Chief Supt Ned Coogan’s plea for justice after 1941 Garda purge

State Papers 2016: Father of historian Tim Pat Coogan one of nine gardaí forcibly retired


A purge of senior gardaí by Eamon de Valera’s government in 1941 prompted an impassioned plea for justice from Eamonn (Ned) Coogan, father of the writer and historian Tim Pat Coogan.

At that stage Coogan (45) was one of six chief superintendents and three superintendents who were forcibly retired for allegedly bringing the force into disrepute through various breaches of discipline.

The files on the affair have finally been released in the National Archives 75 years after the events they detail. The file outlines the misdemeanours of a number of the senior gardaí being retired but no reason is give for Coogan’s forced departure.

He had been sacked as deputy garda commissioner in 1936 following an altercation with the general manager of the Irish Press but he remained in the force and held the rank of chief superintendent until he was forced to retire in 1941.

Strong exception

In a memo to the government dated July 9th, 1941, Coogan took strong exception to the way he had been told by the commissioner in a letter that “in his opinion it is in the interests of the efficiency of the force that I should retire”.

Coogan’s request for a meeting with the commissioner was refused as was a request for the grounds on which it was proposed to certify him as incompetent.

“I then asked him to give me some inkling of the nature of any complaints or charges made against me and he would not. I requested to know if a statement in my defence would be considered and he told me no statement which I would make would alter his decision.”

Coogan asked the assistant commissioner in charge of discipline if he knew anything about the matter and he said he did not but was acting on the commissioner’s instructions.

“I have to complain about this harsh and unconscionable treatment. Even criminals are informed of the nature of the charges and the evidence against them. I have therefore to make out my defence in almost complete ignorance of what is alleged against me.

“Indeed, it would seem that whatever allegations have been made are accepted at their face value without investigation and that the fundamental principle of law – omnia praesumuntur pro negante – that a man accused of a crime or offence shall be presumed innocent until he has been proved guilty has been abandoned in my case.”

Performed duties

Coogan then went on to give a detailed account of his services beginning with how he had performed his duties since the Harrington Inquiry of 1936 which had removed him as deputy commissioner.

He also gave an account of his tenure as deputy commissioner on the foundation of the force in 1922 and the fact that he had for long periods being acting commissioner in the absence of Eoin O’Duffy. He also outlined his record during the War of Independence.

“I am not going to plead that I am either a winged angel or a paragon of any of the virtues. I am quite frankly not. I cannot afford to cast a stone at any man no more than can any of those who are literally stoning me so mercilessly.”

He went on to stay that he did not wish to remain in the gardaí now whatever happened. “I believe I can make a successful career at the Bar but I want to be permitted to go on honourable resignation.”

Coogan asked to be allowed to resign a day after the other officers being compulsorily retired and that he be given a pension commensurate with his Dáil and Garda service.

“I want this particularly to enable me to rehabilitate myself in civil life and to begin my career at the Bar under the more favourable auspices which my resignation would permit.”

He also asked the Government to do him and the other compulsorily retired gardaí the favour of censoring all publicity in the press or radio about their retirement so that they could have a chance of rehabilitating themselves in civil life.

“In conclusion I wish to tender my most sincere regret for any trouble I have given and to subscribe this statement as a loyal servant of the State whose interest and welfare I have always had and shall always have at heart.”

Following his departure from the gardaí in the summer of 1941, Coogan practiced as a barrister. He was elected as a Fine Gael TD for Carlow Kilkenny in 1944 but died during the 1948 election campaign at the age of 53.