O'Connor in 1920
March 1924 – February 1935
|Born||4 July 1870|
Brosna, County Kerry, Ireland
|Died||7 February 1935(aged 64)|
|Political party||Cumann na nGaedheal|
(later Fine Gael)
Batt O'Connor was born 4 July 1870 in Brosna, County Kerry. At seventeen he left school to become a stonemason. In October 1893, aged twenty-three he went to Boston, where he stayed five years.
O'Connor describes participating in a Saint Patrick's Day parade in Providence, Rhode Island as a key moment in his coming to political consciousness: "I walked in the procession, and in the emotion I felt, walking as one of that vast crowd of Irish emigrants celebrating our national festival, I awoke to full consciousness of my love for my country. That awaking was one of the forces bringing me home, and it led me inevitably to the day when I joined the Gaelic League two years after my return, and to another memorable occasion when a few years later I took my oath to the Irish Republican Brotherhood by the graveside of Wolfe Tone."
On his return to Ireland, O'Connor moved to Dublin, where he soon established himself as a "speculative builder" constructing houses in Anglesea Road, Dolphins Barn, Eglington Road, and Donnybrook. O'Connor also built the houses on Brendan Road, and gave the street its name, eventually getting married and settling in No.1 Brendan Road.
O'Connor joined the Gaelic League in 1900, through which he came into contact with many of the future leaders of the Independence movement, including Tom Clarke and Seán Mac Diarmada. He was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in 1909. O'Connor enrolled in the Irish Volunteers in 1913, the same night as Éamon de Valera.
While not directly involved during the Easter Rising, (he was at home in Brosna for the first week of it), O'Connor was recognised and arrested on his return to Dublin and sent to Kilmainham Gaol, then to Richmond Barracks, Wandsworth Prison, and finally to Frongoch internment camp, in North Wales.
On his release in September 1916, O'Connor re-established his business and took up his political activities. During this period, O'Connor describes being asked by Clarke's widow to preserve writings on the wall of that house, which she held to be her husband's last message: 'We had to evacuate the GPO. The boys put up a grand fight, and that fight will save the soul of Ireland.' O'Connor had the whole square of plaster cut out intact and encased in a frame with a glass front (now on display in Collins Barracks).
O'Connor reconnected with members of the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League at 46 Parnell Square, and took part in the re-organising of the fragmented IRB. He canvassed for by-elections in Kilkenny and Armagh on behalf of Sinn Féin candidates W. T. Cosgrave and Patrick McCartan.
O'Connor was involved with the revolutionary Sinn Féin party during the time of the First Dáil, handling money and hiding documents for Michael Collins. O'Connor purchased 76 Harcourt Street for Michael Collins, following a raid on the Sinn Féin Office at No. 6. There he installed a secret recess for private papers and means of escape through the skylight. When the recess escaped discovery following a raid, he went on to construct hiding places in many of the other houses used by the movement. In 5 Mespil Road, Collins' headquarters for over 15 months during the Irish War of Independence, O'Connor fitted a small cupboard in the woodwork beneath the kitchen stairs on the ground floor. Before leaving each evening, Collins would hide his papers here. When it was finally raided in April 1921, it escaped detection. O'Connor was one of the shareholders of the National Land Bank which was set up in March 1920 at 68 Lower Leeson Street, in which Robert Barton took a prominent part.
O'Connor played a role in the "National Loan" (raised by Collins to fund the fledgling Dáil Éireann. According to Batt O'Connor, the Dáil Loan raised almost £400,000, of which £25,000 was in gold. The loan, which had been declared illegal, was lodged in the individual bank accounts of the trustees; the gold was kept under the floor of O'Connor's house until 1922. By January 1922 O Connor acknowledged the war-weariness amongst the people. The Irish command realized that they could not drive the British "into the sea" as they had hoped. "Most of the commandants made a report of their fighting strength." They could "go on and fill up this whole page reports from the fighting men they all realized the resources of the country could not stand another year of war." It was O'Connor who had built the false wall in Sheila Humphreys house in the respectable suburb between Donnybrook and Ballsbridge at 36 Ailesbury Road, behind which Ernie O'Malley, Chief of Staff Republican IRA, had lived in some discomfort. On 4 November, the Free State surrounded the hideout,and O'Malley tried to shoot his way out.
He took the pro-Treaty side during the subsequent split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During the Dáil debates, O'Connor called 'the women "holy terrors", mud-slinging and name-calling.' He was like others plausibly afraid of the six wild women in the Dáil who opposed the Free State government. O'Connor was an unsuccessful candidate for Dáil Éireann at the 1923 general election, in the Dublin County constituency.
After the death in November 1923 of Cumann na nGaedheal TD Michael Derham, O'Connor was the Cumann na nGaedheal candidate at the Dublin County by-election on 19 March 1924, when he was elected to the 4th Dáil ahead of Seán MacEntee. He retained his seat at the next four general elections, joining Fine Gael when Cumann na nGaedheal merged in 1933 with the National Centre Party and the Blueshirts. He served as a Trustee of Cumann na nGaedheal.
A short memoir, "With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence" was published in London by Peter Davies in 1929, which, Peadar O'Donnell remarked bitterly, "was written in the strain of a garrulous war-widow who struts around in her old man's war medals, full of sighs and sidelong glances."
- "Mr. Batt O'Connor". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- O'Connor, Batt. "With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence", 2nd ed., Millstreet: Aubane Historical Society, (p33)
- O'Connor, Batt. "With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence", 2nd ed., (Millstreet: Aubane Historical Society), p75–76
- Obituaries: Mr. Batt O'Connor. The Times. 12 February 1935.
-  O'Connor, Batt. "With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence", 2nd ed., Millstreet: Aubane Historical Society. (p96–97)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Collins 22 Society page on "The National Loan 1920"
-  O’Connor, Batt "With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence" 2nd ed., Millstreet: Aubane Historical Society. (p87)
- Batt O'Connor to his sister Marie O'Connor on 22 Jan 1922. UCDA P68/4; Charles Townshend, "The Republic", p.350-1.
- Knirck, "Women of the Dail", p.97-8.
- UCDA P61/4(50), Brigid Gallogly questionnaire.
- "Batt O'Connor". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- "By-election 1924: Dublin County". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
- Cumann na nGaedheal advertisement. Freeman's Journal. 21 July 1923.
- O’Donnell, Peadar "The Gates Flew Open" 1932 (Chapter 5)
- http://www.ucd.ie/archives/html/collections/oconnor-batt.html Letters from Batt O'Connor (1870–1935) UCD Archives
- University College Dublin Archives
- Beaslai, Piaras, Michael Collins and the making of a New Ireland (Dublin 1926)
- Coogan, Tim Pat, Eamon de Valera (London 1993)
- Davies, Peter, With Michael Collins In The Fight For Irish Independence (London 1929)
- Knirck, Jason, Women of the Dail: Gender, Republicanism and the Anglo-Irish Treaty (Dublin 2006)
- O'Donnell, Peadar, The Gates Flew Open (Dublin 1932)
- O'Malley, Ernie, Raids and Rallies (Dublin 1982)
- Townshend, Charles, The Republic: The Fight For Irish Independence (London 2014)