Dermot Lynch (b. 1930)
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Dermot Lynch (b. 1930)


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Dr Dermot Lynch initially explains that his earliest memory relates to a time in the early 1930s at his home in Dublin. His paternal grandmother, Ellie M. McCarthy, was born in 1853 and she was in her 80s during Dermot’s childhood. His grandfather was Finian Lynch, who was born in 1849. He and his wife Ellie were master and mistress of Kilmakeran National School in Kerry, and Dermot recalls the controversy associated with their move to the school. The couple had 11 children and Dermot’s father Fionán, who was born on 17th March 1889, was the seventh child and the fourth boy. Dermot names his aunts and uncles and talks about their lives. He also explains that his mother was Brigid Slattery from Tralee. Fionán’s father died around the time he finished school, so he could not attend university to study medicine. In 1911 he qualified as a teacher from St Patrick’s College in Dublin, having previously been awarded a B.A. in Celtic Studies from UCD. Dermot recounts an anecdote relating to the oral Irish examiner. Fionán stayed with his aunt during this time and he met his life-long friend, Gearóid O’Sullivan, in Dublin. He taught Irish in Swansea in South Wales prior to his qualification. On his return to teach in Dublin, Fionán and Gearóid O’Sullivan joined the Gaelic League in 1912, where they met Seán MacDermott and Tom Clarke, who ran a tobacconist shop at Rutland Square (now Parnell Square). They also met Arthur Griffith at this time. Dermot says that Tom Clarke favoured armed struggle while Seán MacDermott was between Clarke and Griffith politically. Tom Clarke was chairman of the Keating Branch with Cathal Brugha as president. Piaras Beaslaí was a senior member of the branch. Dermot remembers his father talking about Tom Clarke and his shop, but explains that most of what he knows he did not pick up directly from his parents. The Irish language was very important to Fionán, though his wife Brigid did not speak Irish and the language was not spoken in the house. Dermot says that his father did not agree with the introduction of compulsory Irish in schools introduced by a Fianna Fáil government. Fionán’s attitude to the proposed implementation of Home Rule in 1914 is considered, and the role of Arthur Griffith and the foundation of the Sinn Féin party is discussed. The Keating branch of the Gaelic League joined the Irish Volunteers en masse in November 1913. Seán MacDermott invited Fionán Lynch to join the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The excommunication of the IRB by the Catholic Church was ignored by Fionán. His son explains that he thought it was wrong, though not all the men were of this view. Fionán Lynch was promoted to Captain of F Company, 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade. The development of the Irish Volunteers is discussed. The death of Con Keating, which occurred on Easter Sunday 1916, is recalled and Dermot talks about the arms that Casement had caused to be brought in on board the Aud. He details the messages which were being sent via the embassy in New York, as the ship had no radio. Dermot says that his father was not a critical type of person and that he never said anything about the mix-up in Tralee at that time, nor did he apportion blame. Dermot recalls that in the late 1930s and 1940s, when monuments were being erected for republicans who had been killed by ‘The Free Staters’ during the Civil War, Fionán felt that comparable memorials were not being erected to those who had founded the state. He was very much pro-Treaty and had been friendly with Michael Collins. Dermot makes the point that they were also republicans but of a more pragmatic, practical nature. Fionán Lynch made a speech in the Dáil in support of the Treaty and he served as Minister for Education in the Provisional Government. In January 1916, while working as a teacher at St Michans’s School in Dublin, he was informed by the Educational Board that his membership of the Irish Volunteers was not acceptable. Dermot explains that Fionán informed F Company that he would have to lie low for a while, but he reappeared at Easter 1916. (While he was Minister for Education in 1922, he disbanded the Educational Board). Dermot discusses the role of the 1916 Rising in the gaining of Irish independence. Fionán Lynch’s death sentence was commuted immediately to ten years’ penal servitude when public opinion had begun to oppose the leaders’ executions. He was sent from Mountjoy to Portland Prison on the Isle of Wight. His son Dermot remembers, in a cabinet in his Dublin home, a convict’s cap from Portland prison, once owned by Fionán. Dermot’s maternal grandfather, Tom Slattery of Tralee, was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and he explains that the route taken by the IRB in Kerry was not through the Gaelic League but through the GAA. Tom Slattery died in 1921 Fionán Lynch was elected Sinn Féin TD for Kerry South in December 1918 and for Kerry-Limerick West in May 1921, and his son Dermot recalls his dealings with his constituents by letter. Dermot explains that by the War of Independence, the insurgents were divided into two groups, with the military wing (Michael Collins and his men) having to remain concealed. He tells the story of a meeting marking the execution of Roger Casement in Co. Limerick, adding that within a few weeks the speakers were arrested. He discusses the hunger strike embarked on by prisoners, including his father, in 1917and the effects of the death of Thomas Ashe. Fionán Lynch was held at Strangeways Prison in Manchester and on his release, he described the interior of the prison to Michael Collins’s men to help with a proposed jailbreak. Fionán and Michael Collins had made contact through Gearóid O’Sullivan, and Dermot explains that Fionán’s aunt, Myra McCarthy, had a hotel which was used by Michael Collins as his address. Fionán Lynch’s role was to be on the political side of the struggle. He was well known in Kerry and was elected TD for South Kerry while in prison. Dermot talks about Arthur Griffith and his masterminding of the political side. A small nucleus of men met at the Mansion House and although Griffith was steering the organisation, Cathal Brugha chaired the meeting. In Dermot’s opinion, Arthur Griffith rather than de Valera should have been President. Dermot details the sequence of events from the Truce in 1921, and explains that Michael Collins was detailed to go to London for the negotiations though he was a military rather than a political man. Fionán Lynch also went to London as a member of the secretariat, and his son does not remember his father regretting the signing of the Treaty. The men went as plenipotentiaries with full signing powers, though de Valera asked to be kept informed. Collins eventually signed as a plenipotentiary, not subject to de Valera, but subject to the Dáil and the Westminster parliament. Both parliaments voted in favour of the Treaty, Dermot says, though personal grievances then seemed to intervene, and Civil War broke out. At this time, Fionán Lynch was serving with the Irish Army, with responsibility for Kerry and Cork, places which were very anti-Treaty. Dermot recalls that his father deplored the outrages carried out by both sides. In addition, the infrastructure of the country was damaged during the Civil War and no funds were available to carry out repairs. The period from 1932 onwards is recalled, when Fionán Lynch was elected TD in a three-seater constituency and his son remarks that the family depended on the outcome of each election for its income. In 1931, Lynch was called to the Bar and worked on the Midlands circuit. In the late 1930s he suffered his first heart attack, though he recovered well. An election was called in 1938 and Dermot recalls an electoral agreement which meant his father was elected unopposed. The results of the signing of the Treaty are again discussed, as is the policy of the republicans to execute pro-Treaty TDs. Fionán Lynch became the only TD who was elected to, and served in, every Dáil from 1918 to 1944, at which point he was appointed a Circuit Court judge. Dermot remarks that apparently not all republicans agreed with the execution of pro-Treaty TDs and thus his father remained unharmed. He tells an anecdote about his father in Kenmare in the 1920s, adding that for protection during this period he carried small arms at all times and had a military guard. Dermot refers to the recording of Fionán Lynch, Risteard Mulcahy and others on vinyl disc.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

69.36 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Fionán Lynch (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore