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1930s documents reveal state attempts to disband Fianna Éireann

The republican youth organisation was viewed as grooming youngsters so that they would later become members of the IRA.

A Fianna Éireann flag from the early part of the 20th century.
A Fianna Éireann flag from the early part of the 20th century.
Image: PA Wire/PA Archive/Press Association Images

DOCUMENTS RELEASED BY the Department of Justice and Equality show government attempts to prevent the various incarnations of the Irish republican youth movement, Fianna Éireann, between 1934 and 1939.

On 3 April, 1934 it was reported that a recently formed branch of the organisation had started parading in Castlebar in Co Mayo.

Noting that a “certain amount of enthusiasm seems to have been stirred up,” fundraising, by way of a “Ceilidhe” (ceili) was reported to have recently taken place.

Most recently, 25 members, 12 of which were in uniform, had marched in the recent Easter Sunday commemoration parade.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2011/25/118, available from the National Archives)

In August of that same year, Gardaí reported that a new branch had been created in the town of Bruff in Limerick. Led by 17-year-old Michael Carmody, the 15-strong group had recently practiced drill movements in a nearby field, taught by an ex-British soldier called John Mitchell, who had been known to also drill the local unit of the IRA.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2011/25/118, available from the National Archives)

Flag selling

That same month a group of boys from the branch in Bruff were observed and questioned about their selling of flags in Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

When questioned by Gardaí, Mitchell, who the boys had stated held the required permit, said that he didn’t need one as they “were only selling flags.”

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/118, available from the National Archives)

Other garda correspondence defines the objective of these groups as being “to help in the education of its members and to prevent them, if possible, from joining other organisations and when of age become members of the IRA.”

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The crackdown

Five years later, the documents show signs of a crackdown by Gardaí, with the below document suggesting that “these boys should be advised, through their parents, to sever their connection with this organisation”.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/118, available from the National Archives)

Less than one month later, the branch in Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim had all but disappeared.

Having been “discreetly interviewed and persuaded to cease their connection,” only the “Gilroy brothers” remained who, the report stated, “would be influenced by their father, and would be hostile.”

There is a section of the Catholic Boy Scouts here and it appears they only cater for what they describe as better class children, this gave the Gilroys an excuse to organise the Fianna as an opposition movement. They were of course inspired by their father for political reasons.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2011/25/118, available from the National Archives)

Read: Irish War of Independence exhibition to mark centenary of The Fianna Convention >

About the author:

Paul Hyland

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