ON THIS DATE (14TH SEPTEMBER) 102 YEARS AGO – 3 REPUBLICAN VOLUNTEERS KILLED IN AMBUSH.

In late August/early September 1920, the RIC and their colleagues in the British Army vacated their barracks in the town of Ballinlough, in County Roscommon, as it was felt that the building would not withstand an attack on it by republican forces. Those enemy personnel were transfered to the more fortified barracks in Castlerea, in the same county, and the Ballinlough building was left empty. But not unguarded…


That area of Roscommon fell under the jurisdiction of the 1st Battalion of the South Roscommon Brigade, IRA, and they had decided to destroy the empty building in order to hamper the area control and movements of the RIC and the British Army, as was republican practice at the time, and the evening of Tuesday, 14th September (1920) was the agreed date for this operation to take place.


On that evening, a number of IRA Volunteers descended on the empty barracks and a ladder was used to gain access to the roof, which the IRA battalion commander, Pat Glynn, did. He removed a few roof slates and poured paraffin/petrol through the hole and into the barracks, and threw some burning rags into the building. As the flames took hold, heavy gunfire was directed at the Volunteers by RIC/British Army ‘9th Lancers’ members who had been tipped-off about the operation and had concealed themselves behind a nearby wall.


The Volunteers were caught off guard, as they were not expecting to encounter enemy forces that night and were not well enough armed to defend themselves ; they had no option but to flee the scene as best they could, and used the darkness to escape into surrounding fields. The RIC/BA kept firing at them and after them and continued the fusillade of shots, killing three republicans : Pat Glynn, Volunteer Michael J. Keane and Lieutenant Michael Glavey.


The bodies of the three republicans were taken from the scene by the Crown Forces and brought to the new Crown Force barracks in Castlerea, which is where the relatives had to travel to in order to identify them. When the families got to Castlerea they found the bodies of their loved ones in a turf shed at the rear of the barracks.


Lieutenant Glavey’s funeral was held in Ballyhaunis, in County Mayo, Volunteer Keane’s funeral took place in Granlahan, in County Roscommon, and Pat Glynn’s funeral took place in Kilruddane, Loughglynn, in County Roscommon, and large crowds of people attended the burials. After Patrick Glynn was laid to rest, a formation of 1000 IRA members paraded in a field beside the graveyard where they were addressed by brigade officers.


In the 1930’s, Roscommon County Council passed a resolution naming the main streets of Ballinlough to the memory of the dead Volunteers : the street leading to Granlahan is named ‘Sráid Mhig Fhloinn’ (Glynn Street), the street leading to Castlerea is named ‘Sráid Chatháin’ (Keane Street) and the street leading to Ballyhaunis is named ‘Sráid Mhig Fhlaithimh’ (Glavey Street), and the GAA club of Gorthaganny is named ‘Michael Glavey’s’, in memory of IRA Lieutenant Michael Glavey.


Those three defenders of the Irish Republic gave their lives for Ireland on the 14th September 1920 – 102 years ago on this date.




‘TOMÁS MacCURTAIN COMMEMORATION…’


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.




In his oration, Domhnall O Cathain said –


“Their principles now, I am afraid, are governed by political expediency, and everything must now be examined from the restricted viewpoint of the politician.


This stepping down wasn’t, I might remind you, done easily ; there was a great deal of heartburning, a great deal of deviation, an enormous amount of searching of conscience. Of course some of the searchlights on consciences suffered from some well-timed blackouts.


There was a great deal of splitting and splintering – Ireland was split from top to bottom, from east to west. Brother fought against brother. The Republican Movement was split, splintered, and again re-split, and then the great splitters concentrated on splitting words. All done to confuse a very clear little set of facts – that Ireland was dismembered, that part of our country was occupied by British troops…”



(MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (14TH SEPTEMBER) 102 YEARS AGO : ‘ANY TAIG WILL DO’ – BLACK AND TANS.

The Connolly family from Kinlough, in County Leitrim, had an honourable and well-deserved name and reputation in the area and among local (and country-wide) Irish republicans as a family that could be relied on to play their part in the (on-going) struggle for a 32-County socialist Republic. The family did not hide their republicanism and did not back down when confronted by enemy forces.


A son, James Connolly (Jnr), was born into the family on the 11th of September, 1897 and, politically and militarily, followed in the family footsteps ; he joined the local Volunteers (the IRA Third Western Division) and soon rose to the rank of Captain. The RIC and their mates in the Black and Tans were aware that young James was a fighter and decided to raid the house for him, which they did on the 14th September, 1920.


At about 4.30am that morning, a 9-person Crown Force raiding party, comprising 3 RIC members and 6 Black and Tans, banged on the hall door and gained entry to the house, looking for James Jnr. They ran into the house, shouting as they went, and came across James Snr (70) (also a known republican), who was deaf – they shouted at him to put his hands up but he couldn’t hear them, and was shot by a Captain Small, from the Bedfordshire Regiment of the British Army.


The raiders located James Jnr and ‘arrested’ him ; Mrs Connolly insisted that James Jnr should be taken into the next room to say goodbye to his father, who was dying, but the raiders ignored her and took James Jnr away and locked him up in Belfast Jail.

When he was released, James Jnr reported back to the IRA and continued to fight for justice, and stayed true to republicanism by rejecting the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’. When the British Army vacated buildings and barracks in the Free State it was a case of ‘first up best dressed’ as to whether the Staters or the ‘Irregulars’ (IRA) took them over and, when the British Army left Finner Military Camp in Bundoran, County Donegal, Captain James Connolly Jnr and other IRA fighters took it over (pictured).


However, the Staters wanted control of it and, on the 29th June, 1922, they made their move : during the gunfight that ensued, the IRA were forced to pull back and, as they took cover in the sand dunes behind the Camp, Captain Connolly was shot and killed as he checked the Camp to make sure that all the republicans had escaped. Ironically, the republican who give the oration at James Connolly senior’s funeral was one of the Free State Army members which attacked Finner Camp, leading to the death of James Connolly junior.



In the graveside oration that he delivered for Captain James Kelly, IRA Brigadier Seamus Devins
(pictured) said that “Captain Connolly would not harbour thoughts of revenge or indulge in ill-feeling…he would have forgiven those who shot him had he had time for expressing forgiveness…” True enough, no doubt ; we can forgive Free State gunmen, up to a point, but we’ll never forget what they did.


In 1950, a memorial was errected in Captain Connolly’s memory in Kinlough Cemetary, County Leitrim, which still stands today.




‘DIVIDED LOYALTIES…’



Ulster loyalism displayed its most belligerent face this year as violence at Belfast’s Holy Cross School made international headlines.

But away from the spotlight, working-class Protestant communities are themselves divided, dispirited and slipping into crisis.


By Niall Stanage.


From ‘Magill’ magazine, Annual 2002.


“I think that was probably the most devastating episode of the last thirty years in this area,” says John White, in his Lower Shankill Office, “it did more damage than the IRA could ever have done. I think the scars and hatred will remain for a very long time. We lost our sense of community.”


Working-class loyalism has now lost its confidence to such an extent that its adherents credit enemies with extraordinary capabilities. Every republican concession is recast as further confirmation of Sinn Féin’s artful deviousness, every reassuring statement from the British government is parsed for loopholes and potential betrayal, every conspiracy theory is hungrily devoured.


The loyalist world has changed utterly. Their leaders, their government, even their ‘police force’ can no longer be trusted ; “This community is being intimidated by a police force that we sought to protect,” Glenbryn residents spokesman Stuart McCartney tells me, as we stand behind the serried ranks of grey landrovers…



(MORE LATER.)




‘SINN FÉIN VICTORY…’



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


It is now the task and duty of all Irishmen (sic) to rally to the support of Northern republicans in their demand for a 32-County Parliament. Sinn Féin has the plans, you have the power. Join Sinn Féin and unite the Nation.


The Unionist threat to unseat prisoner candidates, if elected, backfired ; instead of disrupting the Sinn Féin campaign it put Northern republicans on their mettle. English law in Ireland has always had but one purpose – to legalise the dispossession of the Irish, in rights and in property. Our forefathers fought against it and we today proudly follow in their footsteps.


The main plank of the Sinn Féin election platform was that there can be no political or economic development in Ireland while the country is divided…
(MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (14TH SEPTEMBER) 71 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF OUR 17TH HUNGER-STRIKER.

‘The fourth IRA Volunteer to join the (1981) hunger-strike for political status was Joe McDonnell, a thirty-year-old married man with two children, from the Lenadoon housing estate in West Belfast.


A well-known and very popular man in the greater Andersonstown area he grew up in, he had a reputation as a quiet and deep-thinking individual, with a gentle, happy go-lucky personality, who had, nevertheless, a great sense of humour, was always laughing and playing practical jokes, and who, although withdrawn at times, had the ability to make friends easily.

As an active republican before his capture in October 1976, Joe was regarded by his comrades as a cool and efficient Volunteer who did what he had to do and never talked about it afterwards. Something of a rarity within the Republican Movement, in that outside of military briefings and operational duty he was never seen around with other known or suspected Volunteers, he was nevertheless a good friend of the late Bobby Sands, with whom he was captured while on active service duty.


Although he didn’t volunteer for the earlier hunger strike in 1980, it was the intense disappointment brought about by British duplicity following the end of that hunger strike and the bitterness and anger that duplicity produced among all the blanket men that prompted Joe to put forward his name the next time round.

And it was predictable, as well as fitting, when his friend and comrade Bobby Sands met with death on the sixty-sixth day of his hunger strike, that Joe McDonnell should volunteer to take Bobby’s place and continue that fight. His determination and resolve in that course of action can be gauged by the fact that never once, following his sentencing to fourteen years imprisonment in 1977, did he put on the prison uniform to take a visit, seeing his wife and family only after he commenced his hunger-strike.


The story of Joe McDonnell is of a highly-aware republican soldier whose involvement stemmed initially from the personal repression and harassment he and his family suffered at the hands of the British occupation forces, but which then deepened – through continuing repression – to a mature commitment to oppose an occupation that denied his country freedom and attempted to criminalise its people. It was that commitment which he held more dear than his own life.

Joe McDonnell was born on September 14th 1951, the fifth of eight children, into the family home in Slate Street in Belfast’s Lower Falls. His father, Robert, a steel erector, and his mother, Eileen (whose maiden name is Straney), both came from the Lower Falls themselves, and they married in St. Peter’s church there, in 1941, living first with Robert’s sister and her husband in Colinward Street, off the Springfield Road, before moving into their own home in Slate Street, where the family were all born.


A ninth child, Bernadette, was a particular favourite of Joe’s, before her death from a kidney illness at the early age of three : “Joseph practically reared Bernadette”, recalls his mother, “he was always with the child, carrying her around. He was about ten at the time. He even used to play marleys with her on his shoulders.” Bernadette’s death, a sad blow to the family, was deeply felt by her young brother Joe.

Joe and his then girlfriend, Goretti, who also comes from Andersonstown, married in St.Agnes’ Chapel in 1970, and moved in to live with Goretti’s sister and her family in Horn Drive in Lower Lenadoon. At that time, however, they were one of only two nationalist households in what was then a predominantly loyalist street, and, after repeated instances of verbal intimidation, in the middle of the night, a loyalist mob – in full view of a nearby British Army post, and with the blessing of the raving Reverend Robert Bradford, who stood by – broke down the doors and wrecked the houses, forcing the two families to leave.


The McDonnells went to live with Goretti’s mother for a while, but eventually got the chance to squat in a house being vacated in Lenadoon Avenue. Internment had been introduced shortly before, and in 1972 the British army struck with a 4.00 a.m. raid ; Joe was dragged from the house, hit in the eye with a rifle butt and bundled into a British Army jeep. Their house was searched and wrecked. Joe was taken to the prison ship Maidstone and later on to Long Kesh internment camp where he was held for several months. Goretti recalls that early morning as a “horrific” experience which altered both their lives. One minute they had everything, the next minute nothing.

On his release Joe joined the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, operating at first in the 1st Battalion’s ‘A’ Company which covered the Rosnareen end of Andersonstown, and later being absorbed into the ‘cell’ structure increasingly adopted by the IRA. Both during his first period of internment, and his second, longer, internment in 1973, as well as the periods when he was free, the McDonnell’s home in Lenadoon was a constant target for British army raids, during which the house would often be torn apart, photos torn up and confiscated and letters from Joe (previously read by the prison censor) re-read by infantile British soldiers, and Goretti herself arrested.


In between periods of internment, and before his capture, Joe resumed his trade as an upholsterer which he had followed since leaving school at the age of fifteen. He loved the job, never missing a day through illness, and made both the furniture for his own home as well as for many of the bars and clubs in the surrounding area.


His job enabled him to take the family for regular holidays – he took a strong interest in his children, Bernadette, aged ten and Joseph, aged nine, teaching them both to swim, and forever playing football with young Joseph on the small green outside their home – but Joe was a real ‘homer’ and always longed to be back in his native Belfast ; part of that attraction stemmed obviously from his responsibility to his republican involvement.


An active Volunteer throughout the Greater Andersonstown area, Joe was considered a first-class operator who didn’t show much fear. Generally quiet and serious while on an operation, whether an ambush or a bombing mission, Joe’s humour occasionally shone through. Driving one time to an intended target in the Lenadoon area with a carload of Volunteers, smoke began to appear in the car. Not realising that it was simply escaping exhaust fumes, and thinking it came from the bags containing a number of bombs, a degree of alarm began to break out in the car, but Joe only advised his comrades, drily, not to bother about it : “They’ll go off soon enough.”

Outside of active service, Joe mixed mostly with people he knew from work, never flaunting his republican beliefs or his involvement, to such an extent that it led some republicans to believe he had not reported back to the IRA on his second release from internment. The British, however, persecuted him and his family continually, with frequent house raids and street arrests.


He could rarely leave the house without being stopped for P-checking, or held up for an hour at a roadblock if he had somewhere to go. A few months before his capture, irate British soldiers at a roadblock warned him that they would ‘get’ him, and they did – his capture took place in October 1976 following a firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furnishing Company in Upper Dunmurray Lane, near the Twinbrook estate in West Belfast.

The IRA had reconnoitred the store, noting the extravagantly-priced furniture it sold, and had selected it as an economic target. The plan was to petrol bomb the premises and then to lay explosive charges to spread the flames. The Twinbrook active service unit led by Bobby Sands was at that time in the process of being built up, and were assisted consequently in this operation by experienced republican Volunteers from the adjoining Andersonstown area, including Joe McDonnell (pictured).


Unfortunately, following the attack, which successfully destroyed the furnishing company, the escape route of some of the Volunteers involved was blocked by a car placed across the road. During an ensuing shoot-out with the British Army and the RUC, two republicans, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett, were wounded, and four others, Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, Seamus Finucane and Sean Lavery, were arrested in a car not far away.


Three IRA Volunteers managed to escape safely from the area. A single revolver was found in the car, and at the men’s subsequent trial in September 1977 all four received fourteen-year sentences for possession when they refused to recognise the court. Rough treatment during their interrogation in Castlereagh failed to make any of the four sign a statement, and the RUC were thus unable to charge the men with involvement in the attack on the furnishing company despite their proximity to it at the time of their arrest.

From the day he was sentenced Joe refused to put on the prison uniform to take a visit, so adamant was he that he would not be criminalised. He kept in touch instead, with his wife and family, by means of daily smuggled ‘communications’, written with smuggled-in biro refills on prison issue toilet paper and smuggled out via other blanket men who were taking visits. Incarcerated in H5-Block, Joe acted as ‘scorcher’ (an anglicised form of the Irish word ‘scairt’, to shout) shouting the sceal, or news from his block to the adjoining one about a hundred yards away. Frequently this is the only way that news from outside can be communicated from one H-Block to the blanket men in another H-Block.


It illustrates well the feeling of bitter determination prevailing in the H-Blocks that Joe McDonnell, who did not volunteer for the hunger strike in 1980 because, he said, “I have too much to live for”, should have become so frustrated and angered by British perfidy as to embark on hunger strike on Sunday, May 9th, 1981.

In June 1981, Joe was a candidate during the Free State general election, in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency, in which he narrowly missed election by 315 votes. All the family were actively involved in campaigning for him, and despite the disappointment at the result both they and Joe himself were pleased at the impact which the H-Block issue had on the election, and in Sligo/Leitrim itself.


Adults cried when the video film on the hunger strike was shown, his family recall, and they cried again when Joe was eliminated from the electoral count. At 5.11 am, on July 8th 1981, Joe McDonnell, who – believeably, for those who know his wife Goretti, his children Bernadette and Joseph and his family – “had too much to live for” died after sixty one days of agonising hunger strike, rather than be criminalised.’

(From ‘IRIS’ magazine, Volume 1, No. 2, November 1981.)




ON THIS DATE (14TH SEPTEMBER) 138 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A ‘FENIAN FIANNA FÁILER’.

Michael Kilroy (pictured) was born in a house on the Carrickaneady Road in the townland of Derrylahan in the Fenian hotspot of Newport, in County Mayo, on the 14th September 1884 – 138 years ago on this date.


As a youth, he learned the trade of blacksmithing and also took a keen interest in religion, and was known as a very honest and reliable boy, but had short shrift for those who overindulged in alcohol!


He was fourteen years of age when the 100th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion was commemorated and, living in a town with a strong Fenian tradition, he developed a deep interest in those proceedings and began socialising with members of various nationalist organisations in the town, eventually joining ‘The Irish Volunteers’ and, later, the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’.


He was active in the 1916 Easter Rising and was in a leadership position within militant republicanism during the early 1920’s : IRA Major General Michael Kilroy (who was later to be appointed as the Commandant of the 4th Western Battalion of the IRA) was in command of the IRA’s West Mayo Flying Column, comprising about 30 Volunteers when, on the 2nd June, 1921, they ambushed a convoy of RIC and Black and Tans who had just vacated Darby Hastings pub in Carrowkennedy.


A fierce firefight ensued resulting in the immediate deaths of eight Black and Tans, two more of whom were wounded and died later. The survivors from that particular British expedition, about sixteen RIC/Tans, had sought refuge in a near-by cottage and then surrendered themselves to the IRA Flying Column. They were relieved of their weapons and ammunition, which were added to the Lewis Machine Gun and the various rifles which the IRA confiscated from those enemy forces that day.


One of the many other military operations carried out by Commandant Michael Kilroy and his fighters is detailed here


“The National forces (ie the Free State Army), who fought bravely to the end, lost six men, and one seriously wounded, and a large number of prisoners. Some accounts say six were killed outright and one wounded.


Some of the National forces escaped by car ; 42 rifles, some revolvers, and a large store of ammunition was seized by the Irregulars. The prisoners were released from custody the same evening by Commandant Kilroy, who was in charge of the lrregulars, and marched in the direction of Bangor, carrying captured ammunition as far as Barroosky, where they were set at liberty with an undertaking of no further molestation.


The wounded and dead were conveyed to Glenlossera lodge, where every possible attention and care was bestowed by the Irregulars on the wounded pending the arrival of Dr. Walsh, Ballina, and Dr. Kelly, Westport, with a corps of Red Cross nurses and ambulances for the conveyance of the dead and wounded to Ballina the following day…”


Every silver lining has a cloud (!), however, and the negative aspect of Michael Kilroy’s military achievements is that it brought him into contact with certain types of people who contaminated him, politically ; in 1926, he joined the then newly-formed Fianna Fáil party and was elected, in June 1927, as a Leinster House representative for that grouping, and was re-elected at the (September) 1927, 1932 and 1933 Free State elections, but lost his North Mayo seat in the 1937 election, and retired from Fianna Fáil, and politics, in 1945.


He died on the 23rd December, 1962, aged 78, in the family home on the Carrickaneady Road in Newport, in County Mayo, and seven of his IRA comrades from the West Mayo Brigade formed a firing party at his graveside at Burrishoole Abbey Cemetery, in Newport, where the oration was given by one of those men, Edward Moane.


And that was most appropriate because, like Michael Kilroy, Mr Moane had left the Republican Movement for the Fianna Fáil grouping and both men had taken seats in Leinster House. Gamekeepers-turned-poachers.



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Thanks for the visit, and for reading!

Sharon and the team.







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.

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