New files covering revolutionary years released

Brigade activity reports of the IRA have been digitised and put online

Image of an IRA brigade from the military archives. Brigade activity reports have been digitised and are available online.

Image of an IRA brigade from the military archives. Brigade activity reports have been digitised and are available online.


Newly released files covering the revolutionary period between 1916 and 1923 will “contribute hugely to our understanding of the circumstances and social history of people of that period”, the Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe has said.

The brigade activity reports (BAR) of the IRA have been digitised and put online. They will be launched at a conference in Cathal Brugha Barracks Rathmines on Saturday morning.

The reports were set up to record every action by IRA volunteers in every parish and village in the country.

They are the second major release from the Military Service Pensions Collection (MSPC) during the decade of centenaries. The other has been the release over the last five years of the individual files of thousands of those involved in the Irish revolution.

The brigade activity reports (BAR) amount to 151 files consisting of thousands of documents along with more than 400 maps. They cover every IRA brigade in the country in all 32 counties.

The majority of the files relate to the War of Independence, but a number also cover the Easter Rising and Civil War. In thousands of cases, they list the personnel who took part in different actions.

Mr Kehoe said they provide a “window on every parish and townland at that critical time in Irish history thereby enhancing our understanding, and that of future generations, of the activities of these people whose courage and idealism inspired a nation during a defining period in Irish history”.

In the 1930s the Fianna Fáil Government received more than 50,000 applications for pensions under the 1934 Military Services Pension Act.

A referee and advisory committee was set up to handle such an enormous amount of applications. The purpose of the brigade activity reports was to provide independent verification for claims of service by individual involved in the revolutionary period.

Brigade committees were set up in every county to provide a definitive record of who took part in different actions. The committees were tasked with providing a detailed list of those who participated in their areas down to the company level.

The reports record the personnel who took part in major ambushes such as Kilmichael and Soloheadbeg, but also those involved in the more mundane work of scouting, road blocking and carrying dispatches.

Comprehensive figures

The process took 10 years and together the brigade activity reports provide a hugely detailed accounts of almost every action which took place in those years, though the level of details differ from one brigade report to another.

They have yielded a comprehensive figure for the number of IRA volunteers killed in the War of Independence. They list 404 IRA men killed between 1919 and 1921 in combat.

The figure is derived from the number of dependents who made an application under the Army Pensions Act or those applying posthumously for a service (1917-1921) medal. It does not include those who died of natural causes.

The first IRA volunteer to die is listed as Daniel Joseph McGandy from Derry city who was killed on January 20th, 1919, a day before the Soloheadbeg ambush. He was found drowned in the River Foyle. His father claimed he had been attacked by Crown forces who had drugged him and thrown his body into the river.

The last recorded fatality is Michael McManamon from Newport, Co Mayo, who died in hospital on December 17th, 1921, 10 days after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. His family suggested he died of consumption as a result of ill-treatment in jail before the truce of July 1921.

The IRA’s roll of honour numbers 561 who died during this period, but not all of them died in combat. The Dead of the Irish Revolution project compiled by Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) lists 467 IRA men who died.