Staines was made the first director of the Belfast Boycott. This Boycott was originally ordered by the Dáil cabinet in August 1920 as a boycott of Belfast‐based banks and insurance companies, in reprisal for the pogroms in Belfast, this rapidly expanded into a wider campaign to exclude all Northern Irish goods Here Staines describes the purpose for the Boycott, and his experience and contribution to the Belfast Boycott itself. As consequences of his involvement, his family was harassed and his father imprisoned for a period [bel14]. The conflict began in Belfast in July 1920. On 21 July 1920, rioting broke out in the city, starting in the shipyards and later spreading to residential areas. The violence was partly in response to the IRA killing of a northern RIC police officer Gerald Smyth, in Cork, and partly because of competition over jobs due to the high unemployment Unionists marched on the shipyards in Belfast and forced over 7,000 Catholic workers from their jobs. In his interview Staines gives an account of what the situation was like for the people in the ground at that time[Par04];
“I was the first Director appointed for the carrying out of the Belfast Boycott, which I had to organise all over Ireland. This was originally started as a form of reprisal following the Pogroms in Belfast. I had many complaints from Catholics in Belfast who would not be allowed by their fellow-workers to work in the factories. In all these cases I approached the employers, whom I found always reasonable, but they pointed out that it was not their fault, that it was between the two sections of workers, the Catholics and the Orange crowd. In one case a girl who had been employed in the V.C.L. Hosiery Factory in Limestone Road wrote and complained to me about the loss of her employment. I called at her house to her and the first thing I noticed was an R.I.C. man's cap hanging on the hail-stand, but after a few minutes the girl introduced, me to the R.I.C. man who happened to be her brother-in-law. He was a Catholic and was just as much opposed to the Pogroms as I was. One of the Directors of the V.C.L. Hosiery Company, Mr. Craig, told me that they were quite willing to take this girl back, just as in other similar cases, but that they could not guarantee her safety. We had an organisation all through the country watching goods at all the railway stations and we found that there was very little traffic in Belfast goods. We found that in any case where they did get through that a reprimand was sufficient to stop the business. [Sta55].
4.13 Staines arrest
On December the 6th 1920 Staines was arrested with several others, while attending a meeting of Dublin Corporation. He was held in Mount Joy until the 30th of June 1921, he keep in constant contact with Collins during this time. He was released as part of the process leading up to the truce, and on the insistence of Griffith and McNeill who refused a British offer of release unless accompanied by Staines and Duggan .Staines gives his recollection of the event[Fee15];
“I was arrested in the Corporation on the 6th December 1920. Alderman Beatty had a Notice of Motion in; it was in effect, a vote of loyalty to the British Government. I was an Alderman at the time and I was instructed by Mick Collins to go and oppose it. What happened then was that Captain King, British Intelligence Officer, and his party came into the Corporation and asked for me, but I did not answer really how, they found out was when they started to call the roll and as my name was first on the roll it was called out first. I did not answer, but everybody looked at me so Captain. King came over, to me. He had two good photographs of me, a front view and a side view. I do not know where they came from but I suppose they had been snapped on the street.”[Sta55].
“In prison Griffith, MacNell, Duggan and I were keeping up with every move that was made outside. We were kept informed by Collins through the underground post. Arising out of the peace negotiations which were then proceeding, the order came for the release of Griffith and MacNell on the 30th June. A warder came in and said they were wanted in the Governor's office and they went down there. The Governor told them that they were being released. When they came back Griffith told us that he objected and that he had refused to leave the prison unless Duggan and I were released with him. A few hours later Duggan and I were released. [Sta55].”
Chapter 5: 1921-1955
(1921- 55) IRA Liaison officer protecting the truce and the Treaty
5.1 Liaison Officer in Mayo and Galway (1921)
In August 1921 Staines was appointed liaison officer for Counties Mayo and Galway, with Joe Ring as his second in command. They worked together to keep the peace with Commissioner Richard Cruise who was over the British forces in both Mayo and Galway. Galway and. Ballinasloe were the only two towns with a population of over 15,000 in which the R.I.C. were allowed to carry arms, this being the agreed policy. For this reason, plus the layout of the land meant Galway was one area where the truce might break, because the British who were armed in these two towns were free to move about the population at will. Staines explains the situation in his interview [Sta55]:
“There were forty murders committed by the British forces in County Galway during the period of the fighting but there was none in Mayo. Cruise was responsible for both counties, “How is it that there were forty murders in Galway and none in Mayo", and he answered, "We were afraid of the Mayo Lads". In Mayo when the Auxiliaries, went out, like in the Carrowkennedy ambush, a lot of them never came back, but Galway being a flat county did not lend itself to active guerrilla warfare of the type which was carried out in Mayo. For that reason the British forces in Galway had more or less a free hand, the population being more or less defenceless[Sta55].
On my second day in Galway a report came in that trees had been felled across the road at Kilmaine. Mr. Cruise took a very serious view of this, as about a week previously some of his men from Ballinrobe had been disarmed at Kilmaine. I agreed to investigate the matter with him and we drove to Kilmaine where we found that two trees had been blown down by the storm. Both of us agreed that it was an act of God and not an act of war[Sta55]”.
Staines used his close ties to Collins well in how he dealt with Cruise, he allowed Crouse to think that all his reports on the truce were being monitored by the British Government at the very highest level, he says in his interview;
“Cruise worked with me all right because he was afraid I had influence with Lloyd George. He was really afraid of me. The arrangement was that I would report to Collins and that the British representative would report to Lloyd George, and if either of us asked to see the other's report he would have to be shown it. It was agreed that Collins would show my report to Lloyd George and Lloyd George would show the British report to Collins[Sta55].
The raiding of mails went on during the Truce and we got a private report belonging to the British representative and discovered that he was sending in an official report and also a private report despite the arrangement that private reports would not be furnished They were playing a double game[Sta55]”.
5.2 Liaison officer for the jails
In September Staines was asked by de Valera to become liaison officer for the prisoners. He left Joe Ring in charge of Galway, and travelled to Dublin to meet De Valera to protest about the appointment, but was told someone had to do it, he says;
“I said that the prisoners had been kept in all the time since the beginning of the Truce, and that they would think it impertinence on my part to go visiting them with a representative of the British Government. Some of them did object and I was not too favourably received. The fact was that our people wanted to keep the lads in jail quiet while the peace negotiations were proceeding and that was the object of my visit. I impressed on them that there was nothing to prevent them escaping and, in fact, there were several escapes during that time...[Sta55]”.
When the treaty was signed on the 6th December 1921, Collins and his team returned from London and it became clear that there would be problems ahead. Staines made contact with de Valera to try and broker a deal, he describes his meeting with De Valera;
“Brugha and Stack, wanted to stop me but de Valera said I must be heard. I asked him was there any hope of coming to an agreement about the Treaty and he said "Absolutely none", so I had to go back and tell Griffith and Collins that there' was no hope. Griffith had told me that he did not think there was much use in my going to see Dev, but I did what I could. Big numbers of people were delighted about the Treaty, but some of them turned the other way overnight; somebody must have got after them. The acceptance of the idea of a Truce was influenced by the fact that the position of the fighting men was very serious in view of the grave shortage of ammunition. This fact very definitely influenced Collins in his negotiations with the British. I was positive that the fighting would soon start again, De Valera always asked everybody else's opinion and then made up his own mind.[Sta55]”.
5.3 Staines appointed chairman of the Police organising committee
Following Dáil Éireann’s acceptance of the Anglo – Irish Treaty in January 1921 a Provisional Government was created for the new Irish Free State with Michael Collins as chairman. In February 1922 the Minister for Home Affairs, Éamonn Duggan (the son of an RIC man), began arrangements for the formation of a new policing service to replace the RIC. In January 1922 Staines was appointed chairman of the police organising committee, established to plan the formation a new police force[McC13].
The committee held their first meeting in the Gresham Hotel on Thursday, 9 February 1921, with Staines as acting chairman. On 21 February the first candidates, recommended by their Volunteer officers, were received by Staines at a temporary depot in the R.D.S. The name the civic guard was decided on 27 February[Gar14] .
On the 10th of May 1921 Staines was appointed commissioner of police. He quickly began laying the foundations of the new force. Officers and men were recruited, a new badge and name chosen. However his appointment of several ex RIC men to senior positions led to mutiny, especially, Patrick Walsh as deputy commissioner[Bra74]
There is evidence that Collins from an early stage decided that the new force would be a replica of the old RIC whom he admired greatly, and sense all his close advisers had little police experience except Staines who liaised with the RIC, it was natural that the construction of the new force would represent this model. The organising committee had nine senior ex RIC officers, including three District inspectors and a head constable offering professional advice based on the British policing model. Their influence with Collins was so great that at a later stage, he threatened to disband the whole force rather than remove officers that had been appointed to senior rank[Bra74].
However a major difference between the RIC and the new force was the new commissioner was to be a direct political appointee to the government of the day and not to a police authority as was the case with other British police forces [Bra74].
The organising committee sent its report to the provisional government in February which was accepted, it proposed an unarmed civil police force of 4,300 men, led by a commissioner answerable to the Government. The basic rank would be equivalent to the British constable, and was to be non-political, and named the civic guard.
Recruitment began with no public announcement or advertising in the press, Collins and Staines relied on the recommendations of trusted IRA officer contacts This decision proved good, as very few of the new recruits went over to the republicans in the oncoming civil war.
The following month, Staines transferred his headquarters from Ballsbridge to the Artillery Barracks, Kildare. On 15 May, a faction of the men demanded the removal from high rank of former members of the old RIC. From April onwards discontent began to build in the ranks, Brennan was dissatisfied with his own rank, passed on the men’s views to Staines. However Staines supported by Collins considered that these RIC men had served the cause well from within the RIC during the war, and were entitled to their reward. However many of the recruits did not see it this way[Bra74].
Figure 14 Michael Staines as First Garda Commissioner[Gar14]
5.4 The Kildare Mutiny
The first serious confrontation was when the Kerry recruits recognised Deputy Commissioner Kearney, the man who was in charge of Tralee barracks when Robert Casement was arrested in April 1916. A demand for the removal of Kearney and all former RIC men was sent to Staines through Brennan, Staines refused to move and there was talk of revolt. After this life became difficult for Kearney in the force, he resigned and left for England[Bra74].
According to Conor Brady, Whether Staines consulted the government, or depended entirely on Collins support is not clear, Collins was adamant that the Guards should accept the leadership of the men whom he had used in his intelligence network. On the other hand it was asking a lot from men who had fought in the hills to accept without question the authority of RIC men they had fought a short time earlier[Bra74].
Things came to a head on 11th may 1922 when superintendent Brennan and superintendent Leddy made a last appeal to Staines, for a couple of days they controlled the situation, but on the 15th May when parade was called, Staines and Walsh appeared, flanked by five newly promoted ex RIC men, this was the last straw, a group of guards appointed as spokesmen for the ranks stepped forward and words were exchanged. Commandant Joe Ring immediately called the men to attention, there was a hush as Staines spoke to the men. He spent three minutes defending, but not explaining the decision to promote the RIC men, and warned of the seriousness of mutiny. Heckling began and there was a surge forward. Staines stood back and asked all who backed him to move to his right. Joe Ring and about sixty Mayo men stood still, another sixty moved to the right, but the vast majority of the 15,000 men moved to the left: after a few minutes of tense silence, Staines and his aides backed away and locked themselves in their offices with guns drawn[Bra74].
Staines was forced to slip out of the barracks and head back to Dublin where he informed the government and offered his resignation. “I beg to tender my resignation as Commissioner of the Civic Guard. I do so with regret, but in the circumstances which have arisen I can see no other honourable course open”, it was refused. Collins, Duggan, and Staines, spent that night deciding what to do next. They decided that the Kildare camp would be split up and occupied by the Army. The next day Staines sent an Army force to the base to collect the arms stored there as he believed they would fall into the hands of the anti-treaty forces, at this point the IRA had split[Bra74].
A potential dangerous situation arose at the front gate of the barracks with both sides heavily armed. Superintendent Leddy approached Captain Dunne, of the army and managed to explain that the recruits in the base were loyal to the Government and this was not what the mutiny was about, Dunne accepted this and returned to Dublin, avoiding a bloodbath.[Bra74].
A few days later Commandant Joe Ring and the Mayo men followed Staines to Dublin. During the summer of 1922 the unusual situation of two rival depots existed with new recruits presenting themselves to both Kildare, and to Joe Ring in Henry Street.
In Kildare the men’s committee handed over complete control to Superintendent Brennan on the 23th of May 1922, he continued as if nothing had happened. But as the weeks passed the pressure of boredom and no pay took its toll, and many left[McN99].
Things came to a head on the 17th June 1922, when Tom Daly of the men’s committee , left for Dublin with a number of well-armed men, on the pretext of collecting men that was on guard duty at Government buildings. He met with anti-treaty leaders Rory O’Conner, Ernie O’Malley, and Tom Barry. O’Conner told the guards that if they joined him they would be paid very soon. A few joined and the others were kept prisoner. These who joined returned with O’Conner to Kildare, using the password given by Daly, they gained entry and cleared out the armoury and headed back to the four courts. Three members of the men’s committee O’Brian, Daly, and Ryan were with them. This incident spurred the government into action, Griffith and Duggan visited Kildare the next day and offered a settlement. The men to be paid all money due, an inquiry set up, in the meantime all men suspended. The proposals were accepted and the mutiny was over[Bra74].
On the 27th of June 1922, Staines resumed charge of Kildare only visiting on occasion, making the necessary arrangements to pay the men. Shortly afterwards Joe Ring took command and discipline was tightened, with all arms and ammunition returned to storage[McN99].
5.5 Inquiry into the Mutiny
The inquiry took place on the 13th of July and was carried out by Kevin O’Sheil and Michael McAuliffe. It had three main aims, to discover the origin of the mutiny, to suggest disciplinary action if necessary, and to make recommendations for the future management of the force. Witnesses were heard from both sides and by August the commission had reached its conclusion. It concluded that a small group of anti-treaty sympathisers had manipulated the men and used the discontent already there to further their own cause. It was pointed out that the president of the men’s committee and five of its members out of fourteen had joined the Four Courts garrison[Bra74].
The government itself had miscalculated especially Staines and Collins. It armed a new force of young IRA men whose only experience of solving disputes was with a gun. Collins was satisfied with his choice of RIC men but failed to understand the full extent of the backlash that followed from the new recruits[Bra74].
Staines himself was not in touch with the new recruits, and this allowed Superintendent Brennan who was fully aware of the situation to manipulate the situation and eventually side with the men. The commission recommended that the Civic guard be disbanded and reformed with selective re –enrolment, that the vast majority be unarmed, in future politicians not to serve in the force. Consequently on the 18th August Staines resigned and the post was offered to Sean Ó Muirthile who declined, and general Eoin O’ Duffy became the new commissioner. After the mutiny Staines never recovered effective authority of the force, and resigned to comply with the inquiry’s commissions recommendation’s that all police personal should be divorced from politics, managing to save some face in doing so[McN99].
What was the thinking that led Collins and Staines to hold firm against a group of men they knew were loyal to the treaty and whose only quarrel was with ex RIC men. Staines believed that the mutineers were being manipulated by small anti-treaty elements deliberately planted in the ranks, and Collins accepted this. Later the inquiry into the mutiny concluded that such a plot was real and did exist.[McN99].
Michael Joseph Staines remained in office, completing the ground work in the organisation of the new police force. On the day he left office, September 9th, he issued instructions to the Civic Guard defining its role as a moral force in Irish Society[Bra74].
“The Civic Guard unlike other Police Forces will necessarily depend for the successful performance of their duties not on arms or numbers but on the moral force they exercise as servants, representatives of a civic authority which is dependent for its existence on the free will of the people”[McN99].
5.6 Staines later life
After successfully contesting elections for Sinn Fein he found it very difficult to get elected with Fine Gael in the new Free State Government. He saved his Dáil seat in 1922 In Dublin North West despite a bitter poster campaign launched against him by Republicans. He did not contest the 1923 election, but remained on Dublin Corporation and acted as chairman of the committee of Grange Gorman Hospital. He became a senator in 1930 and tried without success for a Dáil seat with Fine Gael in Dublin North West in 1937, 1938, and 1943[Fee15].
It is difficult to understand why Staines was so unsuccessful in his later, both in work and in politics. Perhaps he was a man suited to the unusual war time situation he found himself in. Others like Ernie O'Malley also ended up in difficult circumstances. Within weeks of his resignation as Garda Commissioner, his two greatest allies, Collins, and Ring, were killed in the civil war, As time went on the new Government and public began distance themselves more and more from people like Staines and other hard men from the free state army who were now becoming a liability and seen as divisive figures in a country moving nearer and nearer to a proper western style democracy.
These factors and the difficulty’s that faced him in the more left wing working class, Dublin North West constituency that he stood for election in made it very difficult for him. He stood in 1937, 1938 and 1943 in all cases he was heavily defeated, getting less than 6% of the vote.
His qualities may have suited the more turbulent times of the troubles, more so than in a calm democracy, some of his critics says he was an idealist and not a natural politician, not suited to the mundane day to day work that a politician has to do[Yat11].
Evidence of this is when he recalls his time in a similar situation, representing volunteers for compensation from the National Aid Association, he recalls:
“After the election I was kept busy with the National Aid Association. I remember being present at a number of Volunteer Conventions in Barry's Hotel in 1917, but I did not take much interest in the proceedings and do not remember decisions reached” [Sta55].
He was also the owner of the Central Wholesale Warehouse, Dublin. But this business failed. He was out of regular employment for a period of time. According to a Garda report of 1938 he was described as “A man who lives above his means". In 1939 his old friends in Fine Gael organised a collection to assist him, and in 1941 he got employment as a clerk with the Great Southern Railway. He died at his home, 8 Castle road Clontarf Dublin on 27thOctober 1955.He married Sheila Cullen in 1922 and they had nine children[Fee15].
Chapter 6: Conclusion
Michael Staines is best known for his role as the First Garda commissioner. However his contribution to the founding of the new state is much greater than that including the role he played in politics from before the 1916 rising, as well as all the other important function’s he performed in his role with Sinn Fein in the formation of the new state, and also with the Fine Gael party in the 20’s and 30’s when the first green shoots of democracy were struggling to survive.
He was an idealist with strong nationalistic views born into a country at a time of rapid change. His early involvement in the Gaelic League soon developed into a militant role. While the majority of the people of his generation compromised and sided with Redmond in the lead up to the First World War, Staines sided with the minority when the volunteers split. He became part of a small nucleus of idealist’s and revolutionaries that wanted break the link with Britain.
Apart from giving full commitment to the cause he was also a capable leader and organiser and quickly became quarter master. He fought in the GPO and was part of the first wave of freedom fighters, where he met and made strong friendships with people like Collins and De Valera who would become important allies later on.
[Mic151] Figure 15 Photograph of Staines in Later life
No doubt he had great organisation and leader ship skills and as leader of the prisoners at Frongoch, W.J. Brennan-Whitmore described Staines as: “a highly efficient officer who earned the respect of every individual prisoner. No doubt Staines was well capable of leading the ordinary men who was willing to accept his authority like in Frongoch, these prisoners were described by Charles Townsend in his book as mostly harmless men, who looked up to people like Staines.
Some contemporises of Staines might suggest that he was promoted very quickly and not on ability alone, but mainly from his connections with important people like Pearce, and the important position he held in Henshaws, Ironmongers, where he was able to order and organise arms in the lead up to the rising.
Later on during the war of independence as GPO veteran with close links with Collins, and De Valera, would have elevated his position: particularly to a new generation of young Sinn Fein members down the country, who he worked alongside. He was also fortunate to have a very capable associate in Joe Ring who was in charge of the Carrowkennedy ambush in Mayo. Joe was well respected by both republicans and British alike and was of immense help to Staines especially during his period as liaison officer in Galway, and during the Kildare mutiny.
Staines used his contacts and alliances well, during his time as liaison officer in Galway in his dealings with Cruise the leader of the British forces he says "cruise was afraid of me; he believed that I had direct contact with Lloyd George through Collins, I let him believe this”[Sta55].
When he was appointed as the First commissioner of the Garda Mulcahy described him as “the natural choice” However his leadership of the new recruits proved more difficult than in Frongoch. The appointments of RIC District Inspectors Patrick Walsh and John Kearney by Staines with the approval of Collins were to prove hugely controversial and sow the seeds for the mutiny. But as commissioner it happened under his watch, he lost control of the situation and ultimately was held responsible, the recommendations of the inquiry allowed him to resign saving some face.
Another notable difference between Staines and other politician/business men is that the vast majority are not idealists by nature, and succeed in business first and then enter politics later, usually being able to give time and funding to the campaign. Staines was the opposite first gaining success as an idealist and politician in wartime, and then attempting to build up a business and to succeed as a politician in difficult circumstances. This would prove a very difficult task, to match the success of his early life .In the end he worked as a clerk with the Great Southern Railway[Fee15].
Figure 16 Staines final resting place[Fin15]
Gar14: , (Garda Museum, 2014),
Col15: , (Staines,M, 1955),
Pri13: , (Price, 2013),
Pri13: , (Price, 2013),
Fos14: , (Foster, 2014),
Ton15: , (Tobin, 1954),
Yat11: , (Yates, 2011),
McG11: , (McGarry, 2011),
Tow05: , (Townshend, 2005),
Sea15: , (Anon., 2015),
Bre14: , (Brennan, 2014),
Don15: , (Donnelly, 2015),
Sta55: , (Staines, 1955),
Sta55: , (Staines, 1955),
Col15: , (Staines,M, 1955),
Tow05: , (Townshend, 2005),
Placeholder1: , (Plunkett, 1917),
Lon15: , (McGuinness, 1917),
1720: , ( Oireachtas Members Database, Longford by Election 1917),
McD03: , (Mc Donnel, 2003),
eas15: , ( Oireachtas Members Database, 1917),
lea15: , (Leaflets from Clare By Electiion, 1917),
Fra55: , (Thornton, 1955),
19114: , (Word Press, 2014),
iri07: , (McMAHON, 2007),
StM15: , (Elections Ireland.org, 2014),
Diras: , (House of the Oireachtas, 2007),
Mic152: , (Mayo County Libary, 2015),
Mic152: , (Mayo County Libary, 2015),
Mic15: , (Elections Ireland.org, 2014),
bel14: , (Anon., 2014),
Par04: , (Parkinson, 2004),
Fee15: , (Feeney, 2010),
McC13: , (McCarthy, 2013),
Gar14: , (Garda Museum, 2014),
Bra74: , (Brady, 1974),
Bra74: , (Brady, 1974),
McN99: , (McNiffe, 1999),
Mic151: , (Irish Times, 2010),
Fin15: , (Final Journey, 2007),
Figure 17 1901 Census of Ireland of the Staines Family
Figure 18 1901 Census of Ireland showing Edward Staines, Father of Micheal RIC man in Ballaghaderreen
Figure 19 1911 Census of Ireland showing the Staines Family in Dublin