Following the recent publication of O’Malley’s third book ‘Raids And Rallies’, on the Tan War years 1920-1921 , Frances-Mary Blake , who edited the book and his earlier works , writes an appreciation of the man who wrote ‘On Another Man’s Wound’ and ‘The Singing Flame’.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July 1983.

Ernie O’ Malley’s reputation was made while in his early twenties : by 1939 , aged 41 , he was seen as a legendary figure from the past , and at his death in 1957 ‘The Sunday Press’ newspaper praised him as the very type of the resistance , exceptional even amongst exceptional men .

Ernest Bernard O’ Malley came from a respectable and middle-class Catholic family , which accepted the Union and did well by it , yet he showed an early dislike of authority . When British King Edward VII visited Dublin to the cheers of most of his Catholic ‘subjects’ , the very young O’ Malley refused to remove his hat and would spell ‘King’ with a small ‘k’. The second son in a large family , he was a first-year medical student at University College Dublin when the Easter Rising first moved him towards Irish nationalism and republicanism , which he was later to define as “…not only the urge of the people to possess the soil and its products , but the free development of spiritual , cultural and imaginative qualities of the race..”

It was not a sudden conversion – no ‘flash of light on the road to Damascus’ , no immediate enthusiasm . Involvement and understanding came slowly out of what was at first an unwilling interest : belief grew slowly and was unencouraged by those around him , but eventually , aged just nineteen , he left home and university to become a full-time member of the IRA . And , in a sense , he would be ‘on the run’ for the rest of his life…….

BALLYMUN INTERVIEW……. “Ballymun is just like any other working-class area in Dublin , or even in Belfast , I suppose . It’s just that Ballymun isn’t houses , it’s flats…”
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July/August 1982.

The kids from the flats have it tough , too . ‘Pat’ and ‘Mary’ said – ” There’s nowhere for the kids . The flats are no place for them . You know , when there was a housing shortage they just put up this place to put all the people . It was just a dumping ground . Most people just live for pay-day and then they go out and get a few drinks . During the week most of them just stay in and watch television . The drink is a sort of safety valve for people . It’s an escape , isn’t it ? ”

Asked about how the Catholic Church helps out in Ballymun Flats , ‘Mary’ replied – ” The only ‘facility’ that’s being built out here is churches . The Church control everything , even the youth clubs . They have their lackeys running things for them , but they reap the profits . We’re all living in boxes – thousands of families – but the local priest’s living in a house , with his housekeeper and a maid . His lackeys run the bingo for him , and they’ll come around and ask us to do things like bake cakes and give them groceries , and then they’ll have a garden fete or a sale of work and sell the stuff back to us again ! “

The Gardai , too , have no time and little interest in those that ‘live’ in the flats…….

Between December 1983 and May 1987 , over 25 republican or nationalist funerals were systematically attacked by the RUC as a matter of deliberate British policy . The objective was to drive mourners off the streets so that later Britain could claim dwindling support for republicanism as ‘evidenced’ by the small numbers attending IRA funerals . As Jane Plunkett reports , the opposite happened . More and more people came out to defend the remains of republican dead , the RUC were exposed as being as brutal and sectarian as ever , and these two factors , combined with damaging international news coverage , eventually forced the British government to reverse its policy of attacking republican funerals .
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , October 1987.

Relying on their own strength , the risen people had already shown to the world and to the British government their determination to bury their republican dead with honour and with dignity . Just as mass protest had smashed internment, just as the sacrifices of the hunger-strikers and mass protests had ended the systematic torture of republican prisoners in the H-Blocks, so once again the people had proved that courage and commitment and determination can change history and conclude successfully the long struggle for Irish freedom .

On Friday , May 8th , 1987 , republican Ireland suffered another tragic blow when eight Tyrone (PIRA Volunteers were mown down in an undercover British stake-out at Loughgall . At their funerals, the RUC were again present in large numbers but , for the most part , they kept their distance . They made no attempt to intervene when IRA guards of honour carried each Tricolour-draped coffin a short distance . Without RUC interference , the atmosphere was as it should be – quiet , dignified and respectful .



About 11sixtynine

A mother of three and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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