"Alice Cashel (1878-1958)"

by Mark Humphrys

in Cumann na mBan: County Galway Dimensions, Galway County Council, 2015.

Alice Cashel was a Sinn Fein and Cumann na mBan activist who became a councillor on Galway County Council and was jailed by the British. She was born in July 1878 in Birr, Co.Offaly, where her father lived briefly as station master for the Great Southern and Western Railway. The family later moved to Limerick and then Cork. Her grandfather was a policeman, and her father travelled to London in 1882 to give evidence against subversives. But by the early 20th century the family's politics were changing.

Alice's sister was married to James O'Mara, who became a Home Rule MP in 1900 and resigned in 1907 to join Sinn Fein. Alice became an early supporter of Sinn Fein in Cork. She co-founded Cumann na mBan's Cork branch about 1914-15. She campaigned for Sinn Fein in the by-elections in South Armagh in Feb 1918 and East Cavan in June 1918.

In summer 1918 she went to Connemara to organise Cumann na mBan there. On 15 Aug 1918 she held a banned meeting at Clifden which was broken up by the police. She went on the run for a time. During the War of Independence of 1919-21 she went to live at her sister's house, Cashel House in Connemara (now a hotel). It was raided in April 1920 and she was arrested. She spent a week in jail. She was celebrated on her return and a bonfire was lit on Cashel Hill. Her Bureau of Military History statement recounts other adventures hiding from British raids at Cashel.

On 7 June 1920, she was co-opted onto Galway County Council. She was elected Vice-Chairman of Galway County Council on 18 June 1920, and held the position until 1921. The leadership of Galway County Council answered to the Dail not to the crown. But there was some opposition to this. When Alice was on a trip abroad, Galway County Council passed a famous peace resolution, on 3 Dec 1920, repudiating the authority of the Dail and calling for a truce with the British. Alice returned quickly to overturn the resolution.

She was arrested on 19 Jan 1921 when she came back to Galway. She was charged with having "seditious documents" (documents from the Dail). She was tried at Renmore Barracks, Galway, on 24 Feb 1921, and got 6 months in Galway Gaol. She refused to recognise the court, and declared the allegiance of Galway County Council to the Dail, "the only government which I and they recognise". She was jailed until 25 July 1921.

She opposed the Treaty and was Republican in the Civil War. In 1935 she published a patriotic novel, The lights of Leaca Bán, which was used in schools. She never married, and lived in Roundstone, Connemara. She died in Galway on 22 Feb 1958. The Taoiseach and President sent representatives to her funeral. She is buried in the New Cemetery, Bohermore, Galway.

Dr. Mark Humphrys is a lecturer at Dublin City University.
All sources for the above and more information about Alice Cashel may be found on his site humphrysfamilytree.com.