DOC Series: Ballykinlar Internment Camp

We continue our Decade of Centenaries series by focusing on a scrapbook kept by Frank Carney, a prisoner in Ballykinlar Internment Camp.

Frank Carney was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh on April 25, 1896. He joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the outbreak of war in 1914, but due to continuous bouts of ill health, he was discharged from the British Army in December 1915. Carney joined the Irish Volunteers and rose rapidly to become Officer Commanding for County Fermanagh in 1918. He was also a prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and was close to his Commanding Officer, General Michael Collins.

In 1920, in the middle of the Irish War of Independence, Carney was appointed Officer Commanding of the 1st Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army, with the rank of Brigadier. However, just a few weeks later, the British Army were informed that Frank Carney was meeting his IRA Captains in Sweeney’s Hotel in Dungloe, County Donegal. They arrested Carney and his Captains, and they were taken to Derry Jail. Carney was then sent to Ballykinlar Internment camp in County Down where he remained until the signing of the Truce.

Carney’s collection is small and consists of a photocopy of a scrapbook he compiled while in Ballykinlar Internment Camp, Count Down. It includes poems by Carney and his fellow internees; aphorisms of a nationalist nature; cartoons and autographs. Each entry is signed by the author with his name and address. 

After the signing of the Treaty, Carney was Chief Supplies Officer of the National Army, and he was one of the first Officers to accept the hand-over from British Forces at Beggar’s Bush Barracks in January 1922. In June 1922, when the Civil War began in Ireland,  Carney was based in Portobello Barracks. He was commanded to hand over armaments by his commanding officer, General Eoin O’Duffy, so that these could be used to fire-bomb the entrenched anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts building in Dublin. Carney was a senior officer in the National Army, but he refused to hand over the armaments. He held the view that he would not to be involved in any form of violence against those who had been his brothers-in-arms just a few months before. Carney and some of his fellow officers were arrested, but were freed after a short time. He was one of the few officers and veterans of the War of Independence who refused to take part in the Irish Civil War and he became a founder member of a small Neutrality Group, encouraging others not to fight. For this he won the respect of all sides in the Óireachtas when he took his seat in Dáil Éireann in 1927.

Carney won his seat in the Dáil on his first attempt, when he was elected for the Donegal constituency at the June 1927 general election. He was re-elected at the September 1927 and 1932 general elections. On the morning of October 19, 1932 Frank Carney was in Dublin for the first day of a new session of the Dáil when he suddenly collapsed and died. He was just 36 years old.

This scrapbook gives an amazing insight into what these imprisoned republicans were feeling in a little known internment camp at a very tumultuous time in Irish history.

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