Annie was killed by a "Military Officer" on the 13th of November, 1920

She was eight years old and had been playing outside her home. This is the story of what happened to her.

Annie was one of five children born to Andrew O'Neill & Kate Byrne. She was born on the 10th of September, 1912 at 22 Charlemont avenue. Charlemont avenue was just off Charlemont street, in Dublin. To see exactly where the avenue was, you can check out the Charlemont street area map below. All of the cottages on Charlemont avenue were demolished in the early 1940s.

Her father Andrew had died two months previously from Tuberculosis in the Allan Ryan Hospital on Pigeon House road in Ringsend. This had left her mother Kate to look after their five children on her own. The eldest was James at thirteen, followed by Cathy at twelve, Mary (known as Maisie) at ten, Annie herself at eight and finally Andrew, my father, who was the youngest at five years old.

Charlemont street area map, 1888-1913

Click on the map image to enlarge it.

The Black & Tans and the Auxiliaries

The Black & Tans were enlisted to augment the Royal Irish Constabulary outside Dublin city. The Auxiliaries were enlisted to support the Dublin Metropolitan Police within Dublin city.

The reputation of the Auxiliaries is every bit as tainted as that of the Black & Tans. They stand accused of many atrocities and "extra judicial killings" during the War of Independence in Ireland.

The Lancashire Fusiliers

The 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers were stationed in Dublin from March, 1920 to the end of the Irish War of Independence in December, 1922. They provided support to the D.M.P Auxiliaries and were continuously engaged in escort duties, patrols and raids during this period.

They also took part in the capture and identification of Kevin Barry, an 18 year old Dublin youth who was later executed on November 1st, 1920.

The Shooting

Reports of exactly what happened are confused as later claims by the military and civil authorities conflict with statements given by eye witnesses.

Early military reports and eye witness statements say that 5 or 6 young men were standing on the corner of Charlemont avenue and Charlemont street, when an open topped military car containing "military officers", followed by a lorry containing troops from the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment, came over Ranelagh bridge and screeched to a stop beside the young men.

Order to Halt

The young men scattered. Several officers from the military car made their way up the avenue. They had pulled their revolvers and ordered the boys to halt. They had previously been given permission to shoot civilians who ignored an order to halt. They opened fire on the group of fleeing boys, who were running past a reported 20 to 25 children playing in the avenue.

They didn't hit any of the young men.

Annie O'Neill & Teresa Kavanagh

Annie was outside her home on the avenue playing with her friend Teresa Kavanagh, who lived next door to her. Teresa was six years old. Annie was hit in the chest by one of the bullets. Teresa was hit in the arm.

The authorities would later claim that only one bullet was fired that day and that it was this same bullet that passed through Annie and struck her little friend Teresa in the arm.

An Embarrassment

Early reports state that a volley of shots were fired and that the regular troops in the lorry also pointed their rifles up the avenue. We know that the troops in the lorry were 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. We don't know if the officers in the military car were also Lancashire Fusiliers or if they were Auxiliaries.

Annie's sister Maisie would maintain that the men who came up the avenue that day and shot Annie were auxiliaries, and not regular troops. A detail in the newspaper reporting of the incident would seem to support this. It says that an officer on the lorry ordered his men to hold fire. This would point to the lorry containing officers and men of the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment, while the military car contained auxiliaries.

Whoever fired the shots, and however many there were, the truth is that it was obviously of great embarrassment to the authorities that the only people shot that day were two little girls, with one being killed and the other seriously wounded.

The Aftermath

This photograph of the scene of the shooting which appeared in the Irish Independent newspaper on the 16th of November, 1920 was accompanied by a report which stated that the shooting took place outside the little girl's home, "where the group of people on the left are standing".

I believe this photo shows my grandmother with a basin of water, washing Annie's blood away while her four remaining children look on.

Internal Military Incident Report

No civil inquest was held into the killing of Annie O'Neill. The military held what was called a "military inquiry in lieu of an inquest" into the incident in the Meath hospital on the following Monday, November 15th, 1920. This "inquiry" was held in private and chaired by three military officers. Neither Annie's mother, her solicitor nor any reporters were granted access to it.

Military Inquiry

We've never been able to find the records of the evidence we know was given by eye witnesses at this inquiry. All we know are the findings the court gave as to the cause of Annie's death which was passed to the civil authorities and given as the cause of her death on the second of her death certificates. It reads:

"Accidentally shot by a military officer justifiably and in the execution of his duties firing on another person unknown".

If you think you may know where the report of the military inquiry in lieu of an inquest into the killing of Annie O'Neill might be found, or where the original of the photo of the scene of the shooting shown above might be found, please contact me at the email link given at the bottom of this page.

Civil Death Records for Annie O'Neill

Click on either death record image to enlarge it

Funeral & Burial

After the inquest Annie's remains were passed into the care of her mother Kate O'Neill, who brought her back to her home on Charlemont avenue. The following evening she was brought to Whitefriar street church on Aungier street.

The following day, November 17th, Annie was laid to rest in Deansgrange cemetery. Her coffin was carried by her uncles.

Madeleine ffrench-Mullen

The funeral director's record for Annie's funeral shows that it was paid for by Madeleine ffrench-Mullen.

Madeleine ffrench-Mullen was an Irish revolutionary and labour activist who took part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. She was a member of the nationalist women's organisation Inghinidhe na h√Čireann.

Together with her partner Kathleen Lynn, she established Saint Ultan's Children's Hospital at 37 Charlemont street in 1919. The year before Annie was killed.

House of Commons Debates

There were several heated debates in the House of Commons over the killing of Annie O'Neill.

Transcripts of some of these debates can be seen on the Hansard House of Commons website here and here.

It should be remembered that in 1920 there were still Irish MPs sitting in the House of Commons.

Irish Independent newspaper article, November 15th, 1920

In memory of a little girl who didn't get to live her life