20 March 2020
By Mary Bermingham
Cork’s first Republican Lord Mayor, Tomás Mac Curtáin was a member of the Irish Volunteers and Commander of Cork IRA’s No.1 Brigade
A passionate Irish speaker and teacher, he was also a gifted musician, poetry lover, and a father and husband.
Today marks the centenary of Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Curtáin’s death. There were several events planned in Cork that have been postponed in line with Ireland’s #COVID19 measures. Instead, St. Peter’s Cork remembers him today with a short video.
It was after midnight when Mac Curtáin’s neighbours heard “a thundering knock at a door followed by shots up and down the street”. Witnessed by his pregnant wife and young children, disguised RIC constables burst into Mac Curtáin’s home, shooting him dead as he came from his bedroom. Soon after, British soldiers and the RIC searched the house, including around the bed where the Lord Mayor was now laid out. It was the morning of Mac Curtáin’s 36th birthday. The murder outraged the public and brought near universal condemnation.
The loss of Mac Curtáin was a major blow to Ireland’s nationalist population. The high esteem in which he was held was evident by the enormous size of his funeral – the largest Cork city had ever seen. An estimated 10,000 people marched in the funeral cortege, which took 90 minutes to pass. Up to 100,000 people lined the city streets. The inquest into the killing stated that the murder was organised and carried out by the RIC. The jury returned a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and other high ranking British political and RIC leaders.