ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 101 YEARS AGO : FERMANAGH COUNTY COUNCIL REFUSES TO RECOGNISE “THE PARTITION PARLIAMENT IN BELFAST…”
Fermanagh council offices (pictured) issued the following statement on this date – 21st December – in 1921 : “We, the County Council of Fermanagh, in view of the expressed desire of a large majority of people in this county, do not recognise the partition parliament in Belfast and do hereby direct our Secretary to hold no further communications with either Belfast or British Local Government Departments, and we pledge our allegiance to Dáil Éireann.”
Short, sharp, and to the point.
And it was rightly seen by ‘Sir’ Richard Dawson Bates, the Stormont ‘Minister for Home Affairs’ (who was a solicitor by trade and was also Secretary of the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’, a position he had held since 1905), who wasn’t impressed. He had ‘made his name’ in that same year (1921) when, at 44 years of age, he ordered the RIC to close down the Offices of Tyrone County Council as he didn’t like the way they were doing their business – that body had declared its allegiance to Dáil Éireann (32 County body).
On the 6th December that year (1921), ‘Sir’ Bates seen to it that a ‘Local Government (Emergency Powers) Bill’ had been passed into ‘law’ ; that new ‘law’ stated that “…the Ministry, in the event of any of the local authorities refusing to function or refusing to carry out the duties imposed on them under the Local Government Acts, can dissolve such authority and in its place appoint a Commission to carry on the duties of such authority.”
Bates instructed the RIC to ready themselves – he assembled a raiding-party and stormed the offices of Fermanagh County Council ; the building was seized, the Council Officials were expelled and the institution itself was dissolved. In the following four months (ie up to April 1922), Bates and his RIC raiding-party were kept busy ; Armagh, Keady and Newry Urban Councils, Downpatrick Town Commissioners, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Kilkeel, Lisnaskea, Strabane, Magherafelt and Newry No. 1 and No. 2 Rural Councils and a number of Boards of Poor Law Guardians had all been dissolved and pro-Stormont ‘Commissioners’ appointed to carry out their functions.
The people of those areas (ie the voters) were not asked their opinion on whether their council should be closed down or not, nor were they asked if they agreed with the ‘appointment’ of a new ‘Commissioner’ ; in all cases, the new ‘boss’ understood what his job was – to do as instructed by ‘Sir’ Bates and his bigoted colleagues in Stormont.
In actual fact, the new ‘Commissioner’ for Armagh and Keady Councils, for instance, was a Colonel Waring, who later ‘progressed’ through the ranks to become a County Commandant of the ‘B’ Specials, an indication of the manner in which Westminster intended to ‘govern’ that part of Ireland – by destroying democratic institutions and imposing its own people and administrations in power in place of same, a scenario which it continues with to this day.
‘THE CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN.’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
What of the children of Ireland today, these little ones of the North and South and East and West?
All are born on Irish soil, inheriting the features and colouring and quick wit of the Gael, with eyes that can sparkle at moments with laughter and at moments darken with sadness.
Inheriting the Christian stamp brought by Saint Patrick that must have been the beginning of that spirit of charity that is called the hospitality and generosity of the Irish and which no foreigner could crush out completely.
They are born into a country of lame men and they grow up learning to halt – to stagger under the shame of their begging to England who has robbed them of their honour and their means of decent living on their own soil…
ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 38 YEARS AGO : BODY OF MISSING IRA VOLUNTEER FOUND.
IRA Volunteer Ciarán Fleming (pictured) ; his body was found on the 21st December 1984 – 38 years ago on this date – ‘On Sunday 2nd December 1984, IRA Volunteers Antoine Mac Giolla Bhríghde, from Magherafelt, County Derry and Ciarán Fleming, who had broken out of Long Kesh prison in the Great Escape of 1983, were preparing to mount an operation against crown forces near Drumrush in County Fermanagh when Mac Giolla Bhríghde saw a car parked on the lane which he believed to contain civilians.
Approaching the car to tell the occupants to leave the area, undercover SAS members opened fire, hitting him in the side. Cuffed with plastic stays, Mac Giolla Bhríghde was tortured before being summarily executed. His comrades, when later debriefed, reported hearing a single shot, then screaming, and a short time later a further burst of machine gun fire, after which the screaming stopped..’ (from here.)
Ciarán Fleming ‘…drowned in Bannagh River, near Kesh, County Fermanagh (while) escaping from a gun battle between an undercover British Army (BA) unit and an Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit. His body (was) found in the river on 21st December 1984..’ (from here.)
His funeral was described as ‘..the most gratuitously violent RUC attack of the year on any funeral. Many of the RUC had come in full riot gear of helmet, shield and body armour, to show that they were intent on violent disruption. Several times during a tense and exhausting funeral which lasted three full hours, the RUC baton-charged the mourners, which encouraged near-by children, standing on a wall, to throw stones at them in reprisal : the RUC then fired at least four plastic bullets into the funeral cortege, seriously injuring two people.
During the afternoon, numerous mourners suffered bloody head wounds and one man was knocked unconscious by the RUC. Stewards were often forced to halt the proceedings because of this harassment but, despite the RUC’s terror, the people stood firm and, in a twilight Bogside, three uniformed IRA Volunteers stepped out of the crowd and paid the IRA’s traditional salute to their fallen comrade, as a forest of arms were raised in clenched-fist salute. Finally , thanks to the courage of thousands of nationalists, Volunteer Ciaran Fleming was laid to rest..’ (from ‘IRIS’ magazine, October 1987.)
IRA sources that were contacted at the time by journalist Ed Moloney stated that Ciarán Fleming ‘…was noted for his hard line militarist republicanism. He is reputed to have backed a plan to form full-time guerrilla units or ‘flying columns’ based in the Republic, which would carry out four or five large scale attacks in the north a year. This approach was espoused by the militant Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade led by Padraig McKearney and Jim Lynagh, who wanted an escalation of the conflict to what they termed “total war”.
They were opposed by Kevin McKenna, the then IRA Chief of Staff and by the republican leadership headed by Gerry Adams at the time, on the grounds that actions on that scale were too big a risk and unsustainable. The IRA leadership wanted a smaller scale campaign of attrition, supplemented by political campaigning by (Provisional) Sinn Féin…’ (from here.)
That “political campaigning by Provisional Sinn Féin” has seen that grouping morph into a slightly more-nationalist political party than either of the latter-day Fianna Fáil or SDLP organisations but, true to form, like Fianna Fáil and the SDLP, the Provisional Sinn Féin party has distanced itself (except verbally) from Irish republicanism.
It’s an easier life, with a salary and a pension, neither of which were available when Adams and company professed to be advocates of change rather than that which they are now, and have been for over 35 years now – ‘service providers’, advocaters of, and for, Free State and British political accommodation in Ireland.
‘THE BRITISH STORY…’
Roy Foster (pictured) in the British media.
By Barra Ó Séaghdha.
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
The failure to engage with, and not just mention, the British dimension is something so normal, so ordinary, so generally unconsidered, that it needs to be underlined.
There has been a debate on heritage in Britain for several decades but it occurs to no-one that this could be relevant to the debate in Ireland, where EU funding allowed an ill-considered late explosion of the heritage industry.
English/British history-writing has passed through many phases and debates since the mid-Victorian era but it doesn’t occur to our reviewers and interviewers that there might be some connection between the Irish nationalist story and the imperial story…
ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 226 YEARS AGO – “NEAR ENOUGH TO TOSS A BISCUIT ASHORE…”
On the 21st December 1796 – 226 years ago on this date – a French Commander, General Louis-Lazare Hoche (pictured), who had sailed for Ireland with a fleet of 35 ships, arrived in Bantry Bay, Cork, on the south-west coast of Ireland, as that location was an ideal spot for the job in hand – to assist the Irish rebels in their fight against the British military and political presence in Ireland.
The Bay is 26 miles long, 7 miles across and, at its deepest, 40 fathoms. There was about 15,000 fully-armed and experienced French fighting troops on board the fleet – the same men that had only recently proved their mettle in Europe and that were known as “the greatest revolutionary army in the world”.
A storm at sea had separated the lead ship, with General Hoche on board, from the rest of the fleet, but a strong head-wind prevented any of the ships from landing their troops. The Bay itself was wide open, with no British troops to offer resistance, but the wind was growing in strength, and soon became a gale-force, which forced 20 of the great French ships out of the Bay and pushed them out to sea.
The other 15 ships attempted to move up the Bay but, it was later reported, they could only manage to move about 50 yards every 8 hours. By December 22nd, only about half of the fleet had entered the Bay and French Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy, the second-in-command, decided not to disembark as he had only 6,400 men and the storm would have made a landing hazardous : “England,” said Wolfe Tone, “has not had such an escape since the Armada” and, years later, W.B. Yeats wrote that “John Bull and the sea are friends…” .
The high winds were mixed with squalls of sleet and snow, but still no notable British presence to face them had materialised in the area.
But – so near and yet so far – the French were still unable to land. General Hoche’s men were in Bantry Bay for a week and, by now, a small force of some 400 British troops from the Bantry area were on the beach, pretending to ‘shape up’ to the those at sea, safe in the knowledge that the French troops could not get at them – the British ‘authorities’ had apparently been tipped-off about the French fleet by the ‘landlord’ who lived in the ‘big house’ at the head of Bantry Bay – this man was later awarded the title of ‘Lord Bantry’, by the British, for his loyal ‘service to The Crown’.
Wolfe Tone, who was on board the ship with General Hoche, wrote in near despair of the efforts to land the soldiers at Bantry Bay – “We are now, nine o’clock, at the rendezvous appointed ; stood in for the coast till twelve, when we were near enough to toss a biscuit ashore ; at twelve tacked and stood out again, so now we have begun our cruise of five days in all its forms, and shall, in obedience to the letter of our instructions, ruin the expedition, and destroy the remnant of the French navy, with a precision and punctuality which will be truly edifying.”
The ships were being pulled and pushed by the continuing storm and were forced, one by one, to cut their anchor cables and allow themselves to be pushed out of the bay and forced back to sea again. They made sail for France, dejected, one and all. Ireland lost a good friend and skilled soldier when Lazare Hoche died of fever in 1797, in Wetzlar, Germany.
More fleets were organised, notwithstanding the strain on military resources, as the new French Republic came under attack from so-called monarchs and emperors throughout Europe, including the British, who hadn’t forgot about the lucky escape they had on those days in December 1796.
FUNDS AND FINE GAEL’S LEADER…
Michael Lowry has so far been the focus of media attention about Fine Gael fundraising.
But the party’s current leader, Enda Kenny (pictured), hosted a £1,000-a-plate dinner two days before the second mobile phone licence was awarded. And other guests say that one of the bidders for that licence was in attendance.
By Mairead Carey.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, January 2003.
It is understood that over 20 guests attended the event and the principal guests sat with the then Taoiseach John Bruton, Enda Kenny, Michael Lowry and the then (State) Minister for Defence and Marine, Sean Barrett.
But the room on the ground floor of the Conrad Hotel wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the invitees, so a number of guests were given a drink rather than a meal and joined the main gathering for a speech by John Bruton at the end of the night.
One guest at the fundraiser told ‘Magill Magazine’ that he was invited to attend by Enda Kenny’s programme manager, Ivan Doherty –
“It was sold to us on the basis that it represented an ideal opportunity to discuss our business plans with the Taoioseach..”
Guests who attended the fundraiser clearly recall that the Scandinavian businessman, said to be a (mobile phone) licence bidder, sat beside Michael Lowry for the duration of the meal…
OUR LAST POST FOR 2022 –
– this is our ‘Done’-piece for this year : we’ll post a few comments/observations etc on ‘Facebook’ / ‘Twitter’ (we should be ‘well enough’ at least, to do that, if nothin’ more…!), but we probably won’t be putting pen to paper here again until the New Year.
That’s a bit vague, we know, but sure it’s the time of the year that’s in it and, as we won’t get a chance later this year (‘time of the year’ again etc!) we’ll say a big ‘Thank You / Go Raibh Maith Agaibh’ to all our readers for their interest throughout the past year, and over all the other years (we’ve been here since 2002!) and we hope that ye will continue to come back to our wee corner of the web, where we have had over one million hits since we started annoying ya!
Enjoy your Christmas and New Year break – stay healthy, hope you stay/become wealthy enough to survive in this greedy society and wise enough to realise that too much (of anything!) can be as bad as too little.
Thanks again, agus slán go fóill anois.
Thank you for the visit, and for reading ; see ye all back here in early(‘ish’!) 2023.
Sharon and the team.