Overview of the Members of the GHQ Staff


In last week’s episode (included above), I talked about how the IRA organized itself, the tactics it used, and its relationship with members of the Dail. Since then, I’ve done some research into the members that made up the General Headquarters Staff. I even made a spreadsheet, capturing basic information about the men: GHQ Spreadsheet

Screenshot_2020-05-15 Members of IRA GHQ Staff - Members of IRA GHQ Staff pdf

The General Headquarters answered to the Minister of Defense (Cathal Brugha) and was responsible for creating, training, and supplying the Irish Republican Army. Responsible for command of the IRA was split between Richard Mulcahy, the Chief of Staff, and Michael Collins, the Minister of Finance. While Collins handled the intelligence war, Mulcahy and his staff handled the day to day tasks of keeping the IRA an active and efficient fighting force. The group were serve together from 1920-1922, with the exception of Dick McKee, who would be killed by the British in 1920.

Location of birth GHQ

About 34% were born in Dublin, 17% were from Cork, and the rest were from other parts of Ireland. Only three members went to university, the rest earning only some education before entering the workforce. All of them were members of the Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers. Nine men served in Easter Rising while one, Emmet Dalton, served with the British Army during World War I, seeing action at the Battle of the Somme. Majority were IRB men, with only J. J. O’Connell confirmed denying membership into the secret society.

pro anti treaty

However, not even the bonds forged while fighting the British during the Anglo-Irish War, could not survive the signing of the Treaty and the spit that followed. About 34% would serve with the anti-treaty IRA (not including poor Dick McKee who died in 1920). The rest, led by Mulcahy, took the IRA GHQ and transformed it into the National Army GHQ, building the army around them while also trying to win a Civil War.

participation in politics

When the war ended, only 9 of the original 12 members survived. 33% would remain with Fine Gael, the successor to Cumann na nGaedheal (the party that created the Irish Free State). Mulcahy would become Fine Gael party leader and created an multi-party alliance that allowed his party to dethrone Eamon DeValera for the first time since Fianna Fail first took power. Seamus O’Donovan would help create Coras na Poblachta, a minority party, but it quickly fell apart in the 1940s. It was a party that was supposed to unite pro and anti treaty members, but it also had a strong conservative streak, including Irish fascists, like Eoin O’Duffy, in its ranks.


Speaking of fascists, 33% would eventually have ties with Nazi Germany. Eoin O’Duffy embrace the Blue Shirts (an Irish fascist party) and tried to unite the Blue Shirts and Fine Gael, but was eventually rebuffed. He also reached out to Mussolini when he was invading Ethiopia and was in touch with Germany spies. Sean Russell was a member of the IRA in the 40s and 50s and actually traveled to Nazi Germany to train and gather arms. Russell wanted to attack England while she was at war with Germany. However, Russell would die on a U-65 on his way back to Ireland. Finally, Seamus O’Donovan also associated with Nazis. He was the mastermind behind Russell’s Sabotage Plan against England and entertained German spies.


GHQ Location Death
Location of Death

range of death age

Death by Age and Location

A majority of of the men would die in Dublin, with Sean Russell dying on a U-65 on his way from Germany to Ireland, Dick McKee murdered by British soldiers, and Rory O’Connor and Liam Mellows executed by the Cosgrave Administration (the execution orders signed by Mulcahy, himself). Surprisingly, more men lived into their fifties and beyond then died young, with Mulcahy outliving them all, dying at the age of 85.

Theme Sound: Symphony no. 5 in Cm, Op. 67 – III. Allegro

Image designed by @GraphicsHub3


The Republic: the Fight for Irish Independence by Charles Townshend, 2014, Penguin Group

Richard Mulcahy: From the Politics of War to the Politics of Peace, 1913-1924 by Padraig O Caoimh, 2018, Irish Academic Press

A Nation and Not a Rabble: the Irish Revolution 1913-1923 by Diarmaid Ferriter, 2015, Profile Books

Michael Collins and the Anglo-Irish War: Britain’s Counterinsurgency Failure by J. B. E. Hitte

2 responses to “Overview of the Members of the GHQ Staff”

  1. Just found your blog, and trying to be helpful here. According to the list of the GHQ Staff in December 1921 in the Mulcahy Papers, the staff and their departments were:
    Mulcahy (Chief of Staff)
    O’Duffy (Deputy Chief of Staff0
    O’Connell (Assistant Chief of Staff – which became a conflict with Austin Stack and Cathal Brugha in 1921)
    O’Sullivan (Adjutant General)
    Collins (Director of Intelligence)
    MacMahon (Quarter Master General)
    Piaras Beaslai (Publicity)
    Dalton (Training)
    Diarmuid O’Hegarty (Director of Organization)
    Russell (Munitions)
    O’Connor (Engineering)
    O’Donovan (Chemicals)
    Mellows (Purchases)

    Collins, O’Duffy, MacMahon, Beaslai, MacMahon, O’Hegarty and probably Mulcahy were all leading figures in the Irish Republican Brotherhood as well. Collins held several different positions at various times – in addition to Director of Intelligence, he had served as Adjutant General and Director of Organization earlier in the conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! It’s hard to pinpoint the positions since they seemed to change often (or share a position like Collins did with Dalton as director of intelligence and then you had awkward moments were O’Connell was pushed to be assistant chief of staff the same time as Stacks…) I used Paidraig O Caimh’s book as a reference for who held what position from July-December 1921. I wasn’t sure whether to include Piaras Beaslai, since he is publicity or propaganda which seems like a role that fits both within GHQ but also Dail. Also can’t remember who Beaslai reported to or if it was directly to the President (Dev or Griffith while Dev was in America).

      Liked by 1 person

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