By Peadar O’Donnell ; first published in January 1963.
It was a harmless enough bit of tomfoolery. The people knew it was nonsense. I could have ignored it, but I was more than a little ‘touched’ whenever any of the bishops who signed the pastoral of 1922 began poking at republicans with his crozier in my presence. I headed for Clare to have a go at his Lordship with as little scruple in my use of weapons as I considered his Lordship to observe in 1922-23. ‘An Phoblacht’ carried a report of the meeting and I could check my memory of it if there was any need, but there is not.
It was an after-Mass chapelgate meeting , and it was not just that I was angry ; things this man said when we were helpless in jail, words that in the opinion of many of us sprouted wayside murders were in my mind that day and I was determined to flay him on behalf of us all. I went about it carefully, invoking all my gifts as a speaker. I set out to demonstrate that I was kin to my audience in background, experience and ideas , that we are a stock apart, us tough, mountain folk who live in the Fenian tradition in a pattern of behaviour that has survived among us from faroff days. And I told a story.
It was of a man of my countryside who took a different course from me at the moment of challenge in 1922 and how I grumbled and gurned and blamed him for what he did, a man to go back on himself in the full view of his neighbours. But my Uncle Johnnie explained it – it was all simple and clear to him : ” It does not surprise me, for let me tell you, there was enough ignorance in that man’s father to poison seven generations .” The audience and I were at our ease together and I went deeper into talk of the countryside memory of the breeds of men and especially how any shortcomings in relation to the land struggles of the past left a scar. It was no strain on the people to listen to me and then, with speed and firmness, I came closer to this question of the strange attitude of their bishop. I said there was an excuse for him, for it was in him to be on the bailiff’s side, that I had a letter from a man in his district and I would read it for them, and I did….. (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.
When Officer ‘P’ arrived at Winston Churchill Avenue, he stood at the bus stop just north of the Shell petrol station and looked back and saw the three IRA members stopped at the junction, talking. They were on the Smith Dorrien side of the road but they then crossed and split up – Seán Savage disappeared from Officer ‘P’s sight but the others began walking in his direction and he started to walk up the road towards them. Juat as Daniel McCann and Mairead Farrell reached the petrol station , a police car in the vicinity sounded its siren. Officer ‘P’ thought that McCann and Farrell were startled by this , and at this point he was within fifteen feet of them. Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ were about seven feet behind them. Officer ‘P’ saw McCann looking over his shoulder and then Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ drew their weapons. Officer ‘P’ says he heard one of the soldiers shout “Stop, police” or “Police, stop” – or “words to that effect”. Farrell and McCann turned inwards towards each other and McCann’s hands went to his chest in a sudden movement and Farrell went for her bag. “They became hyperactive….” , he would tell the inquest, “…. their movements, their expressions, changed. They started eyeballing, their eyes were going everywhere.” Officer ‘P’ drew his own weapon and adopted a combat position behind the end wall of the Shell sttion. Farrell’s body jerked in the air and fell to the ground , then McCann fell, his head hitting the concrete, his legs splayed over the lower part of Farrell’s body. They had both been shot in the back.
Officer ‘Q’ , also of the Gibraltar special branch, had responded to the same call as Officer ‘P’ and had driven to Winston Churchill Avenue on a motorbike. He was at the far side of the road from the Shell station and the account he gave the inquest of what he saw was precisely the same in practically every detail as that given by Officer ‘P’. He too heard either ‘A’ or ‘B’ shout “Police, stop” or “Stop, police” – “or words to that effect”. He also described the movement of Farrell and McCann as that of “turning inward” towards each other. He denied in cross examination that there had been any collusion between Officer ‘P’ and himself. (MORE LATER).
MICHEÁL MARTIN TAKES THE (WRONG) BOUNDARY COMMISSION TO TASK.
“Gerrymandering” , Mr. Martin called it : “It is the biggest attempt to manipulate election boundaries in the 35 years since Fianna Fail introduced independent Boundary Commissions….” (from here) , adding “….we saw that straight away when the terms of reference were published,that skewing was going on….”.
However, a more important ‘skewing’ by a Boundary Commission has been ignored by Mr. Martin and his party and, indeed, by the administration and the so-called ‘opposition’ in Leinster House – the ‘Boundary Commission’ established under ‘Article 12’ of the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’, which was tasked with ‘determining the boundaries between the newly-partitioned 6 and 26-county ‘states’ ‘ , the deliberations of which caused a mutiny within British forces in Ireland!
Those who favoured the Six County ‘Ulster’(sic) remaining as “part of the United Kingdom” were outraged – the British Administration in the Six Counties , which operated from Stormont , dis-agreed with the ‘terms of reference’ of the Boundary Commission , which were “….to determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions , the boundaries between Northern Ireland (sic) and the rest of Ireland ….” , and this was then ‘tweaked’ to prevent any of the Administrations (ie Dublin , Stormont or Westminster) from giving ‘privileges to , or imposing disabilities on , anyone because of religion ….’ . This Boundary Commission was to consist of three members , one from each Administration : Dublin , Stormont and Westminster. The representative from the last-mentioned institution was to be the Chairperson of the Boundary Commission and , because of this and its circumscribed ‘terms of reference’ it was a ‘toothless’ body but , even so , the Unionists were incensed – the (pro-British) Stormont ‘Prime Minister’ , ‘Sir’ James Craig (a ‘landowner’ and shareholder in the family whiskey business , ‘Dunvilles Distillery’) wrote to the British Prime Minister , Lloyd George , on 14th December 1921 , completely rejecting any notion of a Boundary Commission as said body might judge that two of the six partitioned Counties , Fermanagh and Tyrone, “… might be lost to the North..” due to a strong ‘headcount’ of Republicans/Nationalists in those two counties.
Lloyd George defended the Boundary Commission , saying – “There is no doubt , certainly since the Act of 1920 (ie the so-called ‘Government of Ireland Act’-two ‘Home Rule Parliaments’ for Ireland) that the majority of the people of the two counties prefer being with their Southern neighbours to being in the Northern parliament. Take it either by constituency or by poor law union or , if you like , by counting heads , and you will find that the majority in these two counties prefer to be with their Southern neighbours. If Ulster (sic) is to remain a separate community, you can only by means of coercion keep them there and , although I am against the coercion of Ulster (sic) ,I do not believe in it coercing other units.”
That set ‘the cat among the pigeons’: the Unionist leadership were outraged at Lloyd Georges’ comments , no doubt seeing them as Westminster preparing to ‘wash its hands’ of the ‘troublesome Irish’ or at least sending a signal (to the Free Staters) that it was of a mind to do so : the brother of the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’ was first with a reply to that statement by Lloyd George and , in his reply , he spoke of a “matter of life and death” and challenged the authority of Westminster to do as it apparently intended to do : “Our Northern area will be so cut-up and mutilated that we shall no longer be masters in our own house. The decision of that Commission may be a matter of life and death to us. I submit to the Prime Minister that he had no right to do that and that he was in honour-bound not to allow such a Commission to appear in this document by the promise he had given to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.” The Stormont ‘Minister for Education’, British ‘Lord’ Londonderry, the ‘Marquis of Londonderry’ (a ‘landowner’, who was also involved with coal-mines [as an owner , not a worker!] in Durham , England : he was later to become ‘Leader’ of the British ‘House of Lords’) stated (in the ‘House of Lords’) – “All that I would say now is that it may be necessary for the government of Northern Ireland (sic) to refuse to nominate a representative on the proposed Boundary Commission and that, if by its findings any part of the territory transferred to us under the Act of 1920 is placed under the Free State , we may have to consider very carefully and very anxiously the measures which we shall have to adopt , as a government , for the purpose of assisting Loyalists whom your Commission may propose to transfer to the Free State but who may wish to remain with us , with Great Britain and the Empire.”
On 2nd February 1922, a meeting was held between Michael Collins and the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’ , ‘Sir’ James Craig. Voices were raised over the issue/structure/terms of reference of the Boundary Commission, and the meeting ended abruptly over the matter. However, ‘spin’ and ‘PR'(media manipulation) was immediately employed by both sides-
at a press conference following that failed meeting, ‘Sir’ James Craig (Stormont ‘PM’) claimed that the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, had assured him that the Boundary Commission “… would deal only with minor rectifications of the boundary …” ; in effect, that the Boundary Commission was a useless ‘talking-shop’ which had only been set-up to help the Free Staters to ‘sell’ the ‘six County idea’ to other Free Staters. However, Michael Collins claimed that he had left that same meeting with a promise, from the Brits, “… of almost half of Northern Ireland (sic) including the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, large parts of Antrim and Down, Derry City, Enniskillen and Newry.” ! Obviously , both men could not have been right ; it is straightforward to state that the Boundary Commission was a ‘sweetener’, if you like, to be used by both sides to convince their respective ‘flock’ that the Brits were really on their side….. (MORE LATER).
“A BODY OF GUN-WOMEN….”
A young Sligo girl, Bridie O’Mullane, joined the then four-years old Cumann na mBan organisation in 1918 when she was 23 years of age and proved to be such a valuable asset that she was soon promoted to the position of Secretary and, within a year, was on the Executive Committee as an official organiser, a role which involved her travelling throughout the 32 counties , which brought her to the attention of the British : she was imprisoned in 1919 for her republican activities but, on release, went straight back to her work for Cumann na mBan, but was a ‘marked woman’ as far as Westminster was concerned and was practically hunted from town to town by the RIC and other British agents. She spoke out against the Treaty of Surrender in 1921 and within weeks of the start of the campaign against that sell-out, she was appointed as ‘Director of Publicity (Propaganda)’ for the republican forces.
Bridie and other Cumann na mBan members established an office in Clare Street, in Dublin, from where a weekly newspaper , ‘The War Bulletin’ , was published, which contributed to her being arrested by the Free Staters in late 1922 and imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail, where she was elected as the ‘Commanding Officer’ of ‘A Wing’. She was released in late 1923 and added to her republican workload by becoming an advocate for Irish republican POW’s.
Her POW work led to her being arrested again in 1926 and, the following year, she resigned from Cumann na mBan and caused consternation in republican circles when , using her Cumann na mBan identification, she publicly called for support for de Valera! She then concentrated on writing a history of the Cumann na mBan organisation and assisting in the day-to-day running of the ‘Women’s Prisoners’ Defence League’ and, in 1939, she helped to establish the ‘Irish Red Cross’. Bridie O’Mullane (aka Bridget Josephine ,Bridie or Bride Mullane) died in 1967 , age 72, and is buried in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin. More information about the women of Cumann na mBan can be obtained by following this link.
ON THIS DATE (26th March) 92 YEARS AGO.
An anti-Treaty IRA Column , 1922.
92 years ago on this date , the IRA ignored an ‘instruction’ from politicians in Leinster House and went ahead with an army convention in the Mansion House, in Dublin. Forty-nine Brigades of the IRA were represented by approximately 220 delegates and it was unanimously agreed that the IRA’s allegiance was to the Irish Republic and not to the Leinster House institution. An agreed resolution declared that “….the IRA shall be maintained as the Army of the Irish Republic under an Executive appointed by the Convention….to guard the honour and maintain the independence of the Irish Republic…” and that the IRA would “…place its services at the disposal of an established republican government which faithfully upholds the above objects…” A civil war was to erupt three months later : more here.
A ‘LEGION’ OF NEW (?) FOLLOWERS……
This is pretty standard stuff now from members of this Irish ‘republican’ party and ‘one should not be surprised’ at the depths they will go to ‘atone’ for their past , when they spoke and acted against the British presence and all things associated with same but, even now, this late in the game for them, it does sometimes surprise , but not shock.
The “work” that Máirtín Ó Muilleoir wants to acknowledge includes “….providing care and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families……the Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading Service charity……we work with politicians to improve the lives of the Armed Forces community and have been campaigning on their behalf since 1921…..the Royal British Legion helps the whole Armed Forces community through welfare, companionship and representation as well as being the Nation’s custodian of Remembrance…..” (from here) and when you consider the fact that those same armed forces continue to enforce a jurisdictional claim by Westminster over six Irish counties it should shock to hear any Irishman praise them. But, like the Stoops before them, they, too, will be discarded by the British when it suits the latter to do so ie after they have been used by Westminster to turn potential republicans into meek nationalists. Nothing we haven’t seen before in our history but then, as now, it may slow us down but it won’t stop us!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.