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Seán Mac Eoin
Sean MacEoin.jpg
Mac Eoin, Studio Photo, circa 1917
Allegiance Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Volunteers
Irish Republican Army
Irish Free State Army
Battles/wars Irish War of Independence
Irish Civil War


Seán Mac Eoin (30 September 1893 – 7 July 1973[1]) was an Irish Fine Gael politician and soldier. He was commonly referred to as the "Blacksmith of Ballinalee".[2]

Contents

Early life

Seán Mac Eoin was born in Ballinalee, County Longford, Ireland in 1893.[3] He worked as a blacksmith.

IRA leader

He came to prominence in the War of Independence as leader of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) flying column. In November 1920, he led the local column in attacking Crown forces in Granard during one of the periodic government reprisals, forcing them to retreat to their barracks. The next day, he held the village of Ballinalee against superior British forces, forcing them to retreat and abandon their ammunition.

At the Clonfin ambush Mac Eoin ordered his men to care for the wounded British, at the expense of captured weaponry. This earnt him both praise and criticism, but became a big propaganda boost for the war effort, especially in the United States.[4] He was admired by many within the IRA for leading practically the only effective column in the midlands.

He was captured at Mullingar railway station in March 1921, imprisoned and sentenced to death for the murder of an RIC Inspector.[1] According to Oliver Gogarty, Charles Bewley wrote Seán's death-sentence speech. While in prison Michael Collins organised a rescue attempt. Six IRA Volunteers, led by Paddy O'Daly, captured a British armoured car and, wearing British army uniforms, gained access to Mountjoy Jail. However, Mac Eoin was not in the part of the jail they believed, and after some shooting, the rescue party retreated.[3]

Within days, Mac Eoin was elected to Dáil Éireann in the general election of May 1921, as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Longford–Westmeath.[5]

Mac Eoin was eventually released from prison after Collins threatened to break off treaty negotiations with London unless he was freed (It was rumoured that Sean Mac Eoin was to be the best man at Collins' wedding).[3]

Treaty and Civil War

In the debate on the Anglo-Irish Treaty Mac Eoin seconded Arthur Griffith's motion that it should be accepted.[1]

Mac Eoin joined the Irish Free State's Irish Army as a senior officer in charge of the Midland Division. In the Irish Civil War, he pacified the west of Ireland for the new Free State, marching overland to Castlebar and linking up with a seaborne expedition that landed at Westport. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army in February 1929.[1]

Political career

In 1929 he resigned from the Army and was elected to Dáil Éireann, again as a TD for Longford–Westmeath.[1][5] From 1948 to 1951 he served as Minister for Justice, and from 1954 to 1957 he was appointed Minister for Defence.[1] Mac Eoin stood unsuccessfully as Fine Gael candidate for the Presidency in 1945 and 1959.[2][5] Mac Eoin retired from politics in 1965, and died in Dublin on 7 July 1973.[1] He is buried in St. Emers Cemetery, Ballinalee.

House controversey

There is currently a controversial plan to demolish his home, Rose Cottage in Balinalee, County Longford and replace it with ten houses. This house served as his headquarters during the Battle of Balinalee in 1920. The plan is facing local opposition from historical groups and residents.[6]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "MacEOIN, GENERAL SEÁN". University College Dublin. http://www.ucd.ie/archives/html/collections/maceoin-sean.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-20.  
  2. ^ a b "The Old Country". TIME. 1959-06-29. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,864657-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-20.  
  3. ^ a b c Coogan, Tim (1991). Michael Collins. Arrow Books. pp. 179–181. ISBN 0-09-968580-9.  
  4. ^ O'Farrel, Padraic (1981). The Seán Mac Eoin Story. Mercier Press. pp. 28–45. ISBN 0853426643.  
  5. ^ a b c "Elections Ireland: General Seán Mac Eoin". ElectionsIreland.org. http://electionsireland.org/candidate.cfm?ID=1805. Retrieved 2007-06-20.  
  6. ^ "Objection to plans for historic house". longfordtoday.net . http://www.longfordtoday.net/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=2627&ArticleID=3113073. Retrieved 2007-08-15.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Gerald Boland
Minister for Justice
February 1948–March 1951
Succeeded by
Daniel Morrissey
Preceded by
Thomas F. O'Higgins
Minister for Defence
March 1951–Jun 1951
Succeeded by
Oscar Traynor
Preceded by
Oscar Traynor
Minister for Defence
June 1954–March 1957
Succeeded by
Kevin Boland
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