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The Selton Hill Ambush took place on 11 March 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. An Irish Republican Army (IRA) flying column was ambushed by members of the RIC Auxiliary Division at Selton Hill (aka Seltan Hill), County Leitrim. Six IRA officers of the Leitrim Brigade were killed.


Sean Connolly was an IRA activist from County Longford, but he was also used by IRA GHQ to organise surrounding areas; first County Roscommon and then County Leitrim. When Michael Collins ordered Connolly into the county, he warned that it was "the most treacherous county in Ireland".[2] Collins' warning was well founded. As Connolly was running a training camp at Selton Hill in early 1921, his position was given to the RIC.[3] The RIC District Inspector, Thomas Gore-Hickman, had been alerted to Connolly's position by a local doctor who had served in the British Army.[4] The doctor had been told of the training camp by a local member of the Orange Order.[5]


The events at Selton Hill took place one week after the Sheemore ambush, in which British troops suffered several casualties and at least one fatality.

At Selton Hill, a large force of RIC and Auxiliaires, based in Mohill, surrounded and then attacked the IRA camp on 11 March. A total of six IRA volunteers were killed. The RIC suffered no losses. The IRA dead were Sean Connolly from Longford, Seamus Wrynne, Joseph O'Beirne (or Beirne), John Reilly, Joseph Reilly, and Capt ME Baxter.[6][7]

Ernie O'Malley states that their bodies were then "taken to Mohill by soldiers who shouted 'fresh meat!' as they were driving through the town".[8]

Ernie O'Malley is also quoted as saying "Men from the Bedfordshire Regiment were seen by a badly wounded IRA officer, who survived, to use rifle butts on the skulls of two wounded men." He also says that the location of the column was given to the local D/I of the RIC by a doctor who had been in the British Army. The doctor had been given the information by a local Orangeman.[9]

The IRA Officer who survived was Bernie Sweeney, from Ballinamore. He survived by hiding in a drain, and the cold water prevented him bleeding to death. He was rescued and hidden from the RIC by local people.[10]


The IRA found out that their position had been given away by the doctor and the Orangeman. The Orangeman was later killed by the IRA, but the doctor escaped to England and later died in an accident.[11][12]

The border country of the north midlands often proved to be a treacherous place for IRA training camps, possibly due to the presence of a substantial unionist population there. On 8 May 1921 another camp (of Belfast IRA volunteers) based in the Lappanduff hills in neighbouring County Cavan, was also surprised – one volunteer was killed, thirteen captured and much arms and ammunition seized by the British.[13]

See also


  1. Ernie O'Malley, Cormac K. H. O'Malley. Rising out: Seán Connolly of Longford (1890-1921). p. 161. ISBN 1904558895. 
  2. Michael Hopkinson, the Irish War of Independence p144
  3. Marie Coleman, County Longford and the Irish Revolution, p129
  4. Ernie O'Mally, Raids and Rallies, p136
  5. Ernie O'Mally, Raids and Rallies, p101
  6. They Put the Flag a-Flyin The Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923 by Kathleen Hegarty Thorne
  7. Chronology of Irish History 1919 - 1923 - March 1921
  8. O'Malley p101
  9. Sean Connolly of Longford (1890-1921) by Ernie O'Malley / Cormac K.H. O'Malley UCD Press
  10. Leitrim Guardian - Selton Ambush - "Eye Witness Account"
  11. O'Malley, Raids and Rallies, p101
  12. Sean Connolly of Longford (1890-1921) by Ernie O'Malley / Cormac K.H. O'Malley UCD Press
  13. Hopkinson, p147

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