State Archives

Reporter sacked after fake reports

By Noel Baker

Social and Personal Magazine sacked a reporter after she reported on a presidential function without attending it — and claimed the wife of the Dáil speaker was present when she had died a decade earlier.

Newly released files show a letter to the magazine from then president Sean O’Kelly’s secretary on Mar 24, 1953, highlighting errors in the &report.

The reception had been held in honour of Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. The letter to the magazine’s editor says O’Kelly read the report “with interest” but regretted that “a number of statements [were] not in accordance with the facts”. An example was: “The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Mrs Childers were chatting with the British ambassador, Sir Walter Hankinson and Lady Hankinson”, when neither Mr or Mrs Childers were present.

Another 11 people listed as being present, including the minister for justice, were not actually at the reception, but that was not the only mistake.

The presidential secretary wrote: “On page 4, column 1 it is stated that ‘Mrs Hogan, whose husband is the speaker of the Dáil, wore black cire satin’, whereas in fact Mr Hogan is a widower, his wife having died over ten years ago.”

The next day a letter was sent to the Áras by the magazine’s managing editor offering “most sincere apologies for the errors”.

“The report was submitted in the usual way by our normal lady reporter. It has since been discovered that she reported this function without even attending it and her contributorship to this magazine has been terminated.”

Fears for Garda morale if women took senior roles

By Noel Baker

A 1975 file on anti-discrimination legislation regarding working women claims Garda morale could “collapse” were woman allowed in senior roles, and queried whether they should wear slacks in the midst of a “male force”.

An urgent request for information from other countries was sent in a cable to the Irish embassy in Brussels, so the details could be considered ahead of a debate on new legislation in the Dáil.

“Are policewomen required, on the same basis as a policeman (a) to perform night patrols, especially in ‘tough’ districts or (b) to police potential riot situations or (c) to participate equally with men in riot control or (d) to do motor cycle patrols?”

It also asks on whether pregnant policewomen were required to do outdoor patrol, given the risk that they may be “knocked about physically”.

Finally, it asks: “Are policewomen permitted to wear slacks if they so wish?”

A lengthier letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of Labour expands on these issues.

“The view that the work of the Garda Síochána is, to a large extent, ‘man’s work’, cannot be dismissed lightly or without full analysis, as the consequences of an error of judgement in this area can be far-reaching.”

Specifically, there was worry about the cost implications of women joining the gardaí in greater numbers. “What financial investment would be required in order to provide even minimum suitable accommodation for women in every station up and down the country, many of which are still in an extremely poor condition due to lack of adequate attention down the years?”

Aircraft and guns at Áras an Uachtaráin

By Noel Baker

Newly released files show that Ireland’s first president did not take kindly to being awoken from his slumbers by overflying aircraft — or people carrying out target practice within the grounds of the Áras.

A file from the 1940s shows a note from Douglas Hyde’s secretary expressing anger that an aeroplane “flew right over the house at an altitude which made the noise of the engine very disturbing, skimming over some trees in the garden and appeared to land in the park”.

A similar incident happened not long afterwards, and to make matters worse, the president was ill in bed at the time.

“This practice must be discontinued if the president is to get proper rest,” his secretary writes, adding that he had spoken to the army air corps to “have matters rectified”.

It wasn’t the only issue facing President Hyde.

An earlier file, from Apr 1941, outlines a neighbourly dispute that occurred between Áras an Uachtaráin staff and a Commandant Holohan, a Board of Works overseer who lived in a small residence within the presidential estate.

Cmdt Holohan had begun training his son — and member of the Local Defence Forces — in shooting and he “took the line that as the shooting took place within the grounds of his own house he felt he was within his own rights, and generally gave the impression that he was not disposed to be in any way accommodating in the matter”.

“I pointed out that in the circumstances it should be possible for him to find some other place for this purpose,” the file states.

“He was inclined to set his own convenience against the wishes of the president but on further consideration said he would give me an assurance that there would be no recurrence.

“I must say that although Mr Holohan yielded in this matter I am not satisfied with the attitude which he adopted in the beginning.”

Most anti-Jewish abuse came from one family

By Noel Baker

The scale of anti-Semitic abuse in 1930s Ireland has been outlined in files which show much of the racist material was issued by one Dublin family and by a journalist in collaboration with two Irish Press workers.

Newly disclosed files show gardaí had to monitor a number of cases involving intimidation of Jewish people living in Dublin, at a time when Nazi Germany had already issued race laws.

A number of individuals in Dublin attempted to set up organisations, usually consisting of a handful of people, sending threatening material and calling for boycotts of Jewish-run businesses. One Garda file, dated May 2, 1939, outlines how George Griffin of 7, Slane Rd in Dublin, but originally from Dundalk, Co Louth, was behind much of the intimidation of Jews reported to gardaí at that time.

Mr Griffin was on a disability pension of £150 in respect of IRA duties and was behind the Irish Christian Rights Association, its membership consisting of him and his wife. According to the file: “He has no definite trade or occupation and devotes all his time to the interests of people alleged to be victimised by moneylenders and hire purchase firms.”

A file from a garda who in 1937 infiltrated another anti-Jewish organisation — this time run solely by a Thomas Curran, a plasterer from South Circular Rd operating under the false name of TF Silver — described Griffin as “not a very intelligent person and in fact is inclined to be slightly abnormal”.

“He is easily led and is suffering from an anti-Jewish mania but is not addicted to violence,” it read.

The same file claimed Griffin was being used by an organisation known as the International Fascist Movement “emanating from the Italian legation and sponsored by Captain Liam D Walsh who is employed there”.

More offensive material was distributed by a Mrs Lia Clarke of 37, Nassau St in Dublin, operating under the pseudonym AJ Browne.

Material produced under that name was done under the aegis of the Irish Ireland Research Society, with an address at 27, South Great Georges St in Dublin.

Some of the material in circulation at the time included printed pamphlets on The Jewish Question and Keep Ireland for the Irish.

Remarkably, a secret file from the Office of the Garda Commissioner to the Department of Justice shows that Mrs Clarke was running off copies of the offending material alongside two employees from the Irish Press.

The file reveals that Mrs Clarke, a 50-year-old widow, was keen to get in touch with the Griffins. Her profession was journalist and theatre critic but the file reveals: “She has lived for some time in Vienna and has a perfect knowledge of the German language. She has very strong Nazi tendencies and besides being Anti-Jewish in outlook holds Nazi views regarding catholics.

“She has attempted to interest the IRA in her activities and actually has approached one of its leaders, but without success.”

Another Garda file from Mar 1939 describes threatening letters sent to Hyman Handleman and Solomon Crystal. Handleman, who lived in Pembroke in Dublin, had received a letter in which he was told “get out of this country before you will be bombed out of it”. A similar letter was sent to Solomon Crystal of Avoca Rd.

In Feb 1939 another Jewish man, Harris Stein of Rathmines, received a letter which stated: “If you Jews do not leave this country now it will be too late next week. We will do this job more thoroughly than Germany has.”

Anti-Jewish graffiti also featured in Dublin at the time but an assistant garda commissioner file outlines how up to that point it had not been possible to suppress those behind the intimidation.

Three years earlier, in 1939, the same assistant commissioner had written there was “no organised conspiracy against Jewry in the Saorstat, though there is an undercurrent of hostility”.

More recent files devoid of O’Duffy-era detail

By Ryle Dwyer

There is an extraordinary contrast in the state papers just released between the paucity of investigative material in relation the various gubus (grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre, unprecedented events) of 1982 and the wealth of interesting material that the Department of Justice has released dealing with events in the 1930s and 1940s. The latter provide a real insight into what is likely missing from the 1982 file, and this should prompt serious questioning about the manner in which material is being withheld.

The justice files, for instance, have considerable details of the investigation of a riot in Tralee on Oct 6, 1933. Eoin O’Duffy, the new leader of the United Ireland Party (Fine Gael), which was established four weeks earlier, was literally hammered and his car torched when he came to attend his party’s local convention.

Arrangements had been made to supplement the local garda force with 85 other gardaí from Killarney and Listowel. O’Duffy walked from the hotel where he was due to stay to the convention hall. Initially, there was some heckling with chants of “Up the Republic”, and “Remember Ballyseedy”, before things turned ugly.

“A melee took place,” the local chief superintendent reported. “General O’Duffy was noticed to put his hand to his head and shout for a doctor.” He had been hit on the head with a hammer.

The gardaí were overpowered and the delegates to the convention were roughed up. O’Duffy’s car was torched that night in the garage of the hotel where he was staying.

“Kerry’s entire record in the Black and Tan struggle consisted in shooting an unfortunate soldier the day of the truce,” O’Duffy said in Bandon the following week. “To hear such people shouting ‘up the Republic’ would make a dog sick.”

The Department of Justice material contains a detailed file on the formation of the Irish Brigade, which went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In Aug 1936, Gen O’Duffy suggested the formation of the brigade. Resolutions were passed and sent to all daily papers “condemning the anti-God campaign of the Spanish Government and calling on our Government to break off diplomatic relations with Spain”.

“It is not a conflict between fascism and anti-fascism but between Christ and anti-christ,” O’Duffy contended.

“The Irish brigade will eventually be 10,000 strong.”

The Department of Justice was caught by surprise when a large Irish contingent set out for Spain from Galway on Sunday, Dec 13, 1936.

“We do not know whether the police had in fact any advance information in regard to the proposal to embark at Galway and simply did not think it worthwhile to report it in the absence of any clear indication that the proposed expedition was illegal or unwelcome to the Government, or whether the police were in fact altogether taken by surprise,” the secretary of the Department of Justice informed his counterpart in external affairs next day.

“The Attorney General has advised that no offence is committed by persons joining or encouraging others to take part on the side of the insurgents in Spain and it would seem that persons are equally free to join the Government forces,” the secretary added.

The only law that may have been broken was the possible overloading of the tender Dun Aengus, which brought the men out to the steamer anchored off the coast.

The files indicate that O’Duffy had problems getting on with his Spanish allies and many of his own men in Spain. General Franco and other Spanish leaders had “sized up O’Duffy who they consider has bluffed much and promised much whilst performing little”, Leo Kerney, the Irish minister to Spain, reported on Jun 8, 1936.

“They thought originally that O’Duffy had the military experience and science of a general; they now know from conversations with him and otherwise, that his military knowledge is very limited,” Kerney added. “O’Duffy seems to have completely lost credit with Franco, who now looks upon him as a bluffer, if not a duffer.”

O’Duffy wished to return to Ireland and a split developed with those who wished to fight on. O’Duffy insisted that all should return with him.

“He sneered at some of his officers as being ‘Protestant Englishmen’,” according to Kerney. “Several of these officers were suffering from venereal diseases,” according to O’Duffy, who suggested that this was why they wished to remain on.

O’Duffy and most of his brigade arrived back at the North Wall, Dublin on Jun 21, 1937 on the SS Mocambique.

“There is no doubt that there was dissension in the ranks of the Brigade for most of the time it was in Spain,” Garda Insp Michael Mansfield reported next day. “This was chiefly due to O’Duffy’s selection of officers to lead the Brigade in Spain. It appears that the selection was not made on a basis of ability as soldiers, but as politicians to act in his interests when the Brigade returned to Ireland.”

Gardaí suspected that the Spanish venture was just a preparatory programme for O’Duffy’s ambitions to establish a powerful fascist organisation in Ireland. Hence the gardaí kept a close watch on him in the following months amid rumours that he planned to send another brigade to Spain, or that he was even planning to launch an anti-partition campaign in conjunction with the IRA.

“A present it would appear to be no more than a coincidence that the IRA Organisation and the agents of General O’Duffy are ascertaining the extent or the nature of support likely to be forthcoming to proposed military action in connection with the partition issue,” Chief Supt WP Quinn reported from Thurles on Dec 29, 1938. But he added that there was no evidence of “any understanding between the two parties up to the present”.

Little over a fortnight later the IRA launched its bombing campaign in Britain, but O’Duffy never did get involved.

Irish army warned British it would retaliate if fired upon

By Noel Baker

The Irish army warned its British counterparts that it would fire back “in defence of our own lives” if they were fired on, after being warned by the RUC not to patrol a border area at night.

The minister for defence urged his counterpart in foreign affairs to complain to the British about the security incident in which British army personnel warned a joint army/Garda patrol not to cross a field at a border area or risk being fired on.

The letter, newly released by the National Archives, shows a letter from Capt O O’Curry of the Defence Forces containing a military report to the minister for foreign affairs in Aug 1981.

In related to an incident on Jul 27 of that year, in which a joint army/Garda patrol was operating a search of an area south of a border crossing point near the townland of Mullan.

That search was due to start at 3.40am but during the night, gardaí were informed by RUC personnel “it would not be advisable for southern forces to move into the fields because British soldiers had machine guns trained on the area and would fire at any attacker”.

According to the military report: “It is noted that night sights would not distinguish terrorists from regular soldiers.”

The military commander in the area advised the gardaí, for transmission to the RUC, that the British advice was “unacceptable to our deployment and tactics, if fired on, and the situation so demanded, our troops would have no option but to carry out the mission, ie, to fire in defence of our own lives and the lives of gardaí”.

“It is considered unacceptable that Northern Ireland security forces would be prepared to fire machine guns across the border into the Republic, and thereby endanger the lives of gardaí and/or our own troops.”

In the accompanying letter to the minister for foreign affairs, Capt O’Curry wrote: “It is recommended that the matter be taken up strongly with the British authorities”. Internal memos within foreign affairs show the decision was taken not to follow this up as “there would not be any useful purpose in raising the matter with the British embassy at this time”.

The dangerous border area played host to numerous incidents. Files show that on the very same night, Jul 27, 1981, an explosion took place at the Kiltybegs border point at 2.20am.

Gardaí investigated and while nobody was injured, inquiries revealed a British army helicopter had landed near the scene of the explosion at 9.30pm the previous day to drop off army personnel. According to a file, “this was denied by the RUC, they say none of the security forces were in the area on the dates mentioned”.

Earlier in July at Emyvale in Co Monaghan, the British army claimed one of its helicopters was fired on, but later the RUC said it was a mistake and the shots had come from “fowlers operating in the area”.

A separate file shows there were 27 different border incidents registered from the start of August to the end of Dec 1981.

De Valera tackles senator’s pro-Allies sentiment

By Noel Baker

The government moved to put down any challenge to its wartime neutrality during the Emergency, following reports of “objectionable activities”.

Internal memos from 1943 report that the Department of Internal Affairs had noticed that the Irish Institute of International Affairs had been acting “most irregularly” in bringing “employees of or in some cases members of fugitive governments in England or of the British government” to Ireland for meetings.

“The obvious aim has been to provide a series of lectures of a propagandist nature in favour of the Allies, and by implication hostile to the other participants in the present war,” the Uachtarán na hÉireann file outlines.

Senator James Douglas was a member of the Irish Institute for International Affairs and met with then taoiseach Éamon de Valera.

The Department of External Affairs provided a memo on Douglas to de Valera before the meeting, during which “the Taoiseach spoke strongly to him about his improper behaviour in endeavouring to circumvent the authority of the Irish government in matters relating to the entry of foreigners to Ireland”.

Douglas, a former confidant of Michael Collins, had claimed the government was refusing to allow certain people access to Ireland and that this had shown hostility to the Allies. He was rebuked by the taoiseach, who told him that in these cases there was “an irregularity, in some cases serious, on the part of the person concerned”.

“It is thought that the senator will be much more careful in future and more mindful of his duty as an Irish citizen,” the file notes.

The Irish Institute of International Affairs had been critical of Ireland’s neutrality and a confidential letter in January from the secretary of the Department of External Affairs highlighted the institute’s charges of Irish “cowardice” in not backing the Allies against the Nazis.

Papal nuncio believed unity was inevitable

By Noel Baker

A newly released file reveals that the papal nuncio in 1971 believed Irish unity was “inevitable” despite the “cynical and perfidious” attitude of the British government, while another file shows a Dutch firm that had links with a factory in Lurgan in Co Armagh got threats from the IRA.

The file outlining the view of the pope’s Dublin representative, held in correspondence with foreign embassies, captures comments made in a phonecall with a department official.

“The nuncio stressed that unity will come — it is inevitable”, the file dated Oct 19, 1971 states. “And as for violence this is coming as much from the British Army and the RUC at the present time as it is from those on the minority side. The nuncio said 52% of the children in the North are at present Catholic and if these are not forced to emigrate when they grow up at least three counties would be controlled by Catholics with proportional representation.” The nuncio spoke “bitterly” of the attitude of the British government, describing it as “perfidious”.

Elsewhere, the Dutch ambassador contacted the Department of Justice in Dublin in Mar 1972 after he had been contacted by the president of the Dutch firm AKZO.

The company’s Dutch headquarters had received a letter signed “IRA” and dated Mar 15 stating that the AKZO plant in Lurgan was releasing its employees for part-time military service and this practice was hostile to “the Irish working classes”.

The letter went on to say if the practice continued, action would be taken against the plant and a new AKZO factory building in Limerick, before adding Dutch people would be shot.

IRA bombings prompted hate mail to embassy

By Noel Baker

The Irish embassy in London was swamped with hate mail as a result of IRA bombs in England.

A letter from the Embassy to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on July 30, 1982 shows 30 letters were received in a short space of time, of which more than half were “either anonymous or so grossly offensive as to not warrant a reply”. Another 50 phonecalls were received.

Some of the redacted letters now released in the archives include references to “cowardly, cruel acts by members of your country” and “cowardly outrages by your despicable countrymen”.

The letters echo some of the condemnation heaped upon Ireland after the killing of Lord Mountbatten in 1979 in Co Sligo.

Newly released files show letters to Taoiseach Jack Lynch, including one from a man who said he was cancelling his planned trip to Cork as “it is quite obvious to me that this terrorist mob could not operate without some co-operation from your government”.

A diplomatic cable of the time reveals some within government believed the IRA leadership had been taken over by “hard boiled reds”.

Ambassador told asbestos had been shipped to Ireland

The United States Environmental Protection Agency wrote to the Irish ambassador in 1981 to reveal that asbestos had been exported to Ireland.

The letter shows that the USEPA had received a notice that asbestos was being exported to Ireland, and that it may be “a bulk shipment, a mixture or a product containing asbestos that will undergo further processing or fabrication”.

The same USEPA letter outlines the danger of asbestos, and its proposed action to identify the presence of friable asbestos materials in public school buildings.

The letter to the ambassador, Sean Donlon, also states that in this case “the exporter has made a claim of confidentiality for the identity of the substance and/or for the destination of the substance”. Other files show the correspondence that took place between Brussels and Dublin over the Raybestos-Manhattan plant in Ovens, Co Cork.

There had been claims that the plant was “an asbestos factory” but this is repeatedly denied in correspondence in the late 1970s.

The factory produced brake linings in a process in which asbestos was used and had been the subject of a number of local complaints and concerns.

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