[Gen.] Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971)


Life
[Risteard Ua Maolchatha]; b. Waterford, son of the Thurles postmaster; ed. Waterford CBS and later at Thurles; joined the postal service, arriving in Dublin in 1908; applied to College of Science School, and refused, 1911; tutored himself for the matriculation examination and enrolled Kevin St. and later Bolton St; joined Irish Volunteers, 1913; served as 2nd in command to Thomas Ashe at Ashbourne in the 1916 Rising; interned at Frognoch until 1917; elected MP Clontarf, 1918; m. Josephine Ryan, 1919;
 
became IRA Chief of Staff (GOC), 1919, issuing orders for the cessation of the campaign, 11 July 1921; took pro-Treaty side, speaking with reasoned eloquence for acceptance of the terms; appt. Min. of Defence, 1923-24; characterised the continued Republican campaign as ‘a madness from within’ and authorised the execution of 73 Republican prisoners as a reprisal and deterrant; effected the handing-over of the army to civilian control; TD for Dublin North-west, 1922-23; TD for Dublin City North, 1923-37; chairman of the Gaeltacht Commission, 1925-26;
 
defeated in elections, 1937, but re-elected for Dublin North East 1938, and again defeated in 1943; senator 1943-44; TD for Tipperary, 1944; elected leader of Fine Gael, June 1944; served as Min. for Education, 1948-51, after which the government lost office; resumed ministry of Education, 1954-57; resigned party leadership 1959; retired from Dáil, 1960; d. 16 Dec., Dublin; 70 boxes of his ordered papers were presented to UCD Archive, where a Richard Mulcahy Trust was established. DIB

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Criticism
Maryann Valiulis, Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State (IAP 1992), 290pp.; see also Risteárd Mulcahy, Richard Mulcahy: A Family Memoir [1998]; Risteárd Mulcahy, My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution (Dublin: Liberties Press 2009), 256pp., ill. (+ 8pp ills.).

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Commentary
Jack White, Minority Report (Gill & Macmillan 1975), writes about the case of Letitia Dunbar-Harrison who was dismissed by the Mayo County Council from her librarian post in 1931, and Mulcahy's response: ‘The Minister for Local Government (General Mulcahy) ordered an inquiry. When he established to his satisfaction that the council was improperly refusing to implement the appointment, he accordingly dissolved it and appointed a commissioner to exercise its powers.’ Of his answer to Eamon de Valera’s support for the Council’s decision, White writes: “The Deputy”, said the minister, “has gone as near saying as constitutionally he can that no Protestant librarian should be appointed to county libraries in this country.” The minister had the votes to carry the day, but it was a hollow victory. Miss Dunbar-Harrison was appointed but met with organised local hostility, and it was not long before she was transferred to a less sensitive post.’ (p.101.)

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Maryann Gialanella Valiulis, Portrait of a Revolutionary: General Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State (IAP 1992), writes: ‘Under the pervasive influence of the 19th-century European nationalism, earlier Irish nationalists such as Thomas Davis and Young Ireland had sketched the outline of a viable Irish identity. The imminent expectation of Home Rule, however, compelled Irish nationalists of Mulcahy’s time to colour in the details. They drew an ideological portrait which conferred a distinctive identity on a colonised people, an identity that was suitable for an emerging middle class. It was a unique blend of Gaelic culture, Catholicism and Victorianism, a composite of past and present. / Reaching into their pre-colonial past, nationalists affirmed their commitment to Gaelic culture in general and the Irish language in particular. []. Once an emblem of inferiority and colonised status, Catholicism was now a badge of identity. To their definition of identity, nationalist Ireland appended elements of Victorianism such as respectability, self-help, and a puritanical zeal and righteousness - qualities that would be suitable for the type of Irish society they envisioned. Despite their protest against Anglicisation, they blended elements of middle-class Victorian thought into the ideological background of their collective self-portrait. / Richard Mulcahy was both product and advocate of this definitino of identity. His vision of Irish society was formed during this age of intellectual ferment, discovery and rediscovery,. His passion for Galeic culture, his zealous Catholicism, and his belief in the value of Victorian virtues determined and sustained his political and social vision through his long political career. / Unquestionably, the most pervasive element in shaping Mulcahy’s values and beliefs was Catholicism. His writings and reflections are laced with unselfconscious reference to God and the Church. ( &c.’; p.2.)The work draws heavily on Mulcahy Papers housed in UCD Archive (UCDA).

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Conor Cruise O’Brien recalls Richard Mulcahy coming to his mother’s funeral: ‘I think Mulcahy and my mother had been friends as undergraduates in University College, Dublin, in the days before the First World War and the associated national catastrophes in Ireland. I don’t think my mother had seen him since the catastrophes. He was responsible for seventy-seven executions of republicans during the Civil War, and was in consequence, for republicans like my Aunt Hanna, the leading hate-figure in Ireland. I rather admired him for coming to that funeral, which he knew would be attended by Hanna [Sheehy-Skeffington] and some of her friends, all of whom hated him.’ (‘My Time at Trinity College’, in The Recorder: Journal of the Irish American Historical Society, Spring 2000, p15.)

Notes
Stage Irishman: Mulcahy appeared on the Abbey stage at the end of a charity performance for Republican Dependents, and pronounced: ‘it seems to me we have been deserted, at the present time and all through the fight put up in the country, by our poets and by our literary people.’ (Quoted in Peter Costello, The Heart Grown Brutal, 1977, p.185.)

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