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.


My feathered little friend
I see you have returned
Your sudden departure
Had left me empty
I searched the sky for a glimpse
of your tiny body
Clouds covered my mind
as well as the woollen roof.

Now how your appearance
has touched my very soul
the happiness you bring me
makes waves look like raindrops
There were times I thought you were hurt
I prayed for your safety
my prayers have been answered
my feathered friend.

Paul Dillon.

(Next : ‘Demons in The Dungeon’, by Paul Dillon.)


E-mail: supportthepows AT


The 5th Annual International Day in Support of the Irish Prisoners of War held in Maghaberry, Portlaoise, and Hydebank jails will be held on the 24th, 25th and 26th of October 2015 ; this event, since 2011, has been held annually on the last weekend of October and, as in previous years, it is organised by the “International Committee to Support the Irish Prisoners of War”. The committee is supportive of all Irish Republican prisoners held in Irish and British jails.

The last weekend of October is a historical date for Irish Republicans ; on October 25th, 1917, the Ard-Fheis of Sinn Féin adopted a Republican Constitution and, three years later, Sinn Féin’s Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, died after 74 days on hunger strike. Furthermore, Joseph Murphy died on hunger strike in Cork prison on that day. On October 27th 1980, the first H-Block hunger strike began and on October 26th 1976, Máire Drumm, Vice-President of Sinn Féin, was murdered in the Mater Hospital, Belfast, by a loyalist death squad. Finally, on the last day of October 1973, the helicopter escape from Mountjoy jail took place.

A selection of the 1,200 pieces of republican material which will be distributed in various-sized ‘packs’ on Sunday, 25th October 2015, at the Half’penny Bridge in Dublin.

In 2015, as in previous years, to mark these historical events as well as highlighting the plight of today’s Irish Republican POW’s, protests and pickets will be organised by various organisations and concerned individuals in Ireland, England, Scotland, Continental Europe, USA, Australia, and elsewhere. If you want to add a city or country to that list, contact the Organising Committee. All international organisations, Irish republican activists and their supporters are invited to join preparations to make the 5th annual POW-Day a success. We would appreciate if those of our readers in Ireland who want to show their support for Irish Republican POW’s could join us on Sunday, 25th October 2015, at 1pm on the Half’penny Bridge in Dublin city centre. All genuine republicans welcome!


The following piece was published in the ‘Socialist Republic!’ newspaper in September 1986.

The Chilean people have recently created an armed wing of their struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship – the ‘Manuel Rodrigues Patriotic Front’. Although very little has been published in the press, their often spectacular actions of sabotage and attack on the regime forces have proven very successful. The following is a testimony of one of the fighters in the aftermath of one such operation.


“I have my first visit. Suddenly I see my wife coming and I cannot control my feelings – I cry uncontrollably. She’s alive! “Don’t cry”, she says, “Please can’t you see that I could also cry.” All the strength I had to overcome my wounds continues to keep me alive and fighting, a strength which comes from my heroic people. To them I owe the fact that I’m alive today. My absent comrades helped save me too. Thanks to them I’m still alive – they taught me what is most precious in a fighter : how to live.”

[END of ‘Chilean Fighters Need Your Help Now’ ; next – ‘Conditions in English Jails’, from 1982].


Where politics once stagnated, events in Northern Ireland now chase each other helter-skelter. As ‘Magill’ went to press, a new joint government document turned recent perceptions head over heels. Fionnuala O’Connor charts the doubts behind the instant reactions. From ‘Magill’ magazine, February 1998.

Attitudes to the ‘peace process’ have always been very different – nationalists well-disposed but wary, unionists hostile or suspicious. As negotiations at last reach points of substance, the dread of paramilitary killings is constant, pressures on all sides intense. Some fear that the departure from negotiations of the tiny ‘Ulster Democratic Party’, one-time voice of what seems an increasingly anarchic UDA, may start unravelling the whole talks process.

The irony, in the view of participants and observers alike, is that progress has been stalled and the situation destabilised by the oddest combination – the actions of maverick paramilitaries and the erratic behaviour of the Dublin government. No one could be surprised at the destabilising effect of renewed violence, but there is a surprise and growing anger that a Fianna Fáil-led administration should endanger structures created largely by the efforts of Irish governments, in particular by those of former Labour leader Dick Spring and Bertie Ahern’s predecessor as party leader, Albert Reynolds.

It’s been a rocky ride so far for the northern talks, underpinned as they are supposed to be by paramilitary cease-fires. At this point, to meet the May deadline signed up to by both Irish and British governments, serious negotiations should be well under way. Instead their very basis is at risk. (MORE LATER).


On the 21st October 1879- 136 years ago on this date- a meeting of concerned individuals was held in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo, to discuss issues in relation to ‘landlordism’ and the manner in which that subject impacted on those who worked on small land holdings on which they paid ‘rent’, an issue which other groups, such as tenants’ rights organisations and groups who, confined by a small membership, agitated on land issues in their own locality, had voiced concern about. Those present agreed to announce themselves as the ‘Irish National Land League’ (which, at its peak, had 200,000 active members) and Charles Stewart Parnell (who, at 33 years of age, had been an elected member of parliament for the previous four years) was elected president of the new group and Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt, and Thomas Brennan were appointed as honorary secretaries.

The leadership had ‘form’ in that each had made a name for themselves as campaigners on social issues of the day and were, as such, ‘known’ to the British authorities ; for instance, Michael Davitt, who was born into poverty in Straide, Mayo, on the 25th of March, 1846 – at the time of An Gorta Mór – was the second of five children, and 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. Martin’s 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, at 19 years young, joined the Fenian movement in England. 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. At the Castlebar meeting he spoke about the need “…to bring out a reduction of facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers…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…”

The new organisation realised that they would be well advised to seek support from outside of Ireland and, under the slogan ‘The Land for the People’ , Michael Davitt 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. (Incidentally, 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. 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.)

At a meeting in Ennis, County Clare, on the 19th September 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell (of whom the British were to describe as “..combining in his person all the unlovable qualities of an Irish member with the absolute absence of their attractiveness…something really must be done about him…he is always at a white heat or rage and makes with savage earnestness fancifully ridiculous statements..” but who was also looked at in a wary fashion by some of his own people as he was a Protestant ‘Landlord’ who ‘owned’ about 5,000 acres of land in County Wicklow and his parents were friends of and, indeed, in some cases, related to, the local Protestant ‘gentry’) stated – “Now what are you to do with a tenant who bids for a farm from which his neighbour has been evicted? Now I think I heard somebody say ‘Shoot him!’ , but I wish to point out a very much better way, a more Christian and more charitable way…when a man takes a farm from which another had been evicted you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him in the shop, you must shun him in the fairgreen and in the marketplace, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in a moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of his country as if he were the leper of old, you must show your detestation of the crime he has committed..” and another man in the leadership of the ‘League’, John Blake Dillon (who was also a member of ‘The Young Irelanders’ War Council) will forever be associated with introducing the word ‘boycott’ into the English language as it was Dillon who was the most active in organising such campaigns.

Two years after it was founded (by “men of no consequence”, according to the catholic church, which opposed the League with all its might) Charles Stewart Parnell’s sisters, Anna and Fanny, established a ‘Ladies Land League’ (on the 31st January 1881, which, at its full strength, consisted of about five hundred branches and didn’t always see eye-to-eye with its ‘parent’ organisation – in its short existence, it provided assistance to about 3,000 people who had been evicted from their rented land holdings) to assist and/or take over land agitation issues, as it seemed certain that the ‘parent’ body was going to be outlawed by the British and, sure enough, the British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, introduced and enforced a ‘Crimes Act’ that same year, 1881, (better known as the ‘Coercion/Protection of Person and Property Act’) which made it illegal to assemble in relation to certain issues and an offence to conspire against the payment of rents ‘owed’ which, ironically, was a piece of legislation condemned by the same catholic church which condemned the ‘Irish National Land League’ because that Act introduced permanent legislation and did not have to be renewed on each political term. And that same church also condemned the ‘Ladies Land League’ to the extent that Archbishop McCabe of Dublin instructed priests loyal to him “..not to tolerate in your societies (diocese) the woman who so far disavows her birthright of modesty as to parade herself before the public gaze in a character so unworthy of a Child of Mary…” – the best that can be said about that is that that church’s ‘consistency’ hasn’t changed much over the years!

In October 1881, Westminster proscribed the ‘Irish National Land League’ and imprisoned its leadership, but the gap was ably filled by the ‘Ladies Land League’ until it was acrimoniously dissolved on the 10th August 1882, 19 months after it was formed. And it should be noted that the anti-republican State parliament in Dublin, which was created by a British act of parliament, is still involved in the business of landlordism…


‘In County Kildare – hardly ground zero of the Republican Movement – since the 1930’s, Frank Driver had been a well known Sinn Féin figure in Ballymore Eustace. The locals knew him as slightly eccentric, the Kildare Gardaí knew him as one of their few republican subversives and the Special Branch in Dublin had him on their list. In his long coat and black beret, he collected money, appeared at commemorations, made his views known, lent a fiver, carried messages…he had money of his own that went to the movement, as did his life…his contacts, his friends and his services made possible, after 1970, an extensive net that absorbed, stored and distributed most of the imported IRA arms…’ (from here.)
FRANK DRIVER COMMEMORATION : Sunday 1st November 2015, Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. Those attending are asked to assemble at 1pm at the church from where a parade will be held to his grave.

“Kevin Barry was executed on November 1st 1920 in Mountjoy jail in Dublin by the English invaders of our country. He was the first Irish republican to be executed by the British since 1916, and was captured while on active service outside the entrance of Monk’s bakery in Dublin. Although he was born in Dublin he spent much of his life at the family home in Tombeigh, Hackettstown, in Carlow. Both sides of his family, the Barry’s and the Dowling’s, came from the area and some of his ancestors had fought in 1798. His was a strong republican family. At the time of his death his eldest brother Mick was O/C of the volunteers in Tombeigh and his sister Sheila was in Cumann na mBan..” (from here.)
KEVIN BARRY COMMEMORATION : Sunday 1st November 2015, Rathvilley, County Carlow. Those attending are asked to assemble at 3pm in the village.

‘James Daly had claimed to be the leader of the mutinous soldiers at Solon and while this was undoubtedly true, he had not in fact instigated the protest. This had begun two hundred miles away at Wellington Barracks, Jullundur, in the Punjab, on Sunday 27th June 1920. That night, a small group of Rangers (among them Daly’s brother) had been discussing the appalling state of affairs at home and they had decided to make a protest against British military atrocities in Ireland: they would ‘ground arms’ and refuse to soldier…’ (from here.)
JAMES DALY COMMEMORATION : Sunday 8th November 2015, Tyrellspass, County Westmeath. Those attending are asked to assemble at 2pm at the hotel on the Green in Tyrellspass from where a parade will leave for the local cemetery.

Volunteer Paul Smith, Bessbrook, County Armagh, Volunteer George Keegan, County Wexford, Volunteer Paddy Parle, County Wexford, Volunteer Oliver Craven, Newry, County Armagh and Michael Watters, County Louth, who was the owner of the cottage where the tragedy occurred in November 1957 (more here).
EDENTUBBER MARTYRS COMMEMORATION : Sunday 15th November 2015, Edentubber, County Louth. Those attending are asked to assemble at the Border Bar at 2.30pm from where a parade will leave for the Edentubber Martyrs Monument.


“This is an opportune time to inform the House that I wrote on behalf of the Assembly last week to congratulate the Queen ahead of the milestone achievement of becoming the longest-serving monarch…” – Mitchel McLaughlin, Provisional Sinn Féin member of Stormont and ‘President of the NI Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’ (seriously!) , congratulating his ‘queen’ on all the work that she and her ilk have done on helping to provide a political career for Mitchel and toadies like him! There is no truth in the rumour, however, that he serenaded his employer with the following verse :
‘Who could believe that I could be happy and contented
I used to think that happiness hadn’t been invented
But that was in the bad old days before I met you
When I let you walk into my heart…’

…and here he is again, with a previous T-shirt which, like the other one he sports in this post, was designed in London for him. Word is he will be sporting a new designer garb for Easter 2016 – Butchers Apron on the front, orange on the back, but won’t be distributing them to members of the British Army, as he has special awards for them. And here’s one of Mitchel’s party colleagues, Councillor Mickey Larkin from Slieve Gullion, in Armagh, taking the mickey out of Irish republicans by having a regular ‘coffee with a cop’, and imploring others to do the same (topped, at 9 minutes 21 seconds in, in this RTE podcast, by Gerry Adams admitting that he regularly passes on information about republicans to the Free State RUC/PSNI, who claim to be ‘Ireland’s National Police Service’!)

“This is a welcome community engagement…in getting to know and get help from their (surely you mean ‘our’, Councillor?) local officers…in the new dispensation. It’s a relaxing atmosphere…have a chat, have a coffee…”,he said earnestly to those of his constituents that weren’t gagging at the very thought of voluntarily getting that close to a member of that pro-British militia. Which wins Mickey this award…

…and, finally , if you want to give yourself or a loved one a proper ‘award’ (or ‘reward’), as opposed to having ‘coffee with a cop’, then these two Irish republican items are new to the market and are now available from either 223 Parnell Street in Dublin 1 (00353-1-8729747) or 229 Falls Road in Belfast (0044-4890-319004 / 0044-2890-319004), with the jersey selling for €50/£35 and the ‘2016 Lily Badge’ priced at a fiver (Euro or Sterling) :

When it comes to 1916-2016 or, indeed, anything to do with Irish republicanism, don’t let the Provos and other pretenders take the mickey – buy genuine republican items only!

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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