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 first priority was to obtain bail for the prisoners and, on such a trivial charge, bail was a certainty. But the gardaí refused to grant station bail , a procedure in which they have discretion to allow people charged with lesser offences post their own bail at the station. Extraordinarily, they said they would grant bail to just one of the 33 women in the Bridewell, Mary Duffy, a thalidomide victim who has no arms, but her conditions in the jail were no worse than anyone else’s. Indeed, she is a strong woman who has learned to do with her feet most of what others do with their hands, and she lives an independent life.

She had no doubt that the garda decision was made because they were embarrassed to be locking up someone without arms. She refused to accept station bail. Heather Celmalis, the lawyer, asked when the prisoners would be brought before a judge or a peace commissioner, but the gardaí told her that they had no information about that. It was at about this time that Ronald Reagan left Ballyporeen and flew to Aras an Uachtarain in the Phoenix Park.

There were four solicitors working for the women at various times : Isabel ni Chuireain, Mairead Quigley, Breda Allen and Heather Celmalis, and they set about gathering statements from the prisoners for use in preparing a request for Habeas Corpus . A couple of the women in the Bridewell had been locked up briefly before, after a peace demonstration in front of the Soviet Embassy, but most of them had no experience of this kind of thing and emotions ran high – you were either high as a kite or in the depths of depression, you laughed or you cried. The cells were filthy, with about five or six women in each one, which were meant for two, or three prisoners at most. The toilets were blocked in some of the cells and could only be flushed from outside, so they were left unflushed. All the women were wearing clothes that had been soaked through in the rain. (MORE LATER).



The bulk of Provisional supporters, especially in the rural, border areas, are traditional Republicans. Small farmers or country town merchants ; what one Belfast radical calls ‘Fianna Failers with guns’. Their support, which is reflected in the vote for the 30 or so Sinn Fein councillors, is vital for the war effort. They provide the training camps, the dumps and safe houses. Many of them stayed with the Provisionals precisely because they thought the Officials were too leftist or Marxist. Much the same can be said for the older veterans of the movement ; the men of the ‘forties’, and ‘fifties’, many of whom sit on the IRA Executive, the body that acts as the repository of Republican faith and which in ‘war time’, appoints the Army Council.

One such man, a Northerner in fact, who has spent 13 years in prison or internment camps, summed it up like this : “I don’t like this word ‘socialism’. I wish they could find another word for it”. Others like Billy McKee, a former Chief of Staff and Belfast Brigade Commander, have dropped out altogether. When he last came to Belfast in May 1979 to speak to a welcome home rally for released blanket-man Ciaran Nugent, he was reportedly horrified at the number of foreign left wing posters and pamphlets in the offices of Republican News, the voice of the Northern left.

Another group whose dollars at least are vital to the Provos are the Irish-Americans and, notably, Irish Northern Aid, headed by veteran Republican and devout Catholic, Michael Flannery. Even in the early days, the Irish-Americans were a standing joke with Belfast Provos. It was common then for visiting Republican speakers from Ireland to be taken by Flannery for a new outfit of sober suit, tie and shiny shoes, before being let loose on the Irish-American faithful. Speakers were instructed by Flannery never to refer to socialism and one such tourist can recall discovering unopened bundles of Republican News, lying dumped in dustbins outside Nor-Aid’s Bronx headquarters. The Northerners were always too radical for the Irish-Americans. (MORE LATER).


Seán Hogan (pictured, left), who was practically still in his teenage years when he was appointed as one of those in command of the ‘Third Tipperary Brigade’ of the IRA, a leadership group which became known by the British as ‘The Big Four’ – Dan Breen, Seán Treacy, Seamus Robinson and Seán Hogan.

Seán Hogan was born in Tipperary in 1901 and, at just 18 years of age, he took part in the Soloheadbeg ambush on the 21st of January in 1919, in which two Crown force personnel (James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell) were killed as they drew their weapons. The British went all out to capture or execute those responsible and, on the 12th of May 1919, Seán Hogan was taken prisoner at a friends house, the Meagher’s, at Annfield, in Tipperary, and taken to Thurles RIC barracks to be held overnight, and then transported to Cork. The following morning Seán Hogan was taken by a four-man armed British military escort to Knocklong train station and the five men got on board a train ; Hogan, who was handcuffed, was put sitting between RIC Sergeant Wallace and Constable Enright, both of whom were armed with revolvers, and Constables Ring and Reilly, carrying shotguns, sat opposite the three men.

Seán Hogan (right), thought to be about 20 years young when this photograph was taken.

An IRA unit, led by Seán Treacy, Dan Breen, Seamus Robinson and Eamonn O’Brien, and including Ned Foley, Seán Lynch, John Joe O’Brien, Ned O’Brien and Jim Scanlon (all from the East Limerick Brigade IRA) located the compartment where Seán Hogan was being held against his will and Seán Treacy and Eamonn O’Brien drew their revolvers and walked through the train to the compartment ; on entering same, they loudly instructed all present to put their hands up and called for Seán Hogan to make his way to them. RIC Constable Enright placed his revolver against Hogan’s neck, using him as a shield, but was shot dead as he did so, as both Treacy and O’Brien had fired at him (Eamonn O’Brien was to say later that they would not have shot Enright had he not attempted to attack Hogan) and Hogan, still handcuffed, took that opportunity to land a two-handed punch to the face of Constable Ring, who was sitting opposite him. Seán Treacy and RIC Sergeant Wallace were trading punches, as were Eamonn O’Brien and Constable Reilly, when one of the IRA men managed to take Reilly’s shotgun from him and smashed him over the head with it. He collapsed in a heap on the carriage floor. Constable Ring, meanwhile, found himself on the platform, having exited the carriage through a window, and withdrew from the area.

Seán Treacy and RIC man Wallace were still trying to get the better of each other, with Treacy telling Wallace to give it up as he was outnumbered and had lost his prisoner, but Wallace refused to do so. Both men were now grappling for Wallace’s Webley revolver and Wallace managed to get enough control over it to fire a shot, which hit Seán Treacy in the neck – in that same instance, IRA man Eamonn O’Brien fired at Wallace, killing him instantly. Treacy survived, and was recorded later as saying “I thought I was a dead man. I had to hold my head up with both hands, but I knew I could walk.”

Seán Hogan remained active in the struggle : he operated in Dublin, Kilkenny and Tipperary, was involved in the ‘French Ambush’ and was also heavily involved in raids on various RIC barracks and remained active until the Treaty of Surrender was being discussed, a ‘compromise’ which he was unable to support or condemn – he left the Republican Movement at that point and returned to Tipperary, to try and earn a living as a farmer. He couldn’t, and moved to Dublin where he got married and fathered a child, but the times were tough, economically, and he and his family could only afford to live in a slum tenement building in North Great George’s Street. He was suffering from depression at this stage and voiced disappointment that the Ireland he was living in was not that which he had fought for. He died, penniless, at 67 years of age, in 1968, and was buried in Tipperary town.

The news has spread through Ireland and spread from shore to shore

Of such a deed, no living man has ever heard before

From out a guarded carriage mid a panic stricken throng

Seán Hogan, he was rescued at the station of Knocklong

When a guard of four policemen had their prisoner minded well

As the fatal train sped o’er the rails, conveying him to his cell

The prisoner then could scarce foretell, of hearts both brave and strong

That were planning for his rescue at the station of Knocklong

The shades of eve were falling fast when the train at last drew in

It was halted for an hour or so by a few courageous men

They sprang into the carriage and it did not take them long

‘Hands up or die’ was the rebel cry at the station of Knocklong

King George’s pampered hirelings, they shrivelled up with fear

And thought of how they placed in cells, full many a Volunteer

Now face to face with armed men, to escape, how they did long

But two of them met with traitors deaths at the station of Knocklong

From Sologhead to Limerick, such deeds as these were never seen

And devil a tear was ever shed for Wallace of Roskeen

They did old England’s dirty work and did that work too long

But the renegades were numbered up at the station of Knocklong

Now rise up Mother Erin and always be of cheer

You’ll never die while at your side there stand such Volunteers

From Dingle Bay to Garryowen, the cheers will echo long

Of the rescue of Seán Hogan at the station of Knocklong.
(From here.)


If we had more time, we would give a brief history and/or mention of all those Irish men and women for whom this month carries special significance, but such is the level of destruction wrought on this country by the British over an on-going period of more than 840 years, and the huge number of Irish ‘dissidents’ that tried to right those wrongs, we are unable to do so but, nonetheless, we will try to do those brave people justice by posting a ‘flavour’ of just one of them (penned by John Horan, RSF, a blog colleague) – James Connolly, executed by the British on the 12th May 1916 – as all shared the same objective : to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland.

James Connolly was born on June 5th, 1868, at 107, the Cowgate, Edinburgh. His parents, John and Mary Connolly, had emigrated to Edinburgh from County Monaghan in the 1850s. His father worked as a manure carter, removing dung from the streets at night, and his mother was a domestic servant who suffered from chronic bronchitis and was to die young from that ailment.

Anti-Irish feeling at the time was so bad that Irish people were forced to live in the slums of the Cowgate and the Grassmarket which became known as ‘Little Ireland’. Overcrowding, poverty, disease, drunkenness and unemployment were rife – the only jobs available was selling second-hand clothes and working as a porter or a carter.

James Connolly went to St Patricks School in the Cowgate, as did his two older brothers, Thomas and John. At ten years of age, James left school and got a job with Edinburgh’s ‘Evening News’ newspaper, where he worked as a ‘devil’, cleaning inky rollers and fetching beer and food for the adult workers. His brother Thomas also worked with the same newspaper. In 1882, aged 14, James Connolly joined the British Army in which he was to remain for nearly seven years, all of it in Ireland, where he witnessed first hand the terrible treatment of the Irish people at the hands of the British. The mistreatment of the Irish by the British and the landlords led to Connolly forming an intense hatred of the British Army.

While serving in Ireland, he met his future wife, a Protestant named Lillie Reynolds. They were engaged in 1888 and the following year Connolly discharged himself from the British Army and went back to Scotland. In 1890, he and Lillie Reynolds were wed in Perth and, in the Spring of that year, James and Lillie moved to Edinburgh and lived at 22 West Port, and joined his father and brother working as labourers and then as a manure carter with Edinburgh Corporation, on a strictly temporary and casual basis.

He became active in socialist and trade union circles and became secretary of the ‘Scottish Socialist Federation’, almost by mistake. At the time his brother John was secretary; however, after John spoke at a rally in favour of the eight-hour day he was fired from his job with the corporation, so while he looked for work, James took over as secretary. During this time, Connolly became involved with the Independent Labour Party which Kerr Hardie formed in 1893.

Cobbler’s Shop.

In late 1894, Connolly lost his job with the corporation. He opened a cobblers shop in February 1895 at number 73 Bucclevch Street, a business venture which was not successful. At the invitation of the Scottish socialist, John Leslie, he came to Dublin in May 1896 as paid organiser of the ‘Dublin Socialist Society’ for £1 a week. James and Lillie Connolly and their three daughters, Nora, Mona and Aideen set sail for Dublin in 1896, where he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in May of 1896. In 1898, Connolly had to return to Scotland on a lecture and fund-raising tour. Before he left Ireland, he had founded ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper, the first Irish socialist paper, from his house at number 54 Pimlico, where he lived with his wife and three daughters. Six other families, a total of 30 people, also lived in number 54 Pimlico, at the same time!

In 1902, he went on a five month lecture tour of the USA and, on returning to Dublin, he found the ISRP existed in name only. He returned to Edinburgh where he worked for the Scottish District of the Social Democratic federation. He then chaired the inaugural meeting of the Socialist Labour Party in 1903 but, when his party failed to make any headway, Connolly became disillusioned and in September 1903, he emigrated to the USA and did not return until July 1910. In the US, he founded the Irish Socialist Federation in New York, and another newspaper, ‘The Harp’.

In 1910, he returned to Ireland and in June of the following year he became Belfast organiser for James Larkin’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 he co-founded the Labour Party and in 1914 he organised, with James Larkin, opposition to the Employers Federation in the Great Lock-Out of workers that August. Larkin travelled to the USA for a lecture tour in late 1914 and James Connolly became the key figure in the Irish Labour movement.

Irish Citizen Army.

The previous year, 1913, had also seen Connolly co-found the Irish Citizen Army, at Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the ITGWU – this organisation, the ICA, was established to defend the rights of the working people. In October 1914, Connolly returned permanently to Dublin and revived the newspaper ‘The Workers’ Republic’ that December following the suppression of his other newspaper, ‘The Irish Worker’. In ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper, Connolly published articles on guerrilla warfare and continuously attacked the group known as The Irish Volunteers for their inactivity. This group refused to allow the Irish Citizen Army to have any in-put on its Provisional Committee and had no plans in motion for armed action.

The Irish Volunteers were by this time approximately 180,000 strong and were urged by their leadership to support England in the war against Germany. It should be noted that half of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers were John Redmond’s people, who was the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The Irish Volunteers split, with the majority siding with Redmond and becoming known as the National Volunteers – approximately 11,000 of the membership refused to join Redmond and his people.

However, in February 1915, ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper was suppressed by the Dublin Castle authorities. Even still, Connolly grew more militant. In January 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood had became alarmed by Connollys ICA manoeuvres in Dublin and at Connollys impatience at the apparent lack of preparations for a rising, and the IRB decided to take James Connolly into their confidence. During the following months, he took part in the preparation for a rising and was appointed Military Commander of the Republican Forces in Dublin, including his own Irish Citizen Army. He was in command of the Republican HQ at the GPO during Easter Week, and was severely wounded. He was arrested and court-martialed following the surrender. On May 9th, 1916, James Connolly was propped up in bed before a court-martial and sentenced to die by firing squad – he was at that time being held in the military hospital in Dublin Castle. In a leading article in the Irish Independent on May 10th William Martin Murphy, who had led the employers in the Great Lock-out of workers in 1913, urged the British Government to execute Connolly.

At dawn on May 12th 1916, James Connolly was taken by ambulance from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham Jail, carried on a stretcher into the prison yard, strapped into a chair in a corner of the yard and executed by firing-squad. Connolly’s body, like that of the other 14 executed leaders, was taken to the British military cemetery adjoining Arbour Hill Prison and buried, without coffin, in a mass quicklime grave.

The fact that he was one of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation bears evidence of his influence. As a post script, and on a personal level, I will quote James Connolly’s words to the Irish Citizen Army on 16th April, 1916 ;
“The odds are a thousand to one against us, but in the event of victory, hold onto your rifles, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached.”

To those people whom Republican Sinn Féin would consider having “stopped before the goal is reached”, I point out that the fact that James Connolly died on a chair should not be seen to infer that he wanted that chair placed at a table where a compromise would be the outcome.

James Connolly, 5th June 1868 – 12th May 1916. Executed by the British at 47 years of age.


“Because I believe these things I will always stick to them, but I do not want to force any other person to believe as I do. Let everyone be honest with himself and do what he thinks right. It is my duty to tell you what I believe should be done…” – Commandant Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle, pictured, left.

Commandant O’Boyle was born on a small farm at Leac Eineach , near Burtonport in County Donegal, in 1898. He grew tall and thin, and was known to keep himself to himself as a teenager, but livened up as he grew older, and continually expressed an interest in the political affairs of the times he was witnessing and had a great interest in the Irish language. But he was not one for trying to impose his own beliefs , whether to do with politics , history , or the Irish language, and was known by now as a Sinn Féiner, but couldn’t take his interest to the level he would have liked, as he was helping to look after his father, who was in poor health : the man died in 1917, and ‘Plunkett’, now 19 years of age, needed a secure job to assist the family – he got a position as a guard with the ‘Londonderry (sic) and Lough Swilly Railway Company’ but was forced to leave that job when he was 21 due to continued harassment from the RIC, a British ‘police force’ in Ireland, which knew of his Sinn Féin beliefs.

He left Ireland for Scotland and got a job as a miner in the ‘New Mains’ Colliery, where he joined the IRA’s 2nd Battalion Scottish Brigade, B Company. His IRA work included procuring weapons for Army use in Ireland and ensuring that same received safe passage home. At 22 years of age, he was caught by the Scottish police whilst organising a shipment of arms and was sentenced to five years hard labour in Peterhead Prison and was known to have been singled-out for particularly rough treatment by the prison authorities, including long periods of solitary confinement.

The ‘Treaty of Surrender’ was signed in late 1921 and ‘Plunkett’ was one of many who qualified for early release under its terms and conditions (even though he was opposed to that Treaty) and, in 1922, at 24 years of age, he was released and he returned home to Donegal, but was arrested a few months later and placed in detention in Dungloe and then moved to Drumboe. Finally, he was put ‘on hold’ in Finner Camp until arrangements were made to move him to Dublin. From the moment he was first arrested he was determined to escape : he had intended to jump from the Free Staters lorry that was transporting him to Drumboe but another prisoner beat him to it. In Finner Camp he had started a tunnel but this was discovered, so he and others planned to seize the tug boat on which they were to be taken to meet the ship that was due to transport them to Dublin. When this didn’t work, they then planned (unsuccessfully) to try and take control of the ship itself!

When ‘Plunkett’ and his comrades landed in Dublin, they were taken to Newbridge Barracks where they almost immediately began work on a tunnel, but this plan was soon improved on when one of the men got his hands on a Board of Works map which highlighted the sewerage system and the existing tunnel was then re-directed towards those pipes. They soon reached the buried pipes and in October that year (1922) approximately 160 IRA prisoners effected an escape through the sewerage system and came out the other end in the Kildare section of the River Liffey, from where Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle got to Dublin and was placed in command of the Dublin No. 2 Brigade IRA, 3rd Battalion, and was stationed in the Wicklow area : it was now November 1922 and, for the next six months, his IRA unit operated and lived rough in a mountainous area between Tallaght and Glenmalure.

The Ceasefire Order of April 1923 was adhered to by ‘Plunkett’ and his men but they stayed in hiding, as did many IRA units, until the general situation became clearer – but the Free State Army still hunted them and, indeed, his unit was attacked by the Staters on 8th May 1923. Michelle Boyle, a relative of ‘Plunkett’, put the following account on the record at the time : ” Around 5am Rosie Kelly was out with (—-) when she seen Free State soldiers in the vicinity. She told the volunteers. They went into the woods and hid behind a wall. As soon as Free State soldiers came looking, Plunkett and the column opened fire. The Free State soldiers sheltered behind Kelly’s house. It wasn’t long until another band of Free State soldiers came from Moin a’ Bhealaigh and they shot into the woods. They hit their own men but none were hurt seriously. Some volunteers were in Free State soldier’s clothes and managed to escape quickly across the hills. The Column was all very tired and was glad to rest that night. At around this time Plunkett was after getting a shipment of arms from Belfast. That night in Kylebeg they had 2 Thompson guns and 7 rifles. The soldiers had Lewis guns and rifles and there were about 80 soldiers. Plunkett was a good leader, he was hot-headed but you couldn’t frighten him. He had a sharp mind, knew what time to attack and what time to retreat. And when they were escaping, Wicklow men could guide him to safe houses and over the hills…”

In mid-May 1923, ‘Plunkett’ and his men were in a safe house in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow when, in the early hours of the morning, they were surrounded by Free State forces under the command of a Belfast man, Felix Mc Corley. IRA man Tom Heavey, who was in the house at the time, explained what transpired : “Plunkett wanted the mother and daughter to be let out of the house. The Staters wouldn’t hear of that and threatened to bomb them out. That was a favourite trick, throwing grenades through the window. This put Plunkett in a spot as he couldn’t let the women be injured. So he said, ‘Let me come out’. Out he came with his hands up and walked slowly towards a stone stile at the right hand corner of the house. When he got there he spoke a few words with this Free State Officer named McCorley, a Belfast man perched on a stone ditch above him. Suddenly McCorley raised his revolver and shot Plunkett in the eye, the bullet passing through his upraised hands. For good measure he shot him again through the head. He just shot him. I saw it all. It was cold blooded murder. The others in the house were rounded up and taken away…” (more here.)

The 92nd anniversary of the State execution of Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle will be marked in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow, on Sunday 17th May 2015 at 3pm : those attending are asked to assemble in Hollywood at 2.30pm. All genuine republicans welcome!


The SIPTU trade union is rightly up in (verbal) arms over the threat by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to introduce privatisation into, for now, parts of their networks and have organised work stoppages (with more of same to come) in opposition to that move : ‘Bus drivers across the country (sic) will engage in four days of strike action during May to defend the public transport service and decent jobs from the threat of privatisation. SIPTU drivers in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will conduct 24-hour work stoppages on Friday, 1st May, Saturday, 2nd May, Friday, 15th May and Saturday, 16th May. The decision to engage in strike action by over 1,500 drivers follows a refusal by the management of both companies to meet with workers to discuss their major concerns over plans to privatise 10% of bus routes during 2016. Announcing the major escalation of the SIPTU members campaign to defend the public transport system, SIPTU Construction and Utilities Division Organiser, Owen Reidy, said: “The privatisation plan being promoted by the ‘National (sic) Transport Authority’ is driven by ideological concerns rather than a focus on improving services. Privatisation of these routes will be a bad deal for the citizen and tax payer, the travelling public and indeed the workers who provide these services….” (from here.)

All good so far – a trade union expressing concern over the privatisation of a public utility, warning that it would be a bad move for the workers, the public and the quality of the service on offer, and recognising that to privatise a service (that, in this case, was built using taxpayers money) is not in the best interest of those that service purports to serve. So how come this same trade union is working hand-in-glove with those attempting to privatise a different public service/utility and, in a further deluded twist, actually supports and defends the scab employees of the soon-to-be new owners of that previously public-owned service?

The answer to that question is straight forward enough – that trade union organisation, like the State it supports and encourages, has no moral consistency and will run with the hare and hunt with the hound when it suits it to do so, and will do so shamelessly. The answer to the overall question of such corruption is here.

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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