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.

Most of the women were from Dublin, some were from the North, a few from around the country. One was Italian, one American, one Scottish, and all of them had lived and worked in Dublin for some years. There were about three dozen women present. They were lifted into garda vans and driven out of the park and left outside the gates, where they regrouped and walked back into the park, being followed all the way by the gardai in cars and on motorbikes. A couple of hours later, at about 3am, the gardai again removed the women from the park, but this time they drove well away from the area, dumping the women in small groups in various parts of the city.

In the course of these ‘evictions’, the gardai made references to a “regulation” or “edict” signed by the Garda Commissioner which allowed the gardai to carry out the ‘evictions’. The ‘Women for Disarmament’ group had already gone into the legalities of the garda action with solicitor Heather Celmalis, and they knew the law and were observing it – now the gardai were talking about some ‘new law’. On Saturday morning the women sought through their legal representatives to find out what this “regulation/edict” was. Heather Celmalis retained Ruth-Anne FitzGerald BL , and the legal discussion revolved around whether it would be possible to obtain an injunction to prevent the gardai from evicting the women from the park. The women were back in the park at about noon on Saturday , 2nd June 1984.


In Galway, some of the country’s leading academics were queuing up to honour Ronald Reagan with a doctorate of law. A few others were protesting with a parallel ‘de-conferring’ exercise. Word had gone around about the eviction of the women and in the afternoon their ranks were swollen to about 80. Media representatives visited the site and there were many visitors wishing the women well. Plainclothes gardai were seen taking the registration numbers of visitors’ cars. (MORE LATER).



An incidental factor resulting from re-organisation is that now less money strays into private pockets, or so it is claimed. In the past it was not unknown, and there are IRA men in jail to prove it, for O/C’s and Adjutants in some areas of Belfast to send their men out unknowing, on ‘unauthorised’ robberies for their own enrichment. Equally, it was not unknown for those volunteers themselves to take a cut.


Until 1978, the Provisional IRA had operated exclusively in Ireland and in Britain. But in that year there were bomb attacks at BAOR bases in Germany followed by more bombs the next year. In early 1979 the British ambassador to the Hague, Sir Richard Sykes, was shot dead and a Belgian bank official was also killed in mistake for the British ambassador to NATO.

This year, three British soldiers in Germany have been shot, one, a colonel, was killed by the same 9mm pistol used to kill Sykes. The bombings and shootings were the work of two separate IRA cells, who had travelled to the Continent in the guise of Irish building workers. Both have since returned to Ireland. Contrary to press speculation, the killings and bombings were not aided by the Baader-Leonhof gang, or other anarchist groupings, but a short term, and largely unsuccessful, attempt to arouse western European interest in the war in Ireland.

According to one British Army source, ‘there are no operational links between the IRA and any of these groups’. By ‘these groups’, he meant not only the Baader-Meinhof group but also ETA, the Bretons and the Corsicans. The guns that come from those sources are few and far between. The IRA buys its weaponry in Europe and the Middle East from conventional black market sources who also supply training. (MORE LATER).


Three of those pictured above have long let it be known that they consider the ‘Northern issue’ to have been ‘settled’ in 1998 (if, indeed, not in 1921!) and it is no surprise that they should equate the 26-county State as ‘the nation’, in poster (as above) and other formats, but one of them – ironically, on the far right in that pic – Dessie Ellis, a PSF member who sits in Leinster House, professes (as does the party he is a member of) to be still involved in seeking political reunification for this country. Yet he comfortably poses with a poster which seeks to present a 26-county-wide protest as a ‘national demonstration’ and sits with his PSF colleagues (and other Free Staters) in a State institution which classes itself as ‘the parliament of Ireland’, yet declares that it exercises jurisdiction over 26 counties only.

It seems that Dessie was fighting all along for an ‘improved’ Free State , so comfortable is he in operating, politically, within the confines of the Leinster House parameters, whereas Irish republicans still strive for a socialist and democratic 32-county Ireland (in which citizens won’t be instructed to pay twice for any one service, and threatened for not doing so) . And when that objective is achieved, posters advertising a proper ‘national demonstration’ can then be held high instead of, as in that picture, at half mast.


Two Black and Tans pose with their (uniformed) colleagues on an Irish street.

Ireland, 1920 : a report in the ‘Daily News’ newspaper in March 1920, which was penned by Erskine Childers, stated – “Take a typical night in Dublin. As the citizens go to bed, the barracks spring to life. Lorries, tanks and armoured search-light cars muster in fleets, lists of objectives are distributed and, when the midnight curfew order has emptied the streets – pitch dark streets – the weird cavalcades issue forth to the attack. A thunder of knocks ; no time to dress or the door will crash in. On opening, in charge the soldiers – literally charge – with fixed bayonets and in full war-kit…”

The 15th January 1920 municipal and urban elections not only saw an Irish Republican Lord Mayor elected in Cork – that same political office was also conferred on Michael O’Callaghan in Limerick and Tom Kelly in Dublin ; on 6th March, 1921, Michael O’Callaghan was shot dead in his house by the Black and Tans, in what became known as ‘The Curfew Murders’ – because, on that same night (6th March 1921) , the then serving Lord Mayor of Limerick, a Mr. George Clancy (and his wife) were also shot dead in their own house. Tom Kelly took the Free State side after the 1921 Treaty of Surrender, and died in April 1942. Westminster had hoped that, between the new voting system of proportional representation and their ‘banning’ of the Sinn Fein organisation, plus the introduction of martial law and the imprisonment and deportation of Irish Republican candidates, that Sinn Fein would do poorly at the 15th January 1920 Elections – but that was not how things turned out.

The Republican Administration had secured the allegiance of practically all the local councils since the elections (1918 and 1920) and the law courts, legal system and police force operated by the Irish Republican Administration had now virtually supplanted those of the British Crown and the IRA was also scoring notable successes in its guerrilla war against the British military. Westminster responded by recruiting mercenaries in England for use in Ireland ; the Black and Tans and The Auxiliaries, and the first batch of these British ‘peace-keepers’ landed in Ireland on the 25th March 1920. The ‘Tan’s’ consisted of unemployed (and unemployable) ex-British servicemen and convicts, who were given guns and a ‘uniform’ of a Khaki outfit with a black RIC-type cap and belt, while the brutal and equally undisciplined actions of the other gang of rabble, the Auxiliaries, actually led to its Commanding Officer in Ireland, a Brigadier F. P. Crozier, resigning in protest at their conduct in this country! Both groups of these British thugs were in Ireland between 1920 and 1922 – more than seven-thousand Black and Tans and approximately one-thousand-five-hundred Auxiliaries, all of whom caused havoc in Ireland until the 18th of February 1922, when both outfits were disbanded and sent back home to the dole queue.


The temporary marker (pictured,left) erected at the site of the battle of the Little Bighorn, in 1876, where Irishman Myles Keogh died.

Myles Walter Keogh was born in Orchard, Leighlinbridge, Carlow, on this date (25th March) in 1840, to parents that were not on the breadline. He was one of 13 children, being the youngest of five boys and seven sisters. As a ‘soldier of fortune’, he fought with Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (pictured, here – Keogh, in black, standing beside General George Custer) against the native American population and was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on the 25th June, 1876, in Montana, by those he sought to annihilate. He was known to be an excellent horseman and had an apparently deserved reputation as a brave soldier even if, in my opinion, he was fighting on the wrong side. However, he is regarded as a ‘hero’ by some (homage to the man, here, penned by an Irish ‘comedian’) while ‘neutrals’ might declare that ‘one man’s terrorist…’ etc. The remains of Myles Keogh were disinterred from the Bighorn site in 1877 and he was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.

Incidentally, the horse that Myles Keogh rode into battle on that fateful day, ‘Comanche’, was the only living survivor of the fight (other than the victorious native americans, obviously!) , having been found, barely alive, with bullet wounds and seven arrows in his body : four on the back of his shoulder, one on each of his back legs and one which pierced a hoof. The poor animal died on the 7th of November, 1891 – 15 years after ‘Bighorn’ – at Fort Riley, in Kansas, going into his 30th year in these pastures and is one of only two horses to be buried with full military honours. This horse was actually the subject of a ‘HQ 7th US Calvary General Order’ issued on the 10th of April, 1878 :

‘(1.) The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.

(2.) The commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.

(3.) Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation, ‘Comanche,’ saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led by a mounted trooper of Company I, will be paraded with the regiment.

By command of Colonel Sturgis, E. A. Garlington, First Lieutenant and Adjutant, Seventh Cavalry.’

Shame that those people didn’t show the same respect to their ‘quarry’.


Michael Davitt (pictured, left), was born in Straide, Mayo, on the 25th of March, 1846.

Born into poverty at the time of An Gorta Mór, the second of five children, Michael was only four years of age when his family were evicted from their home over rent owed and his father, Martin, was left with no choice but to travel to England to look for a job. His wife, Sabina, and their five children were given temporary accommodation by the local priest in Straide. The family were eventually reunited, in England, where young Michael attended school for a few years. His family were struggling, financially, so he obtained work , aged 9, as a labourer (he told his boss he was 13 years old and got the job – working from 6am to 6pm, with a ninty-minute break and a wage of 2s.6d a week) but within weeks he had secured a ‘better’ job, operating a spinning machine but, at only 11 years of age, his right arm got entangled in the machinery and had to be amputated. There was no compensation offered, and no more work, either, for a one-armed machine operator, but he eventually managed to get a job helping the local postmaster. He was sixteen years young at that time, and was curious about his Irish roots and wanted to know more – he learned all he could about Irish history and joined the Fenian movement in England.

At 19 years of age he joined the IRB and about two years afterwards he became the organising secretary for northern England and Scotland for that organisation and, at 25 years of age, he was arrested in Paddington Station in London after the British had uncovered an IRB operation to import arms. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, on a ‘hard labour’ ticket, and served seven years in Dartmoor Prison in horrific conditions before being released in 1877, at the age of 31, on December 19th. Almost immediately, he took on the position as a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB and returned to Ireland in January 1878, to a hero’s welcome. He founded the ‘Irish Land League’ in Dublin, in October 1879, with Charles Stewart Parnell as its President and Davitt himself acting as Secretary, with the intention of obtaining set entitlements for Irish tenant farmers who, at that time, effectively had no rights – ‘…to bring out a reduction of rack-rents; second, to facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers. That the object of the League can be best attained by promoting organisation among the tenant-farmers; by defending those who may be threatened with eviction for refusing to pay unjust rents; by facilitating the working of the Bright clauses of the Irish Land Act during the winter; and by obtaining such reforms in the laws relating to land as will enable every tenant to become owner of his holding by paying a fair rent for a limited number of years…’

Under the slogan ‘The Land for the People’ , he toured America, being introduced in his activities there by John Devoy and, although he did not have official support from the Fenian leadership (some of whom were neutral towards him while others were suspicious and/or hostile of and to him) he obtained constant media attention and secured good support for the objectives of the Land League. Michael Davitt died at 60 years of age in Elphis Hospital in Dublin on the 30th of May 1906, from blood poisoning – he had a tooth extracted and contracted septicaemia from the operation. The British were represented at his funeral by the ‘Lord Lieutenant of Ireland’, an indication, no doubt, that they no longer viewed the man in the same light as they had when he was a young man. His body was taken to the Carmelite Friary in Clarendon Street, Dublin, then by train to Foxford in Mayo and he was buried in Straide Abbey, near where he was born.

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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