Irish lives

Sat, Jun 5, 2010, 01:00

Michael Noyek 1884-1966

MICHAEL NOYEK (NOYK), lawyer and republican activist, was born in Dublin, the son of Jewish immigrants (his father was from Kovno in Russia, his mother was from Berlin). He was educated at the High School and entered Trinity College Dublin as a sizar in Hebrew before winning a classics scholarship and graduating in 1907. He worked as a solicitor in Dublin for many years; his most celebrated legal work came in his defence of republican prisoners during the War of Independence and afterwards. He defended leading members of the IRA, including Seán Mac Eoin and Patrick Moran, who was executed for complicity in the shooting of British intelligence officers.

Noyek’s commitment to the republican cause extended beyond the law. He had subscribed in 1910 to a fund to build a house for Arthur Griffith and was the Sinn Féin president’s solicitor until Griffith’s death, in 1922. In the 1917 Clare East by-election he was a prominent worker for Éamon de Valera, and in the 1918 general election was election agent for Countess Markievicz and Seán T O’Kelly. He was later involved in renting houses and offices for ministries established under the first Dáil. During the War of Independence he regularly met Michael Collins in Devlin’s pub on Parnell Square and helped to run the republican courts.

Later, in 1950-51, he represented Ernie O’Malley in a case taken by O’Malley’s estranged wife to evict him from their home at Burrishoole. After the case was won, O’Malley held a huge banquet at the house. He was a founder member of the Association of Old Dublin Brigade and a member of the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee.

Noyek was a notable presence in Dublin social life in the decades after independence. Keenly interested in sport, he played soccer in his youth and was for many years the solicitor to Shamrock Rovers football club. He was also a prominent figure in racing circles.

He married Mabel Stein of Dublin, with whom he had four children, and lived for many years on Wellington Road, Dublin. He died at Lewisham Hospital in London. A huge crowd, including the then taoiseach, Seán Lemass, attended his funeral, and he was buried in Dolphin’s Barn cemetery. A portrait of Noyek by Seán O’Sullivan hangs in the National Gallery, and his papers are held in the National Library. His statement of record is kept at the Bureau of Military History in the Military Archives, Dublin.

Paul Rouse

Adapted from the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography. See dib.ie