Ernie O’Malley and the Irish Revolution 1916-1923

“The inborn hate of things English”: Ernie O’Malley and the Irish Revolution 1916-1923

Richard English


In August 1937 Lennox Robinson wrote to Ernie O’Malley informing him that his name had been proposed (by Sean O’Faolain) and seconded (by Frank O’Connor) for membership of the Irish Academy of Letters.(1) In his autobiography My Father’s Son, O’Connor recalled that after a meeting of the Academy at which he and O’Faolain had been trying to get O’Malley elected they had gone to the house of W. B. Yeats: “Yeats greeted us with his Renaissance cardinal’s chuckle and asked: `What do you two young rascals mean by trying to fill my Academy with gunmen?'”(2) O’Malley might well have enjoyed such an exchange. “I don’t mind being called a gunman”, he wrote to Desmond Ryan in 1936; “we were, I suppose, though we didn’t use that term ourselves”.(3) This article is about a gunman.

Born in County Mayo in 1897, O’Malley moved with his family to Dublin while he was still a child and enrolled as a medical student at the National University of Ireland in 1915. Powerfully influenced by the 1916 Easter Rebellion (which he likened to “a thunderclap”),(4) O’Malley became a leading figure in the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) during the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21 (between Irish republican forces and those of the British crown) and the Civil War of 1922-3 (between those republicans who accepted the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, and those who felt that this Treaty compromised Irish sovereignty and should therefore be rejected). Badly wounded upon his capture by Free State forces in November 1922, he was imprisoned until 1924, during which time he was elected to the fourth Dail, or parliament, in August 1923 — albeit only on the fourteenth count, and without reaching the quota(5) — and participated in the republican hunger strike which took place later in the year. Upon his release he was, in his own words, “considered a hopeless invalid”.(6) The “hopeless invalid” received a military service pension for his industrious soldiership during the Irish Revolution. But his post-Revolutionary patriotism was expressed in non-military fashion. Travelling widely after the conflict in Europe and America, O’Malley became something of a bohemian, and wrote a brilliant account of his Anglo-Irish War experiences, On Another Man’s Wound, published in 1936. This was followed after his death in 1957 by the publication of further Revolutionary memoirs: The Singing Flame (1978) and Raids and Rallies (1982). These texts established O’Malley as arguably the most imaginatively gifted of his generation of Irish Revolutionary autobiographers — indeed, as one of the most significant figures in Irish politics during the Anglo-Irish War and its aftermath. His leading military role-he reached the position of Assistant Chief of Staff of the I.R.A. during the Civil War — combines with his invaluable accounts of inner-circle Irish republicanism and his uniquely rich archival legacy to make him an historical figure of major importance to students of modern Ireland.(7) This article interrogates much unexplored source material in addressing two key questions concerning the revolutionary Ernie O’Malley: Why did this man do what he did during the Irish Revolution? And how does our understanding of the roots and nature of these activities illuminate our reading of the Revolutionary period and, more widely, of early twentieth-century Irish history?


If one accepts Linda Colley’s argument that Britishness was built on the strongly connected foundations of Protestantism, profits and war,(8) then it is not difficult to trace the contours of the nationalist Irishness which developed so powerfully in the early twentieth century. In broad terms, the perceived marginality of Catholic Ireland within the United Kingdom provided the soil from which the new nationalism could grow. The political demarcation between the more Protestant north-east of the island — where Irish nationalism failed to gain the day — and the rest of the island owed much to a religiously coloured sense of history, identity and allegiance. Irish republicanism in the 1916-23 period was a form of Catholic nationalism; Revolutionary patriotism was imbued with notions of divine sanction, ritual endorsement, (supposedly) efficacious sacrifice and suffering, an anti-materialistic spirituality and a conviction that national and religious redemption were mutually interwoven.(9) Important here is the sentiment expressed by O’Malley’s Revolutionary associate C. S. Andrews that “[w]e Catholics varied socially among ourselves but we all had the common bond, whatever our economic condition, of being second-class citizens”.(10) Moreover, most of southern, Catholic Ireland had failed to experience that dramatic industrial success which occurred in Ulster during the nineteenth century and played a crucial part in welding north-eastern unionists to the British connection. Cormac O Grada has recently provided a thorough discussion both of the “success of the northeast” and of the reasons “why most of Ireland failed to industrialize in the nineteenth century”.(11) The important point for this discussion is, as Mary Daly has put it, that “[w]hile Ireland’s economic performance under the Union was not the sole factor fuelling the movement for independence, it is hardly a coincidence that Ulster, the most successful province under the Union, rejected independence”.(12) Similarly, Terence Denman has clearly shown that (and explained why) there was considerable disaffection from the British war effort within Catholic Ireland even before 1916.(13)

Against this background it is possible to trace with precision O’Malley’s developing involvement with militant Irish republicanism. The place to start is with one of the many tensions existing within O’Malley’s experience: his simultaneous Anglocentrism and Anglophobia. I have written elsewhere of the extent to which O’Malley’s intellectual and imaginative framework during this period was informed by British influences,(14) and this is a point to which I will return in the course of this article. For the moment let it simply be noted that in the two areas of his life most crucial to him during the Revolution — his military and literary cultures — he was heavily dependent upon British influences and sources. His eye-catching statement (written as an Irish republican prisoner in April 1923) that “I have a decent library now and have ample time to browse deep in Chaucer, Shakesp[eare], Dante, and Milton”,(15) offers a telling reflection of the range of his literary influences in this period. In the same year, however, he also wrote of his having had “the inborn hate of things English, which I expect all Irishmen inherit”,(16) and his militant republican career during the Revolutionary years testified more bloodily to his hostility towards Britain.

Anglocentric and Anglophobic, surrounded by the world which (as I have suggested) gave explicable rise to a compelling new Irish nationalism, O’Malley’s choices and actions begin to appear in sharper focus. As an Anglophobic member of that Catholic Ireland which felt itself to be marginal within the United Kingdom, it should not surprise us that one of the salient themes of this young man’s Revolution was the search for an Irish cultural distinctiveness; and his Anglocentrism sharpened rather than blurred the zeal with which this quest was undertaken. In this light O’Malley’s intriguing attitude towards Gaelicism can be explained. Ernest Malley became Earnan O Maille, and while he had not come to republicanism through the Gaelic League, he did join the League after his republican conversion. Moreover he repeatedly noted the important role which Gaelic enthusiasm had played during the Revolution: “Most of the officers and men in the recent Rising [the 1916 Rebellion] had had some knowledge of, or had been students of, Irish”. He stated that most of his post-Rebellion colleagues in the Volunteers had joined the Gaelic League, and asserted that Gaelic Leaguers “stressed the incentive of the language towards propagandist nationality; few had disinterested literary values”.(17) It is significant that in O’Malley’s later notebooks — in which he compiled research on the Revolutionary period — particular attention was paid to passages such as one from Batt O’Connor arguing that “[t]he Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic Association were the two chief sources from which the Irish Republican Brotherhood recruited its members”.(18)

In O’Malley’s own case the significance of the Gaelic persona lay in the energy and ambivalence evident in its invention: O’Malley recorded publicly that his Irish was poor, and privately that he lacked “Gaelic tradition and outlook”.(19) To his son’s recollection that “I can never recall hearing Father talk Irish”(20) should be added O’Malley’s own typically layered remark in December 1923 that “I know very little Irish; I should be ashamed, but really I’m not”.(21) But such remarks should not lead us to treat this aspect of O’Malley’s Revolution lightly. His consciousness that some apology was required for his lack of Gaelic credentials in itself testifies to the importance of this feature of the Revolutionary experience, an importance whose precise nature other scholars have demonstrated.(22) My argument is that, in O’Malley’s case, it was the tension between Anglophobia and Anglocentrism which rendered his Gaelic reinvention both urgent and problematic. O’Malley’s Gaelic self was implausible and imperative for the same reasons.

This pattern of antipathy, respect and emulation on the part of nationalists towards their opponents is plainly not confined to relations between Ireland and Britain. Liah Greenfeld has recently argued that the historical development of nationalism can best be explained by means of the concepts of prestige and resentment, combined with the elements of inferiority and emulation which have characterized the relations between nationalists of different countries. Her argument is that, against the domestic background of shifting national elites and the redefinition of social hierarchies, questions of dignity and prestige have rendered various nationalisms appealing at key historical moments. Moreover, she asserts the importance of a series of complicated relationships between newly emerging forms of nationalism and their prior existing rivals. Nascent French nationalism, she argues, was defined and characterized by a sense of resentment and inferiority towards England and was further influenced by (and emulative of) English prior example. So, too, Russia’s attitude towards the West and Germany’s towards France and England evinced this explanatory mixture of resentment, inferiority, influence and imitation. Nationalism having first sprouted in England, its subsequent development — according, at least, to Greenfeld — can be traced in terms of these complicated national relationships.(23)

Parts of Greenfeld’s generally compelling argument seem to me less than convincing, but her paradigm fits the detailed evidence for early twentieth-century Ireland too closely for it to be casually dismissed. Shifts in domestic elites, the redefinition of social hierarchies, the prestige-bestowing qualities of a new nationalism, considerable resentment towards England (coupled with a telling weight of influence and emulation, and significant evidence of a sense of inferiority) have each a crucial part to play in helping us to understand the Irish Revolution. In O’Malley’s case the “inborn hate of things English” coexisted with a very marked degree of British influence, and indeed with an occasional sense of “the superiority of the English”,(24) and the Irish Revolution was undoubtedly set against the background of shifting elites and hierarchies. The remainder of this article will explore these themes in further detail under two broad headings, those of Britishness and soldiership. Students of modern Ireland have in different ways begun a thorough exploration of the Britishness of much Irish experience.(25) Nor need this indicate alignment to a particular school of history; for example, scholars of varied political hue are all agreed on the vital importance of understanding the British influences operating upon the eighteenth-century United Irishmen.(26) So, too, with Ernie O’Malley — an early twentieth-century republican who celebrated the United Irish legacy — it is crucial to appreciate the nature of the British framework which so significantly contributed to his ideas and actions during the Irish Revolution. The place to begin is the First World War or, more specifically, with O’Malley’s British-filtered experience of it. When the War began O’Malley was pro-British and intended, like his brother, to join the British Army. Even after his conversion to an alternative patriotism in an alternative army the British military resonances remained. He read and praised official British military books and enjoyed discussions with his British Army brother,(27) a theme echoed in his friendship with such men as Robert Barton and David Robinson (former soldiers in the British Army who adopted the Irish republican cause). Of the articles published in the Irish Volunteer dealing with guerrilla warfare, he singled out for praise those which expounded material from official British Army textbooks.(28)

Some observers seem to have found it peculiarly difficult to recognize this aspect of O’Malley’s experience. Gerry Adams suggests that O’Malley intended the title of his book On Another Man’s Wound to allude to the usurping of power by nonrepublicans in independent Ireland on the backs of those who (like O’Malley) had fought during the preceding War. In fact, O’Malley uses the phrase to refer critically to the way in which Irish republicans “dismissed the agony, blood, and misery of the trenches as we dismiss another’s sorrow”.(29) Moreover, O’Malley continued to respond sympathetically after the Revolution to those Irish people whose patriotism had been expressed by their wartime involvement with the British forces. In a recent book dealing with inter-war Irish republicanism, Conor Foley describes O’Malley organizing attacks on Armistice Day marchers in Dublin in the 1920s. O’Malley’s actual attitude was far more interesting: “I `did’ Grafton Street”, he wrote in November 1926, “looking at the Poppy wearers and feeling sympathy for them for many had relatives killed I am sure”.(30)

Scholars have firmly established the importance of the First World War to the development of Irish republican momentum. Much of this is now uncontroversial; but it is still possible to provoke angerin certain quarters by quoting, for example, Owen Dudley Edwards’s typically spirited suggestion that:

the Easter Week Rising [of 1916] was an intensely British episode, quite

apart from the British births of Clarke and Connolly, the British ancestral

part-origin of Pearse, MacDonagh, Cathal Brugha, the brothers Boland,

and others. In fighting against Britain, the Easter insurgents responded

to the same mood which led so many to fight for Britain. The ideals were

the same: militarism, honour, patriotism, self-sacrifice, manhood, adventure

and above all a desire to testify to spiritual yearnings defying the

grey calculations of a secure and cautious life.(31)

The culture here described, filtered substantially through British influences, is vital to any proper understanding of Ernie O’Malley’s Irish Revolutionary republicanism.

In his literary culture the revolutionary O’Malley was, again, very British-influenced. He was among the most bookish of republican gunmen: in 1923 he described his “love for books”, and in 1936 was still “eternally tempted by books and reading”.(32) Many of his fellow republicans were themselves inclined to bookishness and some also shared his deeply British literary interests. Like other republicans of the period O’Malley had a relentless urge for self-improvement, strongly evident in his letters from prison in the 1920s. He planned numerous projects and programmes of study and, tellingly, these often involved British sources. “I have mapped out a course in English literature”, he wrote in July 1923, “and am endeavouring to follow it”. He loved Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Johnson, Austen, Scott, Keats, Shelley, Blake, Lamb, Hazlitt, Dickens, Browning, Stevenson, Buchan, Bennett, Galsworthy. When in 1923 he drew up a list of the books he had read, it included roughly four times as many works by British authors as Irish. The authors who aroused his strongest enthusiasm were British, and indeed his passion for British literature was strikingly intense.(33)

This attraction might have been particularly passionate in O’Malley’s case, but he was not unique among Irish republicans in his absorption in British literary culture. Indeed, far from being surprising this British framework is precisely what one might expect to find: only if one regards a sense of Irishness and a sense of Britishness as peculiarly exclusive phenomena would one expect Irish republicans of this era to be immune to the cultural riches of British intellectual and imaginative life. Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan, no less than Sean O’Faolain, testified to their influential attachment to British literary culture. O’Donnell wrote of his excitement on reading Defoe, Shelley, Dickens, Stevenson and Wodehouse when in prison for his republican activities, and (with characteristic impishness) of his enthusiasm for Shakespeare:

I don’t remember on what day of the week I finally escaped from prison but

it was on a Wednesday that I saw a copy of Shakespeare in the officers’

lavatory when I was outside having a bath; I stole it! Well, listen here,

there’s no punishment I could ever receive for that theft that would exceed

the icy its capture gave me. I’m telling you, Shakespeare was a great man,

and I would suggest to the British ruling class that the least they can do

when they jail folk like me is to present each of us with a copy of his works.

It is true that in this case J rescued Shakespeare from a few of my

countrymen but that must not be used as an argument to

resist my plea, for it is only that section of my countrymen who can be

hired to serve the Empire who would use Shakespeare in a lavatory.(34)

Visiting Ireland in 1922, Peter Golden, with whose family-O’Malley was later to become intimate, recalled overhearing “a group of young republican soldiers discussing the relative merits of Shelley and Keats”.(35) This is a vital clue to the nature both of O’Malley himself and, I would argue, of the Irish revolutionary movement more generally. For if O’Malley was considered by those who knew him to be “a romantic figure”(36) — even, in his wife’s words, a “wild Irishman”(37) — then it is all the more important to recognize the role played in his career by Romanticism itself. Frank O’Connor’s identification of the relationship between Shelleyan Romanticism and Irish nationalisms of relevance here.(38) O’Connor specifically pointed to the Romantic celebration of death in the nationalist tradition, to which might be added its exaltation of passion over reason, its glorification of emotion, its youthful intensity, its sentimentality, and even its poignant recognition that the actual could not be moulded to fit the ideal. O’Malley’s love for Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Blake, Coleridge, Byron, Goethe and Hugo — reflecting his strikingly, though not exclusively, British cultural framework — is clearly pertinent to this argument. So, too, are statements such as those of O’Malley’s comrade-in-arms C. S. Andrews that during the Revolutionary years his reactions “were based mainly on emotionalism and enthusiasm. I rarely thought; I felt”.(39)

Moreover, the republicans’ conception of the nation was a deeply Romantic one, dependent as it was on the questionable notion of an innate rational consciousness. Whether the metaphor was one of awakening the sleeper or of restoring the dying to life, nationalist imagery drew upon this powerful idea of an inborn national sense. Writing of the Anglo-Irish War, O’Malley epitomized the tendency in typically quotable terms:

In general, the local I.R.A. companies made or marred the morale of the

people. If the officers were keen and daring, if organization was good, if

the flying columns had been established, and if the people had

become accustomed to seeing our men bearing arms openly, the

resistance was stiffened. When the fighting took place, the people

entered into the spirit of the fight even if they were not republican,

their emotions were stirred, and the little spark of nationality which is

borne by everyone who lives in Ireland was fanned and given

expression to in one of many ways.(40)

O’Malley’s Romanticism also involved idealized visions of the peasantry. In 1938 he advised a couple hoping to adopt an Irish child “to adopt peasant stock from Ireland as it has more good blood in it than either middle or upper middle class”.(41) Such arguments coexisted, as one might expect, with a rather less enthusiastic attitude towards the actual peasants among whom he spent his-Revolutionary (and, indeed, many of his postRevolutionary) years. But Romantic zealotry, like Romantic sources, prevailed in O’Malley’s mind. He offered lyrical depictions of the countryside against which his Revolutionary adventures were often set. “I looked forward to Spring: broken land, brown, umber,upturned, earth smells awakened by the rain. The wild daffodil quivering on pliant stem, purple-frittered wild iris, the delicate cream of the primrose backed by its crimpled leaf and the rich golden glory of the sedate crocus” — such passages as this should be read in the light of O’Malley’s view that there existed a direct connection between knowledge of the land, intimacy with the country and nationalist commitment. Similarly, his passion for geography and topography was part of what he referred to as his desire to achieve “an intimate knowledge of the country from every point of view”.(42)

O’Malley was plainly not alone in such sentiments. I have argued elsewhere that O’Malley’s republicanism should be appreciated within the setting of a broader British framework, and in particular that an examination of John Buchan’s writings helpfuly illuminates our reading of Ernie O’Malley’s Revolution.(43) O’Malley (the Catholic, Irish anti-imperialist) loved Buchan (`the Presbyterian, Scottish imperialist). He made many approving references to Buchan’s work and his library contained many of Buchan’s books. O’Malley read Buchan’s 1916 adventure Greenmantle while republican prisoner in Mountjoy Prison. The novel, the second in Buchan’s Richard Hannay series, had been written in part to entertain the troops, and there was therefore a certain irony in its having entertained this particular soldier of the Irish Republican Army. But it remains true not only that the culture depicted in Buchan’s Hannay novels, set in the First World War and its aftermath, resembles that portrayed in O’Malley’s writings on the Irish Revolution, but also that these O’Malley/Buchan resonances are in fact less surprising than they might at first appear, given that the two men actually shared many intellectual and cultural influences. The romance of adventure characteristic of Buchan’s writings is echoed in O’Malley’s prose, and the essentially apolitical hero-narrator in each case relates a similar tale. The fictional Hannay and the historical O’Malley both provide accounts which celebrate militarism, duty, discipline and patriotism; which depict an overwhelmingly male culture, characterized by forms of rather patronizing chivalry towards (often boyish) women; which glorify courage, adventure and the countryside against which their own adventures are repeatedly set; which present loyal and chosen (indeed selfselecting, self-appointing) comrades appearing and reappearing in a series of patriotic struggles, each set firmly in the world of spies and disguise; and which demand that the reader accept the unquestionable righteousness of their hero’s struggle. In reading Greenmantle O’Malley escaped into a culture and a world which were deeply and favourably familiar to him.

Close examination of these two authors’ influences and connections helps to contextualize these undoubted resonances. Both were romantic — indeed over-romantic — story-telling patriots.(44) And if O’Malley’s adventures resembled Richard Hannay’s, this was partly because Buchan and O’Malley shared similar tastes in reading. Both men revelled in Robert Louis Stevenson. According to Janet Adam Smith, Buchan’s “view of what constituted a `romance'” derived largely from Stevenson; O’Malley declared “I love Robert Louis Stevenson”, and frequently praised his work. O’Malley and Buchan shared other enthusiasms too. Both men enjoyed Scott, Dickens, Thackeray and Arnold. Both adored Shakespeare: “I like Shakespeare best” (O’Malley); “the greatest of all poets” (Buchan). Both admired the work of Arthur Quiller Couch. O’Malley liked A. S. Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy; Buchan had been taught by Bradley at Glasgow University. O’Malley expressed his “love” for Walter Pater in 1923; Buchan chose Brasenose as his Oxford college partly because Pater had been a fellow there.(45)

Other similarities complement these bookish connections. Both O’Malley and Buchan wrote patriotic accounts of conflict which assumed that their respective nations fought in defence of a righteous cause. Again, both men believed that patriotic sacrifice would produce a fruitful harvest: “The country has not had, as yet, sufficient voluntary sacrifice and suffering and not until suffering fluctuates will she get back her real soul” (O’Malley); “there is ground for humble confidence that that sowing in unimaginable sacrifice and pain will yet quicken and bear fruit to the bettering of the world” (Buchan). Each man stressed that patriotic commitment dissolved class boundaries, and each suggested the possibility that some new social pattern might emerge from military struggle. Speaking of his Volunteer company, O’Malley asserted: “We . . . were mixed: professions, unskilled labour, students, Government clerks, skilled labour, business men, and out-of-works . . . There were no class distinctions. One judged a man by his previous training, courage, efficiency, and ability; results by zeal and willingness to learn”. Similarly (this time with reference to republican prisoners in 1924): “It was hard to distinguish, as one walked around the camp, the professions or occupations of the men . . . We were prisoners, it did not matter about one’s position or education, here all ranked equally . . . There was a recasting, a new shaping of values”. For his part, Buchan stressed the classless nature of the First World War British Army: public school boys were joined by “miners from north England, factory hands from the industrial centres, clerks and shop boys, ploughmen and shepherds, Saxon and Celt, college graduates and dock labourers”; and he suggested that “[i]f we can carry that great brotherhood of the trenches into the years of peace, and make a better and a juster England, where class hatred will abate because class selfishness has gone, then, by the grace of God, this war may yet rank as one of the happiest events in our history”.(46)

These echoes can be further amplified, and further connections made, both between O’Malley and Buchan themselves and between both men and some of their contemporaries. Take, for example, G. M. Trevelyan, the English historian of Italian unification. A list of Trevelvan’s favourite authors — Shakespeare, Milton, Scott, Keats, Shelley, Macaulay, Carlyle, Meredith — mirrors O’Malley’s tastes; Trevelyan (like O’Malley) admired John Buchan and (like Buchan) was enjoyed by O’Malley; Trevelyan, like Buchan and O’Malley, had been strongly influenced by A. C. Bradley.(47) Again, the English-born Irish nationalist Erskine Childers, author of the classic novel of espionage The Riddle of the Sands, provides a useful point of reference. An Irish republican colleague of O’Malley’s during the Irish Civil War, Childers was admired by both Buchan and O’Malley. Like O’Malley, Childers appears perplexing only if one assumes the most rigid of divisions between Irishness and Britishness.(48) My point is both that O’Malley’s “Britishness” is an important clue to the intellectual and other influences at work on Irish revolutionaries generally, and that O’Malley’s own cultural arguments can help us appreciate important strands in modern Irish republicanism. It is to this second aspect that I will now turn.

O’Malley’s political thinking was characterized by a comparatively simple aim: the establishment of a totally independent, all Ireland republic. In support of this he alluded to the discreteness and distinctiveness of Irish culture, in particular suggesting that British civilization was alien. “We had fought a civilization which did not suit us. We had striven to give complete expression to the genius of the race”.(49) Of the Anglo-Irish War he claimed that “the people saw the clash between two mentalities, two trends in direction, and two philosophies of life; between exploiters and exploited”.(50) The system against which he had fought was, he argued, one “which had stifled the spiritual expression of nationhood and had retarded our development; which had dammed back strength, vigour and imagination needed in solving our problems in our own way. The spirit of the race was warped until it could express its type of genius”.(51) Anglicized Irishness had been replaced (so O’Malley contended) by a distinct, discrete Irishness: “The enemies Anglicization and snobbery [sic], almost synonymous terms, had given way before a national zeal and the development of national consciousness”.(52) British civilization did not suit Ireland; the genius of the Irish race needed to be given room for its own, distinctive development; there was a clash between two mentalities or philosophies; the spirit of the Irish race needed to be set (Fee. This (subsequently imposed) cultural separatism provided a convenient justification for uncompromising Irish republicanism: if Irish culture was indeed discrete, then a separatist struggle might appear appropriate.

But the picture drawn here by O’Malley is, at best, only partially convincing. He himself demonstrated the plurality of the cultural world which his separatist thesis fought so hard to obscure: his political project conflicted with the complexities and diversity of Irish opinion. So, too, his depiction of a discrete Irish culture, to which British civilization was alien, greatly simplified and distorted the actual relations between Britishness and Irishness. The binary implications of this view were brutal indeed. O’Malley identified those in Ireland who were loyal to the British authorities as being “enemies of the Irish”, while the I.R.A. considered anti-separatism proof that one was “actively anti-Irish”.(53) This equation of separatism with Irishness denied the complexity of allegiances which Irish people in fact displayed. Its extreme form is chillingly expressed in O’Malley’s suggestion that “[t]he people of this country would have to give allegiance to it or if they wanted to support the Empire they would have to clear out and support the Empire elsewhere”.(54)

Irish nationalist failure to appreciate unionism as a serious political option is well established. O’Malley’s views here tended to accord with those of his friends. Frank Gallagher — fellow republican prisoner during the Civil War, and a leading propagandist of Irish nationalism — believed, like O’Malley, that Irish unity was the natural order: “The story has been told of how Ireland came to be dismembered against all common sense and against the interests of both parts of Ireland and of Britain. The idea was from the beginning not Irish, but British”.(55) Gallagher and O’Malley were on the republican side in the Civil War, but their Free State opponents shared many of their delusions regarding the north-east corner of the island.(56) Even so, the Irish nationalist tradition produced some dissenting voices. Indeed, both during the Revolutionary period itself and during the postRevolutionary years when O’Malley was writing his memoirs, evidence was fully available on which to base a more accurate reading of (for example) Ulster unionist determination and reasoning. O’Malley’s literary associate Sean O’Faolain — recently described by Edna Longley as “the shrewdest critic of retrogressive nationalism”(57) — had a firmer grasp on the realities of northern perception than was demonstrated by either O’Malley or Gallagher. “No northerner”, O’Faolain wrote in his 1939 biography of Eamon de Valera, “can possibly like such features of southernlife, as at present constituted, as its pervasive clerical control; its censorship; its Gaelic revival; its isolationist economic policy”.(58).


O’Faolain also provides a useful point of reference in our examination of O’Malley’s soldiership. In his biography of Daniel O’Connell, O’Faolain stated that:

Republicanism is untraditional in Ireland in the sense that for the first one

hundred years or so of the modern Irish democracy — 1800 to 1916, when the

Irish Republican Brotherhood stole Sinn Fein — the sole expressed and

supported idea of the vast mass of the Irish people was for a hierarchical

form of society, based on the status quo; for the fullest freedom of action

and opinion; and for a native government of that order in peaceful union with

Great Britain under the symbol of the Crown.(59)

O’Malley found this book of O’Faolain’s “[s]ound enough: it keeps me up late at night when I should be asleep”.(60) O’Malley would not have been greatly troubled by the view that republicanism was untraditional in Ireland. The views of previous generations — even the existing views of the present one — were not, in his opinion, binding. He believed that one led the people rather than following their expressed preferences: “If [we had consulted the feelings of the people], we would never have fired a shot. If we gave them a good strong lead, they would follow”.(61) If he described himself as an author during his later years,(62) then it was firmly “as a soldier” that he identified himself during the Revolutionary period.(63) This was a common theme among the Volunteers. Their journal An t-Oglach presented them as “a military body pure and simple”, and tellingly asserted that “the successful maintenance of the Irish Volunteer is the one thing essential to the triumph of the cause of the Irish Republic”. I.R.A. colleagues such as Dan Breen and Liam Deasy proudly bore their soldierly identity in public statements, while O’Malley himself (during the 1921 truce) described himself as “anxiously looking forward to war”.(64)

Republican soldiership carried with it an expressly antipolitical attitude. Again, Liam Deasy, Deputy Chief of Staff of the I.R.A. in the Civil War, exemplified the trend. Referring to the Dail debate on the 1921 treaty which had followed the end of the Anglo-Irish War, Deasy observed that “Liam Lynch, Florrie O’Donoghue and I had received invitations to the debate and there, day after sad day, we had our first political experience which was unforgettable and most distressing”. That “first political experience”, notably, came after the War. Politics was held to be suspect:

From the first by-election in 1917 we were never unduly influenced by election

results. Our mission was to continue the Fenian policy, to rouse the

country and to strive for its freedom. In our generation “the voice of the

people” as expressed by the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster was a

spent force and the people were gradually but slowly coming to realize that

nationhood would never be won by talk only. It had to be fought for, no

matter what the cost.(65)

O’Malley himself had “never liked the Parliamentary Party”,(66) and he clearly demonstrated a neo-Fenian distaste for politics. He claimed to have shared “the pseudo-military mind of the I.R.A. and its fear of constitutional respectability”.(67) He disliked the idea of being a member of the Dail. He admitted that at I.R.A. executive meetings and the like he had “not the faintest ideas on policy or statesmanship”.(68) In her recent monograph on Richard Mulcahy, I.R.A. Chief of Staff in the Anglo-Irish War, Maryann Valiulis has argued that:

The leaders of the Volunteers harboured no deep, dark sinister motives

regarding their relationship to politics and politicians. They did, however,

have a keen, if not always accurate, historical memory. In their view,

parliamentary movements had proven themselves to be weak, compromising

and ineffective. The recent history of the Irish Parliamentary Party was

just another vivid example.(69)

More recently, however, Paul flew has persuasively argued that John Redmond and his Irish Parliamentary Party did indeed possess a plausible political strategy.(70) Neo-Fenin distaste for politics offered certain undoubted rewards, but its ultimate consequences were surely (and predictably) damaging. As George Boyce has pointed out, it is important to remember the profound limitations of O’Malley’s anti-political approach:

O’Malley freely admitted that he possessed no administrative or

governmental training, no plan of how he and other republicans might use

the independent Irish state to achieve their goals. He declared that he could

never become a TD [Teachta Dala, Dail deputy] again, because of their lack of

“spirituality”. But it must be confessed that, while indeed Ireland’s TDs do

not strike even the most impartial observer as a spiritual bunch, they are the

stuff of which democratic politics are made. Revolvers and Eng. Lit. were no

preparation for creating a stable Ireland.(71)

Whatever its deficiencies, however, it remained the thinking of many I.R.A. men that — in Liam Lynch’s words — “the army has to hew the way for politics to follow”.(72) As we have seen, O’Malley himself had been strongly influenced by the military gesture of the Easter rebels. The 1916 events had been insufficiently dramatic to produce a national uprising, but they had powerfully changed the direction of figures like O’Malley who were later to build a formidable revolutionary movement. As one recent commentator has observed:

the I.R.A. campaign [of the Anglo-Irish War] was not geared towards the

achievement of a military victory in the conventional sense. The

organization’s strategy was rather to increase the level of guerrilla

activity to such an extent that the political, military and financial

costs of the response would be judged too heavy by the British


The British reprisals (official and unofficial) which greeted the I.R.A. campaign significantly raised these costs, and O’Malley fully recognized the value to the republican cause of provoking the British forces into precisely such a course: “Their campaign of terror was defeating itself”. He also recognized the tension between the various agencies of the crown, and held that this was heightened by the repressive violence employed in the fight against the republicans.(74) On the question of reprisals O’Malley’s view is supported by modern scholarship.(75) But clearly he also held that acts of I.R.A. violence achieved republican progress through other means than that of provoking the state; more questionably, he argued that they had a stirring, inspiring, symbolic quality, which led them to draw people in their wake. This is perhaps less convincing and less realistic than his steely description of the usefulness of intimidation:

At first [he wrote in 1923, of the Anglo-Irish War], police were inclined

to get information but when people who talked loosely were located through

the [I.R.A.] intelligence system, or saw their friends suffer as a result

of their looseness, things changed somewhat. For the enemy intelligence

agents things were made so hot by the threatening and shooting of spies, and

even more so by the clearing out of the local Royal Irish Constabulary

garrison . . . people found it did not pay as “England was far and

protection a name”, so people eventually learned to shut their eyes and

close their mouths.(76)

In O’Malley’s view, therefore, I.R.A. violence was a catalyst which acted in three specific ways: provocation, inspiration and intimidation. He approached his soldiership as a form of alternative professionalism, and here we can find important evidence to help explain his rebellious career. As a young, educated, middle-class, Catholic male, O’Malley was typical of the Irish republican elite at that time.(77) Most importantly, the professional career offered by I.R.A. officership matched O’Malley’s social background, expectations and aspirations. Of lower-middle-class background — his father was a solicitor’s clerk(78) — O’Malley grew up with the expectation of upward mobility and (more importantly) of professional performance. Law, medicine and the army were the three suggested options;(79) O’Malley rejected the first, unsuccessfully attempted the second — by the time he left home to become an I.R.A. rebel in 1918 he had twice failed the second-year examination at medical school — and resolutely pursued the third. As with other leading republicans such as Richard Mulcahy,(80) Ernie O’Malley experienced his most successful professional period as a revolutionary patriot soldier. Salaried; committed to discipline, efficiency, and to the meticulous regularization of his forces; preoccupied with questions of duty, order, leadership and rank — O’Malley’s performance (and that of colleagues who worked with him) shows him to have been an obsessively professional I.R.A. officer. He was appalled when discipline was breached. When in 1923 his fellow I.R.A. leader Liam Deasy pledged that he accepted and would aid in the “immediate and unconditional surrender of arms and men as required by [Free State] General Mulcahy” and appealed to other republicans to do the same, it was the “rank indiscipline” of the act which appalled O’Malley.(81) O’Malley himself had placed great stress on organization (to the annoyance of some of his comrades) and was punctilious about adherence to formal duty, discipline, rank and procedure. Determinist arguments which crudely utilize class as the key explanatory mechanism for the Revolutionary period remain thoroughly implausible.(82) But the particular relevance of specific social circumstances is plainly vital to any proper understanding of the individuals who effected the Irish Revolution. In O’Malley’s case, lower-middle-class expectation (even ambition) certainly played a crucial part in the formation of the revolutionary. Republicanism offered simultaneous psychological and social rewards.

The attractions of soldiership were sharpened, for O’Malley as for others, by the spice of adventure. This clearly connects with his reading of Stevenson’s romances, discussed earlier in this article, but also with the appeal of a particular kind of bravado. Faced with the prospect of imminent execution early in 1923, O’Malley ended a letter to a comrade with apparent insouciance:

“Another bit of lead won’t do me any harm”.(83) Reckless gesture carried with it certain rewards in this period; as O’Malley’s comrade C. S. Andrews suggested, “in the popular estimate of any nation, volunteer soldiers who have seen active service enjoy greater esteem than any other section of the community”.(84) This was heightened by the accompanying drama of these Revolutionary years. The Irish Times commented on O’Malley’s bloody capture in Dublin in November 1922 that “[i]n many respects the affair was worthy of the cinema”.(85) The mood of adventure is evident in many activists’ accounts of their involvement in Ireland’s Revolutionary upheaval. This is certainly true of O’Malley’s closer associates, who frequently expressed the conviction that adventure set one apart from the banal and the quotidian. Molly Childers (with whom O’Malley was to become intimate) described her involvement in the 1914 Howth gunrunning in the following exalted terms: “That great adventure made my spirit eternally young because it tore away finally and for good the last bonds that attached me to humdrum safety and shelter”.(86) If Molly’s heroics echo the language of Buchan’s romances, they are also typical of the boyish quality that O’Malley liked in his women friends — and later in his wife. O’Malley’s Revolution was, indeed, very much a male affair. His protective code in relation to women was expressed in distinctly Buchanesque language: “The [Free] Staters are awful rotters to fire on girls” (February 1923); “[i]t’s rather rotten that those Staters should be so nasty to women” (April 1923). In August 1921, he sneered at those of his men who planned to marry: “The marriage disease is spreading; a good number of my staff are down with the disease so my temper is not improved”.(87) This theme continued into O’Malley’s post-Revolutionary life: in 1934 he confided to the photographer Paul Strand, “I am very inexperienced in the ways of women”.(88)

The emphatically male nature of republican adventure is clearly confirmed by other sources relating to other notable I.R.A. figures, as in C. S. Andrews’s statement that “[a]t school, in the I.R.A. and even in my short spell in the university I associated exclusively with boys and men”, or in Tom Barry’s anxiety for military adventure and excitement.(89) But (characteristically) O Malley is distinctively pithy in his reading of this feature of the Revolution. As he observed of the Anglo-Irish War: “The lack of organized social intercourse made the young discontented, especially in the towns. The wise domination of age, to some hard and harsh in the soul as the cancer of foreign rule, made volunteering an adventure and a relief”.(90) This points, as does a weight of other evidence,(91) to the importance of youth in the republican movement and to the ways in which republican activity provided a means of escape from stifling parental authority and social stagnation. Inter-generational conflict helped to stimulate Revolutionary activism. O’Malley’s home life was “wearisome”, his parents annoyingly “strict”, and he observed the way in which the growth of military activity connected with emancipation from parental authority: “men who were gradually being led by minor activities began to become more confident and more independent of their people’s control. Eventually one’s people had not the slightest say in matters nor did they attempt it”.(92) His observation (in relation to the I.R.A. in 1920) that “we saw things through the eyes of youth”(93) helps to concentrate attention on the dynamics of republican enthusiasm. Arthur Aughey has convincingly argued that an “adolescent quality” was evident in the thought of Patrick Pearse: “What informs the adolescent mind, and is the substance of the romantic and bohemian attitude, is that one’s individual sufferings are at once uniquely intense and of universal significance to mankind”.(94) Certainly O’Malley’s enraptured reflections during these years would fit a similar description, and the simplistic, uncompromising, self-sustaining, self-defeating arguments which he deployed bear the traces (and the deficiencies) of an immature politics of Romantic youth.


In recent years, scholars have established explanatory models and frameworks by which to understand and explain the Irish 13 evolution of 1916-23.(95) As noted here, Ernie O’Malley to some degree fitted the profile of the Irish Revolutionary elite drawn by such scholars. But, as might perhaps be expected, there are also serious problems with the application of determinist arguments to the complexities of individual experience. Thus the particular significance of, for example, social class or cultural nationalism to O’Malley is not adequately explained by (or even consistent with) the arguments put forward in Tom Garvin’s excellent study, Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland, 1858-1928.

This is not to demean such work. Rather, I would contend that individual decisions and actions ultimately have to be assessed as such, and the exciting point about O’Malley is that the nature of his sources enables us to do precisely that. No single explanatory model, pattern or framework satisfactorily explains his behaviour. But a sensitive, detailed, particularizing, nuanced reading of the man — set against the wider background of the period — does make a vital contribution to our understanding of these crucial years in Irish history. The cumulative, overlapping influence of a wide variety of themes can be traced; in this paper I have sought to see the connections within an individual’s specific world while simultaneously reflecting on the family likenesses which linked that individual to the wider group. Thus, against the setting of a Catholic Ireland which was perceivedly marginal within the United Kingdom, we find an Anglocentric/Anglophobic young man, enthusing yet ambivalent over Gaelic cultural nationalism; we see the particular ways in which nationalism related to prestige, resentment, inferiority, emulation and the shifting of elites and hierarchies; we find the specific influence of a particular social background and the consequent attractions of patriotic soldiership; and we discover that these attractions were compounded by the appeal of adventure and by the rewards of the idealistic politics of youthful rapture. This in turn is overlaid by a literarily influenced Romanticism, crucially inforMed by British intellectual Sources; echoes here are heard of other British influences, especially of the impact of a brand of patriotism filtered primarily through a British prism. Bonding all of these elements was a Catholic revanchism and assertiveness, both for this individual republican and, more broad! for the whole Irish Revolution. O’Malley, whose Catholic faith remained throughout his life a vital part of his personal experience and of his sense of true Irishness, exemplified during the Revolution a typical Irish republican conviction of the efficacy of divinely blessed suffering, sacrifice and struggle:

It has been terrible to have been so long deprived of the Sacraments I

get Holy Communion several times each week now . . .

The country has not had’ as yet, sufficient voluntary sacrifice and

suffering and not until suffering fructuates will she get back her real

soul . . .

[O]ne feels that one is always fighting for God and Ireland, for the spread

of our spirituality, such as it is, to counteract the agnosticism and

materialism of our own and other countries.(96)

This Catholic motif is immensely important: modern Irish republicanism has effectively been a strand of political Catholicism, and this again is connected to other themes in O’Malley’s experience and culture. As with so many of his fellow revolutionaries, his time at a Christian Brothers’ school appears to have reinforced both a sense of Catholic, Gaelic distinctiveness and an assertive pride in that identity.(97)

The notion of a divinely and historically sanctioned campaign of republican violence did not die out in Ireland with the end of republican resistance in the 1920s. Nor did the central idea at the heart of O’Malley’s political thinking, namely that separatist sympathy was a fundamental index of true Irishness. This attitude was as brutal in logic as its resulting actions proved in practice, and soldierly republicanism determinedly reinforced such an approach. Anti-political, anti-majoritarian, elitist, Ernie O’Malley repeatedly evinced a dismissive arrogance close to that which Liam O’Flaherty identified in one of his characters, said to possess “that arrogant contemptuousness which seems to be characteristic of all revolutionaries”.(98) Charles Townshend has recently observed (in relation to the Anglo-Irish War) that “[t]he distinctive quality of the republican campaign was the systematic use of small-scale violence to underpin the construction of an alternative governmental system”.(99) Ernie O’Malley was one of the leading instigators of that comparatively small-scale (but immensely significant) Revolutionary violence, and he remained important after the 1921 settlement and into the Civil War. His activist mentality was characterized by a circular, self-legitimizing logic. If the people were perceived to be in support then you acted with their apparent sanction; if they were perceived not to be in support then you acted in order to stimulate them into giving you their backing. Either way, you acted. This approach, and the committed actions of those like D,Malley who shared it, lies at the centre of Irish politics in this period. O’Malley’s cold zeal — his austere, demanding, unyielding, earnest, dismissive, elitist, defiant, simplifying republicanism — made a major contribution to the Irish Revolution; but even more than this, the intricate reconstruction of his Revolutionary world — his influences, social setting, ideas, motivations and political qualities — helps to render explicable the rebellious violence out of which independent Ireland emerged.

(*) An earlier draft of this article was read at Professor Roy Foster’s Irish History Seminar at Hertford College, Oxford. I am most grateful to Professor Foster, and to the other participants in the Seminar, for their helpful comments. (1) Lennox Robinson to Ernie O’Malley, 7 Aug. 1937: Cormac O’Malley Papers, New York. I am deeply grateful to Ernie O’Malley’s son, Cormac O’Malley, for permission to quote from his invaluable private collection of his father’s papers. (2) F. O’Connor, My Father’s Son (London, 1971; first pubd London, 1938), p. 99. (3) E. O’Malley to Desmond Ryan, 22 Dec. 1936: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (4) E. O’Malley to Molly Childers, 26 Nov.-1 Dec. 1923, in Prisoners: The Civil War Letters of Ernie O’Malley, ed. R. English and C. O’Malley (Swords, 1991), pp. 72-3. (5) M. Gallagher (ed.), Irish Elections, 1922-44: Results and Analysis (Limerick, 1993), p. 31. (6) E. O’Malley to Harriet Monroe, 10 Jan. 1935: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (7) For further biographical information, see O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. xi-xii, 1-22. (8) L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (London, 1994 repr.). (9) For an expansion of this point, see R. English, “Introduction”, in his Radicals and the Republic: Socialist Republicanism in the Irish Free State, 1925-1937 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 45-7, 62-3. (10) C. S. Andrews, Dublin Made Me: An Autobiography (Cork, 1979), p. 10. (11) C. O Grada, Ireland: A New Economic History, 1780-1939 (Oxford, 1994), ch. 13. (12) M. Daly, Industrial Development and Irish National Identity, 1922-1939 (Dublin, 1992), p. 3. (13) T. Denman, Ireland’s Unknown Soldiers: The 16th (Irish) Division in the Great War (Blackrock, 1992), pp. 130-5. (14) R. English, “Green on Red: Two Case Studies in Early Twentieth-Century Irish Republican Thought”, in D. G. Boyce, R. Eccleshall and V. Geoghegan (eds.), Political Thought in Ireland since the Seventeenth Century (London, 1993), pp. 161-89; R. English, “The IRA’s Richard Hannay: Ernie O’Malley, John Buchan and the Irish Revolution, 1916-1924”, Causeway, i, no. 3 (Summer 1994), pp. 29-34. (15) E. O’Malley to Sheila Humphreys, 12 Apr. 1923: University College, Dublin, Archives Dept, Humphreys Papers, P106. (16) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 26 Nov.-1 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 69. (17) E. O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound (Dublin, 1979; first pubd London, 1936), pp. 57-8, 61. (18) E. O’Malley, untitled notebook: Cormac O’Malley Papers; cf. B. O’Connor, With Michael Collins in the Fight for Irish Independence (London, 1929), p. 19. (19) E. O’Malley, The Singing Flame (Dublin, 1978), p. 161; E. O’Malley to Liam Lynch, 12 Jan. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 26. (20) Cormac O’Malley, interview with the author, 30 Nov. 1991. (21) E. O’Malley to Estella Solomons, 21 Dec. 1923: Trinity College, Dublin, Sullivan/ Solomons Papers, MS. 4632/584a. (22) see, for example, W. F. Mandle, The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish Nationalist Politics, 1884-1924 (London, 1987). (23) L. Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, 1992). (24) E. O’Malley to S. Humphreys, 10 Apr. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 36. (25) See, for example, D. G. Boyce, “Brahmins and Carnivores: The Irish Historian in Great Britain”, Irish Hist. Studies, xxv (1986-7), pp. 225-35; R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (London, 1993). (26) N. J. Curtin, The United Irishmen: Popular Politics in Ulster and Dublin, 1791-1798 (Oxford, 1994); A. T. Q. Stewart, A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Origins of the United Irishmen (London, 1993); J. Smyth, The Men of No Property: Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth Century (Dublin, 1992); I. McBride, “The School of Virtue: Francis Hutcheson, Irish Presbyterians, and the Scottish Enlightenment”, in Boyce, Eccleshall, and Geoghegan (eds.), Political Thought in Ireland since the Seventeenth Century, pp. 73-99. (27) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 26 Nov.-1 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 71, 75; O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, pp. 27, 52-3; E. O’Malley to John Kelleher, 8 Mar. 1947: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (28) E. O’Malley to J. Kelleher, 8 Mar. 1947: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (29) G. Adams, The Politics of Irish Freedom (sir ale, 1986), p. 39; cf. O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 59. (30) C Foley, Legion of the Rearguard: The IRA and the Modern Irish State (London, 1992), p. 54; E. O’Malley to Frank Gallagher, 12 Nov. 1926: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (31) O. D. Edwards, Earnon de Valera (Cardiff, 1987), p. 48. (32) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 11 Nov. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 44; E. O’Malley to Eithne Golden, 4 Oct. 1936: Eithne Sax Papers, New York. I am grateful to Ms Sax, who knew O’Malley in New Mexico, for access to papers in her possession. (33) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 16 July, 7, 11, 12, 15, 24 Nov., 26 Nov.-1 Dec., 5, 8, 29 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 37, 42-4, 46, 49, 60-1, 88-92, 114, 116, 118-19, BO; O’Malley, Singing Flame, pp. 105, 192-3, 256, 275. (34) S. Cronin, Frank Ryan: The Search for the Republic (Dublin, 1980), pp. 19, d53; M. Harmon, Sean O’Faolain: A Life (London, 1994), pp. 46-7; P. O’Donnell, The Gates Flew Open (London, 1932), pp. 147-51, 169-70. (35) P. Golden, Impressions of Ireland (New York, [1923]), p. 61. (36) M. H. DeWitt, Taos: A Memory (Albuquerque, 1992), p. 27. (37) Helen O’Malley Roelofs, interview with the author, 7 Apr. 1992. (38) F. O’Connor, An Only Child (Belfast, 1993; first pubd London, 1961), pp. 253-4. (39) Andrews, Dublin Made Me, p. 7. (40) O’Malley, Singing Flame, p. 11. (41) E. O’Malley to Helen O’Malley, 30 May 1938: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (42) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 135; E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 1 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 106. (43) English, “IRA’s Richard Hannay”. (44) Keith Grieves has rightly noted, in reference to Buchan’s history of the 1914-18 conflict, that “his view of war was too celebratory and romanticized to be entirely accepted in the long term”: K. Grieves, “Early Historical Responses to the Great War: Fortescue, Conan Doyle and Buchan”, in B. Bond (ed.), The First World War and British Military History (Oxford, 1991), p. 16. The same would have to be argued in relation to O’Malley’s accounts of the 1916-23 Irish wars. (45) J. A. Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (Oxford, 1985; first pubd London, 19b5), pp. 29, 33, 41, 89; J. Buchan, Comments and Characters (London, 1940), p. 203; E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 12 Nov., 26 Nov.-1 Dec., 5-7, 8 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 46, 88-9, 114, 118. (46) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 12 Nov. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 48; J. Buchan, quoted in Grieves, “Early Historical Responses to the Great War”, pp. 32, 36; O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, pp. 50-1; O’Malley, Singing Flame, p. 276; J. Buchan, quoted in K. Grieves, “Nelson’s History of the War: John Buchan as a Contemporary Military Historian 1915-22”, Jl Contemporary Hist., xxviu (1993), p. 438. (47) D. Cannadine, G. M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (London, 1992), pp. 33-4. (48) Certainly, there is nothing necessarily peculiar about an Irish nationalist drawing sustenance from the riches of British culture. It could be argued, for example, that O’Malley’s enthusiasm for D. H. Lawrence fitted neatly with his consistently held political views. Anne Fernihough’s recent depiction of Lawrence’s anti-imperialistic aesthetics might provide scholarly grounds for such a case: A. Fernihough, D. H. Lawrence: Aesthetics and Ideology (Oxford, 1993). (49) O’Malley, Singing Flame, p. 279. (50) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 317. (51) O’Malley, Singing Flame, p. 214. (52) Ibid., p. 12. (53) E. O’Malley, Raids and Rallies (Dublin, 1982), p. 158. This approach is echoed by certain later observers, whose desire to apply anti-imperialist or anti-colonial theory to Ireland has led them to espouse rather peculiar arguments. Thus, for example, one of the more gifted of such observers, Edward Said, defines imperialism (and colonialism) as involving the metropolitan subjection and settlement of “distant” territories, yet seeks to depict the British-Irish relationship (hardly characterized by distance) according to such a paradigm. He talks misleadingly of “Europe’s special ways of representing” Ireland, suggesting thereby that Ireland has somehow existed outside Europe (a notion which looks distinctly implausible to those familiar with Irish history). Moreover, like Irish republicans themselves, Said simplistically concentrates on “resistance” to imperialism/colonialism as the defining response of the “native” culture. Even if one were to accept the inclusion of Ireland within this imperial/colonial framework, such a concentration on resistance rather than on integration is only possible if one ignores the experience of most modern Irish people, which has been far less determined by “resistance” than Said’s account suggests. See E. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London, 1994 repr.), pp. xi-xii, 8; for an exploration of the full range of Irish responses to the British connection, see Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch; note also the important point recently stressed by David Cannadine, that Irish people played an important role in the creation and sustenance of the British Empire: D. Cannadine, “The Empire Strikes Back”, Past and Present, no. 147 (May 1995), p. 191. (54) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 332. (55) F. Gallagher, The Indivisible Island: The History of the Partition of Ireland (Westport, 1974 edn; first pubd London, 1957), p. 300; on Gallagher, see Graham Walker’s excellent article, “`The Irish Dr Goebbels’: Frank Gallagher and Irish Republican Propaganda”, Jl Contemporary Hist., xxvii (1992), pp. 149-6S. (56) G. Walker, “Propaganda and Conservative Nationalism during the Irish Civil War, 1922-1923”, Eire-Ireland, xxii, no. 4 (Winter 1987), pp. 93-117. (57) E. Longley, “Revising `Irish Literature'”, in her The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1994), p. 13. (58) S. O’Faolain, De Valera (Harmondsworth, 1939), p. 156. (59) S. O’Faolain, King of the Beggars: A Life of Daniel O’Connell (Swords, 1986 edn; first pubd London, 1938), p. 107. (60) E. O’Malley to H. O’Malley, 7 June 1938: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (61) O’Malley, singing Flame, p. 25. (62) See, for example, Cormac O’Malley’s birth certificate (20 July 1942) and Ernie O’Malley’s death certificate (25 Mar. 1957): General Register Office, Dublin. (63) E. O’Malley to L. Lynch, 9 Jan. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 25. (64) An t-Oglach, 15 Aug. 1918, 15 Dec. 1919; D. Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom (Dublin, 1964 edn; first pubd Dublin, 1924), pp. 167-8; L. Deasy, Brother against Brother (Cork, 1982), p. 112; E. O’Malley to Mabel FitzGerald, 25 Aug. 1921: University College, Dublin, Archives Dept, FitzGerald Papers, P80. (65) Deasy, Brother against Brother, pp. 32, 43. (66) E. O’Malley to F. Gallagher, 31 Dec. 1948: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (67) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 213. (68) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 24, c.27 Nov., 29 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 63, 94, 130; O’Malley, Singing Flame, p. 238. (69) M. G. Valiulis, Portrait of a Revolutionary: General Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State (Blackrock, 1992), p. 26. (70) P. Bew, Ideology and the Irish Question: Ulster Unionism and Irish Nationalism, 1912-1916 (Oxford, 1994). (71) D. G. Boyce, review of O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, Irish Polit. Studies, vii (1992), p. 125. (72) M. Ryan, Liam Lynch: The Real Chief (Cork, 1986), p. 9. (73) C Campbell, Emergency Law in Ireland, 1918-1925 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 19-20. (74) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 326; O’Malley, Singing Flame, pp. 12-13. (75) C Townshend, The British Campaign in Ireland, 1919-1921: The Development of Political and Military Policies (Oxford, 1975), p. 206; Campbell, Emergency Law in Ireland, 1918-1925, p. 345. (76) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 26 Nov.-1 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 80. (77) T. Garvin, Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland, 1858-1928 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 49-53. (78) Ernie O’Malley’s birth certificate (26 May 1897): General Register Office, Dublin. (79) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 27. (80) Valiulis, Portrait of a Revolutionary, p. 8. (81)E. O’Malley to S. Humphreys, 9 Feb. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 27-8. (82) English, Radicals and the Republic, pp. 1-65. (83) E. O’Malley to L. Lynch, 9 Jan. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 26. (84) C. S. Andrews, Man of No Property: An Autobiography (Cork, 1982), pp. 9-10. (85) Irish Times, 6 Nov. 1922. (86) Cited in, A. Bunting, “The American Molly Childers and the Irish Question”, Eire-Ireland, xxiii, no. 2 (Summer 1988), p. 92. (87) E. O’Malley to S. Humphreys, 21 Feb. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, p. 32; E. O’Malley to S. Humphreys, 9 Apr. 1923: University College, Dublin, Archives Dept, Humphreys Papers, P106; E. O’Malley to M. FitzGerald, 25 Aug. 1921: University College, Dublin, Archives Dept, FitzGerald Papers, P80. (88) E. O’Malley to Paul Strand, 12 July 1934: Cormac O’Malley Papers. (89) Andrews, Man of No Property, p. 11; M. Ryan, The Tom Barry Story (Cork, 1982), pp. 14-15. (90) O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, p. 126. (91) See, for example, O’Connor, Only Child, p. 202. (92) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 26 Nov.-1 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 72, 74, 77. (93) O’Malley, Raids and Rallies, p. 65. (94) A. Aughey, “What is Living and What is Dead in the Ideal of 1916?”, in M. Ni Dhonuchadha and T. Dorgan (eds.), Revising the Rising (Derry, 1991), pp. 75-6. (95) See, for example, J. Prager, Building Democracy in Ireland: Political Order and Cultural Integration in a Newly Independent Nation (Cambridge, 1986); Garvin, Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland, 1858-1928. (96) E. O’Malley to M. Childers, 7, 12 Nov., 5-7 Dec. 1923, in O’Malley, Prisoners, ed. English and O’Malley, pp. 42, 48, 110. (97) B. M. Coldrey, Faith and Fatherland: The Christian Brothers and the Development of Irish Nationalism, 1838-1921 (Dublin, 1988). (98) L. O’Flaherty, The Assassin (Dublin, 1988; first pubd London, 1928), p. 76. (99) C. Townshend, Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in

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