“We must take no steps backward, our steps must be onward, for if we don’t, the martyrs that died for you, for me, for this country, will haunt us forever” – Máire Drumm, (pictured).

On the 28th October 1976 – 44 years ago on this date – the then Sinn Féin Vice President, Máire Drumm, was shot dead in her hospital bed by a pro-British loyalist death squad. She was born in the townland of Killeen, South Armagh, on the 22nd October 1919 to a staunchly republican family (the McAteer’s) and her mother had been active in the Tan War and the Civil War.

In 1940, Máire joined Sinn Féin in Dublin but, in 1942, she moved to Belfast, which became her adopted city, and she continued her republican activities. Every weekend, she would carry food parcels to the republican prisoners in Crumlin Road Jail and it was here that she met Jimmy Drumm, who she married in 1946. When the IRA renewed the armed struggle in the late 1950s, Jimmy was again interned without trial from 1957 to 1961, and Máire became more actively involved in the civil rights movements of the 1960s. She worked tirelessly to rehouse the thousands of nationalists forced from their homes by unionist/loyalist pogroms.

During her work as a civil rights activist, Máire emerged as one of the republican movement’s most gifted leaders and organisers and was the first to warn that the British troops sent in as ‘peace keepers’ were a force of occupation. Máire was a dynamic and inspirational speaker – once, when addressing a rally in Derry after the shooting of two men from the city, Máire said – “The people of Derry are up off their bended knees. For Christ sake stay up. People should not shout up the IRA, they should join the IRA…”

In 1972, she became Vice President of the then Sinn Féin organisation and, due to her dedication and the dedication of her family to the republican struggle, they were continuously harassed by the RUC, British Army and by loyalist paramilitaries.

The British Army even constructed an observation post facing their home in Andersonstown and, at one point, her husband and son were interned at the same time. Her husband, Jimmy, became known as the most jailed republican in the Six Counties and Máire herself was also jailed twice for ‘seditious’ speeches, once along with her daughter.

In 1976, at only 57 years of age, her eyesight began to fail and she was admitted for a cataract operation to the Mater Hospital, Belfast. On the 28th October 1976, as Máire lay in her hospital bed, loyalist killers wearing doctors white coats walked into her room and shot her dead. Máire Drumm, freedom fighter and voice of the people, was buried in Milltown Cemetery.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.

In spite of attempts by the unionists, the ‘nationalists’ and the so-called ‘national press’ to misrepresent the policy of Sinn Féin, the republicans and the separatists in the north rallied to the cause of Irish freedom and unity and elected two representatives to the republican parliament of the 32 Counties. The results are a striking vindication of Pearse’s dictum that “the great, silent suffering mass of the Irish people are always ready to assert their right to freedom. The people have never failed Ireland. Always it has been the leaders who have failed the people.”

On nomination day, the unionists tried to stampede the electors by declaring that votes cast for Mitchell and Clarke would be thrown away – that they would be completely discounted and the unionist candidate elected, but the republican electors were not deceived nor intimidated by the unionist tactics. Now that the smoke and fire of battle has cleared away, the unionists are regretting their rash threat and cannot decide what to do.

The legal position was made quite clear by the lobby correspondent of the London ‘Observer’ newspaper on Sunday 29th May, 1955, three days after the election : “Several Sinn Féin candidates were elected in 1918 although they were in prison, but no attempt was made to unseat them, and there has been no change in the law since then…”



It’s practically impossible to write about William Keogh (pictured) without mentioning his pledge-breaking colleague and fellow charlatan, John Sadleir. Both men were born into difficult times, but so were many others and not all of them resorted to being ‘snake oil’ sales people, the path chosen by Keogh and Sadleir.

Their 19th century Ireland was one in which approximately six-and-a-half million people ‘lived’ in, which was a rise in population of about three-and-a-quarter million since the introduction of the potato into the country in the middle of the 18th Century (ie 1760, population of approximately three-and-a-quarter million ; 1815 – population of approximately six-and-a-half million).

With the potato being in itself highly nutritional and a good basis for an adequate diet, as well as being a prolific crop, the poor were able to get better use from what little land they had and use their land to support more people, which led to an increase in the population. Also, the potato needed less land than, for instance, grain, and allowed the farmer to grow other crop elsewhere which he could then sell. Unfortunately for the Irish ‘peasant’ farmer (as the British described us) , this ‘good fortune’ was noticed by the British ‘landlords’ and rents were increased at the same period that land was scarce (due to the population increase) – the ‘rent’ for a ‘holding’ quadrupled between 1760 and 1815, so the ‘holding’ (ie small farm) was sub-let, usually to the farmers sons, so that the ‘rent owed’ for that patch of soil could be shared by the family.

However, the Irish spirit was strong, and the British ‘landlords’ and their agents did not have it all their own way. The so-called ‘lower-ranks’, the ‘wretched people’, those who wore ‘the mark of slavery’, had organised themselves as best they could ; secret, underground oath-bound societies fought back – the Whiteboys, Oakboys, Moonlighters, the Defenders and the Steelboys : fences belonging to British ‘landlords’ were ripped-up, the ‘masters’ cattle were taken, his haystacks and crop removed, his ‘Big House’ attacked and, when possible, levelled and burnt, and he himself, and his minions, put to death when the opportunity presented itself to do so. It was into this ‘melting-pot of madness’ that a child was born in County Tipperary in 1815 – John Sadleir.

At the time that John Sadleir (pictured) was growing-up, a man named George Henry Moore (who was connected to, and supported by, the Catholic Church Hierarchy) was organising a ‘pressure-group’ which was to be called the ‘Irish Brigade’ to lobby Westminster on behalf of the Catholic Church, its members, and its ‘flock’ – John Sadleir joined the ‘Irish Brigade’ lobby-group and became a prominent member of it, as did about twenty liberal-minded British MP’s, including William Keogh. When John Sadleir was 36 years of age (in 1851) the British administration introduced the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ (on 6th February 1851) making it ‘illegal’ for any Catholic prelate (ie priest, arch-bishop, bishop etc) to be that which the Vatican claimed him to be – that is, under the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’, it was deemed to be ‘a crime’ to be described as the ‘parish priest of XXX’, ‘arch-bishop of XXX’, ‘bishop of XXX’ etc – in short, the assumption of titles by Roman catholic priests was outlawed by Westminster : the British wanted to curb the activities and influence of the catholic church, but this ‘law’ was not always followed-up (ie enforced) on the ground (what we in Ireland would call ‘an Irish solution to an Irish problem’).

However, enforced or not, the ‘Titles Bill’ was vehemently opposed by John Sadleir and William Keogh and ‘The Irish Brigade’ (who were by now known by the nick-name of ‘The Popes Brass Band’, such was their support for the catholic hierarchy) and others, too, were opposed to the ‘Bill’ – a group known as the ‘Tenant Right League’, which had been founded in 1850 by ‘Young Ireland’ Movement leaders Charles Gavan Duffy and Frederick Lucas (to secure better conditions for those that worked the land) also campaigned against ‘The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ : the ‘Tenant Right League’ was formed in City Assembly House in William Street in Dublin in August 1850, after a four-day conference which was attended by a right mix of people – magistrates, ‘landlords’, tenants themselves, priests (of both Catholic and Presbyterian persuasion) and newspaper journalists and editors. In his own constituency, where he was entertained to a public banquet on the 28th October, 1851 – 169 years ago on this date – William Keogh declared, in the presence of Archbishop McHale : “I will not support any party which does not make it the first ingredient of their political existence to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Act…” and again, in Cork, on the 8th March, 1852, he declared : “So help me God, no matter who the Minister may be, no matter who the party in power may be, I will support neither that minister nor that party unless he comes into power prepared to carry the measures which universal popular Ireland demands…” As the British themselves are fond of saying – ‘Fine words butter no parsnips’.

In 1852, ‘The Irish Brigade’ and ‘The Tenant Right League’ joined forces to get the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ revoked and, in July that year (1852) the new grouping came together as ‘The Independent Irish Party’, which declared that “legislative independence is the clear, eternal and inalienable right of this country, and that no settlement of the affairs of Ireland can be permanent until that right is recognised and established…(we will) take the most prompt and effective measures for the protection of the lives and interests of the Irish people, and the attainment of their natural rights…” John Sadleir and William Keogh, two of the more prominent MP’s in ‘The Independent Irish Party’ (of which there were about forty, as the new ‘IIP’ was joined by Irish MP’s in Westminster) , like all the other ‘IIP’ representatives, took a pledge not to accept any Office in a Westminster administration or to co-operate with same until, among other things, the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ was done away with ; however, the British had seen developments like this elsewhere in their ’empire’ and were preparing to manoeuvre things in their own favour.

The new ‘Independent Irish Party’ was flexing its muscle ; as William Keogh (a barrister and MP for Athlone) put it – “I will not support any party which does not make it the first ingredient of their political existence to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. So help me God …” By this stage, Charles Gavan Duffy had been elected as an ‘Independent Irish Party’ MP to Westminster, representing the New Ross area of Wexford. The ‘IIP’, with forty members elected to Westminster, did actually hold the balance of power in ‘Lord’ Derby’s Tory-led government in Westminster and so pressed their claims with that administration regarding the ‘Titles Bill’ and other matters pertaining to Ireland – but they got no satisfaction from ‘Lord’ Derby or any of his Ministers, so the ‘IIP’ ‘pulled the plug’ and the British government of the day collapsed.

The main opposition party in Westminster, the ‘Whigs’, led by ‘Lord’ Aberdeen (pictured), apparently promised John Sadleir IIP MP and William Keogh IIP MP that the ‘Whigs’ would be sympathetic to the interests of the ‘Independent Irish Party’ and the two Irish MP’s, in turn, passed this information on to the ruling body of their own party and it was agreed to support the ‘Whigs’ in their bid for power which, with ‘IIP’ support, they got. But no sooner had ‘Lord’ Aberdeen climbed into the prime ministerial chair when his political promises to Sadleir and Keogh were cast aside ; he was, it seems, prepared to ‘honour’ part of the agreement he made with the ‘Independent Irish Party’ representatives and party, but not enough to satisfy them, and certainly not enough when compared with what he said he would do. This led to rows and bickering within the ‘IIP’, a signal which ‘Lord’ Aberdeen picked-up on and used to his own advantage, in true British ‘divide-and-conquer’-style.

‘Lord’ Aberdeen offered John Sadleir IIP MP the position of ‘Lord of The Treasury’ in the new British administration, and also ‘threw a bone’ to the other dog, William Keogh IIP MP – that of the Office of British Solicitor-General for Ireland and, despite already having their parsnips well buttered, both men took the offer, and the Catholic Church, subservient as ever to the British, when push came to shove, supported them for doing so! This tore not only the ‘Independent Irish Party’ asunder (although it did manage to ‘hobble’ on for another few years, disintegrating along the way) until finally it disbanded in 1858, but it also disappointed Charles Gavan Duffy IIP MP, one of the more prominent members of the party, so much so that, in October 1855, he emigrated to Australia in despair.

As ‘Lord of The (British) Treasury’, John Sadleir aspired to a lifestyle which he no doubt considered to be his of right – he was, after all, a British Minister and he also owned, by now, a community-type bank/financial house, in Ireland – the ‘Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank’ (pictured) : however, such was his taste for the fine life and his desire to ‘keep in’ with his new ‘friends’, when his bank was found to be shy by over one million pounds the shame was too much and he killed himself in 1856. However, his old buddy, the British Solicitor-General for Ireland, William Keogh, somehow managed to ‘soldier-on’ and was asked to perform another task for his British pay-masters and he became a British Judge, in Ireland, during the infamous Fenian Trials of 1865-1867, where he verbally cracked many an Irish rebel skull, saving his employers from getting their hands even more bloodier. His conscience must have eventually got the better of him because, in 1878, he, too, killed himself. It could only make you wonder that, had he a bank to embezzle, would he have lived longer?

Despite success at the polls, and having the ‘ear’ of the political bosses and the ‘respect’ of the British ‘establishment’ and good, favourable media coverage, being well-dressed, well-spoken and well-paid, if you lose your political principles, you’re finished – draw your own conclusions….


By John Drennan.

From ‘The Magill Annual’, 2002.

The law exists to protect us but, as with the moral law of the Church, those who devote their lives to it should be under its closest scrutiny, precisely because they are more empowered by it than anyone else in our society.

It is time that journalism and politics started asking difficult questions of the legal profession. For starters, we can look into the scandal of the family courts, and then go on to ask who benefits the most from our relatively new-found public tribunal culture. Only then will we even begin to redress the balance of power between the people and the courts.

(END of ‘Is It Time To Ask Questions Of The Legal Profession?’ ; NEXT – ‘In The Name Of The Law’, from the same source.)


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.

“A Chara,

The following statement has been released for publication. Please publish it in full or not at all…

Those who think in terms of a compromise with the leadership of Fianna Uladh must also realise that when they seek to get an alignment with the latest arrival of the splinter parties they are seeking that which is tantamount to an alignment with either Clann na Poblachta or Fianna Fail, both of which, for their own separate ends, foster and promote the growth of Fianna Uladh, whose advent can only distract our people further.

Its continued existence can but serve to create further dissensions and its leaders appear to do all in their power to retard and obstruct the advance of the Republican Movement.

Issued by the Army Council, Óglaigh na hÉireann, and the Standing Committee, Sinn Féin.”

(END of ‘The Republican Position ; Statement Issued By Óglaigh na hÉireann and Sinn Féin’. NEXT – ‘Return To Sinn Féin’, from the same source.)

Thanks for reading – Sharon and the ‘1169’ team. Are you still with us, out there? Hard to know just where we are, in this State, in relation to the health and safety of the citizens of this State, as ‘regulated’ by Leinster House, that is : we think, as it’s a Wednesday, we’re somewhere between level 3.5 and level 5 of the ‘lockdown’. Not sure. And it could change tomorrow. Or maybe not. Sure we’ll see how it goes…

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:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.