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

Free State Senator Mrs Wyse-Power asked Ernest Blythe where , in the Treaty, it was stipulated that land annuities should be paid to Britain. Blythe told her the government never disputed the liability , but thought it a just claim , saying there was no specific reference in the Treaty to this debt , to which Mrs Wyse-Power stated – “All this time I voted with those who believed in paying annuities. We now learn for the first time there was no specific agreement , but an assumption by the Executive that it was a just debt.”

Blythe reminisced a little , saying that Churchill and he going into the matter agreed together that even a case could be made that the annuities could be charged against Ireland on legal grounds it would be a lot more becoming to Ireland to consider this money honourably due to Britain. Senator Bennett , a government supporter, suggested that a committee of the Senate be set up to examine all the relevant documents and report back. He drew Blythe’s anger on himself : The Minister would not attend any meeting of such a committee , no official of his Department would attend and no documents would be submitted. The government wanted no rustling of documents touching on the pact of 1925 , for that pact is a strange story.

People forget that the British Government reacted to the setting up of Dáil Éireann , the sovereign assembly of the Irish people in 1919, on two levels – political and military. On the first it enacted the ‘Government of Ireland Act 1920’, which partitioned the country and proposed to set up two parliaments. On the second, to scare the people into the strait-jacket of the Government of Ireland Act , the Black and Tans were let loose on Ireland. Republicans scarce glanced at the Government of Ireland Act because they were too busy defending the Republic against the Tans. (MORE LATER).


By Michael O’Higgins and John Waters. From ‘Magill Magazine’ , October 1988.

The one representative of these intelligence sources to give evidence at the inquest was ‘Mister O’ , the first witness to require the assistance of the brown and beige curtain , on only the second day of the hearing. ‘Mister O’ said that he was a senior security services officer involved in the investigation of terrorism , especially in the activities of the IRA , and had had the responsibility of briefing all of the military and police personnel involved in the Gibraltar operation, though he does not appear to have been on the Rock at any time before or during the operation.

During the inquest he was referred to in at least one British newspaper as the “mastermind” behind the operation , but this was incorrect : his role appears to have been confined to supplying the information – there was no reference at the inquest to him being kept up to date with developments or reported back to afterwards.

‘Mister O’ supplied the initial information that the IRA planned to attack the changing of the guard in Gibraltar on March 8th , 1988 , that a three-man (sic) IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) had been dispatched with orders to plant a bomb which would kill as many soldiers as possible and that it would most probably be detonated by remote control. ‘Mister O’ passed on the information that the three IRA members in question were all experienced and extremely dangerous terrorists, and “almost certainly” armed and he also supplied details of the identities of the IRA ASU which was expected and of their histories.(MORE LATER).


‘Transportation beyond the sea, either within His Majesty’s dominions or elsewhere outside His Majesty’s dominions…’

On this date (4th September) in 1884 , the British ended their ‘Irish policy’ of penal transportation to New South Wales in Australia. ‘Official’ transportation in Ireland (as a court sentence) is believed to have begun in the sixteenth century as a method of (British) State control over those it deemed to be ‘troublesome’ individuals or groups ie as in the way that the authorities of the day, in Cromwellian times , considered there to be too many Irish Catholics in Ireland (how dare they live in their own country!) and, judging them to be ‘a bad influence’ on the overall population, the British banished huge numbers of them (us!) to the West Indies. In the 17th century, when ‘civilisation’ (!) finally caught-up with us ‘Europeans’ (debatable , I know…) it was considered ‘unenlightened’ to have the death penalty on the statute books for certain offences and transportation – to North America – was used instead , until about the mid-1780’s , when the ‘Yankees’ got uppity about things like that and New South Wales became the main ‘depository’. In Ireland, the act of dispatching ‘vagabonds’ to this new venue was given full legal approval in 1786.

Neither the old venue nor the new one (North America and New South Wales) were named as ‘sentence’ was delivered by the British courts , merely that the subject(s) be transported to a place “…..beyond the sea, either within His Majesty’s dominions or elsewhere outside His Majesty’s dominions (or) to some of His Majesty’s plantations in America or to such other place out of Europe…” and such was the ‘success’ of the venture that by 1790 the law allowing for this punishment was ‘tweaked’ “….to render the transportation of such felons and vagabonds more easy and effectual…” . It is thought that , in total, at least 26,500 Irish ‘felons and vagabonds’ found themselves stranded in New South Wales , for the ‘crime’ of being Irish Catholics in Ireland. Before being taken to the docks for the deport order to be carried out , those poor people (“convicts”) were kept under lock and key in Cork city gaol or Newgate or Kilmainham , in Dublin, in rat and disease-infected conditions , which made deportation attractive. Conditions were ‘improved’ , however , with the opening of new detention centres – Smithfield (Dublin) and Spike Island (Cork), which basically meant that the rats , and the diseases they carried, had a bigger area to target.

On 26th September 1791 , the British ship , ‘Queen’ , carrying its ‘cargo of convicts’ , was the first ship to dock in Port Jackson , having sailed directly from Ireland , and conditions on board and the treatment of ‘the cargo’ was bad , to say the least : one such instance , weeks after that first landing, gives a flavour of ‘life’ on board – ‘On 17th October 1791 in Sydney there was an enquiry held in regards to the conduct of Master Richard Owen and Second Mate Robert Stott of the ‘Queen’ and to examine the complaint made by convicts of not having received the ration of provisions that was directed by contract to be furnished them during the passage…..(but)…..the Magistrates found that from the particular circumstances of the fraud it is impossible for us to determine with any precision what those deficiencies are, so as to enable us either to redress the complainants or punish the defendants….’ (from here) and this practice , and those conditions , continued until 1853, the year in which the last such ship, the ‘Phoebe Dunbar’ , left from Dublin with a full ‘cargo’. Incidentally , the last ‘convict’ transportation ship to sail from England to Australia was the ‘Hougoumont’ , which landed in Western Australia in January 1868. Sixty-three ‘expelled’ Irish Fenians , who had been ‘convicted’ in Ireland but imprisoned in England, were on board.

Dennis Doherty , from Derry , pictured whilst in captivity in Port Arthur prison in Tasmania , 1876. He had been forcibly taken there – ‘transported’ – in 1833 : he was imprisoned for 43 years , during which time he is known to have received at least 3,000 lashes of the whip and lost the sight of one eye as a result. When he was bundled on board the ‘coffin ship’ , he was only 19 years young.

It is recorded that some 39,000 Irish people – 9,000 of whom were female – were transported , as convicts, from Ireland to Australia over the 62-year period that this British policy was enforced : the average time spent in custody was seven years , although sentences of ten years , fourteen years and life were also handed down , depending on the circumstances involved ie was the ‘convict’ “guilty” of petty theft , agrarian unrest or was he/she involved in political campaigning?

That was then , this is now ; forced ‘transportation’ of Irish people for economic reasons , whilst the (native) ‘fat cats’ get even fatter , and secure for themselves and their families the position of being able to stay in their own country to watch their children grow. Dennis Doherty (above) didn’t deserve his fate – that should be reserved for the ‘fat cats’.


The 1913 Lockout seminar organised by Republican Sinn Féin and held in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday last , 27th August 2013, was a great success , with a full house present and a different aspect of the Lockout addressed by each of the four main speakers. The contribution from RSF President , Des Dalton , can be viewed here , community activist Rita Fagan’s address can be seen here , Dr. Kevin Bean’s contribution is available to view here and Malachy Steenson’s address can be seen here.

The Bundoran Hunger-Strike Commemoration , which was organised by the Bundoran/Ballyshannon H-Block Committee and held on Saturday 31st August last , was very well attended and went as planned : those who don’t mind using ‘Facebook’ can view pics from the event here whilst those who don’t like using ‘FB’ will have to get themselves a copy of the September 2013 issue of ‘Saoirse’
(which, incidentally , goes to print today , Wednesday 4th September!) and ‘read all about it’!


First things first : I am an active and vocal long-standing member of a trade union (SIPTU) and, indeed , my first union activity was to campaign , as a member of an inner-city (Dublin) youth group , against the then proposed merger of two trade unions into one ‘super union’ : young and all as we were at the time – early teens (it was , after all , 23 years ago!) – we recognised that if the ITGWU and the FWUI were to amalgamate the result , if amalgamation went ahead (and it did, despite our best efforts) , would result in a ‘green light’ to the ‘business negotiator’-type that exist in all such organisations (the type that are more concerned with obtaining a cushy well-paid office job than they are with fulfilling the actual mandate of that job) and, from my own experience with that ‘super union’ , our (young) fears were well founded.

And that is the main reason why myself and dozens of other union members that I know of and, truth be told, thousands of us , stayed away from the trade union-organised 1913 Lockout Commemoration which took place in Dublin last Saturday (31st August, 2013) : it would have been nauseating to watch those that have more in common with the bosses and the business elite – Michael D. Higgins , Eamon Gilmore , Ruairi Quinn , Jack O’ Connor and David Begg , amongst others – ‘pay homage’ to the working class and the unemployed whilst , at the same time, financially squeezing those same people to within an inch of their salary (and sanity) , pausing only to lay plans to do more ‘squeezing’ this coming October.

Just before he was arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1913 , James Larkin had vowed to the assembled crowd that “The hunger that we have awakened will not be satisfied by bread alone….” and , hopefully , the “hunger” that the above-mentioned trade union and political ‘wide boys’ will awaken in those they purport to serve will devour them some day soon. And I pray that it won’t take another 23 years….


“Ah feck this religious business…”

May your God and mine forgive me for the following – as far as I can recall , this is the first post specifically about religion that we have published on this blog , as it’s a subject that we avoid on purpose : to each his/her own and all that and , whilst it’s a subject that can raise the ire quicker , sometimes, than matters political can , it’s not something we keep our ‘radar’ tuned to. Having said that , our ‘Junior’ , who has a wicked sense of humour, came across a recent story of a riot in an Irish church during a service. The parishioners had , apparently , divided themselves into two ‘camps’ , although it’s not clear if the man who ‘pulled the organ’ was for or against the group that interrupted proceedings by singing ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’. You could say that ‘Speers’ were almost thrown and , bizarrely, the man at the centre of the storm had to be rescued by a third mob , who are better known for starting riots , getting ‘injured’ in them, stopping them , then claiming compensation : more here…..


…Chile , Colombia , Clare and Cork !

The Dublin Comhairle Ceantair of Sinn Féin Poblachtach will be ‘taking on’ all the above-mentioned football teams (or at least doing battle for the attention of their supporters!) on Sunday next , 8th September , in the usual sports hotel venue , as the Movement will be holding a 650-ticket raffle and, seeing as it was on that very date in 1908 (8th September) that Pádraig Pearse opened St. Enda’s school in Dublin , my money is on the republicans to emerge as the real winners! If you haven’t got a ticket for the raffle , tough (!) – there’s none left for sale! And I’ll be posting the names of the winners here , just to rub it in…!

Thanks for reading,

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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