GALWAY, Ireland – Today is the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the body of Father Michael Griffin, a Galway priest who was brutally murdered during the War of Independence.
Griffin, who was born in Gurteen and ordained in 1917, was believed to have been shot by the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary due to his sympathy for the independence movement. On the night of 14 November 1920, Father Griffin left his home in the west of the city but never returned. It is thought that he was taken to Lenaboy Castle, where Auxiliary forces were stationed, and ultimately killed after being questioned.
Six days later, his body was found in an unmarked grave in a bog at Cloghscoltia near Barna; he had been shot through the head. It is believed that his involvement in attending to Seamus Quirke, a lieutenant in the local IRA who was shot eleven times by the Auxiliaries, as well as in the funeral of Micheál Walsh, a Sinn Féin Councillor who was taken from his premises, singled him out for an attack by the Auxiliaries.
Father Griffin was remembered during his funeral mass at St Joseph’s Church, where the funeral cortege processed through the streets of Galway. Three bishops, 150 priests, and over 12,000 mourners participated, and the priest was buried in the grounds of Loughrea Cathedral. He is commemorated by Father Griffin Road, near his former home, and the Father Griffins GAA team. A memorial in Barna marks the area where his body was discovered.
Fellow priest Fr. O’Meehan, a friend of Father Griffin’s, was present when the body was unearthed. He spoke highly of his late colleague, noting that he had learned Irish fluently in three years after leaving the seminary. Officer Frank Crozier, commander of the Auxiliary Division, wrote in his memoirs that Father Griffin had been murdered by cadets in the division, and that a plot was planned to murder Dr. Michael Fogarty, Bishop of Killaloe, but never enacted.