'Oriel House'

The Irish Free State Army Intelligence Department – Oriel House Criminal Investigation Department was a department that was responsible for gathering intelligence and enforcement of locations under the control of the IRA as a quasi-police force against those who opposed the newly created Irish Free State (IFS) during the 1920s.[1]

At least twenty-five Irish republicans were assassinated in County Dublin during the period that the Oriel House CID was in existence, from early 1922, when under the control of the Free State Army Intelligence Department and later under the Ministry of Home Affairs, to November 1923 when it was finally abolished.

Early dats of The Irish Free State Army Intelligence Department[]

When the Truce of July 1921 was inacted, many among the Irish Republican movement believed that violence and tensions would decrease[citation needed]. Michael Collins kept the pressure on his intelligence network and expanded intelligence gathering against potential enemies. By the time of the inactment of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Collins feared that there may be conflict between factions within the Irish Republican movement. When the Treaty was accepted, Collins gave his Intelligence Department a new headquarters at Beggars Bush Barracks on Haddington Road and later transferred the department to Wellington Barracks on the South Circular Road as the Irish Civil War developed.

Although many people joined the Irish Free State Army intelligence, some members of this orginization include: all of the former IRA Intelligence, Liam Tobin, Joseph MacGrath, Tom Cullen, Charlie Saurin, Ed Flood, Charlie Dalton, et al. The complete 'Squad', although some were now in uniform and commanding troops. At Wellington Barracks where the 'G' men of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) who had covertly assisted the IRA from 1919 to 1921. People like Ned Broy (Broy was later transferred to the Civil Aviation Department at Baldonnel Aerodrome and later was appointed 'Adjutant and O/C Ground Organisation, Air Force' by November 1922)(See Irish National Army Census of November 1922) David Neligan,(Nelligan was sent to Kerry with the 'Dublin Guards' as Divisional Intelligence Officer) Joe Kavanagh and Jim McNamara. Lastly, there was a large group of former Irish Republican Police, led by Peter Ennis, brother of General Tom Ennis. Even though Collins had castigated the IRP in the past, he now accepted them into the new Free State Army Intelligence Department. A few new people were also recruited to the department, young men like Michael Joe Costello and Daniel Bryan, both of whom would rise to high office in later years in the army.

The anti-Treaty IRA faced this substantial set-up at Wellington Barracks as the Civil War loomed. They had now formed an Executive and had barricaded themselves into the Four Courts buildings on the Quays to resist pro-treaty forces.


Oriel House. Corner of Westland Row and Fenian Street, Dublin 2
Funeral of Arthur Griffith passes Oriel House

The origins of the CID at Oriel House are vague. The earliest mention of this organisation is in the form of an application for membership from Peter Ennis of the Irish Republican Police. It was a non-statutory body, an adjunct of the Intelligence Department of the pro-treaty section of the IRA. Its activities were veiled in secrecy, and today it is greatly difficult to locate any files on the actual work they carried out. From being a quasi-military body in early 1922, it transmuted into a quasi-police force in August of the same year and remained so until it was disbanded in the latter months of 1923.

The FSA Intelligence Department took over the spacious Oriel House early in 1922. Liam Tobin, now a major general in the FSA, was installed here as director-general of the newly established CID. One of the first decisions made was to appoint a deputy to Tobin in this new organisation. Collins is now installed as Director, Patrick Moynihan, with the rank of captain. Moynihan had been a head investigator in the Postal Service and was seconded to the new CID. He had been a valuable intelligence contact in the Irish Post Office during the 'Tan War' and was close to both Collins and Griffith.[2] The next appointment was Peter Ennis of the Irish Republican Police, also with the rank of captain. Ennis then moved from his office at 24 Great Brunswick Street (HQ of the Dublin IRP) and transferred some of his IRP personnel to the building known as Oriel House. The building would also be used later on by the Protective Corps, whose job it was to guard all government buildings, the GPO, large banks and several government Ministers, Senators and their homes. A further organisation would use Oriel House as a headquarters later in 1922. This was the CDF (Citizens' Defence Force), a secretive body composed chiefly of ex-British soldiers. They were an armed organisation and numbered about one hundred members.[3] They duplicated some of the work of the Protective Corps, guarding banks and cinemas and patrolling the city's streets. They never revealed their names when submitting reports, using a personal number instead.[4]

The cost of the CID and the Protective Corps was provided for in the CID estimates. The CDF was provided for under the Secret Service estimates.[5]

Oriel House CID[]

For the first six months of its existence, the CID was under the control of the FSA Intelligence Department. It had a major general in charge, a Captain as his deputy, and the lower ranks were sergeants, corporals and privates. The had the use of Irish army vehicles and motorcycles. The CID was set up to combat the rise in armed crime in the city, as many robberies and assaults had occurred. There was still great animosity by British authorities, citizens allied with the pro-British bloc, and to the 'G men', and they were not proving reliable and had been moribund since the Truce of 1921.

Oriel House was built in 1872 and served several purposes. It was at one time the head office of the Dunlop Company. (The name over the door today says 'Dunlop Oriel House') It also served as a police station for the DMP, when the Great Brunswick Street station was being renovated. It is an imposing building and served the purpose well for the CID. It had an unobstructed view right up Merrion Square and of many government buildings. It was on a corner of two main thoroughfares, with no rear entrance, and easy to defend. There were also several cells in the basement area of the building for holding prisoners.

Early activity[]

In the early months of its existence, the newly formed CID kept its activities to a minimum. Gathering intelligence, making contacts and performing bodyguard duties were the day-to-day duties of the members. One file shows the whole complement of Oriel House divided into three groups.[6] Each group had Lieutenants, Sergeants and Corporals in charge. Possibly there were three shifts operating at the time. Fifty-two revolvers, (Colts, Webleys and Smith & Wessons) with 1000 rounds of .45 ammunition, six Lee–Enfield rifles with 200 rounds of .303 ammunition, and one Lewis Light Machine Gun with 14 pans of ammunition, were issued to the CID. At one stage there were over one hundred and twenty men on the CID pay sheets, meaning not everyone would have been armed all of the time.

Transport was provided by the FSA at Portobello Barracks and consisted in the early months of one Crossley tender, one motor-car and one motor-bike. In later months the CID ran into an amount of trouble when it commandeered cars from the public at will. The CID maintained and serviced its own vehicles and had a mechanical staff specifically for that purpose.[7]

Several files at the NA (H196/3) show the amount paid weekly to the CID.

Moynihan also received his Post Office salary during his tenure at Oriel House.

Over one hundred and twenty sheets are on file, giving background information on candidates to the CID. The average age was thirty-three years, and most men were Dublin born. The majority had prior service in the IRA, but there were at least three ex-RIC men, one ex-American cop, and two ex-British Army people. The oldest recruit was forty-seven years of age, and the youngest was sixteen. (He was a boy clerk within Oriel House, and he was later transferred to FSA Intelligence Dept. at Wellington Barracks at the behest of Col. Charlie Dalton) There was one non-national in the CID. This was Charles Wineman, a German national who was the manager of Barry's Hotel, Dublin, and claimed that he was a confidant of Michael Collins. (H169)


A government decision was made after the fall of the Four Courts, and Oriel House CID was transferred from the FSA Intelligence Dept. to the Ministry of Home Affairs on 21 August 1922 (the day before Michael Collins death). Major General Joe MacGrath became the Director-General, answering Kevin O'Higgins, the Minister of Home Affairs.

"Collins appointed him (MacGrath) Director of Intelligence in July 1922, he presided over some of the more grisly aspects of the treaties counter-insurgency policy".[8]

Patrick Moynihan was retained as Director, holding the rank of captain. All the other subordinates now adopted police ranks. Ennis became Chief Superintendent, and so on down the ranks, where the Privates became Detective Officers.

"It (the CID) rapidly earned itself an unenviable reputation for toughness, unscrupulousness, and violence".[9]

O'Higgins is on record[10] as saying, ..."what was needed to put down the 'Irregulars', were more local executions, and we should just kill them anyway". This was premation, and this outburst must have given his agents in Oriel House the confidence to go out and be assured that there would be little outcry when they carried out extrajudicial killings. The worst excesses of the killing squads took place under O'Higgin's stewardship of the CID. (File S1411, Taoiseach's Dept. NA)

In 1926 MacGrath was accused of knowing who had killed Noel Lemass, whose body was dumped in the Featherbeds in the Dublin Mountains, and three teenage Fianna (republican boy Scouts) members, Edwin Hughes (17), Joseph (16) and Brendan Holohan (16), who was murdered in Clondalkin, and with having failed to pursue the matter. This charge against him was in a book, "The Real Ireland", published in Britain by a Morning Post journalist named Brethetron. MacGrath was in retirement at this time, and he brought a civil action against the author for libel. He won his case because the Irish State would not attend the court or produce the relevant files to the defendants. The case was won on this point, but the accusation remained. (See File S4786, Taoiseach's Dept, NA)

In February 1923, Oriel house CID took up residence at 88 Merrion Square. The Protective Corps had now come under the command of the CID also at this time. File H169/3, Justice Dept. shows that there were now;


After the fall of the Four Courts Garrison and the defeat of the rearguard action in central Dublin, the IRA adopted new tactics in the metropolitan area. A low-intensity guerrilla war was conducted against the army of the Irish Free State Provisional Government. This was proving hard to combat, so the FSA adopted the policy of rounding up and interning all known activists who opposed the new state. When this measure failed to stop attacks on FSA troops and installations, a new policy was introduced: 'Remove the leaders by any means and the war will end'. When the FSA was attacked in any area, they took their revenge on those who may have been responsible in that particular area.

Deaths of targets of the Free Irish state[]

Brigadier Alf Colley, murdered during Irish Civil War at Whitehall, August 1922

This is the list of Republicans that were killed by agents of the Provisional Government and the Free State Government in the period that the CID was in existence in Oriel House and at 88 Merrion Square. Memorial stones at the site where the bodies were found are situated all around Dublin at what was then the city limits. Most are documented on the website Irish War Memorials.[11]

Bodies of Cole and Colley at the Mater Hospital mortuary, 28 August 1922
This plaque marks the spot on the Naas Road at Blackhorse Bridge, Inchicore, where the body of J.J. Stephens was dumped on 3 September 1922
This plaque marks the spot on the Ratoath Rd, Cabra where the bodies of Section Commander Christopher Breslin, A Company, 1st Battalion and his friend J. Kiernan were discovered

Deaths of CID agents[]

In the same period, four CID men were killed in action, three by the IRA and one by Free State Army soldiers during a robbery at a factory.

In addition to the above, a member of the Citizens' Defence Force {which would be absorbed into the CID} named William Johnson was shot and killed March 27, 1923 by IRA Lt Frank Teeling who had objected to Johnson bringing a bag of tomatoes; Teeling was found guilty of manslaughter and served 18 months in prison.

Abolition and disbandment[]

The IRA called a cease-fire in April 1923. All arms were dumped and the Civil War officially came to an end. It is now estimated that twenty-two thousand republicans were interned at various camps around the country. Oriel House had become an embarrassment to the Free State Government because of its extrajudicial killings, so a decision was taken to terminate the CID. A problem arose now on how best to dispose of this large organisation that had served the government during the ten months of the war. There were three organisations disbanded at the one time: the CID, most of the Protection Corps and the Citizens Defence Force.[citation needed]

The CID was disbanded in November 1923 and a selection of its members was transferred to the DMP. The following extracts are taken from a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State.

"....."the CID shall be disbanded at an early date. This Department has no statutory constitution and its continued existence is not desirable......into this new body (which might be styled the "Detective Branch" of the DMP) there can be absorbed a selection of Oriel House men and such members of the "G" Division as may be suitable.:"[40]

The new Detective Branch was put under the control of Colonel David Nelligan, Director of Intelligence in the FSA.

At the point of disbandment, there were still seventy-three personnel in the CID at 88 Merrion Square. Of these, twenty-eight were amalgamated with the DMP. Those that were disbanded got four weeks wages. Captain Moynihan returned to the Postal Service at the GPO, but his position had been filled in his absence and he was therefore reduced in the ranks. He was despised by his colleagues in the Postal Service because of his interference in the postal workers strike earlier in 1922.

"After the Civil War, this now notorious unit was disbanded because of its uncontrollability and murderousness"[41]
"He (De Valera) had no confidence in the Special Branch of An Garda, the hard men of the police who gruesomely murdered Seán Lemass's brother, and who were essentially the remnants of Collins' old squad organised in Oriel House."[42]


Files obtainable from the National Archives give a short history of the setting up of the CID and personal details of over one hundred members of applicants to that agency. There are accounts of the deaths of CID members in action, lists of injured CID men, and finally a list of those suitable for retention for a new CID to replace the Oriel House model in 1924. Nothing remains of the activities of the CID against those who remained Republican after the Treaty or, of its association with the Free State Army (FSA) Intelligence Dept.[1]

Unless relevant files on the activities of the FSA Intelligence Dept. and of those of the Oriel House CID are made available, historians will be left guessing.[original research?] No in-depth study has ever been made on this subject and it now appears that a great cover-up was made when the CID of Oriel House was abolished. Even Seán Lemass, when he became a government minister in 1932, failed to find any files, information, or any clue that would point to the murderers of his brother Noel. As Sean McEntee stated in the Seanad in 1933, over 100,000 files had been destroyed in the Justice Department by those that had controlled Oriel House.

Michael Collins initiated the CID as a counter-revolutionary step. His FSA Intelligence Dept. ran and controlled the organisation for six months until the Home Affairs Ministry took over in August 1922. In 1962, Brian O'Higgins, author, scholar and former Sinn Féin TD from the Second Dáil of 1922, dedicated his 'Wolfe Tone Annual' to "The men of '22". This booklet enumerated all the Republicans that had been killed and executed by agents of the Free State Government during the Civil War period. Twenty-five of these deaths occurred in Dublin County, and it is in this area that this article is concentrating on.

It was stated in Dáil Éireann on 30 November 1922, during a debate on the financing of the CID, that over 2500 files had been gathered on the activities of opponents to the new state. None of these files are available today. In later years,1933, when Minister Seán MacEntee was addressing Seanad Éireann during the debate on the Garda Síochána estimates, he stated that over 100,000 files had been burned by the Home Affairs Dept.(Justice) at the changeover of government in 1932.[43] There may yet be Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks not cleared for the public to view.[1]



  1. ^ a b c This article is based on information culled from extant files obtainable at the National Archives of Ireland and from primary sources at the National Library of Ireland. Other primary sources are the accounts of inquests held on the bodies of Irish Republican Army men and members of Fianna Éireann, in the period 1 August 1922 to 12 October 1923, who were killed in dubious circumstances.
  2. ^ File H 196/4,Justice Dept. National Archives
  3. ^ O'Halpin, Eunan (2000). Defending Ireland: The Irish State and Its Enemies Since 1922. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-924269-6.
  4. ^ File S1411, Taoiseach's Dept. at National Archives
  5. ^ File S.1681, Taoiseach's Dept, NA
  6. ^ H196/11 A copy of the same document, dated 22 August 1922, also turned up in the Moss Twomey IRA files at UCD Archives, File P69/11/281 proving Ernie O'Malley's claim that the IRA had at least one contact within Oriel House
  7. ^ File H9 62, 63,64 Justice Dept. NA
  8. ^ The Irish Counter-Revolution 1921–1936, John M. Regan, (2001)
  9. ^ 1922-The birth of Irish democracy, Tom Garvin, (1996)
  10. ^ File S.3307, Taoiseach's Dept
  11. ^ http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/[not specific enough to verify]
  12. ^ "Witness Statement" (PDF). Bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie. p. -25. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  13. ^ Evidence from Inquest reported in Evening Herald, 8 August 1922
  14. ^ National newspapers reporting the killings and inquest 27&28 August 1922
  15. ^ National newspapers, 27&28 August 1922, Evidence given at Inquest
  16. ^ "Drogheda man is one of three shot". Independent.ie. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  17. ^ Evidence from Inquest in all national papers 3 & 4 Sept.1922
  18. ^ National newspapers, 4 and 5 September, evidence from inquest
  19. ^ Evidence from inquest reported in national papers 13 September 1922, and War News, 14 September.
  20. ^ Evidence given at inquest and reported in national newspapers on 17 September. Mannion's father was a sergeant in the DMP. Reporters at the inquest had their notebooks confiscated by the CID.
  21. ^ Evidence from inquest reported in national newspapers 24 September 1922
  22. ^ Michael Neville file DP2631, Military Service Pensions Collection, Irish Military Archives
  23. ^ evidence from inquest reported in all national newspapers 8,9&10 October 1922, and from File S1832, Taoiseach's Dept. NA. See files in Military Service Pension Collection - Eamon Hughes (DP4559) and Brendan Holohan (DP4496) (
  24. ^ Report of evidence given to Inquest, 6 November 1922. Also a report in Pobhlacht na h-Éireann, Republican weekly paper, 15 November 1922
  25. ^ "James Spain of Geraldine Square". Come here to me!. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  26. ^ Evidence from inquest, as reported in national newspapers 26&27 November 1922, and evidence given by his comrade to Poblacht na h-Éireann, 29 November 1922
  27. ^ "William 'Kruger' Graham of Ross Road - Come here to me!". Come here to me!. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  28. ^ Inquest evidence, national newspapers, 1 January 1923
  29. ^ Inquest evidence, national newspapers 24 March 1923
  30. ^ Inquest evidence from national newspapers 30 March 1923, and from John Dowling interview in Survivors, by Uinsionn MacEoin, 1986
  31. ^ Inquest evidence from national newspapers 4 April 1923
  32. ^ Inquest evidence from national papers, and War News, 28 March 1923
  33. ^ James Tierney file DP3998, Military Service Pensions Collection, Irish Military Archives
  34. ^ Evidence from inquest and interview with girlfriend in national newspapers, 22&23 April 1923
  35. ^ Inquest evidence, 14 October 1923, in national newspapers.
  36. ^ File H169/14, Justice Dept. NA
  37. ^ File H169/35, Justice Dept, NA
  38. ^ File H169/72, Justice Dept, NA
  39. ^ File H169/84, Justice Dept, NA
  40. ^ File S3332, Taoiseach's Dept. NA
  41. ^ Tom Garvin, ibid
  42. ^ J.P. McCarthy, Professor of Irish History, Oxford University, Sunday Independent, 13 December 2009, commenting on the proposed industrial action in An Garda Síochána.
  43. ^ This was sworn information given to him by the then Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Col. Eamon Broy. (Seanad Debates, National newspapers 14 August 1933)


Primary sources
Secondary sources