Serious Reverse For I.R.A. at Mourne Abbey

(Irish War of Independence - Second Cork Brigade)

The monument at Mourne Abbey to Mallow battalion column members who lost their lives when their position was revealed to the British by an informer .

The most serious reverse suffered by a battalion of the Second Cork Brigade occurred a few miles from Mallow on 15th. February, 1921.

Mallow Battalion Column, under Commandant Jack Cunningham, occupied a position about a mile south of Mourne Abbey. A conference of senior British officers was being held at division headquarters in Cork around that time and the intention was to attack a convoy travelling to or from the conference. Thirteen I.R.A. riflemen, were posted on the rising ground west of the main road. Sections armed with shotguns were also positioned on the eastern side of the road. Scouts were posted and all was ready by the early hours of the morning of 15th. February.

Cycling into Mallow on the Burnfort road that morning a local lady, Siobhan Lankford, encountered two lorry loads of troops and police. Aware that an I.R.A. operation was planned for Mourne Abbey she immediately became suspicious of the mission of the occupants of the two enemy lorries. When she reached Mallow she asked Daniel McDonnell, the Mallow Com­pany I.O., to get to Mourne Abbey and warn the officers there. McDonnell cycled to Mourne Abbey along the main road and located battalion commandant, Tadg Byrne near the southern end of the ambush position. Together they crossed the Clydagh, a stream flowing parallel to and beside the road, to the position where Commandant Cunningham was with the riflemen.

One I.R.A. section managed to fight their way out of the trap along this road. Four others were shot dead on the rising ground to the left.

Within a few minutes firing started, to the north east of the ambush position. Protective sections there were engaging British troops. Reports came in indicating the presence of enemy forces on three sides of the position. Suddenly the column found that it was in the role of ambushed rather than ambusher. The British forces were equipped machine guns and armoured vehicles. In the circumstances the column was forced to withdraw, fighting its way out as best it could. Sections to the west of the road were lucky in that one British detachment was slow in taking up position, leaving a gap through which they were able to retreat westward towards Dromahane.

However, the sections on the eastern side, where the first shots were fired, fared badly. Three men Patrick Flynn, Monee, (aged 25), Patrick Dorgan, Island, (22) and Eamon Creedon, Clogheen, (20) were shot dead. Another man, Michael Looney, Island, (30) died later of his wounds,. Eight prisoners were taken, of whom two were subsequently executed at Cork. They were Patrick Ronayne, aged 24, of Greenhill and Thomas Mulcahy, Toureen, aged 18, both of whom were members of the Burnfort company.

It was discovered some time later that it was an informer by the name of Dan Shields who gave details of the position of the ambush to the British authorities. Shields was also responsible for a raid, two weeks later, on two republican columns at Nadd, near Banteer in which three volunteers lost their lives.