ON THIS DATE (3RD JANUARY) 78 YEARS AGO : FREE STATE AGENTS TAKE PHYSICAL REVENGE ON SON OF REPUBLICAN LORD MAYOR.
In Cork, in 1920, Irish republican Tomás MacCurtain was elected as ‘Lord Mayor’ of the city, just one of the many changes that resulted from the 15th January local council elections that were held in Ireland that year, in which Sinn Féin won control of 11 out of 12 cities and boroughs – the only municipal council in all Ireland left under Unionist control was in Belfast ; out of 206 councils elected on the island, 172 now had a republican/nationalist majority.
The British had ‘outlawed’ Dáil Éireann (the 32-county body, not the pretend ‘Irish parliament’ in Kildare Street, in Dublin, which Free Staters claim, falsely, to be the same institution) which had directed all local council’s in Ireland to break their connection with the (British) Dublin Castle system of local administration and, within months, most of the local councils in the country were reporting to the republican administration. Incidentally, that All-Ireland (32 County) Dáil continued to function underground until 1938, when it delegated its executive powers to the Army Council of the IRA, in accordance with a resolution of the First Dáil in 1921. With the 1969 split, Tom Maguire, the last and faithful survivor of the All-Ireland Dáil, stated that the Provisional IRA was the successor of the 1938 body – similarly, following the 1986 split, he nominated the Continuity IRA as the legitimate IRA. Tom Maguire died in 1993, aged one-hundred-and-one (101).
Tomás Óg MacCurtain (pictured, above) who, in the year that his father was elected as ‘Lord Mayor’ of Cork, was only five years of age. He developed an interest in all things Irish, encouraged as much by his mother, Eibhlís Breathnach, as well as his father and, as an adult, became every bit as active in Irish republicanism as was his father, and quickly became a trusted and leading republican, sitting on the Executive of the IRA. This, plus his family history, marked him out to the Free State ‘authorities’ as ‘a person of interest’.
On Wednesday, 3rd January 1940 – 78 years ago on this date – in St. Patrick Street in Cork, Tomás Óg was jumped-on by a number of Free State Special Branch men, who had decided to ‘arrest’ him – he fought with them and, in the scuffle, a gunshot was fired. A Free State detective by the name of Roche, from Union Square Barracks, who in particular had been harassing Tomás Óg for weeks, fell to the ground – he was fatally wounded and died the next day. On the 13th June 1940, the Free State ‘Special Criminal Court’ sentenced Tomás Óg MacCurtain to death, to be carried out on the 5th July 1940. An application for ‘Habeas Corpus’ was lodged and the execution was postponed for a week, but the Free State Supreme Court then dismissed the appeal. The whole country was divided over the issue – some demanded that he be put to death immediately as a ‘sign’ from the Fianna Fail administration that they were serious about ‘cracking-down’ on their former comrades in the IRA, while others demanded that he be released.
Finally, on the 10th July 1940, the Free Staters issued a statement – “The President, acting on the advice of the government, has commuted the sentence of death on Tomás (Óg) MacCurtain to penal servitude for life.”
It has since been alleged that a sister of Cathal Brugha’s widow, who was then the Reverend Mother of an Armagh Convent, had requested that her ‘boss’ , Cardinal MacRory, should ‘speak to’ Eamon de Valera about the case. This, if indeed it did happen, and the fact that Tomás Óg’s father had actually shouldered a gun alongside many members of the then Fianna Fail administration (before they went Free State, obviously), saved his life. Tomás Óg MacCurtain died in 1994, at 79 years of age. An interview he gave in connection with the IRA’s ‘Border Campaign’ can be accessed here.
SLIP – AND RECOVERY.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.
The Kerry County Board, GAA, in a moment of absent-mindedness, apparently, allowed themselves to be persuaded to invite ‘Senator’ Liam Kelly to throw in the ball at the County Championship Final in Tralee on Sunday, 19th September, and the proposal received widespread publicity inspired by those who are trying to capitalise on the new ‘star’.
However, before the 19th September, some Kerry republicans notified the County Board that they disagreed very much with the idea, while the Kerins-O’Rahilly Band arranged to lead the parade of the teams round the field before the match, realising the obvious inconsistency of a band named in memory of Charlie Kerins turning out to honour a man who is so loud in his praise of the Constitution under which Charlie was executed, informed the County Board they could have the Senator or the band, but not both.
In the end the County Board decided to drop the throwing-in ceremony. A public meeting for Saturday night was hurriedly arranged as a consolation for Mr Liam Kelly by some of his political friends. (Next – ‘In Ireland’s Cause’ ; a poem by Alice French, from the same source.)
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.
‘In the name of God.
By Christ his only Son,
by Mary his gentle mother,
by Patrick the Apostle of the Irish,
by the loyalty of Columcille,
by the name of our race,
by the blood of our ancestors,
by the murder of Red Hugh,
by the pitiful death of Hugh O’ Neill,
by the desire of Sarsfield at the point of death,
by the groaning of the oppressed Fitzgerald,
by the fate of Owen Roe,
by the dripping wounds of Emmet,
by the corpses of the famine (sic),
by the tears of Irish exiles.
We swear the Oath our forefathers swore,
that we will burst the bondage of our Nation,
or fall side by side.
Amen. (Next – ‘Unchristian? Immoral? Illegal?’, from the same source.)
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.
Screws by their nature are creatures of unthinking routine. The cages of Long Kesh were designed to keep people in. Their design and construction insured that things could be kept out as well. The idea that someone could smuggle a horse into a cage is ridiculous, but because of the screw’s intensive training (which strangles logical thought and common sense), we obviously had a horse. There could be no other possible reason. Honky’s opportunity to gain us a victory had come!
The dinner trolley was adapted into a conveyance that could hold both the horse (this was the easy part) and Honky. This was before calculators were invented, so forty of us took off our shoes and socks and estimated the correct displacement of Honky’s weight, so as the horse wouldn’t collapse until the optimum moment. Honky stood about in the nude as we readied his impotent stallion. It was just getting dark as he mounted the horse, and he toured the cage in what has now entered the annals of republican folklore as ‘Honky Godiva’s Last Gallop’. With Honky on its back, the magnificent beast made his way to the gate, where the PO waited to find out what was causing the commotion.
The PO was short, English and an ex-British Army sergeant major, and the uniform he wore was immaculate. The ‘Prison Rules and Regulation Book’ was his bible. He had the bearing of Colonel Blimp, the attitude of a French Foreign Legion martinet, but the scoutmaster of St Peter’s Divis Street Belfast Branch of the Boy Scouts of Ireland had more experience of conflict than he had. He was small in stature, intellect and sense of humour and, in his regulation prison officer boots, he stood a good four feet one inch off the ground, which still left him on average one foot five inches below the rest of us. And he had a rat-loke face and dead eyes and a thin razor-like waxed moustache, which he obviously took great pride in… (MORE LATER).
Thanks for reading, Sharon.