The Info List - Seán Russell

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Seán Russell
Seán Russell
(1893 – 14 August 1940) was an Irish republican who held senior positions in the IRA until the end of the Irish War of Independence. From 1922 until his death on board a Kriegsmarine
U-Boat in 1940 he remained a senior member and chief of staff of the IRA, while it divided and was outlawed, and removed itself to the political fringe of Irish society.


1 Early life 2 Post-Civil War activism 3 The Sabotage Campaign (S-Plan) in USA 1939 4 Arrival in Berlin May 1940 5 Operation Dove and death aboard U-65 6 Legacy to republicanism 7 Attacks on memorial to Seán Russell 8 See also 9 Footnotes 10 Sources 11 External links

Early life[edit] Born in Fairview, Dublin
Fairview, Dublin
in 1893, Russell joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913. He participated in the 1916 Easter Rising
Easter Rising
as an officer in Dublin
Brigade's 2nd Battalion, under Thomas MacDonagh. Following the Rising he was interned in Frongoch
and Knutsford. After the Irish War of Independence began, he was attached to the IRA General Headquarters Staff (GHQ) and became IRA Director of Munitions in 1920. In 1925, after the Irish Civil War, he was jailed in Mountjoy Prison
Mountjoy Prison
but escaped on 25 November in a breakout he helped organise. Post-Civil War activism[edit] Russell was one of those within the much-reduced IRA pushing for more revolutionary activities in 1926. That year he and Gerald Boland travelled to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
on an IRA weapons buying mission. On his return from Moscow Russell reported back to Seán Lemass.[2] He was appointed IRA quartermaster general in 1927 and held that position until 1936. He travelled widely throughout Ireland
reorganising the IRA during 1929-31. Russell was due to give the oration at the 1931 Bodenstown
commemoration but was arrested on its eve. He visited the United States in the autumn of 1932. During the Northern Ireland
rail strike of 1933 he organised IRA intervention from Belfast. Russell remained aloof from the IRA's political debates and following the split of 1934 chaired the court-martial of Mick Price and Peadar O'Donnell who had left the IRA to form the left wing Republican Congress. He met Éamon de Valera, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State at Government Buildings during 1934. While in the United States during 1936 he seems to have conceived along with Joseph McGarrity, the plan for the bombing campaign in England. In January 1937, Russell was accused of misappropriating funds by the IRA leadership and was court martialled. He had also embarked on his American tour without Army Council permission. He stayed out of Dublin
until October 1937, when he approached the IRA leadership in an attempt to convince them that the campaign in England should go ahead. In April 1938 an IRA General Army Convention was held, and Russell and his supporters (including McGarrity and IRA members from Northern Ireland) secured enough support to get a majority on the IRA Army Executive and to get him re-instated in the organisation and elected to the Army Council. This has been described as a "take over" by historian Brian Hanley. After becoming IRA chief of staff, he put into motion the bombing campaign and forged links with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
and during the summer of 1938, the IRA held training classes in explosives throughout the country. Claiming to be the legitimate government of the Irish Republic, in January 1939, the Army Council under Russell's leadership declared war on the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
in alliance with Nazi Germany. The Sabotage Campaign commenced some days later with bombing attacks on a number of English cities. Russell was also involved in a meeting with German Intelligence (Abwehr) agent Oscar Pfaus. The Sabotage Campaign (S-Plan) in USA 1939[edit] To pursue the propaganda arm of the S-Plan
Russell travelled to the United States in April 1939. The aim of his journey was to 'show the flag' and place himself in the public mind as the leader of militant Irish nationalism.[3] While there Russell made several public addresses. He was trailed by Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
"G-Men" at the request of Scotland Yard, then detained by the United States Immigration Service at the Detroit
border with Windsor, Ontario[4] during the American visit of King George VI. The incident immediately aroused enormous indignation among Irish-Americans, culminating in a protest by seventy-six Irish-descended members of Congress. They demanded an explanation from President Roosevelt about the 'Russell Case', failing which they would not participate in the Congressional reception for the King.[5] While in the United States Russell met with his Clan na Gael host Joseph McGarrity and Robert Monteith, one of Casement's colleagues in 1916, and at that time director of Father Charles Coughlin's National Union for Social Justice. Anxious to skip his bail, which expired on 16 April, he made contact through the offices of McGarrity with German agent 'V-Rex', also known as Carl Rekowski. 'V-Rex' contacted John McCarthy, a steward on the steamer George Washington berthed in Tampa, Florida. The George Washington then sailed to then-neutral Italy. McCarthy met with Abwehr
agent 'Professor' Franz Fromme on 19 and 30 March 1940 in Genoa. This meeting arranged for Russell's journey across the Atlantic, arrival in Genoa
on 1 May, and reception in Berlin four days later. Arrival in Berlin May 1940[edit]

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Once in Berlin, Russell was informed of Operation Mainau, the plan to parachute Hermann Görtz
Hermann Görtz
into Ireland. Russell was asked to brief Görtz on Ireland
before his departure that night but missed his takeoff from the Kassel-Fritzlar airfield. Russell's liaison officer while in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
was SS- Standartenfuhrer
Edmund Veesenmayer.[6] By 20 May 1940, Russell had begun training with Abwehr
in the use of the latest German explosive ordnance. This training was conducted at the Abwehr
training school/lab at Quentzgut near Brandenburg
which specialised in the design of explosives as everyday objects. Russell also visited the training area for the Brandenburg
Regiment, the 'Quenzgut', where he observed trainees and instructors working with sabotage materials in a field environment. As he received explosives training, his return to Ireland
with a definite sabotage objective was planned by German Army Intelligence. His total training time with German Intelligence was over 3 months. Operation Dove and death aboard U-65[edit] On 15 July 1940, Frank Ryan – an IRA man who had fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
and was captured by Franco forces – was handed over to the Abwehr
and taken to Germany. The capture of the German agents from Operation Lobster I did not prevent Abwehr
Chief Canaris sanctioning the transport of Russell to Ireland. Both Russell and Frank Ryan, (who had arrived in Berlin on 4 August), departed aboard U-65 from Wilhelmshaven
on 8 August – the mission was titled Operation Dove ("Unternehmen Taube" in German). Russell became ill during the journey and complained of stomach pains. U-65 was not equipped with a doctor and he died on 14 August, 100 miles short of Galway. He was buried at sea and the mission aborted. Following the return of the submarine to Germany an inquiry was set up into Russell's death by the Abwehr. This inquiry included the interrogation of U-65's crew and Frank Ryan. The conclusion drawn was that Russell had suffered a burst gastric ulcer and without medical attention he had died. A number of conspiracy theories arose around the subject of Russell's death including that he was poisoned onboard ship, shot by the British Secret Service in France, or murdered by Kurt Haller. However, Russell's brother, Patrick, confirmed after the war that he suffered from pre-existing stomach problems and as a result did not drink alcohol. Legacy to republicanism[edit] Russell became the idol of traditionalist republicanism during the 1950s and a memorial to him was unveiled by Cumann Uaigheann Na Laochra Gael, (the National Graves Association
National Graves Association
group), in Fairview Park, September 1951. A prominent role in the ceremony was taken by Cathal Goulding and other participants included Brendan Behan
Brendan Behan
and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
(see[7]). The group claims its mission is to:

“ restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead of every generation. ”

Russell's legacy is deeply contested. Both Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
and Republican Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
continue to commemorate him as an Irish patriot. Others condemn him as a Nazi collaborator. It had been said he "cared little for Nazi ideology" and he was accused of being a communist spy.[8] Irish historian Brian Hanley suggests that Russell was not a Nazi but concludes that his letters to his German contacts "betray astonishing political naiveté". In September 2003, then Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
MEP Mary Lou McDonald spoke at a rally to commemorate Russell held at the site of the memorial. The same rally was also addressed by then Provisional IRA Army Council member Brian Keenan who said:

“ I don't know what was in the depth of Seán Russell's thinking down the years, but I am sure he was never far from Pearse's own position, who said, as a patriot, preferring death to slavery, I know no other way. There are things worse than bloodshed, and slavery is one of them. We are not and will not be slaves.[9] ”

Attacks on memorial to Seán Russell[edit]

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Headless Memorial to Seán Russell

After the memorial was erected, the raised right arm was broken off by right-wing radicals, who explained the vandalism by claiming the arm had been raised in a communist salute rather than oratorical pose.[10] Following this the damaged arm was replaced posed downward instead of raised.[11] The 31 December 2004 attack saw the decapitation of the memorial by an unnamed group, described by the Sunday Independent as anti-fascist.[12] The memorial's right forearm was also removed. A statement issued to the press in justification of the vandalism read (verbatim):

“ Six million Jews, thousands of political dissidents, homosexuals, Roma people, Soviet prisoners of war and the disabled were put to death by the fascist hate machine that overran and terrified Europe from 1939 to 45. Sean Russell was one of many nationalist fanatics who looked to Hitler for political and military support in the IRA's quest to reunify Ireland
at the point of the bayonets of the Gestapo. At the Wannsee conference, the infamous Nazi gathering that planned the "Final Solution", the Jewish community in Ireland
was marked down for annihilation. Having freed Ireland
from British rule, the Nazis expected their collaborators to help them round up Dublin's Jews and ship them off to Auschwitz. That was the price Sean Russell was prepared to pay to end partition.[13] ”

Bronze of Seán Russell
Seán Russell
erected in May 2009.

The missing pieces of the memorial have not yet been recovered. A spokesman for The National Graves Association
National Graves Association
announced that the memorial to Seán Russell
Seán Russell
will be rebuilt in more permanent bronze to deter vandals. In May 2009 the plinth was cleaned and the new bronze was erected. The new statue allegedly has alarms to detect attempted vandalism and a GPS tracker.[11] The plinth of the memorial was again vandalised on 9 July 2009 with graffiti proclaiming Russell to have been a Nazi.[14] See also[edit]

Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
collaboration in World War II Plan Kathleen


^ Statues of Dublin: Seán Russell, Fairview Park, April 20, 2012 ^ Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill, 1931—Allocation of Time Motion. Dáil Éireann Debate, Vol. 40 No. 1 Wednesday, 14 October 1931 ^ Russell also had another motive - there was concern that the main pipeline of financial aid to the IRA, the profits from Clan na Gael's Irish Hospital Sweepstake fund, were being skimmed. See Hull P.61. ^ " Detroit
Free Press, June 7, 1939, page 11".  ^ Stephan, Enno, Spies in Ireland, Macdonald & Co., 1963, pp. 41-42. and report of Seán Russell
Seán Russell
arrest ^ Stephan, Enno (1963). Spies in Ireland. London: MacDonald. pp. 104–106.  ^ SAOIRSE -- 50 Years Ago September 2001 at homepage.tinet.ie ^ How De Valera asked UK to smear IRA chief Sean Russell By Mike Thomson, Presenter, Document, BBC Radio 4. ^ Sean Russell honoured, An Phoblacht, 21 August 2003 ^ Stephan, page 112 ^ a b A target again ..statue of IRA boss accused of being a Nazi., Brian Whelan, Sunday Mirror, 19 July 2009 ^ Seán Russell
Seán Russell
statue attacked in Dublin, An Phoblacht, 6 January 2005 ^ Statue of Nazi ally vandalised, Henry McDonald, The Observer, 2 January 2005 ^ Vandals deface memorial statue of republican leader Seán Russell, Olivia Kelly, The Irish Times, 9 July 2009


Culleton, Brendan & Maldea, Irina, Seamróg agus Swastica (English: Shamrock & Swastika), Dublin
(Akajava Films), 2002. (Broadcast on TG4, 24 January 2002. Hanley, Brian, The IRA. 1926-1936, Dublin
(Four Courts Press), 2002. ISBN 1-85182-721-8 Terence O'Reilly, Hitler's Irishmen, ( Mercier Press), 2008 ISBN 1-85635-589-6 Mark M. Hull, Irish Secrets. German Espionage in Wartime Ireland 1939-1945 2003. ISBN 978-0-7165-2756-5 Enno Stephan, Spies in Ireland
1963. ISBN 1-131-82692-2 (reprint) Carolle J. Carter, The Shamrock and the Swastika 1977. ISBN 0-87015-221-1 Detroit
Free Press, June 7, 1939, page 11, "Irish Chieftain Is Kept In Jail".

External links[edit]

Were 'Anti-Fascists' Right To Vandalise The Sean Russell Statue?, IndyMedia.ie 1 January 2005 Statue of Nazi ally vandalised The Observer, 2 January 2005 DEFEND OUR NATIONAL MONUMENTS Comhdáil Násiúnta na hÉireann - Irish National Congress article on the 2004 Russell memorial vandalism "Irish Chieftain Is Kept In Jail", Detroit
Free Press, June 7, 1939, Page 11.

v t e

Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army


Genealogy Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
(1917–22) British Partition (Northern Ireland
& Southern Ireland) Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
(in relation to the IRA) Irish Civil War
Irish Civil War
(Timeline & Executions) Munster Republic Comhairle na dTeachtaí Irish republican legitimism Abstentionism Collaboration with the Abwehr The Emergency Plan Kathleen Haughey arms crisis Officials-Provisionals split


IRA Army Council IRA Northern Command


Battle of Dublin Battle of Kilmallock Anti-Treaty Guerilla Campaign Christmas Raid Sabotage Campaign Northern Campaign Border Campaign

Chiefs of Staff

Liam Lynch (1922) Joe McKelvey (1922) Liam Lynch (1922–23) Frank Aiken
Frank Aiken
(1923–25) Andrew Cooney (1925–26) Moss Twomey (1926–36) Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride
(1936) Tom Barry (1936–37) Mick Fitzpatrick (1937-38) Seán Russell
Seán Russell
(1938-40) Stephen Hayes (1940–41) Pearse Kelly (1941) Seán Harrington (1941–42) Seán McCool (1942) Eoin McNamee (1942) Hugh McAteer (1942) Charlie Kerins (1942–44) Harry White (1944–45) Patrick Fleming (1945–47) Willie McGuinness (1947–48) Tony Magan (1948-57) Richard Burke (1957) Tony Magan (1957) Seán Cronin (1957–58) John Joe McGirl (1958) Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
(1958-59) Seán Cronin (1959–60) Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
(1960-62) Cathal Goulding (1962–69)


Cathal Brugha Liam Mellows Robert Erskine Childers Michael Carolan Richard Barrett Hugh Corvin Ernie O'Malley Tom Maguire Paddy McLogan Seamus O'Donovan Frank Ryan Máirtín Ó Cadhain Brendan Behan Dominic Behan Tomás Ó Dubhghaill Seán South Fergal O'Hanlon Manus Canning Seán Mac Stíofáin Joe Cahill Joe McCann Liam Kelly Tom Hales Peadar O'Donnell Éamonn O'Doherty Billy McKee


Cumann na mBan Fianna Éireann Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
(1922–26 & 1938–69) Clan na Gael National Graves Association Comhairle na Poblachta (1929–31) Saor Éire (1931) Cumann Poblachta na hÉireann (1936–37) Córas na Poblachta Connolly Association (Communist Party of Great Britain) Wolfe Tone Societies Clann na hÉireann


Republican Congress Saor Uladh Provisional Irish Republican Army Official Irish Republican Army

Authority control

WorldCat Identiti