Sean Mac Bride [1904-88]
A very interesting typescript report to the IRA Chief of Staff, 16.4.25, signed initials SmacB, ‘Comdt., Officer i/c finance & Accounts,’ concerning a mission to investigate options for arms purchase in Germany and Belgium, on headed paper paper of Oglaigh na hEireann GHA, 5pp, with 2pp specifications from an arms supplier, Sean Mac Bride, a son of Major John Mac Bride and Maud Gonne Mac Bride, was a Na Fianna and the IRA from an early age. He opposed the Treaty, and after escaping from Mountjoy Jail late in 1923 he joined IRA GHQ, and took charge of the IRA’s finances, producing regular monthly balance sheets (see other documents in this archive.) He spoke French fluently, and evidently he made journeys to continental Europe to source arms purchases.
The present report describes a journey to London, Paris, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin, Antwerp, Liege and back through Liverpool, meeting two arms suppliers in Germany, Grotstuck and Becker, and in Belgium. He says Grotstuck had proved unreliable previously in relation to supplies left in their care. In relation to Becker, ‘In some respects I would rather deal with this man as his dealings in arms would be illegal from the Reparations Commission’s point of view, and therefore, he would take greater care than if it were an ordinary business transaction. On the other hand, I am convinced that if he got the lightest opportunity for swindling us, he would probably avail of it.’ However, Mac Bride suggests dealing mainly with the Belgian supplier as his prices are lower and he is prepared to ship supplies close to the Irish coast.
Mac Bride also mentions supplies purchased by a previous IRA Director of Purchases, most of which he says are now lost or stolen. ‘The only goods which we definitely possess on the Continent are 50,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition which is in Hamburg. I arranged to have this removed to another warehouse as I did not look on the warehouse where it was as being trustworthy.’ He also mentions the activities of ‘Briscoe’ [Robert Briscoe, an import/export trader, later a Fianna Fail TD and Lord Mayor of Dublin.]
In later life Mac Bride became an Irish Government Minister and was founder of Amnesty International. He was the first person to be awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Lenin Peace prize. his biography by Anthony Jordan does not mention his arms purchase activities, and they are touched on only briefly in his entry in the recent Dictionary of Irish Biography. (1)