14TH APRIL, 1923 : FOUR DAYS AFTER AN IRA STRATEGIST IS SHOT DEAD BY THE STATERS, THE IRA DEPUTY-CHIEF OF STAFF IS ARRESTED BY THEM.
“FULL INDEPENDENCE AND NOTHING SHORT OF IT” – Austin Stack, ‘Treaty Of Surrender’ debate, Dáil Éireann* (*..the 32-County body, not the Free State Leinster House assembly).
Austin Stack (pictured) was born on the 7th December, 1879, in Ballymullen, Tralee, County Kerry, and died in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, from complications after a stomach operation, on the 27th April 1929, at only 49 years of age. That wasn’t soon enough, as far as his former comrades were concerned – he had remained a republican, and completely rejected their politics and their Free State.
He was arrested with Con Collins on the 21st April 1916 while planning an attack on Tralee RIC Barracks in an attempt to rescue Roger Casement. He was court-martialed and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to twenty years penal servitude and he was released in the general amnesty of June 1917, and became active in the Irish Volunteers again.
He was elected Secretary of Sinn Féin, a position he held until his death. His health was shattered due to the number of prison protests and hunger strikes for political status that he undertook. In the 1918 general election, while a prisoner in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, he was elected to represent West Kerry in the First (all-Ireland) Dáil, and the British sent him off to Strangeways Prison in Manchester, from where he escaped in October 1919. During the ‘Black and Tan War’, as Minister for Home Affairs, Austin Stack organised the republican courts which replaced the British ‘legal’ system in this country.
He rejected the Treaty of Surrender in 1921 (stating, during the debate on same – “Has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died in the field and in the barrack yard..” ) and, following a short fund-raising/public relations tour of America, returned to Ireland to fight on the republican side in the Civil War.
In the general round-up of Irish republican leaders in April 1923 (during which Liam Lynch was shot dead by Free State troops, on the 10th of that month) Stack, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the rebel forces, was ‘arrested’ in a farmyard in the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Tipperary, not far from Ballymacarbry ; he was carrying a document accepting a proposal by the Catholic Bishop of Cashel to end the war by calling a ceasefire and dumping arms. This was on the 14th April, 1923 – 98 years ago, on this date. Imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, he took part in the mass hunger-strike by republican prisoners in October 1923, which was his 5th hunger-strike in 6 years.
Shortly after the end of that forty-one day hunger-strike, in November 1923, he was released with hundreds of other political prisoners, and he married his girlfriend, Una Gordon, in 1925. In April 1929, at forty-nine years of age, he entered the Mater Hospital in Dublin for a stomach operation. He never recovered and died two days later, on 27th April 1929. He is buried in the Republican Plot, Glasnevin Cemetery, in Dublin.
‘Austin Stack was born in Ballymullen, Tralee and was educated at the local Christian Brothers School. At the age of fourteen he left school and became a clerk in a solicitor’s office. A gifted Gaelic footballer, he captained the Kerry team to All-Ireland glory in 1904 and also served as President of the Kerry Gaelic Athletic Association County Board. He became politically active in 1908 when he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and, in 1916, as commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, he made preparations for the landing of arms by Roger Casement, on Banna Strand.
Although Austin Stack was made aware that Casement was arrested and was being held in Ballymullen Barracks in Tralee, he made no attempt to rescue him : RIC District Inspector Kearney treated Casement very well and made sure Stack was aware that Casement could so easily have been rescued, yet Stack refused to move (possibly sensing that a trap had been laid for him?) but he was arrested anyway and sentenced to death for his involvement, but this was later commuted to penal servitude for life.
He was released under general amnesty in June 1917 after the death of fellow prisoner and Tralee man Thomas Patrick Ashe and was elected as an abstentionist Sinn Féin Member of Parliament for Kerry West in the 1918 Westminster election, becoming a member of the 1st Dail and was automatically elected as an abstentionist member of the ‘House of Commons of Southern Ireland’ and a member of the 2nd Dail as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Kerry-Limerick West in the Irish elections of 1921.
He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and took part in the subsequent Irish Civil War. He was captured in 1923 and went on hunger strike for forty-one days before being released in July 1924…when Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fail in 1926, Stack remained with Sinn Féin..his health never recovered after his hunger strike and he died in a Dublin hospital on April 27th 1929, aged 49.’ (from here, slightly edited.)
A commemorative pamphlet, entitled ‘What Exactly is a Republican?’ was issued in memory of the man –
‘The name republican in Ireland, as used amongst republicans, bears no political meaning. It stands for the devout lover of his country, trying with might and main for his country’s freedom. Such a man cannot be a slave. And if not a slave in heart or in act, he cannot be guilty of the slave vices. No coercion can breed these in the freeman. Fittingly, the question – ‘What is a republican?’ fails to be answered in our memorial number for Austin Stack, a man who bore and dared and suffered, remaining through it all and at the worst, the captain of his own soul.
What then was Austin Stack, republican? A great lover of his country. A man without a crooked twist in him. One who thought straight, acted straight, walked the straight road unflinchingly and expected of others that they should walk it with him, as simply as he did himself. No man could say or write of him “He had to do it”. That plea of the slave was not his. His duty, as conscience and love dictated, he did. The force of England, of the English Slave State, might try coercion, as they tried it many times : it made no difference. He went his way, suffered their will, and stood his ground doggedly, smiling now and again.
His determination outstood theirs, because it had a deeper foundation and a higher aim. Compromise, submission, the slave marks, did not and could not exist for him as touching himself, or the Cause for which he worked and fought, lived and died.’
Pictured – an IRA unit in Kerry, circa 1921.
Austin Stack fought physically and verbally for the Irish Republic and, on the 19th December, 1921, he said the following in Dáil Éireann in relation to the Westminster-‘offered’ (and Free State accepted) ‘Treaty of Surrender’ :
“It happens to be my privilege to rise immediately after the President to support his motion that this House do not approve of the document which has been presented to them. I shall be very brief ; I shall confine myself to what I regard as the chief defects in the document, namely, those which conflict with my idea of Irish Independence.
I regard clauses in this agreement as being the governing clauses. These are Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4. In No.I, England purports to bestow on Ireland, an ancient nation, the same constitutional status as any of the British Dominions, and also to bestow her with a Parliament having certain powers. To look at the second clause, it starts off — “Subject to provisions hereinafter set out..” — and then she tries to limit you to the powers of the Dominion of Canada. What they may mean I cannot say, beyond this, that the Canadian Dominion is set up under a very old Act which considerably limits its powers. No doubt the words “law, practice, and constitutional usage” are here. I cannot define what these may mean. Other speakers who will come before the assembly may be able to explain them. I certainly cannot. To let us assume that this clause gives to this country full Canadian powers, I for one cannot accept from England full Canadian powers, three-quarter Canadian powers, or half Canadian powers.
I stand for what is Ireland’s right, full independence and nothing short of it. It is easy to understand that countries like Australia, New Zealand and the others can put up with the powers which are bestowed on them, can put up with acknowledgements to the monarch and rule of Great Britain as head of their State, for have they not all sprung from England? Are they not children of England? Have they not been built up by Great Britain? Have they not been protected by England and lived under England’s flag for all time? What other feeling can they have but affection for England, which they always regarded as their motherland?
This country, on the other hand, has not been a child of England’s, nor never was. England came here as an invader, and for 750 years we have been resisting that conquest. Are we now after those 750 years to bend the knee and acknowledge that we received from England as a concession full, or half, or three-quarter Dominion powers? I say no.
Clause 3 of this Treaty gives us a representative of the Crown in Ireland appointed in the same manner as a Governor-General. That Governor-General will act in all respects in the name of the King of England. He will represent the King in the Capital of Ireland and he will open the Parliament which some members of this House seem to be willing to attend. I am sure none of them, indeed, is very anxious to attend it under the circumstances, but, if they accept this Treaty they will have to attend Parliament summoned in the name of the King of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no doubt about that whatever.
The fourth paragraph sets out the form of oath, and this form of oath may be divided into two parts. In the first part you swear “true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established.” As the President has stated, according to the Constitution which will be sanctioned under that Parliament, it will be summoned by the representative of the King of England and Ireland and will acknowledge that King.
I say even that part of the oath is nothing short of swearing allegiance to the head of that Constitution which will be the King. You express it again when you swear, “and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V, his heirs and successors by law.” That is clear enough, and I have no hesitation whatever in reading the qualifying words. I say these qualifying words in no way alter the text, or form, or effect of this oath, because what you do in that is to explain the reason why you give faith, why you pledge fealty to King George. You say it is in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and the meaning of that is that you are British subjects. You are British subjects without a doubt, and I challenge anyone here to stand and prove otherwise than that according to this document.
If ever you want to travel abroad, to a country where a passport is necessary, your passport must be issued from the British Foreign Office and you must be described as a British subject on it. If you are mean enough to accept this Treaty, time will tell. You wind up by saying that you further acknowledge that King in virtue of Ireland’s adherence to and membership of the group of nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, and all that, of course, is really consistent with the whole thing. You will become a member of the British Empire.
Now this question of the oath has an extraordinary significance for me, for, so far as I can trace, no member of my family has ever taken an oath of allegiance to England’s King. When I say that I do not pretend for a moment that men who happened to be descended from, or to be sons of men who took oaths of allegiance to England’s Kings, or men who themselves took oaths of allegiance to England’s Kings are any worse for it. There are men in this assembly who have been comrades of mine in various places, who have been fighting the same fight as I have been fighting, the same fight which we have all been fighting, and which I sincerely hope we will be fighting together again ere long. There are men with whom I was associated in this fight whose fathers had worn England’s uniform and taken oaths of allegiance, and these men were as good men and took their places as well in the fight for Irish independence as any man I ever met.
But what I wish to say is this: I was nurtured in the traditions of Fenianism. My father wore England’s uniform as a comrade of Charles Kickham and O’Donovan Rossa when as a ’67 man he was sentenced to ten years for being a rebel, but he wore it minus the oath of allegiance. If I, as I hope I will, try to continue to fight for Ireland’s liberty, even if this rotten document be accepted, I will fight minus the oath of allegiance and to wipe out the oath of allegiance if I can do it. Now I ask you has any man here the idea in his head, has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers have suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died on the field and in the barrack yard. If you really believe in your hearts that it was, vote for it. If you don’t believe it in your hearts, vote against it.
It is for you now to make up your minds. Today or tomorrow will be, I think, the most fateful days in Irish history. I will conclude by quoting two of Russell Lowell’s lines : —
“Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,
In the strife ‘twixt truth and falsehood for the good or evil side.”
Unfortunately, the “evil side” is, at the time of writing, in the majority. But it’s early yet…
‘THE IRISH VOTES.’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.
The Irish Press, Letter to The Editor :
If Irish voters in England need a directive on how to vote in the coming General Elections, surely Mr George Brinham, a member of the British Labour Party, has supplied it, when he said in Belfast “It was clearly recognised in the Act that the Six Counties was part of the United Kingdom..”
The foregoing is the attitude of most British people, so why any Irish vote should be cast for any political party in Britain is beyond comprehension. Despite Labour, Conservative, Liberal, or anyone else, Ireland will one day be united, and only then shall we be able to solve the emigration and unemployment problems.
Sinn Féin, in my opinion, has taken the lead in this issue and therefore it should have our support.’
58 Goldhawk Road,
(END of ‘The Irish Votes’ ; NEXT – ‘Cork Municipal Elections’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (14TH APRIL) 99 YEARS AGO : IRA TAKE OVER THE FOUR COURTS IN DUBLIN.
The Four Courts, Dublin, under attack from the Free Staters.
‘…opponents of the Treaty condemned it as a sell-out and a betrayal of all those who had lost their lives fighting for Irish independence…after two weeks of debating the merits of the Treaty and the possible outcomes of rejecting it, a vote was taken : 64 in favour, 57 against. The breach came almost immediately when Éamon de Valera, President of the Dáil, who had opposed the Treaty, offered his resignation and then called a meeting of all anti-treaty members for the next day.
The rift affected not just the leadership of Sinn Féin and the IRA but went right through both organisations. Various attempts to reconcile the two sides over the following months proved fruitless…in the meantime, implementation of the Treaty continued. A ‘Provisional (Free State) Government’ was set up to oversee the transition ; British troops started withdrawing*. Their deserted barracks and other military facilities were taken over by local IRA units, some pro-treaty, some anti-treaty. The country was now a patchwork of different allegiances. There were occasional skirmishes and robberies of weaponry or money but for the time being neither side was willing to take the final step that would mean war over the Treaty.
The Provisional (FS) Government had swiftly built up loyal military forces in Dublin. Worried lest they cede the capital through inaction, the anti-treaty IRA took over the Four Courts, Kilmainham Jail and a few other sites in the city in April 1922. The Provisional (FS) Government, still anxious for reconciliation, did not try to prevent them…’ (from here. *They are still here, politically and militarily, in Ireland, in six of our counties.)
The Four Courts in Dublin was taken over by about 200 IRA fighters, under the command of Rory O’Connor, on Friday, 14th April, 1922 – 99 years ago, on this date –
‘Rory O’Connor was born in Dublin 28 November 1883..in Kildare Street. During the subsequent Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921 he was Director of Engineering of the Irish Republican Army…he refused to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State and which was ratified by a narrow vote by Dáil Éireann, but which instituted the partition of the six counties…and abolished the Irish Republic declared in 1916 and 1919, which O’Connor and his comrades had sworn to uphold.
On 14th April 1922 O’Connor, with 200 other anti-treaty IRA men under his command, took over the Four Courts building in the centre of Dublin in defiance of the (Free State) Government…on 8th December 1922, along with three other republicans, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey, captured with the fall of the Four Courts, Rory O’Connor was executed by firing squad…
The execution order was signed by Kevin O’Higgins. O’Connor had been best man at his wedding on 27 October 1921. The killing remains as a symbol of the bitterness and division of the IRA’s Civil War. O’Connor, one of 77 republicans executed by the Cumann na nGaedheal government of the Irish Free State, is seen as a martyr by the Republican Movement in Ireland…’ (from here.)
Ernie O’Malley stated that Rory O’Connor… “..had been made a target by the Staters at which to hurl abuse. It had served their purpose better to refer to us as ‘Rory O’Connor’s men’, then to admit that we were organised on the same lines as themselves, that we had a Headquarters Staff, and he as Director of Engineering filled the same post as he had done on the old Staff during the Tan scrap…”
You have murdered our brave Liam and Rory,
You have butchered young Richard and Joe,
And your hands with their blood are still gory,
Fulfilling the work of the foe.
So take it down from the mast, Irish traitors,
It’s the flag we republicans claim.
It can never belong to Free Staters,
For you’ve brought on it nothing but shame.
And Leinster House – those that sat in it then, sit in it now and those who will continue to fumble in the greasy till as they sit in it in the future, will continue to bring ‘nothing but shame’ on our flag.
NO RIGHT OF APPEAL…
Why the media consensus on a broad range of issues is increasingly disturbing.
By John Drennan.
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
The alliance which followed had more than a few odd couples ; the ‘Daily Star’ newspaper, hardly Fintan O’ Toole’s ideological soulmate, launched a courageous NASTI campaign in tandem with Joe Duffy and ‘Dot Com’ Dunphy. Of course, in all of this caterwauling, there was no space for such issues as the role of a Minister whose obtuseness was epitomised by his performance at the ASTI conference, where he treated the gap-mouthed delegates to such facts as – “We know the brain changes physiologically as a result of life’s experiences” and a few bars of a song about not having a wooden heart.
Furthermore, little attention was paid to the fact that ‘benchmarking’ – a concept borrowed from a Japanese car plant – is now the defining ethos of our educational system. Mind you, most people in the Celtic Chancer probably think this is a good thing. After all the excitement of breaking the teachers’ revolt, our consensus took a well deserved break. There were a few sideswipes in the direction of a small rural village called Cloneen after it expressed some mild concerns about how its non-existent infrastructure would deal with a huge influx of refugees.
As the bemused locals were treated to much wailing about the heart of darkness of rural Ireland, a much smaller furore was raised over the decision of some of the good burghers of Dublin 4 to go to court in order to prevent an influx of refugees into the area. Their concerns were “architectural”, however – and anyway, one should not criticise the neighbours too much…
ON THIS DATE (14TH APRIL) 101 YEARS AGO : IRA EXECUTE ‘SPECIAL BRANCH’ MAN IN DUBLIN.
Detective Constable Harry Kells (pictured) was, in 1920, trying to make a career name for himself with his British paymasters as a faithful and trustworthy member of ‘DMP G Division’ (the ‘Special Branch’ of its day).
He was one of the ‘go-to’ men for the British when they wanted to know who was or wasn’t associated with the Republican Movement in Dublin and had practically free reign in Mountjoy Jail to ‘interview’ IRA prisoners that were held captive in that institution. At the time of his execution, he was making inquiries about who exactly had killed another of his kind, Alan Bell.
Mr. Bell was attempting to close-down the Movement, financially, when it closed him down.
‘An incident in Camden street in 1920 was the cause of the largest raid ever carried out by British troops in Dublin. This was due to the shooting on 14 April of Detective Constable Harry Kells, of the DMP G Division, in Camden St. He was rushed to the Meath Hospital where he died. Harry Kells lived at 7 Pleasants St. and had been carrying out identity parades among the many republican inmates in Mountjoy Prison.
It was in this assignment that he came to the attention of Michael Collins, Director of Intelligence for the Irish Volunteers. Peadar Clancy, Vice Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the Volunteers, then interned in Mountjoy Prison, sent word to Collins that Kells was carrying out identity parades at the ‘Joy’ trying to find out who had executed Alan Bell on 25 March 1920. Bell, a former Resident Magistrate, was working for Dublin Castle on a strategy aimed at crippling Sinn Fein. He was questioning bank officials in an attempt to discover where Sinn Fein’s funds were hidden. If they could be found then the authorities would move to confiscate the more than £357,000 in National Loan money Collins had collected as Minister of Finance. Bell’s killing was a clear warning to the Castle that any effort to locate this money would be dealt with quickly and ruthlessly.
In April there was a hunger strike taking place by republican prisoners in Mountjoy, and tensions were very high. Two of those sought in connection with Kells’ killing were Sinn Féin members Michael and William Kavanagh who lived at 5 Pleasants St., who had previously been ‘fingered’ by Kells, and it was thought they would seek refuge among friends in the neighbourhood. The troops swarmed over Camden St from Cuffe street and into Portobello and the homes of the local Jews. Over 100 people were arrested that day but Kells’ killer was not among them…’
(taken from reports in the Irish Times and the New York Times, April 1920.)
Paddy Daly (‘Paddy O’Daly’, an IRA member at the time, but later a ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’) was a member of ‘The Squad’ and was one of those present when Harry Kells was put to death ;
“On our way we picked up Hugo MacNeill, a nephew of Eoin MacNeill, the initial President of the Irish Volunteers. He was not a member of the Squad but he asked to come along. We divided up into patrols of two, MacNeill was with Joe Leonard.
O’Daly said he heard a couple of shots, and saw MacNeill sauntering down Pleasant St. as if nothing had happened. “What was the shooting about?”, O’Daly asked. “Kells is up there if you want him”, MacNeill replied. “Where?”, O’Daly asked. “On the footpath”, replied MacNeill. (from here.)
Politics was at play then, as now, and an ‘official’ statement was released which sought to present Detective Constable Harry Kells as almost an innocent bystander –
’93B Constable Henry Kells, born in the Parish of Drumlane near Miltown, Co. Cavan. A Protestant (Church of Ireland), he was baptised on 14 May 1878. At the age of 20 he joined the DMP, receiving Warrant Number 10119. With a height of 6 feet 3.5 inches he was tall – even by the standards of the DMP. He was assigned to B Division on 6 April 1898 and – in later years at least – he was attached to College Street Station. He served there in a uniformed capacity until around the end of 1919 when he was transferred to plain clothes duty in consequence of the increasing number of burglaries in the city. He was not involved in any duties which might be described as of a political nature…’
‘Special Branch’ man Harry Kells was very involved in ‘duties of a political nature’ and he was as far as it was possible to be from being ‘just a cop who was investigating burglaries’.
Also, incidentally, on that same date (14th April 1920), an RIC Sergeant, Patrick Finnerty, was shot on Clonard Street in Balbriggan, County Dublin, and died from his wounds two days later, and another RIC Sergeant, Patrick Lavin, a drill instructor, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his office at the RIC depot in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. No doubt that both of those men, too, were employed, armed and uniformed by Westminster, ‘to investigate burglaries in Ireland’…
ON THIS DATE (14TH APRIL) 101 YEARS AGO : ‘BRITISH MISHAP’ SEES IRA HUNGER-STRIKERS RELEASED!
Citizens protesting against the incarceration by the British of IRA POW’S.
In April, 1920, large demonstrations in Dublin and in other cities were being held by Irish people in support of imprisoned republican prisoners, and the trade union movement had downed tools ‘..in protest at the inhuman treatment of political prisoners and to demand their immediate release..’ and, on the 14th April that year – 101 years ago on this date – all 90 of the hunger-striking prisoners/hostages in Mountjoy Jail, in Dublin, and hundreds of others in other jails, were released.
Celebrations ensued, much to the distaste of the RIC and their colleagues in the British Army ; in Milltown-Malbay, in County Clare, for instance, those British forces – a joint RIC and British military (‘Highland Light Infantry’) party, led by an RIC Sergeant named Hampson – shouted at a crowd of cheering Irish people, who had gathered around a lit tar barrel, to ‘go home’, then fired into the crowd. Patrick Hennessy, a 30-year-old small farmer from Miltown Malbay and a father of two, John O’Loughlin, a tailor from Ennistymon, and Thomas Leary, 33, a married father of 10 children from Miltown Malbay, were shot dead. Also, the same British forces caused riots in Derry when some of the released hunger-strikers arrived to their homes in that city.
The public pressure on the British was so great that they declared that “unconvicted prisoners” would be released on the 14th April (1920) but they were so flustered that hundreds of the hunger-striking prisoners were released (of whom only 31 were “convicted prisoners”)!
On the 5th April (1920), 36 of the IRA prisoners in Mountjoy Jail, in Dublin, led by Peadar Clancy, refused food, followed by 30 more the day after and, by April 9th, 90 men were on the protest –
‘…their demands were for political status, but more concretely : better food, separation from ordinary criminal prisoners, no compulsory prison work, books, a weekly bath, the right to smoke and five hours exercise per day…within days, huge crowds had assembled outside Mountjoy Gaol, demonstrating for the release of the hunger strikers before they died…the (British) military remarked that, ‘large and menacing crowds, in some cases up to 20,000 strong, congregated outside Mountjoy’.
The hunger strike and the demonstrations it sparked in Dublin were all worrisome for the British administration in Ireland and for the government in London. They were well aware of the radicalising effect the death of Thomas Ashe had had in 1917 and had no wish to see fresh republican martyrs in the prisons…what brought the situation to a head was the action of the Irish Trade Union Council, who called a general strike for April 13, ‘in protest at the inhuman treatment of political prisoners and to demand their immediate release’. The trade unionists had seen many of their own members arrested and acted on their own initiative, apparently without consulting with Sinn Fein or the IRA…as a consequence of the strike, the British opened talks with the hunger strikers’ leader Peadar Clancy, and offered him concessions, including political status and release on parole, both of which offers he refused. He remarked to his comrades, ‘the general strike has them beat’ and held out for release.
There followed a remarkable foul up on the British side. First it was decided to release those prisoners who had not yet been charged with a crime, after a medical inspection. Someone blundered and, in error, all prisoners, including non-political ones were released after the medical examination. As British legal advisor, WE Wylie, remarked, “jailbirds, political prisoners, petty thieves, every damn one of them were freed. I nearly fainted when I heard it”.
In an attempt to save some face, French, the Lord Lieutenant, proceeded to formally release all the prisoners around the country to make it appear as if it was a preconceived policy of pardon. This amounted to hundreds of IRA prisoners – 100 in Cork alone, for instance, as well as the ninety hunger strikers released in Dublin. Small wonder that a subsequent inquiry into the workings of Dublin Castle by a civil servant, Warren Fisher, characterised the administration as “chaos”.
On April 21st, the Irish republican prisoners who had been deported to Wormwood Scrubs prison in England also went on hunger strike and shortly afterwards, they too were released, mostly returning to Ireland… (from here.)
Must be one of the few recorded times that the British admitted to causing “chaos” for themselves in Ireland!
ON THIS DATE (14TH APRIL) 100 YEARS AGO : AN EXECUTED BRITISH ‘SIR’ AND THE ‘IRISH CROWN JEWELS’.
‘Sir’ Arthur Vicars, pictured (‘butterfingered’ or lightfingered?).
Arthur Vicars was born on the 27th of July, 1862, in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and he moved to Ireland as a young adult.
Through family connections he obtained various ‘titles’ and a posh job – at 34 years young he received a British ‘Knighthood’, four years after that he was appointed as a ‘Commander of the Royal Victorian Order’ and three years later he was promoted (!) to the position of ‘Knight Commander of the Order’. His own private ‘Game Of Thrones’, apparently!
His ‘job’ (position) title was ‘Ulster King of Arms and custodian of the Irish Crown Jewels‘ but, one day, in July 1907, while Arthur was no doubt busying himself on the PlayStation, the jewels went missing.
An inquiry was held and he was found guilty of negligence and dismissed, meaning he was ruined socially, and financially, as his ‘job’ and any pension from same were lost to him. His half-brother, George Mahony, took him in to live with him in Kilmorna House, in County Kerry and, when George died in 1912, he left the estate to Sir Arthur’s sister, Edith, who lived in London. She decided that ‘Sir’ Arthur could continue to live there, and he did so.
The ‘Big House’ in Ireland, in those times, signaled a political/military connection to Westminster (‘power and privilege’) and, as such, they were closely monitored by the IRA for that reason ; on Thursday, 14th April 1921 – 100 years ago on this date – about thirty IRA Volunteers took over Kilmorna House with the intention of removing it, and its inhabitants, from the equation. Arthur Vicars was shot dead and a placard was placed around his neck, denouncing him as an informer, and the ‘Big House’ was set alight. An IRA man was quoted after the event –
“Shortly after 9th April, 1921, I received information that Sir Arthur Vickers (sic) was a spy and that his house, Kilmorna House, known locally as the ‘GreatHouse’, was being taken over by the (British) military as a ‘Blockhouse’. If this happened, Abbeyfeale and the surrounding areas of Duagh, Knockanure and Newtownsandes would have been in danger.
I issued an order to Jim Costello, company captain of Duagh, in whose area the ‘Great House’ was located, for the execution of Vickers (sic) and the burning down of the ‘Great House’. The order was duly carried out by men of the Duagh Company under Jim Costello. The two men who actually carried out the execution were…(named)…”
‘Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time ;
Arise and bid me strike a match
And strike another till time catch ;
Should the conflagration climb,
Run till all the sages know.
We the great gazebo built,
They convicted us of guilt ;
Bid me strike a match and blow…’ (from here.)
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.
H-BOMBS IN IRELAND.
Mr. Hanna, QC, Minister for Home Affairs in Stormont, told an audience in Belfast recently that, in the event of war, arrangementd were made to evacuate 300,000 of Belfast’s poulation.
“A hydrogen bomb attack,” he said,“would mean the complete destruction of this capital city.”* (Population of 500,000.)
Belfast is an Irish city and Mr Hanna nor anyone else has any moral justification for exposing it to the dangers of war without the consent of the whole people of Ireland. Belfast has been built by the industry of Irish people and the wanton exposure of it to destruction in a war between world forces for world domination is criminal folly.
People have a right to fight a war for a just cause – in the defence of freedom or to achieve freedom – but no man nor group of men (sic)has any right to involve their people or a section of their people in a war of imperial aggrandisement and material gain. (‘1169’ comment – * “capital city”? What ‘country’ is Belfast the “capital city” of??)
HISTORY SNIPPETS FROM THE 14TH APRIL…
1923 – Free-State forces converged on a ruined castle at Castleblake, County Kilkenny, after receiving information that it was being used as a dugout by the republicans. Free State Lieutenant Kennedy called on the occupants to surrender and fired three shots through the door. A grenade was thrown from inside the shelter, mortally wounding Lieutenant Kennedy. Free-State troops then rushed the building and two republican fighters (Ned Somers and Theo English) were killed in the firefight and several others captured.
On the 8th of August, 1922, a Corporal Edward Coughlan died as a result of wounds received by him on the 9th of July 1922 at Amiens Street, in Dublin. He had joined the Free State Army on the 14th of April 1922.
On the 14th of April 1923, Free State Army Private Timothy McCarthy was shot dead when, as one of the armed members of a party of eight FS soldiers on search duty, he was involved in searching the farmyard of Mrs Julia Collins near Dromtrasna, Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. The Staters had spotted an armed man running from the farm, fired on him, and fire was returned. Timothy McCarthy was hit, with the bullet piercing both lungs and a large blood vessel, killing him instantly. He was about 26 years old and had been in the State Army for about three months.
Thanks for reading,