Sunday, April 5, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 12

"Ned Broy's Harriers"

Neil Jordan's film, Michael Collins, from 1996, depicts Ned Broy (played by Stephen Rea) as Collins' inside man with the police (historically valid). Broy is tortured and murdered by the Brits (invalid: that was the fate of another of Collins' informers, Richard "Dick" McKee, one of the three "shot, trying to escape" Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday, 1920).

Factually, in March 1918, Collins made contact with Detective Edward (later Eamon, but always "Ned") Broy, a G-man of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. (The image, above, shows Broy later in life, at the Irish Sweeps draw.) The G-Division of the DMP were the equivalent of Scotland Yard's "Special Branch". Broy had control of "The Very Large Book", the central register of police intelligence, where suspects were identified. Through Broy, Collins had access to that information. With Broy's connivance, Collins spent the night of 7th April 1919 combing the police records at Brunswick Street.

Colonel Broy

Broy was out with the Republicans in the Civil War, as a Colonel in the Irregulars. At the end of the War, in 1925, he returned to policing. General Eoin O'Duffy, Kevin O'Higgins's choice for Police Commissioner, had no place for Republicans, and Broy languished as a mere Detective Sergeant.

Commissioner Broy

Ned's hour came round again, when De Valera came to power. Eoin O'Duffy, who had been Commissioner of
An Garda Síochána since 1922, was quickly replaced, on the grounds of political unreliability. The whole Garda hierarchy, all appointed by Cumann na nGaedhael, were distrusted by De Valera (with good reason: we now know O'Duffy was urging a military coup before the 1932 Election). Instead De Valera reached down several tiers, and appointed Broy as the new Commissioner.

The Broy Harriers

Broy set about creating a force-within-a-force, recruiting anti-Treaty veterans to the Garda's "Special Auxiliary Force". These quickly became nick-named the "Broy Harriers" (the Bray Harriers being an established athletics club), and among their early targets were the "Blueshirts": O'Duffy had not gone away, but had taken over the Army Comrades Association (a pressure group of Free State veterans), renamed it the "National Guard", introduced the uniform and a straight-arm salute.

Broy and his Harriers attracted animosity from small farmers. This was the class from which the Cumann drew support, and from which O'Duffy had recruited his Garda. The "Economic War" and the decline in farm prices was already severely affecting this group.

Then there was the "Copley Street masacre" in Cork City. On 13 August 1934, at a sale of cattle seized for the non-payment of land annuities, the "Special Auxiliary Force" fired on a lorry load of protestors, killing one and wounding others: a dozen were arrested for rioting.

President Broy

Even though Broy retired as Commissioner in 1938, the "Broy Harriers", as a pejorative insult from the Republican ultras, persisted for twenty years or more.

Broy was also President of the Irish Olympic Council from 1935 to 1950. He died, aged 85, in 1972.
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