On New Years morning, Saturday the 1st of January 1921, the police and army surrounded Ballindaggin church during morning mass. The Enniscorthy Guardian reporting on the incident described how young men were held up as they left the church and anyone from the Coolree and Monbeg area was detained. Houses at these locations were searched that morning also, but no arrests were made and the detained men from the church were then released.
This was a planned operation targeting IRA members in the area. The police and army were most likely acting on intelligence, while the shooting of an RIC constable in Bunclody several weeks before may have been a contributor to the raids. The occasion of New Years morning mass perhaps attracted a larger congregation than usual and so why it was chosen to carry out the raid then.
One IRA member from the locality, Patrick Doyle of the Piers, Coolree, describes how he was one of those caught up unexpectedly that morning while leaving mass. He humorously describes how despite the best efforts of the authorities they left empty handed and yet the IRA had hidden a large quantity of explosives within a within a tomb of the church’s adjoining graveyard! He also describes the lucky escape of one innocent parishioner who was shot at for sport as he was made run away, after getting a beating.
‘My brother Tom, a few other Volunteers and I decided to go to the 8 o’clock Mass and receive Holy Communion at Ballindaggin Church on New Year’s morning, 1921, as we thought it would be quite safe to do so. However, during the Mass the Church was surrounded by British Forces and, with seven other boys including Tom, I was held prisoner. They searched the whole parish but got nothing although a tomb in the graveyard was filled with gelignite. They ‘beat up’ one boy and then told him to run, and as he ran they fired shots at him but they failed to hit him. He dodged them and got into the priest’s house. Upstairs the priest was entertaining the officers. The district was searched all day for him but they did not get him. We were held prisoners until evening when we were released through the Parish Priest’s influence.‘ (p11)
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, Patrick Doyle #1298
Enniscorthy Guardian, 8th January 1920, p5