Secret police files relating to Easter Rising released

Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) obsessively monitored future rebels

Secret police files detailing the extent of surveillance on the leaders of the Easter Rising have been made available to the public for the first time.

The daily files were compiled by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) which went to great lengths to monitor the movements of men including future Proclamation signatories Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada and Thomas MacDonagh, Professor Eoin MacNeill and Bulmer Hobson among 230 people who they targeted.

The files have been in the National Archives for the past century and have only been available on request to specialist scholars. Now they have been digitised and released on the internet for the first time from Monday, June 1st.

They were compiled for the chief secretary’s office crime branch and the dispatches were entitled - “movement of extremists”.


The police were obsessive in monitoring the comings and goings of those they suspected of plotting sedition. “J.J Walsh left 37 Haddington Road at 11.30am and proceeded to McArthurs House Agents, 79 Talbot Street where he remained for 20 minutes. He afterwards inspected a vacant shop at 20 Blessinggton Street,” went one report which detailed all Walsh’s movements on June 1st, 1915.

The files will be released in chronological order according to what happened on each day 100 years ago.

The file for June 1st, 1915 notes that Prof MacNeill, the founder of the Irish Volunteers and the man who countermanded the order for the Rising on Easter Sunday, was seen visiting Thomas Clarke at his shop in 75 Parnell Street. Others observed entering Clarke's shop included the future President of Ireland Sean T O'Ceallaigh (then known as John T Kelly) and Frank Fahy who was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising. It was commuted to 10 years in jail.

The files observed that Ernest Blythe, the future Minister for Finance and managing director of the Abbey Theatre, returned to Killarney from Dublin that evening. It concluded: "R.I.C informed".

Bulmer Hobson, a leading figure in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), is also listed in the files entering the Irish Volunteer office in Dawson Street between 4pm and 5pm.

Despite all the surveillance by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), the Rising, when it happened, was regarded as a massive failure of intelligence.

As a result the long-serving chief secretary to Ireland Augustine Burrell resigned in the weeks after the Rising having been blamed for not foreseeing the rebellion.

The DMP had a particular interest in Clarke, the veteran republican who had served time in jail in England and who was the main instigator of the Rising through the IRB. He crops up in nearly every report.

Major events which took place in 1915 and 1916 were also under close surveillance. The files include references to the funeral of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa in August 1915 when Padraig Pearse made his famous "the fools, the fools, the fools" speech and the annual convention of the Irish Volunteers. Anti-recruitment and conscription rallies were also carefully monitored.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said the release of the files is part of a number of digitisation projects taking place as part of Ireland 2016, the Government's commemoration programme for the Easter Rising centenary.

Director of the National Archives John McDonough said the chronological release of material will allow visitors to the national archives website to track the movements of those involved in the Rising in the months leading up April 1916. “People will be able to read how key players were identified, followed, and put under surveillance, and read the thoughts of the detectives tracking them.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times