In the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, the issue of communications and moving around important documentation and messages between republicans in Dublin was becoming a major problem and one that needed significant measures in place to ensure the lines of communications could stay open.
Correspondence sent through the regular postal service was, more often than not, opened and checked by the military censors. Anyone suspected of being a republican or even being connected to one could expect to have their post opened and checked by the postal service on orders from the military authorities.
A new system was devised in 1917 by Fianna HQ that would replace the British postal service with a new secret arrangement called the ‘Fianna Post’. This new operation was suggested to the leaders of the Volunteers, the IRB and Sinn Fein as a means of combating the damaging censorship occurring in the regular post. The Fianna Eireann organization was already demonstrating their importance by providing couriers for Sinn Fein leaders around Dublin and also through their very important intelligence work which was being carried out and proving very vital to the movement. This new ‘Fianna Post’ was the next obvious step in defeating the stringent measures put in place by the British administration.
The new post office service had several ‘post offices’ throughout Dublin, mostly in shops or businesses owned by republican supporters such as Maurice Collins’ newsagents in Parnell Street or Doyles newsagents in Charlemont Street. Private homes and places of work were also used as centres where letters could be dropped off for delivery. Specially selected members of the Fianna were chosen to distribute this important post.
The fee for using the service was the same rate as the regular postal service and as it became more successful, not only were Volunteers/IRA and Sinn Fein members using the ‘Fianna Post’ but soon members of the wider nationalist community were beginning to avail of the discreet and speedy service provided so well by the young men of the Fianna. This ‘opening up’ of the service to a wider public suited the republicans as it was acting as a boycott of the British service and thus depriving them of revenue. The money generated by the service went towards Fianna HQ funds to assist in purchasing guns, ammunition, regular supplies, uniforms etc. and the ‘postmen’ were occasionally paid expenses. A proportion of the money also made its way to Sinn Fein’s election budget and the running of its own headquarters in Harcourt Street.
By 1919, the service was being used by Dail Eireann, alongside Ministers personal Fianna couriers, and the various departments were utilizing this vital service. In particular the Department of Local Government, one of the most active, was relying on the ‘Fianna Post’ to communicate with the various Councils across the country.
The ‘Fianna Post’ arrangement became a trusted and valuable service throughout the War of Independence fought over the following years; it soon spread to other major cities such as Cork and Limerick. It was initially known as the ‘Fianna Post’ but soon became known as the ‘Republican Post’ but it was still run predominantly by the young men of Fianna Eireann. The role they played in ensuring communications were kept open and secure during these years should not be forgotten or downplayed in the story of the struggle against British rule.
By Eamon Murphy