History lesson on Martin Corry

The TV3 documentary, In the Name of the Republic, highlighted for a new generation the role of the late Martin Corry in the War of Independence.

Martin Corry was born in 1889. His father was a chief inspector in the RIC, based in Tuckey Street in Cork City, where Martin grew up. He was a committed, physical-force Irish Republican who made no apologies for his actions during the War of Independence, which he saw as necessary.

However, those actions have been exaggerated. He was captain of the Knockraha Company of the IRA. In 1926, he finished his military service and joined the newly formed political party, Fianna Fáil, for which he was elected a TD for East Cork, a position he held until he retired in 1969, topping the poll on many occasions. Corry’s was one of the longest, continuous political services in the State.

Corry was one of the most colourful characters in the Dáil and took an independent stance on many issues. He was one of the few who would stand up to Éamon de Valera.

He is credited with saving Thomas McCurtin’s son, Thomas Óg, from being executed in 1941. In 1955, to celebrate his 28 years in the Dail, he was presented with a writing desk by his constituents at a function in the Commodore Hotel in Cobh.

The presentation was made by de Valera. Corry’s speech showed the development of his thought. He said that as a young man he had doubted that the pen was mightier than the sword, but having seen the British hand over the ports in 1937, and the tricolour being raised and the Union Jack pulled down in Spike Island, it showed what could be achieved by statesmanship, which he said was the only way forward.

Corry was also involved in the Irish sugar-beet industry. He was chairman many times of the Irish Sugar Beet Growers’ Association. He was a director and chairman of Erin Foods, in Midleton, which was a large employer.

Corry was a member of Cork County Council, from 1923 until his death, and he was chairman of it many times.

He died on Feb 14, 1979, and even though there was a strict rule that no one outside Midleton parish could be buried in the Holy Rosary cemetery, the parish priest, Dean Rea, waived the rule, because he said Corry had done so much as a public representative for the East Cork town.

His funeral was one of the largest ever in East Cork, with representatives of all political parties present. He was given a military funeral. The oration was given by An Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, and, as the strains of the last post drifted over his beloved East Cork, we knew we would not see his likes again.

Jim Fitzgerald

Chairman, Knockraha History Society

Co Cork

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