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Bere Island Internment Camp 1921

Late Ennis priest features in prison camp film

THE late Canon William O’Kennedy has been remembered in a film launched this week to commemorate the centenary of the Bere Island Internment Camp.
The film recounts how Canon O’Kennedy was abducted from Ennis and transported to Bere Island where he was kept in solitary confinement for a number of weeks, before his whereabouts was discovered.
Canon O’Kennedy was president of St Flannan’s College in 1919 and was one of the pillars of the Sinn Féin movement in Clare.
He was arrested in 1921 and held in Bere Island before being released after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London.
The film was launched on Monday by the Bere Island Projects Group to commemorate the centenary of the camp, which was in operation from April to December 1921.
In 1920, a prison camp was opened on Bere Island on the site of the Fort Berehaven military camp, for convicted Republican prisoners.
By April 1921, all convicted prisoners had been transferred to the prison on Spike Island, and the camp on Bere Island became an internment camp only.
At one stage 284 men were interned on Bere Island. The camp closed on December 10 1921 following the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty.
The film outlines the history of the camp, and features leading War of Independence expert, Dr John Borgonovo of University College Cork, and Bere Island historian Ted O’Sullivan who recount what life would have been like for the internees, and outline some audacious escapes that took place from the facility.
Bere Island Projects Group was awarded €5,500 by the Heritage Council’s Community Heritage Grant Scheme to produce the film.
The film is one of a number events which Bere Island Projects Group have organised as part of the Decade of Centenaries.
Bere Island was once a strategic military base for the British Admiralty who constructed seven gun batteries on the island.
Its safe harbour provided shelter during World War One for British warships and also the US Navy while protecting Atlantic convoys.
Fort Berehaven, Bere Island was one of Ireland’s three Treaty Ports. The handover of the fort to the Irish Government took place on September 26 1938.
The 32 minute film will be available online from 9am on Monday September 27 on www.bereisland.net and on the Bere Island Projects Group channel on YouTube.

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