ON THIS DATE (20TH DECEMBER) 95 YEARS AGO : POACHER-TURNED-GAMEKEEPER SHOT DEAD BY IRA.
‘Seamus Dwyer was christened James and took the Irish form of his name in later life. He was the younger of twin boys ; he and his elder brother, Luke, were born on the 15th November 1886…(he became) increasingly active in Sinn Féin politics and was recognised as a very prominent member of Sinn Féin in the Rathmines and South Dublin areas. Cahir Davitt, a Judge in the Dáil Courts in 1921 and later the first Attorney General of the Free State, recalled sitting as a judge in the District Court in Rathmines around this time where the other two judges were Erskine Childers and James Dwyer (neither judge was to survive the Civil War)…Dwyer also become involved in the military struggle for Irish independence and served as the Intelligence Officer (I/O) for G Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA during the War of Independence. He was arrested and imprisoned by the British for a time in 1920.
He worked with Michael Collins on policy material, rather than military operations (and) was a member of the Second Dáil, which sat on August 16, 1921 (until 8th June 1922)…the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty (was) signed on 6th December 1921 (and) Dwyer was a strong Pro-Treaty member. Oriel House, a prominent building in the centre of Dublin located on the corner of Fenian Street and Westland Row, was the headquarters of the Free State Intelligence Department which comprised of three sections – the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the Protective Corps and the Citizen’s Defence Force….though there is no record of Dwyer having an official position in the CDF*, it is clear that he was strongly associated with it in the minds of republicans…On the evening of Wednesday 20th December 1922 (95 years ago on this date), as the day’s trading drew to a close (in his shop) Marie was upstairs in their accommodation while her husband, Seamus (37), served customers and spoke with friends in the shop below…it was only five days before Christmas, no doubt trade was brisk and Dwyer was looking forward to the Christmas break.
It was also the day after seven republican prisoners had been executed in Kildare following their capture carrying arms, one of the largest single executions during the Civil War…standing less than a yard away from his victim, (the IRA man) reached into the inside breast pocket of his overcoat and whipped out the revolver, pointed it directly at Dwyer’s chest and fired two shots into him from point blank range. Dwyer was hit in the heart and died instantly, falling behind the counter…his death was noted in the records of Blackrock College by Fr John Ryan CSSp, College historian and archivist: ‘Shot 1922..political assassination – connected with his attitude re killing of Rory O’Connor?’ ‘ (From here.)
*To declare that Seamus Dwyer “had no official position in the CDF” is questionable – “Dwyer was also the head of a shadowy organisation called the Citizens Defence Force which operated out of Oriel House alongside the infamous CID and it is likely that this is the reason why he was killed, probably as a reprisal for the executions which the Free State had started shortly beforehand…” (from here), and then there’s this, which also counters that declaration – ‘The CDF was was set up to protect private property. One of it’s first leaders, Seamus Dwyer, was shot dead in his own shop. Leadership of this body passed on to Harrison*, a former British Army officer. There were 101 members in this body, mostly former BA men, probably recruited from the British Legion. It was a very secretive organisation and used numbers instead of names when writing reports and communicating. Three of it’s members were killed during it’s existence. It was the first body to be abolished after the ending of the civil war…’ (from here / *Captain Henry Harrison, O.B.E., M.C. secretary of the ‘Irish Dominion League’). Finally, this – ‘Seamus Dwyer, killed in his own business premises, is reported to have been in overall charge of the CDF but Dáil records show although considered for the post he did not take it up..’ (from here.) The man was obviously predisposed towards the objectives of the CDF and that was apparently recognised by the then State ‘authorities’.
A local (Clondalkin, Dublin) connection re the above-mentioned execution of Seamus Dwyer –
Dwyer was shot by (anti-Treaty) IRA Volunteer Commandant Robert ‘Bobbie’ Bonfield (pictured) who, at the time, lived on Moyne Road (number 103) in Ranelagh, Dublin.
He was a member of the Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA.
Robert Bonfield was born in Youghalarra, Nenagh, County Tipperary in 1903 (he was only 20 years of age when he was kidnapped and killed by the Staters) and was a member of the Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA. He
was educated by the Christian Brothers at Synge Street, Dublin and, at the age of 17, entered University College, Dublin, to study dentistry. He joined the IRA through contacts in that College. A number of weeks before his death (29th March 1923) he was arrested at his home by the Staters, but he escaped from their custody (in Portobello Barracks) and went on the run, and remained a free man until his recapture and subsequent ‘disappearance’. He was visiting the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday and it would appear was accompanied by another man when he was picked up (visiting the Seven Churches was a custom in Dublin during that period, when its citizens would visit all seven churches during Holy Week).
After being captured he was dragged towards the Baggot Street corner of Stephen’s Green, near the Shelbourne Hotel, and in the direction of both Oriel House and the new CID Headquarters which was just a few hundred yards away on Merrion Square. He was assaulted on several occasions by his escort in full public view and this was the last time he was seen alive ; his dead body was discovered the following day, Good Friday, by a shepherd at Clondalkin, Dublin – the previous day (Thursday, 29th of March 1923, between 6.30pm and 7pm), a young girl named Bella Brown, who lived near the Red Cow in Clondalkin, heard six shots as she was bringing milk to a neighbour’s house. The following day, Friday 30th March 1923, the body of Robert Bonfield was discovered in a field close by – he had been shot several times in the head.
According to testimony given by several witnesses at the inquest there is no doubt that Commandant Bonfield was arrested by members of (Free State) President Cosgrave’s personal body guard and later murdered, either by them, or their associate detectives operating out of Oriel House. He was discovered lying on his side at the bottom of a ditch at Dowling’s Farm, Newlands Cross – he had been shot a number of times. He was aged 20 years. His remains were refused admission to his local Parish church in Ranelagh and he was buried in the family plot, St. Paul’s section, Glasnevin Cemetery :
‘Bonfield was arrested on 07th March 1923 by a Lieut. Bolger after his house at 103 Moyne Road, Ranelagh was raided and a veritable arsenal (including a Lewis Gun and three revolvers) were seized. He was taken to Portobello Barracks from where he subsequently escaped a couple of nights later. He went to the house of schoolmates of his, Brendan and Kevin Mangan, at Albany Terrace, Ranelagh and had a wash and some food before going on the run. A ‘servant girl’ who had helped give him the meal probably reported him to the authorities. The following night the Mangan’s house was raided by “a group of men in plain clothes accompanied by a man in the uniform of an Army Lieutenant” who were looking for Bonfield. Brendan Mangan was taken to the back garden and interrogated. His parents attempted to intervene and when his mother asked why he was not arrested and charged in the ‘proper way’, the chilling reply was “We are out to execute, not make arrests”.
Mangan’s excuses were believed and the group left, which was rather lucky as Bonfield had hidden arms under the floor of the Mangans henhouse and Brendan was aware of this. The Mangans kept the guns hidden for many years and later when the family moved house Brendan transferred the guns to the hen house at their new address. It was only years later when there was an amnesty that his brother Kevin handed in the guns. On the 29th of March 1923, about 2 weeks later, Bonfield was lifted by Cosgraves bodyguard which included Joe McGrath, John O’Reilly (who was either a Colonel, a Commandant or a Superintendent) and an unnamed guard. Two of these men took Commandant Robert ‘Bobbie’ Bonfield to Clondalkin and shot him…’ (from here.)
However, in her book ‘Four roads to Dublin: the history of Rathmines, Ranelagh and Leeson Street’, Deirdre Kelly came across sources who suggested that the then State ‘authorities’ believed that a different IRA man had executed Seamus Dwyer – ‘(IRA man) Frank Lawlor was aware that CID agents were looking for him. He was tracked down to a friends house in Ranelagh and taken from there by the CID. His body was recovered at Milltown Golf Club. Nothing was heard of Lawlor until the 1st of January 1923 when his body was found on Orwell Road…if Frank Lawlor was killed (he was killed by Staters on the 29th December 1922) in revenge for Dwyers death, it appears..that they got the wrong man, as according to IRA officer Séan Dowling it was another man, Bobby Bonfield who shot Dwyer, for which Bonfield was himself assassinated by pro-Treaty forces in March 1923..’, and yet another IRA man, Thomas O’Leary, had his name linked by Staters to the Dwyer execution ; both IRA men were shot dead by Leinster House operatives, either because of the whispered ‘Dwyer link’ or simply due to the fact that they continued to be Irish republicans, unlike those that shot them.
Seamus Dwyer, a member of the Free State political establishment – whether or not he was a member/supporter or leader of the anti-republican CDF organisation, he was a poacher-turned-gamekeeper – was shot dead by the IRA on this date – 20th December – 95 years ago.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.
SCOTLAND YARD MEN IN DUBLIN.
Commander Len Burt, Special Branch Chief of Scotland Yard, and Inspector Gale, also of Scotland Yard, visited Dublin on August 12th where they met Chief Superintendent P. Carroll, head of the Special Branch, Dublin. The visit was described as “purely routine”, whether that means there is a routine police inspection similar to the military inspection of General Woodall at the Curragh is not clear.
It is also said that the police in Northern Ireland (sic), in conjunction with Scotland Yard, had been taking extensive precautions against the possibility of hostile demonstrations on the occasion of the English Queen’s visit to Belfast, and the visit of the Scotland Yard men may have been to gather information on the likelihood of protests organised from the 26 Counties.
It is interesting to note that Kevin McConnell, who was sentenced in Belfast for having copies of ‘The United Irishman’, was first arrested on Friday 13th August, taken to the barracks for questioning and then released. The following evening Special Branch men called to his home in Dublin and questioned his parents, at the request, as they admitted, of Belfast. About three hours later Kevin was again arrested in Belfast, and this time held for sentence.
Another interesting item is that since the Scotland Yard men’s visit, the Dublin Special Branch have started a check-up on those men and women who had been deported from England during the Bombing Campaign in 1939-1940. A number of deportees have already been visited, questioned as to their own movements, whether they were going back to England, whether any of their comrades had already gone back, where they were and so on. How’s that for cooperation?
(Next, from the same source : ‘SLIP – AND RECOVERY.’)
NOT SURE WHEN OUR NEXT POST…
Hopefully (!) we’ll be able to keep to our usual Wednesday schedule and, if so, it will more than likely just be a post featuring pics of the Cabhair Swim, which will be taking place – for the 41st consecutive year – on Christmas Day, at 12 Noon, at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore, Dublin. The ‘Cabhair Crew’ have, as always, gratefully received all the donations from local and near-by shops, pubs and supermarkets etc and this blog can verify that all the usual ‘goodies’ will be available – we’ve seen dozens of cans, bottles, boxes of crisps, boxes of Christmas crackers, tubs of assorted sweets etc ; guaranteed, as always, to put adults and kids alike off their dinner that afternoon/evening! So if you’re in the area on Christmas morning and/or early afternoon, and if you, too, want to get a bollocking for not being able to eat your dinner, then do, please, join us for the Swim. As an observer, I mean…!
ALARM IN UNIONIST CAMP…
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.
Any attempt now by political factions to cut across Sinn Féin policy and divide republicans and separatists can only be regarded as support for British occupation and domination.
The main purpose of the Sinn Féin election campaign is to organise the Irish people into a United Nation. The Six Counties is an integral part of Ireland. Our candidates seeking election there will have the same programme as our candidates, at a latter stage will present to the electorate of the 26 Counties – a Republican Government for the 32 Counties.
The unity and independence of the nation can never be a matter for plebiscite or referendum. It is a God-given right that may not be bartered. It is, however, very important that every man and woman who believes that Ireland should be united and free must vote for the Sinn Féin candidates to demonstrate their solidarity, and determination to wrest our freedom from the invader.
(Next, from the same source : ‘PEARSE’S OATH’.)
CAMPAIGN TO REINTER ‘THE INVINCIBLES’.
6th May, 1882 – the scene of the executions in the Phoenix Park, Dublin (pictured), of two top British officials, ‘Lord’ Frederick Cavendish, and his under secretary, Thomas Henry Burke, by members of ‘The Invincibles’.
The killings were condemned by both the Irish establishment and the churches, but months went by and no arrests were made. Then, in one day, twenty-six men (all members of the ‘Invincibles’) were arrested and charged with the ‘Phoenix Park murders’. The men soon realised that this was no ‘desperate face-saving’ expedition by the British ; one of the top members of the ‘Invincibles’, James Carey, had turned informer and his brother, Peter, also told the British all he knew about the group. The other jarvey (cab-driver) Michael Kavanagh, also agreed to inform on the ‘Invincibles’. Between May and December 1883, fourteen ‘Invincibles’ passed through Green Street Courthouse – five of them were hanged (some of them not ‘properly’ so), they were then decapitated and their remains were ‘gifted’ to be used for ‘medical science’ purposes. One of those spared the death penalty but who was sentenced to life imprisonment instead was James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris, who was arrested on the evidence given by the other driver, Michael Kavanagh.
When he was first arrested, the British offered Fitzharris a deal if he, too, would turn informer, but he refused. His ‘trial’ actually ended with him being acquitted by the jury but the judge then halted proceedings and ordered that he be re-arrested ; he was then charged with being an ‘accomplice’ in the deed, found guilty, and sentenced to life. During both of his ‘trials’, ‘Skin-the-Goat’ made a mockery of the proceedings and refused to recognise the so-called ‘authority’ of the British to carry-out such functions in Ireland. James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was fifty years of age when he began his life sentence – he was sixty-five when he got out of (Portlaoise) Prison, and things had changed ; his comrades were either dead or had moved away and, to the eternal shame of the Republican Movement, it turned its back on the man.
He had no job and no-where to live, he knew no-one and no-one wanted to know him. His choice now was to live on the street or sign himself into the workhouse – he chose the latter, and survived for the next twelve years as a pauper, between the gutter and the workhouse. He died in 1910 (on 7th September) aged seventy-seven. He was jobless, homeless and friendless when he died, alone, in the South Dublin Union Workhouse in James Street, Dublin. James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was twenty-five years young when he joined the Movement in 1858 and stayed true to his republican principles for fifty-two years, until he died. He had a hard life, in hard times, but he came through it and never recanted his actions or his beliefs. And, to his credit, he was working for a noble cause, unlike the two British agents/officials he encountered in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, on the 6th May, 1882.
And, hopefully, republicans today will not ‘turn their backs’ on his comrades :
‘The Invincibles Reinterment Committee was established by and is under the auspices of the National Graves Association. The aim of the committee is to have the remains of five members of the Irish National Invincibles exhumed from the yard in Kilmainham Gaol where they were executed and buried in May 1883.
Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly were convicted of assassinating the British Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish and the Under Secretary, Thomas Herny Burke, in the Phoenix Park in May 1882. The five martyred Invincibles were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and were inspirational figures to later generations who fought for a 32 county Irish Republic. These men deserve a proper burial in a proper cemetery…’
More information on this noble cause can be found here. Sign a petition, make a donation, and/or attend a rally/meeting. Let’s not turn our backs again.
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!
SEND OUT THE HORSE.
This was a plan that everyone in the cage was waiting for. When the opportunity arose, however, it was not the plan Honky had in mind, but came about entirely due to the ‘intelligence’ of the screws. From afar, this noble steed could be mistaken for a real horse. The light had to be right, as well. “We don’t know how you did it, but Regulation 6/8 and Prison Rule N.I.P.S. sub-section 14 states categorically – ‘No livestock or pets of any kind or description are permitted in the cages’ “ said the Principal Officer (that is a screw just above ordinary screw and senior officer, but beneath contempt).
The Officer Commanding Cage 11 looked at the Principal Officer quizzically and asked him what he was talking about. “The horse”, replied the screw. “What horse?”, asked the OC. “Don’t give me that. We know you have a horse in there. It was spotted.” “Let me get this right,” said the OC. “You think we have a spotted horse in here and some of your men saw it – is that it? You really must keep your men away from the medicine cabinet.” “Are you denying that there’s a horse in there?” said the screw, by this time getting frustrated. Or was it embarrassed?
“Would you go away and give my head peace, ye buck-eejit” said the OC, pretending to get annoyed. He then turned and walked away, chuckling to himself. He knew exactly what was happening because with the remnants left from the horse that Floorboards had, he had made a dog for the OC… (MORE LATER).
Thanks for reading,agus Beannachtaí na Nollag ; we’ll be back here before the end of the year with, as mentioned above, a few pics from the Cabhair Swim. Or we hope to be, as the ‘Swim Party’ afterwards is some craic and is well worth eating your Christmas dinner on Stephen’s Day for!