One of Michael Collins’s most trusted aides, Seán Hyde, was a determined gunman

Successful plot to kill the Royal Irish Constabulary commissioner outlined by Hyde

Auxiliaries  talk to a postman with a GPO mail cart in Dublin. The Auxiliaries were reinforcements for the Royal Irish Constabulary, after the initial recruitment of the Black and Tans. Photograph: Walshe/Getty Images

Auxiliaries talk to a postman with a GPO mail cart in Dublin. The Auxiliaries were reinforcements for the Royal Irish Constabulary, after the initial recruitment of the Black and Tans. Photograph: Walshe/Getty Images

 

A vivid insight into the intelligence war in Dublin between the IRA and the British in 1919 and 1920 is provided in the military service pension claim of Seán Hyde, a close associate of Michael Collins.

Born in Cork in 1900, Hyde claimed to have been active in 1916 and was interned briefly after the Rising.

In 1917 he joined Michael Collins’s staff in the Irish Volunteers general headquarters becoming involved in organisational work and generally assisting Collins.

From 1918 onwards he became increasingly involved in intelligence work. He helped to ensure that volunteers released from Mountjoy were not quickly rearrested and also participated in a ruse that enabled the IRA to obtain weapons from the residence of the assistant provost marshall of the RAF on Haddington Road.

Hunting the hunter

While living quarters were being prepared for Redmond in Dublin Castle, he stayed at the Standard Hotel on Harcourt Street and was escorted to and from the Castle by two detectives. Hyde was sent to track his movements.

“On the Sunday morning I picked up Redmond at his hotel, had several good looks at him from several angles, and also discovered his room was number 12. Furthermore I overheard him say he would be back for dinner.

“I reported to Michael Collins at lunch and had a shooting party at my disposal that evening.

“One thing and then another upset the actual shooting for a few days but eventually we got him at the door of 91 Harcourt Street on the Wednesday evening when on his way up to the Standard.”

During 1920 the authorities began to counter IRA activity. “The first really big shock we got was in the spring of 1920 and in the form of a most formidable enemy intelligence service being at the time established throughout Dublin,” wrote Hyde.

He recorded how a British officer called Aglish or McMahon and two other agents, Connolly and Peel, lived at 22 Lower Mount Street and he arranged to get digs next door at number 23.

Bloody Sunday

“I met the shooting party on the Saturday night supplied them with all the details of the house 22, gave them the exact location of Aglish’s room in which Connolly slept, Peel’s room and wished them better luck than we had previously.

“A whole book could be written about the battle the next morning but sufficient to say that Aglish was shot dead. Why Connolly was left alive in his room I could never understand and Peel succeeded in barricading his door sufficiently to hold off our men until the auxiliaries reinforcements appeared outside when our lads had to turn and fight their way out.”

Transferred to Cork

After the Treaty he became an assistant to Eoin O’Duffy and was wounded in any ambush by anti-Treaty forces in February 1922.

When he recovered from his wounds he switched sides and became involved in the Civil War on the anti-Treaty side and was present at the last major action of the conflict when the republican leader, Liam Lynch, was killed in an engagement with the National Army on April 10th, 1923.