J.J. ‘Ginger’ O’Connell and Fianna Eireann


An unpublished manuscript by General J.J. ‘Ginger’ O’Connell, entitled ‘History of the Irish Volunteers’, offers a fascinating insight into the workings of the Irish Volunteers, particularly during its early years.
O’Connell spent time in the US Army before he returned to Ireland in 1914 and joined the Irish Volunteers, eventually becoming Chief of Inspections in 1915. O’Connell became Director of Training of the IRA in 1920, and was Deputy Chief of Staff at the time of the truce in 1921. He was kidnapped by anti-Treaty Republicans in 1922. J.J. O’Connell was full of admiration of Na Fianna Eireann, and the attributes and expertise their members possessed.
According to M. J. Kelly in his book ‘The Fenian Ideal and Irish Nationalism, J.J. O’Connell testified in his manuscript to the “ideological intensity of the Fianna in contrast to the more comradely atmosphere of the Volunteers”. O’Connell asserted that “the boys [Fianna] selected boys with a touch of iron essential for leadership; whereas the men [Volunteers] commonly selected someone because he was popular or distinguished in some sphere or other. The Fianna in short were primarily soldiers: the raw Volunteers were primarily friends and neighbours.”

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