Raid on Old IRA Meeting
Introduction from Chronology
Raid on Old IRA meeting in Devlin’s Public House in Parnell St, Dublin.
Army GHQ receives information that a meeting of Old IRA officers is being held in Devlin’s Public House in Parnell St., Dublin with speculation that they planned a coup or the kidnapping of the entire cabinet. Nine soldiers are dispatched there and they arrive about 9.30pm.
The soldiers had no authority to raid the public house so they told the officers inside that they would be arrested on exiting. They telephone Adjutant General Gearoid O’Sullivan for instructions – he told them to enter the public house, preferably without using force. Reinforcements were sent, the area was surrounded and civilians evacuated. The government troops entered but the officers inside had barricaded themselves upstairs and “guns were plainly discernible in the dark”.
The troops again telephoned O’Sullivan and he gave orders to “force the place” and arrest the entire party. A number of the officers inside (possibly including Tobin and Dalton) had escaped across rooftops. When the government troops went upstairs (under Colonel McNeill), there was a stand-off but 11 Old IRA officers eventually surrendered (some were on the roof). Seven revolvers, one automatic weapon and fifty rounds of ammunition were confiscated.
At some point during the raid, McGrath arrived and vigorously protested the army’s action arguing that it was not authorised by the government. The officer commanding informed him that his instructions were to arrest the entire party. In his report, the officer commanding said that McGrath was “under the influence of drink”. After the arrests, “Mr Joseph McGrath … asked permission to stand the prisoners a drink – permission was not refused in the circumstances”.
O’Higgins reported to the Dáil the next day that the following officers were arrested: Cols. James Slattery, Chris O'Malley, Frank Thornton, Commdts. Pat McCrea, Joseph Shanahan, ex-Commdt. Leahy, Commdt. Joe Dolan, Bob Halpin, Patrick Griffin, Charles Byrne, A.D.C. to the President; Lieut. Michael Collins.
The Executive Council met and discussed the activities of the previous evening. (Cosgrave was ill and not present.) Despite arguments from Mulcahy that the Army had acted in accordance with the Defence Forces Act, the Council decided to ask for the resignations of the Chief-of-Staff, Adjutant General and Quarter Master General and to advise the President of Council that Mulcahy be removed as Minister of Defence and O’Duffy be placed in charge of the Army. Mulcahy had left the cabinet meeting but, on hearing the cabinet’s advice to the President, resigned his post. Adjutant General O’Sullivan and QM General O’Muirthuile resigned their administrative posts and commissions and, afterwards, Chief of Staff MacMahon (who was in Cork at the time) also resigned .
O’Higgins later in the day went to the Dáil and said that the Parnell St raid deviated from government policy and had been carried out without the authority of General O’Duffy who it had appointed to handle the crisis. He also said that the army was racked by secret societies and that it was “not unquestionably, unequivocally, without reserve, simple the instrument of the people’s will”. He also said that that a sense of proprietorship had developed among members of the army council and that the “certain high Army Officers” whose resignation had been demanded by the government were “not the personnel to deal with a mutinous revolt.” (He also named the three people who would conduct inquiry into the army as Professor Eoin Mac Neill, T.D., Minister for Education (Chairman); Mr. James Creed Meredith, K.C. and Mr. P. McGilligan, T.D.)
Mulcahy denied that the Army is not the obedient servant of the State; says he did not consult O’Duffy as his position had not been formalised and that the raid had been carried out in accordance with law and the military discipline. He also said that he had resigned because he could not “stand over condoning mutiny”.