Documentary on OneReprisals

As heard on Documentary On One

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Where may new-married women sit

And suckle children now? Armed

Men may murder them in passing by

Nor law nor parliament take heed.

Then close your ears with dust and lie

Among the other cheated dead.

from Reprisals by WB Yeats


November 1920 and Ireland is a dangerous place. It is the second year of the War of Independence, ambushes and killings are commonplace and the country is gripped with terror. The Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries arrived early that spring having been sent by the British government in response to increased IRA attacks against the Royal Irish Constabulary police force. And they are quickly earning their reputation for ruthlessness in dealing with rebels and civilians alike. Their campaign even reaches as far as the rolling countryside of South Galway. In an event that shocked the nation and shook a close-knit community to the core, the impact of their actions meant that the lives of one young family would never be the same again.

On All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1920, 24-year-old Eileen Quinn was pregnant and standing outside her home near Gort, Co. Galway with her three children. She was anxiously waiting for her husband to return from the fair in Gort. Anxious, because of increased violent activity from forces stationed in the area. As she waits, a military truck passes and shots are fired directly at Eileen. In the eight hours it takes her to bleed to death, a young family’s life is destroyed and the cover-up has already begun.

Now, one hundred years later, Eileen’s grand-niece Orla Higgins, pieces together the events of that fateful day and explores the impact this catastrophic event had on future generations of the family. We hear about Eileen’s shooting from vivid newspaper accounts of the time as well as reports from the Military Tribunal that was held to investigate her death. We also hear first-hand personal reminiscences from her relatives, those best placed to commemorate her memory, as they reveal new stories and untold memories about the short life and tragic death of Eileen Quinn. 

Documentary on One: Reprisals will be broadcast on Saturday 24th August at 1pm on RTÉ Radio 1 and repeated on Sunday 25th August at 7pm. For more, go to

Narrated by: Orla Higgins

Produced by: Orla Higgins & Sarah Blake

© The Listener 2019

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