ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 143 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF AN IRA MAN WHO DARED AND SUFFERED – AUSTIN STACK.
Austin Stack (pictured) was born on the 7th December, 1879 – 143 years ago on this date – in Ballymullen, Tralee, County Kerry and, at 29 years young, joined the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB).
At the time of the 1916 Rising, he was 37 years of age and was the commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and was arrested, by the British, with Con Collins, on the 21st April that year while planning an attack on Tralee RIC Barracks in an attempt to rescue Roger Casement.
He was court-martialed on the 14th June and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to twenty years penal servitude and he was released in the general amnesty of June 1917, and became active in the Irish Volunteers again.
He opposed the Treaty of Surrender in 1921 (stating, during the debate on same – “Has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died in the field and in the barrack yard..”) and took part, with other Irish republicans, in the subsequent ‘Civil War’, when Free Staters (armed by the British) usurped the Republic.
He was captured in 1923 and went on hunger strike for forty-one days before being released in July 1924. When Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fail in 1926, Stack remained with Sinn Féin and was elected Secretary of that organisation, a position he held until his death. His health was shattered due to the number of prison protests and hunger strikes for political status that he undertook.
In the 1918 general election, while a prisoner in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, he was elected to represent West Kerry in the First (all-Ireland) Dáil as an abstentionist Sinn Féin Member of Parliament. The British incarcerated him in Strangeways Prison in Manchester, from where he escaped in October 1919 and, during the ‘Black and Tan War’, as Minister for Home Affairs, he organised the republican courts which replaced the British ‘legal’ system in this country.
In the general round-up of Irish republican leaders in April 1923 (during which Liam Lynch was shot dead by Free State troops) Stack, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the rebel forces, was arrested in a farmyard in the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Tipperary – this was four days after Lynch’s death. Imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, he took part in the mass hunger-strike by republican prisoners in October 1923, which was his 5th hunger-strike in 6 years.
Shortly after the end of that forty-one day hunger-strike, in November 1923, he was released with hundreds of other political prisoners, and he married his girlfriend, Una Gordon, in 1925. In April 1929, at forty-nine years of age, he entered the Mater Hospital in Dublin for a stomach operation. He never recovered and died two days later, on 27th April 1929. He is buried in the Republican Plot, Glasnevin Cemetery, in Dublin.
A commemorative pamphlet, entitled ‘What Exactly is a Republican?’ was issued in memory of the man – ‘The name republican in Ireland, as used amongst republicans, bears no political meaning. It stands for the devout lover of his country, trying with might and main for his country’s freedom. Such a man cannot be a slave. And if not a slave in heart or in act, he cannot be guilty of the slave vices. No coercion can breed these in the freeman.
Fittingly, the question – ‘What is a republican?’ fails to be answered in our memorial number for Austin Stack, a man who bore and dared and suffered, remaining through it all and at the worst, the captain of his own soul. What then was Austin Stack, republican? A great lover of his country. A man without a crooked twist in him. One who thought straight, acted straight, walked the straight road unflinchingly and expected of others that they should walk it with him, as simply as he did himself. No man could say or write of him “He had to do it”. That plea of the slave was not his. His duty, as conscience and love dictated, he did.
The force of England, of the English Slave State, might try coercion, as they tried it many times : it made no difference. He went his way, suffered their will, and stood his ground doggedly, smiling now and again. His determination outstood theirs, because it had a deeper foundation and a higher aim. Compromise, submission, the slave marks, did not and could not exist for him as touching himself, or the Cause for which he worked and fough, lived and died.’
Ireland had lost one of her best soldiers.
‘THE LATE PATRICK HENRY, SLIGO.’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
It is with deep regret we announce the death of Patrick Henry, Harmony Hill, Sligo, which took place on the 8th March last.
The late Pat Henry was a member of the IRA from 1917 and took a very prominent part both in the IRA and Sinn Féin during the Black and Tan war.
When the ‘Treaty’ was signed, although with a young family, he again rejoined his unit and up to his death was uncompromising in his republican outlook, and his home was always open to those engaged in the Republican Movement.
His funeral on the 10th March was a striking tribute to the esteem in which he was held. An oration was delivered by Mr T. McEvilly and the ‘Last Post’ sounded. To his family we wish to tender our deepest sympathy.
May he rest in peace.
(END of ‘The Late Patrick Henry, Sligo’ ; NEXT – ‘The Child Is Father To The Man’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 1,495 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF AN IRISH SAINT AND SOLDIER.
St. Columcille (aka ‘St. Columba’) is an Irish saint, monk and soldier who was born on the 7th December, 527 AD in Gartan, County Donegal – 1,495 years ago on this date – and is perhaps best known for his ‘Book Battle’ and for being responsible for a mass hunger strike in Ireland.
Embarking on such a protest is part of a very ancient Irish tradition (although it might appear to be the case that James Connolly was the first to use it in 1913 as tool of political protest in 20th century Ireland) – fasting as a means of asserting one’s rights when faced with no other means of obtaining redress is something that has been embedded in Irish culture from ancient times.
Even when the ancient Irish law system, the Laws of the Fénechus, which we popularly called the ‘Brehon Laws’ from the word breitheamh (a ‘judge’), were first codified in AD 438, the law relating to the troscad (‘hunger strike’), was ancient.
The hunger striker gave notice of their intent and, according to the law tract Di Chetharslicht Athgabhála, if the person who is being fasted against does not come to arbitration and actually allows the protester to die, then the moral judgement went against them and they endured shame and contempt until they made recompense to the family of the dead person. If they failed to make such amends, they were not only damned by society but damned in the next world. They were held to be without honour and without morality.
The ancient Irish texts are full of examples of people fasting to assert their rights and shame powerful enemies into accepting their moral obligations. St Patrick is recorded to have done so according to the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’ and, in the ‘Life of St Ailbe’, we found St Lugid and St Salchin carrying out ritual fasts to protest.
King Conall Dearg of Connacht fasted when he found his rights infringed, and the entire population of Leinster is said to have fasted against St Colmcille when he rode roughshod over their rights. The poet Mairgen mac Amalgado mac Mael Ruain of the Deisi fasted against another poet Finguine over an act of perceived injustice.
The troscad continued in Irish law throughout the centuries until the English conquests proscribed the native law system and foisted English law on Ireland through a series of Acts between 1587 and 1613. Nevertheless, individual fasts against the cruelties of the English colonial administration are recorded several times over the subsequent years.
Saint Columcille (‘Columba’), ‘credited’ (!) with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland, died aged 76, in Iona, Scotland and, much like the ‘Holy Men’ of today, was not shy in claiming that (his) God was on his side –
‘O God, wilt thou not drive off the fog,
which envelopes our number,
the host which has deprived us of our livelihood,
the host which proceeds around the carns!
He is a son of storm who betrays us.
My Druid, he will not refuse me,
is the Son of God, and may he side with me;
How grandly he bears his course,
the steed of Baedan before the host;
Power by Baedan of the yellow hair
will be borne from Ireland on him the steed.’
And, with that – may your God, whoever He or She is, go with you…!
‘THE BRITISH STORY…
Roy Foster (pictured) in the British media.
By Barra Ó Séaghdha.
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
Terry Eagleton, now as confidently and knowledgeably ensconced in his Irish phase as in his previous four or five, is able to read the Irish scene far more closely than those we have been looking at.
Reviewing him in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper, Eagleton situates Roy Foster “in the great tradition of Anglo-Irish liberalism”, but suggests too that Foster shares some of the prejudices of his class and is naively unaware, as he denounces others’ ideologies, of his own ideological baggage.
“Foster’s constant nationalist-knocking, far from representing some daring dissidence, is now the purest platitude in these islands,” he writes. Like Foster himself and all the writers mentioned above, however, Terry Eagleton remains focused on the story of Ireland only as it unfolds within the borders of the island…
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 100 YEARS AGO : IRA EXECUTE FREE STATE ARMY BRIGADIER.
Seán Hales (pictured), a brigadier in the Free State Army and a Cumann na nGaedhal member of the Leinster House administration, was shot in Dublin on December 7th, 1922 – 100 years ago on this date – as he left a Dublin hotel, having had lunch.
The IRA had listed as targets all the elected reps who had voted for ’emergency legislation’ authorising the executions of republicans. His companion, Pádraic Ó Máille, deputy speaker of the Free State parliament, was seriously injured, but still managed to get Hales into the car and drive to the nearest hospital, where he died.
Anti-republican elements in the immediate area attempted to engage the two IRA shooters but they made good their escape.
Ó Máille was an elected representative for Sinn Féin from 1918 to 1921 and was active in the IRA in the Galway region, but supported the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ in 1921 (he later left Cumann na nGaedhal, attempted to form his own party but then joined Fianna Fáil). Both were, at the time of the shooting, members of the Cumann na nGaedhal party which, in 1933, merged with smaller groups to form the ‘Fine Gael’ party (pictured here, in that same year).
‘The actual killer, the playwright Ulick O’Connor was told in 1985, by Sean Caffrey, an ex-IRA Intelligence officer, was Owen Donnelly, from Glasnevin, “a rather girlish-looking, fair-haired fellow who had been a very good scholar in O’Connell Schools.” “Who ordered him to do it?” I asked. “No one gave him an order,” he said. “At that time the general orders issued by Liam Lynch were for anybody to shoot TDs or Senators if they could.”
He was in the main room of the Intelligence Centre when Donnelly came in shortly after the killing, on the afternoon of December 7, 1922. I asked Caffrey what was his reaction when he heard Sean Hales had been killed – “I was delighted,” he said, and then gave a little chuckle, as if reminiscing over something which he particularly enjoyed. “Donnelly was carrying on the fight,” he said. “There are no rules in war. The winner dictates the rules…” ‘ (from here.)
The reaction of the Free State administration was swift and ruthless : they announced their intention to execute four of the republican prisoners being held without charge or trial in Mountjoy jail and, the following morning (December 8th, 1922, at dawn) Dick Barrett, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvey (‘The Four Martyrs’, pictured) were summarily executed by firing squad in the yard of Mountjoy jail.
The executioneers declared that the four men were executed “…as a reprisal for the assassination of Brigadier Seán Hales and as a solemn warning to those who are associated with them who are engaged in a conspiracy of assassination against the representatives of the Irish people.. (sic)“
The four men were the first of the Free State administration’s executions of it’s former comrades and drew condemnation from, among others, Thomas Johnson, the then leader of the State Labour Party : “Murder most foul as in the best it is – but this (is) most foul, bloody and unnatural. The four men in Mountjoy have been in your charge for five months..the Government of this country (sic) — the Government of Saorstát Eireann, announces apparently with pride that they have taken out four men, who were in their charge as prisoners, and as a reprisal for that assassination, murdered them. I wonder whether any member of the Government who has any regard for the honour of Ireland, or has any regard for the good name of the State, or has any regard for the safety of the State, will stand over an act of this kind…”
One of those who had ‘regard for the honour of Ireland’, at that time, anyway, was Tom Hales, one of Seán’s brothers – Tom was in command of the IRA ‘Flying Column’ which attacked a Free State Army convoy at Béal na Bláth in West Cork on the 22nd August 1922, in which Michael Collins was killed, but he later dishonoured himself by becoming an active and vocal (elected) member of the Fianna Fáil party.
If you have a half hour to spare, you could use it wisely by watching this ‘YouTube’ video concerning the Hales brothers and that particular period in our history.
And, in relation to the above-mentioned ‘Four Martyrs’, a seminar will be held in Dublin on Sunday, 11th December 2022 –
– if you can’t make that, you might get to the wreath-laying ceremony on Friday, 9th December 2022, at 10am, at the Liam Mellows Memorial in Eyre Square, in Galway City and/or to the wreath-laying ceremony at 12 Noon that same day at the Monument in Athenry, County Galway.
‘You have murdered our brave Liam and Rory,
you have butchered young Richard and Joe,
and your hands with our blood are still gory,
fulfilling the work of the foe.
So take it down from the mast, Irish traitor!
It’s the flag we republicans claim,
it can never belong to free staters,
for you’ve brought on it nothing but shame..’
FUNDS AND FINE GAEL’S LEADER…
Michael Lowry has so far been the focus of media attention about Fine Gael fundraising.
But the party’s current leader, Enda Kenny (pictured), hosted a £1,000-a-plate dinner two days before the second mobile phone licence was awarded. And other guests say that one of the bidders for that licence was in attendance.
By Mairead Carey.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, January 2003.
Former Fine Gael junior minister Michael Keating, who earlier this year paid the ‘Criminal Assets Bureau’ €250,000 in a tax settlement, was also present.
A spokesperson for Enda Kenny declined to comment in detail on the fundraiser, saying he had insufficient information to do so. A brief statement was, however, issued on Kenny’s behalf, which acknowledged that the purpose of the event was to raise funds for his re-election campaign. The statement went on –
‘The main organiser was Ivan Doherty. Mr Doherty is currently in the United States and Enda Kenny has asked that he be contacted to establish the details to the extent that they can be, at this remove.’
Further questions raised by ‘Magill’ magazine about the appropriateness of seeking donations from businesses who were themselves seeking major government contracts went unanswered, as did queries about the state of the party’s finances and Enda Kenny’s attitude to corporate donations…
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 81 YEARS AGO : ‘BATBOMB’-IDEA FROM A DENTIST RECEIVED WITH A SMILE!
An unusual ‘On This Date’ piece for us to post, but worthy of a mention, nonetheless – two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, which occurred on 7th December 1941 – 81 years ago on this date – a dentist named Lytle S. Adams from the town of Irwin, Pennsylvania, wrote to the President of the United States stating that he should be made aware that the Japanese were simply terrified of bats.
On the 9th February 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the letter on to William Donovan with a cover note saying “This man is NOT a nut..”
No one checked out the ‘bat theory’ but, as it transpired, it was untrue.
William Donovan, who made a name for himself as ‘Mr. U S Intelligence’, headed the ‘Office of Strategic Services’ (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and, for the next several years, he organised the dropping of bats on Japan – sometimes the bats were just slung out of bombers, other times they were dropped by parachute!
When you throw bats out of a plane at high altitude they freeze to death. We can find no record of what the Japanese thought of this carry-on, but wonder if they considered it to be ‘manna from heaven…’!
‘Developed by the United States during World War II, four biological factors gave promise to this plan. First, bats occur in large numbers (four caves in Texas are each occupied by several million bats). Second, bats can carry more than their own weight in flight (females carry their young—sometimes twins).
Third, bats hibernate, and while dormant they do not require food or maintenance. Fourth, bats fly in darkness, then find secluded places (often in buildings) to hide during daylight. The plan was to release bat bombs over Japanese cities…’
So this ‘Adam’ was not actually the first ‘Batman’, then..
…I’ll get me coat!
We won’t be here on Wednesday, 14th December 2022, as we’re taking at least two gangs of little ‘uns to see Santa over a three-day period (that’s the trouble with big families!) and sure we’ll probably fit-in an outing somewhere else, in between both visits, for us bigger Elves!
But we’ll be back ‘on air’ on Wednesday, 21st December 2022 with, among other bits and pieces, a few paragraphs on what happened in a County Council office in one of the six occupied counties in the immediate aftermath of the partition of this country…
Thanks for the visit, and for reading!
Sharon and the team.