Ernie O’Malley, pictured during his arrest in Dublin Castle in 1921 . He was using the alias ‘Bernard Stewart’ .

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.

During his 1928 working trip to America , Ernie O’ Malley made his own way through that country , and Mexico , living hard in the depression years , but always bearing the historical image of Ireland , the desire for freedom and the inspiration of a heritage .

Titles of the poems he wrote at that time indicate his old and new concerns for the victims of oppression – ‘From Two Islands’ , ‘Deirdre’ , ‘We Have Not Sought For Beauty’ , ‘Navajo Country’ and ‘Mountjoy Hanged 1921’ . It was during semi-exile in the artists’ colony of Taos, New Mexico, that he first set down his memories of what may well be the most spectacular IRA career of the period . ” As thrilling as a cinema drama…” , reported a Dublin newspaper on his gun battle and capture by Free State soldiers in the exclusive Ailesbury Road suburb of Ballsbridge , Dublin , in November 1922 .

Any outline of his later life may well seem anti-climax , but somehow more individualistic and interesting than the government , business or professional careers of Civil War companions . He was not a conformist . His back scarred by a hail of bullets , wounded and injured about a score of times , he was also at home in the quiet world of books , welcomed in the spheres of artistic endeavours , remembered as a stimulating friend by a wide circle . He loved the wild Mayo coast and the islands of his childhood , and had a reserved humour , a delicate irony . As a man of action and a man of letters , his abiding influence was hard years of war in a national resistance campaign…….

AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF THE RUC . RUC brutality , torture , murder and lies were brushed aside as the unionist establishment congratulated itself for the continuing existence of a paramilitary force which had maintained and safe-guarded its rule in the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July/August 1982.

In June of this year (1982) , the 60th anniversary of the formation of the RUC was marked by a series of commemorative events ; articles filled newspapers , editorials and letters from loyal correspondents heaped praise and glory on that force , church services , some attended by well-known Catholic clergy , prayed for its members , and local councils passed motions of support and congratulations in their ‘honour’ . In short , ‘respectable unionist society’ paid its tribute to its ‘police force’ , formed in its image .

60 years of brutality , torture , murder and lies were brushed aside as the unionist establishment congratulated itself for the continuing existence of a para-military force which had maintained and safe-guarded its rule over the turbulence of those years .

There were of course no prayers for young Michael McCartan, gunned down in cold blood in July 1980 by a plainclothes RUC man while painting ‘Up The Provos’ on a gable wall near his south Belfast home . Nor , doubtless , did any clergyman pause a moment in memory of 9-year-old Danny Rooney , shot dead by RUC men in August 1969 in his Divis Flats home ; or in memory of 42-year-old Samuel Devenney, beaten to death in his own home by those same ‘guardians of peace’ in April 1969…….

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.

The British Army lance-corporal had held the gunmen in his sights for only a few minutes , but for what must have seemed an age to him : fearing that his Sergeant would not return with the patrol in time and thinking that the gunmen were going to disappear he fired at about 9.55pm , fifteen minutes after they had got out of the car . He missed . The Volunteers took cover in the bunker area and returned fire .

Their bullets were striking the ground around the lance-corporal with a fair degree of accuracy as the rest of the British Army patrol took up fire positions beside him . The concentrated fire-power of the whole patrol , two LMG’s and five rifles , soon forced the gunmen to seek cover or retreat . One was pinned down in the area of the bunkers where eventually he was lost to view , whilst the other three withdrew eastwards , two of them slowly and using all available cover towards House ‘C’ , which they reached some twenty minutes later .

The other man ran fast across an open field , but one of the LMG gunners chased him across the field with tracer , elevating the gun until he hit him . The gunman was seen to stagger and drop to his knees , managing only to crawl through a hedge near House ‘A’ . But he managed to escape while the gunner was changing his magazine . British Army helicopters were soon on the scene…….

About 11sixtynine

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