Oglach Tony D'Arcy, Headford, Co.Galway
Died 16th April 1940
Oglach Sean MacNeela, Ballycroy, Co.Mayo
Died 19h April 1940
When Sean Russell was appointed IRA Chief of Staff in 1938 he
immediately appointed Sean McNeela OC England and Tony D'Arcy
OC Western Command.
After a few months of intense activity preparing for a bombing
campaign in England, MacNeela was arrested and sentenced to nine
He returned to Ireland in 1939 and was appointed IRA Director of publicity and produced a weekly paper entitled War News. MacNeela was arrested three weeks later with members of the Radio Broadcast Staff and imprisoned in Mountjoy jail. He was Officer Commanding the prisoners from February 1940, sharing a cell with Tony D'Arcy who had been arrested at a GHQ meeting in 40 Parnell Square in Dublin. D'Arcy was serving a three month sentence for refusing to account for his movements or give his name and address when arrested.
A crisis developed in the prison when Mickey Doherty, of Julianstown, Co, Meath was sentenced to twelve years penal servitude. Instead of being transferred to Arbour Hill, where other republican prisoners had political status, Doherty was lodged in the criminal section of Mountjoy. MacNeela as OC of the republican prisoners requested Doherty's transfer to Arbour Hill. The request was ignored and MacNeela and his prison council decided to launch a hunger strike until the demand was accepted.
Four men joined MacNeela and D'Arcy on the hunger strike. They were Tomas MacCurtain of Cork (the only son of the Martyred Lord Mayor, Jack Plunkett of Dublin, brother of Joseph Mary Plunkett) Tommy Grogan of Drogheda and Michael Traynor of Belfast.
Seven days into the hunger strike Special Branch detectives came to take MacNella for trial before the special Criminal Court. to MacNeela refused to go and barricades were erected in D wing. In the riot that ensued the Special Branch and the Metropolitan Police were deployed in force against the prisoners. D'Arcy was rendered unconscious from blows by a baton and MacNeela was pummelled by blow after blow. The wounds received by MacNeela and D'Arcy never healed.
MacNeela was taken away that evening to be tried and sentenced by the Special Criminal Court. He was charged with "conspiracy to usurp a function of Government" and sentenced to two years.
On the eve of St Patrick's Day all six hunger strikers were removed to St.Bricins military hospital. On the 54th night of the hunger strike, Tony D'Arcy cried out "Sean i’m dying", Sean replied "i'm coming Tony". The other prisoners appealed to MacNeela not to get out of bed as he was very weak and they felt that it would kill him but D'Arcy's cry concerned him and he staggered across the room to his comrade, later that night Tony was taken out to a private ward.
Tony D'Arcy, IRA Volunteer from Headford, Co Galway died the following night 16th April 1940.
The day following D'Arcy's removal from the ward, Sean MacNeela's uncle, Mick Kilroy, the Fianna Fail T.D, came to see him. He attacked Sean for "Daring to embarrass de Velera" the "Heaven-sent leader" by such action and demanded that MacNeela give up his hunger strike at once. MacNeela ordered him out of the room.
The next day, 19th April 1940, Sean MacNeela, IRA Volunteer from Ballycroy, Co Mayo died.
An IRA order to end the hunger strike had been sent by GHQ the day before but had not arrived in time.