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.


Never give into it or anyone
it will only create
problems mentally
and physically it will paralyse you

Chase it and it will run from you
life forever
people thrive on weakness
they will respect you if you stand
up to them
don’t let anybody push you
into something you may not wish to do
or you will regret it in time to come
people suffered for so long
and hadn’t got the courage to fight it
many people wish they had done something
about it years ago

Start today there’s no tomorrow
and you will never look back
be the one don’t wait for someone
to do it for you
let fear, fear itself.

John Doran. (Next :’Memories of You’. )


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.

The present spiral of violence was initially due to two groups outside the talks – the tiny, discredited ‘Irish National Liberation Army’ (INLA) , which has a history of murderous internal feuding and crime, and the more mysterious ‘Loyalist Volunteer Force’ (LVF), originally largely composed of UVF dissidents, which exists to oppose and undermine the ceasefires of the larger UDA and UVF. Both of the maverick groups are excluded from talks because they refused to call cease-fires and both bitterly oppose the talks format and the prospect of any compromise it might produce.

LVF leader Billy Wright’s killing by the INLA inside the Maze prison was followed by a string of loyalist killings of catholics, another INLA killing, and more catholic deaths. To those who feel most vulnerable in the wider population, arguments about throwing parties out of talks are not the priority. Steel bars have gone back up inside front doors, gates on the bottom of stairs – in a small supermarket on the fringe of a loyalist district, the catholic owner took a sledge-hammer and broke a crude hole in the back wall of the shop. He did it without thinking about how to block it at night, his only though being escape.

UDA man Jim Guiney had been trapped days before by his INLA killers in his own small shop, hemmed in by rolls of marked-down carpet ; his killing shook the tiny UDP. He was close to two party delegates at Stormont – UDP leader Gary McMichael and David Adams – and by all accounts was a strong supporter of negotiations. McMichael and Adams are liked in the talks : “It was uncomfortable to watch, but I felt for them too”, said a delegate from another small party who saw the news come in. Another noted the UDP’s confusion – “They kept saying ‘he’s not a shooter, he’s not a shooter.’ ”

Another participant declared – “It’s clear the UDA don’t listen to Gary McMichael or Davy Adams, but I don’t know about John White.” In talks where many others have violent records, White’s convictions for two particularly gruesome killings all of 22 years ago should not lend him the image he seems to relish as hard man to the diplomacy of Gary McMichael and the soft-spoken David Adams. Even John White’s credentials seem to have failed to reach the other hard men. The probability of a UDA split now hangs over the UDP, and the possibility of their being allowed to come back into talks. (MORE LATER.)


Like their comrades in the H-Blocks and Armagh, the Irish POW’s in England have resisted criminalisation against all the odds, with the same conviction articulated by Joe O’Connell, speaking from the dock at the Old Bailey during the 1977 ‘Balcombe Street’ trial – “We admit to no crimes. The real crimes and guilt are those British imperialism has committed against our people.” From ‘Iris’ magazine, July/August 1982.

Although many prisoners’ families live in Ireland, only four prisoners have ever been repatriated , and then only after a 205-day force-fed hunger-strike. Yet it is official British Home Office policy to transfer prisoners to jails close to home, and British soldiers are automatically sent back to England or Scotland in the few cases where they have been sentenced for their criminal activities in the North. The ‘closed’ visit, strip-searching, the harassment of relatives on visits and the issue of repatriation have been the chief areas of protest by the republican prisoners in English jails over the years.

Over the next two or three years most of the shorter-term prisoners will be released. In previous years eleven republican prisoners have been released, and the latest releases were Tony Madigan and Brian McLaughlin, released in June, and Fr. Patrick Fell and David Owen who were released in July. This will leave a core of republican prisoners serving life or more, such as Joe O’Connell, serving ‘life plus 159 years’ (!) , who have lost all remission.

Repeated demands that these prisoners should be allowed to serve their sentences in Ireland have been refused – the original grounds given by the British Home Office were the inadequacy of secure prison conditions in the North, but since the building of the H-Blocks and new prison facilities at Magheraberry this is even more batantly untrue than before. (MORE LATER.)


On the 17th November 1920, a 46-year-old Kerry-born RIC Sergeant, James O’Donoghue, who had 22 years ‘service’ in that particular ‘police force’ and was about to be promoted to Head Constable, was shot dead in White Street in Cork city by three IRA men (Charlie O’Brien, Willie Joe O’Brien and Justin O’Connor) , who were standing in a gateway, waiting for a target that never showed. The IRA unit were about to leave the area when they were spotted by O’Donoghue, who had just left his home at Tower Street, in full uniform, to make his way to the RIC barracks at Tuckey Street, about a half-mile of a walk from his house. According to reports of the incident, the RIC man “came upon” the IRA men and he was shot dead as a result.

The next day – the 18th November (1920), 95 years ago on this date – a gang of masked men, believed to be RIC and/or Black and Tans from the Tuckey Street barracks, forced their way in to the O’Brien house, looking for Charlie and Willie Joe ; they shot Charlie, leaving him for dead, and then shot his brother-in-law, Eugene O’Connell, who died at the scene. The execution gang then broke into the near-by home of Patrick Hanley and shot him dead, and then turned their guns on his friend, Stephen Coleman, severely wounding him, and a James Coleman was also attacked by the gang and shot dead. An IRA investigation into how the IRA unit had been exposed led the organisation to believe that informers had been at work and three men were shot dead as a result – John Sherlock, ‘Din-Din’ O’Riordan and Eddie Hawkins (whose father, Dan, was seriously wounded in that action).

Incidentally, a week after they killed the RIC man, the Cork Command IRA officially apologised in writing to his family and let it be known that they were ‘furious’ that their Volunteers had taken it on themselves to carry-out that operation. No such apology was issued by the RIC or the Black and Tans.


HANSARD 1803–2005 – 1920s – 1920 – November 1920 – 18 November 1920 – Commons Sitting – IRELAND.


HC Deb 18 November 1920 vol 134 cc2072-4

Mr. PENNEFATHER (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for War whether he had any information to impart relating to the four officers taken by force out of a train at Waterfall, County Cork, the day before yesterday, and carried off in rebel motor cars, and whether, in view of this further proof of the assistance to crime afforded by privately-owned motor cars, the Government would at once prohibit their use in the disturbed areas?

Mr. DEVLIN : “What is a “rebel motor car”? “

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill): “The only information which I have at present is that two Education Officers, Captain M. H. W. Green, Lincolnshire Regiment, and Captain S. Chambers, Liverpool Regiment, and an officer of the Royal Engineers, Lieut. W. Spalding Watts, were captured by the rebels. I understand that Captain Green and Lieutenant Watts might have been witnesses of a murder of a police sergeant and that Captain Chambers was the principal witness against Father O’Donnell, who was arrested in October, 1919, for seditious speeches. Presumably, these are the reasons why they were kidnapped, but I do not know the circumstances of their capture. With regard to the last part of the hon. Member’s question, I think ample powers already exist under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations. Certain restrictions regarding the use of motor vehicles are already in force, and I understand that further drastic restrictions will come into operation on 1st December.”

Mr. TERRELL : “Have these officers been released?”


Mr. DEVLIN : “The right hon. Gentleman brings in the trial, and the statement that Father O’Donnell was arrested for seditious language. For what reason ho dons (sic – ‘he done’?) that, I do not know. Will he state that the court-martial acquitted him of that charge?”

Mr. CHURCHILL : “I did not attach importance to that. I have given the answer specially framed for me in answer to this question.”

Mr. DEVLIN : “Who framed it for you?”

Mr. CHURCHILL “I had no communication whatever with the hon. Member (Mr. Pennefather), and there is no ulterior design behind the framing of the answer.” (From here.)

We also found the following information in relation to this incident :

Capt M H W Green – removed and shot. Capt S Chambers – removed and shot. Lt W S Watts – removed and shot…
there were 4 officers in mufti in a 3rd class compartment travelling from Cork (they thought it less conspicuous to travel 3rd class). There were 10 people in the compartment. The officers were en route to Bere Island. The soldiers were Lt R R Goode (inspector of Army Schools), Capt Reedy R.E., Chambers and Green. The train stopped at Waterfall, 6 miles from Cork. 3 armed civilians entered their compartment. Looking at Chambers one of these armed men said “That is one of them” and looking at Green said “That is the other”. Chambers and Green were then marched out with their hands up and were last seen at the bridge over the railway….In ‘The Year of Disappearances’
(link here) the author makes a case for mistaken identity, for the Green the IRA wanted being George Edward Green, and not MHW Green…Watts had decided to travel First Class and was by himself. Reedy only realised Watts was missing when the train got to Kinsale Junction and he could not find Watts…Goode added to his statement that he knew that Chambers had been responsible for the arrest of Father O’Donnell (Chaplin to the Australian Forces) in Oct 1919 for seditious language….Goode also said that Chambers and Green had the previous week been witnesses to the murder of 2 RIC constables at Ballybrack in the course of a railway journey…Goode believed that Green was carrying an automatic pistol, but believed that the others were unarmed…1921 Nov 29- The IRA confirm that the men were executed, but details of their burial place did not emerge… (from here) and these British Army documents also make for interesting reading.

The lesson, whether it should have been learned in 1920 (if not centuries earlier!) or will be learned even at this late stage by those who think they have secured their political future and that of this Free State, is a simple one : ‘Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’.


On the 18th November 1920 – 95 years ago on this date – an aeroplane made an emergency landing in a field near Punches Quarry in Cratloe, County Clare, and word quickly spread in the area that the craft was fitted-out with a machine gun. The British ‘authorities’ heard about the incident, as did the local IRA unit, and the former ordered their man in the area, 2nd Lieutenant MH Last, to organise a platoon from ‘C’ Company, ‘Oxon and Bucks’ (the ‘Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry’ regiment) and get to the site to guard the wreck, which they did and, in an act of bravado (given the times that were in it!) the British forces apparently posted no sentries and built and lit a large fire to make themselves comfortable.

The IRA, too, had arrived on site and a gun battle ensued – a report of the fight is carried here (see ‘Incident at Cratloe’), but we’re still trying to find out if the IRA got airborne that year or not…!



Isaac Butt was born in Glenfin, Donegal, on the 6th September 1813. His father, The Reverend Robert Butt, became Rector of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Stranorlar in 1814 so Isaac spent his childhood years in Stranorlar. His mother’s maiden name was Berkeley Cox and she claimed descendency from the O’Donnells. When Isaac was aged twelve he went as a boarder to the Royal School Raphoe and at the age of fifteen entered Trinity College Dublin.

He trained as a barrister and became a member of both the Irish Bar and the English Bar. He was a conservative lawyer but after the famine in the 1840s became increasingly liberal. In 1852 he became Tory MP at Westminster representing Youghal, Co. Cork and in 1869 he founded the Tenant League to renew the demand for tenant rights. He was a noted orator who spoke fervently for justice, tolerance, compassion and freedom. He always defended the poor and the oppressed.
He started the Home Rule Movement in 1870 and in 1871 was elected MP for Limerick, running on a Home Rule ticket. He founded a political party called The Home Rule Party in 1873. By the mid 1870s Butt’s health was failing and he was
losing control of his party to a section of its members who wished to adopt a much more aggressive approach than he was willing to accept. In 1879 he suffered a stroke from which he failed to recover and died on the 5th May in Clonskeagh, Dublin. He was replaced by William Shaw who was succeeded by Charles Stewart Parnell in 1880. Isaac Butt became known as “The Father of Home Rule in Ireland”. At his express wish he is buried in a corner of Stranorlar Church of Ireland cemetery, beneath a tree where he used to sit and dream as a boy.’
(from here.)

On the 18th November, 1873 – 142 years ago on this date – a three-day conference was convened in Dublin to discuss the issue of ‘home rule’ for Ireland. The conference had been organised, in the main, by Isaac Butt’s then 3-year-old ‘Home Government Association’, and was attended by various individuals and small localised groups who shared an interest in that subject. Isaac Butt was a well-known Dublin barrister who was apparently viewed with some suspicion by ‘his own type’ – Protestants – as he was a pillar of the Tory society in Ireland before recognising the ills of that creed and converting, politically, to the ‘other side of the house’ – Irish nationalism, a ‘half way house’, if even that – then and now – between British imperialism and Irish republicanism ie Isaac Butt and those like him made it clear that they were simply agitating for an improved position for Ireland within the ‘British empire’, as opposed to Irish republicans who were demanding then, and now, a British military and political withdrawal from Ireland.

Over that three-day period the gathering agreed to establish a new organisation, to be known as ‘The Home Rule League’,and the minutes from the conference make for interesting reading as they highlight/expose the request for the political ‘half way house’, mentioned above – ‘At twelve o’clock, on the motion of George Bryan, M.R, seconded by Hon. Charles Ffrench, M.P., the Chair was taken by William Shaw, M.R.
On the motion of the Rev. P. Lavelle, seconded by Laurence Waldron, D.L., the following gentlemen were appointed Honorary Secretaries : — John O.Blunden, Philip Callan M.P, W.J.O’Neill Daunt, ER King Harman and Alfred Webb. ER King Harman read the requisition convening the Conference, as follows : —

We, the undersigned feel bound to declare our conviction that it is necessary to the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and would be conducive to the strength and stability of the United Kingdom, that the right of domestic legislation on all Irish affairs should be restored to our country and that it is desirable that Irishmen should unite to obtain that restoration upon the following principles : To obtain for our countiy the right and privilege of managing our own affairs, by a Parliament assembled in Ireland, composed of her Majesty the Sovereign, and the
Lords and Commons of Ireland.

To secure for that Parliament, under a Federal arrangement, the right of legislating for, and regulating all matters relating to the internal affairs of Ireland, and control over Irish resources and revenues, subject to the obligation of contributing our just proportion of the Imperial expenditure. To leave to an Imperial Parliament the power of dealing with all questions affecting the Imperial Crown and Government, legislation regarding the Colonies and other dependencies of the Crown, the relations of the United Empire with Foreign States,
and all matters appertaining to the defence and the stability of the Empire at large….’ (from here.)

The militant ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB) was watching those developments with interest and it was decided that Patrick Egan and three other members of the IRB Supreme Council – John O’Connor Power, Joseph Biggar and John Barry – would join the ‘Home Rule League’ with the intention of ‘steering’ that group in the direction of the IRB. Other members of the IRB were encouraged to join the ‘League’ as well, and a time-scale was set in which to completely infiltrate the ‘League’ – three years. However, that decision to infiltrate Isaac Butt’s organisation was to backfire on the Irish Republican Brotherhood : the ‘three-year’ period of infiltration ended in 1876 and in August 1877 the IRB Supreme Council held a meeting at which a resolution condemning the over-involvement in politics (ie political motions etc rather than military action) of IRB members was discussed ; after heated arguments, the resolution was agreed and passed by the IRB Council, but not everyone accepted that decision and Patrick Egan, John O’Connor Power, Joseph Biggar and John Barry refused to accept the decision and all four men resigned from the IRB.

Charles Stewart Parnell was elected as leader of the ‘Home Rule League’ in 1880 and it became a more organised body – two years later, Parnell renamed it the ‘Irish Parliamentary Party’ and the rest, as they say, is history (with an interesting tangent along the way) !



Smaller than our usual offering, that is – time constraints, that’s why! We’ve been working for the last week or so on the Ard Fheis Clár (32 pages, 93 motions) and other related material (bookings, hotel arrangements, visitors etc) and the event itself will be held this coming weekend, Saturday/Sunday 21st and 22nd November, in a Dublin venue, which means spare time is scarce.

And coming up hot on the heels of that event a 650-ticket fund-raising raffle for Cabhair (booked in for Sunday 13th December) has yet to be fully organised following which preparations for the Cabhair Christmas Day Swim have to be continued with. We will post a piece next Wednesday (25th November 2015) but it will be only (probably) half the quantity but quality won’t be affected. Says she, clapping herself on the back….!

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. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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