Return To Main Page


Looking For Roots


Sweeney History


Terence MacSwiney

Terence MacSwiney was born in Cork. A poet and revolutionary, he was the first West Cork member to be elected to Dáil Éireann. He became Lord Mayor of Cork, and Officer Commanding the First Cork Brigade, after the death of his close friend and Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás McCurtáin, who was murdered by British Forces in 1920. At a meeting of the Cork Corporation on the 21st April 1920 MacSwiney moved the following resolution:

"That we the Corporation of Cork assembled bring under the notice if the Executive of Dáil Éireann, the government of the Irish Republic, that the jury who sat at the inquest of our late Lord Mayor, Alderman Tomás MacCurtáin, brought in a verdict of wilful murder, against the R.I.C., and the executive of the British government, and that we call on the executive of the government of the Irish Republic, to bring this verdict under the notice of all the governments of the civilised world, asking them to take a united diplomatic action to compel the English army of occupation to evacuate our country. That we further declare, that if the Lord Mayor of a city can be murdered with impunity, by the authority of a supposedly civilised government, the foundation of the government of all nations will be imperilled"

The resolution was duly passed.

On the 12th August at a meeting with Volunteer officers in the City Hall, the building was surrounded and MacSwiney was arrested. He was charged as follows:

"A Courtmartial over which Colonel James, Staffordshire Regiment, presided, assembled at Victoria Barracks, Cork, yesterday, when the following charges were preferred against the Right Hon. Terence Mac Sweeney, Lord Mayor of Cork.
1. Without lawful Authority or excuse being in possession of a cypher, on August 12th, which cypher was the numerical Cypher issued to the R.I.C.
2. Having this under his control.
3. Being in possession of documents, the publication of which would be likely to cause disaffection to his Majesty (this was the resolution passed by the Corporation, acknowledging the Authority of and pledging allegiance to Dáil Éireann).
4. Copy of speech the Lord Mayor made when elected successor to Lord Mayor MacCurtain"

When asked if represented by Counsel, the Lord Mayor replied: "I would like to say a word about your proceedings here. The position is that I am the Lord Mayor of Cork, and Chief Magistrate of this city, and I declare this court illegal, and those who take part in it are liable to arrest under the laws of the Irish Republic."

The Lord Mayor had not taken any food since his arrest. From the day before his arrest, between fifty and sixty prisoners went on hunger strike, which lasted from 11th August to 17th November. The courtmartial found Terence MacSwiney not guilty on the first charge, but guilty on the remaining, and sentenced him to two years imprisonment.

Before sentence the Lord Mayor addressed the court: "I wish to state that I will put a limit to any term of imprisonment you may impose, because of the action I will take. I have taken no food since Thursday, therefore I will be free in a month." On the 18th August Terence MacSwiney was taken on board a British naval sloop, and transferred to Brixton Prison where he was detained until his death on the 25th October 1920, the 74th day of his hunger strike. The people of Ireland were enraged at the treatment of MacSwiney by the British, and each day of hunger strike that passed, helped to turn the attention of the world to the plight of the Irish Cause and soon brought about the end of the War of Independence and British withdrawal from the Irish Republic.

Have you got a story you would like to see here?
Send it to us at

<< Back To Notable Sweeneys
Click here to visit the
Sweeney Clan Shop


© Sweeney Clan 2003 Web Site by John Michael Sweeney