Men on hunger strike, one holding a placard which reads "we have 'Em"

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Where: Dublin, , Ireland

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When: 01 January 1919

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Hunger Strike! What should seem no threat to the authorities was turned into an incredible force for publicity and public sentiment. It was capped by the death of the former Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence McSwiney, while being force fed in prison. This happy group say that they "Have 'em" as they pose for their moment of immortality. I wonder if we can find out who they are and where?

Given the similarity to this other Keogh image (which is described as a 1919 hunger srike at Mountjoy), sharon.corbet and guliolopez suggest that it's very likely taken at the same place and around the same time. It seems quite likely therefore that these smoking men were IRA members imprisoned at Mountjoy in the early months of the War of Independence....

Photographer: Brendan Keogh

Collection: Keogh Photographic Collection

Date: Catalogue range c.1914-1923

NLI Ref: Ke 209

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 23435
brendankeogh nationallibraryofireland grouponhungerstrike hungerstrike posing wehaveempropogandavalue wehaveem warofindependence angloirishwar mountjoy dublin prison keoghphotographiccollection keoghbrothers

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    • 08/Aug/2017 07:53:26

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    • 08/Aug/2017 11:10:39

    Like a publicity shot for a tobacco company. Look forward to their identity being revealed.

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    • 08/Aug/2017 20:16:55

    If you scroll down through this page you will see a Volunteer named William O'Shaughnessy, executed in Ennis, and he bears a strong resemblance to the man on second from the left, back row.

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    • 09/Aug/2017 00:16:56

    I would suspect these are Civil War hunger-strikers (~Oct 1923) rather than War of Independence hunger-strikers (~1920). I base this mainly on the attire, the demeanor, and the fact that the image was taken at all (less likely a "behind walls" propaganda photo like this would've been tolerated during the Tan War). Somewhat oxymoronically I suspect it's the Civil War precisely because we do not know who these men were. I suggest the latter because, while hunger strikes were not uncommon during the independence movement (~1916-~1920), most undertaken in that period often involved higher-profile names. Like Ashe (1917) or MacSwiney (1920). That we do not know these men in itself suggests to me that we are post civil war here. When many thousands protested their continued post-war detention via hunger strike. (>460 men participated in Mountjoy, >70 in Cork jail, >3000 in the Curragh camps, >1700 in Newbridge, etc. Cumann na mBan members also participated. In a near two-month period Oct-Nov 1923). An article from the 1930s described it as the "biggest hunger strike in history", and several men died, including Denis Barry and Andrew Sullivan. Both in late November 1923. No concessions were forthcoming however, and the anti-treaty leadership called a halt to the 1923 strike after a little more than 40 days. (While it wouldn't do to trivialise these things, this summary includes a quote attributed to one prisoner: "“Be cripes” [...] We bate Christ by a day!"). If this is the 1923 strike, then I doubt the image is from the Curragh/Tintown. I would guess it's Mountjoy. The NLI catalogue has a (partial?) list of names from Dublin who participated. Many interned in Mountjoy.

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    • 09/Aug/2017 08:41:13

    [[email protected]] The background does look a bit like a photo I found yesterday of a different set of hunger strikers from October 1919. It was also taken by Keogh. So I'd agree that it is probably Mountjoy, but it still may be an earlier hunger strike.

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    • 09/Aug/2017 13:16:46

    Of eleven men, five are visibly holding cigarettes and two are holding pipes. How fashions change.

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    • 09/Aug/2017 20:29:58

    Indeed That seems a fairly plausible alternative. Based on that photo I'd say even fairly conclusive. There was more than one hunger strike in Mountjoy in 1919 -including one for about two weeks in April. (Republican prisoners took the action to draw attention to events in Ireland and to Britain's refusal to recognise them as prisoners of war. The Irish Trades Union Congress called for a general strike - which was called when the prisoners were released in mid April. That could well be the thrust of the "Got Em" message. Based on Sharon, I change my vote to Mountjoy 1919 :)

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 09/Aug/2017 23:09:17

    Thanks[email protected] and! I'd held off updating yesterday evening (to give more time for discussion, and as I just couldn't make myself add this to the "<5 comments" album). However I've updated the map, date and description since. Much appreciated!

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    Dr. Ilia

    • 11/Aug/2017 09:00:07

    masterful shot

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    • 11/Nov/2017 23:14:02

    I would have a strong suspicion that the photo was taken in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in the old courtyard around the late 1910's/early 1920's as suggested already; the style of masonry work (though by no means exclusive to the hospital), the light and dark stone and their masonry marks, the shape and style of the sash windows and sills all look very similar to the backgrounds in the resident pupil group photographs taken in the hospital grounds around the same time frame. Also, hunger strikers released from Mountjoy were more often than not treated in the Mater as it's directly across the road from the prison.

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    • 22/Aug/2021 11:33:05

    The man holding the sign is Tommy Donovan O/C 7th Battalion 3rd Tipperary Brigade KIA in Killenaule on 31st October 1920. He was imprisoned a couple of times and definitely took part in at least one hungerstrike.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 23/Aug/2021 05:52:13[email protected] Thanks Niamh, please do tell us more about Tommy Donovan.