On Friday evening, 17 December 1920, District Inspector Philip O’Sullivan, an RIC man, left his place of work at Dublin Castle. He walked the short distance to Henry Street where he was to meet his fiancée. The couple met at 615pm and had just commenced walking when they were approached by two men and O’Sullivan was shot dead.
Philip O’Sullivan was the only son of Florence O’Sullivan, from Townshend Street, Skibbereen, one of two brothers who founded the Southern Star newspaper in 1889.
The shooting of Philip O’Sullivan, from such a well-known and respected Skibbereen family, was the subject of a bitter debate between members of Skibbereen District Council.
The main protagonists were Patrick Sheehy and James Duggan.
James Duggan was a prominent business man in Skibbereen. He was a pioneer of the Sinn Féin movement in West Cork, a close friend of Michael Collins, and he was a director of the Southern Star company.
Patrick Sheehy was a solicitor and was editor of the rival Skibbereen Eagle for a number of years, and a member of one of the most politically active families in Skibbereen.
This disagreement was notable in that it represented in microcosm the terrible bitterness and rancour that divided communities all over Ireland at that time.
There was also a much broader element to this argument, about the role of the RIC and how it was perceived in the rapidly changing landscape in Ireland.
This article by Philip O’Regan is just one of fifteen articles on a broad and diverse range of topics in the 2020 Skibbereen Historical Journal.