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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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