Eoin O'Duffy

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Eoin O'Duffy
Eoin O'Duffy.png
O'Duffy in 1922 as police commissioner.
Leader of Fine Gael
In office
4 May 1933 – 16 June 1934
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by W. T. Cosgrave
3rd Garda Commissioner
In office
30 September 1922 – 4 February 1933
Preceded by Michael Staines
Succeeded by Eamon Broy
Teachta Dála
In office
May 1921 – August 1923
Constituency Monaghan
Personal details
Born (1892-10-20)20 October 1892
Lough Egish, Monaghan, Ireland
Died 30 November 1944(1944-11-30) (aged 52)
Dublin, Ireland
Resting place Glasnevin Cemetery,
Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Sinn Féin (1917–23)
Fine Gael (1933–34)
National Corporate Party (1935–37)
Military service
Allegiance Irish Volunteers
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Republican Army
National Army
Irish Brigade
Years of service 1917–1933
1936–1937
Rank General
Chief of Staff
Battles/wars Irish War of Independence
Irish Civil War
Spanish Civil War

Eoin O'Duffy (Irish: Eoin Ó Dubhthaigh; 30 October 1892 – 30 November 1944) was an Irish political activist, soldier and police commissioner. O'Duffy was the leader of the Monaghan Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence and in this capacity became Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1922. He was one of the Irish activists who along with Michael Collins accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty and fought as a general in the Irish Civil War on the pro-Treaty side.

Professionally, O'Duffy became the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, the police force of the new Irish Free State, after the Civic Guard Mutiny and the subsequent resignation of Michael Staines. In his political life O'Duffy had been an early member of Sinn Féin, founded by Arthur Griffith. He was elected as a Teachta Dála (TD) for his home county of Monaghan during the 1921 election. After a split in 1923 he became associated with Cumann na nGaedheal and led the organisation known as the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts). After the merger of various pro-Treaty factions under the banner of Fine Gael, O'Duffy was the party leader for a short time.

An anti-communist, O'Duffy was attracted to the various authoritarian nationalist movements on the Continent. He raised the Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War as an act of Catholic solidarity and was inspired by Benito Mussolini's Italy to found the National Corporate Party. He offered to Nazi Germany the prospect of raising an Irish Brigade to fight in Operation Barbarossa during World War II on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, but this was not taken up.

Early life

Eoin O'Duffy was born Owen O'Duffy in Lough Egish, near Castleblayney, County Monaghan. His mother died when he was 12 and he wore her ring for the rest of his life.[1] O'Duffy did an apprenticeship as an engineer in Wexford before working as an engineer and architect in Monaghan. In 1919 he became an auctioneer. O'Duffy was a leading member of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ulster in the 1910s. member of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ulster in the 1910s. In 1912 he was appointed secretary of the Ulster provincial council. He was also a member of Harps' Gaelic Football Club.[2]

A stand in a ground in Clones, County Monaghan, is named after him called O'Duffy Terrace[citation needed]

Political activities

In 1917, O'Duffy joined the Irish Volunteers and took an active part in the Irish War of Independence, after that organisation became the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

He rose rapidly through the ranks. He started off as the Section Commander of the Clones Company, then Captain, then Commandant and finally appointed Brigadier in 1919.[2]

On 14 September 1918 he and Daniel Hogan were arrested after a Gaa match and charged with "illegal assembly". He was imprison in Belfast Prison and released on 19 November 1918.

On 15 February 1920, he (along with Ernie O'Malley) was involved in the first capture of a Royal Irish Constabulary barracks by the IRA in Ballytrain, in his native Monaghan. He came to the attention of Michael Collins, who enrolled him in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and supported his advancement in the movement's hierarchy.[3]

He was imprisoned several times but became director of the army in 1921. In May 1921 he was returned as a Sinn Féin TD for the Monaghan constituency to the Second Dáil.[4] He was re-elected at the 1922 general election.[5]

In March 1921, he was made commander of the IRA's 2nd Northern Division. Following the Truce with the British in July 1921, he was sent to Belfast. After the rioting known as Belfast's Bloody Sunday, he was given the task of liaising with the British to try to maintain the Truce and defend Catholic areas against attack.[6] He was Director of Organisation in Ulster and Chief Liaison officer for Ulster at the time the treaty was signed.[7]

In January of the following year he became IRA Chief of Staff, replacing Richard Mulcahy. O'Duffy was the youngest general in Europe until Francisco Franco was promoted to that rank.

Civil War General and Garda Síochána

In 1921 he supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He served as a general in the National Army and was given control of the South-Western Command of the Irish National Army.[2] In the ensuing Irish Civil War and was one of the brains behind the Free State's strategy of seaborne landings in Republican held areas. He took Limerick city for the Free State in July 1922, before being held up in the Battle of Killmallock south of the city. The enmities of the civil war era were to stay with O'Duffy throughout his political career.

In September 1922, Minister for Home Affairs Kevin O'Higgins was experiencing indiscipline within the recently established Garda Síochána (police) and O'Duffy was appointed commissioner. O'Duffy was a fine organiser and has been given much of the credit for the emergence of a respected, non-political and unarmed police force. He insisted on a Catholic nationalist ethos to distinguish the gardaí from their RIC predecessors.[3] He was a vocal opponent of alcohol in the force also, instructing Gardaí to avoid it all costs.[8]

Following a general election in 1933 Éamon de Valera dismissed O'Duffy as Garda Commissioner. In the Dáil de Valera explained the reason for his dismissal,

"he [O'Duffy] was likely to be biased in his attitude because of past political affiliations".

The true reason, however, appears to have been the new government's discovery that in 1932, O'Duffy's was one of the voices urging W. T. Cosgrave to resort to a military coup rather than to turn over power to the incoming Fianna Fáil administration. O'Duffy refused the offer of another position of equivalent rank in the public service.

Ernest Blythe said many years later that the outgoing Government had become so alarmed by O'Duffy's conduct that had they returned to power they would have acted precisely as De Valera did.[9]

Leader of the Army Comrades Association

In July 1933 O'Duffy became leader of the Army Comrades Association, ostensibly set up to protect Cumann na nGaedheal public meetings, which had been disrupted under the slogan "No Free Speech for Traitors" by Irish Republican Army men newly confident after the elections. O'Duffy and many other conservative elements within the Irish Free State began to embrace fascist ideology, which was in vogue at that time. He immediately changed the name of this new movement to the National Guard. O'Duffy was an admirer of the Italian leader Benito Mussolini and his organisation adopted outward symbols of European fascism such as the straight-arm Roman salute and a distinctive blue uniform. It was not long before they became known as the Blueshirts.

In August 1933 a parade was planned by the Blueshirts in Dublin to commemorate Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, both of whom had died 11 years earlier. This was a clear imitation of Mussolini's March on Rome and was widely perceived as such despite claims to the contrary. De Valera feared a similar coup d'état, and the parade was banned.

By September the Blueshirts were declared an illegal organisation. To circumvent this ban the movement once again adopted a new name, this time styling itself the League of Youth.

In 1933 Irish republicans planned to assassinate O'Duffy in Ballyseedy, County Kerry while on his way to a meeting. A man was sent to Limerick find out which car O'Duffy would be travelling in but the man gave purposely gave false information and O'Duffy escaped.[10]

When Fascist Italy invaded Abyssinia in autumn 1935 he offered Mussolini the service of 1000 Blueshirts because he believed the war represented the war between civilisation and barbarism. On 18 September, in an interview O’Duffy said that the Blueshirts were volunteering to fight "not for Italy or against Abyssinia, but for the principle of the corporate system" against which "the forces of both Marxism and of capitalism" were ranged.[11]

O'Duffy and some of his men also made an appearance at the 1934 International Fascist conference in Montreux where he argued against anti-semitism.[12]

Fine Gael

In September 1933 Cumann na nGaedheal, the Centre Party and the Blueshirt movement merged to form Fine Gael. O'Duffy, though not a TD, became the first leader, with former President of the Executive Council, (taoiseach) W. T. Cosgrave serving as parliamentary leader. The National Guard, now rechristened the Young Ireland Association, was transformed from an illegal paramilitary group into the militant wing of a political party. However, meetings were often attacked by IRA members. O'Duffy proved a weak leader – he was a military leader rather than political, and he was temperamental. In September 1934 O'Duffy suddenly and unexpectedly resigned as leader of Fine Gael as his extreme views and poor judgement became an embarrassment to his party.[13] He went on to form the National Corporate Party.

Spanish Civil War

The Blueshirt movement had begun to disintegrate also, so much so that by 1935 the organisation no longer existed. In June 1935 O'Duffy launched the unabashedly fascist National Corporate Party. The following year he organised an Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. The Blueshirt movement had begun to disintegrate also, so much so that by 1935 the organisation no longer existed. He was motivated by Ireland's historic link with Spain, anti-communism and a will to defend Catholicism.

Despite the declaration by the Irish Government that participation in the war was ill-advised and unsupported, 700 of O'Duffy's followers went to Spain to fight on Franco's side. Around 250 other Irishmen in Connolly Column went to fight for the Republicans' International Brigade. O'Duffy's men saw little fighting in Spain and were sent home by Franco, returning in June 1937.[14]

In late August he said he had received 7,000 applications although, due to several complications, only 700 of these made it to Spain.[15]   Despite the declaration by the Irish Government that participation in the war was ill-advised and unsupported, 700 of O'Duffy's followers went to Spain to fight on Franco's side. Around 250 other Irishmen in Connolly Column went to fight for the Republicans' International Brigade. O'Duffy's men saw little fighting in Spain and were sent home by Franco, returning in June 1937.[16]

Franco was not impressed by the supposed lack of military expertise and there was bitter arguments among O'Duffy and his officers.[15]

Homosexuality

English actor Micheál MacLiammóir claimed to Irish playwright, Mary Manning, to have had a homosexual relationship with O'Duffy during the 1930s. Historian Fearghal McGarry accepts this claim.[17] O'Duffy never married which has fueled suspicion.

The alleged relationship became public after 21 October 1999 when an RTE documentary titled 'The Odd Couple' was aired. Christopher FitzSimon, a biographer of MacLiammóir says that he heard rumours about it "from many quarters". Mary Manning says that she asked MacLiammóir if it was true and he confirmed it.[18]

Retirement and death

O'Duffy returned to Ireland from Spain in disarray. He wrote a book, Crusade in Spain (1938). He retired from politics completely. He is thought to have met with IRA figures and members of the German consulate in the summer of 1939. (See main article.) In the summer of 1943 O'Duffy approached the German Legation in Dublin with an offer to organise an Irish Volunteer Legion for use on the Russian Front. He explained his offer to the German ambassador as a wish to "save Europe from Bolshevism". He requested an aircraft to be sent from Germany so that he could conduct the necessary negotiations in Berlin. The offer was "not taken seriously".[19] By this time his health had begun to seriously deteriorate and he died on 30 November 1944, aged 52. He was buried in a state funeral. Following Requiem Mass in the Pro-Cathedral he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

See also

References

  1. ^ "From a Free State hero to a buffoon in a Blueshirt". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c http://www.nli.ie/pdfs/mss%20lists/166_Eoin%20O%27Duffy%20Papers%20Collection%20List.pdf
  3. ^ a b Fearghal McGarry, 'O'Duffy, Eoin (1890–1944)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011
  4. ^ "General Eoin O'Duffy". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Eoin O'Duffy". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Fearghal McGarry, Eoin O'Duffy, A Self-Made Hero,Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-922667-2 p78-80
  7. ^ http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0762.pdf#page=24
  8. ^ Wallace, Colm (2017). The Fallen: Gardaí Killed in Service 1922-1949. Dublin: History Press. 
  9. ^ McGarry ,pp188,386
  10. ^ "Spanish Civil War veterans look back". 
  11. ^ http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/eoin-oduffys-blueshirts-and-the-abyssinian-crisis/\
  12. ^ "INTERNATIONAL: Pax Romanizing". Time. 31 December 1934. 
  13. ^ MGarry pp260-269
  14. ^ Thomas Gunning, former secretary to O'Duffy, was also a "suspect" for Irish Military Intelligence (G2), having remained in Spain after the rest of the Irish volunteers for Franco departed under a cloud of recrimination. Gunning worked as a newspaper correspondent in Spain for a short time then made his way to Berlin, where he worked for the Propaganda Ministry until his death in 1940.
  15. ^ a b http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/ireland-and-the-spanish-civil-war/
  16. ^ Thomas Gunning, former secretary to O'Duffy, was also a "suspect" for Irish Military Intelligence (G2), having remained in Spain after the rest of the Irish volunteers for Franco departed under a cloud of recrimination. Gunning worked as a newspaper correspondent in Spain for a short time then made his way to Berlin, where he worked for the Propaganda Ministry until his death in 1940.
  17. ^ http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/a-dictator-of-dressing-up-26215290.html
  18. ^ http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/the-odd-couple-26135932.html
  19. ^ See Stephan, Enno: Spies in Ireland (1963) P.232

Further reading

  • Fearghal McGarry, Eoin O'Duffy: A Self-Made Hero (Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • For material on the Irish Bandera at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 October 2009)
  • For material on the International Brigadiers from Ireland at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 October 2009).
  • Eoin O'Duffy: A Self-Made Hero – Fearghal McGarry interviewed
  • A review of McGarry's book at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 October 2009) by Dermot Bolger in the Sunday Independent, (Dublin) 27 November 2005.
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