James Walsh (Irish politician)

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For other people named James Walsh, see James Walsh (disambiguation).

James Joseph Walsh, generally referred to as J. J. Walsh, (20 February 1880 – 30 November 1948) was Postmaster General, (later Minister for Posts and Telegraphs) of the Irish Free State from 1923 to 1927.[1] He was also a senior Gaelic Athletic Association organiser and Cumann na nGaedheal politician. Later, he was closely associated with Irish-based pro-Nazi initiatives during the Second World War, frequently expressing his views with anti-semitic rhetoric.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

J. J. Walsh was born in the townland of Rathroon, near Bandon, County Cork. His family came from a farming background, "working a substantial holding of medium but well-cultivated land".[4] Until the age of fifteen, Walsh attended a local school in Bandon, but by his own account "as far as learning went, I may as well have been at home".[4] Together with his school-friend P. S. O'Hegarty, he passed the Civil Service exams for the Postal service. He later worked locally as a clerk in the Post Office. Like O'Hegarty, he spent three years in London at King's College, studying for the Secretary's Office "a syllabus (which) differed little from the Indian Civil Service". While O'Hegarty succeeded in his studies, Walsh did not, and returned to Cork where a friend, Sir Edward Fitzgerald, arranged work for him on the Entertainments Committee of the Cork International Exhibition.[5]


Walsh was active in the Gaelic Athletic Association, promoting Gaelic games in many areas, but particularly in Cork city and county. His interest in organised sports had a strong political dimension.

I happened to be one of those who realised the potentialities of the G.A.A. as a training ground for Physical Force. Contamination with the alien and all his works was taboo. I gathered around me a force of youthful enthusiasts from the University, Civil Service and Business. With this intensely organised instrument, war was declared on foreign games which were made to feel the shock so heavily that one by one, Soccer and Rugby Clubs began to disappear.[6]

He was also instrumental in establishing the 'revived' Tailteann Games.


He participated in the Easter Rising in 1916; one of the small group of Hibernian Rifles that reported to James Connolly in the G.P.O..[7] He was arrested following the general surrender and sentenced to death after a court-martial at Richmond Barracks. This was almost immediately commuted to life imprisonment, but he was released the following year under a general amnesty.

Walsh was elected as a Sinn Féin MP in the 1918 general election for the Cork City constituency.[8] As a member of the 1st Dáil he was arrested for partaking in an illegal government. He was released in 1921 and supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and went on to become a founding member of the new political party, Cumann na nGaedheal. Walsh served as Postmaster General from 1922 until 1924 and joined the cabinet of W. T. Cosgrave between 1924 and 1927, after the office was reconstituted as the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. He was elected at every election for the Cork Borough constituency until 1927 when he retired from government.

During the Second World War, known at the time in Ireland as "The Emergency", Walsh's connections with fascism, including his association with Ailtirí na hAiséirghe,[9] brought him to the attention of the Directorate of Intelligence G2, the Intelligence branch of the Irish Army. Their request to the Minister for Justice, Gerald Boland, to place a tap on Walsh's phone was, however, refused.[10]



  1. ^ "Mr. James Joseph Walsh". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Walsh pp12-13,44
  3. ^ p146 O'Halpín E
  4. ^ a b Walsh p9
  5. ^ Walsh p10
  6. ^ Walsh p16
  7. ^ O'Mahony P65 par. 13
  8. ^ "James Walsh". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Ryle Dwyer, T. (1988). Strained relations: Ireland at peace and the USA at war, 1941–45. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7171-1580-8. 
  10. ^ O'Halpin Defending Ireland p223

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William O'Brien
Member of Parliament for Cork County
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
New constituency Teachta Dála for Cork County
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Political offices
New office Minister for Posts and Telegraphs
Succeeded by
Ernest Blythe