O'Daly (Daly), Patrick (‘Paddy ’) (Ui Dálaig, Padraig) (1888–1957), soldier and counter-intelligence officer, was born 5 June 1888 at 70 Manor Street, Dublin, fifth child and third son among four sons and three daughters of James Daly, a DMP constable of that address, and Mary Daly (née Beahan). He was educated to the sixth standard at Clontarf national school, and possibly attended night school. A carpenter by trade, after serving an apprenticeship in Fairview he worked on construction of the Marconi wireless station, Clifden, Co. Galway. Attracted to the ‘Irish Ireland’ movement at an early age, he was sworn into the IRB (1907). While working in Tuam, Co. Galway (winter 1913–14), he joined both the Irish Volunteers and the republican scouts organisation, Na Fianna Éireann. Highly active in both organisations after returning to Dublin, he took part in the Howth gun-running (26 July 1914). During the winter of 1915–16 he secured work with a building firm conducting renovations in the Magazine Fort in Dublin's Phoenix Park, thereby gathering information regarding the fort's interior plan and troop routine. Commissioned a Volunteer lieutenant on the eve of the 1916 rising, on Easter Monday morning (24 April) he led a party that raided the fort, seizing small arms; frustrated in their purpose to enter the high-explosives store, they set off a series of small explosions, igniting a fire that blazed some twenty-four hours. Withdrawing his party to join the Four Courts garrison, commanded by Edward Daly (qv) (not a relation), he was wounded during a sortie against a British outpost in the neighbouring Charles St. medical mission (25 April). After the rising he was arrested in his bed in the Richmond hospital, and interned in Frongoch camp, north Wales. There he was court-martialled for insubordination for going on hunger strike in protest against work assignments and restrictions on letter-writing privileges. When fellow internees appealed on his behalf to Timothy Healy (qv), MP, he was defended unsuccessfully by George Gavan Duffy (qv) (October 1916), and served a 56-day sentence in a Liverpool jail.
Released in the general amnesty of December 1916, O'Daly was active in the reorganisation of the republican movement, serving on the Fianna executive, and appointed captain of B Coy, 2nd Bn, of the Volunteers’ Dublin Brigade (1918). Arrested for illegal drilling, he was imprisoned for six months in Mountjoy jail (February-August 1919). While on temporary release to visit his terminally ill wife, he made the outside arrangements that facilitated a mass escape of some twenty prisoners, including Piaras Béaslaí (qv) (29 March). In September 1919 he was appointed by Michael Collins (qv) to an elite, top-secret counter-intelligence team of the Dublin Brigade. Composed entirely of IRB men with Collins's complete confidence, the team was constituted as a full-time, paid general headquarters guard, colloquially known as ‘the squad’. It is not clear whether O'Daly commanded the squad from its inception, or assumed command during 1920. Under direct orders from Collins in his capacity as director of intelligence, the squad's primary function was the assassination of armed plain-clothes detectives of the DMP's political (‘G’) division as identified by Collins's network of spies and double agents. After augmentation of its numbers in 1920, the squad was dubbed ‘the twelve apostles’.
Functioning as field commander during most of the squad's operations, O'Daly was thus a key participant in the ruthless contest between rival intelligence services that was a major component of the Anglo-Irish War of 1919–21. He commanded the Volunteer party that attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate the lord lieutenant, Sir John French (qv), by ambushing his motor convoy in Ashtown, Co. Dublin, near his Phoenix Park residence (19 December 1919). He also commanded the party (and fired the single fatal shot) that killed William Charles Forbes Redmond, the newly appointed DMP assistant commissioner, one month after his arrival in Dublin to lead a team of Belfast detectives charged with reorganising Castle intelligence (21 January 1920). O'Daly supervised the coordinated shootings of fourteen British secret service agents in their Dublin homes on ‘Bloody Sunday’ (21 November 1920). Swept up in the ensuing mass arrests of republican activists, he was interned for four months in several Dublin locations and in Ballykinlar camp, Co. Down, the authorities being unaware of his true importance (23 November 1920–24 March 1921). He participated in the attack on the Dublin Custom House (25 May 1921), a combined operation of the GHQ squad and the Dublin Brigade's active service unit, after which, owing to the heavy casualties incurred, the two forces were amalgamated into a single body, the Guard, under his command.
Under O'Daly's lead, the Guard was nearly unanimous in following Collins and majority IRB opinion by supporting the Anglo-Irish treaty of December 1921. O'Daly and his battle-hardened veterans formed the nucleus of an expanded unit, styled the Dublin Guards, within the national army organised in early 1922 by the pro-treaty provisional government. Commissioned a captain, O'Daly commanded forty-six officers and men of the Guards’ 1st Company – the national army's first uniformed contingent – that paraded from the Phoenix Park through the city to accept the hand-over from British troops of Beggars Bush barracks (1 February 1922), which became the Guards’ headquarters. A crack unit, with a swaggering esprit de corps, the Dublin Guards were successively reconstituted as a battalion (March 1922), and a brigade (May), O'Daly concurrently being promoted a commandant and brigadier. Under the over-all operational command of Emmet Dalton (qv), he commanded the Dublin Guards force that attacked the anti-treaty Four Courts garrison – the opening engagement of the civil war – and accepted the garrison's surrender after a two-day bombardment and siege (28–30 June 1922). In the subsequent Dublin fighting, he led attacks on republican positions in O'Connell Street. Launching the campaign to encircle republican-controlled regions of southwest Munster, he commanded the sea-borne landing of 500 Dublin Guards at Fenit, Co. Kerry (2 August 1922), and against sporadic resistance occupied Tralee later in the day. Linking with troops landed the next day at Tarbert, he led a thrust through north Kerry, securing by mid-August the main population centres; he suffered a thigh wound during action in Kilcummin.
The ensuing war of attrition against republican guerrilla activity based in Kerry's extensive mountainous terrain proved the most bitterly contested and inconclusive theatre of the civil war, in which O'Daly's role was highly controversial. While severely tested by the degree of republican intransigence, the irregular guerrilla tactics, and the extent of anti-treaty sentiment among the populace, O'Daly's troops engaged in routine and uncontrolled excesses, including mistreatment and beating of prisoners, and shooting to death men who were surrendering. Summary execution of prisoners was practised more extensively in the Kerry command than in any other. O'Daly was promoted major-general and appointed GOC Kerry in January 1923. After the horrific deaths of five Free State soldiers in the explosion of a booby-trap land mine at Knocknagoshel (6 March 1923), O'Daly announced a draconian policy of employing republican prisoners to clear road barricades and other installations for fear of further booby-trap mines. Within several days seventeen prisoners were killed in mine explosions, whether by accident or by deliberate detonation in reprisal, in separate incidents at Ballyseedy, Countess Bridge, and Cahirciveen. A military court of inquiry, ordered by the defence minister, Richard Mulcahy (qv), with O'Daly himself as presiding officer, exonerated the Free State troops of any irregularity, arousing trenchant protests by Labour Party TDs, and deep divisions within the Free State government. Niall Harrington (qv), a lieutenant in O'Daly's command, and latterly deputy chief intelligence officer, in a memorandum made public posthumously, described ‘the Ballyseedy slaughter’ as a deliberate reprisal for Knocknagoshel, planned and implemented with O'Daly's knowledge and approval.
Though O'Daly was among four regional GOCs to indicate support for the aims of the incipient Irish Republican Army Organisation (IRAO) operating within the Free State army (February 1923), he soon objected to the dissident movement's methods, and reported to Mulcahy on its activities. Assertions by IRAO veterans that he was duly rewarded with a role in policy formulation, and co-option to an enlarged IRB supreme council, cannot be documented. Nevertheless, personal and IRB loyalties were factors in Mulcahy's continued support for O'Daly, as incidents continued to abound involving high-handed behaviour by officers, and indiscipline and thuggery among troops, of the Kerry command, even after the April 1923 ceasefire. In June 1923 O'Daly and two of his officers were accused of a violent physical assault, of an implicitly sexual nature, on two daughters of a pro-treaty Kenmare doctor. The so-called ‘Kenmare case’ became a central representative issue in the protracted controversy within cabinet regarding civilian authority over the military, between Mulcahy, who decided against prosecution of the case, and the justice minister, Kevin O'Higgins (qv).
O'Daly resigned his commission in March 1924 at the time of the ‘army mutiny’, attesting his desire to provide employment to army veterans in his civilian work as a building contractor, a business he had practised during 1918. By the mid 1930s he was an overseer in the OPW, with a residence in the Phoenix Park. Re-enlisting in the defence forces during the 1939–45 emergency, after mobilisation into permanent service with the rank of captain (1941–6), he was based successively on the Curragh and in Naas, Co. Kildare, serving in the construction corps variously as company commander, supervisor of work parties, training recruits, and as welfare officer. Thereafter he returned to the building trade, and lived at 41 Naas Road, Inchicore, Dublin. He was a member of the third order of St Francis. His portrait (1955) by Seán Keating (qv) is in Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.
O'Daly married first (1910) Columbia ‘Daisy’ Gillies (d. 1919); they had two sons and two daughters. He married secondly (1921) Bridget Murtagh (d. 1930, in childbirth); they had no children. He married thirdly (1934) Norah Gillies (d. 1936), of Terenure, Dublin, niece of his first wife; they had one daughter. One of his brothers fought on the anti-treaty side in the civil war, while another served in the pro-treaty army. O'Daly died 16 January 1957 in his home.