By Peadar O’Donnell ; first published in January 1963.
Men from Clare came to see Father John, for the courts were on the rampage against defaulters there too. Sonny Breen and some others got the bright idea that they would raid the State Solicitor’s office and take away all the documents they could lay their hands on. They wanted guns and my good stout man, Officer Commanding IRA in Loughrea, wouldn’t give them any. Father John gave Sonny Breen a note to a “woman in Dublin, who would not let a body down”. I was in some other part of the country at the time – Father John knew that – so I knew nothing of Breen’s errand.
I read of the raid on the State Solicitor’s office and, some days later , while members of the IRA Council were settling themselves for a meeting and I was busy on some document or other that was needed, I sensed , half listening to things that were half said in the talk around me, that that raid was raising some questions. I asked Moss Twomey if he had any idea where the guns came from. He raised his two arms and said – “Ask your red-headed wife…”. And sure enough, “the woman in Dublin” to whom Father John addressed his note was Lile O’Donnell!
Father John’s plea was eagerly pressed by Sonny Breen, who assured her the guns were only for show and would not be used, as there would be no need to use them. She consulted one or other of the IRA men who were in and out of our house and one of them happened to be an IRA company quartermaster and, like most of his kind, he knew of a few odd guns that were not properly part of any arms dump, and he let Breen have them. My wife was scared to let him carry the arms by train or bus because he was well enough known to run the risk of being taken in to a barracks somewhere en route and searched, so she travelled with them to Ennis.
THE ANATOMY OF AN AFTERNOON : THE STORY OF THE GIBRALTAR KILLINGS……..
By Michael O’Higgins and John Waters. From ‘Magill Magazine’ , October 1988.
Events were now beginning to move very fast indeed. A lot would happen in the course of the next couple of minutes and there would be a large number of people who would give somewhat different accounts of those events. Soldiers ‘C’ and ‘D’ had been on the corner of Smith Dorrien Avenue and Corral Road when they saw Seán Savage split from the others. There were a lot of people around , about twenty or thirty people in the area of Corral Road and King’s Lines, the entry to the Landport Tunnel. At this point Soldier ‘D’s evidence is that he crossed the road to follow Seán Savage but, having got to the other side, found that Soldier ‘C’ was having difficulty crossing because of the traffic.
Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ were pressing ahead to apprehend Mairead Farrell and Daniel McCann, knowing that ‘C’ and ‘D’ would take Seán Savage – they were closing in, a matter of about five metres behind now, as the two IRA members approached the Shell station on their right. Soldier ‘B’ was on the outside of the path and was concentrating all of his attention on the back of Mairead Farrell who was also on the outside of the path. Soldier ‘A’ , on the inside, was concentrating on Daniel McCann who was immediately in front of him. The idea of taking one each was “an unsaid rule” , Soldier ‘B’ would later tell the inquest. They had been well practised in this, he would say. They were now three or four metres behind the two, moving slightly faster than them, closing in all the time.
Stephen Bullock, a barrister, and his wife Lucinda, were out walking with their young daughter in a pushchair.They were walking down Smith Dorrien Avenue towards the junction with Winston Churchill Avenue, and had passed by a zebra crossing and the gate of the children’s playground on the right. There was a police car stopped at the zebra crossing with its police radio blaring, and four uniformed police officers were in the car. They had passed the gate of the playground when a man pushed between them from behind with a muttered “excuse me”. Bullock noticed that the man was carrying a gun in the back of the waistband of his jeans , and thought that he did not look like a policeman.Bullock also noticed that the man with the gun was looking over his shoulder at the police car parked at the zebra crossing, and he began to get worried as he thought the man might be on the run from the police. Then he noticed that the man had met up with another man, who also had a pistol in the back of his waistband. He watched them take partial cover behind some bushes near the playground and at this point he started to slow down. Something strange was going on…..
ON THIS DATE (12TH FEB) 38 YEARS AGO….
Frank Stagg , at only 35 years of age when he died , had , by 1976, endured four hunger strikes in British prisons resisting the attempted criminalisation of republican prisoners and, by extension, the struggle itself.
He was born in Hollymount in Mayo in 1941 , the seventh child in a family of thirteen and, on leaving school (Newbrook Primary and then the CBS in Ballinrobe) he worked briefly as a gamekeeper before leaving his country for work in England, where he worked as a bus conductor and then a bus driver. At 29 years of age (in 1970) he got married to a Mayo woman, Bridie Armstrong (from Carnacon)and two years later he joined the then Sinn Féin organisation in Luton: within a matter of months he was also active in the IRA.
In April 1973, Frank Stagg was arrested in Coventry and in November that year he was convicted of ‘conspiring to commit arson’ and sentenced to ten years imprisonment – he was described at his ‘trial’ as the Commanding Officer of the Coventry IRA unit : the ‘conspiracy’ charge was used as there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him otherwise. When he was taken to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight he demanded that he be treated as a political prisoner and refused to do any prison work, resulting in him being held in solitary confinement. In March 1974, imprisoned then in Parkhurst Prison, both he and Michael Gaughan joined the Price sisters on hunger strike, and all were force fed. Indeed, due to being forced fed, Michael Gaughan died and, following his death – and after 70 days on hunger strike – Frank Stagg ended his fast, as did all the hunger strikers, having being assured that they would be transferred to a prison in Ireland to serve their time, which was one of the three reasons that caused the hunger strike in the first place – Frank Stagg also wanted a guarantee that he would not be placed in solitary confinement again and the right to educational facilities and an acknowledgement from the prison authorities that political prisoners would not be expected to do prison work.
“Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.”
(‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, by Oscar Wilde, written after his release from Reading prison on 19 May 1897.)
But, as usual, once the hunger strikes ended the British disregarded the assurances they had given and,on the 14th of December 1975, Frank Stagg embarked on his fourth hunger strike in two years and, after 62 days – on the 12th February 1976 – he died. His last words to his comrades in the Republican Movement were – “We are the risen people, this time we must not be driven into the gutter. Even if this should mean dying for justice. The fight must go on. I want my memorial to be peace with justice” and, in his will, he stated that the then Sinn Féin organiser in England, Derek Highstead, be entrusted with his body in order that he receive a republican funeral, an instruction which the Wakefield coroner complied with.
But the Dublin administration, a Fine Gael and Labour coalition, were not as honourable : they piled pressure on the Stagg family to refuse republican tributes to Frank and were joined in that disgraceful behaviour by Frank’s brother, Emmet, whilst other members of the family wished to see a republican burial. The Stagg family were at Dublin Airport to collect the body of their family member when news broke that Westminster had directed that the flight be diverted to Shannon Airport where it was met by armed State forces who hijacked the body and buried Frank in Leigue Cemetery in Ballina, in an area about 70 yards from the Republican Plot, and then proceeded to secure the burial site under six feet of concrete. The day after the burial, Irish republicans held their own ceremony at the Republican Plot and, despite the presence of dozens of armed Special Branch men, a volley of shots was fired by the IRA in honour of their fallen comrade. On the 6th November 1976, Frank Stagg’s remains were removed from the Free State grave by the IRA, who tunnelled under the six-foot concrete barrier, and re-interred beside the remains of his comrade, Michael Gaughan, in the Republican Plot in Leigue Cemetery, Ballina, County Mayo. Frank Stagg, 35, who died on 12th February 1976 after 62 days on hunger strike, was now at peace.
100TH ANNIVERSARY OF CUMANN NA mBAN TO BE MARKED IN DUBLIN.
Cumann na mBan in Bodenstown, Kildare.
On the 5th of April 1914, in Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street, Dublin, the inaugural meeting of the newly-established ‘Cumann na mBan’ organisation took place, with Kathleen Lane-O’Kelley in the Chair. Its constitution made no secret of the fact that it was not opposed to the use of force to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland and the organisation also declared that its primary aim was to “advance the cause of Irish liberty (and) teach its members first aid, drill, signalling and rifle practice in order to aid the men of Ireland.” It was the first female military force in Ireland.
In 1918, Westminster threatened to conscript Irishmen into its armed forces and the then four-year-old Cumann na mBan organisation campaigned to such an extent against that conscription that its ranks swelled and it found itself ideally placed to assist the then Sinn Féin organisation in its election campaign in December that same year (1918 manifesto here). At this time, Cumann na mBan had approximately 600 active branches in the country, with the majority of its members aged from their late teens to their mid-30’s, and all were active on the republican side during the War of Independence that followed, in which an estimated 10,000 women played an active part. In October 1921, the Cumann na mBan leadership recorded that it had at least 12,000 active members in 800 branches.
However, when the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ was signed in December 1921 (resulting in partition and the creation of two bastard States) the republican forces , including Cumann na mBan, effectively split into three groups – supporters of the Treaty, those who opposed it and those who withdrew in a neutral stance. A group of Treaty-supporting activists left Cumann na mBan and formed themselves into a new group, ‘Cumann na Saoirse’ and, five years later, when the Fianna Fail party was founded, more Cumann na mBan members left the organisation to join Eamon de Valera in his new party. Also, in the mid-1930’s, yet another group from within Cumann na mBan left to form ‘Mna na Poblachta’ but the Cumann na mBan organisation itself stayed true to its republican principles in 1970 and again in 1986, when opportunists again left the Republican Movement to seek their political (and financial) fortunes in constitutional political assemblies.
Today, the Cumann na mBan organisation remains affiliated to the Republican Movement and some of its members will be present at a seminar which will be held in Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street , Dublin, on Saturday 29th March 2014 , beginning at 8pm. All genuine republicans welcome!
JUST SHY OF 167 YEARS AGO ON THIS DAY (AND COMPLETELY SHY AT ALL OF ANY COMPASSION).
On February 13th 1847, ‘The Illustrated London News’ newspaper published an article by James Mahoney entitled ‘Sketches In The West Of Ireland’, in which the author, an artist living in Cork, was asked by the editor of the newspaper to travel around Ireland as best he could and report back to London with his findings: the ‘Great Hunger’ (an Gorta Mór) was at its most severe ,typhus and other fatal diseases were rampant and in that year (1847) it was recorded that at least 380 doctors died between 1845 and 1847.
“I SAW THE DYING, THE LIVING, AND THE DEAD, LYING INDISCRIMINATELY UPON THE SAME FLOOR…”
In his report, Mr Mahoney stated that he started out on his journey “…..for Skibbereen and saw little until we came to Clonakilty, where the coach stopped for breakfast; and here, for the first time, the horrors of the poverty became visible, in the vast number of famished poor, who flocked around the coach to beg alms: amongst them was a woman carrying in her arms the corpse of a fine child, and making the most distressing appeal to the passengers for aid to enable her to purchase a coffin and bury her dear little baby. This horrible spectacle induced me to make some inquiry about her, when I learned from the people of the hotel that each day brings dozens of such applicants into the town. After leaving Clonakilty, each step that we took westward brought fresh evidence of the truth of the reports of the misery, as we either met a funeral or a coffin at every hundred yards, until we approached the country of the Shepperton Lakes. Here, the distress became more striking, from the decrease of numbers at the funerals, none having more than eight or ten attendants, and many only two or three….” (from here, more here) . The ‘shy of compassion’ reference , above, is in relation to the Westminster government which, at that time, was the seat of political power in Ireland and had the wherewithal, financially and logistically, to intervene favourably in the man-made catastrophe that was unfolding in ‘that part of the Empire’. But it choose not to, as the land without its natives was deemed to be more valuable to it and, indeed, it is that very attitude that has ensured that the British armed forces have ‘been engaged’ in armed conflict somewhere or other in the world for 100 consecutive years now – a ‘record’ which some believe may be about to end. But they have no compassion about them and, in my opinion, their ‘record’ is in safe hands and will no doubt continue. Unfortunately for non-warmongers everywhere.
ANNUAL WOLFE TONE COMMEMORATION , SALLINS, COUNTY KILDARE , 2.30PM SUNDAY 22ND JUNE 2014.
The annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration will be held this year on Sunday 22nd June (2014).
“In Bodenstown churchyard there lies a green grave
And wildly around it the winter winds rave
Small shelter is weaned from the cruel walls there
When the storm clouds blow down on the plains of Kildare
Once I stood on that sod that lies over Wolfe Tone
And I thought how he perished in prison alone
His friends unavenged and his country unfreed
Oh pity, I thought, Is the patriot’s need
I was awakened from my dreaming by voices and tread
Of a band who came in to the home of the dead
There were students and peasants, the wise and the brave
And an old man who knew him from cradle to grave
This old man who saw I was weeping there said
We’ve come for to weep where young Wolfe Tone lies laid
We’re going to build him a monument, too
A small one yet simple for the patriot true
My heart overflowed and I clasped his old hand
And I blessed him and blessed everyone in the band
Sweet sweet ’tis to find that such things can remain
To a man that’s been long been vanquished and slain
In Bodenstown churchyard there lies a green grave
And wildly around it let the winter winds rave
Far better it suits him the wind and the gloom
Until Ireland a nation might build him a tomb.”
RSF Wolfe Tone Commemoration , 22nd June 2014.
DARREN’S DAY, DONAL AND DAN THIRD!
We had a crazy, hectic and very busy day on Sunday last (9th) at the Cabhair raffle in the usual venue – great craic , in other words! Manchester United fans outnumbered the Fulham group and Everton supporters were also out in force, whereas their ‘opponents’, Tottenham Hotspurs, had fewer fans on the premises, even if they were making more noise, and then Kerry were playing Derry, Westmeath had the nerve to try and take on the Dubs, Cork was up against Kildare (….or was that Kildare which was up against Cork?) and Tyrone and Mayo clashed on the pitch but, thankfully, none of the above actually clashed on the premises except, as expected, verbally!
And it’s the verbal banter that makes the atmosphere and ‘lightens’ the load, win lose or draw – the Irish fans are serious about their support for the various teams but , I think, not to the same (outrageous) extent that English fans that support the various English teams would be ie violence before, during and after each game. As I said, there was no end of slagging but it was all good-natured and above board, where different players and managers were described in a ‘colourful’ manner, with their parentage questioned! But we had other things on our mind – such as keeping Darren away from the winners table! He sold three winners for us , all of whom were on the premises: Maria won the second prize, €100, on ticket 125 and, amid the whooping and the hollering,the poor girl – embarrassed for life! – pulled a ticket for us and a Darren Felton (not our Darren) won the third prize, €40, on ticket 264.
That Darren , a shy type but we soon fixed that, helped us with prize number four , €20, which Robbie, a committed Everton man, dressed in the team colours, won, on ticket 530, which he bought from one of our regular sellers, Stephen, and Robbie then pulled the fifth prize out of the drum for us, and that went to a chap called Paul, who had bought his ticket, 91, from our Darren, and won €20. And, before I forget, our first prize of €200 was won by Johnny Brogan on ticket 474, sold to him by Noel, who’s team was losing but who was made feel like a winner by €200-richer-than-when-he walked-in Johnny!
Prize number six, €20, was won by Donal Óg on ticket 613, which our Danny D , a Crumlin man, had sold to him, a set of initials, ‘TBX’, won our second-last prize (€20) on ticket 35 , which Anto the bus driver had sold him and the last prize, €20, went to Gary Walsh (402) , which was sold by our Colm. As usual, we got there an hour before the raffle started to prepare the paperwork etc and, again as usual (!) , we were still there two hours after the raffle ended, as we have a few drinks and a bite to eat. Plus, of course, during that two hours ‘rest’ period, we have picked up on enough loudly-voiced weaknesses with the various teams, players, managers etc to allow us to join in the slagging, which we gladly do. All part of the craic , and long may it continue!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.