The men and women of Kerry who were arrested following the Easter Rising of 1916 feature in our forthcoming book, Kerry 1916: Histories and Legacies of the Easter Rising – A Centenary Record, edited by Bridget McAuliffe, Dr Mary McAuliffe and Owen O’Shea (April 2016). The book – with a foreword by Professor JJ Lee – will include fifteen essays on a diverse range of topics from expert academics and local historicans as well as a detailed timeline of events and images from the period. At the core of the book are the personal stories of those who were arrested and jailed after the rebellion. Here is one example – a man who fought in 1916 and went to become the most senior member of staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas:
Mortimer (Mort) O’Connell was born in Ballinskelligs and worked in Dublin as an excise officer and lived at 34 Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh. While at home in Ballinskelligs on holidays in May 1914, he joined the local company of the Irish Volunteers. Back in Dublin he became acquainted with prominent activists like Bulmer Hobson and Fionán Lynch from Waterville. He joined the F Company of the 1st Battalion of the Dublin Brigade but maintained a low profile because of his employment as an excise officer.
In January 1916, O’Connell became aware that Tim Ring, an IRB member from Valentia, and a Western Union Cable Company employee, was in Dublin at the request of the Supreme Council of the IRB. Ring was being instructed to send a telegram to New York at Easter once the rebellion began to notify supporters in the United States. On Easter Saturday night, O’Connell was instructed to guard leading IRB member Bulmer Hobson who was being held against his will at 76 Cabra Park because of his opposition to the Rising going ahead. He received a telegram from Killorglin on the afternoon of Easter Sunday saying that Con Keating, Donal Sheahan and Charlie Monaghan had drowned at Ballykissane Pier on their way to seize telegram equipment from the Atlantic College in Caherciveen. On Easter Monday, O’Connell went to Blackhall Place with rifles and helped to form a barricade at St Mary’s Lane. He was at various locations during the remainder of the week including Bow Street, Smithfield and Capel Street.
On Friday, 28 April, O’Connell was ordered to retreat to the Four Courts. He was rounded up with others following the surrender and witnessed Captain Lee Wilson singling out Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott and Michael Collins for arrest. O’Connell was taken to Richmond Barracks and was deported to Stafford Jail. He was taken from there to Frongoch in Wales. He remained active during the War of Independence and was arrested in 1920. In later years, he joined the staff of Dáil Éireann, becoming head of the Office of Bills, Assistant Clerk of the Dáil and Clerk of the Dáil in 1948. He died in 1956.