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LETTER: Let's not sanitise Sam Maguire's role in history

September 15th, 2018 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – THERE appears to be a reluctance to tell the true story relating to the dismissal of Sam Maguire from his job in the Irish Post Office on 30 December, 1924.  This letter is based on my biography Sam Maguire: the Man and the Cup (Mercier Press, 2017).

In March 1924 officers of the Free State Army organised what became known as the ‘army mutiny’. They were faced with the prospect of losing their jobs in the army and facing unemployment due to the poor state of the economy. 

They also believed that the government were not implementing the 1922 Treaty in the way that thought Michael Collins had envisaged. 

Many of the leading mutineers had been close comrades of Collins. It was a crucial point in the development of Irish democracy, would the soldiers or the politicians rule? Luckily for our subsequent history the mutineers accepted the authority of the government.

The leading historian of the period John M Regan (The Irish Counter-Revolution, 1921-1923) states ‘the only real incitement to violence from within (the mutineers) came not from the soldiers but from a civilian  … Sam Maguire … in the period immediately after the mutiny he advocated that they should assassinate members of the Executive Council (the Free State government) and senior army officers’. 

Despite this, Sam Maguire was not immediately dismissed.

As stated above, he received his letter of dismissal on 30th December, 1924. He was dismissed without being given a hearing to allow him to hear the charges and challenge the evidence. 

The Labour party TD TJ Murphy, also a native of Dunmanway, raised this issue in the Dail. 

The Minister for Justice, Kevin O’ Higgins replied: ‘It was inadvisable, impossible in fact, to table evidence … because (to do so) would reveal the source, and to reveal the source would lead to casualties.’ 

He said the circumstances which justified the dismissal were very special as a group of men ‘were talking and thinking in terms of a coup d’etat, in terms of suborning the forces of the State, civil and military.’

O’Higgins was saying that the dismissal of Maguire and others was due to an attempt in December 1924 to attempt another army mutiny. The difference this time would be that there would be an effort to include soldiers who were not officers, in particular, non-commissioned officers such as sergeants and corporals.

He said Maguire’s health and 26 years of service were not relevant, because it would mean that a civil servant with many years of service would ‘have immunity to do what he likes’. 

Furthermore, if a man took a salary from the State, but then attempted to undermine the State, he must accept the inevitable consequences of his actions. 

 And, he said, ‘I have now been a member of the Executive Council for some years and there were few decisions taken there regarding which I hold so firmly the conviction that they were right, and sound and necessary, as I do in the case of this particular decision.’

In my opinion to attempt to deny the fact of Maguire’s involvement in the mutiny is a mistaken attempt to sanitise his record. He was committed to achieving what he considered to be the vision that he had shared with Collins.

Kieran Connolly,

Whitehall,

Dublin 9.

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