The O'Neill Sisters
Two of West Cork's Forgotten Cumann na mBan Members
Cumann na mBan (the Irishwomen’s Council) was an Irish nationalist movement founded in 1914 in order to support the Irish Republican Army (IRA) through the provision of assistance, arms and funds. Membership grew following the Easter Rising of 1916, with a considerable number of branches established in 1917. The earliest members were typically the sisters of local IRA Volunteers. While there are many accounts of brothers fighting side by side, there are also lesser-known reports of significant numbers of women supporting, arming and facilitating their brothers and their comrades. The role of women throughout the War of Independence and the Civil War is currently being re-evaluated following the recent release of military pension records. These demonstrate that women of all ranks carried out dangerous activities including carrying and concealing arms, retrieving bodies of deceased Volunteers from workhouses, and collecting and communicating intelligence. The role of the Cumann na mBan cannot be underestimated; they sustained the Volunteers and thus the war through their efforts. This article focuses on the contribution made by two West Cork sisters: Mary and Margaret O’Neill.
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