When she produced a contemporary newspaper article detailing the gaoling of 'The Cleary Sisters' by Michael Collins' Free State provisional government then proceeded to condemn the connivance of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in destroying the republic and the igniting a savage Civil War, I understood the depth of their courage and of their animosity towards the British Empire.
'I disliked the British so much for what they did in Ireland I didn't care if they lost the war against Germany...as for Collins, he should never have signed that treaty. The IRA could have fought on. It's terrible to think of the good men that were lost in the Civil War. I blame Collins for that but the British government was so dishonest,' Mary had told me. .
While Maire walked the anti-treaty path, her cousin Donncadh OhAhannagain went Free State. However, not long after the killing of IRA man Dannie Shinnick during an attack on O'Hannigan's Free State battalion at Glenacurrane, only a mile from his own home, on 28 September 1922 he resigned from the army. A fluent Irish speaker - as was his mother Nora Cleary - OhAnnagain had used his gardening and horticulture shop in Mitchelstown as a centre for Volunteer activities and gun smuggling prior to the Easter rebellion. As an IRA man he'd sworn allegiance to the republic and led the East Limerick Brigade into battle against the Black and Tans and the British Army in ambushes throughout East Limerick.
The Cleary women had followed Liam Lynch, Chief of Staff of the IRA and former Galtee Mountain neighbour of OhAnnagain in opposing the Treaty. Maire paid for that decision with 8 months in gaol. By the time Maire was released in September 1923 - Nellie spent only a week in Kilmainham - Lynch had joined Collins in the roll call of dead, killed by Free Staters a few miles from his home. The words of their neice Joan Cleary offer an interesting spin on the times. 'Well, as Maire used say, why was Collins never arrested by the British, when so many of his comrades were?'