Griffin, Michael Joseph (1892–1920), catholic priest, was born 18 September 1892 near Gurteen, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, one of five children of Thomas Griffin (d. 1914), farmer and chairman of Galway county council (1912–14), and Mary Griffin (neé Kyne). He was educated at Clonkeenkerril national school (1896–1907) and St Joseph's College, Garbally, Ballinasloe (1907–10) and then entered Maynooth. He was not a particularly brilliant clerical student, but while in Maynooth he developed interests in Gaelic games, photography, and the Irish language and became an ardent nationalist. It is not clear when his interest in Irish began, but in college he was a member of the Columban League, a group devoted to the language's promotion. Although from the diocese of Clonfert, he was lent to the diocese of Galway and ordained in Ballaghadereen in April 1917. His first position was as curate in the parish of Ennistymon, Co. Clare.
In June 1918 he was transferred to the parish of Rahoon, which comprised parts of Galway city, Salthill, Barna, and Furbo. He was also appointed spiritual director to the students at the diocesan seminary, St Mary's college. In the election of December 1918 he openly supported the successful Sinn Féin candidate, Pádraig Ó Máille (qv). On one occasion he drove forty miles (64 km) on his motorcycle to warn Ó Maille of a potential raid by the British army. He was very active in cultural events, joining the local branch of the Gaelic League and organising feiseanna in Barna in the summers of 1919 and 1920.
Although clearly sympathetic to Sinn Féin, he was not thought to have made himself a target. As the troubles reached their height in late 1920, Galway witnessed a series of tit-for-tat assassinations. In mid October Patrick Joyce, a local schoolmaster, was executed by the IRA on charges of being an informer, and the British forces responded by shooting Michael Walsh, an urban councillor. Around midnight on Sunday, 14 November, Griffin was lured from the curates' presbytery at 2 Montpellier Terrace, Galway, and disappeared. Questions immediately followed in parliament, but no news was heard until 20 November, when his body was found in a shallow grave in Cloghscoiltia, near Barna. He had been shot in the head. A military inquiry was held in the following week at Eglinton police barracks. This returned a verdict of death by shooting, without identifying the culprits. The general public had no doubt that elements within the crown forces were responsible. F. P. Crozier (qv), commandant of the Auxiliary Division, RIC, later stated that he also believed this to be the case, but no further action resulted.
The impact of Griffin's assassination was only marginally lessened by the coincidence of Bloody Sunday. The shooting of a priest caused real shock and his funeral in Loughrea was a massive public demonstration. The bishop of Galway publicly wondered if the killing marked ‘the beginning of an attack on the church and religion’ (BMH, WS 207 Fr. Aloysius). A monument was erected in Cloghscoiltia in November 1922 and renovated in 1992. Another monument was erected beside Loughrea cathedral, and a church was built in his honour in Gurteen in the 1930s. In 1937 Fr Griffin Road was opened in Galway, and in 1948 Fr Griffin's Football Club was founded in Galway city.