By Peadar O’Donnell ; first published in January 1963.
I remember – I can see clearly – the opening sentence in Father John Fahy’s first letter to me : “To be sure , you are the one man in Ireland making a stand for the old Gael…” I did not, in fact, prefer the Gael before the Gall as an Irishman, but Father John’s idea of the Gael corresponded with what I had in mind when I talked of the Ireland of the poor. Father John invited me to Galway , as he was curate at Bullaun, outside Loughrea.
I was greatly taken with the group of men he had gathered around him , among whom were Martin Fahy , Mick Silver , John Joe Kennedy and Michael Seery , and veterans of the land war were there, outstanding among them Tom Kenny and Pat Gannon. Eamonn Corbett, close friend of Liam Mellows, was there. This was Mellows’ country, and it was interesting that just as the Donegal group was eager to take their stand on the 1919 resolution, their kind in Galway wanted, in a confused way , to advocate Mellows. It took us a few nights to sort out our viewpoints and get agreement that we would work together on the narrower platform of an agitation against land annuities.
The embers of the land war emitted sparks in Galway during the war of independence ; the Sinn Féin land officer who came to Galway to take note of what was to be done when the Republican Government was free to work its policy, was forced to abandon a few of his meetings and here and there ranch lands were used as commonage. There was no organised repudiation of land annuity but there were so many cases of individual default that they added up to a greater, if less compact , basis for agitation than in Donegal. (MORE LATER).
THE ANATOMY OF AN AFTERNOON : THE STORY OF THE GIBRALTAR KILLINGS……..
By Michael O’Higgins and John Waters. From ‘Magill Magazine’ , October 1988.
Three of the Commissioner’s ‘indicators’ were already in place – the car had been brought across the border and been parked in the square and the three IRA ASU members were together in one place on the Rock. He hesitated. He asked if the three had been positively identified and was told that the identifications were eighty per cent positive. He phoned the Commissioner at home for the second time, told him that the earlier suspicions had been hardened up and asked him to come in to the Operations Room. Deputy Commissioner Columbo was not required to proceed with signing the form , however. Before the identifications could further be firmed up the three IRA members moved southwards through Referendum Gates towards Alemeda Gardens, in the opposit direction to the border.
From about noon, Soldiers ‘C’ and ‘D’ had been in the area between Trafalgar Cemetery and the Queen’s Hotel, just south of Main Street. Soldier ‘C’ was the more senior of the two , and he was wearing blue trousers, a black shirt and white shoes. He had a radio , linked into the military net, up the sleeve of his shirt, with a small earpiece and a mouthpiece attached to his collar , and was armed with a Browning 9mm pistol which he carried in the rear waistband of his trousers and for which he had two magazines , one attached to the weapon, with twelve rounds in each. Soldier ‘D’ was also casually dressed and had a similar weapon with three magazines of twelve rounds each. His radio was linked into the surveillance network.
They had heard that what were believed to be the three IRA members had entered Gibraltar , that a car had been parked in the square and that the three had met together at the assembly area. Then they were told over the radio that the three were headed in their direction and were asked to make a positive identification based on the photographs they had seen. From their position in Trafalgar Cemetery , Soldiers ‘C’ and ‘D’ made the identifications and reported over the radio. They were told to stay away from the three to avoid being seen and were instructed to make their way back down the town towards the airport. (MORE LATER).
WINIFRED CARNEY , BORN ON THIS DATE 126 YEARS AGO.
“The conditions of your toil are unnecessarily hard, that your low wages do not enable you to procure sufficiently nourishing food for yourselves or your children, and that as a result of your hard work, combined with low wages, you are the easy victims of disease, and that your children never get a decent chance in life, but are handicapped in the race of life before they are born…” – part of the speech which Winifred Carney and James Connolly prepared for his speech to millworkers in Belfast in late 1911. Connolly was the Belfast Organiser for the ITGWU at the time, and Carney was just a few weeks away from becoming the full-time Secretary of the then newly-formed ‘Irish Textile Workers’ Union’.
On the 4th of December 1887 , Alfred and Sarah Carney welcomed the birth of their sixth child, Winifred, into their existing family – three boys (Ernest, Louie and Alfred) and two girls , Maud and Mabel. The family were then living in Bangor , County Down but , not long after Winifred was born, the marriage broke down and Sarah moved with the children to Carlisle Circus in Belfast , where she started a small shop. Winifred found work as a teacher and developed a love for the Irish language , joining the Gaelic League to further her interest and, at 27 years of age, she joined (membership number 56077) the then newly-formed Cumann na mBan organisation and, indeed, was present in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin in April 1914 when that organisation was founded. Her duties included teaching first aid to the other members as well as training in the use of weapons, as she was known to be proficient in that particular field (a skill no doubt learned due to her activity with the ‘Irish Citizens Army’ , which she joined on its formation in 1913). This was two years before the (1916) Easter Rising and, due to her connection with James Connolly and her membership of various republican/nationalist organisations, Winifred Carney knew that an action against British interference in Ireland was being discussed and she was determined to play her part in any such blow against the ’empire’ and said as much to Connolly, who by then had stationed himself in Dublin to assist the workers there in what became known as ‘the great lock out’. Carney stayed in Belfast , collecting whatever money she could for the Dublin strikers and billeting as many families of the strikers as she could. Connolly kept her up to date on developments and , when the time came – April 1916 – he asked her to come to Dublin to help with the preparations for a rising against Westminster.
At first she was ‘jobbed’ in Liberty Hall , writing dispatches and mobilisation orders etc but, on the day the rising began – 24th April 1916 – as an Adjutant in the Irish Citizen Army, she carried both ‘tools of her trade’ into the GPO : a typewriter and a revolver. During the early stages of the week-long battle , she was the only female in the building and , towards the end of that particular battle (….but not the end of the fight itself!) she refused orders at the time to leave the premises , as did her two colleagues, Julia Grenan and Elizabeth O’Farrell. Altogether, there was a total of thirty-four women in the GPO at the time , members of the Irish Citizens Army and Cumann na mBan, thirty-one of whom followed orders and vacated the building, with the wounded. The female Volunteers were also tasked with carrying military instructions around the city during which trips they gathered intelligence on the strength and locations of the enemy and carried as much food and ammunition as they could safely deliver to their comrades. The Rising ended when Winifred Carney , Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Greenan , who were by now based in the Moore Street Headquarters as there was no safety or shelter to be had in the remains of the GPO, were instructed to deliver a surrender notice to British General Lowe , stating the following – “In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P.H. Pearse, Dublin 30th April 1916.”
Winifred Carney , Brigid Foley , Maire Perolz , Nell Ryan and Helena Moloney were the five female Volunteers that were deported to prisons and internment camps in England and Wales ,following the surrender, as were 1,836 male Volunteers , and approximately 80 other female Volunteers were taken, firstly, to Richmond Barracks and then to Kilmainham Jail and ,although most were released within a week, Winifred Carney , Helena Moloney and Nell Ryan were held captive in Aylesbury Prison in Buckinghamshire in England until the 24th December (1916). They had been offered early release if they signed an undertaking “not to engage in any act of a seditious character” but they had refused to do so. She maintained her republican principles in the years that followed , despite being targeted repeatedly by agents of the State and, despite many personal setbacks (most of which were related to her strong political beliefs) she never compromised her republicanism. When ill health forced her off the picket lines she continued to verbally challenge the State at every opportunity until even that became too much for her : she died at fifty-five years of age on the 21st November 1943 , just as opposed to Free Staters and partition as she had always been , and is buried in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast. More information on this remarkable woman can be read here.
COLLUSION? APPARENTLY SO…..
….and not only between the cops in this State and the political administration that pay them. It appears that at least one of the two dead RUC men that are in the news lately was himself aware of ‘acts of collusion’ , for which some headline-hungry politician or other will apologise. Snippet of said RUC collusion here : “20. I was friendly at that time with RUC Constable Billy McBride and I visited his home on one occasion at a time when Chief Inspector Harry Breen was present. We discussed McBride’s connection to a group of Loyalists in Co. Down called Down Orange Welfare, which was headed by a retired Army officer, Lt. Col. Edward Brush. McBride told us he was a member of this group, which was almost entirely composed of members or ex-members of the (British) security forces. He produced a .38 revolver from a drawer in his living room and after I had examined it he replaced it in the drawer. He then went into another room and brought out two home made sub-machine guns, copies of the Sterling machine-gun. He explained that Down Orange Welfare was manufacturing Sterling sub-machine guns and that the two he had shown me were the prototypes and were of imperfect design. McBride added that the group were in the process of making an M1 carbine, an American rifle, and that the only remaining problem to be tackled was the ejector mechanism for spent bullets. He anticipated that this would not present any insuperable difficulty. In Chief Inspector Breen’s presence he then offered me the two sub-machine guns because he knew about my connections to Loyalist paramilitaries. I accepted them and took them to Mitchell’s farmhouse…”
Watch closely now as Mr. Shatter demands an apology from Westminster…..
As promised , Colm is looking after ‘Number One’. Himself. Or he thinks he is, anyway , and he reckons that membership of Fianna Fáil is the best way to ensure his own political future.
For now he does, or so it seems : but anyone with such a misunderstanding of a ‘system of values’ would be equally at home in any of the establishment political parties in Leinster House , so next time Colm gets cold feet , he may decide to warm them on the back of Fine Gael or , indeed, even Provisional Sinn Féin. Interchangeable , the lot of them. And all equally as useless.
BUSY END-OF-WEEK AND WEEKEND FOR RSF AND CABHAIR.
Cabhair : their last raffle for 2013 will be held this coming Sunday, 8th December , and their first such event for 2014 has already been organised and will be held on Sunday 9th February. Way ahead of themselves, as usual…!
Myself and at least five other Cabhair supporters/members will be busy this coming Saturday (7th December), putting the finishing touches to the 650-ticket raffle that will be held the following day in the usual venue, a hotel on the Dublin-Kildare border. And as we settle-in to our work on that Saturday we will be conscious that friends of ours in Tralee , in County Kerry, will be relaxing a wee bit having already held a commemoration the day before, Friday 6th, for Charlie Kerins.
We will also be aware that at around the same time as we’ll be finishing our lunch break on that Saturday , our colleagues in Tyrone will be beginning picket duty on Main Street , in Cappagh, to highlight the plight of Irish republican POW’s and, as we’ll be doing the last check on the raffle tickets etc on the actual day of the raffle (Sunday 8th) , our comrades in Wexford will be holding a commemoration for Liam Mellows in Castletown.
To hold so many events over, in this instance, a three-day period is a good indication that the Movement overall is in a healthy condition and, as it approaches a new year, there is no reason to believe that that will change. Except, hopefully , for the better!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.