Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Michael Patrick Foley 1893-1960

Michael Foley was born at Edenderry in 1893. His parents Thomas and Anne (nee Collins) Foley lived on Main Street (JKL Street). Thomas worked as a bootmaker.

In 1915 Michael Foley joined ‘D’ company, 2nd battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. ‘D’ company was largely made up of men like Foley who were working in the city as shop assistants.

On Easter Monday 1916, Foley was at work on Talbot Street when word reached him of the rising. With his own unit scattered he travelled to O’Connell Street he joined the GPO garrison. There he was assigned to a mixed group of volunteers comprising of men from Britain and Kildare, charged with defending the building throughout the week. On Friday he was present when Fr. O’Flanagan gave the general absolution to volunteers in the post office before their withdrawal to Moore Street, where Pearse ordered a general surrender the following day.

After a period of interment in Frongoch, Foley returned to Edenderry where he helped establish a Sinn Fein club and a company of Irish Volunteers in early 1917. Other units were soon established in the neighbouring localities of Clonbulloge, Rhode and Bracknagh.

Foleys time in Offaly was beset by political wrangling. He was critical of what he identified as brigade officers jockeying for position in both Offaly and Kildare. After monitoring visits to Offaly of Rhode born DMP detective Daniel Hoey; Foley suggested that his stopovers were cover to recruit and contact local intelligence sources. Relations between Foley and older republicans in  the local Sinn Féin club soured and he held trade unionists at the town’s main employer; Alesbury’s timber factory responsible for impeding the growth of the volunteer movement.

In 1918 after an organising assignment by Ernie O’Malley from GHQ, Foley was appointed battalion O.C. Later that year the Edenderry man was imprisoned in Belfast for illegal drilling. On his release he found employment in Dublin and travelled back and forth between the capital and Offaly on the weekends.

Arrested outside Edenderry in early 1920, he interned in the Rath Camp on the Curragh and released on the signing of the Treaty. He took no part in the Civil War.

Working in Dublin as a French polisher and often suffering from financial hardship, he underwent a long bureaucratic struggle before eventually receiving his military service pension.

Michael Foley passed away at Clonskeagh, Dublin in July 1960 and was buried at Deansgrange cemetery.


Sources:

Military Service Pension Collection. Michael Patrick Foley MSP34REF20779. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection- 1916-1923

Ciaran Reilly. Edenderry 1916 and the revolutionary era. (Edenderry) 2016.

Dr. Philip McConway. ‘Offaly’s links to the 1916 Rising’. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkEiuHJc8J0

Irish Independent. 10 February 2016.

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