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.
The prison chapters of his books illustrate how he and his comrades defied the prison system and bewildered their guards who , as O’ Malley stated , “…had been told that we were murderers . That meant an image from a Sunday newspaper – twitching hands and furtive walk , or sullen hardness . They heard us laugh and sing , rag and annoy each other , joke and refuse to take prison regulations seriously..” But he pays tribute , too , to those who showed humanity to prisoners , which makes his verdicts on the others and on the British caste system all the more convincing .
After an historic escape from Kilmainham Jail on 14 February 1921 , Ernie O’ Malley returned to the Martial Law areas and an intensified war campaign , until he was first baffled , then broken-hearted by the truce called in July 1921. One of the grimmest incidents had taken place one month previously , when Ernie O’ Malley , as Officer Commanding of the IRA Division involved had taken it upon himself to execute three captured British Army officers because “…any officers we capture in this area are to be shot until such time as you cease shooting your prisoners..”
He wanted the Irish Republican Army to have status abroad , rather than be hidden behind the image of a suffering colonial people. As he bluntly put it to his affronted superiors later in 1921 – ” We (the IRA) had never consulted the feelings of the people . If so , we would never have fired a shot . If we gave them a good strong lead , they would follow . “ If his books were required reading in schools and universities , instead of the shoneen or revisionist (or simply non-existent) versions of modern Irish history , then the people of Ireland would be better prepared to achieve a true independence . As Ernie O’ Malley wrote of the best of the IRA recruits , in words that typify his own unyielding spirit – ” At times one came across a man who had been born free . There was no explaining it . One just accepted and thanked God in wonder ! ”
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.
The late 1960’s saw this repressive role emphasised again , as RUC thugs batoned civil rights marchers to the ground , first on October 5th 1968 in Derry, in full view of the television cameras . Despite the outcry no investigation took place . When on August 14th 1969 the RUC finally admitted defeat , faced with the undaunted nationalist resistance of the Battle of the Bogside, and British troops entered Derry and then Belfast to safeguard the status quo , the ‘B’ Specials gave full vent to their anti-nationalist spleen , shooting dead a bystander in Armagh and Francis McCloskey in Dungiven, while in Belfast ‘B’ Specials and RUC men led loyalist mobs on attacks into nationalist streets .
When the first flames died down and the nationalists counted the cost in terms of human tragedy , the British summoned ‘Lord’ Hunt to prepare a report on the RUC – like subsequent reports it was essentially a whitewash .
August 1969 had revealed to the watching world that the RUC was a sectarian paramilitary force , and the British felt pressurised to act . Typically they summoned an academic , ‘Lord’ Hunt , to prepare a report which essentially would salvage the ‘credibility’ of the force : Hunt’s report was issued on October 3rd 1969 and was announced as the ‘reform’ of the RUC . The ‘reforms’ , however , were not real but apparent . The ‘B’ Specials were disbanded but were replaced by the ‘Ulster (sic) Defence Regiment’ (UDR), which were attached to the British Army rather than to the RUC . But 90 per-cent of all ‘B’ Specials in 1969 joined the UDR at its formation in 1970 , meaning that 80 per-cent of the UDR was composed of former ‘B’ Specials…….
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.
After Warrenpoint, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited her army in the Occupied Six Counties on several occasions and always made her support for those thugs very clear : it is said that she has an affinity with military men and this may very well be the case , but she certainly expects the same degree of efficiency from them as she demands elsewhere and having some of then killed in action does not fit-in with her overall strategy . Her Senior Officers have learned to get their briefings correct in every detail and have to be prepared to be cross-questioned minutely .
At the end of 1980 , the strength of PIRA was estimated to be between three and four hundred active members , with about one thousand active supporters who provided safe houses , transport and other facilities . The hard-core strength was about a third of the active strength of 1972 , but the reduction probably reflected deliberate policy as much as the effects of attrition . Thus by the end of 1980 startling advances had been made by the British – the level of violence had been reduced drastically since the early and mid 1970’s , but PIRA still operated effectively .
British Army Corporal William Lindfield was in command of a mobile patrol , which was taking an RAF Sergeant from his Brigade HQ to the ‘C’ Company base at North Howard Street Mill . The patrol mounted its two Macralon Land Rovers (which were said to be blast resistant but not bullet-proof) inside the Springfield Road RUC Barracks and drove out through the back gates . They turned right and right again down Crocus Street back towards the Springfield Road . When the leading Land Rover , driven by Corporal William Lindfield , was 50 yards down Crocus Street , all hell was let loose – automatic fire was brought to bear on it from very close range…….