21 Jan 2022

Talk to focus on famous spy who grew up on the Offaly border


Ned Broy as played by Stephen Rea in Michael Collins

Spies, Rebels and Informers 2 is a free online event taking place on Saturday, December 4 and featuring a presentation by historian Seamus Purcell on Ned Broy - The Spy from Rathangan who was born in 1887 and grew up on the Kildare Offaly border.

Broy, who was played by Stephen Rea in Neil Jordan's film on Michael Collins,  did not meet the same fate as his fictional counterpart but he was found out by British intelligence, and spent five months in solitary confinement in Arbour Hill on 56 charges of High Treason.

Collins threw some doubt on the British case against Broy by persuading another detective in G Division to flee from Ireland.

When Broy was released on July 12, Michael Collins was waiting outside the gates of Arbour Hill Prison for him with a parcel containing a new suit of clothes. Not long afterwards, Broy accompanied Collins to London for the Treaty negotiations acting as his Private Secretary, and ensuring Collins’s security.

Broy acquired an aircraft - ‘the big fella’ – in case the talks broke down and Collins needed to make a quick exit from London. Seamus Cullen's research reveals that Broy was far more important to Collins than was previously thought and in addition to passing on vital intelligence, he also helped shape Collins's counterintelligence strategy, becoming a key player in the network of spies who provided Collins and the IRA with vital intelligence.

Although his name is inextricably linked with the notorious ‘Broy Harriers’ – it is worth bearing in mind that De Valera chose Broy to serve as Garda Commissioner at a time when Civil War tensions threatened to spiral out of control: and that Broy was trusted by both Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera.

Brian Hand, a grandson of Liam Tobin will focus on the post conflict careers of Liam Tobin and Joe MacGrath in a presentation entitled Once an Intelligence Officer always an Intelligence Officer. Liz Gillis, Historian and researcher with RTEs History Show, will focus on   Women in the Intelligence War. Although women were central to the intelligence war their contribution has often been overlooked. Far too many accounts of the intelligence war render women invisible, obscuring their contributions and the risks they took; yet without them the intelligence war could not have succeeded.

For further information and to book a place see Creative Rathangan Meitheal Facebook Page or go to Eventbrite.

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