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 women were now lifted and carried to the police vans and thrown inside ; at one van the gardaí made jeering remarks about locking up the women and throwing away the key, but similar remarks had been made the previous night and they weren’t very convincing. A young garda got into the back of another van – he was holding a piece of paper and said to the women ” Right now, you’ve been arrested for disobedience of the Commissioner’s edict. Just so that you know…” : he fiddled with the piece of paper, obviously embarrassed, and left the van.

They were taken to the Bridewell garda barracks , but they didn’t know where they were, and were carried from the vans and dumped inside. Jane Morgan was dumped in a corridor, then lifted up and dumped on a desk. A man asked her name and address and she told him, but for some reason she thought he was a reporter. He asked her date of birth and her height but she asked who he was and was told he was a detective sergeant. He was filling in a form and he asked loudly who the arresting officer was. A garda stepped forward and said he was, but Jane Morgan had never seen him before.

The women were processed and put in cells, some downstairs, some upstairs, about five to a cell. There were 30 women in custody in the Bridewell, with Petra Breathnach (a member of the ‘Release Nicky Kelly’ campaign) still being held at Cabra Garda Barracks. But the arrests were not over yet : within a few minutes of the arrests, a woman was knocking at the window of solicitor Heather Celmalis’s home in Halston Street, not far from the Bridewell, to tell her that her clients had been arrested. Word spread quickly – someone heard about the arrests on a taxi radio. Heather Celmalis arrived at the Bridewell in time to see three more women being dragged into the garda barracks – Mary Duffy, Elaine Bradley and Anne Barr had left the Phoenix Park sometime during the night to change into dry clothes, and they returned to the park early that morning. Mary Duffy arrived back before the mass arrests and saw the women being carried away – her two friends arrived later. (MORE LATER).



In 1978, there was a rise to 15 bombings and 5 shootings and again the same the following year. This year, so far, is following that pattern – 6 bombings and 3 ambushes. Between 1977 and 1980 so far, the IRA in those three areas killed 173 people of the 230 total killed by the IRA in the North. That included businessmen, civilians, British soldiers, RUC men, UDR men, ex-UDR men and prison warders. Belfast IRA cells, incidentally, were responsible for the highest number of businessmen killed, 6 out of 7; the highest number of civilians killed, 30 out of 49 and the most prisoner warders, 11 out of 15. South Armagh clearly concentrates on the British Army; its IRA units killed 36 of the 68 soldiers killed by the IRA during those years.

The other five areas of IRA activity are quiescent by comparison. Derry and South Derry are virtually at peace and South Down, Fermanagh and North Armagh very quiet. However, the statistics do not tell all the story. There have been more security force deaths and less civilian deaths from IRA activity than for a long time. Furthermore, as the criminal damage payments bear testimony, the reduced level of bombings has not reduced the damage caused. As well the contrasting numbers of deaths of Provisionals compared to those in the British ‘security forces’ show, the IRA is losing less men for every death they inflict on the ‘security forces’ than ever before in this campaign. In terms of ‘security forces’ ‘ kills against the IRA the picture is even bleaker for the British. In 1979 and 1980 premature explosions, not British Army or RUC bullets, killed 4 of the 6 dead IRA men. All the figures available point to more effective activity by the IRA.

While 1978 and 1979 were ‘good’ years for the IRA, 1980 so far has been a bad one. Increased British undercover operations have hampered the organisation. IRA leaders admit that 5 out of 6 operations are now aborted because of surveillance and in addition frequent arrests and 7 day detention orders of ‘middle management’ leaders have disrupted co-ordination and communication. One Northern IRA activist was told by the British Army officer who arrested him that orders were just that – ‘disrupt them’. The IRA as a result has spent most of this year killing ‘soft’ targets like off-duty UDR men but the campaign against prison warders has been halted to await the outcome of the H Block negotiations. (MORE LATER).


– the infamous ‘Countermand Order’ issued by Eoin MacNeill on Easter Saturday (22nd April) 1916. He wrote several copies of that Order on his own personal headed notepaper (‘Woodbrook, Rathfarnham, County Dublin’) and instructed men under his command to distribute them throughout the country, resulting in the Rising being delayed by 24 hours : from the intended starting date of Easter Sunday to Easter Monday, 24th April 1916. An extended version of the ‘Countermand Order’ was issued to the newspapers of the day and published on Easter Sunday in same.

MacNeill, born in Glenarm, County Antrim on the 15th May 1867, was one of the founders of both the ‘Gaelic League’ in 1893 (‘for the preservation of the Irish language, literature, and traditional culture…’, which had at least 100,000 members in 900 branches throughout the island) and the ‘Irish Volunteers’ (in 1913). He was appointed ‘Chief of Staff’ of the latter group which, within months of its formation, had a membership of about 170,000, the vast majority of whom left in September 1914 to support John Redmond. Even though he played no part in the 1916 Rising (other than trying to undermine it) the British took action against him – he was court-martialed and sentenced to penal servitude for life, but was released under amnesty in June 1917. MacNeill later supported the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’ and was rewarded with a place at the Free State cabinet table as the ‘Minister for Education’, and was known for the vicious manner in which he sought to punish his ex-comrades.

He represented the State on the ‘Boundary Commission’ (Article 12 of the 1921 Treaty of Surrender, although the British were extremely reluctant to have anything to do with, or input into, any such commission) , the agreed terms of reference for which were as follows – ‘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 which consisted of three members, one from each political administration – Dublin, Stormont (…the representative for which, Joseph R. Fisher [center, this pic], was put in place by Westminster!) and Westminster, to be ‘Chaired’ by Justice Richard Feetham, a South African Judge (and a good friend of the British ‘Establishment’). The British (in the guise of ‘Sir’ James Craig) were determined that the ‘Boundary Commission’ “…would deal only with minor rectifications of the boundary..” while Michael Collins claimed that the Free Staters would be offered “…almost half of Northern Ireland (sic) including the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, large parts of Antrim and Down, Derry City, Enniskillen and Newry…”, to which the then British ‘Colonial Secretary to Ireland’, Winston Churchill, replied, stating that the possibility of the ‘Boundary Commission’ “.. reducing Northern Ireland (sic) to its preponderatingly Orange (ie Unionist) areas (is) an extreme and absurd supposition , far beyond what those who signed the [1921] Treaty meant…”

Eoin MacNeill stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Tyrone and Fermanagh, and possibly Derry, South Down and South Armagh would prefer their areas to be incorporated into the Free State rather than remain as they were ie ‘on the other side of the border’, under British jurisdiction, but the two other (Westminster-appointed) members of the Boundary Commission, Fisher and Chairperson Feetham then disputed with MacNeill what the term ” in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants…” actually meant. When MacNeill reported back to his Free State colleagues and voiced concern over the way the ‘Boundary Commission’ was doing its business,he was more-or-less told to just do his best – his colleagues were ‘comfortable’ by now ; they had status, careers and a bright (personal) future ahead of them. The 1916 Rising had taken place eight years ago, the Treaty of Surrender had been signed three years ago and now the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’, ‘Sir’ James Craig , was threatening ‘to cause more trouble’ if the Boundary Commission recommended change. The Staters thought it best just to be seen going through the motions, regardless of whether anything changed or not, especially when they considered the threat from the Stormont ‘Minister for Education’, ‘Lord’ Londonderry “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.”

MacNeill had his ‘concerns’ further added to when the ‘Boundary Commission’ stated that, in actual fact, the Free State should transfer some of its territory to the Six County ‘State’! He resigned in disgust on the 21st November 1925 and, in a parting shot, the British claimed that, before he resigned, he had agreed that the Free State should cede some territory to the ‘Northern Ireland State’, a claim which may or may not have prompted him to also resign (on the 24th November) from the Free State administration. Within days (that is, on the 3rd December 1925) , all those that were still involved with the ‘Boundary Commission’ farce agreed that the ‘border’, as fixed 5 years earlier in the ‘1920 Government of Ireland Act’ and as stated in the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’, would so remain, and an agreement was signed to that effect by all concerned. Those representatives also agreed that the ‘findings’ of that body should be kept hidden and, indeed, that paperwork was only published for the first time 44 years later, in 1969!

Eoin MacNeill died of abdominal cancer on the 15th October 1945 in his house, 63 Upper Leeson Street in Dublin, and is buried in Kilbarrack Cemetery. Incidentally, his grandson, Michael McDowell, is just as anti-republican and, like MacNeill’s historical record, is not a connection to boast about!


11-years-young Francis (Frank) Rowntree, shot in the head with a rubber bullet on the 22nd April 1972 at point blank range by a British soldier.

Maura Groves, daughter of Emma, who was in her own house in Tullymore Gardens in Andersontown, Belfast, in 1971, when she was blinded by a rubber bullet fired into her house by a British soldier.

Francis Rowntree, 11, was playing with a friend beside the Divis Flats in Belfast in April 1972 when the two boys were approached by armed members of a British Army foot patrol, members of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Even though it was what’s known as a ‘non-riot situation’, Francis was shot in the head from a distance of between five and seven yards by ‘Soldier B’ who, it seems, was ‘testing’ a ‘modification’ he had made to that projectile – he had hollowed it out and placed a battery inside it. Francis was the first person to die from the use of these rounds, which were used by British ‘security forces’ in the Six Counties between 1970 and 1975, and were replaced by the equally lethal plastic bullet. An ‘inquest’ was held, during which a British Army representative admitted he did not know at what distance it was permissible to fire a rubber bullet gun or at which part of the body it should be aimed! A media report from three years ago stated that new evidence in regards to the murder of Francis Rowntree had been found –

An inquest has been ordered to be reopened after new evidence was uncovered about the death of the first child killed by a rubber bullet in the north of Ireland. Seventeen people have died in the north of Ireland at the hands of rubber or plastic bullets, including seven children, and hundreds injured. The weapons continue to be used by the Crown Forces as a form of crowd control during ‘public order’ situations.

Schoolboy Francis Rowntree, known to his family as Frank, died in 1972 after being struck in the head with rubber baton round that it is believed had been ‘modified’ in order to make it more deadly. The 11-year-old from Lower Clonard Street in west Belfast sustained catastrophic head injuries after being hit as he played with a friend close to Divis Flats in April 1972. At the original inquest held in October 1972 the soldier who fired the fatal shot from the Royal Anglian Regiment, known only as ‘Soldier B’ was not called to give evidence and instead a statement taken by military police was produced at the hearing.

A witness has now came forward to say that within minutes of the shooting, the soldiers involved appeared to be searching the scene for the fatal round which was believed to have been hollowed out and a battery placed in side the rubber casing. ‘Soldier B’ claimed the bullet ricocheted off a lamppost. However, a recent forensic re-examination of the fatal injuries by state pathologist Professor Jack Crane undermines this account and suggests that the child was shot directly at close range. A Historical Enquiries Team report into the shooting confirmed that he was an “innocent bystander who posed no threat whatsoever to the soldier”.

In a letter to the family, Six-County Attorney General John Larkin said that having considered all new evidence, “I have concluded that it is advisable that a fresh inquest be held into the death of Francis Rowntree and I so direct”.
Frank’s brother Jim said the family were relieved to hear that a fresh inquest would now be held : “Frank was just an innocent child and yet the (British) army tried to blacken his name saying he was involved in a riot,” Mr Rowntree said. “My parents were told by a consultant in the Royal that his head had been crushed like an eggshell. An apology would go a long way to healing the hurt. My Mum is 86 and so it’s important for her that we have this inquest now.”
The family’s solicitor, Padraig O Muirigh, said the decision by Mr Larkin was a “significant step forward for the family’s quest for truth”.

“In 1970 an agreement was reached between the British army and the chief constable of the RUC, whereby the interviewing of soldiers involved in the death of Francis Rowntree was carried out by the Royal Military Police,” Mr O Muirigh said. “There was nothing approaching a proper police investigation* into the incident.” (from here and, in relation to that last sentence*, that claim can be explained by the fact that ‘there is nothing approaching a proper police’ force in the British-occupied Six Counties ).
Had the British not interfered in Ireland, Frank Rowntree would be in his mid-50’s today and thousands of other people, too, could have had the opportunity to live a normal life. And the worse part is that, in this, the 21st century, they are still here….


It seem’s that the ‘John Bruton’s’ in our midst are ready, willing and able to make a show of themselves again, in the presence of those they aspire to be – ‘royalty’ – ‘…Clarence House has confirmed that Britain’s Prince Charlies and Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall will visit Ireland next month….the event will take in visits to both the Republic and the North (and) comes 20 years after the heir to the British throne first came to the Republic in May 1995…it is reported that he and his wife are to spend some time in the west of the country (but) their itinerary is still a work in progress – but there is speculation that it could include a visit to Mullaghmore, where Charles’ great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed in an IRA bombing in 1979…the (Free State) Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan (wearing his colours in this pic) has welcomed the Royal visit, saying: “Following the reciprocal State Visits of recent years, this visit to Ireland will represent a further expression of the warm and friendly relations which now exist between us.
We look forward to their arrival next month, and to a visit programme which reflects the quality of these relations,” he added….’
(from here).

These “…quality..friendly relations..” have been ‘expressed’ before in our history, not least when ‘Queen’ Victoria of England (who was of German descent – she was born in 1819, at the Kensington Palace, to Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent) decided to grace us with her presence – “In the very midst of all this havoc, in August, 1849, her Majesty’s Ministers thought the coast was clear for a Royal Visit. The Queen had long wished, it was said, to visit her people of Ireland; and the great army of persons, who, in Ireland, are paid to be loyal, were expected to get up the appearance of rejoicing……one Mr O’Reilly, indeed, of South Great George’s Street, hoisted on the top of his house a large black banner, displaying the crownless Harp; and draped his windows with black curtains, showing the words Famine and Pestilence: but the police burst into his house, viciously tore down the flag and the curtains, and rudely thrust the proprietor into gaol. ‘The Freemans Journal’ newspaper says that on passing through Parkgate Street, Mr James Nugent, one of the Guardians of the North Union, approached the royal carriage, which was moving rather slowly, and, addressing the Queen, said: ‘Mighty Monarch, pardon Smith O’Brien.’ Before, however, he had time to get an answer, or even to see how her Majesty received the application, Lord Clarendon rode up and put him aside…..” (from here) .

Then, as now, protests against the visit of English ‘royalty’ to Ireland will be held and, like Mr James Nugent (above), Republican Sinn Féin will be hoping to ‘have a word in her ear….’. This blog will be only too happy to publicise such protests , so watch this space….

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics.. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.