Terence J. Mac Swiney

Terence J. Mac Swiney books and biography


Terence MacSwiney

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Terence MacSwiney
Terence MacSwiney

Terence Joseph MacSwiney (pronounced MacSweeney; Irish name: Traolach Mac Suibhne) (1879 - October 25, 1920) was born in Cork City, County Cork Ireland. He was educated as an accountant and also was a writer of plays, poetry, and pamphlets of Irish history.



MacSwiney founded the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and was President of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin. In April 1916, MacSwiney was interned under the Defence of the Realm Act in Reading and Wakefield Gaols until December 1916. In February 1917 he was deported from Ireland and interned in Shrewsbury and Bromyard internment camps until his release in June 1917. In November 1917, he was arrested in Cork for wearing an IRA uniform, and went on a hunger strike for 3 days prior to his release.

In the December elections 1918, MacSwiney was returned unopposed to the first Dail as Sinn Féin representative for Mid-Cork, succeeding the Nationalist M.P. D.D. Sheehan. After the murder of Tomás Mac Curtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork on March 20, 1920, he was elected Lord Mayor of Cork. On August 12, 1920, he was arrested in Dublin for possession of seditious articles and documents, and also possession of a cipher key. He was summarily tried by court martial on August 16, sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Brixton Prison. In prison, he immediately started a hunger strike. On October 20, 1920, he fell into a coma and died five days later after 74 days on hunger strike, making his the longest hunger strike in Irish history.

His sister Mary MacSwiney took on his seat in the Dáil and spoke against the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922.

MacSwiney’s hungerstrike gained world attention. The British government was threatened with a boycott of British goods by North America, while four countries in South America appealed to the Pope to intervene. Protests were held in Germany and France as well.

His body was returned to Ireland for burial and his funeral on November 1 attracted huge crowds. Terence MacSwiney is buried in Saint Finbarr's Cemetery in Cork. His book entitled Principles of Freedom was published posthumously in 1921. It was based upon articles MacSwiney contributed to Irish Freedom during 1911 - 1912.

In 1945 his only child, daughter Máire MacSwiney, married Ruairi Brugha, son of the anti-Treaty Teachta Dála Cathal Brugha, and later a TD, Member of the European Parliament, and Senator.

A collection relating to Terence MacSwiney exists in Cork Public Museum.


  • The music of freedom by 'Cuireadóir'. (Poems, The Risen Gaedheal Press, Cork, 1907)
  • Fianna Fáil : the Irish army : a journal for militant Ireland (Weekly publication edited and mainly written by MacSwiney; Cork, 11 issues, September to December 1914)
  • The revolutionist; a play in five acts (Dublin, London, Maunsel and Company, 1914).
  • The ethics of revolt : a discussion from a Catholic point of view as to when it becomes lawful to rise in revolt against the Civil Power by Toirdhealbhach Mac Suibhne. (Pamphlet, 1918)
  • Battle-cries (Poems, 1918)
  • Principles of freedom (Dublin, The Talbot Press, 1921)
  • Despite fools' laughter; poems by Terence MacSwiney. Edited by B. G. MacCarthy. (Dublin, M. H. Gill and Son, 1944)


  • "It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will conquer." (Some sources replace "conquer" with "prevail")
  • "I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release." (On his hunger strike)
  • "I want you to bear witness that I die as a Soldier of the Irish Republic." His last words to a visiting priest.


Enduring the Most: The Biography of Terence McSwiney; Dr. Francis Costello, Dublin 1997

Terence Mac Swiney's private papers are held in the University College Dublin Archives (IE UCDA P48b, P48c). There are also manuscript papers and copies of his published writings in the National Library of Ireland (MSS 35029–35035).

See also

  • Families in the Oireachtas

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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