On the 5th of July 1922 two anti-Treaty IRA volunteers, Maurice Spillane and Patrick O’Brien, were killed behind Enniscorthy’s main Post Office (see photo). The town had been the scene of heavy fighting for the previous three days, as the IRA attempted to wrestle control of Enniscorthy from the Free State army. As this battle raged, Spillane and O’Brien were part of small group of men who had been entrusted with clearing the Post Office, which they believed (wrongly) was held by Free State soldiers. Early in the morning they approached the building from the rear (along Friary Lane) hoping to surprise the defenders. Using their rifle butts they smashed in the back windows and then threw in grenades. These explosions aroused the attention of a Free State sniper, who was located across the street in Myles Kehoe’s pub (7 Castle Hill). The sniper opened fire with deadly accuracy, hitting both Spillane and O’Brien.
The remaindered of the IRA attacking party dived for cover, while one of the men, Ernie O’Malley, returned fire with his revolver. Indeed, three probable bullet holes are visible on the front of No. 7 Castle Hill and these may be related to this exchange of shots (unfortunately two were recently filled in during repair works).
Maurice Spillane died on the spot, while his comrade, Patrick O’Brien, succumbed to his wounds a few days later. Both men were veteran republicans and had been heavily involved in the War of Independence. Spillane was from Hospital Lane, Enniscorthy and prior to the Civil War had been a member of the North Wexford Flying Column. Patrick O’Brien, meanwhile, was a native of Dublin who had fought in the Easter Rising. A soldier of some note, he had commanded the Four Courts garrison during the Civil War fighting in Dublin.