New Look at Fighter Turned Writer

Original article located at, December 03, 2021, by Peter McDermott

Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy didn’t quite handpick the men they sent out in early 1918 to organize the Irish Volunteers. It was a self-selected few like Ernie O’Malley who were willing to work fulltime for the cause. But the 20-year-old Dubliner, who’d dropped out of medical school at UCD and left the pro-establishment household led by his civil servant father, had little experience in things military or indeed of life generally.

In their new biography of him, Harry F. Martin and Cormac O’Malley outline Ernie’s other limitations, “He lacked the natural social affability and relaxed humor that would make it easy to communicate with men in counties with different accents and local loyalties. He was bookish and had recently been a university boy in Dublin, which did not go down well in the countryside. Ernie himself admitted he was a perfectionist, who was impatient with anyone who didn’t give military training their complete focus, follow specific instructions, or complete assigned functions on time. These were not qualities natural to rural men with little formal education – who may have spent many hours that day working at their small businesses, farms or in local creameries.”

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