Present at murder of Ames and Bennett at 38 Upper Mount Street
"Vinny Byrne was 15 years old at the time of the Rising in 1916. His statement, 75 pages long, begins with his experiences in Jacob’s in 1916 (the first 7 pages) and continues to outline his activities as a member of Michael Collins’s “Squad”. He details his exploits in detail and with blithe insouciance, often writing “and that was another informer out of the way.” He was also involved in many raids for arms, including that on the Great Northern Railway yard and the B+I sheds at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. He shot two of the British agents targeted on Bloody Sunday. Before killing his victims from close range Byrne would often say the words "May the Lord have mercy on your soul."
Vinny Byrne asked to see Lieutenant Peter Ames and Lieutenant George Bennett at the door of 38 Upper Mount Street. The maid was obliging, pointing out the rooms where both men slept. Byrne sent Tom Ennis with some men to the back room and he went to the front parlour himself. As I opened the folding-doors, the officer, who was in bed, was in the act of going for his gun under his pillow. Doyle and myself dashed into the room, at the same time ordering him to put up his hands, which he did. Doyle dashed around by the side of the bed, and pulled a Colt .45 from beneath the pillow. Right behind us came Frank Saurin and he started collecting from papers etc., which was his job. I remember looking into a drawer and seeing a Sinn Fein tie there and, if I am not mistaken, photographs of the 1916 leaders. I ordered the British officer to get out of bed. He asked me what was going to happen and I replied : ‘Ah, nothing.’ I then ordered him to march in front of me… I marched my officer down to the back room where the other officer was. He was standing up in the bed, facing the wall. I ordered mine to do likewise. When the two of them were together I thought to myself ‘The Lord have mercy on your souls ! ’ I then opened fire with my Peter. They both fell dead.
Vinny Byrne recorded how he enjoyed ‘plugging ’ British soldiers but he still filled his pockets with liquorice like any child would when he took part in a raid of the B&I stores. Byrne was nineteen when he went to that house in 38 Upper Mount Street on Bloody Sunday morning. It was noted with astonishment ‘how quickly and with what devotion these young men got down to their jobs. Anything they lacked in age and experience, they made up in enthusiasm. ’ These men may have had a conscience but, as one commentator in Blackwood’s magazine put it, they had certainly come to terms with it. Byrne may have had qualms about being put in charge of older, more experienced men like Tom Ennis on Bloody Sunday morning, but he could only feel pity for the ‘old’ medical officer sent with him who did not know what to do with a gun.
Byrne said, ‘ It was the joy of my life when I was handed a .45 revolver and six rounds. ’ And it was a joy some of them never learned to replace
Killing a spy may have been an order or a duty, but there was much to reconcile when all you saw was a man in his pyjamas clinging to his wife. In the course of his war Vinny Byrne worked out his own naıve kind of solution. You prayed for the man you were about to kill, but you never said the prayer out loud. There was a shred of humanity still in this young killer who wanted most of all to seem tough.
46 Rutland Square The Squad was ‘officially’ established on 19 September 1919 at this address (though by that time it had been in operation for two months and had already carried out two killings). Members were paid £4.10s per week.
Charlie Byrne Eddie Byrne, Seán (John Anthony) Caffrey,
Patrick (Paddy) Colgan (from Maynooth, Co. Kildare, he married Delia Larkin),
James Connolly, Herbie Conroy, Jim Conway (the ‘one-man column’), Andy
Cooney, Seán Culhane, Tom Cullen (a teetotaler), Charlie Dalton (he was the
brother of Emmet Dalton and wrote With the Dublin Brigade about his experiences
as a member), Jim Dempsey (a Dubliner and an old IRB man who fought in the
Rising), Joe Dolan (another Dubliner, always armed with a .45 and wore a British
876 Leonard, Joseph. Witness Statement 547. 877 Stapleton, William J. (Bill). ‘Michael Collins’ Squad’,
Capuchin Annual, 1969. 878 Leornard indicates the ‘original’ twelve were O’Daly, Leonard, Barrett, Doyle,
Kehoe, Slattery, O’Reilly, Eddie Byrne, Vinnie Byrne, Ben Byrne, Eddie Byrne and Frank Bolster. Leonard,
Joseph. Witness Statement 547.
46 Rutland Square 257
Army badge in his lapel), Joe Dowling, Pat Drury, Tom Duffy, John Dunne, Leo
Dunne, Tom Ennis, Mick Flanagan, Paddy Flanagan (the oldest member of The
Squad), Paddy Griffin, Jack Hanlon, Seán Kavanagh (a Dubliner and later a prison
governor), Ned Kelliher (a Dubliner), Mick Kennedy, Paddy Kennedy (from
Tipperary), Martin Lavan, Paddy Lawson, Seán Lemass (the future Taoiseach),
Billy McClean, Pat McCrae (a great driver), Pat McKeon, Peadar McMahon (later
Chief of Staff of the Free State Army), Mick O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Hegarty (a
Corkman and Director of Organisation of the IRA/Volunteers), Bob O’Neill (a
Clareman), Albert Rutherford, Frank Saurin (a Dubliner, known as the best-dressed
Volunteer), Frank Teeling, Liam Tobin (became assistant in the Department of
Intelligence), George White and Johnny Wilson.
E Company IRA 3rd Battalion.
Patrick J. Weafer
Johnny McDonald (Mc Donnell)