If we had more time, we would give a brief history and/or mention of all those Irish men and women for whom this month carries special significance, but such is the level of destruction wrought on this country by the British over an on-going period of more than 850 years, and the huge number of Irish ‘dissidents’ that tried to right those wrongs, we are unable to do so but, nonetheless, we will try to do those brave people justice by posting a few words about just one of them – James Connolly, executed by the British on the 12th May 1916 – 105 years ago on this date.

All shared the same objective : to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland, not to be co-opted onto its ‘board of management’, as those in Leinster House and Stormont have been.

James Connolly was born on June 5th, 1868, at 107, the Cowgate, Edinburgh. His parents, John and Mary Connolly, had emigrated to Edinburgh from County Monaghan in the 1850s. His father worked as a manure carter, removing dung from the streets at night, and his mother was a domestic servant who suffered from chronic bronchitis and was to die young from that ailment.

Anti-Irish feeling at the time was so bad that Irish people were forced to live in the slums of the Cowgate and the Grassmarket which became known as ‘Little Ireland’. Overcrowding, poverty, disease, drunkenness and unemployment were rife – the only jobs available was selling second-hand clothes and working as a porter or a carter.

James Connolly went to St Patricks School in the Cowgate, as did his two older brothers, Thomas and John. At ten years of age, James left school and got a job with Edinburgh’s ‘Evening News’ newspaper, where he worked as a ‘devil’, cleaning inky rollers and fetching beer and food for the adult workers. His brother Thomas also worked with the same newspaper.

In 1882, aged 14, James Connolly joined the British Army in which he was to remain for nearly seven years, all of it in Ireland, where he witnessed first hand the terrible treatment of the Irish people at the hands of the British. The mistreatment of the Irish by the British and the landlords led to Connolly forming an intense hatred of the British Army.

While serving in Ireland, he met his future wife, a Protestant named Lillie Reynolds. They were engaged in 1888 and the following year Connolly discharged himself from the British Army and went back to Scotland. In 1890, he and Lillie Reynolds were wed in Perth and, in the Spring of that year, James and Lillie moved to Edinburgh and lived at 22 West Port, and joined his father and brother working as labourers and then as a manure carter with Edinburgh Corporation, on a strictly temporary and casual basis.

He became active in socialist and trade union circles and became secretary of the ‘Scottish Socialist Federation’, almost by mistake. At the time his brother John was secretary; however, after John spoke at a rally in favour of the eight-hour day he was fired from his job with the corporation, so while he looked for work, James took over as secretary. During this time, Connolly became involved with the Independent Labour Party which Kerr Hardie formed in 1893.

In late 1894, Connolly lost his job with the corporation. He opened a cobblers shop in February 1895 at number 73 Bucclevch Street, a business venture which was not successful. At the invitation of the Scottish socialist, John Leslie, he came to Dublin in May 1896 as paid organiser of the ‘Dublin Socialist Society’ for £1 a week. James and Lillie Connolly and their three daughters, Nora, Mona and Aideen set sail for Dublin in 1896, where he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in May of 1896.

In 1898, Connolly had to return to Scotland on a lecture and fund-raising tour. Before he left Ireland, he had founded ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper, the first Irish socialist paper, from his house at number 54 Pimlico, where he lived with his wife and three daughters. Six other families, a total of 30 people, also lived in number 54 Pimlico, at the same time!

In 1902, he went on a five month lecture tour of the USA and, on returning to Dublin, he found the ISRP existed in name only. He returned to Edinburgh where he worked for the Scottish District of the Social Democratic federation. He then chaired the inaugural meeting of the Socialist Labour Party in 1903 but, when his party failed to make any headway, Connolly became disillusioned and in September 1903, he emigrated to the USA and did not return until July 1910. In the US, he founded the Irish Socialist Federation in New York, and another newspaper, ‘The Harp’.

In 1910, he returned to Ireland and in June of the following year he became Belfast organiser for James Larkin’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 he co-founded the Labour Party and in 1914 he organised, with James Larkin, opposition to the Employers Federation in the Great Lock-Out of workers that August. Larkin travelled to the USA for a lecture tour in late 1914 and James Connolly became the key figure in the Irish Labour movement.

The previous year, 1913, had also seen Connolly co-found the Irish Citizen Army, at Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the ITGWU – this organisation, the ICA, was established to defend the rights of the working people. In October 1914, Connolly returned permanently to Dublin and revived the newspaper ‘The Workers’ Republic’ that December following the suppression of his other newspaper, ‘The Irish Worker’. In ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper, Connolly published articles on guerrilla warfare and continuously attacked the group known as The Irish Volunteers for their inactivity. This group refused to allow the Irish Citizen Army to have any in-put on its Provisional Committee and had no plans in motion for armed action.

The Irish Volunteers were by this time approximately 180,000 strong and were urged by their leadership to support England in the war against Germany. It should be noted that half of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers were John Redmond’s people, who was the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The Irish Volunteers split, with the majority siding with Redmond and becoming known as the National Volunteers – approximately 11,000 of the membership refused to join Redmond and his people.

However, in February 1915, ‘The Workers’ Republic’ newspaper was suppressed by the Dublin Castle authorities. Even still, Connolly grew more militant. In January 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood had became alarmed by Connollys ICA manoeuvres in Dublin and at Connollys impatience at the apparent lack of preparations for a rising, and the IRB decided to take James Connolly into their confidence. During the following months, he took part in the preparation for a rising and was appointed Military Commander of the Republican Forces in Dublin, including his own Irish Citizen Army. He was in command of the Republican HQ at the GPO during Easter Week, and was severely wounded. He was arrested and court-martialed following the surrender.

On May 9th, 1916, James Connolly was propped up in bed before a court-martial and sentenced to die by firing squad – he was at that time being held in the military hospital in Dublin Castle. In a leading article in the Irish Independent on May 10th William Martin Murphy, who had led the employers in the Great Lock-out of workers in 1913, urged the British Government to execute Connolly.

At dawn on May 12th 1916 – 105 years ago on this date -James Connolly was taken by ambulance from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham Jail, carried on a stretcher into the prison yard, strapped into a chair in a corner of the yard and executed by firing-squad. Connolly’s body, like that of the other 14 executed leaders, was taken to the British military cemetery adjoining Arbour Hill Prison and buried, without coffin, in a mass quicklime grave.

The fact that he was one of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation bears evidence of his influence. He had told the Irish Citizen Army, on 16th April, 1916, that “..the odds are a thousand to one against us, but in the event of victory, hold onto your rifles, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached…”

He died, strapped to a chair, but that should not be seen to infer that he wanted that chair placed at a table where a compromise would be the outcome.

James Connolly, 5th June 1868 – 12th May 1916. Executed by the British at 47 years of age.


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


Parade will leave Sallins at 2.30pm. Oration by Eamonn Thomas, Dublin.

Thomas White, Los Angeles, will speak on behalf of Clan na Gael, America.

Special trains will leave Kingsbridge at 12.15pm, returning from Sallins at 6.30pm.

Commemoration Ceilidhe ; in the Mansion House. Ceol Colmcille, 8.0 to 11.30, Tickets 2/-.


Published by the Republican Publications, Seán Treacy House, 94 Seán Treacy Street, Dublin, and printed by the Marian Printing Company Limited, 33 Rutland Place North, North Circular Road, Dublin.

(Please note – some details here in regards to the up-coming Bodenstown Commemoration for 2021.)

(END of ‘Wolfe Tone Commemoration’: NEXT – ‘Aithbheochaint Na Gaedhilge’, from the same source.)


Seán MacDiarmada (pictured) was born in January 1883 in Corranmore (near Kiltyclogher), in County Leitrim, and studied at the local national school, before attempting to qualify as a teacher but he failed the exams.

He worked for a short time as a gardener in Edinburgh, in Scotland, later moving to Belfast where he lived between 1905 and 1906 and, while there, he joined the ‘Ancient Order of Hibernians’ (AOH) but his views of the national situation became ever more radicalised and by 1906 he had been sworn in as a member of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’.

He was one of the major strategists behind the planning of the 1916 Easter Rising, although most of his work in that regard was done ‘off radar’ and at great physical discomfort to himself – he was partially disabled by polio, but never let that interfere with his work to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland.

On the 12th of May, 1916 – 105 years ago on this date – Seán MacDiarmada [and James Connolly] were executed by a British Army firing squad in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin.

His last letter, written to his comrade John Daly, read as follows –

‘Kilmainham Prison,


May 11th 1916.

My Dear Daly,

Just a wee note to bid you Goodbye. I expect in a few hours to join Tom and the other heroes in a better world. I have been sentenced to a soldiers death – to be shot tomorrow morning .

I have nothing to say about this only that I look on it as a part of the day’s work. We die that the Irish nation may live. Our blood will rebaptise and reinvigorate the old land. Knowing this it is superfluous to say how happy I feel.

I know now what I have always felt, that the Irish nation can never die. Let present day place hunters condemn our action as they will, posterity will judge us aright from the effects of our action.

I know I will meet you soon, until then GoodBye. God guard and protect you and all in No. 15. You have had a done trial, but I know quite well that Mrs. Daly and all the girls feel proud in spite of a little temporary and natural grief, that her son and the girls, their brothers as well as Tom are included in the list of honours.

Kindly remember me especially to Mrs. Clarke and tell her I am the same Seán that she always knew.

God Bless you all,

As ever,

Sincerely Yours,

Seán MacDiarmada.’

“We bleed that the nation may live. I die that the nation may live. Damn your concessions England, we want our country…” ; Seán MacDiarmada, 27th January 1883 – 12th May 1916.


Seán Hogan (pictured) was practically still in his teenage years when he was appointed as one of those in command of the ‘Third Tipperary Brigade’ of the IRA, a leadership group which became known by the British as ‘The Big Four’ – Dan Breen, Seán Treacy, Seamus Robinson and Seán Hogan.

Seán was born in Tipperary in 1901 and, at just 18 years of age, he took part in the Soloheadbeg ambush on the 21st of January in 1919, in which two Crown force personnel (James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell) were killed as they drew their weapons. The British went all out to capture or execute those responsible and, on the 12th of May 1919 – 102 years ago on this date – Seán was taken prisoner at a friends house, the Meagher’s, at Annfield, in Tipperary, and taken to Thurles RIC barracks to be held overnight, and then transported to Cork.

The following morning he was taken by a four-man armed British military escort to Knocklong train station and the five men got on board a train ; Hogan, who was handcuffed, was put sitting between RIC Sergeant Wallace and Constable Enright, both of whom were armed with revolvers, and Constables Ring and Reilly, carrying shotguns, sat opposite the three men.

Seán Hogan, pictured, thought to be about 20 years young when this photograph was taken.

An IRA unit, led by Seán Treacy, Dan Breen, Seamus Robinson and Eamonn O’Brien, and including Ned Foley, Seán Lynch, John Joe O’Brien, Ned O’Brien and Jim Scanlon (all from the East Limerick Brigade IRA) located the compartment where Seán was being held against his will and Seán Treacy and Eamonn O’Brien drew their revolvers and walked through the train to the compartment ; on entering same, they loudly instructed all present to put their hands up and called for Seán to make his way to them.

RIC Constable Enright placed his revolver against Hogan’s neck, using him as a shield, but was shot dead as he did so, as both Treacy and O’Brien had fired at him (Eamonn O’Brien was to say later that they would not have shot Enright had he not attempted to attack Hogan) and Seán, still handcuffed, took that opportunity to land a two-handed punch to the face of Constable Ring, who was sitting opposite him.

Seán Treacy and RIC Sergeant Wallace were trading punches, as were Eamonn O’Brien and Constable Reilly, when one of the IRA men managed to take Reilly’s shotgun from him and smashed him over the head with it. He collapsed in a heap on the carriage floor. Constable Ring, meanwhile, found himself on the platform, having exited the carriage through a window, and withdrew from the area.

Seán Treacy and RIC man Wallace were still trying to get the better of each other, with Treacy telling Wallace to give it up as he was outnumbered and had lost his prisoner, but Wallace refused to do so. Both men were now grappling for Wallace’s Webley revolver and Wallace managed to get enough control over it to fire a shot, which hit Seán Treacy in the neck – in that same instance, IRA man Eamonn O’Brien fired at Wallace, killing him instantly. Treacy survived, and was recorded later as saying “I thought I was a dead man. I had to hold my head up with both hands, but I knew I could walk.”

Seán Hogan remained active in the struggle : he operated in Dublin, Kilkenny and Tipperary, was involved in the ‘French Ambush’ and was also heavily involved in raids on various RIC barracks and remained active until the Treaty of Surrender was being discussed, a ‘compromise’ which he was unable to support or condemn – he left the Republican Movement at that point and returned to Tipperary, to try and earn a living as a farmer. But he couldn’t, and moved to Dublin where he got married and fathered a child, but the times were tough, economically, and he and his family could only afford to live in a slum tenement building in North Great George’s Street.

He was suffering from depression at this stage and voiced disappointment that the Ireland he was living in was not that which he had fought for. He died, penniless, at 67 years of age, in 1968, and was buried in Tipperary town.

The news has spread through Ireland and spread from shore to shore

Of such a deed, no living man has ever heard before

From out a guarded carriage mid a panic stricken throng

Seán Hogan, he was rescued at the station of Knocklong

When a guard of four policemen had their prisoner minded well

As the fatal train sped o’er the rails, conveying him to his cell

The prisoner then could scarce foretell, of hearts both brave and strong

That were planning for his rescue at the station of Knocklong

The shades of eve were falling fast when the train at last drew in

It was halted for an hour or so by a few courageous men

They sprang into the carriage and it did not take them long

‘Hands up or die’ was the rebel cry at the station of Knocklong

King George’s pampered hirelings, they shrivelled up with fear

And thought of how they placed in cells, full many a Volunteer

Now face to face with armed men, to escape, how they did long

But two of them met with traitors deaths at the station of Knocklong

From Sologhead to Limerick, such deeds as these were never seen

And devil a tear was ever shed for Wallace of Roskeen

They did old England’s dirty work and did that work too long

But the renegades were numbered up at the station of Knocklong

Now rise up Mother Erin and always be of cheer

You’ll never die while at your side there stand such Volunteers

From Dingle Bay to Garryowen, the cheers will echo long

Of the rescue of Seán Hogan at the station of Knocklong.


Why the media consensus on a broad range of issues is increasingly disturbing.

By John Drennan.

From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.

The media consensus in favour of moral equivalence proved it could transcend boundaries, as Fintan O’Toole tutted about the American tendency “to divide the world between the forces of God and Satan”, stating that “American fundamentalism” was as bad as that of Afghanistan. Every two-bit Irish hack who weighed in against America in those first few days after September 11th was writing, in his or her head, against the vast media consensus which supported America in everything it did.

The only problem was that the consensus didn’t exist ; instead, in column after column of pseudo-outspoken caution, the reaction became the norm. Call it liberal posting, call it intellectual laziness, call it what you will – Irish journalists were frenziedly reading the collected works of Robert Fisk and Nick Cohen and weighing in behind the anti-American cause without remotely understanding the issues the way that either of these journalists do.

Mary Ellen Synon’s response to this blather would have been interesting. However, as we have noted, Mary Ellen was taken care of a bit earlier in the year. The real triumph of programming belonged to ‘Questions And Answers’ as in two consecutive weeks not one pro-American sentiment was expressed by its audience. It was about the only place in the world where Mr Osama Bin Laden would have felt comfortable. Eventually, even RTE’s 60’s flower-power liberal anti-American collective realised there was a need for a bit more subtlety ; after all, even ‘The Irish Times’ was being neutral on the war. The station’s ‘Robinsonistas’ promptly discovered a humanitarian crisis. They were only four years late…



“I have no prouder boast than to say I am Irish and have been privileged to fight for the Irish people and for Ireland. If I have a duty I will perform it to the full in the unshakable belief that we are a noble race and that chains and bonds have no part in us…” – these are the words of Hunger Strike Francis Hughes, written in a letter addressed to the people of South Derry and surrounding areas five days before he embarked on his hunger strike.

He was born into a republican family on the 28th of February 1956, the youngest son amongst ten children, in Tamlaghduff, County Derry. He left school at 16 years young and started working with a relative as a painter and decorator, a job he excelled at and could have made a good living from, but the political and military atmosphere of trying to live in an occupied area made his mind up for him : in his late teenage years, like so many other young adults before and since, he joined the IRA.

In March, 1978, Francis, 23 years of age, was badly wounded after a gunbattle with British forces (“Francis Hughes was very active in the area. I arrested him after an IRA gun battle in which a soldier was killed. Hughes had escaped but a large chunk of his thigh bone had been shot away. We were there in the dark of night, with torches, following a trail of bullets, blood and a beret he’d discarded when crawling away. He hid for hours in thorn bushes until he was in such pain that he shouted to a soldier. He was very dehydrated but as he was being carried away on a stretcher, he raised a clenched fist and yelled ‘Up the Ra…!” -from here) and the British breathed a sigh of relief ; ‘the most wanted man in the North’ had been imprisoned and neutralised. They thought.

But, on Sunday, the 15th of March, in 1981, the British had to think again – Francis Hughes joined Bobby Sands on hunger-strike. Bobby died on the 5th of May and Francis died on the 12th of May – 40 years ago on this date – still fighting against the British military and political presence in Ireland.

‘As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn

“The boy form Tamlaghtduff” ,she cried, “is two years dead and gone”

How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose

Oh I’ll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes.

For many years his exploits were a thorn in Englands side

The hills and glens became his home there he used to hide

Once when they surrounded him he quietly slipped away

Like a fox he went to ground and kept the dogs at bay.

Moving round the countryside he often made the news

But they could never lay their hands on my brave Francis Hughes

Finally they wounded him and captured him at last

From the countryside he loved they took him to Belfast.

Oh from Musgrave Park to the Crumlin Road and then to an H-Block cell

He went straight on the blanket then on hungerstrike as well

His will to win they could never break no matter what they tried

He fought them every day he lived and he fought them as he died.

As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn

‘The boy form Tamlaghtduff ‘she cried ‘is two years dead and gone’

How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose

Oh I’ll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes.’

Francis Hughes, IRA Volunteer, 1956 – 1981.


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

These men achieved much because they were prepared to give much. They saw the relations between themselves and their country in terms of giving, not taking. They were prepared to give their minds, their energies and, if necessary, their lives, to the service of their country and the knowledge that they were serving their country was the only reward they either sought or desired.

If we are to take up the task where they left off we must relearn this lesson of service.

Join the Republican Movement!

(END of ‘With The IRA In The Fight For Freedom’ ; NEXT – ‘Force : Moral Or Physical?’, from the same source.)

Thanks for reading,


About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics.. Bookmark the permalink.

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