Birth of Eoin O’Duffy, IRA man, Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and General Franco supporter, near Lough Egish, Co Monaghan. O’Duffy first came to fame when he led an IRA group which captured the first RIC barracks at Ballytrain taking from it weapons and explosives, during the War of Independence. Also present at this victory were Ernie O’ Malley who went on to organise flying columns and the socialist guerrilla fighter Peadar O’ Donnell.
In the general election of 1921 he became TD for Monaghan. By 1922, O’Duffy had been promoted to Chief of Staff of the IRA and was one of Michael Collins foremost supporters when he accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty and fought in the civil war as a general of the Free State Army.
In September 1922, following the mutiny in Kildare by Civic Guard recruits, O’Duffy replaced Michael Staines and was appointed Commissioner of the newly formed Garda Síochána and is credited with building a professional, impartial police force before being fired by de Valera in 1933. O’Duffy’s fervent Catholicism was greatly reflected in the ethos of the Garda Síochána.
In Europe the new phenomenon of fascism was gaining ground and O’Duffy, like many of his pro-treaty colleagues, became more obviously authoritarian and fascist in outlook. He joined the Army Comrades Association which exhibited mannerisms reminiscent of Hitler’s SA. He was often greeted with ‘Hail O’Duffy’ and Nazi-like salutes by blue shirt clad supporters. The term ‘Blue shirt’ is often used by anti-Fine Gael critics as a less than complimentary term. His Army Comrades Association was renamed the National Guard and they began to take on many of the symbols of fascism such as the out-stretch arm salute and the blue uniforms.
When O’Duffy planned a mass march for August 1933 in Dublin to commemorate the deaths of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, De Valera, fearing a coup, had it banned. In September the National Guard itself was banned although it reformed under the title The League of Youth.
Eoin O’Duffy was a founding member of Fine Gael, but that party soon got tired of his politics and forced him to resign the presidency of the party.
O’Duffy (with encouragement from the Catholic Church) recruited and led 700 Irish volunteers to fight for General Franco’s army in Spain. They formed part of the XV Bandera Irlandesa del Terico a part of the Spanish Foreign Legion. The Bandera saw little or no action and were returned to Ireland in 1937.
Although O’Duffy had some low-level dalliance with the Nazis he never did regain any of his political influence. His health was on the decline and 30 November 1944 he passed away. De Valera granted him a state funeral and he was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery.
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