Crowley (Ó Cruadhlaoich), Diarmuid (1875–1947), civil servant and judge, was born Jeremiah Crowley on 30 April 1875 at Glanbuss, Kilbrittain, Co. Cork, younger son of John Crowley and Ellen Crowley (née Grace). Educated locally, he entered the civil service, having taken first place in the examination for excise officers. Transferred to London, he became prominent in Gaelic League circles there and was a regular delegate to the Coiste Gnotha in Dublin. A close friend and supporter of Arthur Griffith (qv), he was a frequent, if somewhat controversial, contributor to the United Irishman and later the Irish Independent and An Phoblacht. Transferring back to Ireland, he served for several years as an excise officer in Ardara, Co. Donegal, retiring from the civil service on a small pension after the 1916 rising. Called to the bar in Trinity term 1916, he practised as a barrister before being approached by Austin Stack (qv) to serve as a circuit court judge of the revolutionary dáil courts. He accepted the appointment, which was for life on a tax-free salary of £750 a year.
The appointment of such an inexperienced junior counsel was necessitated by the refusal of most of the Law Library's more experienced barristers to take up posts within the dáil courts because they ran parallel to the established system. Taking up his appointment on 1 August 1920, Crowley and the other senior judges, including Cahir Davitt (qv), spent the first months establishing the rules and constitution of the dáil courts. Despite the widespread imposition of martial law, Crowley was determined to fulfil his appointment and did so by sitting on the western circuit during October–November 1920. Unlike his more pragmatic colleagues he invited confrontation with the crown forces: he insisted on holding his court in public at Ballina, and was arrested after he defied the RIC when they called on the court to disperse. Stripped of his British civil service pension, he was sentenced to two years’ hard labour and was released shortly before the treaty.
In November 1921 Crowley retook his seat on the bench and went out on summer circuit in Co. Kerry in 1922. During this period the provisional government had been attempting to address the question of the status of the dáil courts. With the outbreak of civil war, the government feared that the anti-treaty side would appeal to the dáil courts for justice, on the assumption that such courts would by their nature be more sympathetic. On 11 July the cabinet, without seeking the necessary support of the dáil, suspended the dáil courts. Crowley forced the hand of the provisional government further on 19 July 1922 when he granted a conditional order of habeus corpus for George Plunkett (qv), son of Count Plunkett (qv). Under the terms of the order, both the minister for defence and the governor of Mountjoy prison had to show cause for Plunkett's detention or produce him before Crowley on 26 July. Plunkett was a military prisoner from the Four Courts, and as such was viewed by the provisional government as falling outside any civil jurisdiction.
Crowley's actions forced the hand of the provisional government, which on 25 July used the provisional order decree to rescind the original order establishing the dáil courts. The provisional order decree had been passed by Dáil Éireann to allow the president and cabinet of Dáil Éireann to make provisional orders that had the same effect as if passed by Dáil Éireann itself. Some within the provisional government viewed the rescinding as illegal, and George Gavan Duffy (qv) resigned from the cabinet in protest. On 26 July Crowley declared the orders invalid and ordered the arrest of Richard Mulcahy (qv) and Colm Ó Murchadha for their failure to appear before him to justify Plunkett's imprisonment. Some time later he granted a conditional order to Kathleen Clarke (qv) to have the ceann comhairle, Eoin MacNeill (qv), convene the dáil. Crowley was detained and locked up in Wellington barracks for ten days.
What was perceived as his troublesome behaviour (W. T. Cosgrave (qv) referred to him as an ‘old cod’ in the dáil) prevented Crowley's elevation within the new legal structures of the Irish state. While his former colleagues were appointed to the bench, he was not appointed beyond judicial commissioner for the winding up of the dáil courts (17 August 1923–31 January 1924). He resigned this post after failing to secure the post of chief judicial commissioner, and thereafter doggedly demanded the continued payment of his full salary as a judge of the dáil courts, on the grounds that his appointment had been for life. In 1925 the Dáil Supreme Court (Pensions) Act was passed, providing the former judges with a pension of £500. The only person who benefited was Crowley, but he remained dissatisfied and unsuccessfully issued high court proceedings against the minister for finance and the minister for justice (8 February 1934). In his judgment delivered on 30 July 1934, Mr Justice Johnston stated that Crowley had acquiesced in the matters complained of by accepting his pension under the 1925 act.
Unbowed, Crowley gradually dropped out of public life, regularly spending time in Paris and the USA as well as giving, and presiding at, lectures under the auspices of Sinn Féin. At one such lecture (published in An Phoblacht, 10 Feb. 1934) he fantastically accused an unnamed cabal within the provisional government of planning the death of Sir Henry Wilson (qv) in order to break the treaty and keep the IRA united. He was also the author of The oath of allegiance (1925) and Step by step: from the republic back into the empire. The evolution of Eamon de Valera (1935). Unmarried, he lived at 12 Charleville Road, North Circular Road, Dublin. He died 4 November 1947, leaving an estate valued at £7,928. His funeral was attended by ‘Sceilg’ (J. J. O'Kelly (qv)), Seán MacBride (qv), TD, and Mrs Margaret Buckley (qv), president of Sinn Féin.