At the time the 1916 Rising, O'Connell was operating in Dublin under instruction from Joseph Plunkett; he was dispatched to Cork by Eoin MacNeill to prevent the Easter Rising. He was arrested and interned, spending time in Wandsworth Prison with Arthur Griffith.
During the Irish War of Independence, he was a member of the Irish Republican Army headquarters staff, as Assistant Director of Training and, after the killing of Dick McKee, as Director of Training.
In the IRA split after Dáil Éireann ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty, he supported the treaty and was made Deputy Chief of Staff in the National Army. On 26 June 1922 he was kidnapped by anti-treaty forces in reprisal for the arrest of an anti-treaty officer; his kidnap was a precipitating factor in the formal outbreak of the Irish Civil War, when government pro-treaty forces attacked anti-treaty forces occupying the Four Courts, two days later. O'Connell survived the fighting and spent the rest of the civil war as General Officer Commanding the Curragh Command.
He held various positions in the Irish defence forces including head of intelligence till his death in 1944, aged 57.
- O'Connell, Jeremiah Joseph (‘J. J.’, ‘Ginger’), Dictionary of Irish Biography(subscription required)
- www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie WS Ref #: 751 , Witness: Colm O'Lochlainn, Captain IV, Dublin, 1916; Printer and Publisher
- bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie, WS Ref #: 637 , Witness: Muriel McSwiney, Widow of Terence McSwiney
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