During the Irish War of Independence, Ned Broy was a double agent within the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), with the rank of Detective Sergeant. He worked as a clerk inside G Division, the intelligence branch of the DMP. While there he copied sensitive files for Michael Collins. On 7 April 1919, Broy smuggled Collins into G Division’s archives in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), enabling him to identify “G-Men”, six of whom would be killed by the IRA. Broy supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and joined the National Army during the Irish Civil War, reaching the rank of Colonel. In 1925, he left the Army and joined An Garda Síochána.
In a statement submitted to the Bureau of Military History (1013-21) in 1955, Broy described how he made a copy of the masterkey.
“The same key opened the political office and opened the secret small room, built into the wall, which contained the records. I gave Michael Collins and Seán Nunan the candles and, getting them to close the door fairly tightly, I left them to carry on their investigation,” he says.
Collins and Nunan scanned the documents before sneaking out at 5am. Broy continued working undiscovered by the authorities for some time.
In February 1921, Broy was arrested and imprisoned in Arbour Hill, a daring spy, jailed in solitary confinement for five months on 56 charges of High Treason, he was released under the War of Independence Truce. A Rathangan, Co Kildare native, who became a trusted party to two giants of modern Irish history, Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.
Broy’s elevation to the post of Commissioner came when Fianna Fáil replaced Cumann na nGaedheal as the government. Other more senior officers were passed over as being too sympathetic to the outgoing party. In 1934 Broy oversaw the creation of the “The Auxiliary Special Branch” of the Garda, formed mainly of hastily trained anti-Treaty IRA veterans, who would have been opponents of Broy in the civil war. It was nicknamed the “Broy Harriers” by Broy’s opponents; a pun on the Bray Harriers athletics club, or more likely on the Bray Harriers hunt club. It was used first against the quasi-Fascist Blueshirts, and later against the diehard holdouts of the IRA, now set against former comrades. The “Broy Harriers” nickname persisted into the 1940s.
Neil Jordan’s film Michael Collins (1996) inaccurately depicts Broy (played by actor Stephen Rea) as having been discovered, tortured and killed by the British. In addition, G Division was based not in Dublin Castle, as indicated in the film, but in Great Brunswick Street. Collins had a different agent in the Castle, David Neligan. Broy also mentioned and makes an appearance in Michael Russell’s detective story “The City of Shadows”, set partly in Dublin in the 1930s, published by Harper Collins in 2012.