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Tyrone man who armed 1916 rebels and went on to collude with Hitler

By Nelson McCausland

Published 24/03/2016

Joseph McGarrity
Joseph McGarrity

The names of men like James Connolly and Patrick Pearse are those which usually come to mind when people talk about the 1916 Easter insurrection in Dublin. However, there is one name that is often overlooked and that is Joseph McGarrity.

He wasn't there in Dublin in 1916, but without him there might not have been an insurrection at all because he helped to fund and arm the rebels.

McGarrity was born near Carrickmore in Co Tyrone in 1874 and became devoted to Irish nationalism and Gaelic culture.

However, at the age of 18, he sailed for America and settled in Philadelphia.

He purchased a public house and, as he prospered, he acquired other businesses as well.

In 1893 he joined Clan na Gael, the American sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and, in September 1912, he was elected to the national executive of the Clan.

He breathed new life into Clan na Gael and remained the leading figure in the organisation for the rest of his life.

He was an unrepentant, physical force republican.

As an Irish-American republican he played a key role in the days before Easter 1916.

At the 2012 Easter commemoration in Carrickmore, a Sinn Fein councillor said: "Joe McGarrity provided the finance for Roger Casement's shipment of arms ahead of the Easter Rising, as well as other shipments.

A view of Sackville Street (O'Connell St) and the River Liffey at Eden Quay showing the devastation wrought in the Easter Rising
PANews BT_P-11847282-d377-4278-b408-17a95224663d_I1.jpg

"It is accepted by those involved that without McGarrity's involvement the Rising wouldn't have happened."

In the years after that he continued to fund and organise the shipment of guns to Irish republicans and he is especially remembered for his role before and during the Second World War.

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In 1939 McGarrity worked with IRA leader Sean Russell in implementing a terrorist bombing campaign in Britain and one of those involved in the bombings was Dominic Adams, an uncle of Gerry Adams.

McGarrity also collaborated directly with the Nazis and sought their support for the IRA. Indeed, he was the initial link between Irish republicans and the Nazis. He met German agents in America and travelled to Berlin, where he met the senior Nazi Hermann Goring.

Russell was another collaborator and so the IRA in Ireland and Clan na Gael in America were both controlled by men who were happy to collaborate with Hitler.

Sinn Fein often talks about "collusion" and it is keen to accuse others of "collusion", but what about the republican movement, both Sinn Fein and especially the IRA? Was there not "collusion" between the IRA, its Irish-American supporters like McGarrity and the Nazis?

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Sometimes it is described as "collaboration" and those involved are referred to as "Nazi collaborators", but "collusion" is an equally good alternative.

In 2010 the Sinn Fein branch in Carrickmore was renamed and became the Frank Ward/Joseph McGarrity Cumann. West Tyrone Sinn Fein stated that this was to raise awareness of the man and "in recognition of his historical contribution".

Martin McGuinness and Barry McElduff were even photographed in front of the 1916 Easter Proclamation holding a framed picture of McGarrity.

The party had produced 110 framed prints of the collaborator and they were put on sale at £40 each.

So, what do McGuinness, McElduff and other Sinn Fein politicians think of this "great republican" and his role as a Nazi collaborator?

Indeed, why did they rename one of their branches after a Nazi collaborator?

Perhaps Stephen Nolan or William Crawley could ask one of them about McGarrity?

This is certainly a perfect opportunity to ask them as we approach the centenary of 1916 in which McGarrity played such an important part.

I also wonder if those who are celebrating the 1916 Easter insurrection, whether in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, or abroad, will find a place in their story for Joseph McGarrity, the Irish republican who helped to arm the 1916 rebels and then collaborated with the Nazis?

Belfast Telegraph

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