Tomorrow we have another bundle of hundred years of joy as we look at yet another in the series of inglorious atrocities of the Civil War when our own people turned against each other.
his began in west Mayo and ended in adjacent County Sligo with events surrounding the so-called ‘Storming of Ballina’. Popular legend has it that while Free State soldiers held off their masses, anti-Treaty forces under the command of Commander Liam Pilkington overwhelmed the garrison and retook this magnificent city, carrying 100 rifles, 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 25,000 pounds in their possession bring stock.
Again, one has to face the awfulness of it all, and it also raises the age-old questions of who is and isn’t remembered by popular lore. The events in Ballina led to the death of Joe Ring, a valiant fighter in the Revolutionary War, a founding leader of that state’s first police force, and a commander of the army that defended that country’s first government.
After his release from Frongoch, he re-engaged in IRA activities, resulting in his widowed mother losing her husband’s RIC pension
To reflect on who is remembered and who is not, take the example of Kevin Barry, who famously “gave his young life for the cause of liberty” when he attacked a British Army bread wagon on September 20, 1920, leading to a historic became an icon. Much of his enduring fame is credited to the rebel song, and part of that to his youthful, athletic photograph, although few mention that he wore a rugby shirt rather than a GAA shirt.
Far fewer people remember Frank Flood, only months older than Kevin Barry when he was executed at Mountjoy Prison in March 1921, and only nine months after Barry was killed. Frank Flood was the youngest of a group that later became known as “The Forgotten 10”.
That says a lot. Likewise, few remember Michael Joseph Ring. But his name and that of many others deserve to be remembered.
But let’s go back to Ballina in September 1922 and keep things a little simpler. On Tuesday, September 12, 1922, the main action took place when most of the pro-treaty forces were at a funeral mass and the anti-treaty side retook the city.
This was a reversal of an action earlier in the month when Free State forces captured Ballina by landing from the sea. Joe Ring, who had been seconded back to the National Army from the Young Civic Guards, commanded this operation, which proved successful and challenged the anti-treaty group’s claims of commanding all of western Mayo.
This so-called ‘naval project’ was part of a similar series of sea landings in Limerick, Cork and Kerry and undoubtedly shortened the heartbreaking conflict known in Irish as ‘Cogadh na gCarad’ – the war between friends.
Joe Ring’s story is interesting for many reasons. He was born Michael Joseph Ring on August 17, 1891 in Westport. His father was a sergeant in the RIC and he was the fourth in a family of eight.
Three of his brothers emigrated to the United States and one, Jim, fought in the American armed forces in World War I.
Joe Ring joined the Westport Volunteers in 1915 and among his comrades was Major John MacBride, a Boer War veteran who was one of the leaders of the 1916 insurgents who was later executed.
After the 1916 Easter Rising, Ring was among those imprisoned and spent time with the likes of Michael Collins at the ‘revolutionary university’ of Frongoch in North Wales.
After his release, he re-engaged in IRA activities in western Mayo, resulting in his widowed mother losing her main source of livelihood, her late husband’s RIC pension. After the armistice of July 1921 that resulted in the settlement of the Anglo-Irish treaty, he was among the few IRA leaders in western Mayo to support the compromise solution.
Friends of the period believe this decision was heavily influenced by his post-1916 personal contacts with Michael Collins and An Garda Síochána founder Michael Staines, who made him Chief Superintendent in the fledgling force. Mr. Staines was very impressed by Joe Ring’s courage in combat during the Revolutionary War.
Joe Ring died in a hail of bullets from former IRA comrades
In the early days of the force, Joe Ring had to face a very dangerous dispute over the status of the former RIC members being inducted into the new police force. Many of them had been helpful in the struggle for independence, but there was understandable animosity between them and new recruits, many of whom were IRA fighters.
But soon, as the civil war gathered momentum, he was seconded back to the national army. After leading the capture of Ballina from the sea in late July 1922, he was back in the thick of it by mid-September trying to retake the city.
The anti-Treaty side had fought a strong rear guard as they were driven out of the city towards the Ox Mountains in neighboring Sligo. There, in Drumsheen, on September 14, 1922, Joe Ring was killed by a Republican bullet.
Joe Ring, who died in a hail of bullets from former IRA comrades, is a great-uncle of longtime Fine Gael Mayo TD, the feared Michael Ring. The former Government Minister says he is very proud of his great-uncle’s contribution to the fight for Irish freedom as a local founding member of the Volunteers.
He points to the unselfishness of his father’s uncle, who believed in Irish independence and statehood and paid for it with his life.
“Sometimes I wonder how much progress we’ve made in the last 100 years,” he says wistfully.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/centenaries/a-century-on-remembering-one-brave-fighter-felled-in-the-war-between-friends-41983737.html A century later, a brave fighter is remembered who fell in the “war between friends”.