Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Timothy Coughlin 1906 - 1928

Timothy Coughlin 1906 – 1928 

by Lorcan Allen

To this day the life and death of Timothy Coughlin is still a hotly disputed subject. He was born in Dublin in 1906 and lived in Inchicore with his parents. He was the second eldest of nine children. Only in his teens, Coughlin quickly joined the I RA during the War of Independence (1919-1921). He fought against the black and tans up until the ceasefire but was disappointed with the outcome of peace talks between Britain and Ireland. He rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1922)and continued to fight with the ‘irregulars’, the IRA during the Irish Civil War (1922-1923).

As a known member of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, Coughlin was arrested in the early days of the Civil War and spent most of it interred in prison. While there,Coughlin formed a secret vengeance group with fellow irregulars, Archie Doyle and Bill Gannon. The three conspirators vowed to take vengeance against the‘free staters’ once they were released.

Most of these conspiracy groupings were broken up by the IRA after the Civil War when it was re-organised under new leadership, but Coughlin, Doyle and Gannon persisted. On July 10 1927, the three men ambushed and killed the then Minister for Justice, Kevin O’Higgins.
Kevin O'Higgins leaving Dublin Castle with Michael Collins

O’Higgins was on his way to mass in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, when he was shot down by the three conspirators. O’Higgins resembled all that the anti-treaty hated most about the new Free State, as he had ordered the executions of seventy seven anti-treaty soldiers during the Civil War. Kevin O’Higgins had always openly accepted responsibility for their deaths and never expressed any remorse.

His death shocked the Irish public at the time. As such a high ranking member of the fledgling government, it was a huge breach of security for him to be openly gunned down on his way to mass.

However,Coughlin along with Doyle and Gannon managed to escape and remained in hiding for the next six months. On January 28 1928, timothy Coughlin was killed in very controversial and unclear circumstances.

What is known is that Coughlin and another IRA volunteer, possibly Archie Doyle, were on Dartry Road near Rathmines in Dublin. They were hiding opposite ‘Woodpark Lodge’. At the time it was the home of Sean Harling. Harling himself was an IRA volunteer but he had turned government informer.
The remains of Kevin O'Higgins being removed from the Mansion House

What comes next is the most disputed side of the story. Harling claims that he noticed Coughlin and Doyle, and fled as they began to shoot at him. He says that as he fled he fired his pistol in self-defence. Upon later returning to the house he discovered the body of Timothy Coughlin lying dead in the road.

Later a Tribunal was set up to investigate the incident. His version of the story was accepted by them and he was not charged. However, the IRA at the time claimed,as many still do today, that Coughlin was in fact set up and ambushed. They believed that he was set up for an execution for the murder he played a hand in the previous year.

This version of the story was supported by the outcome of Dr Wilfred Lane’s autopsy. Dr Lane found that Coughlin had died because of a bullet which had entered his head from behind. Dr Lane also suggested that a cigarette butt was still in Coughlin’s mouth which may have meant he was caught unawares.

The IRA claimed that Coughlin and Doyle were only at Woodpark Lodge to carry out preliminary surveillance only and not to attack Mr Harling.

To this day the true events of what happened on Dartry Road are not known nor will they ever be.

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