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01/05/2015 - Cumann na mBan and Donegal women


Cumann na mBan 379 x 269

Eithne Coyle from Falcarragh (centre) with two comrades from Cumann na mBan


Eminent local historian, Helen Meehan will deliver a talk on the history and legacy of Cumann na mBan in Donegal as part of this year’s Bealtaine festival.


The lecture will take place in the Lifford Community Library, Old Courthouse next Wednesday, May 6 at 11.30am.


Former over 100 years ago, Cumann na mBan was to become the most influential woman’s group in early 20th-century Ireland. It had its origins in two powerful ideologies which were driving the socio-political transformation of Ireland (and Europe) in the first decades of the 20th century – nationalism and feminism.


Between 1914 and 1922 thousands of Cumann na mBan women participated in the Irish nationalist struggle and it is these women who were commemorated on the 100th anniversary of its foundation in 2014.


One of the Donegal women who played a very prominent role in the organisation was Eithne Coyle. She was born in 1897 near Falcarragh. Her parents were farmers and her family were strong supporters of the republican movement.


In 1917 she joined Cumann na mBan and quickly became one of its most active members. In 1918 she co-founded the Cloughaneely Cumann na mBan branch. She was also a member of the Gaelic League and used this organisation to help establish new branches of Cumann na mBan in other counties.


In early 1920 Coyle’s activities included acting as fundraiser, courier and spy. She also wrote articles for the Irish World in New York. Around this time the Roscommon branch of the RIC became suspicious of her activities and subsequently her home was raided on a number of occasions.


Coyle was eventually arrested and imprisoned in Mountjoy jail. However, she managed to escape in October 1921. Thereafter she returned to Donegal where she was appointed organiser for Cumann na mBan in Donegal, Tyrone and Derry. During Donegal’s Civil War, Coyle resumed her duties as courier, fundraiser, spy and publicity officer. She also operated an IRA hospital.


In September 1922, Coyle was returning from Sligo with IRA correspondence when she was once again arrested and imprisoned. She remained in jail until after the war ended. In 1926, she became president of Cumann na mBan and retained this position until 1941. Eithne Coyle died in 1985.


For more information, please contact Geraldine McHugh at Lifford Community Library (074) 9172726


Admission: Free


This is an initiative of Donegal County Council





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