ON THIS DATE (6TH JULY) 40 YEARS AGO : IRA ESCAPE PLAN FINALISED.
Near the end of 1975, the then British Secretary of State for ‘Northern Ireland’ (sic), Merlyn Rees, announced that as of from March 1976, those found guilty of ” terrorist offences” would be treated as “criminals” ; Irish republicans at that time highlighted the issue in question (ie political status) by referring back to the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, when republican prisoners in Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail demanded to be treated as Prisoners Of War, not as “commom criminals”.
The British refused, and a hunger-strike was called – Irish Republican Brotherhood leader Thomas Ashe went on hunger-strike and died after being force-fed by the British, which is just one example of many when Irish republicans fought back as best they could against a political regime which was attempting to criminalise them.
In mid-January 1976, the Free State Gardai located what they claimed to be a “bomb factory” in the Donabate area of North Dublin ; five Irish republicans were in Free State custody in connection with that ‘find’ – Jim Monaghan, Donal Murphy, Michael O’Rourke, John Hagan and Joe Reilly. And the leadership of the then IRA wanted those men out. At the end of June 1976, it became known that the ‘trial’ of the five men would see them together in the one building for a short time during the following month, July 1976 ; the then IRA’s Acting Adjutant General and the Adjutant of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade held a meeting – it was known that the ‘trial’ would be over by mid-July 1976 , and it was then the end of June 1976. Things would have to move fast. However, the IRA GHQ Staff asked if a successful rescue operation could be mounted in such a short period of time and another meeting was arranged ; this was held on 6th July 1976 – 40 years ago on this date – and those present from IRA GHQ Staff asked for detailed plans on how the rescue attempt would proceed. The requested details were handed over by the Intelligence Officer of the Dublin Brigade IRA and discussed between the group, which included the Adjutant of the Dublin Brigade, the Acting-Adjutant General, the IRA Director of Intelligence, the IRA Director of Finance and a GHQ/Dublin Brigade Officer. Detailed plans of the lay-out of the inside of Green Street Courthouse had been acquired, as had the roster by which the Gardai on duty worked.
The five prisoners themselves had been contacted re the rescue attempt and were prepared to take part in it, so the ‘go-ahead’ was given for an agreed date : 12th July 1976, a Monday, although this was later changed to Thursday, 15th July 1976, for reasons unknown to this scribbler. The plan called for simultaneous action by the five prisoners and the IRA Unit – at an agreed time, the five men were to force their way into the courtyard of Green Street Courthouse and run towards the gates, where the explosives were. Seconds before the men were to have started their run, the gates were to have been blown off their hinges by an explosives charge. The confusion caused by the explosion would, it was expected, allow the five men to make it to the cars which would be waiting for them, and then driven to pre-arranged safe-houses. The explosion at the gates of Green Street Courthouse was to be timed for 1.30PM, lunch-break, because it was known that security would be slacker than usual. On Wednesday , July 14th, 1976, about one dozen IRA men held a last meeting to finalise the next days action ; the Dublin Brigade QM and Engineering Officer, the Brigade Adjutant and the Intelligence Officer were present, and each man re-checked their role in the job. Satisfied that they could do no more, the men went their separate ways. Early on Thursday morning, July 15th, 1976, the plan came together ; the IRA Unit met-up, as arranged, and took up their positions. And waited. Then, at 1.30pm, a loud explosion lifted the locked gates off their hinges and crumbled most of the walls either side of where the gates had been – at that time, too, the five republican prisoners had broke free from their captors and were running towards the remains of the gates – one of the prisoners, Donal Murphy, was dazed by the explosion and lost his bearings ; he ended up in the actual Courtroom, was recognised and jumped on and held by the Gardai.
The other four escapees – Jim Monaghan, Michael O’Rourke , John Hagan and Joe Reilly – ran into a scene of total confusion ; the gates were smoking and still rattling on the ground, bits of concrete and brick were still flying through the air, a dust-cloud made it near impossible to see more than a few yards and people were running in all directions. The escapees couldn’t locate the get-away cars and made off on foot ; but by now the immediate area was filling-up with Gardai and armed Special Branch and, within minutes, things went wrong : three of the men – John Hagan, Jim Monaghan and Joe Reilly – were pulled-in by the Special Branch on Granby Place and re-arrested. Meanwhile, the other escapee, Michael O’Rourke, was by now on O’Connell Street getting into a taxi. He was taken safely out of the State and put-up in a safe-house in America, but was arrested in 1980 ; a four-year legal battle began but, in 1984, Michael O’Rourke was extradited to Ireland and imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison. The break-out made international headlines and embarrassed the then Dublin administration, led by Fine Gael’s Liam Cosgrave. It also proved, once again, to the Free Staters, that the spirit of Irish republicanism cannot be incarcerated.
PROSE AND CONS.
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 SAY NEVER. (By Pat Kelleher.)
In your eyes, in your soul
mind starts playing, blood runs cold
forbidden secrets never to be told
can’t stop this feeling
can’t close the door
can’t see the reason
can’t take no more.
Bolts of white lighting
with the thunder of drums
hit and miss in the dark
Q those instructions
weeping like willows
on pillows of down
forever and on.
Battle with the demons in your head
walk the primal path with the walking dead
dance with tribal dancers
with their flowers and wreaths
a common god is what we need.
And when you die it’s not the end
into the great abyss your soul is your friend
a sponge absorbing water
a being absorbing life
eyes closing alive.
(Next – ‘Cosmic Grace’ , by David Lynch.)
ON THIS DATE (6TH JULY) 109 YEARS AGO : IRISH CROWN JEWELS DISCOVERED ‘MISSING’.
The collection consisted of an eight-pointed star of Brazilian diamonds with an emerald shamrock and ruby cross at its centre, and a similar badge of rubies and diamonds as well as a gold harp and crown, all of which were discovered to be ‘missing’ from the safe they were secured in, on Saturday, the 6th of July, 1907 – 109 years ago on this date :‘The main suspects are long dead, the scapegoat lies rotting in a bitter grave, and brown envelopes have replaced knighthoods as the reward for politically motivated collusion….the men associated with the theft never associated with each other again, and many of them met with grizzly ends. Goldney died in a car crash in 1914. Pierce Gun Mahony — a nephew of Vicars — was shot through the heart in a hunting accident. Vicars was tied to a tree and shot by the IRA in 1921, while Gorges was struck by a train in 1944. As for the jewels, they were most likely broken up and sold as individual pieces, though there is documentation that the Russians tried to sell them back to an uninterested government in 1927. While the Gardaí dug up areas of Three Rock Mountain, in Dublin, after a death-bed confession by a member of the IRA in 1983, £1,000 was offered as reward for their discovery at the time. It is still unclaimed….’ (from here.)
The man responsible for their safekeeping at the time, Arthur Vicars, the ‘Officer of Arms’ of Dublin Castle, wrote, in his last will and testament – “I might have had more to dispose of had it not been for the outrageous way in which I was treated by the Irish Government over the loss of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907, backed up by the late King Edward VII, when I was made a scapegoat to save other departments responsible and when they shielded the real culprit and thief, Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the explorer who didn’t reach the South Pole). My whole life and work was ruined by this cruel misfortune and by the wicked and blackguardly acts of the Irish Government. I had hoped to leave a legacy to my dear little dog Ronnie, had he not been taken from me this year….” (from here.)
Not ‘Ronnie’ the pooch – just a depiction of how he might have looked..!
Between Russian involvement (mentioned above), and/or the Irish Republican Brotherhood and/or the part played in the ‘alleged’(?) theft by a homosexual network (!) and/or it being a plot by anti-republican unionists to thwart/highlight the ‘Home Rule’ issue (details here!), we can only hope that Ronnie the pooch might yet get a new headstone from his connection to this nefarious episode – the items have, it seems, been found : ‘…a startling new discovery at Kilmorna House, outside Listowel, indicates the jewels have in fact been recovered by a person or persons unknown..’ The man who found their ‘last resting place’ ‘…was instructed by an informant, with a distinct English accent, to go to the old garden of the house where he found a stone with a Latin inscription which had been removed from behind a brick wall…he believes the stolen jewels…were removed from a box attached to the stone (and) removed at the dead of night because the people who figured out where they were hidden did not want to have to go through the necessary bureaucratic measures to get permission to search for the jewels..’ (from here.)
Well…my next input to this mystery will be to volunteer to look for the items, having enlisted the aid of a few girlfriends. Because, when it comes to jewellery and where to find it, we know what we’re looking for..!
‘Magill’ magazine has unearthed new information which raises a grim but important question : were explosives from within this Republic used in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? It is a question which, bizarrely, also encompasses the controversial Dónal de Róiste case. By Don Mullan, author of the book ‘The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings’.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, February 2003.
THE CLONAGH AFFAIR.
Ex-Commandant Patrick Walshe has distinguished himself as a loyal officer to the State and, more especially, to the protection of lives, north and south. When Garrett FitzGerald was informed of Walshe’s detailed and forthright reporting on Clonagh, motivated by his suspicion that there was a definite correlation between the Provisional IRA’s bombing campaign in the North and the lack of security at the County Meath factory, FitzGerald responded –
“If what you are telling me about him is true, I would have a very high regard for his loyalty. He seems to have been a very vigilant person, concerned for the interests of the State. He did his duty.”
FitzGerald was then told that ex-Commandant Walshe’s best friend in the State Army was Dónal de Róiste and that their friendship endures to this day. He was asked to comment on the apparent anomaly between Walshe being an officer of such high calibre and unquestionable loyalty to the State and, on the other hand, his keeping company with an officer accused of recklessly compromising State security by cavorting with republican subversives.
He responded – “You are quite right to relate the two things. I can see that. You are right.”
FitzGerald’s final words to ‘Magill’ are, unquestionably, relevant to both the Dónal de Róiste case and the Clonagh affair. He said – “Nothing should be covered up. I have always had that view. If you make a mistake, admit it. No cover-up ever lasts. It always comes out anyway.”
(END of ‘Explosive Questions’. Next ; ‘If It Ain’t White’ , from 2002.)
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…
SIN SCÉAL EILE.
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!
CATCH 22 – IN CAGE 22. (In memory of Ned Maguire RIP)
“How can I help you, comrade?”, I asked, pretending I really meant it. Alarm bells were going off in my head. “The thing is, mate, I need a couple of bits of leather, even old stuff,” Big Ned said. This might seem a small request but in actual fact it was an impossibility. All the leather and handicraft material had been destroyed in the fire and had not been replaced as yet. I put my tried and tested pessimistic look on my face – “Two bits of leather? Hmmm, tall order, Ned. What’s it for?,” I asked. “I need to make two pooches” (holsters for toy handguns), said Ned. “You can see the problem there right away, Ned, can’t you”, I asked him.
I looked across the divide between Cage 22 and Cage 6 and knew that Big Ned didn’t see the problem and didn’t share my pessimism. “Are you telling me no?” , asked Ned. “No way,” I replied, “In fact I’m at this very minute trying to think of how to facilitate this under-normal-circumstances reasonable request. But the way things are at this moment, well…” I was clutching at straws. Big Ned upped the pressure : “Like, if you don’t want to help me don’t worry about it…” I was really worrying now. “..I’ve got good mates who’ll help me out..” “Ah hold on, Ned, don’t be taking that attitude,” I said. “Fuck off,” Ned replied, taking the very attitude I had hoped he wouldn’t.
My comrades in Cage 22 started disappearing from around me. “Oy! Dark, hold on a minute…,” I shouted, as young Hughes made good his departure. “I can’t wait,” said the Dark, “I’m going in to read Dan Breen’s ‘My Fight For Irish Freedom”. I knew this was a blatant lie as I read that book and I know there’s no pictures in it… (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (6TH JULY) 70 YEARS AGO : ‘FAMILY OF THE REPUBLIC’ PARTY LAUNCHED.
The political party ‘Clann na Poblachta’ (‘Family of the Republic’) was founded by Seán MacBride in 1946 to appeal to young urban voters and disillusioned republican voters and was officially launched in Barry’s Hotel in Dublin on the 6th July 1946 – 70 years ago on this date. A few years previously another political party, ‘Clann na Talmhan’ (‘Family of the Land’), had been formed in answer to high levels of frustration and anger in rural Ireland. For a time the two parties played a significant role in Irish politics before they were both dissolved in 1965.
Ireland in the mid 1940’s was suffering from high unemployment, emigration, poor housing, poverty and diseases such as tuberculosis. The Fianna Fáil Government led by Éamon de Valera, which had been in power since 1932, had interned militant republicans and had some executed following trial by military tribunal. When the interned republicans were released they formed Clann na Poblachta. The new party grew rapidly and in 1947 contested three by-elections. They were successful in two, Dublin County and Tipperary. In the general election of 1948 Clann na Poblachta had high hopes of replacing Fianna Fáil as the largest party in Ireland. In the event, despite fielding 93 candidates, they won just ten seats.
Following the election Clann na Poblachta became part of ireland’s first Inter-Party Government which was also made up of Fine Gael (31 seats), the Labour Party (14 seats), National (sic) Labour (5 seats), Clann na Talmhan (7 seats) and seven independents. John A Costello of Fine Gael was elected Taoiseach and all parties were represented in the cabinet. Despite the disparate nature of the parties the government lasted for almost three-and-half years and Ireland saw a big improvement in almost every area of its economy. During the lifetime of the Inter-Party Government the declaration of the Republic of Ireland was made in 1949. Also, tuberculosis was practically eradicated, the Industrial Development Authority was established, agriculture was improved with funds from the Marshall Plan and housing was improved.
The Government fell in 1951 following its failure to introduce free health care for mothers and children through the Mother and Child scheme. In the subsequent election Clann na Poblachta secured just two parliamentary seats. The party went into decline and was disbanded in 1965. (From here.)
*The history of breakaway parties in Ireland is not encouraging for those who may be thinking of staking their political careers on the formation of a new one. Most of the smaller parties which littered the political landscape in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s either collapsed or merged with larger ones. The first such party was The Centre Party, formed in 1932 by a number of independent Leinster House members, including Paddy Belton. They were joined later by James Dillon. It was a conservative and pro-Treaty Party (ie – the 6th December 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’) and won over 9 per cent of the vote and eleven seats in 1932. In 1937, it merged with the Blueshirts and Cumann na nGaedhail to form Fine Gael.
The next new party was radical : this was Clann na Talmhan, founded in 1938 to represent the small farmers of the West of Ireland. Together with a number of independent farmers’ candidates, it won 10.6 per cent of the vote and 14 seats in the 1943 general election ; ten of those seats going to Clann na Talmhan. In the general election the following year it won nine seats and, in 1948, seven seats. It entered the first inter-party government along with Clann na Poblachta, the Labour Party, the National Labour Party, Fine Gael and a number of independents.
In the next election, three years later (1951) its number of seats fell again, to six. It declined steadily thereafter, winning five seats in 1954, three in 1957 – following which it supported the second inter-party government – and two in 1961. It collapsed in 1965, twenty-seven years after its foundation due to, among other occurrences, the fact that it had a rival political party in the form of Clann na Poblachta, which is perhaps better remembered, although it only briefly had as much support as Clann na Talmhan and did not last as long.
Clann na Poblachta was founded as a radical Irish republican party by Sean MacBride in 1946, and the following year won two out of three by-elections, defeating Fianna Fail. The General Election of 1948 marked its high point ; it won 13 per cent of the vote and 10 seats. It too entered the first inter-party (Free State) government, and one of its members, Noel Browne, held the key Ministry of Health. This provoked the ‘Mother and Child’ controversy, when Browne’s progressive proposals were repudiated by the government, including his own party colleagues. In the next election the party lost heavily, emerging with 4.1 per cent of the vote and only two seats. Even Sean MacBride lost his seat. In 1954, Clann na Poblachta won three seats, but a smaller share of the poll (3.8 per cent). In 1957, the party got 1.7 per cent of the vote and one seat, and this remained its representation in Leinster House until it was wound-up in 1965.
The 1940’s also saw a split in the Labour Party vote : in 1944, the ‘Irish Transport And General Workers Union’ (ITGWU – now known as SIPTU) split from the Labour Party over the latter’s relationship with Big Jim Larkin, bringing five Leinster House members with it to form the ‘National (sic) Labour Party’. The ‘NLP’ won four seats in the 1944 election, and five in 1948, when it too joined the first inter-party (Free State) government. In that administration, it reunited with the Labour Party in 1950. The split between Noel Browne and Sean MacBride in Clann na Poblachta brought with it the seeds of yet another political party, though these did not come to fruition until 1961 – in that year, Noel Browne, along with Jack McQuillan, formed the ‘National(sic) Progressive Democrats’, which fought the general election and got only 1 per cent of the vote, but it got two seats. In 1963, they joined the Labour Party.
During the rest of the 1960’s, only the three main parties – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour – were represented in Leinster House. Then the ‘Arms Trial’ produced a crisis in Fianna Fail and the beginnings of two further parties – the first of these was Aontacht Eireann, formed by Kevin Boland in 1971 ; he was joined by Seán Sherwin and Captain James Kelly, one of the key figures in the ‘Arms Trial’. But Sean Sherwin failed to retain his seat in 1973, and in 1976 Kevin Boland resigned as leader and the party folded. Neil Blaney adopted a different course of action. He formed a grouping which he described as ‘Independent Fianna Fail’, appearing as an ‘independent’ in election results. Although there were other candidates on this ticket, none of them was ever elected. In 1977 there was another attempt to form a radical party, again involving Noel Browne : he and a number of prominent Labour Party members split to form the Social Labour Party, with Browne as its only Leinster House member but differences emerged between him and other leading members and when he left Leinster House, the party collapsed.
In the next election, in 1981, the ‘Workers Party’, formed ten years earlier out of a split in Sinn Féin, won a seat in Leinster House after three attempts in the three previous elections. In 1982 it won three seats, with 2.3 per cent of the vote, but lost one in the subsequent election, though its share of the vote remained almost the same. The only other small party to have won seats in Leinster House is Sinn Féin , which contested the 1957 election on an abstentionist platform and won four seats ; it lost them all in 1961, and did not contest another election until 20 years later, in 1981, when it was heavily involved in the election campaigns of the H-Block prisoners who ran to highlight the Hunger-Strike. Of obvious necessity, they ran on an abstentionist platform and two of the republican prisoners, Paddy Agnew and Kieran Doherty, were elected ; Doherty died on Hunger-Strike, and Paddy Agnew did not run in 1982. (*The above is an edited version of a piece we first posted here in 2004.)
THIS BLOGGER’S PREROGATIVE!
Regular readers will know that we don’t usually post our usual offering on the blog on the Wednesday following the second Sunday of each month, due to time constraints – on that particular Sunday each month, a 650-ticket fund-raising raffle is held for either the Dublin Comhairle of RSF or for the Cabhair organisation, and this coming Sunday (10th July 2016) is no exception, as work is already underway for the Dublin Comhairle raffle which will be held on the above-mentioned date.
But we’ll be making an exception this time : we’ll post here on that Wednesday (13th) but it will be an exceptional piece, similar to that which we have posted here a number of times over the years. Hope you’re curious enough to check back with us then..!
Ah, stern harsh city, that in your wretched way
Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
Has pushed my timid little feet of clay,
The sacred brown feet of my falling race!
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
In Harlem wandering from street to street… (Apologises to Claude!)
Thanks for reading, Sharon.