Joseph Aloysius Sweeney studied at St. Enda’s College in Rathfarnham before commencing an engineering degree in UCD. Initially a member of the Irish Volunteers in his native Burtonport in Donegal, he transferred to E Company of the 4th Dublin Battalion in 1914. He was sworn into the IRB a year later and helped with preparations for the Easter Rising, sending dispatches and assembling explosives. Sweeney took up a position on the roof of the GPO during Easter Week, acting as a sniper. He was interned in Stafford jail and Frongoch prison camp until July 1916. Elected as a Sinn Féin MP for West Donegal in 1918, he was active in re-organising the Irish Volunteers and commanded the 1st Northern Division of the IRA during the War of Independence. He supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and, having led the Donegal Command during the Civil War, went on to serve in a variety of high-ranking positions in the army, including a period as Chief of Staff between 1929 and 1931, before his retirement in 1940. He later worked for the Irish Red Cross Society, becoming general secretary in 1956.
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