My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution is an in-depth biography of the often controversial and hitherto neglected figure and Free State leader. Featuring rare and unseen material from the family archive, this book is a marvellous insight into the man behind the uniform who played a major role in running the War of Independence.
Born in Waterford in 1886, Richard Mulcahy was a member of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Second-in-command to Thomas Ashe during the 1916 Rising, he was interned and on his release became commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. He was elected to the First Dáil in the 1918 general election. In March 1919 he became IRA chief of staff and along with Michael Collins was responsible for directing the military campaign against the British during the War of Independence.
Heretofore his role has been overshadowed by the almost exclusive attention to Collins. Mulcahy supported the Treaty and became commander of the Provisional Government’s military forces during the subsequent Civil War. His order to execute anti-Treaty activists found carrying guns made him a figure of controversy during the Civil War when a total of 77 anti-Treaty prisoners were executed by the Provisional Government.
Despite the Free State government’s mandate being renewed in the following election, Mulcahy’s perceived severity during the Civil War was later to prove a stumbling block to his elevation as Taoiseach of the first Inter-Party government in 1948. But Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside, allowing John A. Costello to become Taoiseach of a coalition which, as leader of Fine Gael, Mulcahy had skillfully organised.
Drawing on the official Mulcahy archive as well as family and personal recollections and material, My Father, the General is an in-depth portrait of a dedicated and principled patriot, soldier and politician.
In today’s era of cynicism — albeit occasionally justified — towards politicians, Richard Mulcahy’s story is characterised almost entirely as the inspiring ideal of public service, integrity and commitment to democracy.