Harrington, Niall Charles (1901–81), soldier, writer, and broadcaster, was born 23 January 1901 at 6 Cavendish Row, Dublin, one of the eight children of Timothy Charles Harrington (qv), MP, barrister at law, and his wife Elizabeth O'Neill, daughter of Dr Edward O'Neill of the above address. His father died when he was nine, and he was then brought up by his uncle Daniel Harrington, proprietor of the Kerry Sentinel, at Nelson Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry. He was educated at the local CBS and at Rockwell College, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. In June 1918 he was apprenticed to a pharmaceutical chemist, James Barry, at Boyle, Co. Roscommon.
Harrington joined the Irish Volunteers and the IRA in 1919, and the IRB the following year. He became first lieutenant in A company, 1st (Boyle) battalion, North Roscommon brigade. Forced to leave Boyle in September 1920 because of his IRA activities, he joined C company, 2nd battalion, Dublin brigade. After the treaty he joined the medical corps of the national army as a private on 8 March 1922, becoming a corporal shortly afterwards. He was on duty at the attack on the Four Courts and the fighting in O'Connell Street. On 31 July 1922 he embarked with the expeditionary force of Dublin Guards dispatched on the Lady Wicklow to Fenit, Co. Kerry, with the objective of outflanking the republican forces then controlling most of Co. Kerry. En route, he transferred from the medical corps to the Dublin Guards, in which capacity he served through most of the Kerry campaign, being promoted second lieutenant 15 August 1922 for bravery at the Droum ambush (near Rathmore). While serving as captain and adjutant of the 27th infantry battalion based at Kenmare in 1923, Harrington briefed Kevin O'Higgins (qv), minister for home affairs, on atrocities perpetrated by officers of the Dublin Guards in Kerry. He later served as captain on the general staff at GHQ (1926–34) and was attached to the military archives (1935–8). His subsequent rankings and postings included lieutenant-colonel (deputy director) G2 (intelligence) branch, GHQ (1952–9). Following his retirement in January 1959, he worked as membership representative of the Federated Union of Employers (1959–73).
Harrington zealously promoted the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell (qv), serving as secretary and president of the Parnell Commemoration Association and being largely responsible for the Glasnevin memorial and the designation of Avondale as a national heritage site. He contributed to popular education through features on historical subjects which he presented on 2RN/Radio Éireann. These included five plays and more than twenty narratives and talks, among the more notable being the play ‘Resurgence: a cavalcade of the Easter insurrection’ (March 1937). He also broadcast on behalf of the army, and provided the script and voice-over for the recruiting film Step together (1939). Over the years he contributed many articles to newspapers and periodicals, some under the pen-names Niall O'Neill (based on his mother's maiden name) or Brian Mulhern (reason unknown).
Harrington's major literary production was an account of the 1922 Kerry campaign, originally written as a memoir entitled ‘A fine day to die for Ireland’ and intended as a record for the military archives. On the advice of Dan Nolan (qv) of Anvil Books Ltd, he expanded the memoir into a full-length book, partly by including information from survivors solicited through appeals in The Kerryman. The eventual book, Kerry landing, was posthumously published by Anvil Books in July 1992. It includes an account of Harrington's role in the IRA in Boyle and Dublin and outlines the war of independence and the civil war, thus setting the Kerry campaign properly in context.
A stocky fair-haired figure of medium height, on 8 September 1926 Harrington married Annie O'Donoghue, daughter of Patrick and Marian O'Donoghue of Drung, Co. Cavan; the couple had one son (Captain Timothy) and three daughters. He died unexpectedly 10 September 1981 at St Michael's Hospital, Dun Laoghaire. His papers are held in the NLI.