• Part 1 of a 9-part series on the role played by ‘the Squad’ in the struggle for Irish freedom as outlined by the participants himself in written statements to the Bureau of Military History.
• The Squad was an IRA unit founded by Michael Collins to counter British intelligence efforts during the Irish War of Independence, mainly by means of assassination.
By Eamonn Duggan
The War of Independence has gone down in the annals of Ireland’s modern history as a period when many young men and women fearlessly took on the might of the British Empire. Their sole aim was to achieve independence for Ireland and, across the country, they inflicted damage on the forces of the Crown, mainly through well planned attacks and ambushes, often in very remote rural areas.
In Dublin, the British Intelligence Service and members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police force were also targeted and the confrontations which took place, mostly on the streets of the city, left many individuals dead and injured.
The war against the British Intelligence Service in the city was mainly prosecuted by a group of young men, hand picked by Michael Collins and his Intelligence Unit, and their remit was to seek out and execute British agents who were in Dublin at that time.
The fearless young men were, eventually, moulded into a formidable unit which became known as ‘the Squad’. In later years many of its members answered Oscar Traynor’s call to put down on paper their recollections from the revolutionary era and submit them to the Bureau of Military History where they could be preserved for posterity.
Their statements now provide us with incontrovertible evidence of the work carried out by the Squad and are fine testaments to the bravery and commitment of the individuals who made up that legendary group.
I have recently carried out a detailed analysis of the statements made by the Squad members and over the coming weeks I will share with the readers some of their many extraordinary stories from that tumultuous time in Ireland’s modern history.
The first statement is that of James (Jimmy) Slattery who became a Colonel in the National Army after independence. Slattery, joined the Volunteers in May, 1914 and participated in the Howth gun landing on 26 July, 1914. He took part in the Easter Rising, spending the week in Jacobs Biscuit factory under the command of Thomas MacDonagh.
When the order came to surrender, his column marched out under the command of Jimmy Shields into Bride Street where they grounded their arms. He was later deported to Knutsford Prison in Cheshire where, after some weeks, he was transferred to the prison camp in Frongoch and he remained there until his release near the end of the year.