Sligo Councillors give thumbs down to bridge naming honour for West Sligo War of Independence patriot

Teenaged hero shot by British forces in Ballina

Sligo News File

Thomas Howley

A young Co. Sligo hero who gave his life for Irish freedom will not be honoured as proposed by local figures in his native Enniscrone.

Thomas Howley was just 18 when he was shot and captured by Crown forces following an ambush at Bunree, Ballina. Taken under military escort, it is believed that he was tortured on the way to a medical facility in Athlone where he died of his injuries a few days later, on 26 May 1921.

Thousands turned out to pay their respects to the young patriot who was laid to rest with military honours at the old cemetery in Kilglass.

One hundred years on, however, Sligo councillors have refused to support a call for a bridge in the vicinity of the house in Enniscrone where the courageous teenage volunteer was born to be named in his honour. Not only that, but it seems nine members of the county council have also voted down a proposal to have the issue decided by a plebiscite – meaning a vote of the people of Enniscrone and district.

Councillor Joe Queenan, a shopkeeper in the West Sligo town reportedly stated at a meeting that Enniscrone was “a tourism town, we want to stay non-political,” a comment which it’s said led Cllr. Declan Bree to remark that he thought “it was a sad occasion that that would be a reason to vote down the naming of a bridge after a patriot.”

Howley was the only volunteer from the area between Castleconnor and Ballisodare killed in the War of Independence

It is noteworthy that while Sligo councillors have turned face against naming the bridge, known as the Bellawaddy in Enniscrone after Howley, the people of nearby Ballina – a major tourism venue – have on the other hand reflected their pride and respect for the teenaged hero by naming an entire street in the town in his honour. Indeed, virtually every street in the North Mayo capital and Ardnaree is named after patriots involved in the struggle for independence from British rule, an initiative that was taken following a suggestion of Tom Ruane a former O/C of the North Mayo Brigade and later a Ballina-based senator for nearly twenty- seven years – the move hasn’t in any way adversely impacted the tourism industry or popularity of the town among visitors.