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.

ETHAN. (By David Lynch.)

I see you in my dreams
the flower of my seed,
I reach to touch your face
to embrace your every need.

Possessing treasures of the universe
your soul the riches of life,
oblivious to cruel bindings
eyes shine bright as stars at night.

Reciting your poem to me
I feel oh so proud,
the story of the goblin
floating on a cloud.

I hear your laughter
I taste your tears,
surrounding your bed at night
I protect you from your fears.

Whispering I love you
I wonder do you hear?
you smile into my eyes
telling me – loud and clear.

(Next – ‘Long Journey Home’ , by David Lynch.)



The Far Right has been resurgent across continental Europe for several years. But only in the last 12 months has Ireland seen an emergence of openly neo-Nazi cells.
By Alan Walsh.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 2002.

Immigration, crime and an abandonment of traditional values – the extreme right campaign on just those issues and, in economic circumstances such as those recently experienced in Ireland (ie an economic boom and then an economic slowdown) they garner success, like that that the ‘British National Party’ and France’s ‘Front National’ group have enjoyed.

The roots of this re-emergence of the far right lie in the stark economic conditions of the 1970’s and 80’s. France, during the 1980’s, witnessed mass unemployment, public service cutbacks and a crisis in the electorate which had become heavily disillusioned with the socialist Mitterand government. The ‘Front National’, formed in 1972, is now the strongest fascist movement in Europe, and got its breakthrough in a council election in a small town near Paris in 1983. Campaigning largely on an anti-immigrant platform, Jean Marie Le Pen, leader and founder of the FN, used this initial triumph as a base on which to build a series of electoral gains at local level, fielding 25,000 candidates in 1995. These in turn made a platform for an assault at national level, culminating in his most recent spectacular success in the presidential preliminaries.

In England, in a late 1970’s climate of massive cutbacks in health, education and welfare spending, and with unemployment running at almost two million, the NF, a combination of many far-right parties including the ‘British National Party’, took a stance blaming the same immigrants who had been invited to the country to fill the labour shortage after the war. Statistics on racial attacks rocketed and ‘NF’ politics flourished at local election level to such a degree that it was necessary for the ruling Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher to speak of countries being “swamped by foreigners” back from the far right and cash in on their sentiment. The above, however, are all cultures with grand imperial histories.




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)

Big Ned’s face broke into a grin – “You’re one crazy bastard, McCann,” he said, laughing. I started to relax, nerve by nerve, but it took me three days to get my nerves back to where they were before Ned asked me for the leather. “Fair play to you, Ned, you can take a joke,” I reminded him, just in case he forgot. “I’ll get you back for that,” he joked. I hope.

He stuck the two boots down his waistband, toes first, and pretended to draw against me and then he walked away, laughing. Fra came over to the wire to me and said “You’ve balls for burning.” “Yeah”, I said, remembering in that five seconds before Ned started to grin that I could feel all the major organs in my body make their way up my body, “they’re up around my throat somewhere.”

Some months later Ned was caught escaping and was moved to the ‘Sentenced’ end of the Camp into the same Cage as me. Strangely enough, the day he came into the Cage all the Dr. Marten boots mysteriously disappeared. Out of sight, out of Big Ned’s mind!

(End of ‘Catch 22 – in Cage 22’. Next : ‘Catching Seagulls’.)



Richard Willis, a carpenter, and his friend Jack Bolster, a painter, sometimes worked together on jobs ; it was on one such occasion that the two men got talking to a British soldier from the military barracks in Mallow, where Willis and Bolster were working ; the conversation ended with the soldier complaining that those in charge of the forty-five strong Mallow garrison were taking a chance by sending out a detachment of thirty Lancers each morning, to exercise their horses for a few hours. The soldier voiced his fear that the remaining fifteen or so soldiers in the barracks would be unable to prevent the IRA from taking munitions from the barracks should they attack, not realising that the two tradesmen he was talking to were themselves members of the IRA.

The seven IRA battalions in the Mallow and surrounding areas had recently formed, from within their ranks, a ‘Flying Column’, with Paddy Clancy in charge. Richard Willis and Jack Bolster contacted Clancy and told him of the conversation they had with the British soldier – they also had plans and sketches of the barracks, and mentioned that other men in their unit knew the lay-out of the surrounding district, having lived in the area since they were born. Clancy got in touch with Liam Lynch and Ernie O’Malley and a start was made on putting a plan together to raid the barracks for munitions. On Saturday morning, 28th September 1920 – 96 years ago on this date – Richard Willis and Jack Bolster went to the barracks to continue with the job they were doing there, this time accompanied by Paddy McCarthy, whom they introduced to the guards as a Board of Works foreman ; all three were admitted, and all three were armed.

At the same time, Liam Lynch and eighteen members of the ‘Flying Column’ were assembled in small groups in Barrack Street (where the military barracks was located) and six other armed Volunteers were already in control of Mallow Town Hall, a building which the RIC would have to pass should the alarm be raised and the RIC attempt to get to Barrack Street. The barrack gates opened as usual to allow the thirty or so Lancers out and, once they were out of sight, Liam Lynch walked up to the gate, with an envelope in his hand, and knocked until the guard opened up ; when the gate was opened enough to allow the guard to take the envelope, he was rushed by about twenty IRA Volunteers and held captive. The other twelve or so British soldiers were quickly rounded-up : a Sergeant Gibbs attempted to lock the door of the guardroom where the munitions were stored and was shot dead.

About thirty rifles, a couple of light machine-guns and dozens of boxes of ammunition were removed from the barracks and placed in waiting motor cars which drove off immediately ; the RIC knew nothing of the raid and were not seen that morning. As they were leaving the barracks, the IRA set fire to a load of straw, hoping to burn the place down, but the fire didn’t catch – the stairs, floors and walls were all made from stone flaggings.
The next night, British troops from surrounding areas wrecked and burned Mallow Town Hall and the local creamery, and looted any shop they could get in to. They were to pay dearly for their presence over the following months, as their own weapons were turned on them by the IRA.



On the afternoon of 28th September 1976 – 40 years ago on this date – Irish left-winger Máirín de Burca (pictured, left) addressed a meeting of about 60 people in Room 1002, Sonoma State College, California : the meeting was advertised under the title ‘Irish Women’s Rights’ and was one of a series of meetings being organised by feminists at the college. Máirín de Burca was addressing a number of meetings organised across the state of California, by ‘Republican Clubs’ and other like-minded groups.

At each stop on the itinerary, from New York to Los Angeles, the FBI had their agents pumping vast amounts of paper, most of it routine and irrelevant, into the de Burca file. This consisted for the most part in reports of meetings and speeches but, at Sonoma, the US Justice Department decided to go further – they wanted to ‘put a spoke into the de Burca wheel’. Two FBI agents were sent to Room 1002 to serve forms demanding that de Burca register as “an agent of a foreign power”. This is where the whole farce began.

As the Sonoma meeting was about to start, one of the students, Kathy Parker, rose and addressed the gathering – “If there are any law enforcement officers present will you please make yourselves known and tell us your business here.” The students were suspicious that their meeting was under surveillance ; one man spoke up – he was Tom Blavett, campus security officer. And why was he here, he was aked? Well, Blavett explained, it was raining outside, you see, and he had come in out of the rain. No other reason, he said. That was all. Honest, he said. But the two FBI agents in the room said nothing. They simply noted Blavett’s admission and carefully noted his name for their files – but they spelled it ‘Thomas Bovet’. But there was a twist – at the end of the meeting, Tom Blavett approached student Kathy Parker and admitted that he had lied about coming in out of the rain for shelter. Actually, he said, he had been sent to the meeting to keep an eye on the two FBI agents!

The meeting proceeded and the students and de Burca discussed Irish women’s liberation, or lack of it. The FBI agents listened carefully to de Burca and noted what they considered to be the relevant points ; ‘Observation of those in attendance,’ they wrote, ‘disclosed the audience to range in age from elderly grandmother/grandfather types to very young college age types…’ They then entered a note marked ‘Confidential’ into their files, with the heading ‘Women’s groups in Ireland ; National Women Committee, Irish Women United, Irish Country Women’s Association, Trade Union Women’s Forum and the Women Peace Movement’ . The information in that file was subsequently transferred to other FBI files and even today is on tap from the FBI computers for use by any FBI agent sent over to Ireland to infiltrate the Irish womens movement. So, if you meet someone on their way in from the airport, speaking with an American accent and asking for the “National Women Committee” or the “Irish Country Women Association” you can be reasonably sure that they’ve been briefed by the FBI and, should you actually find yourself in the company of a member of, say, the ‘Irish Country Women Association’ group or, God forbid, the ‘Women’s Peace Movement’, then watch out – you could be red-flagging yourself to the FBI! (This piece is an edited version of an article we posted here in 2009.)


40TH ON THE 25th OF THE 12TH FOR THE 32!

The pic on the left is from the 34th successive Cabhair Swim, which took place at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore, Dublin, on the 25th December 2010. And, no, it’s not been photoshopped…

…and yes, I know it’s only September and it’s not right or proper to mention the big day that falls on the 25th December every year which is why I won’t yet actually be using that particular word (!) and will ‘box clever’ by just mentioning that, for the 40th successive year, a Christm… (ooops!) swim will be held at the above-mentioned outdoor venue at 12 noon. On the 25th December, that is. At the 3rd Lock in Inchicore, Dublin. We’ll give it another plug between now and then, for all you slow learners… ;-)!

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.