Military files reveal Michael D Higgins' father's role in Ireland's battle for independence
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Military files reveal Michael D Higgins' father's role in Ireland's battle for independence

DOCUMENTS have revealed the strong connections of the family of President Michael D Higgins with Ireland’s battle for independence.

The files relating to the Higgins family were among some 117,000 pages released yesterday.

The Military Service Pensions Collection project being undertaken by Military Archives and the Department of the Defence, show how President Higgins’ father and aunts and uncles were closely involved in the War of Independence.

The incredible stories of 882 men and women who sought military pensions for their participation in Ireland’s fight for independence from Britain in the early 20th century.

President Higgins’ father, John Higgins, was on the anti-Treaty side fighting with the IRA when the aftermath of the Rising settled down.

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The Anglo-Irish Treaty, which established the Irish Free State, divided Irish Republicans.

The Irish Free State initially granted independence to the entire island of Ireland – but the North of Ireland immediately exercised its right to opt out of the agreement, choosing instead to remain under British rule.

Mr Higgins’ testimony, as documented in the files, outlines a number of tasks he claims to have undertaken with the IRA.

Among those tasks were attacking the Ballylander barracks in May 1920 and burning down houses in Charleville, Co. Cork, on 9 July 1921.

The rare files reveal that John Higgins had to apply for his military pension three times before successfully being awarded one in the years after the War of Independence.

Beginning his service at the age of 24 with the Ballycar Coy of 1 Battalion, East Clare Brigade in 1918, Mr Higgins later served as a Lieutenant with the Charleville Coy, 4 Battallion, Cork 2 Brigade with 87 men.

In his later years, he applied for a military pension, citing his service with the IRA between 1 April 1920 and 30 September 1923.

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This initial claim failed – as did a second one where he gave dates between 1918 and 1919, before eventually getting a military pension from the Irish Government on his third attempt.

In December 1956, some 22 years after his original application, Mr Higgins was awarded a service pension of 4 and 3/8 years after he appealed the original decisions.

And Mr Higgins was not the only member of the President’s family to be involved with the independence struggle – three uncles and an aunt also appeared on the files.

John Higgins died on December 14, 1963 at the age of 69.