ON THIS DATE (9TH NOVEMBER) 95 YEARS AGO : BRITISH GOVERNMENT’S ‘SECRET CIRCULAR’ RE EMPLOYING ARMED ANTI-IRISH MILITIA IN IRELAND.
In Ireland, in 1920, the British administration established a large paramilitary force of anti-Irish unionists and declared that that grouping should be known as the ‘Special Constabulary’, comprising approximately 40,000 members in total. It was a three-tiered grouping : group ‘A’, numbering around 2,000 men, would be paid full time, armed and mobile, operating much as the hated RIC did, group ‘B’ would have about 20,000 armed members, part-time, uniformed but unpaid and group ‘C’ would consist of about 15,000 ‘reservists’, to be called ‘for duty’ in times of “extreme emergency” only. A sizeable number of those who joined the new ‘Specials’ were from the ranks of the ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’ (UVF), a pro-British paramilitary outfit which, even after its numbers had been so diminished, managed to retain a membership of approximately 20,000 (armed) men, with a British Colonel, F.H. Crawford, in charge of it.
The British government was interested in using Crawford’s UVF to further secure its military and political position in Ireland – this was then only five years after the 1916 Rising and both sides in Ireland were aware that the fight was not yet over – and Westminster let it be known that it was in favour of ‘utilising’ those armed men as part of its military effort to ‘secure Ireland for the Empire’, a scenario which the RIC, in turn, ‘let it be known’ that it was in favour of. On the 9th November 1921 – 95 years ago on this date – the Divisional Commissioner of the RIC in the Six Counties, a Colonel ‘Sir’ Charles Wickham, stated, in a ‘secret’ circular which he sent to other RIC bosses in the Six Counties –“Owing to the number of reports which have been received as to the growth of unauthorised loyalist defence forces, the (British) Government have under consideration the desirability of obtaining the services of the best elements of these organisations. They have decided that the scheme most likely to meet the situation would be to enroll all who volunteer and are considered suitable into Class ‘C’ (of the ‘Special Constabulary’) and to form them into regular military units.
There is no necessity to produce the maximum possible number of units ; what is required is to ensure that every unit recommended for formation can be constituted from a reliable section of the population.”
Note how the supposed ‘neutral’ RIC described the UVF paramilitary organisation as a “loyalist defence force” and as “a reliable section of the population” – the British were then, and still are today, ‘in charge’ of those loyalist paramilitary organisations, and use them to carry-out ‘jobs’ which Westminster wants done, but not ‘officially’. Also, about two weeks after ‘Sir’ Wickham wrote and dispatched his ‘secret’ circular, a copy of it found its way into the hands of Michael Collins who, on 23rd November 1921 – while attending Treaty negotiations with the British in London – produced it to the startled British team and told them it may very well signal the end of the ‘negotiations’.
Westminster called-in its top man in the Six Counties, ‘Sir’ James Craig, the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’, and told him that the ‘secret’ circular would have to be withdrawn ; Craig then instructed his ‘Minister for Home Affairs’, a Mr. Richard Dawson Bates (a UVF man) to withdraw the circular. However, by way of a ‘two-fingered salute’ to his political masters in Westminster, when he returned to Belfast, Craig increased the number of ‘A Specials’ by 700 men, and the ‘B Specials’ by 5,000 men! If they couldn’t ‘hire’ “from a reliable section of the population” in one way, then they’d find another way to do it!
Incidentally, Colonel ‘Sir’ Charles Wickham had an interesting background – a British Establishment man through and through,’Sir’ Charles had an interesting background – he spent 23 years as the man in charge of the ‘B’ Specials, and was also head of the RUC for a period. He was born in 1879, in England, and was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, where he no doubt picked-up his ‘stiff upper lip’. At 20 years young he joined the British Army and served in the Boer War and in the ‘First World War’. Between the years 1918 and 1920 he served as a Lieutenant-Colonel with the British military ‘mission’ in the Russian Civil War, following which (at 41 years young) he was the ‘Divisional Commissioner for Ulster’ in the RIC, from 1920 to 1922. It was at that time in his ‘career’ that he helped to establish the Ulster Special Constabulary. At 43 years young he was appointed as the Inspector-General of the RUC, a position he held until 1945 when, at 66 years of age, his paymasters in Westminster formed the opinion that the ‘johnnies’ in the ‘colonies’ would benefit from a spot of ‘Wickham-ism’ . In 1945, British Lieutenant-Colonel ‘Sir’ Charles Wickham was 66 years of age ; but no rest for the wicked. He was sent to Greece to serve as the ‘Head of British Police and Prisons Mission’, where he ‘crossed swords’ with the ELAS guerilla group. He remained in that position until 1952(when he was 73 years of age). The man died in 1972, at the age of 93 and had a longer life than most of those he came into contact with.
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.
BIRD WATCHING IN THE BOG. (By David Lynch.)
I like to watch the
birds feeding in the corner
of the yard each day.
The little sparrows
flee when the big crow arrives
to devour bread.
The wagtail is late
and I begin to wonder
will he ever show.
Maybe the hawk had
got him yesterday morning
as he hovered high.
I saw him last week
trying to kill a starling
feeding beside me.
Much to my delight
a blackbird landed today
beside the jackdaw.
He was a stranger
to these parts because he fed
He would fly up to
the top of the wire fence
when the lads walk by
Another crow lands
and begins to muscle his way
into the group.
He is different
to the other crows
because of his white feather.
the shiny black plumage
of his wing, transparently
The whistling of a
chaffinch perching upon the
of everybody today
as he sings his song.
The swifts display their
flying skills as they catch flies
swooping and swerving
While the pigeons rest
upon the chimney over
Beside the tower.
(Next – ‘Sweet Dreams’, by Kevin Lynch.)
PAINTING (POLITICAL) STROKES…
‘Martin McGuinness helps Her Majesty unveil a new painting to mark her role in Anglo-Irish peace deal…the Queen was joined by former IRA commander Martin McGuinness as she unveiled a new portrait of herself by a Belfast-born artist. Mr McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland (sic), applauded as the monarch pulled the satin cover off the painting at a reception in London today. The Duke of Edinburgh and First Minister of Northern Ireland (sic) Arlene Foster also attended…’ (from here.)
The British ‘queen’ gets a new portrait and her lackeys queue-up to congratulate her – including ex-PIRA new-money man and even ‘newer’ art connoisseur Martin McGuinness who, in actual fact, was present not only to show his admiration for his ‘queen’ but also to evaluate the finished product, as he is thinking of having a portrait of himself commissioned by the same artist. But that will depend on whether he can squeeze the same deal for himself as he recently secured for his party colleagues in the Free State, who will probably settle for an oul photo with their benefactor, Enda Kenny (seen here, sizing-up his own portrait), rather than an audience with their ‘queen’. Martin, on the other hand, gets to hobnob with both!
ON THIS DATE (9TH NOVEMBER) 225 YEARS AGO : DUBLIN REPUBLICANS ESTABLISH A BRANCH OF THE ‘UNITED IRISHMEN’.
‘LIBERTY OR DEATH.
NORTHERN ARMY OF AVENGERS.
The first year of Irish Liberty.
GENERAL, JN TANDY,
to his COUNTRYMEN.
What do I hear? The British Government are dared to speak of concessions! Would you accept of them?
Can you think of entering into a treaty with a British Minister? A Minister too, who has left you at the mercy of an English soldiery, who has laid your cities waste, and massacred inhumanely your best Citizens . . . a Minister, the bane of society, and the scourge of mankind . . . behold, Irishmen . . . he holds in his hand the olive of peace; be aware, his other hand lies concealed armed with a poniard. NO, IRISHMEN, no . . . you shall not be the dupes of his base intrigues. Unable to subdue your courage, he attempts to seduce you, let his efforts be vain.
Horrid crimes have been perpetuated in your country. Your friends have fallen a sacrifice to their devotion for your cause. Their shadows are around you and call aloud for Vengeance.
It is your duty to avenge their death. It is your duty to strike on their blood-cemented thrones the murderers of your friends.
Listen to no proposals, IRISHMEN, wage a war of extermination against your oppressors, the war of Liberty against tyranny, and Liberty shall Triumph.
It was on this date (9th November) in 1791 that James Napper Tandy convened the inaugural meeting of the ‘Dublin Society of United Irishmen’. The meeting took place in the Eagle Tavern (now known as the ‘Quaker [Friends] Meeting House’, where the wall plaque, pictured above, left, is located) in Eustace Street in Dublin city centre. The meeting was Chaired by Simon Butler (1757-1797, a barrister by profession, and brother of ‘Lord’ Mountgarret – family history here), with Tandy himself acting as Secretary, and the following resolutions were among those discussed and passed – ‘That the weight of English influence in the government of this country is so great, as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce…that the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed, is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament… and that no reform is just which does not include every Irishman of every religious persuasion.’
The ‘Dublin Society’ held meetings on alternative Fridays, usually at the Music Hall in Fishamble Street in the city centre, with the objective of working to obtain social democratic reforms and independence from England and developed a strategy of spreading its ideals by means of leaflets, newspapers, ballads, ‘catechisms’ and travelling emissaries. By 1797, the society as a whole had at least 100,000 members throughout Ireland whereas today, although smaller in number (!), the objective remains the same : ‘independence from England’.
IF IT AIN’T WHITE…
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.
In Ireland, the parliamentary left is grossly underdeveloped, while the traditional parties are tolerated for their corruption sagas and needlessly divisive referendums by virtue of what is still a relatively favourable economy.
With the ‘Immigration Control’ group leafleting Clonakilty on the AIDS dangers of immigrants, and the economy likely to get worse before it gets better, a traditionally inward-looking Ireland will do well to face what seems an ugly transition into multicultural nationhood (sic) while carefully avoiding the dangerous voices that influence the ballot boxes and criminal statistics of our continental neighbours.
(END of ‘If it ain’t white’. Next – ‘Trade Unions and Capitalism in Ireland’, from 1982).
NOT IN MY NAME (1).
The Poppy is sold (and worn) in ‘honour’ of all British military personnel, a fact acknowledged by the British Legion and echoed loudly (and often) in Westminster and Stormont. Members of that same blood-thirsty, drugged-up ragged bunch of world-wide mercenaries have caused havoc and spread destitution and moral syphilis in, amongst other global ‘hot-spots’, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji Islands, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, India and about 40 other countries, yet the ‘Establishment’ here in this farce of a Free State constantly attempt to ‘sell’ the Poppy as ‘our way of remembering our Irish soldiers, tens-of-thousands of them, who died in WW1 (sic)…’
But no Irish soldiers died then : rather it was British soldiers, recruited in Ireland, who lost their young lives in that butchery. Irish soldiers also died in that period in Ireland, fighting the British Army, and they are honoured, properly, by the wearing of the Easter Lily, and they do not deserve to be ‘lumped in’ with those from the cesspit ie the Black and Tans, the executioners of the men and women who challenged ‘The Empire’ in 1916 and the BA Para Regiment, to name but some of those who swim in that swill. So don’t wear your bloody poppy in my name.
NOT IN MY NAME (2).
“Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies” (Suzy Kassem).
And that’s why I wouldn’t have voted for either of them – Trump or Clinton were not candidates who would have ‘invested in building bridges etc’ and those of any intelligence that had a vote should have claimed it and then spoiled it in protest at being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Trump is an in-your-face nasty human being and Clinton is a behind-your-back nasty human being. A plague on both their houses, just as surely as either one of them, in office, will bring a plague on all our houses. Trump’s actions in the White House will not be in my name.
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!
‘Honky’ Wilson and the rest of us pretended ignorance of the seagull episode and carried on to the canteen and, as we were doing so, the seagulls who survived the plan unscathed made their escape upwards, ever upwards.
We reached the door of the canteen and peered in – at first glance it looked like a butcher’s shop but I’m happy to report that no seagulls were killed in the execution of the plan. I can’t vouch for the seagulls’ mental condition, but Eddie Brophy certainly went mental! (MORE LATER).
112 AND 8 TO GIVE AWAY ON THE 12TH AND 13TH..!
The ‘112’ is the 112th (Republican) Sinn Féin Ard Fheis which is being held this coming weekend (12th and 13th November 2016) in a Dublin venue and the ‘8’ is a reference to the number of prizes which will be won in the RSF raffle, which is being held on Sunday 13th November next, in a different Dublin venue and for which, as always, all 650 tickets have been distributed and sold- and myself (and others) will be working in, at and on both events. Indeed, work on the raffle began yesterday (Tuesday 8th) while work on the Ard Fheis began weeks ago, but intensifies now. One or other of the above events is more than enough in itself to be getting on with, but both together will be only nuclear and won’t allow us the opportunity to post anything on this blog next Wednesday (the 16th November), meaning that it will be the following Wednesday, the 23rd, before we get the time to do so. And that date – the 23rd November – is an important one for a certain posh barrister who had his political bluff called by those he would have considered to be his ‘friends’ – more about that on the 23rd!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.