‘None of the above : the system is corrupt!’

– a purposely spoiled ballot paper (left) which was cast in Dublin Mid-West on Friday 26th February 2016 in the State general election but, as expected, enough votes were cast on the day to ensure the possibility of an administration being formed. Eventually, that is, as no one party received an overall majority and, at the time of writing, alleged behind-the-scenes talks are taking place between various political groupings in the hope that they can agree, between them, on how exactly to share out the financial spoils generated by the citizens.

Those interested in the outcome can satisfy their curiosity here (…just ignore the ‘65% national turnout’ claim as only 26 of our 32 counties had the opportunity to spoil their vote or not!) but, safe to say – regardless of which combination of robber baron occupies the Kildare Street castle (and this is our best guess, based on past experience) – it will only favour the inhabitants of same, for at least five years. Then, no doubt, that crowd will be voted out and the grouping that were just recently voted out will be voted back in. As Henry Louis Mencken said – “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

But well done, anyway, to whoever it was that improved these election posters in the hope of reminding those considering voting for those featured on them just what it is they would be voting for –

Joanna Tuffy, State Labour Party, who lost her seat but is not yet homeless…

John Curran, Fianna Fail, won a seat but, even if he hadn’t, wouldn’t be facing eviction anyway…

..no more than Mrs Fitzgerald would have been. She held on to seat, as it transpired, and it would surely have been a crime had she not done so..!


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.


Excited and aroused I await my dream
to be released from this how hard it may seem
on this day I always can trust
it’s just for this high I crazily lust

Return of my confidence does brighten the days
just briefly my troubles get lost in the haze
the spoils from this game arouses the crowd
reflects on the days I was quiet proud

I’m more entranced than the average man
I used to be good and know I still am
the first time was good I nearly got caught
maybe some day they’ll carry me off

This past time and I just fade into one
this game can expand from father to son
I’m still young it’s not too late now
will I give it all up or do I know how?

I’m really quiet close just a break away
from straightening things out and being ok
I can help myself to regain my glory
with a little twist to the same old story

Now I see it’s everyone for themselves
this causes a burning within me it dwells
I am the one that pays for this game
it bestows maybe riches none welcome fame

Family will listen but really don’t hear
they will always hide invisible tears
now I grow tired of all this greed
and chart a course to set things free.

Jason Flynn.


There are currently 52 sentenced Irish republicans in jails in England. Although they are continually transferred from one ‘maximum security’ jail to another, the list below is a fairly accurate guide to where they are presently being held. Included in the list, where known, are their prison numbers. Anyone able to send a card or letter to any of these prisoners should ensure that they include the correct number and full address, since otherwise it is unlikely they will be received.

From ‘IRIS’ magazine, July/August 1982.

In order to highlight the plight of all these prisoners, Sinn Féin is organising a programme of activity during the month of August. The theme of this year’s anniversary of internment demonstrations will emphasise 1) the two blanket man, Patrick Hackett (see ‘Chapter 4’, here) and Michael Murray; 2)the use of solitary confinement ; 3)conditions in control units; 4)visits, and 5)the right to repatriation on demand.

(END of ‘Irish Political Prisoners In England’ : Next – ‘Explosive Questions’, from ‘Magill’ magazine, 2003.)


By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

When Comrade McCann asked me to write the foreword for his up and coming work I had two questions for him : 1)Is there any danger of me being charged as an accessory after the fact in connection with the felonies spoken of in his writing ‘Portrait of the Author as a Young Chuck?’ and 2)Will I receive any payment in the way of royalties on the back of any success the book may enjoy? The answer to the first question was “One never knows in these volatile post-conflict situations” and the second question was answered “No chance!” So in spite of the risk of imprisonment and despite the lack of remuneration I have agreed to do it anyway.

Most people’s perception of Long Kesh and other jails has been shaped, in the main, by press reports, a lot of which were based upon statements from civil servants or over zealous republican PRO’s. Of course all is fair in the propaganda war but some of these reports have painted Long Kesh like a scene from a Beckett play with hundreds of grey, broken, depressed beings in a featureless grey environment waiting for Godot.

Jim McCann’s stories illustrate the human spirit and in particular republican spirit in the face of adversity. In the worst possible situations republicans have turned the situations and conditions meant to break them into stimulating, positive and even happy environments where revolutionary zeal was nurtured and honed and the craic was 90. More power to your pen, comrade.
Tommy Gorman, February 1999.


“Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right” – William Ewart Gladstone (pictured, left) , British Prime Minister for four terms : 1868 to 1874, 1880 to 1885, six months in 1886 and then from 1892 to 1894.

On the 2nd March 1871 – 145 years ago on this date – William Ewart Gladstone, the British Prime Minister, publicly acknowledged for the first time, during a speech in the ‘House of Commons’, the high levels of support in Ireland for those who were questioning the position of Ireland within the then ‘British Empire’ but his colleagues in the British ‘Liberal Party’ let it be known they were uneasy about such a proposition being highlighted. Regardless, Gladstone continued to put out ‘feelers’ re that issue and is on record for declaring that it was his mission “to pacify Ireland”.
In May 1882 he appointed his nephew, ‘Lord’ Frederick Cavendish, as the new ‘British Chief Secretary’ in Ireland and Cavendish, in turn, appointed Thomas Henry Burke as his ‘Under-Secretary’ and perhaps it was because both men were put to death by the Irish ‘Invincibles’ on their arrival in Ireland that Gladstone was encouraged to deal with his ‘Irish problem’ : he persevered with attempting ‘to solve the Irish problem’ and four years later (ie in 1886) , in a three-hour speech, he presented, to the British ‘House of Commons’, a ‘Home Rule’ bill for Ireland which sought an Irish Parliament to be established in Dublin but with Westminster retaining control of matters to do with defence, foreign affairs, customs and excise, trade, postal services, currency and the appointment of law judges. The proposed ‘Irish Parliament’ would consist of one chamber which would house those elected by the people and those placed within by the Crown (‘peer/nobleman’), and an ‘Irish MP’ would not be entitled to sit at Westminster. Irish commentators were disappointed that ‘Irish MP’s’ should be excluded from Westminster and also voiced caution in relation to the powers that Westminster retained re defence, foreign affairs etc and, once again, Gladstone’s own colleagues in the ‘British Liberal Party’ felt that too much power was being given to Ireland – 93 of them actually voted against it, splitting the party and defeating the bill.

A lesson should have been learned then – in 1886, 130 years ago – that a limited form of ‘granted’ jurisdictional control and sovereignty from Westminster re Ireland is, in the words of William Ewart Gladstone, “morally wrong” and will not be accepted by Irish republicans as “politically right”.


On the 2nd March 1914 – 102 years ago on this date – Patrick Henry Pearse, 37 years of age, delivered the following address to a packed venue, the ‘Academy of Music’ in Brooklyn, New York. Robert Emmet was born in Dublin on the 4th March, 1778 :

“We who speak here tonight are the voice of one of the ancient indestructible things of the world. We are the voice of an idea which is older than any empire and will outlast every empire. We and ours, the inheritors of that idea, have been at age-long war with one of the most powerful empires that have ever been built up upon the earth; and that empire will pass before we pass. We are older than England and we are stronger than England. In every generation we have renewed the struggle, and so it shall be unto the end. When England thinks she has trampled out our battle in blood, some brave man rises and rallies us again; when England thinks she has purchased us with a bribe, some good man redeems us by a sacrifice. Wherever England goes on her mission of empire we meet her and we strike at her: yesterday it was on the South African veldt, today it is in the Senate House at Washington, tomorrow it may be in the streets of Dublin. We pursue her like a sleuth-hound; we lie in wait for her and come upon her like a thief in the night: and some day we will overwhelm her with the wrath of God.

It is not that we are apostles of hate. Who like us has carried Christ’s word of charity about the earth? But the Christ that said, “My peace I leave you, My peace I give you,” is the same Christ that said “I bring not peace, but a sword.” There can be no peace between the right and wrong, between the truth and falsehood, between justice and oppression, between freedom and tyranny. Between them it is eternal war until the wrong is righted, until the true thing is established, until justice is accomplished, until freedom is won. So when England talks of peace we know our answer: ‘Peace with you? Peace while your one hand is at our throat and your other hand is in our pocket? Peace with a footpad? Peace with a pickpocket? Peace with the leech that is sucking our body dry of blood? Peace with the many-armed monster whose tentacles envelop us while its system emits an inky fluid that shrouds its work of murder from the eyes of men? The time has not yet come to talk of peace.’ But England, we are told, offers us terms. She holds out to us the hand of friendship. She gives us a Parliament with an Executive responsible to it. Within two years the Home Rule Senate meets in College Green and King George comes to Dublin to declare its sessions open. In anticipation of that happy event our leaders have proffered England our loyalty. Mr. Redmond accepts Home Rule as a “final settlement between the two nations”; Mr. O’Brien in the fullness of his heart cries “God Save the King”; Colonel Lynch offers England his sword in case she is attacked by a foreign power.

And so this settlement is to be a final settlement. Would Wolfe Tone have accepted it as a final settlement? Would Robert Emmet have accepted it as a final settlement? Either we are heirs to their principles or we are not. If we are, we can accept no settlement as final which does not “break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils”; if we are not, how dare we go on an annual pilgrimage to Bodenstown, how dare we gather here or anywhere to commemorate the faith and sacrifice of Emmet? Did, then, those dead heroic men live in vain? Has Ireland learned a truer philosophy than the philosophy of ’98, and a nobler way of salvation than the way of 1803? Is Wolfe Tone’s definition superseded, and do we discharge our duty to Emmet’s memory by according him annually our pity? To do the English justice, I do not think they are satisfied that Ireland will accept Home Rule as a final settlement. I think they are a little anxious today. If their minds were tranquil on the subject of Irish loyalty they would hardly have proclaimed the importation of arms into Ireland the moment the Irish Volunteers had begun to organise themselves. They had given the Ulster faction which is used as a catspaw by one of the English parties two years to organise and arm against that Home Rule Bill which they profess themselves so anxious to pass: to the nationalists of Ireland they did not give two weeks. Of course, we can arm in spite of them: today we are organising and training the men and we have ways and means of getting arms when the men are ready for the arms. The contention I make now, and I ask you to note it well, is that England does not trust Ireland with guns; that under Home Rule or in the absence of Home Rule England declares that we Irish must remain an unarmed people; and England is right. England is right in suspecting Irish loyalty, and those Irishmen who promise Irish loyalty to England are wrong.

I believe them honest;* but they have spent so much of their lives parleying with the English, they have sat so often and so long at English feasts, that they have lost communion with the ancient unpurchasable faith of Ireland, the ancient stubborn thing that forbids, as if with the voice of fate, any loyalty from Ireland to England, any union between us and them, any surrender of one jot or shred of our claim to freedom even in return for all the blessings of the British peace. I have called that old faith an indestructible thing. I have said that it is more powerful than empires. If you would understand its might you must consider how it has made all the generations of Ireland heroic. Having its root in all gentleness, in a man’s love for the place where his mother bore him, for the breast that gave him suck, for the voices of children that sounded in a house now silent, for the faces that glowed around a fireside now cold, for the story told by lips that will not speak again, having its root, I say, in all gentleness, it is yet a terrible thing urging the generations to perilous bloody attempts, nerving men to give up life for the death-in-life of dungeons, teaching little boys to die with laughing lips, giving courage to young girls to bare their backs to the lashes of a soldiery.

It is easy to imagine how the spirit of Irish patriotism called to the gallant and adventurous spirit of Tone or moved the wrathful spirit of Mitchell. In them deep called unto deep: heroic effort claimed the heroic man. But consider how the call was made to a spirit of different, yet not less noble mould; and how it was answered. In Emmet it called to a dreamer and he awoke a man of action; it called to a student and a recluse and he stood forth a leader of men; it called to one who loved the ways of peace and he became a revolutionary. I wish I could help you to realise, I wish I could myself adequately realise, the humanity, the gentle and grave humanity, of Emmet. We are so dominated by the memory of that splendid death of his, by the memory of that young figure, serene and smiling, climbing to the gallows above that sea of silent men in Thomas Street, that we forget the life of which that death was only the necessary completion: and the life has perhaps a nearer meaning for us than the death. For Emmet, finely gifted though he was, was just a young man with the same limitations, the same self-questionings, the same falterings, the same kindly human emotions surging up sometimes in such strength as almost to drown a heroic purpose, as many a young man we have known. And his task was just such a task as many of us have undertaken: he had to go through the same repellent routine of work, to deal with the hard, uncongenial details of correspondence and conference and committee meetings; he had the same sordid difficulties that we have, yea, even the vulgar difficulty of want of funds. And he had the same poor human material to work with, men who misunderstood, men who bungled, men who talked too much, men who failed at the last moment.

Yes, the task we take up again is just Emmet’s task of silent unattractive work, the routine of correspondence and committees and organising. We must face it as bravely and as quietly as he faced it, working on in patience as he worked on, hoping as he hoped: cherishing in our secret hearts the mighty hope that to us, though so unworthy, it may be given to bring to accomplishment the thing he left unaccomplished, but working on even when that hope dies within us. I would ask you to consider now how the call I have spoken of was made to the spirit of a woman, and how, equally, it was responded to.

Wherever Emmet is commemorated let Anne Devlin not be forgotten. Bryan Devlin had a dairy farm in Butterfield Lane; his fields are still green there. Five sons of his fought in ’98. Anne was his daughter, and she went to keep house for Emmet when he moved into Butterfield House. You know how she kept vigil there on the night of the rising. When all was lost and Emmet came out in his hurried retreat through Rathfarnham to the mountains, her greeting was — according to tradition, it was spoken in Irish, and Emmet must have replied in Irish — “Musha, bad welcome to you! Is Ireland lost by you, cowards that you are, to lead the people to destruction and then to leave them?” “Don’t blame me, Anne; the fault is not mine”, said Emmet. And she was sorry for the pain her words had inflicted, spoken in the pain of her own disappointment. She would have tended him like a mother could he have tarried there, but his path lay to Kilmashogue, and hers was to be a harder duty.

When Sirr came out with his soldiery she was still keeping her vigil. “Where is Emmet?” “I have nothing to tell you,” she replied. To all their questions she had but one answer: “I have nothing to say; I have nothing to tell you.” They swung her up to a cart and half-hanged her several times; after each half-hanging she was revived and questioned: still the same answer. They pricked her breast with their bayonets until the blood spurted out in their faces. They dragged her to prison and tortured her for days. Not one word did they extract from that steadfast woman. And when Emmet was sold, he was sold, not by a woman, but by a man — by the friend that he had trusted — by the counsel that, having sold him, was to go through the ghastly mockery of defending him at the bar.
The fathers and mothers of Ireland should often tell their children that story of Robert Emmet and that story of Anne Devlin. To the Irish mothers who hear me I would say that when at night you kiss your children and in your hearts call down a benediction, you could wish for your boys no higher thing than that, should the need come they may be given the strength to make Emmet’s sacrifice, and for your girls no greater gift from God than such fidelity as Anne Devlin’s.

It is more than a hundred years since these things were suffered; and they were suffered in vain if nothing of the spirit of Emmet and Anne Devlin survives in the young men and young women of Ireland. Does anything of that spirit survive? I think I can speak for my own generation. I think I can speak for my contemporaries in the Gaelic League, an organisation which has not yet concerned itself with politics, but whose younger spirits are accepting the full national idea and are bringing into the national struggle the passion and the practical-ness which marked the early stages of the language movement. I think I can speak for the young men of the Volunteers. So far, they have no programme beyond learning the trade of arms; a trade which no man of Ireland could learn for over a hundred years past unless he took the English shilling. It is a good programme; and we may almost commit the future of Ireland to the keeping of the Volunteers. I think I can speak for a younger generation still: for some of the young men that are entering the National University, for my own pupils at St. Enda’s College, for the boys of the Fianna Eireann.

To the grey-haired men whom I see on this platform, John Devoy and Richard Burke, I bring, then, this message from Ireland that their seed-sowing of forty years ago has not been without its harvest, that there are young men and little boys in Ireland today who remember what they taught and who, with God’s blessing, will one day take, or make an opportunity of putting their teaching into practice.”

*“… they have spent so much of their lives parleying with the English, they have sat so often and so long at English feasts, that they have lost communion with the ancient unpurchasable faith of Ireland..” Indeed they have, but it is questionable whether they ever had that faith in the first place, morally and physically so, rather than just verbally?


“The (British) government will, as I said in December, warmly, solemnly and steadfastly uphold Northern Irelands (sic) status. We are not indifferent, we are not neutral”. – the words of then British ‘Direct Ruler’ for the Six Counties, Patrick Mayhew, on 2nd March 1993 (pictured). Irish republicans have always dismissed the propaganda lie from Westminster and its allies here in this State that it was a ‘peace-keeping force’ in Ireland and we welcome confirmation of that fact from the source itself. All that’s required now is that they clear off altogether, perhaps to one of the many other ‘trouble spots’ they are associated with. Or perhaps they can find a new location in which to hone their ‘peace keeping’ skills but, either way, they should realise this is the 21st century and their ’empire’ is finished. Go on home…


On Saturday 25th February 1995, the Provisional Sinn Féin political party held its Ard Fheis in the Mansion House in Dublin and a report on same was carried in that party’s newspaper, ‘AP/RN’, on the 2nd March 1995 – 21 years ago on this date. The Chairperson of their ‘Women’s Department’ and an EEC/EU election candidate for them for a seat in Brussels and a UNISON official, Anne Speed, practically received a standing ovation when she took to the stage and stated – “Partition is unravelling before our eyes.” Interestingly, less than a decade before she took an interest in partition, Anne had ‘unravelled’ herself from a Trotskyist support group – ‘From 1982 on, a number of (‘Peoples Democracy’) activists left them and joined Sinn Féin. At a PD national conference in 1986, a group including Anne Speed proposed the dissolution of the group and that the members all join SF as individuals. This position was defeated by 19 votes to five. A few weeks later the minority of five resigned from PD followed by their supporters and joined Sinn Féin…’ (from here.)

Anne’s colleague, Gerry Adams, standing in front of the partitioned Ireland he has assisted in maintaining.

That was, as stated, 21 years ago, which was three years before Anne Speed and her colleagues in the leadership of that party actually played a leading role in securing the partition of this country by promoting and signing the 1998 Stormont Treaty which, like a previous effort, was sold to almost* all and sundry as a start in removing the British political and military presence from this country whereas what both actually delivered was an attempted unravelling of republicanism but, both in 1921 and 1998, the attempt only weakened Irish republicanism rather than unravel it. (*Those with a proper understanding of republicanism warned against so-called ‘stepping stones’ and have been proved right re same.)

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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