By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.


I was standing around
and in a crowd,
when I took a sniff
and then went stiff,
my mind went high
right up to the sky,
I won’t tell a lie.

The pain inside
I can’t describe,
the veins are fading
the mind is craving,
I need the stuff
a sniff’s not enough,
higher and higher
I’m a liar.

I ran out of luck
or was it the stuff,
that’s all in the past
it didn’t last,
so I will say good-bye
and lie down and die.

Hi! don’t sniff
that is my gift
get the drift?



They grease your hand
and talk about the promised land.
But slide you out without a doubt
before you know what it’s all about.

You realise they told lies
the promised land was only sand,
that ran through your fingers
like hot cinders.

Jack, I won’t be back to break my back,
be wise get yourself a financial advisor
before you’re left with only a fiver,
and end up in the lonely Ivyer.


(Next – ‘The Value of a Smile’ by Richard Birmingham.)


The following piece was published in the ‘Socialist Republic!’ newspaper in September 1986 and records some of the words of Martin McGuinness from a speech he delivered in Bodenstown on Sunday 22nd June of that year. That publication was ‘the newspaper of the Scottish Communist Republican Party (SCRP)’ , both of which are now apparently defunct as separate entities as, indeed, is McGuinness himself, in relation to Irish republicanism. Less than six months after he delivered the following speech, Martin McGuinness assisted other nationalists in splitting the Republican Movement.

Quote from Martin McGuinness, Sunday 22nd June, 1986, Bodenstown: “Despite the multi-million dollar hype of the (Hillsborough) Agreement, despite disinformation, despite the rewriting of Irish history by West Britons and British propaganda, more and more people are beginning to realise that internal tinkering with the six-county statelet solves nothing..”(…which is exactly what McGuinness and his nationalist colleagues are doing now – “internal tinkering with the six-county statelet.”)


“All the resources, weaponry and technology available to the British government have not been sufficient to defeat our struggle”, said Martin McGuinness, “the men and women Volunteer soldiers of the Irish Republican Army have, with courage and determination, continued the fight against numerically superior forces. And I apologise to no-one * for saying that we support and admire the freedom fighters of the IRA. (*…he quickly changed his tune when a British-funded political career was on offer : “… it’s appropriate that where people lost their lives apologies should be made, apologies have been made and I think they’re heartfelt..” [from here.] )

In the North, attacks on the British Army, the RUC and the UDR continue. The IRA has shown continued resourcefulness and capability to strike where and when it wants. Its strategy has caused considerable damage not only to British Crown personnel and fortifications but to Britain’s carefully planned Ulsterisation policy. The British and their native collaborators in the twenty-six counties know that the IRA is out to win.

My message to them is crystal clear – if there is no freedom there will be no peace. We do not fear you. The struggle continues and we are going to win.”

(END OF ‘We Support The Use Of Armed Struggle In The Six Counties’ : NEXT – ‘Chilean Fighters Need Your Help Now!’ ; from the same source.)


The British publishing group ‘Macmillan’ must have been sorely disappointed by the media’s reaction, or lack of it, to the launch last month of Paul Foot’s book ‘Who Framed Colin Wallace?’
By Eamonn McCann, from ‘Magill’ magazine, June 1989.

In the event, the British media didn’t treat the publication as any sort of news at all, apart from two brief pieces by Richard Norton-Taylor in ‘The Guardian’ – no other national paper mentioned it. The only radio interest shown was by the London commercial station LBC and by Radio Sussex, both of which carried interviews recorded at the book launch.

A firm arrangement for the author, Paul Foot, to appear on Mervyn Bragg’s ‘Start The Week’ programme on May 15th was cancelled – as the production team frankly concedes – after intervention from “higher up”. There was no mention of the book being published anywhere on British television.

‘Channel 4 News’ , much the most assiduous of British news programmes in following the Colin Wallace story in recent years, turned down an offer from Macmillan of exclusive access to the last stages of the race to meet the May 10th deadline. Macmillan hoped for better things when Foot and Wallace travelled to Dublin for the Irish launch on May 10th…. (MORE LATER).



“I met the bravest of the brave this morning…”
Tom Williams, 12th May 1924 – 2nd September 1942.
“Williams was one of six IRA volunteers sentenced to death by hanging in 1942. A group of eight, including two women, had mounted a diversionary operation to take away attention from three republican parades held in Belfast to celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising. All such parades had been banned under the Stormont regime since the partition of Ireland and the introduction of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act of 1922. A police (RUC) patrol managed to capture the group but not before an exchange of shots which resulted in the death of RUC constable Patrick Murphy. Although only 18 years old, Tom Williams was in charge of the unit and in a controversial statement to the police he assumed full responsibility for the shooting. Following a remarkable international reprieve campaign, the colonial Governor of Northern Ireland commuted five of the six death sentences to terms of penal servitude. But the British had decided that Tom Williams should hang…”(from here)
‘Time goes by as years roll onwards
But in my memory fresh I’ll keep
Of a night in Belfast Prison
Unshamefully I saw men weep

For the time was fast approaching
A lad lay sentenced for to die
And on the second of September
He goes to meet his god on high

Now he’s walking to the scaffold
Head erect he shows no fear
For on his proud and gallant shoulders
Ireland’s cross he holds so dear

Now the cruel blow has fallen
For Ireland he has fought and died
And we the countrymen who bore him
Will love and honour him with pride

Brave Tom Williams we salute you
And we never will forget
Those who planned your cruel murder
We vow to make them all regret

So come all you Irish rebels
If from the path you chance to stray
Bear in memory of the morn, when Irelands cross was proudly borne
By a lad who lay within these prison walls.’
(From here)
For Tom, and all the other brave men and women.


Pictured, left ; the grave of 19-years-young Irish republican Joe Whitty, who died on hunger-strike on the 2nd September 1923, and was buried in Ballymore cemetery, Killinick, Co. Wexford.

Joseph Whitty came from Connolly Street in Wexford town. He was a volunteer in the IRA’s South Wexford Brigade and was arrested and imprisoned in late 1922, after the counter-revolution had begun. Prior to his imprisonment, he was among the many Republicans in County Wexford to suffer at the hands of Britain’s occupation forces and later at the hands of the Free State traitors.

In February 1923, members of Cumann na mBan had gone on hunger strike in protest against ongoing internment and successfully secured their release. By May the Civil War had officially ended, but thousands of republicans remained imprisoned, often in very poor conditions. This resulted in further hunger strikes during 1923. The Free State government had since passed a motion outlawing the release of prisoners on hunger strike, and this was to have dire consequences for Joseph Whitty and others. He died in Newbridge Internment Camp, on September 2nd, at the age of 19. He was the fifth Republican to die on hunger strike since 1917, and was laid to rest in Ballymore Cemetery, Killinick with full military honours.

‘At a public meeting held in New Ross on Sunday July 22nd 1923, Miss Dorothy MacArdle read a letter from Newbridge prison camp. She did not think it had passed through the hands of the censor. The letter referred to the condition of 19 year old Óglach Joseph Whitty, William Street, Wexford. She asserted that he was not in the organisation at all and that he was being punished as revenge for the activities of his brothers. He signed the undertaking reluctantly on the advice of a friend but despite the boasting of the government that signing meant release, he was still in gaol and dying.

The first time his mother went to visit him the authorities refused to allow to do so. The second time when they allowed her to see her son he was unable to recognise her.

The meeting should demand that he be released before he died, said Miss MacArdle. Professor Caffery proposed a resolution demanding the immediate release of Joseph Whitty and the other prisoners in Ireland and Britain and suggested that a telegram should be sent to the pope. Miss Nellie O’Ryan seconded the resolution which was put to the meeting. All present signified assent by raising their right hands. Unfortunately, the free state government failed to release Joseph Whitty. On Thursday September 2nd, 1923, he died in the Newbridge military hospital. He had been arrested about a year earlier. Interment took place in Ballymore the following Sunday before a large crowd. When the remains were laid to rest his comrades fired three volleys over them and recited a decade of the rosary in Irish….’ (from ‘’)

Joe Whitty is one of twenty-two Irish republicans to die on hunger-strike between 1917 and 1981, all of whom are remembered each year by the Republican Movement.


A member of the pro-British ‘Special Constabulary’ (pictured, left), on his way to the ‘office’ for yet another normal day of ‘policing’….

At a meeting in London on the 2nd September 1920 – 95 years ago on this date – the then ‘Prime Minster’ of Stormont, ‘Sir’ James Craig (“All I boast is that we are a Protestant Parliament and Protestant State…”) demanded that a force of ‘Special Constabulary’ be established for Ulster and, six days later – on the 8th September – Westminster agreed that a force of “loyal citizens” were needed, and insisted that the then pro-British paramilitary gang known as the ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’ should be made ‘official’ and employed as such. And, with a simple name change and the provision of a British uniform, a new State-sponsored paramilitary gang , the A,B and C Specials, was born : the ‘A’ gang (about 3,500 of them in total) were full-time operatives who lived in the local RIC barracks and were used as re-inforcements for the RIC, and were armed and on a wage. Essentially, their presence allowed more ‘police officers’ free to leave their desks and assist their British colleagues in cracking nationalist skulls. The ‘B’ outfit (numbering 16,000 approximately) were armed but part-time and on ‘expenses’ only, and were usually to be found on street patrol and operating checkpoints and the ‘C’ grouping (about 1,000) were a reserve force with no specific duty as such but were ‘on call’ as an armed militia

Nationalists knew the danger of such a move for them – the UVF/Specials were not by any means ‘neutral’ in the conflict. The then ‘Daily News’ newspaper stated, re the establishment of the ‘Specials’ –‘The official proposal to arm “well-disposed” citizens to “assist the authorities” in Belfast raised serious questions of the sanity of the government. It seems the most outrageous thing which they have ever done in Ireland. A citizen of Belfast who is “well-disposed” to the British government is, almost from the nature of the case, an Orangeman, or at any rate, a vehement anti-Sinn Feiner. These are the very same people who have been looting Catholic shops and driving thousands of Catholic women and children from their homes…’ But all words of opposition, or even caution, were ignored.

The officer class in the ‘Specials’ were hired if they passed a civil service examination and were mostly upper and middle-class protestants with a moral connection to their ‘mainland’ (England) whereas the rank-and-file consisted of the thugs that once populated any anti-Irish paramilitary gang that would have them. The latter were not allowed ‘serve’ in their own county or that of a family member and were relocated on a fairly regular basis, living in the local barracks and single men were not allowed to leave same at night to socialise. ‘Specials’ who wanted to get married could only do so after they had been with the gang for seven years or more and even then only if their girlfriend was deemed ‘suitable’ by the officer class, a ‘test’ which included the nature of her job before and after the marriage. Any such ‘Special’ family were under orders not to take in lodgers, not to sell produce locally (ie eggs, vegetables etc) and the husband was not entitled to days off (no ‘rest days’ or annual holidays) and was not permitted to vote in elections!

After Westminster forcibly partitioned Ireland in 1921 the British wanted control over the new ‘State’ to be exercised by their own kind (as opposed to ‘Paddies in British uniforms’) and, in late 1925, they felt confident enough to declare that the ‘Specials’ should be wound-up and a kitty containing £1,200,000 was put on the table to secure their disbandment : their main man in that part of Ireland, ‘Sir’ James Craig – up to then a great friend and supporter of the Specials – was jobbed to pass on the bad news : on 10th December 1925, Craig told the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials that they were out of work (the ‘B’ gang were to be kept on) and offered each man two months pay. End of announcement – at least as far as Craig and Westminster were concerned, but the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials were not happy with the “disband” order and discontent in the ranks grew. The ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials held meetings between themselves and, on 14th December 1925, they mutinied!

‘A’ and ‘C’ members in Derry ‘arrested’ their own Officers, as they did in Ballycastle – two days later (ie on 16th December 1925) a demand from the ‘A’ and ‘C’ ‘rebels’ was handed over to ‘Sir’ Richard Dawson Bates, the Stormont ‘Minister for Home Affairs’, a solicitor by trade, who was also Secretary of the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’, a position he had held since 1905. He was not impressed with their conduct. The ‘A’ and ‘C’ Specials were looking for more money ; they demanded a £200 tax-free ‘bonus’ for each member that was to be made redundant. Two days later (ie on 18th December 1925) ‘Sir’ Bates replied to the Special ‘rebels’ that not only would they not be getting the £200 ‘bonus’ but if they didn’t back down immediately they would loose whatever few bob they were entitled to for being made redundant and, on 19th December 1925, the ‘rebels’ all but apologised to Bates, released their hostages and signed on for the dole – the ‘hard men’ of the ‘Specials’ had been put in their place by a bigger thug than they were! By Christmas Day, 1925, the ‘A’ and ‘C’ Sections of the ‘Ulster (sic) Special Constabulary Association (the ‘Specials’) were disbanded. It was only in 1970 that the ‘B’ Special gang of thugs ‘disbanded’ (ie changed uniform into that of the ‘Ulster Defence Regiment’ (UDR) and carried-on with their mis-deeds) . It was actually in September 1969 that the (British) ‘Cameron Commission’ described the ‘B’ Specials as “a partisan and paramilitary force…” while the October 1969 ‘Hunt Report’ recommended that the ‘B’ Specials be disbanded.
Since then, the RUC (formed in 1922) have been amalgamated into the ‘PSNI’ but, even though the uniforms changed, the objective didn’t – the preservation of British rule in Ireland.


… the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Ireland and Britain, 170 years after some other countries had done so (France in 1582, Austria in 1584, and Norway in 1700). This resulted in the 2nd of September 1752 being followed, 24 hours later, by the 14th September 1752!

In 1752, the British ‘Empire’ ordered the abolishment of the dates between the 2nd and the 14th of September for all colonies controlled by them. This meant that the so-called ‘British Isles’, English colonies and America lost 11 days in September 1752. The days in that September month began with the 1st and the 2nd but 11 days were skipped and the days continued with the 14th, 15th etc untill the 30th day. This meant that from the 3rd to 13th of September 1752, nothing actually happened because there were no dates for anything to happen on (?!)

At the time, many people mistakenly believed that their lives would be shortened by 11 days and some were also unhappy and suspicious at the moving of saint’s days and holy days, including the date of Easter etc. But not everyone was unhappy about the new calendar ; according to W.M. Jamieson in his book, ‘Murders Myths and Monuments of North Staffordshire’, there is a tale about one William Willett of Endon. Always keen on a joke, he apparently wagered that he could dance non-stop for 12 days and 12 nights. On the evening of September 2nd 1752, he started to jig around the village and continued all through the night. The next morning, September 14th by the new calendar, he stopped dancing and claimed his bets!

We won’t be doing a jig here in ‘1169 Towers’ , but we do hope to be back next Wednesday, 9th September. That’s if there is a Wednesday, 9th of September…!

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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