James O'Donovan (Irish: Séamus Ó Donnabháin; 3 November 1896 – 4 June 1979), also known as Seamus or Jim O'Donovan, was a leading volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. He fought in the Irish War of Independence and then on the Anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War. He was an explosives expert and was imprisoned a number of times. He is best known for his contacts with the Abwehr military intelligence of Nazi Germany.
Irish Republican Army
A native of County Roscommon, he was an explosives expert and reputedly invented the "Irish War Flour" (named after the flour sacks in which it was smuggled into Dublin aboard ships) and "Irish Cheddar" devices. He subsequently became IRA Director of Chemicals in 1921. During the Irish War of Independence he was imprisoned in Mountjoy and Kilmainham prisons and later interned in Newbridge, County Kildare.
In 1930 he became manager at ESB headquarters in Dublin.
In August 1938, at the request of IRA chief of staff Seán Russell, he wrote the S-Plan, a bombing campaign targeting England. During this time O'Donovan and Russell were the only GHQ members of the old IRA still in the organisation.
In his unpublished memoirs he wrote that he "conducted the entire training of cadre units, was responsible for all but locally-derived intelligence, carried out small pieces of research and, in general, controlled the whole explosives and munitions end" of s-plan.
Involvement with Abwehr
As "Agent V-Held", he visited Germany three times in 1939 on behalf of the IRA.
On 28 February he negotiated an arms and radio equipment delivery at the Abwehrstelle in Hamburg. On 26 April he concluded a new arms deal with the Abwehrstelle and established with the help of a Breton a secret courier connection to Ireland via France. On 23 August, O'Donovan received the last instructions for the event of war.
On 9 February 1940, Abwehr II agent Ernst Weber-Drohl landed at Killala Bay, County Sligo aboard U-37. He was equipped with a 'Ufa' transmitter, cash, and instructions for O'Donovan who by this time was the chief IRA contact for Abwehr I/II. The transmitter was lost upon landing, but when Weber-Drohl reached O'Donovan at Shankill, Killiney, County Dublin, he was able to deliver new transmission codes, $14,450 in cash, and a message from "Pfalzgraf Section" asking that the IRA concentrate its S-Plan attacks on military rather than civilian targets.
O'Donovan became increasingly enamoured of Nazi ideology during this time, and visited Germany three times. Even long after the pact with the Germans fell apart, O'Donovan continued to express his sympathy for the Nazi regime. His son, Gerard O'Donovan, recalled that every Saturday night a visitor would come to the family home and send messages to Germany.
In 1940, he was involved in setting up Córas na Poblachta, a party which proved unsuccessful. O'Donovan died in Dublin in June, 1979.
- "O'Donovan, James". Archives: Letters of James O'Donovan. University College Dublin. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
- "PORTLAOISE AGONY EASES: DEATH OF GOERTZ". Éire Nua. Republican Sinn Féin. 1997. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
- Hull, Mark M., Irish Secrets: German Espionage in Wartime Ireland 1939–1945, Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003, pp. 72–73.
- "New evidence on IRA/Nazi links". History Ireland. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Thomson, Mike. "How De Valera asked UK to smear IRA chief Sean Russell". Irish Times. Retrieved 11 January 2019.