O'Keeffe, Patrick (‘Paudeen’) (Ó Caoimh, Pádraig ) (1881–1973), politician and soldier, was born in Collen, Co. Cork, near to the border with Co. Kerry; son of Daniel Keeffe, Farmer. Educated locally, he joined the Post Office as a clerk, and became an early member of Sinn Féin in Dublin, and subsequently a party secretary. Having taken part in the Easter rising of 1916, he lost his civil service job and was interned at Frongoch camp in Wales, where he spent time on hunger strike. After release he devoted his time to the party, of which he became (1917) general secretary, a position he held until 1923. As such, he earned a meagre salary at the party headquarters, 6 Harcourt St., Dublin. O'Keeffe, known alternately in Irish as Pádraig Ó Caoimh, was arrested with most of the Sinn Féin leadership in the wake of the ‘German plot’ of May 1918, imprisoned at Usk, and subsequently released in March 1919. Meanwhile, as a prisoner candidate, he sat in the first Dáil Éireann (January 1919) for Cork North. During the war of independence (1919–21) he maintained a close relationship with the rising star of the conflict, Michael Collins (qv), to whom he had a personal devotion. O'Keeffe shared with Collins the vivid modus loquandi of west Munster, responding to a press reporter's question on Sinn Féin's political ambitions with ‘Revenge, bejaysus, revenge!’ After a raid on the party headquarters (12 September 1919) he was detained briefly, as Collins promptly transferred party headquarters to other locations in the city.
Returned in 1921 for the new eight-seat Cork constituency (mid, north, south, south-east and west) to the second Dáil Éireann, O'Keeffe took part in the furious dáil debate of 6 January 1922 on the recent Anglo–Irish treaty (which he supported), predicting that verbal war would soon become a killing war. He was among those on both sides who tried as late as May 1922 to maintain republican solidarity under the so-called Collins–de Valera pact, which aimed at a coalition of national interest to prevent a republican split. Losing his seat in the first post-treaty general election in June 1922, he queried the result but, on Michael Collins's personal advice, abandoned the challenge. By July he was serving in the civil war as an officer of the National Army. He was appointed deputy military governor of Mountjoy prison in Dublin, but in day-to-day duties he effectively replaced the ailing governor, Phil Cosgrave (qv), brother of W. T. Cosgrave (qv), chairman of the provisional government.
O'Keeffe's regime at Mountjoy was legendary. Surrounded by front-ranking former comrades as prisoners, including the formidable female leaders Maud Gonne MacBride (qv) and Mary MacSwiney (qv), he achieved rudimentary control (if not discipline) with least necessary force. His west Cork humour, loaded with irony and expletives, sustained a regime that might easily have collapsed without his basic sense of fairness. To threats of escape (several tunnels were discovered), he retorted: ‘Nothing escapes here but gas!’ When four leading republican prisoners, Rory O'Connor (qv), Liam Mellows (qv), Dick Barrett (qv), and Joe McKelvey (qv), were to be shot at Mountjoy on 8 December 1922, in reprisal for the assassination of Seán Hales (qv), TD, O'Keeffe had the grim task of waking the men to prepare them for their summary executions. Another prisoner, Seán MacBride (qv), had noted O'Keeffe's unusually polite manner, indicating something tragic was in progress.
In spite of his frequently exasperated response to those who irritated him, ‘Paudeen’ was liked among inmates, if also ridiculed and jeered according to the boisterous pupil-prefect relationship of a lax prisoner-of-war camp. Ernie O'Malley (qv) later recalled him, in The singing flame, with the critical hindsight of a republican prisoner, yet did not condemn him. O'Keeffe remained deputy governor after the civil war, until August 1923. With tighter government policy on discipline at the prison, he was replaced by less indulgent successors whose regime resulted in a major hunger strike. Under general demobilisation of the wartime army, he returned to civilian life and was subsequently appointed clerk of the senate (Seanad Éireann) in recognition of his services to the national movement. Remaining in Dublin for life, he retired in 1947 to his residence at 3 Leinster Road, Rathmines. He was predeceased by his wife, who had managed a shop and restaurant on nearby Camden St., one of Michael Collins's many ‘safe houses’ – during the war of independence. He died at home 20 September 1973, aged 92, survived by his daughters, and was buried at Dean's Grange cemetery, Dublin.