck. The soldiers going on leave were not armed. Hitherto these soldiers usually travelled into the city by civilian transport. On one occasion they were taken off the bus by younger members of “F” Company, 4th Battalion, and deprived of their uniforms. The British then decided that they would have to provide military transport for them. From observation on our part we saw that these trucks travelled to the city about 4.30 p.m. so we decided to stage an ambush on the armed truck when returning to Baldonnel, having left the other two trucks in town.

On the evening of the 5th May, 1921, the Section Commander, Mickey Sweeney, ordered every man of his Section to mobilise at the Half Way House on the Crumlin Road, at which position he had decided to stage an ambush. His plan was to put two good shots, with a peter-the-painter and a parabellum, inside the wall of the lane going to Lansdowne Valley which enfiladed the road. Their particular job was to concentrate, on the driver and put him out of action. The remainder of the Section lined the hedge from the Half-Way House to the corner of that lane. The Section Commander and Jim McGuinness, armed with grenades, were to take up positions in the public lavatory adjoining the Half-Way House and immediately the lorry came abreast of them they were to walk out and throw their grenades into it at short range. I should mention that Sweeney was carrying with him a big and special type of grenade, much bigger than the ordinary hand-grenade, about the size of a pineapple. He felt that he could not miss with this grenade on a short throw. That was the reason that he took up the position so close to the passing truck.

On the evening in question the entire Section took its positions as planned and didn’t have long to wait before a truck came along. It contained about ten armed soldiers. As the truck came abreast of our positions McGuinness and Sweeney stepped out on to the roadway, Sweeney throwing his grenade at the truck. It hit the canopy of the vehicle and fell back exploding on the road. The two men in position behind the wall, opened up on the driver with the result that the truck gave a wide swerve on to the bank on the side of the road and was tilted into the main ambush position. Simultaneously, the main ambush party opened fire with everything they had. The truck righted itself and went on. Evidently the driver was only wounded. We withdrew from our positions but we were told later that we had caused heavy casualties. As a matter of interest, I met the driver of that truck later in our Army in 1922. He started to tell me of the Half Way House ambush, not knowing that I was one of the ambushing party. Our Section Commander, Michael Sweeney, was badly wounded and McGuinness was slightly wounded by the bursting grenades. They exploded on the roadway.”

A.S.U. Attack British party at Sally’s Bridge – Witness Statement by Pádraig

“Sometime before the Half-Way House ambush, No. 4 Section attacked a British column marching on the canal from Portobello Barracks. On this occasion we took up positions inside the graveyard wall at Mount Jerome Cemetry and, as the rearguard of the British column topped Sally’s Bridge, we opened tire on them and caused a number of casualties. The main body thought that they were being attacked, on the South Circular Road and fired indiscriminately at windows there.”

With the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Pádraig faced a momentous decision. Choosing pragmatism over idealism, he joined the Irish Free State’s national army, where his courage and leadership earned him the rank of commandant. He was with the Dublin Guards when that unit took over Beggars Bush Barracks from the British Army. Patrick O’Connor served throughout the Civil War and left the Defence Forces on 31 March 1928 while serving at the rank of Colonel.

Beyond his military career, Pádraig remained a stalwart advocate for the Irish language, instrumental in the creation of the first Irish-speaking battalion of the national army. Even in retirement, his commitment to service never waned, as he continued to serve with the reserve during the Emergency.

With Pádraig’s passing in 1953, he left behind a proud lineage, survived by his son, Pádraig Óg, and three daughters, Róisín, Móna, and Caitlín, ensuring that his memory would endure for generations to come.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Revolutionary and soldier who took part in the burning of Crumlin police barracks May 1920.