Boland is the son of Irish Republican Brotherhood member James Boland and Kate Woods. He was active in GAA circles in early life, and referees the 1914 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. He joins the IRB at the same time as his older brother Gerald in 1904, following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and probably grandfather. He is educated at the Synge Street CBS, but hads a personality clash with one of the brothers so he refuses to carry on his attendance at the school. He then goes to De la Salle College, County Laois, as a novice.
In the 1922 Irish general election, Boland is re-elected to the Dáil representing Mayo South–Roscommon South. Six weeks later, on July 31, he is shot by soldiers of the National Army when they attempt to arrest him at the Skerries Grand Hotel. Two officers enter his room and, although unarmed, he is shot and mortally wounded during a struggle.
Boland’s death affects Collins and possibly spurs him toward peace negotiations with Éamon de Valera.
Boland’s brother, Gerald Boland, is a prominent member of Fianna Fáil and later serves as Minister for Justice. His nephew, Kevin Boland, serves as a Minister until he resigns in solidarity with the two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, who are sacked from the government in May 1970 during the Arms Crisis. Kevin Boland’s resignation from Fianna Fáil and the subsequent loss of his seat marks the end of an era for the Boland political dynasty.
In the 1991 TV movie The Treaty, Boland is portrayed by Malcolm Douglas. In the 1996 film Michael Collins, he is portrayed by American actor Aidan Quinn. The film is criticised for fictionalising both Boland’s death and Collins’ life.
After the Anglo-Irish truce of July 1921, Cooney is appointed Officer Commanding (O/C) of the 1st Kerry Brigade, IRA, reorganising it and forming a flying column. Opposing the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, he does not immediately break with GHQ, who sends him to organise the 1st Eastern Division. Later in January 1922, the Chief of Staff, Eoin O’Duffy, asks him to become O/C of the 3rd Eastern Division, but later rescinds the appointment. In March 1922 he is appointed O/C of the 1st Eastern Division of the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War.
That same year he is captured by Free State forces and interned in Mountjoy Prison, where he becomes O/C of the prisoners in C Wing. He accepts responsibility for an attempted escape bid on October 10, 1922, in which a fellow prisoner, Peadar Breslin, is killed and another man is wounded. After sojourns in Newbridge and Arbour Hill Prison, he is moved with the other leaders to Kilmainham Gaol, where he spends forty-one days on hunger strike. Removed to Harepark Camp, the Curragh, on January 1, 1924, he is among the last to be released on May 29, 1924.
Cooney succeeds Frank Aiken as Chief of Staff of the IRA on November 18, 1925. Central to the reorganisation scheme he puts in place is the need to secure American funds for the IRA and to combat Frank Aiken’s fundraising work in the United States since December 1925 on behalf of the embryo Fianna Fáil organisation. Receiving permission on April 21, 1926, he departs on a fund-raising trip to the United States, but returns to Ireland in October. He resigns as chief of staff in favour of Maurice Twomey, but retains his position as chairman of the IRA executive until November 21, 1927, when he obtains leave to complete his medical studies.
After internship in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, Cooney finds temporary employment in London, but remains in touch with GHQ. On September 27, 1929, he marries the German-educated Frances (‘Frank’) Brady, daughter of a wealthy Belfast linen family and former Cumann na mBan activist and hunger-striker. The marriage is not a success. Failing to secure employment due to police harassment and the loyalty test then in force, he and his wife are obliged to emigrate to London, where he practises as a GP, still maintaining his IRA links. Their only child, Seán, is born there in 1931. He returns to Ireland in August 1932, after Fianna Fáil’s accession to power.
An intimate friend of Maurice Twomey, who is still Chief of Staff, Cooney remains in the upper echelons of the IRA and attends its conventions. Signifying his standing in republican circles, he is chosen to unveil, inter alia, the Fenian memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery and the Seán Treacy plaque in Talbot Street, Dublin, and is a regular speaker at commemorations. In March 1940, he attempts to intercede with Éamon de Valera on behalf of hunger-striking republicans, and is later arrested, but released.
After the discovery of a German spy ring in the hospitals commission’s subsidiary, the Dublin Hospitals Bureau, Cooney is forced to resign in April 1942 on refusing to take a loyalty pledge to the state. He returns to private practice. He becomes active in the unsuccessful campaign to save Charlie Kerins, Chief of Staff, from being hanged in 1944. In anticipation of emigrating, he finally resigns from the IRA in 1944, though military and police surveillance continue until March 1945.
Appointed a part-time member of the hospitals commission by the inter-party government in September 1949 and in severe financial straits, Cooney emigrates alone to the United States on December 2, 1950, and never returns. While employed in a tuberculosissanatorium in New Jersey, he obtains by examination his licence to practise medicine in Maryland on January 14, 1954. Admitted a member of the American College of Chest Physicians, again by examination, on November 23, 1954, he secures, at the age of 57, his first ever permanent post in medicine, in a similar hospital in Pikesville, Maryland. His republican activities continue through Clan na Gael during his U.S. years, and he is a frequent speaker at commemorative events.
(Pictured: Liam Lynch with some of his Divisional Staff and Officers of the Brigades, including the 1st Southern Division, who attend as delegates to the Army Convention at the Mansion House, Dublin, on April 9, 1922. Cooney is first on the right in the 3rd row back.)
Cosgrave succeeds James Dillon as leader of the Fine Gael party in 1965. Eight years later, as leader of a coalition government in which Fine Gael combines forces with the Labour Party, he becomes Taoiseach. He and British Prime MinisterEdward Heath are the main participants in the intergovernmental conference at Sunningdale in December 1973 that gives birth to Northern Ireland’s first, though short-lived, power-sharing executive (1973–74). A devout Roman Catholic, he is intensely conservative on social issues and shocks his cabinet colleagues by voting against his own government’s bill on liberalizing the sale of contraceptives in 1974. The National Coalition is defeated in the 1977 Irish general election, largely on the economic issues of inflation and unemployment.
Liam Cosgrave dies at the age of 97 on October 4, 2017, of natural causes. He had been at Tallaght Hospital for several months prior to his death there. His funeral is held on October 7, 2017, after which he is interred alongside his father at Inchicore‘s Goldenbridge Cemetery. He is the longest-lived Taoiseach, dying at the age of 97 years, 174 days.
Lynch is born on November 9, 1893, in Barnagurraha, Anglesboro, County Limerick, the fifth child among six sons and a daughter of Jeremiah Lynch, farmer, and Mary Lynch (neé Kelly). The family is politically active. His father’s brother, John, had taken part in the Fenian Rising of 1867 and his mother had been joint secretary of the Ballylanders branch of the Ladies’ Land League.
Lynch attends Anglesboro national school (1898–1909). In 1910 he moves to Mitchelstown, County Cork, to take up a three-year apprenticeship in the hardware store of P. O’Neill on Baldwin Street. He remains there until the autumn of 1915. While in Mitchelstown he is a member of the Gaelic League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He also joins the Irish Volunteers. In 1914, when that organisation splits, he does not immediately join the militant rump. He then moves to Fermoy, County Cork, where he works in the store of Messrs J. Barry & Sons Ltd. His move coincides with a period of inactivity as neither Volunteer faction is very active nor is he known. Consequently, he does not take part in the 1916 Easter Rising, but it is a turning point for him. On May 2, 1916, he watches as the Kent family are led through Fermoy, having been captured by British soldiers. Richard Kent dies from a wound sustained that day and Thomas Kent is executed a week later. Lynch becomes a committed Volunteer at this point.
Once committed, Lynch’s enthusiasm and aptitude ensures that he quickly attains positions of responsibility. From early 1917 he is first lieutenant in the small Fermoy company. In September 1917, the Irish Volunteers in east Cork are reorganised. Nine local companies are formed into the Fermoy battalion and he is elected adjutant. In April 1918, at the height of the conscription crisis, he briefly quits his job to concentrate on organising the Volunteers. In May he is lucky to escape arrest during the sweep that accompanies the “German plot.” When the immediate danger ends he returns to Barry & Sons.
In January 1919, at the beginning of the Irish War of Independence, the Volunteer organisation in Cork undergoes a major restructuring. Three brigades are established, and Lynch becomes brigade commandant of Cork No. 2. In April he visits Irish Republican Army GHQ in Dublin to discuss plans and to seek arms. It is a frustrating experience as the GHQ has few guns and are cautious about action. Throughout the summer of 1919 he presses GHQ to authorise attacks on British targets as a method of acquiring arms and to prevent boredom and stagnation setting in among his men. Finally, GHQ sanctions attacks if the primary aim is the capture of arms. In response, on September 7, 1919, twenty-five men from the Fermoy company, led by Lynch, ambush fourteen British soldiers on their way to service in the Wesleyan church in Fermoy. Fifteen rifles are captured, one soldier killed, and three wounded. Lynch is shot in the shoulder, probably by one of his own men. As a result, he has to leave his job and hides out in Waterford for a time. A series of arrests follow, among those is Lynch’s close friend, Michael Fitzgerald, who dies on hunger strike in Cork County Gaol in 1920.
Lynch spends the early months of 1920 at GHQ in Dublin. During this time, he is offered the position of deputy chief of staff, but turns it down, preferring to return to Cork. Although not an articulate speaker, he impresses those he meets. His organisational talents, attention to detail, ability to inspire, and intolerance for those who waste meetings endlessly discussing side issues, are noted. He has a low tolerance for politicians and at all times considers the military wing of the movement to be of primary importance. He is engaged to Bridie Keyes, but marriage is postponed pending a final settlement of hostilities.
On June 26, 1920, Lynch, Seán Moylan, and two colleagues capture Major-GeneralCuthbert Lucas while he is fishing on the Munster Blackwater. He gives a false name when he is arrested on August 12, 1920, at City Hall, Cork, with Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, and ten others. All but MacSwiney are released four days later. He then sets about organising a flying column within the brigade. Ernie O’Malley arrives from headquarters to train the men. This column achieves a major coup on September 28, 1920, when they briefly capture the British Army barracks at Mallow, leaving with a large booty of rifles, ammunition, and two machine guns. The British respond to this increase in activity and the war settles into a pattern of ambush and counter-ambush. The Mallow battalion suffers severe losses in February 1921 and Lynch himself narrowly escapes when four are killed during an encounter at Nadd in March 1921.
In early 1921 Lynch seeks to encourage greater cooperation between the various brigades in the south. Senior brigade officers meet on three occasions to discuss cooperation and a plan to import arms from Italy. The importation project fails, but the First Southern Division is formed on April 26, 1921, bringing eight brigades from Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and west Limerick together. He is elected divisional commandant, making him the most powerful officer outside GHQ. His influence is further increased by his appointment as Southern Divisional Centre and Supreme Council member of the clandestine Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in March 1921.
Lynch is wary when the truce is called in July 1921. He works hard to maintain order in his division and to achieve a state of readiness in case the negotiations fail. For him the Anglo-Irish Treaty is a failure. When the Supreme Council of the IRB meets on December 10, 1921, he is the only voice against the agreement. He is among the officers who insist that an army convention should be called to discuss the treaty, effectively asserting that the army no longer accepts a position subordinate to the Dáil. The army, he believes, is the army of the Republic, and no civilian body can order it to abandon the Republic. The provisional government tries to ban this convention, but it goes ahead on March 26, 1922, and elects an army executive. Lynch is elected Chief of Staff. Between March and June, he works hard to prevent a civil war. He believes unity can be maintained, even under the Treaty, if a republican constitution can be enacted. He also cooperates with Michael Collins in promoting Irish Republican Army (IRA) activity in Ulster. In his adherence to the idea of a republic, the practicalities of politics have little impact on his consciousness and he is dismissive of the popular support for the Treaty. He is horrified at the thought of civil war but fails to see that his position is leading almost inexorably in that direction. Distrusted as too moderate by Liam Mellows and Rory O’Connor, he is locked out of the Four Courts for a time.
When the Four Courts are attacked, Lynch immediately leaves his headquarters at the Clarence Hotel to travel south. He is briefly detained, before reaching Kingsbridge Station, and has a meeting with Eoin O’Duffy. He is disgusted when Free State figures later claim that he was released, having promised not to take arms against the government. The most plausible explanation of the incident appears to be that O’Duffy interpreted Lynch’s comments, merely indicating disappointment that a war had started, as constituting a statement of intent not to involve himself.
Lynch’s initial actions seem designed to avoid full-scale conflict. He does not order an attack on Dublin, nor does he attempt to seize Limerick. He chooses a containment strategy, seeking to hold a line from Limerick to Waterford for the republican forces. This fails, as the government sends troops in from the rear by sea. The republicans have no urban base when Lynch abandons Fermoy on August 11, 1922. He continues to meet individuals who seek a way to end the war, but intransigence has set in and he insists that armed struggle will only end with a republic or absolute defeat. As early as August many republicans believe the war is lost and urge a reassessment of tactics, but Lynch rejects all such calls. Operating from secret headquarters in Santry, he orders the shooting of pro-Treaty politicians in retaliation for the execution of republican prisoners.
Under war conditions it is impossible for the army executive to meet regularly, and this leaves Lynch in almost complete control. As the pro-surrender lobby grows within the republican forces, he delays a meeting of the executive, claiming with some justification that it is too dangerous. He leaves Santry and attends a meeting of the Southern Division Council in the last days of February 1923. Sixteen of the eighteen officers there tell him that the military position is hopeless. This forces the calling of an executive meeting on March 6, 1923. No agreement is reached. He strongly favours fighting on, but a motion from Tom Barry, calling for an immediate end to hostilities, is barely rejected. Another meeting is arranged for April 10. On that morning a group, including Lynch and Frank Aiken, suddenly find themselves in danger of capture in a farmhouse on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Tipperary. They flee and are pursued. During the chase Lynch is shot in the abdomen. It seems clear that he is shot by the pursuing Free State soldiers, although Irish historian Meda Ryan has considered the theory that he may have been shot by one of his own in order to remove the major stumbling block to surrender. His colleagues are forced to abandon him, and he is captured. Initially the Free State troops believe they have caught Éamon de Valera. He is taken first to a public house in Newcastle, County Tipperary, and then to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel, but dies from his wound at 8:45 p.m. that evening. His last request is to be buried beside Michael Fitzgerald in Kilcrumper Cemetery, Fermoy, County Cork. On hearing of Lynch’s death, Ernie O’Malley writes, “You who were a living force are now a battle cry.” O’Malley is wrong, however, as the peace faction within republicanism is strengthened by his death and Aiken orders the suspension of activities on April 27.
In 1935, a massive memorial, consisting of a 60-foot-tall round tower, guarded by four bronze Irish Wolfhounds, is erected at Goatenbridge, County Tipperary, near the site of his capture. It is unveiled on April 7, 1935. Separate annual commemorations are held at Goatenbridge and Kilcrumper. Three biographies have been written and the Liam Lynch memorial pipe band is based in his native Anglesboro. The Lynch family possess a substantial collection of private correspondence.
A Luftwaffe bomb kills thirteen people in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the night of April 7, 1941. Ultimately, the city is devastated by air raids. Seven hundred people are killed and 400 seriously injured in what becomes known as the Belfast Blitz. The Blitz consists of four German air raids on strategic targets in Belfast, in April and May 1941 during World War II.
There had been a number of small bombings, probably by planes that missed their targets over the River Clyde in Glasgow or the cities of North West England. On March 24, 1941, John MacDermott, Minister for Public Security, writes to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, John Andrews, expressing his concerns that Belfast is so poorly protected. “Up to now we have escaped attack. So had Clydeside until recently. Clydeside got its blitz during the period of the last moon. There [is] ground for thinking that the … enemy could not easily reach Belfast in force except during a period of moonlight. The period of the next moon from say the 7th to the 16th of April may well bring our turn.” MacDermott is proved right.
The first deliberate raid takes place on the night of April 7. It targets the docks. Neighbouring residential areas are also hit. Six Heinkel He 111 bombers, from Kampfgruppe 26, flying at 7,000 feet, drop incendiaries, high explosive and parachute mines. By British mainland blitz standards, casualties are light. Thirteen die, including a soldier killed when an anti-aircraft gun at the Balmoral show-grounds misfires. The most significant loss is a 4.5-acre factory floor for manufacturing the fuselages of Short Stirling bombers. The Royal Air Force (RAF) announces that Squadron Leader J.W.C. Simpson shot down one of the Heinkels over Downpatrick. The Luftwaffe crews return to their base in Northern France and report that Belfast’s defences are “inferior in quality, scanty and insufficient.” This raid overall causes relatively little damage, but a lot is revealed about Belfast’s inadequate defences.
On Easter Tuesday, April 15, 1941, spectators watching a football match at Windsor Park notice a lone LuftwaffeJunkers Ju 88 aircraft circling overhead. That evening over 150 bombers leave their bases in northern France and the Netherlands and head for Belfast. There are Heinkel He 111s, Junkers Ju 88s and Dornier Do 17s. At 10:40 p.m. the air-raid sirens sound. Accounts differ as to when flares are dropped to light up the city. The first attack is against the city’s waterworks, which had been attacked in the previous raid. High explosives are dropped. Initially it is thought that the Germans had mistaken this reservoir for the harbour and shipyards, where many ships, including HMS Ark Royal are being repaired. However, that attack is not an error. Three vessels nearing completion at Harland & Wolff are hit as is its power station. Wave after wave of bombers drop their incendiaries, high explosives and landmines. When incendiaries are dropped, the city burns as water pressure is too low for effective firefighting. There is no opposition. In the mistaken belief that they might damage RAF fighters, the anti-aircraft batteries cease firing. But the RAF does not respond. The bombs continued to fall until 5:00 a.m.
Outside of London, with some 900 dead, this is the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz. A stray bomber attacks Derry, killing fifteeen. Another attacks Bangor, County Down, killing five. By 4:00 a.m. the entire city seems to be in flames. At 4:15 a.m., John MacDermott, the Minister of Public Security, manages to contact Minister of AgricultureBasil Brooke seeking permission to seek help from the Irish government. Brooke notes in his diary, “I gave him authority as it is obviously a question of expediency.” Since 1:45 a.m. all telephones have been cut. Fortunately, the railway telegraphy link between Belfast and Dublin is still operational. The telegram is sent at 4:35 a.m. asking the Irish Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, for assistance.
By 6:00 a.m., within two hours of the request for assistance, 71 firemen with 13 fire tenders from Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin, and Dún Laoghaire are on their way to cross the Irish border to assist their Belfast colleagues. In each station volunteers are requested, as it is beyond their normal duties. In every instance, all step forward. They remain in Belfast for three days, until they are sent back by the Northern Ireland government. By then 250 firemen from Clydeside have arrived.
There is a second massive air raid on Belfast on Sunday, May 4-5, 1941, three weeks after the Easter Tuesday raid. Around 1:00 a.m., Luftwaffe bombers fly over the city, concentrating their attack on the Harbour Estate and Queen’s Island. Nearby residential areas in east Belfast are also hit when “203 metric tonnes of high explosive bombs, 80 land mines attached to parachutes, and 800 firebomb canisters containing 96,000 incendiary bombs” are dropped. Over 150 people die in what becomes known as the “Fire Blitz.” Casualties are lower than at Easter, partly because the sirens sound at 11:45 p.m. while the Luftwaffe attack more cautiously from a greater height. St. George’s Church in High Street is damaged by fire. Again, the Irish emergency services cross the border, this time without waiting for an invitation.
(Pictured: Rescue workers search through the rubble of Eglington Street in Belfast, Northern Ireland, after a German Luftwaffe air raid, May 7, 1941)
Ó Dálaigh, one of four children, is born on February 12, 1911, in Bray, County Wicklow. His father, Richard O’Daly, is a fishmonger with little interest in politics. His mother is Una Thornton. His birth name is registered in English as Carroll O’Daly, which he uses during his legal career, and which is recorded by some publications.
Ó Dálaigh is a committed Fianna Fáil supporter who serves on the party’s National Executive in the 1930s. He becomes Ireland’s youngest Attorney General in 1946, under TaoiseachÉamon de Valera, serving until 1948. Unsuccessful in Dáil and Seanad elections in 1948 and 1951, he is re-appointed as Attorney General of Ireland in 1951. In 1953, he is nominated as the youngest-ever member of the Supreme Court by his mentor, de Valera. Less than a decade later, he becomes Chief Justice of Ireland, on the nomination of Taoiseach Seán Lemass. He is a keen actor in his early years, and becomes a close friend of actor Cyril Cusack. It is commonly stated that Ó Dálaigh and Cusack picketed the Dublin launch of Disney‘s Darby O’Gill and the Little People in 1959, for what they felt was the film’s stereotyping of Irish people. However, there is no known contemporary reference to this having occurred.
In 1972, Taoiseach Jack Lynch suggests to the opposition parties that they agree to nominate Ó Dálaigh to become President of Ireland when President de Valera’s second term ends in June of the following year. Fine Gael, confident that its prospective candidate, Tom O’Higgins, will win the 1973 presidential election, having almost defeated de Valera in 1966, turn down the offer. Fianna Fáil’s Erskine H. Childers goes on to win the election that follows.
When Ireland joins the European Economic Community (EEC), Lynch appoints Ó Dálaigh as Ireland’s judge on the European Court of Justice. When President Childers dies suddenly in 1974, all parties agree to nominate Ó Dálaigh to replace him.
Ó Dálaigh’s decision in 1976 to exercise his power to refer a bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality brings him into conflict with the Fine Gael-Labour National Coalition. Following the assassination of the British Ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), on July 23, 1976, the government announces its intention to introduce legislation extending the maximum period of detention without charge from two to seven days.
Ó Dálaigh refers the resulting bill, the Emergency Powers Bill, to the Supreme Court. When the court rules that the bill is constitutional, he signs the bill into law on October 16, 1976. On the same day, an IRA bomb in Mountmellick, County Laois, kills Michael Clerkin, a member of the Garda Síochána, the country’s police force. Ó Dálaigh’s actions are seen by government ministers to have contributed to the killing of this Garda. On the following day, Minister for DefencePaddy Donegan, visiting a barracks in Mullingar, County Westmeath, to open a canteen, attacks the President for sending the bill to the Supreme Court, calling him a “thundering disgrace.”
Ó Dálaigh’s private papers show that he considered the relationship between the President (as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces) and the Minister for Defence had been “irrevocably broken” by the comments of the Minister in front of the army Chief of Staff and other high-ranking officers. Donegan offers his resignation, but Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave refuses to accept it. This proves the last straw for Ó Dálaigh, who believes that Cosgrave had additionally failed to meet his constitutional obligation to regularly brief the President. He resigns from the presidency on October 22, 1976, “to protect the dignity and independence of the presidency as an institution.” He is succeeded as President of Ireland by Patrick Hillery.
Ó Dálaigh dies of a heart attack on March 21, 1978, less than two years after resigning the presidency. He is buried in Sneem, County Kerry.
The IRB is a small, secret, revolutionary body whose sole object is to “establish and maintain a free and independent Republican Government in Ireland.” Stephens is a Young Irelander and is a lieutenant to William Smith O’Brien at the Battle of Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch in Ballingary, County Tipperary, in August 1848. He is wounded three times and is smuggled onto a ship to England and then to France, where he spends the next eight years. Upon his return to Dublin in 1856, he determines to organise a revolutionary movement and that leads to the founding of the IRB.
The IRB becomes known as the Fenian movement in the 1850s and 1860s and is committed to the use of force to establish an independent Irish republic. After organising an abortive rising in March 1867, it suffers deep internal divisions over its leadership and strategy in both the United States and Ireland—whether it is best to strike at England, in Ireland or in Canada. The issue is resolved after a series of failed interventions in Canada in 1866, 1867 and 1871, and after bombings in England that do not lead Ireland closer to independence. The IRB is unable to exploit the weaknesses and divisions in the constitutional movement following Charles Stewart Parnell’s divorce scandal (1890–91).
The IRB is eventually rejuvenated in Ireland about 1907, led by Bulmer Hobson and Tom Clarke, thus preparing the way for all that follows.The governing body is the Supreme Council. Before 1916 this consists of eleven members, and after the 1917 reorganisation it contains fifteen members. When not in session, all powers of the Supreme Council, except for declaring war, devolve onto an executive of three: the president, secretary and treasurer.
The constitution provides for the establishment of a military council, subordinate to the Supreme Council. The seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic constitute the entire military council at the time. The constitution is dedicated to the use of force against England at any favourable opportunity, but this is to be a democratic decision: “The IRB shall await the decision of the Irish Nation as expressed by a majority of the Irish people as to the fit hour of inaugurating a war against England and shall, pending such an emergency, lend its support to every movement calculated to advance the cause of Irish independence, consistent with the preservation of its own integrity,” a clause adopted in 1873 in response to the controversies arising from the 1867 Fenian Rising.
The IRB plans the 1916 Easter Rising but the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army make it possible. The establishment of the Irish Volunteers gives the IRB the great opportunity to train and equip its members as a military body for the purpose of securing independence for Ireland by force of arms and securing the cooperation of all Irish military bodies in the accomplishment of its objectives. Numerically the IRB probably never exceeds 2,000 members, but they are all extremely loyal and well trained, and there is very tight security. The executions of 1916 just about wipe out the Supreme Council, and after the prisoners are released, the IRB has to reconstitute itself.
Following the Easter Rising some republicans—notably Éamon de Valera and Cathal Brugha—leave the organization, which they view as no longer necessary, since the Irish Volunteers now perform its function. The IRB, during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), is under the control of Michael Collins, who is secretary, and subsequently president, of the Supreme Council. Volunteers such as Séumas Robinson say afterwards that the IRB by then is “moribund where not already dead,” but there is evidence that it is an important force during the war.
When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed on December 6, 1921, it is debated by the Supreme Council, which votes to accept it by eleven votes to four. Those on the Supreme Council who oppose the Treaty include former leader Harry Boland, Austin Stack and Liam Lynch. Anti-Treaty republicans like Ernie O’Malley, who fought during the Irish Civil War against the Treaty, sees the IRB as being used to undermine the Irish Republic. The IRB becomes quiescent during the Irish Civil War, which ends in May 1923, but it emerges again later that year as a faction within the National Army that supports Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy against the “Old IRA,” which fought against the recruitment of ex-British Army personnel and the demobilization of old IRA men. This comes to a head with the Irish Army Mutiny of 1924, in the wake of which Mulcahy resigns and other IRB members of the army are dismissed by acting President of the Executive CouncilKevin O’Higgins. The IRB subsequently dissolves itself, although it is not known whether a formal decision is taken, or it simply ceases to function.
Plant is born into a Church of Ireland farming family in Fethard, County Tipperary, on January 5, 1904, the second eldest child and son in a family of six children. His parents are John William Albert Plant, a farmer, and Catherine Hayden.
In 1923, George and Jimmy leave Ireland for Canada and the United States but continue as active IRA members. In 1929 they return to Ireland and carry out a bank raid in Tipperary on behalf of the IRA. They are arrested two days later at the family farm and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison. They are released in a general amnesty after the Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera election victory in 1932. He is a strong supporter of Seán Russell. In 1939 following the outbreak of World War II, known in Ireland as The Emergency, de Valera is determined to maintain Irish neutrality and is not going to allow the IRA to jeopardize this. The IRA links with Germany and campaign in Britain are severely straining Anglo-Irish relations so emergency legislation is introduced.
Russell, the IRA Chief of Staff, dies in August 1940 after taking ill on board a U-boat and Stephen Hayes from County Wexford becomes IRA Chief of Staff. In late August 1940 an address on Lansdowne Road, Dublin, is raided by the Garda Síochána. Among the men arrested is Michael Devereux, a 24-year-old married truck driver from County Wexford who is also Quartermaster of the IRAs Wexford Brigade. He is released after three days without charge. Shortly afterwards Gardaí in County Wexford find an IRA arms dump. Many in the IRA suspect that Devereux had turned informer, so Stephen Hayes orders Devereux’s execution. George Plant and another man, Michael Walsh from County Kilkenny, are ordered to carry out the order. Devereux meets Plant and Walsh who tell Devereux that Tom Cullimore, the Wexford Brigade’s OC is blamed for the arms dump and that they have shot him. They order Devereux to drive them to an IRA safe house at Grangemockler in south County Tipperary. Devereux, believing he is the prime suspect in a murder, stays willingly at the safe house. A week later, on September 27, 1940, Devereux is invited to go for a walk with Plant and Paddy Davern, the owner of the safe house. Somewhere along the walk Plant accuses Devereux of being an informer and shoots him dead. Plant is arrested nine weeks later on suspicion of IRA membership and brought before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. On February 10, 1941 Radio Éireann broadcasts a radio appeal for Michael Devereux on behalf of his wife.
In September 1941, Stephen Hayes is accused of being an informer by a group of Northern IRA members led by Seán McCaughey. He manages to escape to a garda station. Shortly afterwards a large force of Garda Síochána and Irish Army descend on the area around the Davern farmhouse where they find Devereux’s car buried under an onion bed and eventually discover Devereux’s body, a year to the day after his death. Two weeks later, Plant, already in prison on IRA membership charges, is charged with Devereux’s murder. A trial is held with a senior IRA officer, Joseph O’Connor, also charged with Devereux’s murder. The first trial collapses after two days when Paddy Davern and Micheal Walsh, two of the prosecution witnesses, refuse to give evidence. This result leads to the court issuing a nolle prosequi order which should have meant the end of the affair, however both men are rearrested and recharged with the same offence, under Emergency Order 41f. Minister for JusticeGerald Boland transfers the case to a Special Military Court with army officers acting as judges. In addition to Plant, Paddy Davern and Michael Walsh are also now charged with Devereux’s murder. The second trial begins at Collins Barracks, Dublin in February 1942 with Seán MacBride, a former IRA Chief of Staff and future government minister as the defendant’s barrister. Davern states his original statement was given at gunpoint but under the new order even statements given under duress are admissible. The court only has two sentencing options – death or acquittal. Joseph O’Connor is acquitted and despite MacBride’s best efforts the other three are sentenced to death. Davern and Walsh have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, and are both released in 1946.
Just one week after sentence is passed, Plant is executed on March 5, 1942, in Portlaoise Prison by a six-man firing squad drawn from the Irish Army. Much bitterness is caused by the treatment of Plant’s relatives. Neither his wife or mother or infant son are allowed to visit him in the week before his execution. Censorship ensures there is little mention in the newspapers, so his family only learns of his execution from a brief radio broadcast shortly before they receive a telegram. He is buried in the grounds of Portlaoise Prison, but is reinterred in 1948, when he is buried with full IRA military honours in his local church St. Johnstown in County Tipperary, and a Celtic cross is erected over his grave.
Plant’s wife moves to the United States where she remarries. His brother Jimmy dies in London in 1978. The Plant’s family farm is now part of the Coolmore Estate.
Walsh is born on April 21, 1879, in Ballydonoghue near Listowel, County Kerry, the third child of ten and the first son born to John Walsh, a local farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Buckley who live in a three-room thatched farmhouse. John Walsh’s main interests are books and horses and he himself does little work about the farm, preferring to have a hired man. The most famous of these hired men is Paddy Bawn Enright, whose name is immortalised by Walsh in his story The Quiet Man, although the name is not used in the later motion picture. John Walsh passes on to his son not only a love of books but also legends and folk tales that are later featured of many of Walsh’s books.
Walsh goes to school in Lisselton, a mile or so up the road from Ballydonoghue, and later goes to St. Michael’s College in Listowel to prepare for the Civil Service entrance examination. He enters the service on July 2, 1901, as an Assistant Revenue Officer in the Customs and Excise Service. He is posted to Scotland before the year is out and, although he subsequently has a number of postings outside Scotland, he spends most of his time there while in the British service.
Walsh has a life-long interest in writing and, during his early years in Scotland, this interest starts to bear fruit. He submits some of his stories and has two published in the Irish Emerald in 1908. Later that year, on August 8, 1908, Walsh marries Caroline Begg in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland.
When the Irish Free State is formed in 1922, Walsh transfers to its excise service and moves to Dublin. Fighting is still going on there at the time and he leaves his family in Scotland until it is safe for them to join him in 1923. The story The Key Above the Door is written during the months of separation although it is not published until some years later, appearing first in Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal as a serial between December 1925 and May 1926 and then in book form, published by W & R Chambers Ltd., in July 1926.
Sales of Walsh’s books grow steadily, especially in the wake of an unsolicited and generous letter from J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, praising The Key Above the Door, which Chambers is subsequently able to use on dust covers of Walsh’s books.
Walsh retires from government service in 1933 but his success as a writer continues. In that same year he sells a story to TheSaturday Evening Post, then a well-known weekly magazine published in the United States. That story, later to be incorporated in the collection of stories published under the title Green Rushes, is The Quiet Man.
Walsh becomes President of the Irish branch of PEN International in 1938 and visits the United States for an international meeting that year as the Irish delegate. His wife Caroline is able to accompany him although she has been in failing health for some years and ultimately dies in January 1941. Walsh himself dies on February 18, 1964, in Blackrock, a suburb of Dublin, and is buried in the Esker cemetery at Lucan, County Dublin. President Éamon de Valera attended Walsh’s funeral Mass.
Although Healyism is strong in CatholicUlster, Devlin aligns himself with the faction led by John Dillon and, from 1899, with the United Irish League (UIL), founded by William O’Brien. From the late 1890s this brings Devlin into conflict with the Belfast Catholic Association of Dr. Henry Henry, bishop of Down and Connor (1895–1908). This organisation, though sometimes regarded as Healyite, is essentially based on the view that mass nationalist political mobilisation in Belfast can only bring trouble and ostracism, and that Catholic interests are best represented by allowing a small group of lay and clerical notables to broker concessions from the unionist majority. After a series of local election contests in Catholic wards and controversies between the pro-Devlin weekly Northern Star and the clerically controlled The Irish News, Devlin succeeds in marginalising the politically maladroit Henry by 1905. In the process, however, he takes on some of the qualities of his “Catholic establishment” opponents. At the same time, he moves onto the national political stage.
Returned unopposed for North Kilkenny (1902–06), Devlin is appointed secretary of the United Irish League of Great Britain in 1903, and of the parent body in Dublin in 1904. A speaking tour of the United States in 1902–03 convinces him of the organisational potential of Catholic fraternal organisations, and in 1905 he takes over the presidency of the Board of Erin faction of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a specifically Catholic body which he proceeds to develop as an organisational arm of the Nationalist Party. Under his tutelage the AOH expands from 10,000 members in 1905 to 60,000 in 1909, despite opposition from some Catholic bishops who distrust it because of its close affiliation to Dillonism, its secrecy, and its habit of staging dances and other entertainments without paying what they regard as due deference to local priests. His AOH also faces opposition from a rival separatist body, the Irish-American Alliance AOH. Though far less numerous, this group is able to draw on the support of separatists within the American AOH and hinder Devlin’s attempts to mobilise the American organisation in his support. The AOH expands further after 1910, and is strengthened by becoming an approved society under the National Insurance Act 1911.
Belfast is where Devlin’s political career begins and where it ends. Organisational skill contributes substantially to his hold on the largely working-class seat of Belfast West, which he wins in 1906 on a platform that seeks to transcend religious boundaries by combining labour issues with the home rule demand. A lifelong bachelor, though short in stature, he is apparently highly attractive to women, and takes a special interest in their problems, no doubt mindful of the influence they might have on the political behaviour of their spouses. He founds a holiday home for working-class women. When the scholar Betty Messenger interviews former Belfast linen workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she is startled to discover the extent to which Devlin is remembered as a champion of the workers decades after his death. This image persists among Protestant workers as well as Catholics, and he is generally credited with various ameliorations of workplace conditions even when he had not been responsible for them.
Possessed of great oratorical skills and even greater organisational ability, Devlin effectively becomes the key organiser of the Nationalist Party from the early years of the twentieth century, relieving the party leader, John Redmond, of a great deal of the administrative burden of party affairs, and becoming well known abroad through fund-raising trips, especially in North America. His personal geniality makes him a great favourite at Westminster, and Irish socialists are dismayed at the willingness of British Labour Party MPs to accept him as an authentic Labour representative. Several MPs elected after 1906 can be identified as his protégés, and groups of Hibernian strong-arm men uphold the party leadership in such contests as the 1907 North Leitrimby-election and the 1909 “baton convention” which witnesses the final departure of William O’Brien and his supporters from the UIL. He is the only post-Parnellite MP to be admitted to the tight leadership group around Redmond. In 1913 he is a leading organiser of the National Volunteers.
When William O’Brien embarks on his personal initiative to deal with the Ulster problem through conciliation in the early Edwardian period, he finds a stern critic in Devlin and in turn demonises the “Molly Maguires” as sectarian corruptionists. Personally non-sectarian, Devlin, like other party leaders, endorses the shibboleth that home rule will prove a panacea for Ireland’s problems, including Ulster, and uses his credentials as a labour representative to dismiss popular unionism as a mere product of elite manipulation. In a period when the Vatican‘s Ne Temere decree on religiously mixed marriages is heightening Protestant fears about the “tyranny” of Rome, he seems to be oblivious to how his integration of Hibernianism and nationalism is exacerbating that problem. As the third home rule bill passes through Parliament and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mobilises, he encourages the Irish party leaders in the view that the Ulster unionist campaign is a gigantic bluff, dismissing contrary opinions even when held by other nationalist MPs. During these years the AOH clashes with the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) during the Dublin lock-out, and from late 1913 the AOH spearheads the Redmondite attempt to take over and dominate the Irish Volunteers.
Devlin endorses Redmond’s support for the British war effort and engages in extensive recruiting activity. He seems to be motivated, at least in part, by the belief that after the war nationalist ex-soldiers can be used to overawe the Ulster unionists by the threat of force. According to Stephen Gwynn, Devlin wishes to apply for an officer’s commission but is asked not to do so by Redmond on the grounds that the party needs his organisational skills.
Devlin’s career is decisively shaped by his decision to use his influence to persuade northern nationalists to accept temporary partition, in fulfilment of the flawed agreement arrived at between David Lloyd George, Sir Edward Carson, and Redmond in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. He later claims he has been decisively influenced by the prospect that under this agreement the excluded area would be governed directly from Westminster, rather than by a local, Orange-dominated parliament. He forces the agreement through a Belfast-based convention despite protests from west Ulster nationalists, but the proposal collapses after it transpires that Lloyd George has made incompatible commitments to nationalists and unionists. Northern nationalism immediately splits between west and south Ulster dissidents and Devlin’s loyalists predominant in Belfast and east Ulster, and the next year sees massive secessions of AOH members outside Ulster to Sinn Féin. Although he retains a core of loyal supporters, he is reduced from a national to a sectional leader. As a member of the Irish convention (1917–18) he sides with Bishop Patrick O’Donnell against Redmond on the issue of seeking a compromise settlement with southern unionists on the basis of home rule without fiscal autonomy. He is offered the leadership of the Nationalist Party on Redmond’s death in 1918, but concedes the honour to his long-standing mentor, John Dillon.
Devlin holds Belfast West until 1918, and easily sweeps aside an attempt by Éamon de Valera to displace him from the Falls division of Belfast at the general election of that year, though the electoral decimation of the Nationalist Party elsewhere leaves him leading a rump of only seven MPs. In the ensuing parliament he is an outspoken critic of government policy towards Ireland and highlights sectarian violence against northern nationalists. Clearly discouraged and with boundary changes militating against retention of the Falls seat, he unsuccessfully contests the Liverpool Exchange constituency as an Independent Labour candidate in 1922. Elected for Antrim and Belfast West to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1921, he eventually takes his seat in 1925, holding it until 1929, when he combines representation for Belfast Central with that for Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.
Only after the boundary commission ends the border nationalists’ hopes of speedy incorporation in the Irish Free State is Devlin able to assert leadership of northern nationalism as a whole on the basis of attendance at the northern parliament. Even then he is considerably handicapped by recriminations over the events of 1916–25. He embarks on his last significant political campaign in 1928, when he seeks to unite minority politics through the agency of the National League of the North (NLN). The initiative, emphasising social reform, is unsuccessful. His own political baggage is a hindrance to the unity of the factions that minority politics had thrown up over the previous ten years, while the minority community itself is politically demoralised by the fate that has overtaken it, and the unionist government shows itself unwilling to make concession to him. The project, moreover, coincides with the onset of the gastric illness, exacerbated by heavy smoking, that takes his life on January 18, 1934. For some time before his death he ceases to attend the Northern Ireland parliament.
Devlin’s political career is one of great promise only partially fulfilled, its ultimate realisation undermined firstly by the fallout from the Easter Rising that destroyed the vehicle of his political ambitions, and secondly by the sequence of events that led to the creation of a constitutional entity so constructed that all nationalist politicians, regardless of talent, were effectively denied a route to power. Only at his death does the unionist regime adequately acknowledge his political stature. His funeral is attended by at least three Northern Ireland cabinet ministers, together with representatives of the government of the Irish Free State. Northern nationalism never again produces a leader of his ability in the Stormont era. His ability to use Westminster to promote the interests of Ulster nationalists is comparable to John Hume‘s use of Europe for the same purpose from the mid 1970s. After his death the nationalist party in Belfast grows increasingly reliant on middle-class leadership and is eventually displaced by nationalist labour splinter groups, some of whose prominent activists, such as Harry Diamond, had begun their careers as election workers for Devlin.