IRA Member Was British Soldier’s Son

It has recently been discovered that a deceased IRA member was the son of a man who fought for the British during the First World War. This finding has been made in the Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, where the two men are buried about thirty graves away from one another. Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Hartley was conducting research for a planned book at the time he learned about the related Briton and IRA member.

Hartley feels that this finding is important in forming a better understanding of British history. Although British history is rather complicated, Hartley is not certain that two such graves exist within the same family in any other cemetery in the United Kingdom. He feels that there must certainly be a story behind how an IRA member could possibly be the son of a British soldier. The story in question revolves around the McKelvey family. Patrick McKelvey, the patriarch of the family, is the man who would eventually fight for the British in the First World War. His son, Joe, is the man who would eventually become an Irish republican.

Patrick signed on to help the British fight the war effort while his family was living in Belfast. His son remained in Ireland, where he was moved by the cause for which many Irish were fighting at the time. He became an IRA member around the same time his father was succumbing to death. The two have become subjects of Hartley’s studies, which can be reviewed in his book about the Milltown Cemetery and the men who are buried there, the BBC News reports.

Joe McKelvey was eventually executed for his actions as an Irish republican. He joined the group due to his opposition toward the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and he eventually transcended the role of IRA member and became one of the organization’s leaders. It was during the Irish civil war that he was captured and killed. Before his death, or the death of his father, the two met one last time. Even though they were on opposite sides of a major issue, family was more important to Joe than even his most strident beliefs.

IRA member Joe McKelvey and his father can be studied more extensively in Hartley’s book, Milltown Cemetery: The History of Belfast, Written in Stone. The two may not have shared the same political beliefs, but the death of Patrick McKelvey led them to share oxygen for one last reunion. This is a testament to just how important family can be to some people, even when one is an IRA member strictly opposed to the beliefs of his father. Their differing political views never led Joe or Patrick McKelvey to forget what was truly important in life.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE