Civilian Denis O’Donovan or Donovan (aged 45) of Watergate Street, Bandon (Watergate Street)
Date of incident: 29 March 1921 (ex-sailor killed as suspected spy by IRA)
Sources: CE, 31 March 1921; FJ, 31 March, 1 April 1921; CCE, 2 April 1921; SS, 25 June 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/149A/40 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, March 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Application of Kate O’Donovan to Irish Grants Committee (CO 762/78/13); Barry (1949, 1989), 140-41; Ó Ruairc (2016), 121.
Note: A British navy veteran, auxiliary postman, insurance agent, and shoemaker aged about 41, O’Donovan was shot at his own door on Watergate Street in Bandon by two IRA men who intimated that they wished to transact some insurance business with him. His wife Kate so informed him, but when he went to the door, he was shot twice and killed in the presence of his wife. He was a British naval pensioner with twenty-three years’ service who had retired shortly after the end of the Great War. When notified of the shooting, the police and the military had O’Donovan’s body removed to Bandon Military Barracks; his remains were later interred at Innishannon. See CE, 31 March 1921; FJ, 31 March, 1 April 1921; CCE, 2 April 1921; SS, 25 June 1921. The name of Denis Donovan appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 29 March 1921, with the notation ‘British supporter’, and with a note that compensation of £2,000 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).
His wife acknowledged that her husband ‘was suspected of assisting the authorities then in Bandon & district’. See Application of Kate O’Donovan to Irish Grants Committee, stamped received 31 Dec. 1926 (CO 762/78/13). Of this alleged spy, Tom Barry declared: ‘The British held such a high opinion of this agent that they compulsorily closed all businesses in Bandon on the day of his funeral. Another reaction of theirs was to burn four republican farmhouses in the neighbourhood of the action.’ See Barry (1949, 1989), 140-41.
But evidence given at the military inquest suggests that O’Donovan had not been a spy. Though it was admitted that he had been ‘a very loyal subject’, Captain Curtis informed those attending the inquest that O’Donovan ‘took no part in politics and did not come in contact with the military or police’. Curtis also made the following claim: ‘A determined attempt is being made to clear all the loyalists from the Bandon area.’ While Curtis exaggerated the scope of IRA actions against Bandon-area loyalists, his testimony implies that O’Donovan was not providing information to the forces of the crown. See Military Inquests, WO 35/149A/40 (TNA).