In this selection, John Cunningham outlines his father’s involvement with the West Clare IRA Brigade and his decision to join the Civil Guard (Later An Garda Síochána) at its inception in 1922. The ‘Commandant Brennan’ he refers to was Micheál Brennan, O/C of the East Clare IRA and a leading Free State Officer in the Civil War, who later went on to become Chief of Staff of the Irish Army from 1931 to 1940. In 1932, when Fianna Fáil came to power in 1932 he resisted suggestions from the garda commissioner, Eoin O’Duffy that the army should refuse to cooperate with the new government. You can read more about Michael Cunningham HERE
JOHN CUNNINGHAM: My father [Michael Cunningham, registered number 842] was born in a place called Shyan (sic), County Clare near Kilmihil, the parish of Kilmihil, and he was born in 1899, August 1899. He would have joined the IRA, the old IRA, West Clare Brigade, sometime 1916 thereabouts. So he would have been 16/17 when he joined. He was under Commandant Haugh I believe and later on he was under Commandant Séan Liddy in the West Clare Brigade. Anyway, after the war, after the War of Independence when the truce was declared, there was a Commandant Brennan from East Clare Brigade who got together with a few guards and got a load of different guards to join, got a load of different IRA men, sorry, to join the newly formed Garda Siochana. They had been IRA men, on the run obviously, and now they wanted to be part of the new government. So Commandant Brennan got them all to join up. My father joined in what I believe was April 1922. He would have been the second batch of 500 and his registration number as you just said earlier was number 842. I got a photocopy of the actual document which contained all the signatures, all the signatures and all the names and the dates and the numbers of the original members from Mick Lernihan. So that was very very interesting.