Identity Statement for Austin Stack

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P149
  • Title: Papers of Austin Stack (1879–1929)
  • Dates: 1918–22
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 8 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical History

Augustine (Austin) Moore Stack was born on 7 December 1879 in Ballymullen, County Kerry. His parents were closely connected to nationalist causes: his father, William Moore Stack, was a Fenian, while his mother was active in the Ladies Land League. Stack was the third child of eight, two sisters, Beatrice (Bee) and Nora preceding him; and Nanette, Teresa, Josephine (Joe), Nicholas and James (Jim) born after him. Six of the Stack children would eventually emigrate to the United States.

At the age of fourteen, Stack left the Christian Brothers School in Tralee and became a clerk in a solicitor’s office. He was deeply involved with the Gaelic Athletic Association in his home county, captaining Kerry to an All-Ireland football championship in 1904 and holding the presidency of the Kerry County Board of the GAA from 1918 to 1929.

His political career began in 1908 when he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Cathal Brugha, later joining the Irish Volunteers on their foundation in 1913. By 1916 he was commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Volunteers, and as such made preparations for the landing of arms by Roger Casement at Banna Strand. After Casement’s arrest on Easter Saturday, Stack returned to Tralee where he too was arrested and sent to Spike Island, the first of many periods of imprisonment. He was sentenced to penal servitude for life for his part in this operation. Following the general release of prisoners in 1917, Stack returned to Kerry but was shortly re-arrested, this time on a charge of illegal drilling. In Mountjoy Jail he led the hunger strike during which Thomas Ashe was killed by forcible feeding.

After serving time in Dundalk Jail, Stack was sent to prison in Belfast where he was heavily involved in the campaign to gain political status for the prisoners. While in Belfast, he was elected chairman of the Tralee and Dingle Railway Company Committee. After a riot in December 1918 he was transferred to Strangeways Prison in Manchester. However, in October 1919 he managed to escape with five other prisoners.

Having been elected an abstentionist Sinn Féin Member of Parliament for Kerry West in 1918, he became a member of the First Dáil. He was also elected Teachta Dála for Kerry-Limerick West in the Second Dáil of 1921. Stack strongly opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, fighting on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. He travelled to the United States on a speaking tour in early 1922 and lived as a fugitive on his return to Ireland. He was eventually captured by pro-Treaty forces near Sliabh na mBán in County Tipperary in April 1923. He underwent another hunger strike during this incarceration, lasting forty one days, before being released in July 1924.

After his release he served as the TD for Kerry, remaining with Sinn Féin after Eamon de Valera founded the Fianna Fáil Party in 1926. He decided not to stand in the September 1927 general election, his health being poor due to his many hunger strikes.

Austin Stack died in hospital in Dublin on 27 April 1929. He was survived by his wife Úna [neé Gordon] whom he had married in August 1925.

Archival History

These papers were presented to President Éamon de Valera on 27 January 1973 by Kevin Murnaghan, who discovered them amongst the effects of his late uncle, Professor Felix Hackett. They were transferred to the Franciscan Library Killiney with the late President’s own papers, and then to University College Dublin under the terms of the UCD-OFM Partnership.

Scope and Content

Correspondence received while incarcerated in Belfast prison, 1918–19, from political colleagues, family members and well-wishers. Most letters are accompanied by their original envelopes. Unless specified otherwise at item level, letters are holograph.

Correspondence received while incarcerated in Strangeways Prison, 1919, from political colleagues, family members and well-wishers.

Small amount of correspondence received around the time of his trip to America, 1921–22, from family members and well-wishers.

Small number of writings by Stack during his time in prison.

Black and white photographs, probably taken inside Belfast prison.

Other ephemera, including address book and leaflets.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue