By Peadar O’Donnell ; first published in January 1963.
Looking back on it now I am of the opinion that the Galway committees were at once the most advanced in idea, and the best fighting group in the Irish countryside at that time – their weakness was that they had less pattern of organisation than the Donegal team. They had not the same gift for relating themselves to the people around them , they were ‘commandos’ rather than a movement and I think I should have been more useful to them than I was, and blame myself for some of the mistakes they made.
Whatever danger of arrest faced me must come to head as I arrived for the Ennis rally, although I should get to the outskirts of the meeting without any trouble and should be all right once I got to the platform. There was just the problem of getting from the outskirts of the meeting into the crowd , as the police might easily be mischievous enough to arrest me , with no more in mind than a few hours’ detention. I could chuckle at the thought of the relief it would be to de Valera to be rid of me for a couple of hours, without too much hardship to me, for this whole development must be very unwelcome to him.
My safeguard against police interference would be a body of Galway men at hand to bustle me into the crowd and on to the platform. When the time came there was no problem ; I walked to the platform with Paddy Hogan, Labour TD (sic) for Clare, who is now speaker of the Dáil (sic) , with my Galway friends in a cluster on my heels. The Cumann na nGael TD (sic) for County Clare refused the invitation to the meeting, at which Frank Barrett presided. As the meeting was about to open, Barrett leaned over to me to say de Valera wanted the resolution changed, that he could not speak to a resolution which demanded that decrees be suspended , as well as to advocate “NO RENT” openly and honestly. I could chuckle at de Valera’s difficulty , for was it not the whole purpose of the staging of the meeting to land him in it? I had a complete answer to his suggestion….. (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.
Officer ‘I’ , a member of the surveillance team, was on Corral Road, which leads onto Winston Churchill Avenue at 3.40pm when control was handed over to the soldiers. Just after he had learned this on his radio, word came through that the three IRA members had split up. He was on the left side of the road facing towards the Shell station and the entrance to the Landport Tunnel, also knowm as King’s Lines, was across the road on his right. He saw Mairead Farrell and Daniel McCann walking towards the Shell station, closely followed by Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ and at the same instant he noticed Seán Savage turning into the entrance to the Landport Tunnel across the road.
Then he heard a police siren, though he couldn’t see any police car. A second later he heard shots from the direction of the Shell station and saw Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ firing and Mairead Farrell and Daniel McCann falling to the ground. One soldier was directly behind the two, the other slightly to the left – out on the road, he thought. He saw the two people hit the ground. He would be asked at the inquest if Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ shot the two on the ground. “By the time they were finished firing they were on the ground,” he would say.
At the inquest, Paddy McGrory asked Officer ‘I’ if it was true that he had seen Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ fire the last two shots while Mairead Farrell and Daniel McCann were on the ground – “….or in the process of falling…” , Officer ‘I’ qualified. McGrory pointed out that in a statement he had made to the police he said that he had seen them shot on the ground. “They were more on the ground than standing up. They still moved” , replied Officer ‘I’ , to which McGrory enquired “On the ground?” Officer ‘I’ said – “Almost on the ground.” McGrory stated “Your evidence to the coroner before was that you saw ‘A’ and ‘B’ firing the last few shots into Farrell and McCann when they had just fallen to the ground.” Officer ‘I’ replied “Yes.” (MORE LATER).
91 YEARS AGO ON THIS DATE (12TH MARCH) : FREE STATERS SHOOT FIVE IRA PRISONERS IN THE LEGS THEN PLACE THEM OVER A LANDMINE.
Bahaghs Lodge, built in 1833, became Cahersiveen’s workhouse in the An Gorta Mór year of 1846. Thousands of destitute people lived there between 1846 and 1921 and many of them died there, to be buried in mass graves at nearby Sugrena churchyard.
On March 6th, 1923, five Free State soldiers, including Captains Michael Dunne and Joseph Stapleton of Dublin Brigade, were killed in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, by a booby trap mine. The target of the trap was a particular local fellow by the name of Paddy ‘Pats’ O’Connor who, according to the IRA, was a notorious torturer of prisoners. O’Connor joined the Free State army because of the treatment of his father by the local IRA.
The Dublin Guards, who had been in Kerry since the previous August, were commanded by Paddy O’Daly. He was furious over the booby trap and it subsequently became clear that he was responsible for what took place following the Knocknagoshel incident. At around 2am on March 7th, 1923, nine IRA prisoners, many of whom had been tortured, were brought to Ballyseedy wood where they were told that they were to remove an “irregular road block”. However, it was clear to the men what was in store for them when they had been shown 9 coffins in the barracks. Each were offered a cigarette and told it would be “the last you’ll have”. They were then tied together to the mined road block and blown up. Some of the men were still alive and were finished off by grenade and machine gun.
Unbeknownst to the Free State troops one man was blown clear and managed to escape. His name was Stephen Fuller (to become a FF ‘TD’ in 1937) . Because the bodies were so badly mangled all nine coffins were filled with the remains of the eight who perished. This was to lead to a near riot in Tralee when the coffins were handed over the the families at the gates of Ballymullen barracks. The families broke open the coffins to try and identify the remains. Later on the same day a very similar incident took place at Countess Bridge in Killarney where five IRA prisoners where asked to remove a mined road block which was also blown up. Three of the men who lay wounded were finished off by grenade. Again, amazingly, a fifth man named Tadhg Coffey, survived and escaped.
Five days later 5 more men were killed near Bahaghs workhouse in Cahersiveen. In order to prevent any more escapes the men were first shot in the legs. They were then put over a mine and blown up. When the details slowly emerged about what really happened the Free State government was forced to call an inquiry into what happened. They appointed none other than Major General Paddy O’Daly to oversee the court of inquiry in April. It was never going to be anything other than a whitewash. One Free State soldier Lt W McCarthy resigned his commission after the incident and called his colleagues “a murder gang”. Capt Niall Harrington (Author of ‘Kerry Landings‘) of the Dublin Brigade reported that “the mines used in the slaughter of the prisoners were constructed in Tralee under the supervision of two senior Dublin Guards officers”. But neither he nor Lt McCarthy was ever called to testify. (More here.)
The ‘Bahagh’s Massacre’ took place in Cahersiveen, County Kerry , 91 years ago on this date.
ON THIS DATE (12TH MARCH) 93 YEARS AGO….
A North Longford IRA unit, pictured on a local landmark, ‘Crott Mountain’, in the early 1920’s.
….SEÁN CONNOLLY (1890-1921), OFFICER COMMANDING OF THE LONGFORD BRIGADE IRA WAS KILLED IN ACTION.
The Selton Hill Ambush was an incident during the Irish War of Independence, which occurred on March 11, 1921.
An Irish Republican Army flying column was ambushed by members of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC, at Selton Hill, near Mohill, County Leitrim. Six IRA officers of the Leitrim Brigade (including Sean Connolly from Longford, Seamus Wrynne V/C; Joseph O Beirne (or Beirne); John Reilly; Joseph Reilly and Capt M. E. Baxter) were killed. The Auxiliaries were based in the town of Mohill.
Ernie O’Malley states that “Men from the Bedfordshire Regiment were seen by a badly wounded IRA officer, who survived, to use rifle butts on the skulls of two wounded men.” He also says that the location of the column was given to the local D/I of the RIC by a doctor who had been in the British Army. The doctor had been given the information by an Orangeman. The Orangeman was later killed by the IRA but the doctor escaped to England. Leavy says six were killed and that they were betrayed by two of their compatriots. He does say that one was promptly executed by the IRA and that the other escaped to England but died later in an accident… (from here.)
This book (left) casts light on Sean Connolly himself – a key figure in the era of the independence struggle in the North Longford region. Written by Ernie O’Malley, the book was edited by his son Cormac.
Connolly, whose name is attached to the (FS) military barracks in Longford, was vice-commandant of the North Longford IRA. The book describes his involvement in the Volunteers/IRA from 1916, including episodes such as the destruction of the RIC barracks in Ballinamuck and in Arva in 1920. Connolly was sent by headquarters in Dublin to reorganise the IRA in North Roscommon, and in February 1921, began organising a flying column in South Leitrim. Its most famous action was the ambush at Selton Hill, near Ballinamore, on 11 March 1921, where Connolly was mortally wounded, and five others killed…. (from here and here.)
DARREN’S DAY , BUT NOT QUITE THE ‘KING’ !
Although he felt like a ‘Prince’, young Darren, one of our regular Dublin ticket sellers, never quite made it to the level of ‘King’ : that title went to a man with that surname, ‘King’ (first name Mick!) who won our first prize (€200) on Sunday last, 9th March, with ticket number 628 , having bought it from Andy C , Dublin 12. Mick , a die-hard Everton follower, was quickly re-named ‘two-ton’ by his mates, as they settled-in for a few free rounds up at the bar and rapidly ‘scored’ what must have been a ‘ton’ of pints (points?) between them, with one such round going ‘off side’ in our direction!
Meanwhile, back at ‘Top Table Castle’ , the young ‘Prince’ , Darren, was doing very well for himself – he walked off the pitch with four in the back of the net, three of which he ‘gave away’ and one ‘own goal’. One of his customers, Dessie, won 3rd prize, €40 (ticket 94) , another, Josh, won 5th prize, €20, (173) and Nellie won our last prize, €20, on ticket 127, while Darren himself won prize number four (€20), with ticket number 596, which he bought from Tom – the reason being that Darren had sold all his own tickets and hadn’t got one left for himself!
As Darren was prancing around the lounge, claiming victory and daring anyone to match or beat his score (!) , a lovely young lass from Blanchardstown in Dublin, Roisin E , was collecting her prize of €100 (2nd prize, ticket number 524) and she pulled out prize number six for us , which was won by a local man , Seán Moore (432) , who pulled out prize number seven for us (€20), which was won by Tony, on ticket 153, which he bought from our Owen.
I have no idea who won between Man City and Wigan or Tipperary and Clare or any of the many (seemingly endless!) matches that were held that day, all of which teams were well represented in the hotel, but we enjoyed our fund-raising work on behalf of the Movement and had a great bit of craic as well, as usual. But we’re gonna ban young Darren from the next one, and give other people a chance to win…!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.