39 Years underwater!

It began – properly structured and organised – in 1976, as a ‘fundraiser with a difference’, combined with the need to gain extra publicity for a situation which was then – as now – making world headlines. Those that sat down together in early September 1976 to tighten-up the then ‘hit-and-miss’ affair were a dedicated team who fully understood that to fail in their business would not only bring derision on them and the issue they sought to highlight, but would give their enemy a publicity coup which they would exploit to the fullest extent. With that in mind, the team persevered – favours were called-in, guarantees were secured, provisions obtained and word dispatched to like-minded individuals in the area. At the appointed time on the agreed day – 12 Noon, Christmas Day 1976 – a soon-to-be 39-years-young event was ‘born’. The CABHAIR Christmas Day Swim is, thankfully, still going strong and will be, as mentioned, 39-years-young on December 25th next!

Sponsored Swim * Christmas Day * 12 Noon * Grand Canal * 3rd Lock* Inchicore* Dublin*



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.


Two young girls played
in the back garden
they heard the faint cries of a kitten
they jumped up on the three foot brick wall
and they scanned the garden

The wee kitten cried out again
the grass was wet and two foot high

Sinéad crawled on her hands and knees
and called out ‘here kitty kitty kitty’
as mother cat nursed her three other kittens.

The wee neglected kitten tried to burrow
into the warm litter
but mother cat lashed out with her paw

Sinéad saw what was going on
she felt sorry for the abandoned pet
and cried out ‘I found the cat’
Amy ran excitedly,
‘Where, where, show me where’

Tenderly they carried the kitten
into the kitchen and gave him milk on the white saucer

Too weak to drink
he shook like a leaf
as they lifted him back beside the mother
hoping she would care

Next morning the kitten lay dead in the grass.
The girls cried.

John Doran.

(Next : ‘Suicide’. )


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.

Republicans in and close to leadership insist that their cease-fire is not about to end in the near future. “We’re in this for the long haul, said a republican official on the night after the heads of agreement emerged. “Negotiations are the only game in town, we’re not walking away from it, whatever worries we may have.” But then the same person continued – “We have no difficulty reading it as a basis for negotiation. It doesn’t preclude us from bringing our own issues.” The IRA response, eight days later, was a good deal harsher.

Whatever the true level of republican unease about Dublin’s dealings with London and their joint management of negotiations, the pace of loyalist violence gives republicans immediate problems : there is a growing, primitive* call for the IRA to strike back, even though 30 years of death tolls show that retaliation is no more deterrent than it is moral**. In much the same way as unionists believe the INLA to be a proxy for the IRA, ‘licensed’ by it in David Trimble’s phrase and essentially part of a pan-nationalist front to break the union, many nationalists, not just republicans, suspect that the LVF is a catch-all title used when it suits the larger groups – and secretly admired by unionists who think the IRA’s cease-fire is just the most recent nationalist trick, dreamed up by an alliance of the catholic church, Gerry Adams and, wiliest of all, John Hume.

The strongest republican argument against the IRA ending their cease-fire in the face of the recent string of killings is that this would give loyalists and unionists what they want, by preventing negotiations. Some of those who support the argument are themselves unsure about the outcome, as they are about the shape of any likely settlement.
(‘1169’ comment : *It would obviously be republicans who would call for the IRA to strike back – “primitive” republicans, in the opinion of the author of that article who, to the best of my knowledge, has never referenced British imperialism [and the damage it is responsible for here in Ireland and elsewhere] as “primitive” – it seems that only those under attack, rather than the instigator of the attack, can be considered “primitive” // ** likewise with the claim that, apparently,it is only those who retaliate that should be judged as ‘immoral’, not those who initiated the conflict.) (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.

Within 20 years of the establishment of the Free State a legislative framework had been put in place reflecting conservative and reactionary thinking with particularly serious implications for women. Women who had played a key role in both republican and workers’ organisations as well as asserting their own demands for the vote were systematically excluded from public life and constrained to the private domestic sphere in both the Free State and the North.

But more than that : social life was viciously suppressed in the Free State, where literature, film, sexual expression and even dancing were the target of repressive laws. The 1920’s saw the denial of the right to civil divorce, the virtual exclusion of women from jury service and the savage censorship of films and other publications.

During the 1930’s the focus shifted inevitably towards sex as contraceptives were outlawed, in a piece of legislation that simultaneously penalised brothel-keepers, and the ‘Public Dance Halls Act’ of 1935 gave district justices the power to regulate and control public dances, a move directly in line with a Catholic Church pastoral on ‘the evils of modern dancing’ a few years earlier and in that same year the ‘Conditions of Employment Bill 1935’ imposed a maximum proportion of women workers in industry and gave the State minister for labour the right to prohibit women completely. So much for equal opportunities! (MORE LATER.)


Whether it’s the season to give or not, we State taxpayers are, as ever, generous beyond belief when it comes to ‘giving’ to the career politicians in Leinster House. And, it seems, especially so at Christmas – one of their number, ex-Fianna Fail member Averil Power (now an ‘Independent’ Free State Senator) ‘gifted’ the taxpayer with a bill for just under €3,000 for 73,000 personalised 2016 calendars, Kieran O’Donnell (Fine Gael) used taxpayers money to purchase 30,000 calendars and Emmet Stagg thanked taxpayers for buying 6,000 Christmas cards for him. They are just three of many that (ab)used State money to impress those that (might) vote for them – a more detailed list can be seen here.

And, talking of 2016 calendars –

– this is the RSF calendar for 2016 (front of same, top pic, and back) which is available for a fiver (Euro or Sterling) from the usual RSF contacts. And no free money from taxpayers was spent in the production of same!


IRA Volunteer Ciarán Fleming (left) – ‘On Sunday 2nd December 1984, IRA Volunteers Antoine Mac Giolla Bhríghde, from Magherafelt, County Derry and Ciarán Fleming, who had broken out of Long Kesh prison in the Great Escape of 1983, were preparing to mount an operation against crown forces near Drumrush in County Fermanagh when Mac Giolla Bhríghde saw a car parked on the lane which he believed to contain civilians. Approaching the car to tell the occupants to leave the area, undercover SAS members opened fire, hitting him in the side. Cuffed with plastic stays, Mac Giolla Bhríghde was tortured before being summarily executed. His comrades, when later debriefed, reported hearing a single shot, then screaming, and a short time later a further burst of machine gun fire, after which the screaming stopped….’ (from here.)

Ciarán Fleming ‘…drowned in Bannagh River, near Kesh, County Fermanagh (while) escaping from a gun battle between undercover British Army (BA) unit and Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit. His body (was) found in the river on 21st December 1984..’ (from here) Ciarán was buried on the 23rd December 1984 – 31 years ago on this date – and his funeral was at the time described as ‘…the most gratuitously violent RUC attack of the year on any funeral. Many of the RUC had come in full riot gear of helmet, shield and body armour, to show that they were intent on violent disruption. Several times during a tense and exhausting funeral which lasted three full hours, the RUC baton-charged the mourners, which encouraged near-by children, standing on a wall, to throw stones at them in reprisal : the RUC then fired at least four plastic bullets into the funeral cortege, seriously injuring two people. During the afternoon, numerous mourners suffered bloody head wounds and one man was knocked unconscious by the RUC. Stewards were often forced to halt the proceedings because of this harassment but, despite the RUC’s terror, the people stood firm and, in a twilight Bogside, three uniformed IRA Volunteers stepped out of the crowd and paid the IRA’s traditional salute to their fallen comrade, as a forest of arms were raised in clenched-fist salute. Finally , thanks to the courage of thousands of nationalists, Volunteer Ciaran Fleming was laid to rest..’ (from ‘IRIS’ magazine, October 1987.)

IRA sources that were contacted at the time by journalist Ed Moloney stated that Ciarán Fleming ‘…was noted for his hard line militarist republicanism. He is reputed to have backed a plan to form full-time guerrilla units or ‘flying columns’ based in the Republic, which would carry out four or five large scale attacks in the north a year. This approach was espoused by the militant Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade led by Padraig McKearney and Jim Lynagh, who wanted an escalation of the conflict to what they termed “total war”. They were opposed by Kevin McKenna, the IRA Chief of Staff and by the republican leadership headed by Gerry Adams, on the grounds that actions on that scale were too big a risk and unsustainable. The IRA leadership wanted a smaller scale campaign of attrition, supplemented by political campaigning by (Provisional) Sinn Féin….’ (from here.)

That “political campaigning by Provisional Sinn Féin” has seen that grouping morph into a slightly more-nationalist political party than either of the latter-day Fianna Fáil or SDLP organisations but, true to form, like Fianna Fáil and the SDLP, the Provisional Sinn Féin party has distanced itself (except verbally) from Irish republicanism. It’s an easier life, with a salary and a pension, neither of which were available when Adams and company professed to be advocates of change rather than that which they are now (and have been for almost 30 years) ie advocates of British accommodation in Ireland.


British PM Ted Heath, right, with his friend Jimmy Savile.

On the 23rd December 1971 – 44 years ago on this date – British PM Edward Heath paid a visit to the Occupied Six Counties of north-east Ireland and declared his ‘determination to end the violence’, making it clear in the process that he was referring to the then IRA campaign to remove the British military and political presence. Five weeks after that visit, his troops let loose with live rounds in the Bogside area of Derry, killing fourteen Irish people and, as a PR exercise, Heath (and his sidekick, Reginald Maudling) set up the ‘Widgery Inquiry’ into the massacre.

‘Lord’ Widgery proceeded to exclude the political background to the shootings, a politically motivated decision, as was suggested by the minutes of an extraordinary discussion between Widgery, Edward Heath and the British ‘Lord Chancellor’, ‘Lord’ Hailsham, at Downing Street, two days after the massacre, on the evening before the British ‘Commons’ announcement of Widgery’s appointment to conduct the ‘inquiry’. Among “..a number of points which I [Edward Heath] thought it right to draw to the Lord Chief Justice’s [Widgery] attention (was that) it had to be remembered that we were in Northern Ireland (sic) fighting not just a military war but a propaganda war…” and, indeed, Heath is on record as saying that the Derry Guildhall building would be unsuitable as a venue for tribunal hearings as it “…was on the wrong side of the River Foyle..” (ie – the ‘Catholic/Nationalist’ side) !

It should be noted that the day before the Bogside massacre (ie on Saturday 29th January 1972) ,
the RUC and the British Army issued the following joint statement :
“Experience this year has already shown that attempted marches often end in violence and (this) must have been foreseen by the organisers. Clearly, the responsibility for this violence and the consequences of it must rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of those who encourage people to break the law. The (British) security forces have a duty to take action against those who set out to break the law…”

Mutinous talk there, from that joint statement because, if they were to do their ‘duty’, then they would have had to “take action” against themselves and their own political leaders, including Edward Heath. But considering that Heath and his political establishment were pals with the Jimmy Savile’s of their world, then it should have been obvious to all that they would have no ‘duty’ of care or responsibility to 14 dead Irish people.


“Now’s here’s a proof of Irish sense
Here Irish wit is seen
When nothing’s left that’s worth defence,
We build a Magazine.”
(Jonathan Swift)

The Magazine Fort, Phoenix Park, Dublin (pictured, left) – built in 1735, raided by republicans twice ; in 1916, when thirty members of the Irish Volunteers and Na Fianna Éireann captured the building and took guns and withdrew from the area and again in 1939 – on the 23rd December, 76 years ago on this date – when, at about ten pm on that Saturday night, an IRA man walked up to the Free State sentry who was guarding the locked gate and told him that he had a parcel for his commanding officer. The sentry unlocked the gate only to be faced with a revolver pointed at his head : he was held there as other IRA men entered the Fort and then the hapless State soldier was forced to lead the IRA men to the guardroom where they ordered the Free Staters to surrender, which they promptly did.

13 lorries were then driven into the complex and crates containing Thompson machine guns and ammunition (estimated at 1,084,000 rounds!) were removed from the premises and neither side suffered any casualties. However, State soldiers who were based in the nearby Islandbridge Barracks were perplexed as to the reason why such a heavy volume of truck traffic was entering and leaving the Phoenix Park and they went to investigate : two of the IRA raiders were captured but their comrades made good their escape, complete with that which they came for. However, within a week most of the liberated munitions (including about 850,000 bullets) had been recovered by the Staters : two-and-a-half-tons were seized in Dundalk, County Louth, eight tons recovered in Swords, County Dublin, sixty-six cases of Thompson machine guns and ammunition were seized from an arms dump in South Armagh and 100 crates containing 120,000 bullets recovered in Straffan, County Kildare.

Also, on March 1st, 1940, Jack McNeela and Jack Plunkett – two of the many republicans who were ‘lifted’ by the Staters following the ‘Fort Raid’- were sentenced to two years and eighteen months respectively on a charge of “conspiring to usurp the function of government” by, of all things, operating a ‘pirate’ radio transmitter. On March 5th, 1940, Tony D’Arcy and Michael Traynor, both arrested during a raid on the Meath Hotel, Parnell Square, Dublin, the previous month, where an IRA meeting was being held to plan an attack in the Six Counties, were sentenced to three months imprisonment for refusing to answer questions. After being sentenced, the four prisoners were transferred to Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin and, on March 27th 1940, they were moved to St Brican’s Military Hospital next to the prison. On April 1st that year they were joined there by Tomas MacCurtain and Thomas Grogan, both of whom were still awaiting trial. MacCurtain was charged with shooting dead a Special Branch detective in Cork and Thomas Grogan with taking part in the Magazine Fort raid.

On April 16th, 1940, Tony D’Arcy, a native of Headford, County Galway, died after 52 days on hunger strike ; Jack McNeela, a native of Ballycroy, Westport, County Mayo, died three days later, after 55 days on hunger strike. The fast ended that night when the prisoners were informed that their demands had been met. The hunger strike began on February 25th, 1940, in Mountjoy Jail, Dublin, and resulted in the deaths of two IRA Volunteers.


Liam Mellows (pictured, left) wrote, in his last letter to his mother – “The time is short and much I would like to say must go unsaid. But you will understand in such moments heart speaks to heart. At 3.30 this morning we [Dick Barrett, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and I] were informed that we were to be “executed as a reprisal”…I go to join Tone and Emmett, the Fenians, Tom Clarke, Connolly, Pearse, Kevin Barry and Childers. My last thoughts will be on God, and Ireland, and you. I had hopes that some day I might rest in some quiet place – beside Grandfather and Grandmother in Castletown (Co. Wexford), not amidst the wordly pomps [sic] of Glasnevin but if it is to be the prison clay, it is all the sweeter for many of our best lie here…” . That was on December 8th, 1922 – he was then executed by a Free State Army firing squad. However, forty-six years after that execution (ie in 1968) more information regarding that deed was made public ; in a letter to the media forty-six years after the execution of Liam Mellows (ie on April 24th, 1968) a Free State Army Captain, Ignatius O’Rourke, who was present at the execution of Liam Mellows and the other three men – Dick Barrett, Rory O’Connor and Joe McKelvey – wrote that, a few minutes before Mellows was shot dead he [Mellows] sent for the prison chaplain, a Father McMahon. Captain O’Rourke wrote that “… a few minutes later…I saw Father McMahon leaving the room [cell]
..accompanied by Liam Mellows, with his right arm around Liam’s shoulders, and they walked along together leading the group as we all walked to the sandbags. Liam and Father McMahon appeared to be in deep, friendly conversation, with no sign of discord, disagreement or argument, just like two men discussing some point in a friendly fashion. They continued to talk until Father McMahon left Liam in the number one position at the sandbags …”

Fifteen days after his execution (ie on the 23rd December 1922 – 93 years ago on this date) an article he had written, entitled ‘Labour and the Irish Republic’ was published in the trade union ‘Voice of Labour’ newspaper : “Industries will receive encouragement ; employment will increase ; the natural resources of the country tapped ; emigration stopped ; education put on a proper basis, and direct contact with the outside world established. Yet all this, resulting as it would in the country being richer and more prosperous, would not mean that the freedom of Ireland has been attained if the economic system remained unchanged. A political revolution in Ireland, without a co-incident economic revolution, simply means a change of masters – instead of British capitalists waxing rich on the political and economic enslavement of Ireland, as at present, we would have Irish capitalists waxing rich on the political freedom, but continued enslavement, of Ireland. We do not want a change of masters* : it would be foolish, surely, to free Ireland from foreign tyranny today, and less than twenty years hence to have to free it from domestic tyranny*. Therefore, the Irish Republic must have for its foundation the people. It is they who are freeing Ireland, and it is for the people – all the people – that it is being done, not for any section or group.

The Dail Éireann had this clearly in mind when, at its first session, in January 1919,it issued its ‘Programme of Democratic Policy’ that the soil of Ireland and all that grew upon it and lay under it, as well as all the wealth and wealth-producing processes in the country, should belong to the people. In the last analysis, the fight between the Irish people and the British government is not alone one between two nations : it is more than that – it is a struggle between two systems of civilisation, between the feudal system of England under its present guise of industrialism and the democratic system upon which the old civilisation of Ireland was built. A vestige of that civilisation remains in Ireland today – it is growing, expanding, and the end of foreign rule in Ireland will usher in not alone a new political era in Ireland, but a new economic one as well.”

*Unfortunately, as Mellows opined, above, the citizens in this part of Ireland – the so-called ‘Free State’ – have had ‘a change of masters/domestic tyranny’ imposed on them, not only by an outside force (Westminster, which established the Leinster House ‘parliament’) but by a force that they themselves are responsible for – the ballot box. “The foundation, the people” , as referenced above by Liam Mellows, are for the most part made of clay and it is a relief that Mellows and his comrades did not live to witness the hypocritical shambles that the political institution on Kildare Street in Dublin, and those voters that time and again ‘legitimise’ that cess pit, converted his efforts into. Small mercy that the man went to his grave believing that his contribution to the struggle for freedom would help to achieve a proper Irish democracy rather than the ‘whats-in-it-for-me’ political culture that has hijacked his efforts.



Ar eagle an dearmaid….

Ba bhrea an rud e siocháin bhuan bunaithe ar an gceart a bheith againn in Éireann . Is i an bronntanas is fearr a d’fheadfaimis a thabhairt duinn fein agus dar gclann.

Coinniodh an ceart agus an tsiocháin uainn le breis agus ocht gcead bliain , de bharr ionradh , forghabhail agus miriaradh na Sasanach. Socrú ar bith a dheantar in ainm mhuintir na hÉireann agus a ghlacann le riail Shasana agus a dhaingnionn an chriochdheighilt , ni thig leis an ceart na an tsiocháin bhuann a bhunu.

Ni dheanfaidh se ach la na siochána buaine a chur ar an mhear fhada agus an bhunfhadb a thabhairt do ghluin eile . Tharla se seo cheana nuair a siniodh Conradh 1921 agus cuireadh siar ar mhuintir na hÉireann e in ainm na siochána . Is mór ag Sinn Féin Poblachtach Éire a bheith saor agus daonlathach , an cuspoir ceanna a bhi i gceist ag Wolfe Tone agus ag na Poblachtaigh uile anuas go dti 1916 agus an la ata inniu ann.

Rinne a lan fear agus ban croga iobairti mora , thug a mbeatha fiu, ar son na cuise uaisle seo.




Least we forget ….

A just and permanent peace in Ireland is most desirable. It is the greatest gift we could give to ourselves and our children. We have been denied justice and peace for more than eight centuries, because of English invasion, occupation and misrule of our country.

Any arrangement which, in the name of the Irish people or otherwise, accepts English rule and copperfastens the border, will not bring justice and lasting peace. It will only postpone the day of permanent peace, handing over the basic problem to another generation.

This happened before when the Treaty of 1921 was signed and was forced on the Irish people in the name of peace. Republican Sinn Féin cherishes the objective of a free, democratic Ireland, as envisaged by Wolfe Tone and all Republicans down to 1916 and our own day. Many brave men and women sacrificed a lot, even their lives, for this noble objective.


(From the ‘1169…’ Crew , December 2015. PLEASE NOTE : we are now on a short break from normal posting, although we will post details of how the CABHAIR swim went and possibly a few other posts. We will return to ‘normal’ early in the New Year. Go raibh maith agat, and 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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