The Cairo Gang Photo

The so called "Cairo Gang" photo comes in fact in two varieties, one with the Getty Image Archives (top print) and is credited to a Sean Sexton, and another attributed to the Piaris Beaslai collection at NLI (bottom print). Beaslai was a cousin of Lily Merin (or Mernin), one of Michael Collins' moles in Dublin Castle, who passed much useful information to Collins. He was also, worringly from the point of view of spin, IRA Director of Publicity

The Cairo Gang never existed as such. The much heralded photo has been mis-label "The Cairo Gang" by later pundits. It, is in fact labeled by the IRA at the time as "The Special Gang". The IRA also have the names of the men on the photo and it is clear that the group comprises men from F Coy of ADRIC who were used for "special" photo shoots, like the Battle of Vico Road . They were not intelligence agents

The Cairo Gang was supposed to be a group of British Intelligence agents in Dublin during the Irish War of Independence with a brief to conduct intelligence operations against members of the Irish Republican Army. I eventually discovered that the term "Cairo Gang" has not actually been used anywhere prior to 1958, and the first mention in an Irish newspaper is 1962 (using Google ngrams). So unless anyone can find a contemporary reference to it in the War of Independence, the conclusion is that it was never actually used in 1920.

I used "Dublin" as a control, one can see the number of mentions fairly uniform since 1910. But when you use "Cairo Gang" the earliest mentions are in late 1950s

Thoms Dublin Directory 1921

The British seemed to have frequented 2 cafes in the Grafton St area

There is no findable mention of "Cairo Gang" in books or documents of the 1919-1922 period. The earliest reference found so far is 1958. The term has been cut and pasted ever since.


2 gangs palace yard
  It may have been taken in the narrow alley in centre bottom of the above overhead shot

The collection of material held in Dublin, Military Archives (The Bureau of Military History) and contained in a scrapbook compiled by I.R.A.intelligence,1919-21,including intelligence in Collins papers on, special gang " F"coy aux div, giving names to the numbers in the in the photo.