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David Neligan (1899–1983), known by his soubriquet "The Spy in the Castle", was an important figure involved in the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921, and subsequently became Director of Intelligence for the Irish Army after the Irish Civil War (28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923)

Early life[]

David Neligan was born at Templeglantine, Limerick, where his parents, David and Elizabeth Neligan, were National School Teachers.

Against his father's wishes, Neligan joined the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1917, and was recruited into the G Division in 1919. In May 1920, Neligan's elder brother Maurice (1895–1920), an Irish Republican Army member and friend of Michael Collins, persuaded him to resign from the DMP. After his resignation, Neligan had returned to his native County Limerick. Shortly after, his brother Maurice was killed in a motor cycle accident, near their home in Templeglantine. In the meantime, Neligan received word from a family friend that Michael Collins wished to meet with him in Dublin. Collins persuaded Neligan to rejoin the DMP, and provide information to the Irish Republican Army. Along with Eamon Broy and James McNamara, he acted as a valuable agent for Collins and passed on reams of vital information.

In 1921, Collins ordered Neligan to let himself be recruited into MI5. He used this as an opportunity to memorise their Oath of Allegiance, passwords, and the identities of their agents. All of this was passed on to Collins. After Broy and McNamara were dismissed in 1921, he became Collins' most important mole in Dublin Castle.

Irish Civil War[]

On the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922, Neligan joined the National Army with the rank of Commandant and was attached to the Dublin Guard. He was involved in the seaborne assault on Fenit and spent the remainder of the war serving in the appointment of local intelligence officer. He has been accused of involvement in several atrocities including the Ballyseedy Massacre. However, Ernie O'Malley has expressed doubts as to the evidence of this. In 1923 he was posted to Dublin where he was promoted to Colonel and succeeded Diarmuid O'Hegarty as National Army Director of Intelligence.

Later life[]

In 1924, Neligan handed over his post to the youthful Colonel Michael Joe Costello and took command of the DMP (which still continued as a separate force to the newly established Garda Síochána) with the rank of Chief Superintendent. In 1925 he transferred to the Garda when the two police forces were amalgamated and was instrumental in the foundation of Garda Special Branch. When Éamon de Valera was elected to power in 1932, his Republican followers demanded Neligan's dismissal. He was subsequently transferred to an equivalent post in the Civil Service. Until his death in 1983, Neligan drew pensions from the DMP, the British MI5, the Garda Síochána and the Irish Civil Service. He also received an 'Old IRA' pension through the Department of Defence.[1]



  • The Spy in the Castle by David Neligan.
  • Who's Who in the Irish War of Independence 1916-1921. Padraic O'Farrell, Mercier Press 1980.

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