Tom Ruane – Soldier and Politician recalled by James Reddiough

Tom Ruane – Soldier and Politician recalled by James Reddiough

On the Sligo road in Ballina in North Mayo is the Municipal Park dedicated to the memory of one Tom Ruane,  but do the younger generations realise who he was?

Tom played a significant role in the life of the nation and the town in the 20th Century from the early days of the Revolution to the affairs of the new State.

He came from Castle Road, Ballina where he was born in 1894 to a family of painters; he himself would become a house painter’s assistant and a draper in later life. He was an Irish volunteer and Commandant of the Ballina brigade or battalion in the 1917 to 1918 period when he was imprisoned in Sligo Gaol for illegal drilling at Gurteen cross on the Crossmolina road in March 1918. He held the rank of Battalion Commandant until the formation of the North Mayo Brigade in September 1920 when he was appointed O/C. He was captured in Late November 1920 in a round up following the events of Bloody Sunday in Dublin and interned in Ballykinlar camp in Co. Down after having spent time incarcerated in Galway Gaol. He was released in January 1922 after the ratification of the Treaty.

He took a full and active part in the Civil war and was O/C during the Civil war along with Seamas Kilcullen from Corballa. He took part in the takeover of Ballina in September 1922 under the command of Michael Kilroy and was seriously wounded at Glenamoy a few days later. He was nursed back to recovery but was captured and interned for a short period until his escape and he was O/C North Mayo brigade during 1923. He was a member of the standing committee of the 4th Western Division and also a member of the Army Council of the Volunteers and he was at the Knockmealdon Mountains meeting of the Council when the Chief of Staff Liam Lynch was shot and fatally wounded in April 1923.

He was one of the founding members of the Fianna Fail Cumann in Ballina in 1926. Ruane was elected to the Ballina Urban District Council in the local elections of May 1920 representing Sinn Fein. It was Tom who suggested at a meeting of the Urban District Council in 1922 that the street names in Ballina be called after patriots from the area and beyond who gave their lives for Ireland and this was accepted and the process begun. It is fitting then that the park be named after him.

Tom reached a further phase in his political life in 1934 when he joined the Free State Senate and he was on the Board of Mayo VEC also and played football for Mayo and was a member of the County Board GAA. He served in the senate for some 26 and half years from the 6th December 1934 to the 28th April 1965. Tom Ruane was also responsible for a good number of the housing developments in the town places like Healy Terrace and Morrison terrace and the housing developments in the west of the town at Lord Edward Street and Ferran Terrace. Tom was also a founding member of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Mayo Board of Health and a member of the Moy Harbour Commissioners.

Tom Ruane died on the 7th June 1969 and his large funeral was attended and addressed by An Taoiseach Jack Lynch, T.D. whilst he was on the election campaign in North Mayo at the time. Mr. Lynch paid tribute to Tom Ruane for his work at local and national level. The Tom Ruane Fianna Fail Cumman was named in his honour in the town and then there was Tom Ruane Memorial Park a fitting tribute to one who lived a life of service to the area and the country both as an active Volunteer and public servant.

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