Last month, 28 women who protested peacefully in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, against US President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland received £1000 each arising from their action for wrongful arrest. Gene Kerrigan recalls the weekend when another State determined Irish security requirements and details the garda action which could cost tens of thousands of pounds. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.


The arrangement was to meet near the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park , then find a space within sight of Deerfield, the residence of the United States ambassador, to set up the ‘Women for Disarmament’ protest. It started on a Wednesday with a few women, all very light, no hassle. The next day, Thursday – the day before Reagan arrived – four women who had been up to the Park to look around were heading back into town in a van, going to a base provided by the ‘Sisters for Justice’, a group of nuns. At Dean Street, the van was pulled over by the Special Branch – the women had been followed from the Park – and asked the Branch men why they had been stopped. They were told they had been acting suspiciously and, after taking their names, they were let go.

The Special Branch has two functions : to gather low level intelligence, picking up scraps of information about who is in what group, where they live, their habits and beliefs etc, and the second function of the Special Branch is to intimidate – they regularly watch and beset ‘dissident’ groups, setting up their surveillance quite openly. They let the ‘dissidents’ know they are being watched.

In the Phoenix Park that Thursday, a couple of dozen members of the ‘Women for Disarmament’ group had gathered in a field about lunchtime, sitting in a circle and, as they sat there talking, an unmarked police car drove to within a few feet of them and stopped, maintaining a presence. Ronald Reagan wasn’t even in the country yet. On Friday June 1st, at about 8.20am, Ronald Reagan arrived at Shannon Airport and, from the beginning, the US Secret Service agents set the pattern for the next three days. They took over security and publicity and unashamedly put the Garda Siochana in a subordinate position. On that Friday afternoon, the ‘Women for Disarmament’ were enjoying the third day of their protest in the Park, and there were a lot of children with them. It was a fine day and everyone was having great fun keeping the children entertained, singing songs, making decorations etc…. (MORE LATER).



Once a recruit is accepted by the IRA, he or she is taken along with three or four other recruits for training across the Border in the ‘specialism’, e.g. assassination, sniping, bombing, etc. that that cell will later employ. In contrast to the past when whole companies could be trained without firing a shot, all recruits are now trained using live ammunition. This has enabled IRA men to ‘sight’ sniping weapons more accurately, it is claimed, and this sort of practice accounts for the success of the M60 machine gun ambushes in Belfast. When the M60 appeared on the scene in 1978, it was considered a propaganda weapon and too cumbersome and inaccurate for urban use; in fact the M60 has been responsible for 8 ‘security forces” deaths since then.

Recruits are also given anti-interrogation training on a scientific basis. Simulation is never employed, but IRA leaders have isolated a dozen CID interrogation techniques which they instill into their recruits. Cell members are also encouraged to adopt false identities and discouraged from habituating known Republican haunts.


The British Army reckons that the Provisional IRA campaign and related political activity now costs the organisation some £2 million a year. In 1978, General Glover estimated that it cost £780,000 and that income exceeded that amount by £170,000, which was all spent on arms and explosives. He drew the Provisionals ‘profit and loss account’ as follows : INCOME… theft in Ireland – £550,000 , racketeering – £250,000 , overseas contributors – £120,000 and Green Cross – £30,000 // EXPENDITURE….Pay (£7,500 pw) – £400,000, travel and transport – £50,000, newspapers and propaganda – £150,000 and prisoners welfare – £180,000 , leaving a surplus of £170,000. (MORE LATER).



“I look forward to hosting next week’s event to mark Commonwealth Day and its theme of encouraging youth participation in our democratic system…” , announced Provisional Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin (pictured, left) , in a recent newspaper interview confirming that he will take up the position of President of the NI (sic) Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

This unashamedly pro-British Union ‘establishment’ organisation claims that – ‘Commonwealth Heads of Government have recognised the Parliaments and Legislatures of the Commonwealth as essential elements in the exercise of democratic governance….(our) activities focus on the Commonwealth’s commitment to its fundamental political values, including: just and honest government, the alleviation of poverty, fundamental human rights, international peace and order, global economic development, the rule of law, equal rights and representation for all citizens….’ (…from here.)

Going from the above, it appears that Mitchel McLaughlin is of the opinion that “democratic governance” can exist in an area occupied militarily and politically by a foreign power and, again going from the above, it also appears that that foreign power, Britain, believes it offers those countries it ‘keeps the peace in’ ‘…democratic governance..fundamental political values..just and honest government..fundamental human rights..peace and order..(and) the rule of law..’. It is to be expected that Westminster will ‘spin’ its interference in other countries in the above fashion, but it is particularly pathetic to observe ‘Commonwealth’ natives, despite first hand experience to the contrary, allow themselves (for financial reward, in this case) to be used as ‘propaganda pawns’ to ‘substantiate’ those false claims. ‘Pathetic’ , but not really surprising : in a book entitled ‘Provisional Irish Republicans-An Oral and Interpretive History’, by Robert W.White, Mitchel McLaughlin, PSF Chairperson at the time, stated – ” I wouldn’t say never even in respect to Westminster….”

In accepting the ‘CPA’ offer, McLaughlin (and his Party) are sending out yet another signal to the cleaning staff in Westminster to get ready for some overtime….


Emmet Dalton (pictured, left) , Irish rebel-turned-Free Stater, was born in America on March 4th 1898 and died in Dublin on March 4th 1978 – his 80th birthday, and also the bicentenary of the birth of the man he was named after – Robert Emmet.

Dalton was educated at the O’Connell School in Drumcondra, Dublin, and as a young adult became interested in the political teachings of John Redmond , so much so that he joined the British Army, serving as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 7th Battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers. He would have been present at the Somme in September 1916 when over 4,000 Irish soldiers died (including his friend, Tom Kettle) and, indeed, won a ‘Military Cross’ for leading “…forward to their final objective companies which had lost their officers. Later, whilst consolidating his position, he found himself with one sergeant, confronted by 21 of the enemy, including an officer, who surrendered when he attacked them….” He further served the British ‘war effort’ in Palestine, where he trained a sniper patrol and also served as a British Army staff officer in France. He was demobilised (in Germany) in 1919, at the age of 21, and returned to Dublin, becoming the ‘Director of Training’ for the Irish Republican Army, but he sold out in favour of the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ in 1921 and made a (Free State) name for himself by attacking republican positions from the sea, actions that his British paymasters considered as having ‘turned the tide’ against the Irish republican resistance, and also led the Free State attack on the Four Courts in Dublin on the 28th June 1922.

Dalton was with Michael Collins on the 22nd of August 1922 when the latter was shot dead by republican forces in West Cork (Béal na mBláth) and is said to have propped up a dying Collins to place dressings on his wound. He resigned from the Free State Army shortly after Collins was killed, and was appointed as the clerk of the Free State Senate, but resigned from that, too, three years later, and opened a film production company, Ardmore Studios, near Bray , in Wicklow. He died, aged 80, on the 4th of March 1978, the same date and month that he had been born on, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


Grace Gifford Plunkett (pictured, left) was born on this date (4th March) in 1888, in Dublin. She attended art school here and in London and, in 1915, at the age of 27, she ‘stepped out’ with the then editor of ‘The Irish Review’ magazine, Joseph Plunkett , one of the founders of the ‘Irish Volunteer’ organisation. He was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was condemned to death by firing squad : he asked Grace to marry him and, on the 3rd of May 1916, at 6pm, in Kilmainham Jail, Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett were married, with two prison officers as witnesses and fifteen British soldiers ‘keeping guard’ in the same cell. The couple were allowed ten minutes together, before Grace was removed from her husband. He was executed by the British hours later, on the 4th May, 1916.

Grace Gifford Plunkett was at that time on the Executive of the then Sinn Féin organisation, and spoke out against the Treaty of Surrender. Like all anti-treaty activists (then as now) she was constantly harassed by Free State forces and was no stranger to the inside of prison cells, and was on a ‘watch list’ by the Leinster House administration. She had no home, little money and was despised by the State ‘authorities’ – selling her drawings and illustrations gave her a small irregular income, as she moved from rented flat to rented flat and ate in the cheapest restaurants she could find. She died suddenly, and alone, on the 13th of December 1955, aged 67, in a flat in South Richmond Street in Portobello, Dublin, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Rougher than Death the road I choose

Yet shall my feet not walk astray,

Though dark, my way I shall not lose

For this way is the darkest way.

Now I have chosen in the dark

The desolate way to walk alone

Yet strive to keep alive one spark

Of your known grace and grace unknown…..
(…from here.)


On this date in 1804, an uprising was held by the ‘Castle Hill Convicts’ in New South Wales, Australia, led by Irish rebel Phillip Cunningham, a Kerryman, born at Glenn Liath (‘Grey Glen’), Moyvane. Although not a lot is known about this Irish hero, it is recorded that he moved to Clonmel, Tipperary, in the 1790’s and worked as a stonemason, supplementing his income from same by opening up a small pub. Peter Cunningham and about two hundred other ‘convicts’ turned on the Redcoat soldiers who had imprisoned them, locked them up and broke into a weapons hut. Martial law was declared as a result, in the Sydney area, and residents in the town of Parramatta were advised to assemble at the docks, ready to flee the area if needed. The rebels had by now based themselves on a hilltop and declared it to be their Vinegar Hill. A Major George Johnson and his men from the New South Wales Corps and a detachment of fifty mercenaries from the ‘Loyal Association’ marched through the night and a short battle commenced in and around ‘Vinegar Hill’, ending the rebellion. Peter Cunningham was later executed without trial.

‘The Sydney Gazette’ newspaper covered(/coloured) the event (in its edition of the 11th March 1804) in the following manner –


Major Johnston on arriving at Toongabbee, received information that a considerable Body were on their way to the Hawkesbury: Notwithstanding the fatigue of his small Detachment in marching up from Sydney and the distance they had gone since, they immediately ran in good Order, with their followers, and after a pursuit of Seven Miles farther, Major Johnston and a Trooper, who had preceded the Detachment came up with the rear of the Insurgents at 11 o’clock, whose number have since been ascertained to be 233 men, armed with Musquets, Pistols, Swords etc., and a number of followers which they had taken from the Settlers.

After calling to them repeatedly they halted, and formed on the rise of a Hill: The Major and Trooper advanced within pistol shot, and endeavoured to persuade them to submit to the Mercy that was offered them by the Proclamation, which they refused. The Major required to see their Chiefs, who after some deliberation met them half way, between the Detachment and Insurgents, when by a great presence of mind and address the Major presented his pistol at the head of the Principal leader (Phillip Cunningham), and the Trooper following his motions, presented his Pistol also to the other leader’s head, (Wm Johnston) and drove them into the Detachment without the least opposition from the body of the Insurgents….’
(…more here.)

That rebellion may very well have been shortlived and its leader, Peter Cunningham, almost forgotten in our history, but it, and he, live on in the memory of every Irish republican to this day. As it should be.


Robert Emmet was born on the 4th March, 1778, a son of Dr Robert Emmet and Elizabeth Mason. His father served as state physician to the vice-regal household but was a social reformer who believed that in order to achieve the emancipation of the Irish people it was first necessary to break the link with England. Robert Emmet (Jnr) was baptised on March 10th in St Peter’s Church of Ireland in Aungier Street, Dublin, and attended Oswald’s School in Dropping Court, off Golden Lane, Dublin. From there he went to Samuel Whytes School in Grafton Street, quite near his home, and later to the school of the Reverend Mr Lewis in Camden Street. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in October 1793 at the age of fifteen and a half where he practiced his oratorical skills in the Historical and Debating Societies. One of his friends at TCD was the poet Thomas Moore.

There were four branches of the ‘United Irishmen’ in TCD and Robert Emmet was secretary of one of them but, after an inquisition, presided over by Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon, Emmet became one of nineteen students who were expelled for United Irishmen activity. Although not active in the 1798 Rising, Robert Emmet was well known to the British authorities and by April 1799, when Habeas Corpus had been suspended, there was a warrant issued for his arrest, which he managed to evade and, early in 1801, accompanied by a Mr Malachy Delany of Cork, he travelled throughout Europe, and made Paris his headquarters – it was there that he replaced Edward Lewis as the liaison officer between Irish and French Republicans.

While in Paris , Emmet learned about rockets and weapons , and studied a two-volume treatise by a Colonel Tempelhoff which can be examined in the Royal Irish Academy, with the marginal notes given the reader some insight into Emmet’s thinking. Following the signing of the ‘Peace of Amiens’ by France and England in March 1802 the United Irishmen that were being held as prisoners in Fort George were released and many such as Thomas Russell and Thomas Addis Emmet made there way to Paris. Emmet returned to Ireland in October 1802 and began to plan for a rising and in March 1803, at a meeting in Corbet’s Hotel, 105 Capel Street, Dublin, Emmet briefed his key organisers. In April 1803 Emmet rented an isolated house in Butterfield Lane in Rathfarnham as a new base of operations and Michael Dwyer, a 1798 veteran, suggested his young niece as a suitable candidate to play the role of the ‘housekeeper’. Born in or around the year 1778, Ann Devlin soon became Robert Emmet’s trusted helper and served him loyally in the months ahead. Shortly afterwards he leased a premises at Marshalsea Lane, off Thomas Street, Dublin, and set up an arms depot there.

Arms depots were established in Dublin for the manufacture and storage of weapons for the incipient rising. Former soldiers mixed their practical skills with the scientific knowledge that Robert Emmet had acquired on the continent, and an innovative rocket device was produced. Elaborate plans were drawn up to take the city and in particular Dublin Castle: supporters from the surrounding counties of Kildare, Wicklow and even Wexford were pledged to assist. Emmet bided his time waiting for an opportune moment when English troops would be withdrawn to serve in the renewed war in France, but his hand was forced when a premature explosion on the evening of July 16, 1803, at the Patrick Street depot, caused the death of John Keenan. Though there was no obvious wide scale search or arrest operation by the British following the explosion, the leadership of the movement decided to set July 23, 1803 (the following Saturday) as the date for the rising. Emmet hoped that success in Dublin would inspire other counties to follow suit. Patrick M. Geoghegan, in a recent publication, says that “…the plan for taking Dublin was breathtaking in its precision and audacity. It was nothing less that a blueprint for a dramatic coup d’état. Indeed, over a century later, Pearse and Clarke would also refer to the plan for their own rising…”

Emmet’s plan depended on two factors – arms and men and, as Geoghegan states, when the time came, Robert Emmet had not enough of either – events went dramatically wrong for him. On the appointed day his plans began to unravel ; Michael Dwyer and his promised 300 men did not get the word until Sunday July 24th and, the previous day, an excess of men had moved in to Dublin from Kildare and could not be concealed in the existing depots so they spread out around the city pubs and some started drinking. Others, after inspecting the existing arsenal and finding many pikes but few muskets or blunderbusses, went home unimpressed.

Because he had alerted other countries and still had the element of surprise, Emmet decided not to postpone the Rising thus , shortly after seven o’ clock on Saturday July 23rd, 1803, Robert Emmet in his green and gold uniform stood in the Thomas Street, Dublin, depot and, to the assembled rebels, read out his proclamation, declaring that the Irish nation was about to assert itself in arms against foreign rule. But again events conspired to thwart the rebels – coaches commissioned for the attack on Dublin Castle were lost and erroneous information supplied that encouraged pre-emptive strikes, meant that confusion reigned. Also, the novel rocket signals failed to detonate. Emmet’s own forces, who were to have taken the Castle, dwindled away and, throughout the remainder of that evening, there were skirmishes at Thomas Street and the Coombe Barracks but he decided to terminate operations and leave the city. For the English Army, which included Daniel O’ Connell, it was then merely a mopping-up operation : in the aftermath, the English arrested and tortured Anne Devlin, even offering her the enormous sum of £500 to betray Robert Emmet – she refused.

Emmet himself took refuge in the Harold’s Cross area of Dublin, during which he met with his mother and Sarah Curran but, on Thursday August 25th, 1803, he was finally arrested. It has been stated by others that a £1000 reward was paid by Dublin Castle to an informer, for supplying the information which led to his capture. Robert Emmet’s misfortunes did not stop on his arrest : he had the misfortune to be defended by one Leonard McNally who was trusted by the United Irishmen. However, after McNally’s death in 1820 it transpired that he was a highly paid government agent and, in his role as an informer, that he had encouraged young men to join the rebels, betrayed them to Dublin Castle and would then collect fees from the United Irishmen to ‘defend’ those same rebels in court! Emmet was tried before a ‘Special Commission’ in Green Street Court House in Dublin on September 19th, 1803. The ‘trial’ lasted all day and by 9.30pm he was pronounced guilty ; asked for his reaction, he delivered a speech which still inspires today. He closed by saying that he cared not for the opinion of the court but for the opinion of the future – “…when other times and other men can do justice to my character…” Robert Emmet was publicly executed on Tuesday September 20th outside St Catherine’s Church in Dublin’s Thomas Street. The final comment on the value of Robert Emmet’s Rising must go to Séan Ó Brádaigh who states** that to speak of Emmet in terms of failure alone is to do him a grave injustice. He and the men and women of 1798 and 1803 and, indeed, those that went before them, set a course for the Irish nation, with their appeal to Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of ‘Irishman’, which profoundly affected Irish life for more than two centuries and which will, we trust, eventually bear abundant fruit. (The above, in the main,is from a piece we first posted in 2007. The full text of Séan Ó Brádaigh’s **speech can be read here.)

Finally, it was not only college-educated men and women like Robert Emmet (ie those who might be perceived as being ‘upper class’) who decided to challenge Westminster’s interference in Irish affairs in 1803 : so-called ‘working class’ men and women also acknowledged the need for such resistance – Edward Kearney, carpenter, hanged, Thomas St / Owen Kirwin, tailor, hanged, Thomas St, September 1st 1803 / Maxwell Roche, slator, hanged, Thomas St, September 2nd 1803 / Denis Lambert Redmond, coal facer, hanged, Coalquay (Woodquay) Dublin, / John Killeen, carpenter, hanged, Thomas St, September 10th 1803 / John McCann, shoemaker, hanged at his own doorstep, Thomas St, September 10th 1803 / Felix Rourke, farm labourer, hanged, Rathcoole, Dublin, September 10th 1803 / Thomas Keenan, carpenter, hanged, Thomas St, September 11th 1803 / John Hayes, carpenter, hanged, Thomas St, September 17th 1803 /
Michael Kelly, carpenter, hanged, Thomas St, September 17th 1803 / James Byrne, baker, hanged, Townsend St, Dublin, September 17th 1803 / John Begg, tailor, hanged, Palmerstown, Dublin, September 17th 1803 / Nicholas Tyrrell, factory worker, hanged, Palmerstown, Dublin, September 17th 1803 / Henry Howley, carpenter, hanged, Kilmainham Jail, Dublin, September 20th 1803 / John McIntoch, carpenter, hanged, Patrick St, Dublin, October 3rd 1803
– there are dozens more we could list here, but suffice to say that ‘class’
alone was not then, nor is it now, a deciding factor in challenging British military and political interference in this country. ‘Justice’ is the deciding factor in that equation.



And it will be, for me, over the next week or so – this Sunday coming (the 8th March) will find me and the raffle team in our usual monthly venue on the Dublin/Kildare border, running a 650-ticket raffle for the Dublin Executive of Sinn Féin Poblachtach ; the work for this event began yesterday, Tuesday 3rd March, when the five of us started to track down the ticket sellers and arrange for the delivery/collection of their ticket stubs and cash and, even though the raffle itself is, as stated, held on Sunday 8th March, the ‘job’ is not complete until the following night, when the usual ‘raffle autopsy’ is held. The time constraints imposed by same will mean that our normal Wednesday post will more than likely not be collated in time for next week (11th March) and it’s looking like it will be between that date and the Wednesday following same before we get the time to put a post together. But check back here anyway – sure you never know what might catch our fancy between this and then!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

About 11sixtynine

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