Eoin O'Duffy: A Self-Made Hero by Fearghal McGarry

By Fearghal McGarry

Eoin O'Duffy was once the most arguable figures of recent Irish heritage. a pace-setter of the Irish revolution, and protégé of Michael Collins, he commanded the Irish police and safety forces, sooner than rising as Ireland's top fascist baby-kisser within the Nineteen Thirties. A crusading moralist, passionate about the necessity to counter public immorality, and a closet gay and alcoholic, O'Duffy's extraordinary existence used to be characterized through self-aggrandisement, myth, and contradiction.

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Hogan, a clerk in Clones train station and a celebrated county player, would become O’Duffy’s right-hand man. There was a noticeable overlap between the leadership of the GAA and the republican movement, as evidenced by the prominence of such figures as Patrick Whelan, Dr Conn Ward, and P. J. ¹³ O’Duffy’s experience as Ulster secretary also proved invaluable: ‘he knew every parish, town, village and corner of the county and indeed his knowledge of the surrounding counties was uncanny. He was quite familiar with all national activities over a wide area.

But it was not only the young and bitter who supported Sinn Féin. Its organizers were prominent among ‘the Catholic clergy, the teachers, professional men, tradesmen and smaller farmers’. ²⁶ But many within the most respectable section of society did back the new party. ²⁷ The party also drew support from the Irish Ireland movement and public servants. One nationalist complained: ‘nearly all I have met have been Government servants, or sons of policemen. Their fathers smashed our heads with their batons in the Land League days .

Throwing himself into revolutionary activism with the same energy and commitment that he had invested in the GAA, O’Duffy quickly established himself as the leading republican in Monaghan. His (now lost) diaries, Liam Walsh noted, demonstrated ‘the extraordinary energy of this apparently tireless  eoin o’duffy: a self-made hero worker. Night after night he was engaged on some mission or another, and it is frequently recorded where he attended three or four different functions in the same night .

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