By Peadar O’Donnell ; first published in January 1963.

It would sound unreal , after so many years, if I were to reconstruct the verbal skirmishing that went on for a while around that troubled fireside. I did not want a head-on conflict and I did my best to keep her off balance but she found new cause for anger with me in my asking her husband to run himself into danger: ‘Had I not done enough harm already, with people all but on the roadside on account of me…’

The scene was out of pattern. For a while I wondered whether it was possible she was out of her mind , as this great storm of abuse just did not make sense – ‘You have not got the full story’ . I might not have been so sensitive to her but for an incident some months earlier when a woman who lost her boy in the fight in defence of the Republic unloaded onto me the bitterness she had hidden from everybody else – it was by great good luck that I called on her by myself so that she got the opportunity. Her boy was working in a field when I went by and he left his work and went with me. He was killed.

She bolted the door behind me and went on her knees and she cursed me and cursed me and as she cursed, short bursts of words escaped and they told the story. I was very sorry for her. When the storm ended I took her by the hand and helped her to her feet and I scolded her for doing her boy so great a wrong , by making him out in her own mind as a poor fool with no mind of his own, taken by the hand into danger when, in fact , he was a thoughtful , even brilliant, man. It was natural she should begrudge him , but she should not make little of him in her own heart. We then drank tea together. (MORE LATER).


The inside story of a personal feud that has left one man dead and tarnished the reputation of the PIRA’s most fearsome brigade.

From ‘Magill’ magazine , April 2003.

By John Keane.

The people of South Armagh are notoriously taciturn. Getting them to discuss the (P)IRA is, as they themselves might say, “like pulling hens’ teeth.” But an escalation in the number and ferocity of punishment beatings meted out in the (P)IRA heartland has led to cracks developing in that traditional reticence.

A major breach in the wall of silence occurred last month (March 2003) following the death of a 24-year-old IRA man , Keith Rodgers , in a shootout in the tiny border village of Cullaville , just inside South Armagh , part of the triangle bounded by Dundalk , Castleblaney and Newry , and known as ‘Bandit Country’.

Keith Rodgers was a member of an eight-man team assigned to kidnap and beat a member of a local family which had fallen out with the IRA’s reputed chief of staff , Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, over a business project…….(MORE LATER).


An Alouette II helicopter – the type used in the IRA operation.

In March 1973, IRA leader Joe Cahill was arrested by the Free State Navy in Waterford, aboard the Claudia, a ship from Libya loaded with five tons of weapons, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and another IRA leader, Seamus Twomey, was appointed IRA Chief of Staff.

In early October that year, Twomey was caught and arrested by the Free Staters and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail, which meant that three top IRA operatives
(Twomey, J.B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon) were now housed in the one location – and the IRA wanted them back!

An ‘American businessman’ , a ‘Mr. Leonard’, approached the manager of the ‘Irish Helicopters’ company at Dublin Airport and discussed hiring a helicopter for an aerial photographic shoot in County Laois and, after being shown the company’s fleet of helicopters, this ‘businessman’ booked a five-seater Alouette II helicopter for October 31st.

‘Mr Leonard’ arrived at Irish Helicopters on the day and was introduced to the pilot of the helicopter, a Captain Thompson Boyes , who was instructed to fly to a field in Stradbally, County Laois, to pick up photographic equipment. After landing, the pilot saw two armed and masked men approaching the helicopter from nearby trees and he was held at gunpoint and told he would not be harmed if he followed instructions. ‘Mr Leonard’ left the area with one gunman, while the other gunman climbed aboard the helicopter armed with a pistol and an Armalite rifle. Captain Boyes was told to fly towards Dublin following the path of railway lines and the Royal Canal, and was ordered not to register his flight path with Air Traffic Control. As the helicopter approached Dublin, Boyes was informed of the escape plan and instructed to land in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Prison.

On this day (Wednesday) and date (31st October) in 1973, at 3.40pm in the afternoon, the Alouette II helicopter landed in the D Wing ‘Exercise Yard’ of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin , when a football match was taking place between the prisoners, and Twomey , O’Hagan and Mallon jumped aboard , but were quickly spotted (!) by an alert Screw who used his training and power of intuition to take immediate action – he *called on the Screws at the gate to close them over as he feared the helicopter was trying to escape (* …according to the RTE ‘Scannal – Prison Break’ programme..) ! Another IRA prisoner who was in the yard at the time recalled how an embarrassed Screw told him that he had apologised to the prison governor in relation to the incident , saying that he thought the helicopter contained a visiting (Free State) Minister for Defence (and well-known publican) [Paddy Donegan] : the IRA prisoner replied that , in fact, “…..it was our Minister of Defence leaving…!”

All three men reported back to base and continued their work for the IRA but, after a few weeks of freedom Kevin Mallon was recaptured at a GAA Dance in the Montague Hotel in Co. Laois on 10 December 1973 , J.B.O’Hagan was recaptured in Dublin in early 1975 and Seamus Twomey managed to remain uncaptured until December 2nd , 1977, after the Special Branch came across him in a ‘suspicious car’ parked in Sandycove, in Dublin.

The ‘Wolfe Tones’ ballad group released a song called ‘The Helicopter Song’ which topped the Irish Charts for 4 weeks and ‘The Wolfhounds’ also recorded the event in song and, in January 1974, a close associate of Kevin Mallon’s, Eddie Gallagher, along with Dr. Rose Dugdale, hijacked another helicopter in Donegal to bomb the RUC station in Strabane from the air but the milk-churn bombs they dropped never exploded.

There have been ‘ups and downs’ (pardon the pun!) in this long on-going struggle to achieve full Irish Freedom and Irish Republicans may tend to get on a ‘high’ (!) during the ‘Up’ periods but we very seldom go on a ‘Downer’ during the ‘Down’ periods : we know from our own experiences and from our history that we will witness both such periods repeatedly but we have learned to take the good with the bad , in that an ‘up’ period does not mean that victory has been achieved no more than a ‘down’ period means that all is lost. The prize we seek is more valuable to us than that sort of short-term thinking would allow for!


….WILL BE HELD ON SUNDAY 4TH NOVEMBER 2012 : assemble at the ‘Old Border Inn’, Carrickarnon, County Louth, at 2.30pm.The main oration will be given by Sean Dolan, Longford.

The Edentubber Martyrs Memorial , damaged by thugs and/or Free State elements a number of times since it was first erected in the late 1950’s, but repaired and rebuilt each time by Irish Republicans.

MICHAEL WATTERS of Edentubber , County Louth , 55 years of age.

GEORGE KEEGAN of Enniscorthy , County Wexford , 27.

PATRICK PARLE of Wexford Town , 26.

OLIVER CRAVEN of Newry , County Down , 19.

PAUL SMITH of Bessbrook , County Armagh , 19.

Street signs have been erected in the Newry and South Armagh areas in the last week.

The 2011 Edentubber Commemoration can be viewed here and the story of how these five brave men met their death can be listened to here.


CABHAIR Swim , Christmas Day , 2010…..

….and a pic from the then 3-year-old CABHAIR Swim , 1979.

A bit of a write-up and some pics from the 2011 Swim can be seen here. At the time of writing, it’s the last day of October 2012 and, as a Mam of three kids(/’young adults’!), I don’t like even mentioning the word ‘Christmas’ in November, never mind October !

But it’s for a good Cause – the Annual CABHAIR Christmas Swim , which first caused waves (!) in 1976 and will be 36 years-‘old’ on 25th December next. So far, five lads have confirmed that they will attempt to walk on water on Christmas Day next at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore , Dublin (opposite Kelly’s ‘Black Horse Inn’ pub) and Santa has been requested to drop in and join the party!

Santa’s little helper sorts out the Swim leaflets….

…and hundreds of them will be delivered, as usual, around the ‘Swim area’ over the next few weeks.

All monies raised go directly to the dependants of Irish Republican prisoners as all the ‘goodies’ , time , transport etc are donated to CABHAIR each year and no ‘expenses’ are taken. There will be a turf fire , Rebel music , lemonade for the kids and ‘soup’ (!) for the adults – it’s not only a good Cause , it’s great craic !


…..a rally in support of MARIAN PRICE will be held on Saturday 3rd November 2012 in Dublin : those attending are asked to assemble at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm , from where the rally will make its way to the GPO in O’Connell Street. The organisers have requested that no political-party banners or flags be carried , and Marian Price placards , banners and posters will be available on the day.

FINALLY : no matter who wins, these people still lose.

Homeless in New York – seeking warmth and shelter in the subway.

I have been to New York a few times , for holidays and for work-related reasons, and enjoyed the experience on each occasion. The girl friends that I travelled with the last time are like myself in regards to not wanting to spend all our time in the ‘5th Avenue’-type tourist areas and, as such, we explored both the beaten and unbeaten paths, going from the plush locations of that wonderful city to the projects of Harlem and beyond. The one constant we came across , as with any big city, was poor and homeless people. Not forgotten – they are, after all, some mother’s child – but ignored.

The devastation that ‘Superstorm Sandy’ has inflicted on ‘ordinary’ New Yorkers will be felt even more by those that rely on the subway stations for warmth ,refuge and safety and, again as with any big city, those people will be the last to be looked after if, indeed, their needs will be addressed at all. And if their needs were deemed worthy of addressing in the first place then, ‘Superstorm’ or no, they would have been comforted before now.

Whether Obama or Romney ‘win’ on Tuesday 6th November next, the ‘losers’ have already been ‘elected’ and it will be for more than just one term. Some mother’s child , without a doubt – but there’s no profit in securing their future or no votes to be had by championing their cause. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Thanks for reading,

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics. and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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