Mulcahy Memo of 18th March and Executive Response

Introduction from Chronology

Mulcahy sends memo to GHQ saying that all members of the army who removed material from barracks or who were absent from duty had until March 20th to return the material.  Afterwards, they were to be allowed out under open arrest.  

Gearoid O’Sullivan, Adjutant General, sent the detailed orders to the officers commanding.  In particular, he said that the men were allowed out under open arrest (parole) until the time fixed for the investigation of the charges against such persons. 

More Detail 

Mulcahy was against the lenient treatment of the Old IRA officers.  There was ambiguity which was interpreted differently by Executive Council; GHQ; McGrath and the Old IRA. 

Mulcahy and GHQ understood the Executive Council orders applied only to mutinous officers who handed themselves over and did not cancel previous orders to arrest Tobin and Dalton. 

McGrath said that he told the mutineers that “they would have to surrender their arms and go through whatever machinery was necessary to maintain discipline in the Army and to get back to their positions and to do what they could in restoring the status quo”. 

Cabinet wanted the mutineers to turn themselves in as quickly as possible so as to avoid precipitous actions while the Old IRA probably thought that at a minimum they would get status quo ante with an investigation into their grievances.  These ambiguities were to cause difficulties. 

The situation was even more ambiguous because the cabinet has decided to appoint O’Duffy as General Officer Commanding Defence Forces but his exact powers were not clarified.  On March 14th, cabinet also appointed O’Duffy as Inspector General of the Defence Forces. They charged him with inquiring into the organisation and administration of the Forces and that the exact powers should be prepared by the Attorney General in consultation with the Minister of Defence. 

However, O’Duffy questioned whether he was to have full authority and control over the Army.  On March 18th, the cabinet decided that the powers of the Inspector General were agreed and were to be gazetted immediately and that the Attorney General and the Minister of Defence should prepare a formal statement of the powers and functions of the General Officer Commanding of the Defence Forces and it should be submitted to the Executive Council (cabinet) the following day.