Sean Cronin (1920 - 2011)
Seán Cronin was born in 1920
to Con and Katie Cronin in Ballinskelligs,
Co. Kerry in Ireland . Sean's father, who was a
veteran of the War of Independence, died when
Sean was four years old.
is located in the
picturesque Inveragh Peninsula in South Kerry.
Nestled on the shores of Ballinskelligs
Bay and surrounded
by mountains it was the idyllic playground for
Sean during his carefree childhood years. It was
a place where a child could let his or hers'
imagination run free and dream dreams. A
rich foundation for a fruitful and adventurous
Apart from its
beauty South Kerry was a bastion of
Republicanism. Many brave and committed
Republicans hailed from there including Con
Keating, Tim Keating, Denis Daly, John Clifford
, Michael Curran, Patrick Foley, Jeremiah
Keating, Patrick Lynch, Sean T. O Sullivan, John
Sugrue and Sean's own father are but a few of
the many who fought for the Irish Republic
proclaimed in 1916.
These were the surroundings and influences that
would have the greatest influence in shaping and guiding Sean's life
After finishing his schooling Seán worked for
the Kerry County Council until December 1941 when he joined
the Free State army. By the time he left the
army in 1948 he was a commissioned officer.
After leaving the Free State Army Sean emigrated to the United States
trained as a journalist. He became associated
there with the Clan na Gael and IRA Veterans of
America which dated from the Fenian period in
1867. During this time he wrote articles for the
Irish Republican organ in Ireland and developed
a keen interest in Irish history.
Following the Armagh and Omagh arms raids by the
IRA in 1954 and the election in 1955 of two
prisoner-candidates in Fermanagh-South Tyrone
and in Mid-Ulster Seán Cronin returned to
Ireland to take part in the developing struggle.
He was promoted rapidly through the ranks of the
Irish Republican Army and in 1956 was appointed
Director of Operations on General Headquarters
Staff. At this time he authored the famous
booklet “Notes on Guerrilla Warfare” and was
responsible for the “Battle School” which
trained selected Volunteers as leaders. They
would later in turn train local units.
drafted the strategic document “Operation
Harvest” which was a pilot scheme for a military
campaign against British Occupation forces in
the Six North-Eastern Counties. This blueprint
was accepted by the Army Council and later
amended in keeping with local circumstances.
finest hour was yet to come. That was in July
and August 1957 when he and his comrade on GHQ
Staff, Charlie Murphy, escaped the internment
net and incarceration in the Curragh
Concentration Camp. While “on the run”, they re-organized
the Resistance Campaign in the Six Occupied
Counties. Cronin edited An t-Eireannach
Aontaithe/The United Irishman and engaged in a
war of words with deValera who was attempting to
justify his concentration camp policies.
the Autumn of 1957 he was appointed IRA Chief of
Staff. In the months that followed he led from
the front by taking part in operations in the
Six Counties and also in an arms raid in England
itself. In November 1957 a successful General
Army Convention was held to consolidate the
structure of the organization. The Campaign was
maintained throughout all of this and Seán
Cronin evaded the 26-County Special Branch as it
hunted for him night and day. Finally at the end
of September 1958 he was arrested in Dublin and
sent to the Curragh.
was to spend the last five months of that
concentration camp’s existence interned there
without trial. On his release his advice on the
dispute which arose in the camp was wise indeed.
He posed the question: “is the Republican
Movement a self-perpetuating religious sect, or
is it the instrument of the freedom of Ireland?”
If the former it was a time for discipline at
all costs, he said. At the ensuing General Army
Convention, Seán Cronin was again returned as
Chief of Staff. He also resumed as Editor of the
During 1959-60 Seán was again on operational
active service north of the Border. In June 1960
he was arrested a third time and given a six
month sentence for “not accounting for his
movements”. On his release he found that charges
had been made against him from America. A Court
of Inquiry found these charges to be groundless
and he was co-opted back on to the Army Council.
Cronin refused to accept membership because he
felt support from America would be cut off if he
emerged as a leading figure again. The other six
members disagreed but Seán insisted in his
the outcome there was no further support from
America so both Cronin and the American support
were lost to the leadership. However Seán did
work for GHQ right up to the end of the
Resistance Campaign in 1962. Commenting on the
“termination of the campaign that began on
December 12, 1956”, Cronin said that there
“should always be military resistance to the
British occupation of the Six Counties”.
few years later Seán Cronin returned to the
United States. For more than 20 years he was the
Washington Correspondent of the “Irish Times”.
In its obituary that newspaper described his
work as “meticulously precise as a reporter” and
his Washington Letter as a “must read”. He was a
writer, public speaker, lecturer, political
analyst and military person who could turn his
hand to most things. Above all he was a leader
of men who led from the front.
Those who served with him in the Republican
Movement in the years 1955-65 can attest to his
fair-mindedness and sense of justice. Mná Tí in
the houses where he was billeted spoke highly of
him as “a gentleman” who did his utmost not to
put the household under pressure. A socialist
who supported women’s liberation he could always
see the broad sweep of affairs and the
consequences of actions.
Sean Cronin had above all the ability to inspire
people, by word and by example. Today his life
of service to the cause of Irish national
independence inspires us. For those who came of
age in succeeding years, he has left the
valuable legacy of his writings.
Seán was the author of many books and pamphlets
including The McGarrity Papers; The Search for
the Republic (a biography of Frank Ryan); Irish
Nationalism, a history of its roots and
ideology; Young Connolly (an account of James
Connolly’s youth); Our Own Red Blood (about the
1916 Rising); Washington’s Irish Policy
1916-1986 Independence, Partition, Neutrality;
Kevin Barry; Resistance (The story of the
struggle in British-occupied Ireland); Ireland
since the Treaty and An appeal to Unionists, The
latter three were written under various