Saturday 20 July 2019

Mitchelstown to honour Liam Tobin's legacy

Events to recall Tobin's contribution during Irish War of Independence

Major General Liam Tobin at the funeral of Michael Collins
Major General Liam Tobin at the funeral of Michael Collins

Bill Browne

The life and legacy of one of the most pivotal figures of the Irish War of Independence will be remembered with two events taking place in Mitchelstown next Wednesday.

During the day a plaque will be unveiled at Glenahulla National School, honouring the memory of Major General Liam Tobin, whose father was from Cloghleafin and whose family home was situated less than a kilometre from the site of the school. 

The erection of the bronze plaque has been organised by local historian Bill Power, Archdeacon Gerard Casey (retired parish priest of Mallow and native of Mitchelstown) and Dr Gabriel Doherty of UCC, in association with the Tobin family and school principal Padraig Fitzgerald. 

Later on that evening, a public lecture will take place at 8pm in the Town Hall on Thomas Street at 8pm, to coincide with the centenary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann the following day.

Entitled 'Liam Tobin and the Intelligence War In Ireland (1919-1921)', it will be delivered by Dr Doherty, a specialist in the Irish revolutionary period and the co-ordinator of a programme devised by the University's School of History to commemorate events of the time. 

He has also served as the historical advisor to the Oireachtas on events being held to mark the Dáil Éireann centenary.  A fascinating character, Liam Tobin was the Deputy Director of Intelligence under Michael Collins during the War of Independence and led the secret unit known as 'The Twelve Apostles'. 

The unit assembled detailed profiles of everyone remotely connected with the British Government and was responsible for the selection and assassination of British soldiers, informants, RIC members and operatives of the British intelligence service, MI5. 

In October 1921, Tobin travelled with the Irish Treaty delegation to London as part of Michael Collins personal staff and subsequently the Free State soldiers that took over Fermoy after it was abandoned by Republicans in the Civil War, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. 

Based on intelligence information received in Fermoy, Tobin dispatched  troops to Lismore Castle where a fire-fight ensued with the Republicans. This ultimately saved Lismore Castle from the same fate as Mitchelstown Castle, and dozens of other buildings which had been looted and burned by Republicans a few days later. After Collins was killed in August 1922, Tobin was chief pallbearer of Collins' coffin through Cork and afterwards to Glasnevin Cemetery. 

He was appointed to succeed Collins as Director of Intelligence and later  became Aide-de-Camp to the new Governor General, Tim Healy. However, at the end of the Civil War in 1923, Tobin became deeply disillusioned with the new Free State government and after repairing his relationship with Éamon de Valera joined the newly formed Fianna Fáil party.

In the 1930's he helped form the Irish Hospital's sweepstake and served as the Superintendent of the Oireachtas from 1940 to 1959. He died in April 1963 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.