Paddy Rowland of Bord na Móna, George Hipwell of Rathangan CU, Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council Eddie Fitzpatrick, Aine Broy, Mayor of Kildare Ivan Keatley, Michael Shanahan, Sgt Paul Pender
Cross border relations remained on upbeat when Offaly and Kildare joined forces to recognise Ireland’s greatest spy, Col Eamon (Ned) Broy.
A master of espionage, Broy was born in Ballinure, Rathangan on the Kildare side of the border on the Clonbullogue road, but his remains lie on the Offaly side in Coolegagen cemetery.
Described as Michael Collin’s trusted confidant, his daring endeavours were hailed as the key to winning of the War of Independence.
He later became Ireland’s first Garda Commissioner and President of the Olympic Council of Ireland. Actor Stephen Rea played the roll of Ned Broy in the Hollywood film "Michael Collins".
His daughter Aine, who was guest of honour, said her father used to point out the exact location of the Offaly border when he brought her on visits back to Ballinure.
There were calls for Kildare’s public representatives to gather in front of the press cameras alongside Aine, and then Offaly’s representatives took their cue as newspapers from the Faithful county and the Lilywhite domain took turns.
There was even a mix in some shots as the county lines were blurred. In fact Mayor of Kildare, Ivan Keatley later acknowledged his grandfather came from Birr. Others also pointed out cross county lineage to much banter.
Chairman of the Col Eamon Broy Memorial Committee, Offaly councillor, John Foran, welcomed the large turnout at Rathangan Credit Union on Wednesday August 16. He called on the various sponsors to say a few words with George Hipwell of Rathangan Credit Union up first.
“This is a very historic occasion and its very important for Rathangan and surrounding areas,” he said.
Committee secretary Michael Shanahan explained how the idea to unveil a monument came about after sixth class pupils at Clonbullogue National School under took a project on Broy. He explained how, as principal, he invited Aine Broy to meet the pupils.
“I decided then that we had to honour, both locally and nationally, a very important figure in 2oth century Irish history. He has been forgotten and its time that we as a community put the record straight,” he said.
He outlined how the committee got together last October to work on the project with John Foran, Michael Shanahan, Eddie Connell, Joe Gorey, Maura Allen, Seamus O’Donoghue, Tom Darby, Leo Dempsey, Willie Flynn and Pascal Harrison all coming on board.
Michael thanked all the sponsors and those who helped including Edenderry Municipal District, Offaly County Council, Kildare Municipal District, Kildare County Council, Cllr Mark Stafford, Cllr Paddy Kennedy, Mario Corrigan, the Gardai, who were represented by Supt John Maloney from Tullamore and Sgt Paul Pender from Rathangan station, Bord Na Mona represented by Paddy Rowland, The Olympic Council of Ireland, Rathangan Credit Union, Edenderry Credit Union, Clonbullogue GAA and Rathangan GAA.
Michael outlined how on September 17, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan will unveil the momument at Ned Broy’s graveside. Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan will also be on hand as well as a representative from the Irish Olympic Council and Brig Gen Paul Fry, GOC of the Irish Corp.
Michael stressed the presence of representatives from the highest arms of the State indicated the huge contribution Broy made to “our State and the protection of democracy in our infant State.”
Historian Seamus Cullen, who first gave talks on Ned Broy back more than five years ago, outlined his extraordinary life. He told of how he leaked documents to the Volunteers and cited the smuggling of Michael Collins into the Dublin Metropolitan Police Station at Brunswick Street as one of the most daring acts of espionage ever carried out. He said he was someone who served the two of the most important Irish political leaders in the 20th century, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera.
Aine Broy spoke about visits to Ballinure and her father’s love of sport.
Reading from her father’s own words, she told a story about how on one occasion Broy set out to meet Collins in secret at the Five Lamps in Fairview at 11.15pm. Both men didn’t want to be hanging around, so Broy allowed himself fifteen minutes to walk there. Unfortunately he came across a group of young hooligans setting off fireworks. As he didn’t want to draw any attention on himself, he told them he was a police man, drew his pistol and asked them to clear off but they didn’t take him seriously, so he fired a shot, which hit a galvanised sheet that made a terrible bang. The lads ran off and he made his way as quickly as possible to meet Collins without as he described any “undue illumination.”
Mayor of Kildare, Ivan Keatley said it was fitting such a monument should be erected for a figure of truly national importance and to finally honour his achievements. He described him as “a local man who risked all so that we might have a better life.”
Paddy Rowland from Bord Na Mona said the company was delighted to be involved in such a project.
He quoted Bord na Mona’s first managing director, Todd Andrews, who was also involved in the War of Independence. The paragraph from Andrew’s book describes a mystery prisoner who was placed in a cell across from Andrews in Arbour Hill, which turned out to be Ned Broy. Broy spent five months in jail awaiting trial for treason but was released under the truce.
Seamus Cullen said Andrews went on to name Broy, “The man in the iron mask.”
A native of Ballinure, Joe Keogh said he knew the Broy family as he had lived next door. He said he remembers Ned coming back to Ballinure on visits. He recalled how he had a keen interest in the fortunes of the Kildare football team and Joe presented Aine with a framed photo of the 1928 All-Ireland winning team. All the speakers praised the committee for their hard work, especially Michael Shanahan who spearheaded the project. In conclusion to his talk, Seamus Cullen directed everyone to look out the window at the former school house beside the Credit Union, indicating that was the very building where Broy received his education all those years ago.