ON THIS DATE (25TH AUGUST) 82 YEARS AGO : EXPLOSIONS FOLLOW ULTIMATUM.
‘I have the honour to inform you that the Government of the Irish Republic [32 counties], having as its first duty towards its people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order here, demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland.
The occupation of our territory by troops of another nation and the persistent subvention here of activities directly against the expressed national will and in the interests of a foreign power, prevent the expansion and development of our institution in consonance with our social needs and purposes, and must cease.
The Government of the Irish Republic believe that a period of four days is sufficient notice for your Government to signify its intentions in the matter of the military evacuation and for the issue of your Declaration of Abdication in respect of our country. Our Government reserves the right of appropriate action without further notice if upon the expiration of this period of grace, these conditions remain unfulfilled…’ – IRA ultimatum to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, 12th January, 1939.
Westminster ignored the Irish republican ultimatum, thus setting in motion “appropriate action” by republican forces in England. Over the next few months, at least 300 bombing incidents took place in different British cities, targeting infrastructure such as electricity stations, post offices, gas stations and government buildings.
The last known attack took place in London on the 18th of March, 1940 – indeed, following the Coventry ‘own goal’ by the IRA, there were a further 42 such incidents attributed to Irish republicans, culminating in the London explosion, mentioned above.
It was on Friday, the 25th August, 1939 (a few days before Hitler’s German army invaded Poland), that an IRA man from Cork, Joby O’ Sullivan, strolled through Broadgate, in Coventry, wheeling a push bike (a ‘Halford Karriwell’ model, purchased from the ‘Halford Cycle Company’ in Smithford Street, in Coventry), heading for the police station.
The bike apparently, repeatedly, got stuck in tram tracks on the road and, frustrated, he removed it from the road and propped it up against a wall. The bike had an armed bomb in the basket that was fixed to the handlebars, which had been wired up to an alarm clock timer, which was set for about 2.30pm. He left it there, and walked away, claiming afterwards that he was frustrated with the problem caused by the tram tracks. The five-pound bomb exploded prematurely, killing five people and injuring dozens more.
Joby O’Sullivan said later that he wasn’t caught because the British police were expecting Irish suspects to get a ferry at Holyhead back to Ireland, but instead he got a train to London and stayed there “until everything died down.”
Shortly after the Coventry explosion, Peter Barnes (pictured, who was in London on the day of the explosion) was arrested at the lodgings he was staying in and, three days after that, James McCormack (aka ‘James Richards’) was pulled-in along with the other tenants of the house he was staying in. The ‘trial’ began in December (1939) and both men were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Throughout the court case, James McCormack remained silent until he told the court – “As a soldier of the Irish Republican Army, I am not afraid to die, for I am dying in a just cause.”
Peter Barnes stated to the court – “I would like to say as I am going before my God, as I am condemned to death, I am innocent, and later I am sure it will all come out that I had neither hand, act or part in it. That is all I have to say.” In his last letter (to his brother) he wrote – “If some news does not come in the next few hours all is over. The priest is not long gone out, so I am reconciled to what God knows best. There will be a Mass said for us in the morning before we go to our death. Thank God I have nothing to be afraid of. I am an innocent man and, as I have said before, it will be known yet that I am.”
In the last letter he ever wrote, James McCormack, pictured, said – “This is my farewell letter, as I have been just told I have to die in the morning. As I know I am dying for a just cause, I shall walk out tomorrow smiling, as I shall be thinking of God and of the good men who went before me for the same cause.” (That letter was addressed to his sister, as both of his parents were dead.)
In Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, at 8.50am on Wednesday, 7th February 1940, the two men received a final blessing. Minutes later they walked together to the scaffold and were hanged by four executioners.
May all involved Rest in Peace.
‘THE BREAK OF ARMAGH : A SUGGESTION BY A WORLD-FAMOUS POET…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, July, 1954.
I haven’t too much money to spare, but for promotion of this idea I am heartily willing to squeeze out ten guineas as the start of a fund for a grand ‘Armagh Commemoration Day’.
Signed – Seumas MacManus.
‘UI’ Editors Note ; Seumas MacManus is a well-known poet who has spent many years in the USA, where much of his work was published.
He is now back home in his native Donegal. The above letter was refused publication by ‘The Irish Press’ newspaper and by ‘The Irish Independent’ newspaper.)
(END of ‘The Break Of Armagh : A Suggestion By A World-Famous Poet’ – NEXT : ‘A Tonic’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (25TH AUGUST) 218 YEARS AGO : ROBERT EMMET CAPTURED BY THE BRITISH.
‘Beside a block of two houses in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6, is a small plaque remembering rebel leader Robert Emmet. While his grand statue in St Stephen’s Green is a well-known landmark, this plaque is much easier to pass by without a second glance. But it holds quite an interesting story, as marking the site of the house where Emmet hid before his eventual capture and execution.
After his failed rising against British rule in July 1803, Emmet fled into hiding and eventually ended up in a house in Harold’s Cross under the assumed name of a lodger called Hewitt..’ (from here.)
It was during his stay in the Harold’s Cross ‘safe house’ that he met-up with his mother and Sarah Curran but, on Thursday August 25th, 1803 – 218 years ago on this date – he was finally ‘arrested’ by the British. It has been stated by others that a £1000 reward was paid by Dublin Castle to an informer, for supplying the information which led to his capture.
Robert Emmet’s misfortunes did not stop on his arrest : he had the misfortune to be defended by one Leonard McNally (pictured) who was trusted by the United Irishmen.
However, after McNally’s death in 1820, it transpired that he was a highly paid government agent and, in his role as an informer, that he had encouraged young men to join the rebels, betrayed them to Dublin Castle and would then collect fees from the United Irishmen to ‘defend’ those same rebels in court!
Emmet was tried before a ‘Special Commission’ in Green Street Court House in Dublin (..some political groupings today will swear their allegiance to Emmet and that which he represents while at the same time refusing to make a stand against such ‘Special Commissions’!) on September 19th, 1803.
The ‘trial’ lasted all day and by 9.30pm he was pronounced guilty ; asked for his reaction, he delivered a speech which still inspires today. He closed by saying that he cared not for the opinion of the court but for the opinion of the future – “..when other times and other men can do justice to my character..” Robert Emmet, 25 years young, was publicly executed on Tuesday September 20th outside St Catherine’s Church in Dublin’s Thomas Street ; he was hanged and his body was then beheaded.
The final comment on the value of Robert Emmet’s Rising must go to Seán Ó Brádaigh, who states that to speak of Emmet in terms of failure alone is to do him a grave injustice.
He and the men and women of 1798 and 1803 and, indeed, those that went before them, set a course for the Irish nation, with their appeal to Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of ‘Irishman’, which profoundly affected Irish life for more than two centuries and which will, we trust, eventually bear abundant fruit, regardless of the amount of ‘poison fruit’ – like McNally – that constantly try to hinder progress in that direction.
‘WHAT IS TO BE DONE? THE STRUGGLE IN THE 26 COUNTIES…’
The following article was solicited by ‘IRIS’ from a political observer in the 26 Counties. The article – whose author, John Ward, is not a member of the Republican Movement – is aimed at provoking discussion within (P)Sinn Féin.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine, October 1987.
(‘1169’ comment – please note that ‘IRIS’ magazine had, at that time, recently morphed from a republican-minded publication into a Trot-type mouthpiece for a Leinster House-registered political party.)
For various reasons, the IRA reverted back to a purely military policy and by the 1940’s both (P)Sinn Féin and the IRA were seen as solely concerned with military campaigns in the North and Britain, uninterested in social and economic issues, and obsessed with weird and esoteric arguments about the legitimacy of Leinster House, which the bulk of the population had long since settled down to accepting as fact.
(P)Sinn Féin’s fortunes picked up briefly with the initial success of the 1950’s border campaign, but basically by 1962 its image was the same as in the 1940’s and the whole Movement’s attitude was summed up in the statement ending that campaign, which blamed the Irish people for not supporting it,* their liberators – dissolving the people again!
There were attempts to change things in the 1960’s with the increasing involvement in social issues through groups like the ‘Dublin Housing Action Committee’ and they seemed to be having a fair degree of success. But the split in 1970 cut short that development ; the Stickies sold out on the struggle in the North but because Sinn Féin in the South focused at that time on abstentionism and attacks on the Marxist policies of the Stickies, many of the activists on social and economic issues went with Gardiner Place (the Stickies) only to become disillusioned later and go up the blind alley of the IRSP…
(‘1169’ comment –* “…weird and esoteric arguments about the legitimacy of Leinster House..”! And that nicely sums up just how a confused nationalist/trot views a political subject which is alien to them – republican history. The further away a conflict is, the louder they shout their support for it, but a political conflict on their own doorstep will be dismissed by them as a “weird obsession” as they elbow you out of the way in their rush to cheerlead for a far-away conflict!)
(‘1169’ comment –**Not so : in late February 1962, the IRA Army Council issued a press release in which they announced the ending of the ‘Border Campaign’ due to various factors, including ‘the attitude of the deliberately distracted general public’. That anti-republicans and trots/far-away cheerleaders should seek to misrepresent and ‘spin’ that Army Council statement is par for the course with that type as that’s how their confused mindset works – they don’t understand the nuances in republicanism which is to be expected, as they don’t understand republicanism itself!)
ON THIS DATE (25TH AUGUST) IN…
..1764 – ‘James (Jemmy) Hope was born in County Antrim in 1764.
Heavily influenced by his Presbyterian faith and by the ideas of the American Revolution, in 1782 he joined the Irish Volunteer movement, which was initially raised to protect Ireland, but which progressively became more radical in its outlook and demands. In 1789 he marched with them to celebrate the taking of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution.
When the Volunteers waned, James joined the newly formed United Irishmen, which sought the end of British rule and an independent Ireland. The authorities watched the growth of the United Irishmen with concern. On war being declared against France in 1793, they were declared illegal and they went underground…’ (from here.)
..1919 – IRA members took an oath to the Cause of Irish republicanism and began using the name ‘Irish Republican Army’ ; five days before that event took place, the [32-County] Dáil Éireann passed a Motion that that Oath of Allegiance to the [32-County] Irish Republic should be taken by all members of the ‘Irish Volunteers’ and by the members and staff of the Dáil, and it was on the 25th August that that process began.
..1920 – An RIC ‘Constable’, Matthew Haugh, was shot dead in Bantry, County Cork, by the IRA. He was a 25-years-young native of Ennis, in County Clare, and was shot and killed when his ‘police patrol’ was ambushed at Chapel Street in Bantry, Co Cork. The other three of his paramilitary colleagues that were with him at the time were injured, but fled the scene.
..1922 – A Free State CID Motor Driver was fatally wounded in an IRA attack at Deansgrange, in Dublin and, on that same date (25th August 1922) a Free State soldier was shot dead and a barracks burned at Shortcourse, in Waterford and, also on that date, a 17-years-young Free State soldier, Michael Bannon, from Fardrum, in Athlone, County Westmeath, was shot dead by the IRA in Tubbercurry, in County Sligo.
Dying at such a young age, fighting to defend the undefendable.
‘AN EMPTY FORMULA…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.
Supposing – and it would take a great stretch of imagination – but supposing Pearse or Connolly had done that, would it have been any more justifiable, any less despicable?
We believe in the sacredness of an oath, and for that reason the Republican Movement cannot admit into its ranks any who are bound by an oath of allegiance to England. The taking of this oath of allegiance is a condition of employment for all teachers in the Six Counties, for all nurses in hospitals over which Stormont has any control and for all civil servants. In fact, for every worker who gets a payment from the government.
This means that a great number of splendid men and women may not become affiliated to the Republican Movement because they are bound by oath “to render true and faithful allegiance to ‘Her Majesty’ “. Many of these, especially a great body of schoolteachers, work very hard for the language, and for the national games and dances, and turn out of the schools the makings of grand republican soldiers, although they own that they themselves have had to swallow the bitter pill.
There are, however, a great crowd who take this oath and make the excuse of Mr de Valera which has now become so familiar that we are sometimes at a loss to know which is the right definition of an oath – is it the one we learned in the catechism or is it “an empty formula..”? (MORE LATER.)
The Annual Bundoran Hunger Strike Commemoration will be held on SATURDAY 28th of AUGUST, 2021, meeting up at the East End of Bundoran, at 3pm. This year is the 40th anniversary of the H-Block Hunger-Strike.
Regardless of where you were or who you were with 40 years ago, we hope you’ll be in Bundoran, with us, this year. See ye there!
Thanks for the visit, and for reading,