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John Minihan Papers

John Minihan (1890 – 1958) by Paul Minihan

War of Independence: Vice-Commandant 5th Battalion Clare Brigade; Adjutant 3rd Battalion, Mid Clare Brigade and Intelligence Officer Mid-Clare Brigade

Civil War: Quarter Master and Director of Special Services, 1st Western Division IRA

John Minihan was born in April 1890 at Ballykinacorra South, Corofin, Co. Clare. His parents James and Nora Minihan were butter merchants and publicans with a business premises beside Corofin West Clare Railway station. He was the eldest of four children. Both his sisters, Kathleen and Helen were involved in the War of Independence as members of Cumann-na-mBan. His brother Joe served with the 9th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers and later the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment on the Western Front.

John Minihan was one of a number of individuals who founded a branch of the Irish Volunteers in the Corofin district in 1914 under HJ Hunt. HJ Hunt was appointed Captain and he was appointed a Section Leader. He took the Oath of Loyalty to Ireland in November 1915, administered by Earnest Blythe. Volunteers in Corofin were like many across Ireland, prepared for military activity in Easter Week 1916 before countermanding orders were received. In 1917, under HJ Hunt, he helped establish the 5th Battalion, Clare Brigade. Following the East Clare by-Election, when Clare was declared a special area by General Head Quarters, HJ Hunt was appointed Commandant and John Minihan Vice-Commandant of the 5th Battalion Clare Brigade. He was also appointed special Brigade Intelligence Officer and organised an intelligence network with agents from amongst sympathetic RIC personnel and paid civilians. His business activities provided him with ongoing opportunities to interact with contacts within the RIC. He took command of the 5th Battalion following the arrest and imprisonment of HJ Hunt in 1917.

In August 1917, he was also arrested and tried by General Court Martial at Victoria Barracks Cork. He did not plead and refused to recognise the Court. He was sentenced to two years hard labour in Mountjoy Prison in C Wing with six other hard labour prisoners. They elected Thomas Ashe as their leader. The other non-hard labour republican prisoners were in D Wing under Austin Stack, Finian Lynch, Paddy Brennan and Michael Brennan. In pursuit of prisoner of war status, they engaged in a campaign of non cooperation and disruption. This ultimately resulted in all prisoners being transferred to C Wing and commencing a hunger strike on the 20th September, 1917. On the 25th September Thomas Ashe died as a result of force feeding. The hunger-strike ended on the 30th September when they were granted political prisoner status. Subsequently, he and his comrades were transferred to Dundalk. When the prison authorities reneged on their agreement concerning their status and treatment, they again went on hunger-strike from 13th to 19th November 1917. They were ultimately released under the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act, 1913, also known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’.

Immediately upon release, John Minihan resumed to his role within the 5th Battalion and strengthened the system of intelligence within his area. He again took command of the Battalion in 1920 while his O/C HJ Hunt was one more imprisoned.

When Clare was divided into three Brigades, he was appointed Adjutant 3rd Battalion, Mid-Clare Brigade on 9th February 1921, in addition to his position of special Brigade Intelligence Officer. He took command of the 3rd Battalion while his O/C Seán Casey was ill in June & July 1921. When the Active Service Units were formed, he became a member of the Mid-Clare ASU under Joseph Barrett and took part in many engagements, including: Monreal on 18th December 1920; Caherea, 19th January 1921 and O’Brien’s Castle, Carrahan, 12th February, 1921, as well as numerous other ambushes and sniping engagements.

Throughout the War of Independence, his intelligence activities were highly effective. He appointed agents who were unknown to each other to ensure the integrity and security of the network. Intelligence reports were submitted to Frank Barrett, O/C Mid Clare Brigade daily and twice daily. Successful intelligence operations included details of enemy movements, posts, numbers, personnel and equipment; advance knowledge of raids by the RIC and Auxiliaries for both arms and Volunteers; intelligence on enemy movements that formed the basis of numerous ambushes; information and scouting that supported the capture of Ruan RIC barracks, 18th October 1920. The first information that Director of Intelligence, Michael Collins had that General Tudor was on a tour of inspection of enemy posts in the south of Ireland in June 1921 was from one of his daily reports. He and his intelligence network captured on an ongoing basis incoming and outgoing mail and intercepted enemy communications along the West Clare Railway. These could not be deciphered however as they were coded.

At the end of hostilities in July 1921, through Frank Barrett Brigade O/C, John Minihan was highly commended for intelligence by the Director of Intelligence, Michael Collins. During the Truce, on orders of Michael Collins, he secured the British Army Secret Code from Commander Reynolds of the Auxiliaries, allowing British Army communiqués to be decoded.

In September 1921, he was O/C of a training camp for junior officers of the Mid-Clare Brigade at Ballinacally. He was one of two men selected from the Brigade to attend for training as officers of the 1st Western Division of the new army under General Michael Brennan in January 1922. He was offered but declined to accept a position as Adjutant for General Michael Brennan and instead took up the position of Quarter Master of the Ennistymon Group of barracks under Joseph Barrett. After leading a party of reinforcements that helped capture Renmore Barracks, Galway in April 1922, he was appointed Quarter Master, 1st Western Division IRA under Divisional O/C Frank Barrett on 3rd May 1922. He was also appointed Divisional Director of Special Services responsible for funds, facilities, munitions, engineering, medical services, transport and supplies. During the course of the Civil War, he had numerous incidents in which he had narrow escapes.

When the Civil War ended, he returned to running the family business at Corofin. On 22nd January 1930 he married Greta O’Loughlin, Kilvoydan, Corofin, a former member of Cumann-na-mBan. They had six children. Greta’s brother, Denis (Dinny) O’Loughlin was a prominent IRA member and was on hunger-strike in Wormworth Scrubs Prison. John Minihan died on the 17th March 1958 and buried with military honours by his former comrades. His obituary was written and signed by Sean O’Grady, Sean O’Keeffe and Joseph Barrett and published on 26th July 1958.

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