Who was IRA GHQ Director of Organisation in 1921?

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2010), Letters, Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 18



—Your edition of Jan./Feb. 2009 contained an interesting article by Risteárd Mulcahy on Leo Whelan’s painting GHQ staff, 1921. The caption identifies two of the people portrayed as Eamonn Price (organisation) and Eóin O’Duffy (assistant chief-of-staff). But were either of these men members of GHQ in the stated positions at the time of the truce in July 1921?
Other writers have accepted that Price was Director of Organisation, and he says as much himself in his statement to the Bureau of Military History (BMH). Fearghall McGarry in his recent biography of Eoin O’Duffy says that ‘O’Duffy’s efforts were rewarded by his promotion to the influential post of Director of Organisation, a position once held by Collins, in place of the ineffective Bob Price’. However, there is overwhelming evidence that the post in question was held by Diarmuid O’Hegarty for more than a year before it was passed to O’Duffy around the beginning of June 1921. Tom Barry, who was in Dublin from 19 to 25 May 1921, is quite clear as to who was Director of Organisation at that time:

‘Diarmuid O’Hegarty was Director of Organisation and also, at the time of my visit, Secretary of the Cabinet of the Irish Republic. He was a brilliant organiser with a first-class brain, and although he spoke little he was obviously well thought of by the other members of General Headquarters. Diarmuid was assisted by Eamonn (Bob) Price, who extensively toured the country, organising and inspecting Units of the Army.’
(Guerilla Days in Ireland)
Molly Ryan in her statement to the BMH says that she took up the post of shorthand-typist to the Secretary of the Dáil in February 1920, and ‘when Diarmuid was appointed Director of Organisation’ she became busier than usual. She says that Bob Price came in and out of the office and that Diarmuid gave him work to do.
I am grateful to Risteárd Mulcahy for referring me to the role of Frank Henderson. In his statement to the BMH Henderson says that he worked part-time in Organisation from about May 1920 to June 1921. He retained his day job but was under the impression that at some stage he would take over as director from O’Hegarty. He grew impatient and

‘After the attack on the Customs House I asked the Director of Organisation to let me know definitely when I was to take over the Department of Organisation and become a full-time officer. The answer I received was that he would introduce me that afternoon to the new Director of Organisation, Eóin O’Duffy, to whom he asked me to give all the information and assistance I could . . .’
Frank Henderson left the Department a few days later, which he calculates as the second week of June 1921. Henderson also refers to Price. He says that he sometimes worked in the office but that his duties were more often outside Dublin.
It seems, therefore, that O’Duffy became Director of Organisation, in place of O’Hegarty, and, presumably, a member of GHQ approximately one month before the truce. Diarmuid O’Hegarty was an extremely self-effacing man; he was aptly described by Frank Pakenham as the ‘civil servant of the revolution’. Nevertheless, it is surprising that the prodigious contribution that he made to organisation on both the political and military fronts from the re-establishment of the Volunteers in late 1916 right through to the Civil War has not received more attention from historians.


—Yours etc.,
Dublin 6W


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