Vincent Fovargue

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Vincent Patrick Fovargue (1901–1921) was a company officer in the Dublin Brigade of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence. After his capture, Fovargue was recruited as an informant by the British Army Intelligence Corps. Soon after, Fovargue was freed in a staged escape. After his identity was leaked to Michael Collins, Fovargue was assassinated by the IRA in England.


Fovargue, from Dublin, was only 20 years old and had previously been the intelligence officer with the 4th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA in the Ranelagh area.[1] He had been captured by the British Army in Dublin. Under interrogation, he leaked information that resulted in the arrest of the other members of his unit a few days later. In return for this information, the Intelligence Corps allowed him to escape during a staged ambush in Dublin's South Circular Road. This attempted ruse however did not go unnoticed by Michael Collins' informants in the Crown's security forces.

On the night of the escape, Detective Constable David Neligan of the Dublin Metropolitan Police's "G" Division was on duty in Dublin Castle when McNamara passed him a telephone message on a police form. The message, issued by the British Military Headquarters, stated that a "Sinn Féin" suspect named Fovargue had escaped from three Intelligence Corps officers in a car whilst en route to prison. It gave a description of his appearance and asked that the British Army be notified in the event of his recapture by the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Neither Detective was fooled by this, as Neligan explained:

Now if they had said that this man (who was completely unknown to both of us) had escaped from one I.O. it might have sounded reasonable enough. But to tell us that an unarmed man had escaped out of a motor-car in the presence of three presumably armed men was imposing a strain on our credulity. Both of us thought this story too good to be true.

The two men retyped the message and passed it to Collins the following day. Meanwhile, Fovargue had been sent to England where he adopted the alias of Richard Staunton. Fovargue had in fact been sent to England by Intelligence Corps Colonel Ormonde Winter in order to infiltrate the IRA in mainland Britain.


On 2 April 1921, a boy walking on the golf links of the Ashford Manor Golf Club in Ashford, Middlesex discovered the body of Fovargue, who had been shot through the chest.[2] Discovered near the corpse was a small piece of paper on which had been scribbled in blue pencil the words "Let spies and traitors beware – IRA".[3]

The execution was identical in its hallmarks to those of dozens of other alleged British moles who had been killed in County Cork and other parts of Ireland up to this time. The difference was this was the first occasion that this had been done in the British mainland.

It is unclear who actually carried out the execution. Rex Taylor stated that it was Joe O'Sullivan; this is supported by Kelleher and Brennan. David Neligan stated that Reginald Dunne carried out the execution and that Dunne was accompanied by Joe Shanahan. Shanahan later told Neligan that on the way back into London, their car was stopped by a policeman, who informed them that their tail light was not working.

In popular culture[edit]

In the Neil Jordan film Michael Collins, Fovargue's assassination is depicted onscreen. Fovargue is tracked down while working out at the golf course, allowed to say the Act of Contrition, and then fatally shot by Liam Tobin (Brendan Gleeson).