As the bureaucrats, speculators and presidents alike,
Pin on their dirty, stinking, happy smiles tonight,
The lonely prisoner will cry out from within his tomb,
And tomorrow’s wretch will leave its mother’s womb!
(Bobby Sands, from here.)

An hour-long picket in support of Irish republican POW’s will be held at the GPO in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on Saturday 5th December 2015, starting at 12.45pm. All genuine republicans welcome!


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.


One more sleepless night to go
as the rain pours down
onto the roof,top block
into the gutter down
the half broken drainpipe
the rain comes gushing through
my broken window.

Thunder and lightening
shaking and frightened
I see my reflection
in the water on the floor.

I stand naked
on the stripped bare bed
in the dark basement : cell number 13.

John Doran.

(Next : ‘Caring Person’. )


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.

A man known for the moderation of his language says – “Bertie Ahern’s channel to David Trimble, alongside Trimble’s access to Blair, that’s damaged the possibility of building up the talks themselves. Trimble loves this notion of the three prime ministers in conclave. Why would he lower himself to negotiate at Stormont when a prime minister and a taoiseach are his to command?”

British and Irish ministers together emphasised that these were merely propositions for ‘heads of agreement’, an agenda rather than a blueprint. It took several days for Sinn Féin disquiet to emerge in detailed form, echoed in an IRA statement with an ominous ring. This stated baldly that “…yet another British prime minister had succumbed to the Orange card..” , that the document was not a basis for a lasting peace settlement and that “meaningful inclusive negotiations” were crucial, with the implication that these had been blocked off.

SDLP negotiating strategy demands at least a public show of approval for anything Dublin has jointly signed whereas Sinn Féin is more openly disappointed. After the obstruction they saw in John Major, the SDLP and Sinn Féin alike accept that Tony Blair’s Labour government decided to go with the peace process as defined for them by Dublin : that is, to test the proposition that this could end violence and deliver a stable settlement. Blair’s policy has caused tremors – his “no united Ireland in the lifetime of the youngest person in this room”-remark , Mo Mowlam’s visit to the UDA. Northern nationalists never imagined that the weakest link in the process might turn out to be an Irish government led by Fianna Fáil.

“It could be that they underestimated Adams’s objections before they finally signed up to these heads of agreement. It could be that this was purely intended to kickstart negotiations. That’s the best interpretation possible. That’s what the SDLP profess to believe, though I don’t think they do,” says the veteran observer. He wonders again why Bertie Ahern was not better advised, if not by officials then by someone like John Hume. (MORE LATER.)


By Ursula Barry.
. What is there for women in Ireland to commemorate in 1916? Did the 1916 Proclamation and the subsequent ‘Democratic Programme of the First Dáil’ contain radical or revolutionary statements on the position of women in Irish society that were later betrayed or sold out in the process of establishing the Free State?
From ‘Iris’ magazine, Easter 1991.

Certainly it is true that the 1916 Proclamation called for a radical democratic republic based on principles of equality and justice with a national government “…representative of the whole people of Ireland, and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women..the republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”
Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, a major feminist activist, was to be one of five members of the Provisional government to be set up once the rebellion was victorious.
Three years later, the ‘Democratic Programme’ of the First Dáil (where Constance Markievicv followed Alexandra Kollontai in the Soviet Union as the second female national public representative) asserted its commitment to “…the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all..” and declared that “…the duty of the nation (is) to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people (and) the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation’s labour..” Very little of this kind of radical democratic republicanism was to survive amongst those who shaped the Free State over the following decades. (MORE LATER.)


‘…then there are the expenses. MEPs are refunded the cost of travel upon provision of a receipt, and are also entitled to a fixed allowance based on the distance and duration of the journey (including to the airport, etc, for the flight) but there’s no information about the allowance. Is it €1 or €10, and how is it verified and is it tax-free? Added to this is the tax-free, €4,243 for ‘travel’ to meetings within member states. But that’s not all. There is also the tax-free, €304 per day to cover the ‘cost’ of accommodation and lunch, which is €152 a day when outside the EU, with travel and hotel costs paid directly….’ (from here.)

And now, it transpires, some MEP’s have more ‘assistants’ (the minimum wage for whom, as set by the parliament in Brussels and paid by us taxpayers, is €750 a week!) than they must surely know what to do with.
Nessa Childers
(‘Independent’, ex-State Labour Party) , for instance, has 3 full-time assistants, Mairéad McGuinness (Fine Gael) has 5, as has Luke Flanagan, (‘Independent’) and Provisional Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy, who is obviously busier than his above-mentioned colleagues, has 7 (6 of whom are based in Ireland, the other one is in the bank vault that is the Brussels parliament)!

Incidentally, MEP’s have agreed a rather tasty redundancy package for themselves – in their first year of ‘retirement’ they will receive 60% of their salary, 45% in their second year and 30% in their third year. We only hope their poor assistants will be looked after just as well. But no, on second thoughts, we don’t – because we taxpayers will have to foot that bill, too.


In March 1973, IRA leader Joe Cahill was arrested by the Free State Navy in Waterford, aboard the Claudia, a ship from Libya loaded with five tons of weapons, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and another IRA leader, Seamus Twomey (pictured, right), was appointed IRA Chief of Staff. In early October that year, Twomey was caught and arrested by the Free Staters and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail, which meant that three top IRA operatives (Twomey, J.B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon) were now housed in the one location – and the IRA wanted them back!

An ‘American businessman’, a ‘Mr. Leonard’, approached the manager of the ‘Irish Helicopters’ company at Dublin Airport and discussed hiring a helicopter for an aerial photographic shoot in County Laois and, after being shown the company’s fleet of helicopters, this ‘businessman’ booked a five-seater Alouette II helicopter for October 31st. ‘Mr Leonard’ arrived at Irish Helicopters on the day and was introduced to the pilot of the helicopter, a Captain Thompson Boyes, who was instructed to fly to a field in Stradbally, County Laois, to pick up photographic equipment.

After landing, the pilot saw two armed and masked men approaching the helicopter from nearby trees and he was held at gunpoint and told he would not be harmed if he followed instructions. ‘Mr Leonard’ left the area with one gunman, while the other gunman climbed aboard the helicopter armed with a pistol and an Armalite rifle. Captain Boyes was told to fly towards Dublin following the path of railway lines and the Royal Canal, and was ordered not to register his flight path with Air Traffic Control. As the helicopter approached Dublin, Boyes was informed of the escape plan and instructed to land in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Prison.

On Wednesday, 31st October 1973, at 3.40pm in the afternoon, the Alouette II helicopter landed in the ‘D Wing Exercise Yard’ of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, when a football match was taking place between the prisoners, and Twomey, O’Hagan and Mallon jumped aboard, but were quickly spotted (!) by an alert (!) prison screw who used his training and power of intuition to take immediate action – he *called on the screws at the gate to close them over as he feared the helicopter was trying to escape (*according to the RTE ‘Scannal – Prison Break’ programme!). Another IRA prisoner who was in the yard at the time recalled how an embarrassed screw told him that he had apologised to the prison governor in relation to the incident, saying that he thought the helicopter contained a visiting (Free State) Minister for Defence (and well-known publican) Paddy Donegan : the IRA prisoner replied that , in fact, “…it was our Minister of Defence leaving…!”

All three men reported back to the IRA and continued their work for the Movement but, after a few weeks of freedom, Kevin Mallon was recaptured at a GAA Dance in the Montague Hotel in Co. Laois on 10th December 1973, J.B.O’Hagan was recaptured in Dublin in early 1975 and Seamus Twomey managed to remain uncaptured until December 2nd, 1977 – 38 years ago on this date – after the Special Branch came across him in a ‘suspicious car’ parked in Sandycove, in Dublin. He had managed to evade the forces of ‘law and order’, North and South, for fifty months, despite been hunted by the best that Leinster House and Westminster could throw at him!


Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast (pictured, left) – known for its good quality bed sheets…
In November 1971, there were more than 700 IRA prisoners being held in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, with at least the same number again ‘housed’ in Long Kesh and other prisons. All had access to an exercise yard and, in Crumlin Road Jail, the escape committee decided to use that yard as part of their plan to free three of their number – Martin Meehan, Anthony ‘Dutch’ Doherty and Hugh McCann. The plan was for the three men to hide themselves under a sewer manhole in about two feet of water, which they did – on the 2nd December 1971, 44 years ago on this date – for about five hours. As luck would have it, when they eventually let themselves out, a thick fog had settled in the area, giving good cover. They ran for the prison wall and, using bed sheets which they had roughly fashioned into a rope ladder, with a home-made ‘hook’ tied to the top of the ‘ladder’, they managed to scale the wall. Within hours, Martin Meehan and Hugh McCann were in a safe house in the Free State and their comrade, Anthony Doherty – who stayed in Belfast following the escape – joined them two weeks later.

Incidentally, on the 17th November 1971 – about two weeks before the above-mentioned ‘rope ladder’ escape – nine other IRA prisoners had also escaped from that same prison with the use of rope-ladders! The nine were Thomas Kane, Seamus Storey, Bernard Elliman, Danny Mullan, Thomas Fox, Tom Maguire, Peter Rogers, Christy Keenan and Terrence ‘Cleaky’ Clarke and all of them escaped in two cars which were waiting for them on the near-by Antrim Road. To add further to the distress caused to the then British ‘Home Affairs Minister’, Brian Faulkner, and his side-kick, ‘Sir’ Edmund Compton (“…torture would never happen in a British jail..”) by those jail breaks, they were referenced in a popular song of the time –

In Crumlin Road Jail all the prisoners one day
took out a football and started to play,
and while all the warders were watching the ball
nine of the prisoners jumped over the wall!

Over the wall, over the wall,
who would believe they jumped over the wall?
over the wall, over the wall,
It’s hard to believe they jumped over the wall!

Now the warders looked on with the greatest surprise
and the sight that they saw brought tears to their eyes,
for one of the teams was not there at all
they all got transferred and jumped over the wall!

Now the governor came down with his face in a twist
and said “Line up those lads while I check out me list,”
but nine of the lads didn’t answer at all
and the warder said “Please Sir, they’re over the wall.”

The ‘security forces’ were shook to the core
so they barred every window and bolted each door,
but all their precautions were no use at all
for another three prisoners jumped over the wall!

Then the news reached old Stormont, Brian Faulkner turned pale
when he heard that more men had escaped from his jail,
said he – “Now we’ll have an enquiry to call, and we’ll get Edmund Compton to whitewash the wall.”


Ireland, 1920 : a flavour of the chaos inflicted here by the British political and military presence : in January that year, the 1st Cork Brigade of the IRA captured Carrigtwohill ‘Royal Irish Constabulary’ (RIC) barracks, in February the ‘Home Rule Bill’ was published, in which Westminster voiced its intention to establish a 128-member ‘parliament’ in Dublin and a 52-member ‘parliament’ in Belfast despite knowing, from previous partition experiments, that two ‘parliaments’ in one country was a receipe for political disaster, Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás Mac Curtain, was murdered in his house by British forces in March, in April a hunger-strike began in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin by IRA prisoners who were demanding POW status, in May that year forty IRA prisoners who were on hunger-strike in Wormwood Scrubs in London, England, were released and in June an armed British militia in Ireland, the RIC, got the go-ahead from Westminster to‘officially’ shoot republicans dead.

In July 1920, those deemed not fit for the regular British forces in Ireland were given a new home in the ‘ADRIC’ (‘Auxiliary Division Royal Irish Constabulary’) and in August Terence MacSwiney went on hunger-strike in Brixton Prison in England. In September the ‘Black and Tans’ destroyed more than fifty properties in Balbriggan town in Dublin, a British militia, the ‘USC’, was established in October, in November fourteen British spies were executed in Dublin by the IRA and in December 1920 Westminster declared ‘Martial Law’ in Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Questions re ‘the Irish situation’ surfaced occasionally in the grand halls of Westminster and, on the 2nd December 1920 – 95 years ago on this date – the following exchange took place in that venue but was dismissed by the chairperson as ‘the wrong question having been asked’ :

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland how many prisoners in Ireland have been shot dead while trying to escape, according to police reports, up to the end of November of this year and during the present year; how many have been wounded; and how many of these were handcuffed at the time of their death or wounding?

Mr. GALBRAITH asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland what is the total number of persons who have been shot at in Ireland when attempting to escape from custody; and how many of such persons have been wounded and killed, respectively?

Mr. HENRY : According to the police reports the number of prisoners fired at while attempting to escape from custody within the period from 1st January to 30th November, 1920, is 11. Of these nine were killed and two wounded. One of the prisoners killed and one of those wounded are stated to have been handcuffed while attempting to escape.

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when the bodies have been given to the relatives that in many cases those men have been found to be riddled with bullets through the head: how does he think that men can try to escape from police lorries; and can he inform me if all these cases have been investigated by a court of inquiry?

Mr. HENRY : I must have notice of that question.

Mr. MacVEAGH : Can the Attorney-General say whether the figure he has quoted includes those shot dead on the allegation that they were attempting to resist arrest?

Mr. HENRY : The question put to me was as to the number of men shot whilst attempting to escape from custody.

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY : Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman can say whether there has been an inquiry into these cases, in view of the very serious allegations made and reported in the newspapers throughout the country?

Major O’NEILL : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when General Lucas was captured, the officer who was captured with him attempted to escape, and was shot by the Sinn Feiners?

Mr. MacVEAGH : Also does the right hon. and learned Gentleman know that when General Lucas was released he stated that he had been treated with the greatest consideration by his captors?

Mr. SPEAKER : We are getting a long way from the question on the Paper…

(HANSARD 1803–2005 ? 1920s ? 1920 ? December 1920 ? 2 December 1920 ? Commons Sitting ? IRELAND.
ESCAPING PRISONERS [SHOOTING]. HC Deb 02 December 1920 vol 135 cc1410-1 1410.)
(From here.)

That was 95 years ago and shows that those political defenders of British imperialism were as quick then as they are now to use obfuscation in an attempt to ‘neutralise’ an embarrassing situation. But Irish republicans had been fighting the British writ in Ireland centuries before the Westminster parliament was established and – no obfuscation here – will continue to do so, in one form and/or another, until they remove themselves, politically and militarily, from our country!

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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