Cooney, Andrew (‘Andy’) (1897–1968), republican and medical doctor, was born 22 April 1897 in Ballyphillip, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, second of three children of John Cooney and Mary Ann Cooney (née Gleeson), middling farmers. While his grandfather Patrick Cooney, from nearby Garrykennedy, was reputed to have been a member of the IRB and was a Land League activist, his father John did not have any inclination towards radical politics. Educated at Lissenhall national school and CBS, Nenagh, Andrew commenced medical studies at the UCD anatomy school in October 1916. He joined the Irish Volunteers (C Coy, 3rd Bn, Dublin Brigade) in 1917 and a year later was jailed for two months in Mountjoy and Crumlin Rd, Belfast, for illegal drilling. Joining the IRB at the end of 1918, he assisted in the December 1918 election by protecting candidates, and acted as a guard at sittings of the first dáil. In 1920 he played a major role in the attack on Borrisokane RIC barracks (26 June), took part in the Bloody Sunday operations (21 November) at 28 Upper Pembroke St. where a number of British agents were killed, and attended Croke Park afterwards. He then went on the run as a full-time Volunteer and served with the Dublin Brigade active service unit. In January 1921 he was one of a small number of Volunteers sent to reorganise country areas, and was allocated Kerry No. 2 Brigade. Under the nom de guerre ‘Jim Brown’, he reorganised the brigade and formed a flying column. His next appointment as OC Kerry No. 1 Brigade is the only example of an outside officer being imposed to lead a brigade, as it had effectively mutinied against GHQ. He represented it at the formation of 1st Southern Division (26 April 1921).
Opposing the treaty, he did not immediately break with GHQ, who sent him to organise 1st Eastern Division. Later in January 1922 the chief of staff, Eoin O'Duffy (qv), asked him to become OC 3rd Eastern Division, but later rescinded the appointment. Refusing to take over certain barracks on behalf of the provisional government, Cooney assisted Sean Gaynor in taking over Crinkle barracks, Birr, for the anti-treaty IRA and strongly favoured taking the military initiative by attacking provisional government forces at Beggars Bush, Dublin. He was then appointed OC of a largely pro-treaty area (that of 1st Eastern Division) by the IRA executive and was based in Mullingar during the April 1922 stand-off. Owing to lack of reinforcements, Cooney was forced to retire on 3 May, and was faced with a similar crisis in Drogheda. His HQ at Millmount barracks became the focus of pro-government opposition, and later fell at the outbreak of the civil war. Cooney's attention at this time was directed more to events in the Four Courts, where he was beginning to gain some influence; he was captured there at the surrender (30 June 1922). As OC prisoners in C Wing, Mountjoy, his reputation was much enhanced by his dealings with the authorities, significantly described in The gates flew open by Peadar O'Donnell (qv). After sojourns in Newbridge and Arbour Hill he was moved with the other leaders to Kilmainham, where he spent forty-one days on hunger strike. Removed (1 January 1924) to Harepark Camp, the Curragh, he was among the last to be released (29 May 1924).
Cooney was appointed quartermaster-general of the IRA by Frank Aiken (qv), chief of staff, on 2 July 1924, and later resigned the post to resume his medical studies. Acting adjutant-general before the first IRA general army convention held after the civil war (Dalkey, 14/15 November 1925), he was influential in attempts to avoid a split over the proposed entry to the dáil by Éamon de Valera (qv) and his supporters within the IRA, led by Aiken. Topping the poll in the elections to the army executive, Cooney was elected to the army council – to which no de Valera supporters were elected – and was appointed IRA chief of staff at its meeting on 18 November 1925. Central to the reorganisation scheme he put in place was the need to secure American funds for the IRA and to combat Aiken's fundraising work in the USA since December 1925 on behalf of the embryo Fianna Fáil organisation. Receiving permission on 21 April 1926, he left for the US, and in his most significant achievement as chief of staff made an agreement with Clan na Gael, whereby it gave ‘its undivided support, physically, morally and financially to Oglaigh na hÉireann’ (agreement, signed by Cooney and Luke Dillon (qv); UCD, Maurice Twomey papers).
Returning to Ireland in October 1926, Cooney resigned as chief of staff in favour of Maurice Twomey (qv), but retained his position as chairman of the IRA executive until 21 November 1927, when he obtained leave to complete his medical studies. He was conferred MB, BAO, B.Ch. (4 February 1928), having passed his previous exams in 1919, 1920, and 1925. After internship in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, he found temporary employment in London, but remained in touch with GHQ. On 27 September 1929 he married the German-educated Frances (‘Frank’) Brady, daughter of a wealthy Belfast linen family and former Cumann na mBan activist and hunger-striker. Her three sisters, particularly Kay, had also been active and also took the anti-treaty side. The marriage was not a success. Their three-month honeymoon in the US was coupled with Andy's work as envoy of the Irish Republic, assisting in setting up there a support organisation, Councils of the Irish Republic – an adjunct of the IRA political party Comhairle na Poblachta, though he had little regard ever for politics. Failing to secure employment due to police harassment and the loyalty test then in force, he and his wife were obliged to emigrate to London, where he practised as a GP, still maintaining his IRA links. Their only child, Seán, was born there in 1931. Though invited, he refused to join Fianna Fáil, and returned to Ireland in August 1932, after their accession to power. His earning of a diploma and B.Sc. in public health led to his appointment (October 1933) as secretary of the newly formed hospitals commission, which was to have great influence on hospital development; later he became a member of the executive committee of the International Hospitals Association.
An intimate friend of Maurice Twomey (still chief of staff), Cooney remained in the upper echelons of the IRA and attended its conventions. The court martial (subsequently acknowledged to have been unfair) of Seán Russell (qv) was held in his home in Strand Rd, Merrion, Dublin, in 1936. Signifying his standing in republican circles, he was chosen to unveil, inter alia, the Fenian memorial in Glasnevin and the Seán Treacy (qv) plaque in Talbot St., Dublin, and was a regular speaker at commemorations. In March 1940 he attempted to intercede with de Valera on behalf of hunger-striking republicans, and was later arrested, but released. As a senior IRA figure, his sanction, along with that of Twomey, was sought in 1941 for the court martial of the chief of staff, Stephen Hayes (qv), but neither took sides in the controversy. After the discovery of a German spy ring in the hospitals commission's subsidiary, the Dublin Hospitals Bureau, he was forced to resign (April 1942) on refusing to take a loyalty pledge to the state, and returned to private practice. He became active in the unsuccessful campaign to save Charles Kerins (qv), chief of staff, from being hanged in 1944. In anticipation of emigrating, he finally resigned from the IRA in 1944, though military and police surveillance continued until March 1945.
In August 1945 he joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, working with displaced persons in the American zone in Germany, and gained rapid promotion. After joining the International Refugee Organisation (UNRRA's successor) on 1 July 1947, he became the chief medical officer of an area including the American sector of Berlin and containing 150,000 displaced persons; he later held a similar post in Bavaria. Appointed a part-time member of the hospitals commission by the inter-party government (September 1949) and in severe financial straits, he emigrated alone to the US (2 December 1950) and never returned. While employed in a TB sanatorium in New Jersey, he obtained by examination his licence to practise medicine in Maryland on 14 January 1954. Admitted a member of the American College of Chest Physicians (again by exam) on 23 November 1954, he secured, at the age of 57, his first ever permanent post in medicine, in a similar hospital in Pikesville, Maryland. His republican activities continued through Clan na Gael during his US years, and he was a frequent speaker at commemorative events. After suffering (December 1961) a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair, he died 3 August 1968 and was buried in Youghalarra, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.