I.R.A. Third Northern Division

In March 1921, the IRA was re-organised by its leadership in Dublin into Divisionsnd McKelvey was appointed commander of the Third Northern Division, responsible for Belfast and the surrounding area. He was criticised by some of the younger, more radical Volunteers in the IRA Belfast Brigade, led by Roger McCorley for being reluctant to sanction the killing of Police and British Army personnel in Belfast. McKelvey feared (and was proved correct) that such actions would provoke retaliatory attacks on the Catholic and Irish Nationalist community by loyalists. Nevertheless, he was unable to control some of his younger volunteers, who formed an “active service unit” on their own initiative and killed Police and soldiers on a regular basis. When such attacks occurred, loyalists, generally supported by the Ulster Special Constabulary, attacked Catholic areas in reprisal. The IRA was then forced to try to defend Catholic areas and McKelvey feared that the organisation was being drawn into sectarian conflict as opposed to what he saw as the “real” struggle for Irish independence. In May 1921, McKelvey’s command suffered a severe setback, when fifty of his best men were sent to county Cavan to train and link up with the IRA units there, only to be surrounded and captured by the British Army on Lapinduff mountain on 9 May.

In most of Ireland, hostilities were ended with a truce declared on 11 July 1921. However, in the north and particularly in Belfast, violence intensified over the following year. McKelvey wrote to IRA GHQ at this time that his command was very short of both arms and money. In March 1922, many of his papers, detailing the names and units of the roughly 1000 IRA members in Belfast were captured by the B- Specials Police in a raid on St Mary’s Hall in Belfast.

IRA Third Northern Division Rossa Team

IRA Tommy Flynn

Roger McCorley

By | 2017-09-13T15:09:54+00:00 August 18th, 2011|Individual Accounts Irish Volunteers 1913-1923|21 Comments


  1. DEIRDRE BRENNAN August 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

    My Grandfather Robert J Brennan of Alton st ,carrickhill and Beechmount Belfast was 1st Lieutenant C company ,1st Btn No.1 Brigade.3RD Northern Division and on second critical date Captain C company 3Rd Northern Division…he was posted to Dundalk in 1922 where he was arrested by free state army and imprisoned in Dundalk goal..I have a copy of his application for military pension..from the M.O.D Renmor Barracks Galway. And letters of application. the references on the form are from Roger mc Corley,Dublin, Sean Keenan 32 California st Belfast ,Seamus mc Dermott, Lady st Belfast,Patrick Burns California st Belfast ,Seamus Woods Dame st Dublin,T mc Crave Quay st Dundalk. Patrick Fleming Pound st(it is possible patrick Fleming is my great uncle and Roberts brother inlaw). What i am looking for is info on his release,was he part of the jail break of Aug 1922? is there a list of escapee’s…anything on his time there, is there a list of prisoner’s from that time 1922? ..Regards Deirdre.

  2. Catherine B April 17, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I am seeking info on Old IRA Belfast, especially “A” Company 3rd Battalion. I have just acquired records from PRONI on an arrest of my grandfather Eneas McGibbon along with a Peter Cosgrove, 5 July 1922. Unfortunate for Eneas but fortunate for his daughter and grandchildren is that he was raided by the RIC and his pocket book identified him as IRA Belfast “A” Company 3rd Battalion. This was a gift to us who suspected Eneas was a fighter for the Republic but until this month no one knew definitively! I have been researching his life for 6 years. I have several arrest records for him, all having to do with fighting for Irish Independence. His was born in Mayfair St Belfast and lived at Parkview St. Are their lists of any kind for the old IRA? I have not seen one photo of his company. Does any one have knowledge of when this company would have been formed? What Division (if any) would A Company 3rd Battalion be a part of ? Any info is greatly appreciated!

    • Kieran Glennon April 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm


      The 3rd Battalion of the Belfast Brigade was formed during the “Truce” period (i.e. after July 1921), prior to that the Brigade only had two battalions. In turn, the Belfast Brigade was part of the 3rd Northern Division.

      Recruitment after the “Truce” was so intensive that officers were transferred from the existing battalions to lead the 3rd (and 4th) Battalions; the O/C of 3rd Battalion was Joe Murray, he gave a statement to the Bureau of Military History which you can find here: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0412.pdf

      To the best of my knowledge there are no lists of Belfast Brigade members currently in the public domain and only a small handful of photos. It might be worth your while writing to the Veterans Admin Section, Dept of Defence in Renmore, Co Galway to see if he put in a claim for an IRA pension in either the 1920s or 1930s. If he did, then he would’ve had to substantiate his claim with more info relating to his service history, references from former O/Cs, etc.

      • Catherine B April 18, 2013 at 7:25 am

        Thanks for responding Kieran and so quickly! I appreciate the link to Joe Murray’s statement, great info. I believe my grandfather was “involved” before the Belfast “A” Company was formed because we’ve uncovered a few arrests that pre-date 1921. Perhaps he was recruited in a similar way to Joe Murray. I know he did not apply for a pension because he had been arrested for Explosives in 1924 (we are awaiting that file from PRONI right now) and joined the crew of a ship in Nov 1925 then jumped ship in New York and settled in New Jersey. I’m actually curious if Eneas was one of the prisoners who was broken out of Mountjoy along with Michael Carolan and Sean Maginnis. Do you know of the raid I am referring to? Where armed IRA dressed as Civic Guards entered the jail on the pretense of bringing in new prisoners and then held the guards while they broke out 14-20 fellow IRA’ers. Do you know if there is a list of the men that actually escaped?
        I appreciate any other suggestions for research you may think of!

  3. Rosalie C Popick February 2, 2013 at 1:48 am

    To: Liam Lynn,

    Since I posted my query in November 2011, I have learned much more about the Dublin No. 2 Brigade. As I mentioned, my subject George Gilmore (of Blackrock, South Dublin County at the time) was since August 1922 O/C Battalion 1; Patrick Brennan of Dundrum was O/C of Battalion 2 and Neil O’Boyle of Dongegal was O/C of Battalion 3. I have not learned who was O/C of Battalion 4 and later in September 1923 the other three brigades covered Co. Kildare. Laurence O’Brien of Bray was Commandant of the brigade, replacing Andrew McDonnell, arrested in Blessington on July 7, 1922. Most of the dispatches, among the vast amount of documents received for August 1922 to February 1924 do not provide the actual names of the officers, but this was revealed from a variety of witness statements and some of Gilmore’s recollections. Although George’s best friend of more than 60 years would be Peadar O’Donnell of Donegal, they did not meet until after the Civil War had ended. I am however certain Gilmore and O’Boyle would have known each other at least from attending the weekly brigade meetings. Moreover, since I posted that query, I have read a number of other sources, i.e. Liam O Diubhir’s “Donegal & the Civil War: The Untold Story” indicating it was Roger McCorley who brutally killed O’Boyle after O’Boyle had surrendered in Valleymount, Co. Wcklow, and after yesterday reading Roger McCorley’s witness statement, wherein I learned more of McCorley and his prominence in Collins’s Intelligence Service in Belfast, I was about to insert more to the last pages of my Chapter 4, the Irish Civil War of the biography, confirming that he was the pro-Treaty officer responsible for Boyle’s death, that is until a while ago when I checked this site wherein you indicated that it was Roger’s brother Col. Felix McCorley who was the culpit. Since very little has been written about the men of Gilmore’s brigade, popularly called the South Dublin Brigade and for my perspective, I have not concentrated on the North although before George was arrested again in March 1923, Chief of Staff Frank Aiken had sent him to the North for his protection; as a result I have only derived my information from secondary sources concerning the Volunteers in the North working with this brigade, and I do want to get this right. Please contact me to advise where your source of information was derived from concerning Felix McCorley. Thank you. Rosalie

    • Kieran Glennon February 4, 2013 at 8:15 am


      The incident involving Felix (not Roger) McCorley is described on p.199 of Robert Lynch’s “The Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition 1920-1922”. He, in turn, references an interview with a Tom Heavy who witnessed the event, in Uinseann MacEoin’s “Survivors” p.454; the edition of “Survivors” that I have doesn’t have this interview with Heavy.

      • Liam Lynn March 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        Indeed that was also my source. However I may now have a little doubt. On speaking many years ago with people who remembered both the brothers, the impression I was left with was that Felix was a real gentleman, whereas Roger could have been described as more a ruthless character.

        • Willie Lynn February 10, 2014 at 4:25 am

          I’m the yank Willie Lynn and I’m landing in Dubin feb14.
          Me number 315-406-8555 and blynn@johnnyangels.biz.
          You watched o’er me 40 years ago in kilalla.

  4. Liam Lynn October 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Although many of the Rossa GAC were members of the 3rd N. Brigade, it is incorrect to label the photograph “IRA Third Northern Division Rossa Team” as some in that team were not members

  5. Liam Lynn September 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I have quite a bit of information on this, especially the 2nd brigade as my grandfather Willie Lynn was a commandant and a member of brigade staff. Testimonials and pension records which list everyone in the 2nd brigade entitled to a pension and a lot more who weren’t
    Also lists of operations etc. I am willing to share if anyone is interested.
    In the picture above of the Rossa my other grandfather Edward O’Gorman is fifth from the left bottom row
    To Rosalie Popick above I dont believe it was Roger McCorley that Shot OBoyle, it was his brother Felix, who became Colonel in the Free State army

    • Kieran Glennon October 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Liam, can you get in touch with me please re 2nd (Antrim) Brigade? As I mentioned below, my granda was sent there in Nov 1921 as a GHQ organiser, later took over as Brigade O/C until he was captured.


    • Mark January 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Hi Liam and Kieran,

      Can you share some of your 2nd Brigade info with me. My grandfather was Adjutant on the Battalion staff under Willie Lynn. Any info gratefully received.


  6. Matthew July 4, 2012 at 7:08 am

    My grandfather and his brother were both Volunteers in the 3rd Northern Division.They lived in Cargan,In the Glens of Antrim and were involved in activity around the North Antrim area . I know they took part in the raid on Martinsown Barracks ,which is mentioned in the book Northern Divisions.They were part of the Colour Party that laid the Duffin Brothers to rest in Glenravel. I know that they also raided post offices and stopped mail trains that were carrying communications for the British Forces.Would appreciate any further information in relation to the IRA in this area.

  7. D May 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Kieran –

    Re: old IRA in Antrim.
    Please email glordr@hotmail.com . I too have an interest in this period.

  8. BrianMcKeever November 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    My father JohnMcKeever was a member of “B” company, 2nd Battallion, Third Northern Division.He died age 50 in 1953 so my memories of him are scant.
    I have a copy of his obituary from the Irish News which says he took part in every engagement of the active service unit from 1920 to 1934, remaining loyal to the Republican cause.
    My older brother, Cormac has more memories and was told a few stories which I was not blessed with. The move to Cavan, mentioned above, was included and Dad’s version was that it was to create a diversion to take the heat off Belfast. As far as I am aware he was not captured there as mentioned above although he did spend a spell under internment at some time.
    I imagine he was well down the chain of command, taking part as a volunteer.
    Cormac remembers a group at Dad’s wake who spoke only well of him, including a Cullen and others whose names I must ask him about. There was a great crowd for the funeral, and a tricoloured coffin carried down the Falls Road.
    The only story I got myself was that he was responsible for the burning of the model school in Divis Street in May 1922.

  9. Rosalie C. Popick November 10, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I am writing the biography of George Gilmore, O/C of the First Battalion of the South Dublin Brigade and later the Dublin No. 2 Brigade during the Civil War. Since Neil O’Boyle, also called Ned (Niall) Plunkett Boyle of Donegal was also in the Dublin No. 2, in the Third Battalion, I am interested in learning more of the role that Roger McCorley of the Free State army played in the killing of O’Boyle in Co. Wicklow in May 1923. So far, I have only seen this cited in Jim McDermott’s (2011) book, “Northern Divisions: The Old IRA and the Belfast Pogroms, 1920-1922.” Thank you.

  10. admin August 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    My granda’s name was Tom Glennon.

    According to his service record, in 1920, he was subsequently appointed a Staff Captain attached to GHQ in Dublin but he’s also referred to in other witness statements from the BMH as being O/C Antrim Brigade from late 1920. My guess is while he was nominally attached to GHQ, he was sent to Antrim as an area organiser and then took over there as O/C when Paddy O’Logan, the previous Brigade O/C was captured. My granda only lasted until March 1921 before he too was captured, while in the process of organising Antrim’s first flying column.

    if you want more info on Belfast / Antrim, let me know – I spent an awful lot of my spare time in the first five months of this year researching my granda’s life as an 80th birthday present for my da, who prior to then knew pretty much none of the details, other than the fact that his father had been in the IRA.



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