Dr Richard Hayes was born in 1882 in Bruree, county Limerick. He was the son of a local school teacher. He was an academic and continued on to study medicine. He graduated in 1905 from the Catholic University Medical School and making his career as a Doctor. He developed a passionate interest in Irish and French politics and history. He worked in several Dublin hospitals before taking over the medical dispensary in Lusk. He was an early member of the Irish Volunteers and by 1914 he was also disillusioned with Home Rule and rejected John Redmond in the Volunteers Split. In June 1915 he was appointed Officer Commanding the 5th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. A keen student of contemporary military text books, one of which now forms part of the collection in the Irish Military Archives, he developed a well-structured training programmed for the Battalion. He instigated foot drill and route marches, as well as basic rifle drill ironically taught by serving and former members of the British army. He personally provided first aid and field medical training as well as giving lectures on tactics.
In the first week of April 1916 he learned from James Connolly via Thomas Ashe, that a Rising was imminent and as Ashe was in constant touch with the IRB Military Council in Dublin. Hayes decided to transfer command to him. He took over the role of medical officer. The Rising was cancelled that day or so they thought. He drove to Dublin with Frank Lawless after midnight to visit senior members of the Volunteer executive before returning to Lusk in the early hours of Easter Monday. He finally received new mobilisation orders at his house in Lusk the following morning. As he moved to the assembly area he learnt from the local postmistress that a telegram had arrived instructing local Sergeant John Brady to arrest him and Thomas Ashe. He quickly drove to Knocksedan and then transported supplies in his car when the battalion moved to Finglas Glen. He wrote later that the position there was set up to block reinforcements reaching Dublin including any which may have been attending the Fairyhouse Races. Most of the British Army were enjoying the Easter racing festival in Fairyhouse. He also noted that he did not support the decision to send reinforcements into Dublin on Tuesday as he thought this weakened the battalion.
Following the withdrawal from Finglas and the reorganisation of the battalion, as part of the 5th Battalions renewed offensive he drove Thomas Ashe into Swords and entered the RIC barracks with him to demand its surrender. He was also involved in the capture of Donabate. He was subsequently instructed by Richard Mulcahy to take up a position on the east side of the Rath road during the battle of Ashbourne and told to monitor the rear of barracks which was still occupied by a substantial RIC force.
While he undertook this task Colt revolver in hand it was in his medial role that Dr Richard Hayes experienced the remainder of the battle. Throughout the hours of the combat casualties were brought to him. Despite his best efforts, Richard was unable to save John Crenigan or Thomas Rafferty, but he did successfully treat five other Volunteers including the seriously wounded Captain Ned Rooney, and John Rafferty. In the aftermath of the battle he also treated County Inspector Alexander Grey together with fifteen captured RIC men, but Grey died from his wounds on the 10th of May 1916. Richard Hayes was taken prisoner at New Barn and interrogated in Richmond barracks. Richard was court-martialled; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was incarcerated in Dartmoor and the Isle of Wight Prisons, but he was released in the 1917 general amnesty. He was rearrested in 1918 and during his time in Reading Jail, he was elected MP for East Limerick.
Upon his release in November 1919 he took his seat as a TD in the First Dáil. During the Irish war of Independence he was rearrested in November 1920 and imprisoned until the Truce in the notorious Ballykinlar camp. He supported the Treaty and after the Irish Civil war he resigned from the Dáil in 1924. Richard became a Doctor in the South Dublin Union. In later life became a Director of the Abbey theatre and was Irish Film Censor from 1941 until 1954.
He was one of the founder’s and Vice-President of the Irish Military History Society. They published articles on a variety of subjects including Irish Folklore, French Literature and Irish links with France. He made two statements to the Bureau of Military History and donated a number of unique complementary documents to it relating to the Irish struggle for Independence and the Battle of Ashbourne in particular. He died on the 16th of June 1958.