“Dáithí came from a strong Cork Republican family. His uncle Michael O’Sullivan (17), along with five of his comrades, was bayoneted to death by British Crown forces in March 1921. He joined Sinn Féin at the age of 17 during the local elections in 1955. By the end of the following year he was on active service as a Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army , serving as an organiser under GHQ staff in Co Fermanagh.

On January 1st 1957, he was second-in-command of the Pearse Column during the attack on Brookeborough RUC barracks which resulted in the deaths of two of his comrades, Fearghal Ó hAnluáin and Seán Sabhat. Four others were wounded including the column commander. At 18 years of age Dáithí took command and led a successful withdrawal back across the border – evading 400 RUC, B-Specials, two helicopters and the British army – where they were forced to retire. He was then imprisoned in Mountjoy and the Curragh Concentration camp from where he escaped with his friend and comrade Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in September 1958. He returned to active service and for a period was Director of Operations. He was critically wounded in an ambush by the RUC and B-Specials in Arboe, Co Tyrone on the shores of Lough Neagh in November 1959. He made his escape but was forced to seek help because of loss of blood and his weakened condition. He was captured by Crown Forces and was sentenced to eight years which he served in Belfast’s Crumlin Road Jail. Following his release in 1963 he reported back to active service.

In 1969/70 he again made his talents available to the Republican Movement. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said of him he possessed the ‘ablest mind in the Republican Movement for over 20 years’. The sheer breadth of his ability and intellect was evidenced by his service to the All-Ireland Republic both militarily and politically. He had a central role in framing ÉIRE NUA and remained a tireless advocate of it right up to his death in 1991. Dáithí Ó Conaill never equivocated on what was the cause of the war in Ireland or what was required to deliver a just and lasting peace for all of the Irish people. Speaking in Belfast at Easter 1973 he said: ‘Today, the central issue in the war is one of conflict between Ireland’s right to freedom and England’s determination to keep us in subjection. All other issues are subordinate to this basic point. There can be no compromise on the fundamental issue as to who should rule Ireland: the
British Parliament or the Irish people. We have had 800 years of British ineptitude in ruling Ireland; we have never known rule by the Irish, of the Irish, for the Irish. Until we do, we shall never enjoy peace and stability in our land.’ ” (From here.)

The commemoration will be held, as stated, on New Year’s Day in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Those attending are asked to assemble at the main gates at 12.45pm. Go raibh maith agat.


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.


The cell measured

ten by six by twelve

A dull light shone on

grey concrete floor

and artic walls

that stenched of stain and blood

mice scuttled in the dark

gloomy corners

The spy hole on the heavy steel door

opened and closed.

A two-by-two cast iron frame

surrounded the thirty-five

dirty perspex panes

A prisoner’s naked body

hung limp

from a white sheet.

The shit ran down his legs.

John Doran.

(Next : ‘Bird Man’, by John Doran. )


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.

“I’m sure the loyalists would love to know what it would take,” says an ex-IRA prisoner. “I’m sure they’re wondering ‘if we went into a youth club or a community centre or a bookies or a pub (and opened fire), would that draw the IRA in ?’ I don’t know what the threshold is.” He was speaking before a loyalist gang placed themselves on the roadside in the heart of republican west Belfast, flagged down a taxi driver, and shot him dead.

By one of those thought processes that southerners rarely understand, the INLA is not blamed in republican districts for triggering this terror by killing Billy Wright “No,” the ex-prisoner says, “because the catholic mood was up before that. They’d say ‘what about Seán Brown in Bellaghy (‘1169’ comment – Seán Brown was “not a real victim”, according to an ‘Ulster Unionist’ political leader!) , what had that got to do with Billy Wright? That was the LVF, whoever the hell they really are, trying to wreck the thing.”

The much-reported RUC estimate that Billy Wright was responsible for up to 30 catholic deaths over a 15-year period certainly colours opinions about his killing. Loyalist violence before the recent spate, continuing through the IRA’s cease-fire and scarcely commented upon, is more to the point – republicans killed five people in 1997 (two RUC men and a British soldier killed before the cease-fire, and an RUC man and Billy Wright, by the INLA) whereas loyalists of various kinds killed 15 people – the UDA two, the UVF two, the LVF four, with disputed circumstances in several other deaths. Some killings were apparently the results of internal loyalist feuds. (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.

The more radical republican ideology which emphasises diversity and co-existence based on a concept of common humanity was completely marginalised during this period in which the State took on increasingly the role of a single moral authority and the nature of that moral authority was such that the rights, needs and creativity of women were buried under a rigid system based on the deliberate preservation of the economic and political system for men and the fear of sexuality , especially female sexuality.

The 1937 Constitution, perhaps more than any other document, reflects the contradiction between the revolutionary period of 1880-1920 and the reactionary thinking of the 1920-1950 period. As the constitution of the 26 Counties it echoes some of the elements of the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil but it also, and in some ways ever more so, reflects the time in which it was produced.

While the equality of all citizens before the law is enshrined within it, it also makes reference to different capacities of citizens based on sex. In addition it asserts directly and unambiguously that women have only one role in Irish society – that of mother and homemaker – reinforced by a prohibition on divorce legislation. Interestingly, those aspects of the Constitution which have their roots in the more radical definitions of the Republic are precisely those which have been used in a number of constitutional cases to assert democratic rights. (MORE LATER.)


The funeral of IRA operative Jack (‘John’) McCabe, who died in an explosion on the 30th December 1971 – 44 years ago on this date. He was buried in Killann Graveyard, East Cavan, on the 1st January 1972 and the then PIRA chief of staff, Seán MacStiofain, delivered the graveside oration. Details re his death and funeral can be read here.

Jack McCabe, who was born in 1916, joined the IRA in Cavan in the 1930’s, when he would have been in his late teens/early 20’s, and rose to the position of Quartermaster General in that organisation. He operated for a while in England in the late 1930’s, where he served the Cause as officer commanding in the Manchester area (he worked alongside a then 17-years-young Jackie Griffith) where he was captured while on active service and sentenced to 20 years penal servitude. He was released from Parkhurst Prison in 1948, at 32 years of age, and returned to Ireland to continue his work for the Movement.

In 1954, after an IRA raid in Omagh for enemy equipment, he was captured and imprisoned in Crumlin Road Jail and, when released in the early 1960’s, he immediately reported back for duty and worked tirelessly for the IRA until his untimely death in 1971 – he was instrumental, along with Myles Shevlin (and others) in the defence of Bombay Street and, as Quartermaster General, he was part of the IRA team which first met with a Libyan delegation to discuss the issue of arms.

He was one of the main explosives experts for the IRA and that was how he was to meet a gruesome death – he was mixing explosives in the garage of his house on the Swords Road, in Dublin, when a spark from the shovel he was using set the mixture off. His eyes were blown out of his head and his testicles were blown off but, before he died (on 30th December 1971, 44 years ago on this date) he managed to devise a safe method of mixing explosives to ensure that the same mistake would not be made again. Even on his death-bed, and in great agony, Jack McCabe’s thoughts were with those he knew would follow in his footsteps. Incidentally, his death inadvertently assisted the IRA in refining the use of a weapon still employed to this day.


Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do…
(From here.)

Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit and Happy New Year to all our readers : 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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