Tuesday 17 July 2018

No adequate pension for woman who aided Collins

Cecile Gordon, project manager of the military pension project in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, with some of the released files. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Cecile Gordon, project manager of the military pension project in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, with some of the released files. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Ian Begley

She was the woman who collected intel for Michael Collins and helped Éamon de Valera avoid arrest on several occasions, but Annie Mary Smith failed to receive an adequate army pension.

The files of 1,442 individuals have been released following research by the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Project. The 600-plus files of women such as Ms Smith shine new light on female participation during Ireland's revolutionary period.

According to researcher Niamh McCarr, Ms Smith regularly passed on confidential information on the treatment of prisoners held in Dublin Castle, the habits of the police and how messages were getting in and out between government departments.

"During the Truce she was employed in Foreign Affairs in Kildare Street and kept the job during the Civil War even though she was on the anti-treaty side. When Foreign Affairs moved to Merrion Square she was left in sole charge, copied all the documents and secretly passed them onto her brother," said Ms McCarr. "According to a lot of references and files de Valera had several narrow escapes from arrest based on Annie's info."

She later joined the Citizen Defence Force as an infiltrator, but soon aroused suspicion. Annie was court-martialled twice and accused of being the source of leaks and was dismissed. The CDF was closed down shortly afterwards. "This shows how effective her work was," added Ms McCarr. "She essentially rendered them redundant."

However, Ms Smith received the lowest form of allowance in the pension scheme due to lack of evidence. "She had insufficient and inaccurate references. Those that did know her and could back up her claims were dead, such as Michael Collins."

A picture volunteers in the War of Independence from the files. Photo: Justin Farrelly
A picture volunteers in the War of Independence from the files. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Meanwhile, other files released have revealed how members of the IRA described how they were ordered to 'burn every house' and 'shoot everyone in sight' in one of the bloodiest atrocities during the War of Independence. New details of the Altnaveigh Massacre in 1922, in which six people died, have come to light following the release of the participants' records.

When applying for the pension scheme in 1940, participant James Marron said: "It was past time for us to get some of our own back… Our orders were to burn every house and shoot dead every male we could get."

Irish Independent

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