ERNIE O’MALLEY : SOLDIER OF OGLAIGH na hEIREANN …….
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 wrote a book about his Black and Tan war days , which became an instant classic on its publication in 1936 – ‘On Another Man’s Wound’, and which was a great seller again in 1979 when it was re-printed . It is a brilliant portrayal of a popular struggle against a foreign power : ” It was a people’s war , that is why we fought so well as from November 1920 . The people understood , they made allowances , and there was need for that , ” O’ Malley wrote , in a smuggled-out note from Mountjoy Prison Hospital in January 1923 , while expecting execution during the Civil War .
Once he would have followed his elder brother into the British Army of ‘World War One’ for the ‘excitement’ : instead , his military talents went into the IRA where he appeared a very regular ‘Irregular’ – ” I was driven myself had they only guessed it, ” he wrote , after agreeing that his strict training methods were resented by some of the country men he organised to wage guerrilla warfare . A hot temper triggered by impatience , which he could blame on “…my red hair and O’Malley name..” , plus the reverse coin of introspection seen as aloofness , were easily compensated for by special gifts and soldierly qualities .
It has been said that he would have made a great Jesuit- whatever about that , he did make a great IRA Commander . And at once that most dangerous of opponents , both an idealist and a man of action , much more so than were most of his contemporaries . Ernie O’Malley was a fighter and a writer , a scholar and a farmer , who kept two ideals throughout 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.
‘Mary’ was asked about the attitude of the Gardai to those that ‘live’ in Ballymun Flats : ” The Gardai treat us with contempt . They smash the doors in here in Ballymun , but they wouldn’t do it in Fixrock or Rathgar . They don’t give a shit about people over here . Every day they’re here , mostly the Special Branch. People were afraid to go marching during the hunger-strike because it meant that the Branch would pull in people they didn’t know afterwards , under Section 30. It kept active support down . If anyone forms any kind of radical group they come in for harassment by the Branch. So people don’t , they just sort of become robots . “
Asked about Ballymun in general , ‘Mary’ says – ” 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 , and people are more isolated in Ballymun than they would be in the other Dublin suburbs , like Coolock , Finglas , Cabra or Ballyfermot . There’s probably a higher rate of crime in Ballymun than in those places . ”
One glimmer of hope , of the people in Ballymun fighting back , was the establishment of a special school on the edge of the tower blocks : unique as an all-Irish school set-up in a Dublin working-class area -as compared to the middle-class origins and composition of other Irish schools- the ‘School of the Seven Heroes’ (‘Scoil an tSeachtar Laoch’) was established in 1973 after fierce fights with the State Department of Education , who scorned the idea . Fianna Fail State Minister Padraig Faulkner predicted that the school would collapse within six weeks ! Starting off with a couple of pre-fab huts, and engaged in continuous bureaucratic struggles , nine years later the school has about 200 pupils in the 5-11 age group and has recently started a pre-school group . But the population turnover in the area is working against the school…….
OPERATIONAL COMMENTS OF A BRITISH ARMY OFFICER.
British Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Dewar of the Royal Green Jackets has served in Cyprus , Borneo and Malaya , as well as in the Occupied Six Irish Counties . He has written three previous books – ‘Internal Security Weapons And Equipment Of The World’ and ‘Brushfire Wars’ . The extracts reproduced here are from ‘The British Army In Northern Ireland’ , which was published by ‘Arms and Armour Press’ in 1985 . The underlined comments in this article are ours . This article reflects the operational thinking of a British military commander , more so than his political or ideological outlook.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , October 1987.
It is perhaps worth studying one incident in South Armagh in some detail : it was an operational success for 3 Para who completed a tour in South Armagh with Battalion HQ at Bessbrook in April to August 1976 . One morning in mid-June a routine patrol led by a Corporal called on a pub near the village of Belleek not far from Bessbrook , in Armagh.
Normally the proprietress was ‘friendly’ towards the ‘Security Forces’ but , on this occasion , she was not at all welcoming and appeared a little apprehensive . The pub was closed , but male voices could be heard beyond a door . The proprietress explained that her brother had come to visit her and suggested that the British Army patrol should call again , later on . The patrol departed , but the Corporal decided to leave the road when out of sight of the pub and to circle around under cover to watch the pub . Half an hour later three men left the Bar : the Corporal recognised one of the men as John Quinn, a PIRA suspect .
When the Patrol returned to its base it quickly established that the proprietress had no brothers and that John Quinn , who had not been seen in the neighbourhood for some time , was thought to have been undergoing clandestine military training in the Free State . It was therefore decided to watch the pub . Two Four-man British Army Patrols were dropped off from vehicles in order to establish Observation Posts (OP’s) near the pub and to photograph and identify known republicans who were using the pub . One patrol was to establish the OP , in a derelict house , to watch the pub while the other was to watch the countryside to the north and to the east in order to warn the patrol leader , a British Army Staff Sergeant , of anyone approaching his OP . This OP was in direct radio contact with its Battalion Tactical HQ at Bessbrook . On Day Four , the Staff Sergeant became uneasy…….