Here is an interesting thing…well almost.
Consider the domestic scene in suburban Dublin in the 1960s. An elderly gent hears the postman drop the mail thru the letterbox. He picks up the bank statement, the phone bill and finds a postcard from Rome and he brings the postcard into the kitchen where his wife is making breakfast. Kinda exotic to get a postcard from Rome in the 1960s…even for an affluent Dublin family.
But here is the (almost) interesting thing. The elderly gent is General Richard Mulcahy. He fought at Ashbourne in County Meath during the Easter Rising of 1916….a victory for the Rebels. He was imprisoned for his part. He was Michael Collins second-in-command during the War of Independence. He was Minister for Defence during the Civil War. He commanded the Free State Army.
An pro-Treaty Man. An Army Man.
And he would issue an order which stated that any anti-Treaty volunteer found carrying a weapon would be liable to execution. An Order that would lead to the executions of about sixty-five volunteers (many of them old comrades who had fought alongside him from 1916-1922).
And he might be considered to have been responsible for a legacy of bitterness which was still enduring in the 1960s when the post,an delivered the postcard from Rome.A figure of Hate to a generation of Fianna Fail people. And perhaps…to northern republicans the very personification of Fine Gael treachery. “Take It Down From The Mast Irish Traitors” as they/we might say.
Richard Mulcahy became a politician. And actually Leader of Fine Gael in the 1940s But was never Taoiseach. After the 1948 Election, a coalition government was formed but Mulcahy never led it…although still leading his Party. This has always intrigued me. The Irish Army … The Defence Forces are I think an Irish success story. Its role…post-1924 in staying out of politics as The Free State embraced Democracy cannot be over-stated. But I wonder if that had any bearing on Mulcahy standing aside for John A Costelloe in 1948.
Or…alternatively was Mulcahys bloodstained past too much for Sean MacBride, the former IRA leader who would have had difficulty serving under him.
Either way, it was a good thing for the Nation itself that Mulcahy was never Taoiseach.
Those transition years were difficult, post-Civil War. I would not underestimate the legacy of bitterness.Nor would I under-estimate the genuine effort to put it all firmly in the Past. For people like Mulcahy, De Valera, Cosgove, Aitken…it must have been difficult.
And yet they made a Nation…(almost?)
And the personal friendships, personal animosities were part of it all.
Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha, Erskine Childers were among those who did not see how it ended.
Like Mrs Richard Mulcahy, wife of a Fine Gael leader who had TWO sisters married to Sean T O’Kelly, the Fianna Fail President.
Richard Mulcahy died in 1971.
That postcard from Rome ended up in a Dublin street market and I bought it about twenty years ago. Postcards, especially from the Golden Age (1900-1920) are fascinating sources. Whether for postmarks (Irish place names in English), “old” names like Maryborough or Kingstown, interesting messages sent by maiden ladies or Royal Irish Constabulary members (both eager correspondents) and in the case of the Mulcahy postcard, the interesting feature is the addressee.