War of Independence veteran made State claim for cruise

General Seán Mac Eoin argued 1961 trip, worth €5,000 today, was to heal war wounds

General Mac Eoin said treatment  was described as “sun and more sun”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.

General Mac Eoin said treatment was described as “sun and more sun”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.


War of Independence veteran and Free State general Seán Mac Eoin unsuccessfully claimed for a Mediterranean cruise to help heal his war wounds, Military Service Pensions Collection files reveal.

Mac Eoin, known as the Blacksmith of Ballinalee, was one of the most prominent IRA commanders in the midlands during the War of Independence and was sentenced to death for the murder of an RIC inspector in March 1921. The sentence was later commuted.

Mac Eoin supported the Treaty side in the Civil War and rose to become chief of staff in the Free State Army. He later went on to become a Fine Gael TD and government minister.

Mac Eoin successfully claimed that the chronic bronchitis he suffered from in his later years was a result of a gunshot wound to the chest incurred in May 1921.

In July 1954, the Pensions Board stated that he was entitled to six weeks convalescence in a warm climate, either the south of France or the east coast of Spain. In correspondence Mac Eoin said treatment for his condition was described as “sun and more sun”.

Climatic treatment

Leonard Abrahamson

In 1961 Mac Eoin submitted an invoice for £181.7.0 (€5,000 today) for a Mediterranean cruise following a recurrence of a chest complaint.

The board turned it down on the basis that a cruise “can hardly be regarded as treatment in a hospital, nursing home or other like institution”.

Mac Eoin appealed unsuccessfully on the grounds that a cruise ship could be interpreted as a “like institution” under section 25 of the Army Pensions Act, 1927 and that it could be interpreted as “sun treatment”.

In addition, the request was turned down on the basis that Mac Eoin had gone on the cruise without official sanction.

He successfully claimed several times for treatment for chest complaints throughout the 1950s. However, in 1958 he was unsuccessful as the place he stayed in Malaga was not a clinic, but a holiday complex. The proprietor told the Pension Board they had been “badly informed if you were told that it functions as a clinic”.

Cheap option

His appeal was rejected on the lines that treatment could be only be paid for it if it was a “hospital, nursing home or other like institution”.

In 1959 the board found his stays abroad cost an average of £140 per annum, but they only reduced his disability pension from £335 to £308 per annum.

Eventually he got an ex-gratia payment for the cost of the cruise as part of an “entirely exceptional arrangement”.

In 1966 he unsuccessfully claimed for a stay in San Bernardino, California as part of his treatment.

Mac Eoin’s files were released along with those of 882 other veterans of the Irish rebellion last month as part of a release from the Military Pensions Archive Collection.