Staines, Michael Joseph (1885–1955), revolutionary, Garda commissioner, and senator, was born 1 May 1885 in Newport, Co. Mayo, eldest child of Edward Staines, a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) man, and Margaret Staines (née McCann). He was raised in Newport, and educated at the local national school. The family spent time in Roscommon before moving to Dublin in 1904 after his father was dismissed from the RIC. In 1911 Michael was living with his family at Arran Quay, Dublin. He was treasurer of the Colmcille branch of the Gaelic League, Blackhall Place, Dublin, but was not involved in political nationalism until 1913, when he attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers. He became quartermaster to several companies that drilled at Colmcille Hall, and in 1915 became quartermaster to the Dublin brigade; he worked for Henshaw's, the ironmongers and suppliers, making him an ideal candidate for the position. On the general council of the Irish Volunteers, he became close to Patrick Pearse (qv), and in the months before the 1916 rising he replaced The O'Rahilly (qv) as national quartermaster. During the rising he fought in the General Post Office (GPO) and was one of the stretcher-bearers for James Connolly (qv) on his evacuation from the building. He was interned at Wakefield and then Frongoch camp, Wales, where he was a key member of a group that insisted that the camp be run along military lines, becoming commandant of South Camp and a close associate of Michael Collins (qv).
On release in December 1916, he became an employee of the prisoner support group, the Irish National Aid Association and Volunteer Dependents Fund, of which Collins became general secretary. Staines used this job as a front to engage in activity on behalf of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and to begin reviving the Irish Volunteers. (In 1954 he denied joining the IRB, recalling how in the aftermath of the 1916 rising he had vocally criticised leading IRB members for failing to take part; for all that he was clearly trusted by the organisation.) He was on the executive of the reorganised Volunteers and was director of supplies. He also filled important organisational roles during Sinn Féin's by-election victories in Roscommon North, Longford and Clare, and joined the executive after the ‘German plot’ arrests (May 1918). He was one of Collins's allies nominated to contest the general election of 1918, winning a seat for the St Michan's constituency, Dublin. He had already involved himself in local politics in Dublin, becoming an alderman on the corporation and chairman of the board of governors of Portrane asylum. He was involved in the establishment of the dáil courts and was appointed first director of the Belfast boycott for the first dáil on 14 September 1920. As a consequence of his activities, his family were harassed and his father jailed for a period. On 6 December 1920 Staines himself was arrested – with several others – when attending a meeting of Dublin corporation. He was held in Mountjoy until 30 June 1921, maintaining a surreptitious correspondence with Collins throughout. He was released as part of the process leading to a truce, and on the insistence of fellow prisoners Arthur Griffith (qv) and Eoin MacNeill (qv), who refused a British government offer of release unless accompanied by Staines and Éamon Duggan (qv).
He performed several vital functions during the period of the truce. He was the Irish Republican Army (IRA) liaison officer with the British forces in Galway and Mayo until 15 October, when he was appointed IRA representative on a joint IRA/British body established to visit the prisons and internment camps in Ireland. Essentially this involved his becoming an emissary from the IRA leadership to the agitated prison population, ordering them to be patient and maintain discipline while negotiations were in progress. This was an unpopular role and Staines was not pleased at his appointment. He was reelected to the dáil at the general election of 1921 for the constituency of Dublin North-West and later supported the treaty, urging the house to finish the debate as there were thousands of men in prison waiting ‘while we are talking and repeating the same things over and over again’ (Dáil Éireann debates, iii, 6 January 1922). In January 1922 he was appointed acting chairman of the police organising committee, established to plan the formation of a police force for the new state. The committee prepared a blueprint for the setting up of a ‘People's Guard’, and on 10 March he was appointed commissioner of police, a post he regarded as temporary. He quickly began laying the foundation stones for the new force: the officers and men were recruited, a new badge commissioned, and a name chosen. His appointment of several former RIC officers to senior positions, including Patrick Walsh as deputy commissioner, engendered resentment and dissent from IRA elements who had joined the new force. This became outright mutiny on 15 May 1922; Staines lost control and was forced to flee police headquarters in Kildare, leaving it in the hands of mutineers just at the moment when civil war seemed imminent. He regained command in mid July, but only when the mutineers were promised an inquiry, and he never recovered effective authority. He relinquished the post in September, doing so – with some face saved – on the basis that as a TD he was conforming to a recommendation by the inquiry that the police should be divorced from politics. He had successfully held his dáil seat in June 1922 despite an adverse poster campaign waged against him by republicans.
He did not contest the general election of 1923, but remained on Dublin corporation and acted as chairman of the joint committee of Grangegorman Hospital. He became a senator in 1930 and unsuccessfully sought election to the dáil for Fine Gael in Dublin North-West in 1937, 1938, and 1943; he did not get close to election on any occasion. He became a founder member of the New Ireland Assurance Company Ltd. and was for a time the proprietor of the Central Wholesale Warehouse, Dublin, but this failed and subsequently he did not hold down regular employment. He was consistently in an impecunious state – ‘he is a man who lives above his means’ (Garda report, 1938, S 7473); in 1939 friends and colleagues in Fine Gael organised a collection to assist him. In 1941 the Great Southern Railway Co. employed him as a temporary clerk. He died 27 October 1955 at his home at 8 Castle Road, Clontarf, Dublin.
He married (1922) Sheila Cullen; they had nine children.