Michael Collins' The Squad was founded on September 19, 1919, changing the course of Irish history and freedom. 

A century ago a meeting occurred that would change the destiny of Ireland. Lessons learned from the military disaster of the 1916 Easter Rising cemented the belief that whoever controlled Dublin, controlled the country.

That mantra became the guiding force behind Michael Collins and his intelligence agents. By killing the spies that infiltrated Dublin city and its organizations, Collins’s squad cut off the source of “inside information” and forced the British to fly blind against an ever-growing and ever-effective IRA.

September 19, 1919 

At a meeting at 46 Parnell Square—the home of the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League—The Squad (an assassination team accountable only to Michael Collins) was formed. Those present were Paddy O’Daly, Dick McKee, Mick McDonnell, Joe Leonard, Ben Barrett, Sean Doyle, Tom Keogh, Jim Slattery, Michael Collins, and Richard Mulcahy.

During this meeting, the men were told of the proposal to form a full-time Squad (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 52). Eventually, their office would be set up above a print shop at 3 Crow Street, Dublin. Sometimes referred to as “the Twelve Apostles,” there were oftentimes more than a dozen men under the command of Collins.

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Selected from various companies in the Dublin Brigade, their mission was to assassinate anyone when orders came from GHQ (General Headquarters). There eventually developed two different squads of men, each under a different commander.

Paddy O’Daly oversaw the tight-knit group of around twelve, who were on fulltime pay. Mick McDonnell headed the group who were only part-time and continued to work at day jobs. Sometime in early March 1920, the two groups were amalgamated and the “twelve” became many (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 92).

According to Vinny Byrne, The Squad’s “home” was an empty warehouse in Upper Baley Street. The men hid their guns and playing cards there and waited for a job. Five rings of the bell at the door signaled a “friendly visit.”

Collins visited about twice a week, but he was the only government official to come near The Squad (“Break the Castle Spies, or they will Break You,” Sunday Independent, 24 August 1980, p. 11). Some men are named in more than one source and noted as such in the listing below.

Members of the Squad

The term “Twelve Apostles” was a name applied, derisively by Austin Stack, to the original twelve men ("Dublin in Rebellion" by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256) A “•” placed in front of the name indicates those men selected as the original “Twelve Apostles” according to T. Ryle Dwyer in "The Squad," p. 92.

Joe Leonard, in his Witness Statement #547, claims a somewhat different membership of the original group as indicated by placed in back of their name. Vinny Byrne in an interview with The Sunday Independent in August 1980 names a different set of men as the original chosen ones. A # is placed in front of their names.

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 # Ben Barrett

 He was selected at the 19 September 1919 meeting (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 53) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

 Frank Bolster

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65 and 176)

 Dan Breen

David Neligan claims that Breen was originally a member of this group (The Spy in the Castle, p. 102) but Breen was a busy man, taking part in many actions many places throughout the country. He was not permanently based in Dublin although he was there for a time

Ned Breslin

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

# Ben Byrne

Was an early member of The Squad (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

Bernard Byrne

Brother of Ben (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 66)

Charlie Byrne

(from Dublin) nicknamed “The Count” because of his dapper appearance and quick wit) (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

  • Eddie Byrne

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

 #• Vinny Byrne

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). He joined The Squad in January 1920 (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Paddy Caldwell

(The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 103)

Sean Coffey

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

#Jimmy Conroy

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). One of the original members of The Squad (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116). “A one-man column” (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 157) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256). Years later he lived in South America (“Break the Castle Spies, or they will Break You,” Sunday Independent, 24 August 1980, p. 11)

 Tom Cullen

Fought in 1916, “a great athlete and runner. Naturally gay and intelligent, he was brave as a lion” (The Spy in the Castle p. 99 and 157) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 13)

Charlie Dalton

(Dubliner) brother of Emmet (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 157) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

 Jim Dempsey

(Dublin) a Battalion officer, IRB, and veteran of 1916 (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 157) and (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65)

Joe Dolan

Went around Dublin with a .45 revolver in his pocket and a British Army badge in his lapel, entwined with red, white and blue ribbons no less (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

#•Séan Doyle

One of the original five members of The Squad (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). He was selected at the 19 September 1919 meeting (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 53) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256). Doyle died from wounds received during the burning of the Customs House (Break the Castle Spies, or they will Break You,” The Sunday Independent, 24 August 1980, p. 11)

John Dunne

(T. Ryle Dwyer in his book Tans, Terror and Troubles {p. 368} claims that Michael Dunne, who was a former member of The Squad, was killed in the Knocknagoshel trap mine explosion in County Kerry on 6 March 1923)

Tom Ennis

(later O/C 2nd Battalion Dublin Brigade)

Paddy Griffin

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

Joe Guilfoyle

Both he and his brother Sean were veterans of Frongoch. Joe served as the QM for 3rd Battalion Dublin Brigade (Frongoch University of Rebellion by Sean O’Mahoney, p. 56) and (Survivors by Uinseann MacEoin, p. 343) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

Sean Guilfoyle

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65)

Jackie Hanlon

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

Mick Hennessey

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

Ned Kelliher

 “A silent Dubliner” (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

#Mick Kennedy

Emigrated to the United States in 1923 (“Break the Castle Spies, or they will Break You,” Sunday Independent, 24 August 1980, p. 11)

Paddy Kennedy

(Tipperary) (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 157) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

#•Tom Keogh

(Kehoe) from Wicklow. He “possessed glowing enthusiasm, a light heart and icy courage” (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156). He joined The Squad in January 1920 (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Tom Kilcoyne

Was scheduled to participate in the killing of the British agent, Jameson (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 89)

#•Joe Leonard

One of the original members of The Squad (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116). Dressed in a British Army uniform, he took part in the attempted rescue from Mountjoy of Sean McEoin (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65 and 176) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Billy McClean

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65)

# Pat McCrae

(Co. Wicklow) served as part-time driver (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). One of the original members of The Squad (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116). He once drove an armored car into Mountjoy in a vain effort to rescue Sean MacEoin (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 157)

Dan McDonnell

A Dublin native, described as “sturdy, with a heavy mop of red hair. Silent as the grave, sober and reliable” (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 136) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

# Mick McDonnell

(Co. Carlow) first commanding officer of The Squad (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). McDonnell travelled far and wide investigating possible targets including British ministers, an idea that originated with Cathal Brugha (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 53−54) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Peter McGee

(The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 14)

Jim McGuinness

“A strikingly brave and resourceful leader” (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 65) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Joe McGuinness

(The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156)

#•Paddy O’Daly

(The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 53) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Bob O’Neill

(Clare) (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156)

Joe O’Reilly

Acted as Collins’s dependable and loyal courier. Totally devoted to his boss, he died early (in the 1940s) of cancer (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 161)

#•Mick O’Reilly

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176). (Tim Pat Coogan claims that O’Reilly joined The Squad in January 1920 {Michael Collins, p. 116}) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Frank Saurin

The best dressed of them all. His nice suit and lavender gloves projected an image of genteel breeding, allowing him to saunter through police cordons unchallenged (The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan, p. 156) and (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 13)

#•Jim Slattery

(Co. Clare) one of the original members of The Squad (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116) and (Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256). “One of the best men that walked in shoe leather” (Break the Castle Spies, or they will Break You,” The Sunday Independent, 24 August 1980, p. 11)

#Bill Stapleton

One of the original members of The Squad (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 116) and (Dublin in Rebellion by Joseph E. A. Connell Jr., p. 256)

Liam Tobin

Of Cork was in charge of intelligence in Crow Street, a veteran of 1916 (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 13)

Frank Thorton

Was third in the chain of command (The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer, p. 13). Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Thorton was sent to London (along with Sean Flood and George Fitzgerald) to liaison with Reginald Dunne and Sam Maguire regarding the taking of hostages of members of the British Parliament (Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan, p. 183)

Sean Treacy

David Neligan claims that Treacy was originally a member of this group (The Spy in the Castle, p. 102) although Treacy was not a full-time member. He was chosen for specific jobs

Johnny Wilson

(Kerry Landing by Niall Harrington, p. 176)

Joseph E. A. Connell, Jr. explains in "Dublin in Rebellion" (pp. 256−257) that “others were added in January and thereafter and were chosen for ‘jobs’ as needed.” This was particularly true for Bloody Sunday. There simply weren’t enough Squad members to cover all the British agents and additional men had to be brought in from outside sources.

Those whose names do not appear in the above listing but were involved include on a part-time basis: J. Brennan, Sean Caffrey (this could be the Sean Coffey cited by Niall Harrington above), Patrick Colgan, James Connolly, Herbie Conroy, Jim Conway, Andy Cooney (future Chief of Staff of the IRA), Sean Culhane, Joe Dowling, Pat Drury, Tom Duffy, Leo Dunne, Mick Flanagan, Paddy Flanagan, Sean Kavanagh, Mick Kennedy, Martin Lavan, Paddy Lawson, Sean Lemass, Pat McKeon, Peadar McMahon, Paddy Moran, Mick O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Hegarty, Albert Rutherford, Frank Teeling, and George White.

John Pinkman in his book "In the Legion of the Vanguard" claims that Sean Keating, a member of the Dublin ASU, was also involved (p. 102).

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* Excerpted from Echoes of Their Footsteps Volume III by Kathleen Hegarty Thorne and Patrick Flanagan.

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Michael Collins, commander of The Squad.