Ernie O’Malley, pictured during his arrest in Dublin Castle in 1921 . He was using the alias ‘Bernard Stewart’ .
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.
Hopefully , Ernie O’ Malley’s books should fire the imagination of a new generation of Irish republicans . In so many ways ‘ On Another Man’s Wound’ relates to what is happening today between the British and Irish nations . It is tragic that his wartime experiences should remain so pertinent but , nevertheless , those experiences are a source of guidance and encouragement to those who continue the struggle today. That book is one to convert the unbeliever and to inform the ignorant , just as Ernie O’ Malley himself turned to republicanism at Easter 1916 when as a young medical student he witnessed Padraig Pearse reading the Proclamation outside the GPO in Dublin and then followed the subsequent events of the Rising .
His well-to-do family never discussed national politics at home – his elder brother was an officer in the British Army and died in that service , but Ernie devoted the best years of his life to the fight for the Irish Republic , so that in 1923 the Sinn Fein news-sheets claimed that he had ‘…perhaps the greatest individual record during the Tan War and was one of the bravest soldiers who ever fought for the independence of Ireland.’ He wanted to show the struggle of a mainly unarmed people against the might of an ’empire’ and his book pays constant tribute to the heroism of a risen people .
He was famed for his own courage , although like the truly brave he freely admitted to feelings of fear and inadequacy . Undeterred by mass condemnations from the British and their Irish allies, by newspapers and professional politicians and by the Catholic Hierarchy , between 1919 and 1921 the Irish Republican Army waged a war that also involved shooting ‘policemen’ , executing British Officers , burning buildings , punishing spies and informers – in short , all those actions which Westminster and Leinster House vie with each other in condemning today . And Ernie O’ Malley was very active in all such actions…….
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.
A departmental committee established under the Stormont administration to enquire into the organisation of a force to replace the RIC, recommended (on March 31st 1922) that a new force , the ‘RUC’ , be set up comprising 3,000 men . Nominally , this force was to include one-third Catholics in its number , but because of loyalist sectarianism and the force’s political role in defending partition , it was from the outset an almost exclusively Protestant and loyalist force .
The first priority of the newly-formed RUC was to eliminate the republican forces who still enjoyed popular support in the nationalist areas of the Occupied Six Counties . To achieve this , the ‘Constabulary Act (Northern Ireland) 1922’, incorporated the already established ‘Special Constabulary’ fully into the RUC . This ‘Special Constabulary’ had been set up in 1920 by the British administration to combat the increasingly effective IRA forces in the north-east of the island . The unionist leader , ‘Lord’ Edward Carson, had organised it , and it was composed almost entirely of former units of the Ulster Volunteer Force from the gun-running era.
Within a year of its formation the ‘Specials’ – ‘A’ , ‘B’ and ‘C’ classes, although only the ‘B’ Specials lasted long , numbered more than 30,000 men , and at the end of 1921 the Stormont administration assumed control over them from the British government . By the end of 1922 when they were incorporated into the RUC , the ‘Specials’ numbered 50,000 well-armed men…….
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.
Many lessons emerged from this operation : the ‘chain of success’ began with the suspicions of an alert British Army corporal on a routine patrol and the planned surveillance of the pub in question . The Observation Post Commander sent to watch it moved in time to evade trouble and to turn the tables on his probable assailants . The rapid arrival of reinforcements and their efficient direction from an airborne command post captured three of the four men directly involved and their weapons . It was a well-planned and stage-managed operation at every level .
The main technical innovations of the Provisional IRA in 1978 were the increased use of remote-controlled bombs which enabled them to destroy targets in greater safety and with more precision , and a new method of making explosives from fertilisers . Clearly this made life more difficult for the British despite restrictions on the sale of sodium chloride-based weed-killers , and the control in the import and movement of explosives .
Clearly radio-controlled bombs have made the British task immeasurably more difficult . The jamming of radio frequencies is difficult because of not knowing which frequencies to jam . The search for a counter to this threat continues by the British but , in the meantime , the IRA have a much more effective bombing capacity . The year 1979 saw an upsurge in attacks against British forces , particularly against ‘off-duty’ UDR men – the PIRA appreciated their importance as the eyes and ears of Westminster , and their value in supporting the RUC. Remotely-detonated bombs caused nearly thirty per cent of enemy deaths in an IRA campaign against the British Army which concentrated on rural and border areas…….
(PLEASE NOTE : we will be taking a break for a week or so in early May.)