Military Archives building

Department of Defence A-Series

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Reference Code: IE-MA-DOD-A
Dates: 1918-1935
Level of Description: Fonds
Extent and Medium: 151 boxes paper containing 4596 files with reports, letters and memoranda, newspaper clippings, photostats and copy photographic prints
Access: Open to the public
Language: English
Finding Aid: Download

From the formation of the first Dáil in 1919, the Ministry of Defence was established, with Cathal Brugha being appointed as Minister up until the Treaty in December 1921. After the Treaty, a new Dáil Executive was formed on 9th January 1922, with Arthur Griffith as President and Richard Mulcahy as Minister for Defence. The existing Civil Service in Dublin Castle was duly taken over by the Provisional Government (a separate entity to the Dáil Executive at the time). The Dáil Executive’s authority was slowly undermined by anti-treaty deputies abstaining, until it was finally effectively merged into the Provisional Government by December 1922.Richard Mulcahy continued as Minister for Defence during and after the Civil War, taking up the concurrent position of Commander-in-Chief of the National Army after the death of Michael Collins. He resigned as Minister on the 19th of March 1924 following the Army Mutiny. President W.T. Cosgrave served as acting Minister for Defence following Mulcahy’s resignation, from the 20th of March 1924 to the 21st of November 1924. Peter Hughes was appointed as Minister for Defence after this period, from the 21st of November 1924 until the 23rd of June 1927.

Scope and Content:

The Departmental A-Files mostly cover the period from early 1922 up until the official formation of the Department of Defence, which was established by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. This Act assigns to it “the administration and business of the raising, training, organisation, maintenance, equipment, management, discipline, regulation and control according to law of the military defence forces.”
A small number of the files contain items with earlier dates in 1920 and 1921, even as far back as 1918, while, in some instances, references are made back to the Easter Rising, 1916. In the case of several files, the contained material is dated later than 1924. However, some of the A- files would have been transferred and integrated into the newer 2- series of Departmental files from 1924 onwards.
The files reflect the emerging Irish Free State, the Civil War, and its aftermath, covering military and civilian administration as well as the socio-cultural landscape. Numerous prominent individuals contribute, are corresponded with, or simply mentioned in the files. General Michael Collins and his successor, General Richard Mulcahy, President W.T. Cosgrave and Peter Hughes (and their office staff) understandably feature. Many other individuals, both pro-, and anti-, Treaty contribute to, or are the subject of files in the collection, while others are involved due to the significant number of files covering their duties/line of work.
In no particular order, these individuals include: Eamon ‘Bob’ Price (previously Director of Organisation in the I.R.A. for a time, and in his later capacity in charge of Civil War internment camps and in the Resettlement Section in the Department of Industry and Commerce), Diarmuid O’Hegarty (also a Director of Organisation in the I.R.A. and later Director of Intelligence in the National Army and then Military Secretary to the Provisional Government), Michael J. Costelloe (Director of Intelligence, National Army), Eamon De Valera (mostly concerning his internment), General Gearoid O’Sullivan (Adjutant General of the National Army), General Hugo MacNeill (Acting Adjutant General of the National Army), Kevin O’Higgins (as Minister for Home Affairs. This Ministry became the Department of Justice in 1924, with O’Higgins as its first Minister), General Emmet Dalton, Austin Stack (concerning his internment), Ernie O’Malley (concerning his anti-treaty propaganda work), Thomas Gorman (in charge of the Army Finance Office).
In one file about Ballyvourney Wood, Terence MacSwiney is contacted in his capacity as Officer Commanding Cork No. 1 Brigade, while James Larkin is noted in a file concerning his propaganda activities benefiting the “De Valera Faction”. Many other prominent individuals, active throughout the revolutionary period, feature in certain files.
As mentioned above, the collection covers three broad aspects, namely military administration, civilian administration, and social issues affecting the general public.

1. The military administration at that time was concerned with actively expanding the National Army during the Civil War and reducing its size in the aftermath, while also establishing all the necessary organisation and structure for a properly functioning Army/Defence Force.
Files in this collection cover all aspects of this administration work:
• Pay, discipline, training, regulations, orders, contributions for legislation and other paperwork.
• Rations and indents, the acquisition and maintenance of vehicles, boats, aircraft and equipment, the provision of medical and nursing services.
• The administration and reports of specific corps from Civil War times such as the Special Infantry Corps and the Railway Protection, Repair and Maintenance Corps and the Criminal Investigation Department, Oriel House.
• Billeting, barracks and other buildings and structures.
• The handover (or purchase) of lands, premises, equipment, vehicles and boats from British Forces.
• Active operations during the Civil War, intelligence gathering during and after the Civil War (view this link for further information about the main collection of Civil War Operations and Intelligence files), protection of Government buildings, institutions, infrastructure and personnel, deserters from both the British Army and National Army, and policy and administration in relation to the Civil War internment camps and the internees themselves, including appeals for clemency, the hunger strikes and allegations of ill-treatment.
There are also files concerning issues/incidents on the border with Northern Ireland (including financial assistance for dependents of military personnel and civilians interned across the border, along with the payments of arrears of wages or gratuities for military personnel when released), the counteracting of anti-treaty propaganda and the investigating of allegations of ill-treatment of, or assaults on, anti-treaty personnel, their supporters, or other individuals by National Forces.
The aftermath of the Civil War included incidents with “die-hard” republicans, shootings, robberies, discoveries of illegal arms caches and allegations of harassment of Sinn Féin members by Defence Forces personnel. The handover, in 1924, of the bodies of those executed during the Civil War for re-interment is also included. The closure of numerous Barracks and the handover of military lands to civilian authorities and the assisting of demobilised soldiers to find new employment is covered as well.
Nominally under ‘military’ administration, there would also be files concerning the War of Independence, mainly compensation requests from civilians, or else queries through the British authorities or Colonial Office about soldiers and civilians killed, or noted as missing, in Ireland during that period. Old I.R.A. personnel in various areas would be contacted for information in this regard.

2. Civil administration in the Ministry/Department (in addition to the military administration) was concerned with maintaining the organisation and structure of the newly taken over civil service and continuing with the adaptation of the old British system to the new reality under the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. This would include examinations for civil servants, applications for employment in the Department, frequent contact with the Office of Public Works over military lands, buildings, utilities and offices of the old regime, personal files (not personnel files) of both military personnel and civilians in the Ministry, policy documents, legal accounts, legislation, budgets for the National Forces and the Ministry staff, correspondence and liaison with the Ministry of Home Affairs/Department of Justice and the Civic Guard/An Garda Siochana, and the answering of Dáil questions on a wide range of subjects.

3. The Civil War, and the preceding War of Independence, had a substantial impact on the civilian population and this is reflected in the collection. Compensation files are common for the Civil War, for civilian deaths and injuries, services rendered (for example: legal services), goods provided, damage to equipment, vehicles (including cars and boats) and premises. The Personal Injuries (Compensation) Committee had many claims forwarded to it, as noted in a number of files in the collection. There are also compensation and investigation files related to crashes involving army vehicles, complaints about trespassing and hunting on private property by Defence Forces personnel and claims regarding commandeered vehicles. The Land Commission also contacts the Department regarding specific cases where individuals, either discharged soldiers, or men suspected of having anti-treaty sympathies, are applying for land.
Files relating to specific applications/appeals concerning military service pensions or gratuities under the Army Pensions Act, 1923 and the Military Service Pension Act, 1924 are also common in this collection, as are files relating to dependent’s allowances for parents or wives of National Army soldiers killed or incapacitated during the Civil War. For details on additional departmental files in the A-, 2- and 3- series, which are associated with the administration of these pensions and allowances, please view this page on our website:


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