Eoin O’Duffy

CriticismReferences

Life
1892-1944 [General O’Duffy]; b. Co. Monaghan; commandant of Monaghan IRA Brigade, 1919-21, which he commanded in the attack on Ballytrain RIC Barracks, Co. Monaghan, with Ernest O’Malley and Peadar O’Donnell, et al. - being the first military action of the War of Independence, 14 Feb. 1920; co-opted to IRA GHQ; briefly imprisoned; persuaded the Ulster IRA to accept the Treaty, 1921; appt. Chief of Staff of Irish Army, 1922; appt. Commissioner of Garda, 1922-24; served as Inspector General during the Army Crisis, 1924-25; became leader of Irish fascists (Blueshirts) from 1932; brought 500 men to fight for Franco on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, travelling from Galway on board a Nazi steamer; his career ended with the failure of that contingent to make an impact. DIB

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Criticism
See Maurice Manning, The Blueshirts (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1970, 1987, 2006; Toronto UP 1971); John M. Regan, The Irish Counter-revolution 1921-1936 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1999); Eunan O’Halpin, Defending Ireland: The Irish State and Its Enemies since 1922 (Oxford OUP).

RIC/Irishmen: O’Duffy told the policemen who surrendered at Ballytrain in Feb. 1920 that the people had voted for freedom at the general election and that the police were acting against the will of the Irish people, appealing to them to leave the forces and join their brother Irishmen. (See Caomhin Breatnach, MRIA, School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore and Linguistics, UCD, Dublin 4, in Irish Times, 25 Aug. 2012 - quoting unnamed source.)

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Commentary
W. B. Yeats (I), letters to Olivia Shakespeare contain comments on his meeting with O’Duffy: ‘When I wrote to you, the Fascist organiser of the blue shirts had told me that he was about to bring to see me the man he had selected for leader that I might talk by anti-democratic philosophy. [...] The leader turned out to be Gen O’Duffy [...] O’Duffy himself is autocratic, directing the movement from above down as if it were an army. I did not think him a great man though a pleasant one, but one never knows, his face and mind may harden or clarify.’ (Letters, ed. Allen Wade, pp.812-13, 815; quoted in A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, London: Macmillan 1984, pp.341-42, p.345.)

W. B. Yeats (II): Yeats considers his friend Capt. MacManus, an ex-British officer, to have ‘put into his [O’Duffy’s] head’ ideas of fascism, and that O’Duffy was described by MacManus as a ‘simple peasant’ (Letter of 20 Sept. 1933; Jeffares, op. cit., pp.346.) See also further letters (e.g,, 11 Feb., to Ethel Mannin; Letters, ed. Wade, p.881), illustrate his abhorrence of politics and his anti-O’Duffy feeling.

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W. B. Yeats (II): ‘I am convinced that if the Spanish war goes on, or if it ceases and O'Duffy's volunters return heroes, my “pagan” institutions, the Theatre, the Academy, will be fighting for their lives against conmibed Catholic and Gaelic bigotry’ (Collected Letters, 1986, p.885; quoted in Aaron Kelly, Twentieth-Century Literature in Ireland: A Reader's Guide to Essential Criticism, Palgrave Macmillan 2008, p.17.) [Kelly also quotes ‘I did not think him a great man [...; &c.], as supra.)

Molly O’Duffy: In a letter to The Irish Times, Molly O’Duffy responds to Gregory Allen’s allegation that General O’Duffy has a homosexual liaison with Micheal MacLiammóir, remarking: ‘to consider such a possibility a slur ... is to do [O’Duffy] no favours, merely to reveal one’s own prejudices about homosexuality’. Further: ‘I personally am more perturbed by O’Duffy’s choice of political allies than sexual partners. He damaged his own reputation by joining Franco [...] This is a historically significant and lamentable fact. His sexual orientation is neither.’ (Signed Temple Cottages, Broadstone, Dublin 7.)

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Notes
Denis Ireland comments on Eoin O’Duffy’s proposed ‘action’ against the North, in From an Irish Shore (1939) [see under Ireland, supra.]

Lucky escape: when O’Duffy commanded the attack on Ballytrain, setting explosive charges in the barracks, he advised the occupying RIC - who had refused to surrender - to move to the other end of the building to avoid harm, resulting in no loss of life. The initial plan had been to attack the barracks at Ballybay, being switched to Ballytrain because the Sergeant installed there had sworn against three republicans, resulting in their imprisonment. An IRA barracks at Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, was captured on the same day. (See “Remembering the Past: IRA captures Ballytrain Barracks”, in A Phoblacht - online [Feb. 2010; accessed 23.09.2012].

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