ON THIS DATE (31ST MAY) 5 YEARS AGO : A MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR PAYBACK!

On (Thursday) the 31st May 2012 – 5 years ago on this date – a vote was held in this State to decide whether to support or not to support a European treaty in relation to fiscal rules which would limit State spending by the Leinster House administration, placing those limitations into State law. At the time, the Euro currency was in trouble (“the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930’s, if not ever..“) and the quickest way for the political and financial ‘bosses’ to stabilise it (and, by extension, their own profits) was to take more of it from the ‘ordinary joe’ throughout the EU, by instructing local politicians to cut back on their share of the ‘cake’. But, as expected, when those ‘captains of industry’ were raking it in during the cyclical ‘boom times’, they were quite happy to leave us little people to our own devices, sink or swim.

At the time, we stated – ‘This Treaty is about trying to shore-up a failed currency – the Euro. In this State, that failure is compounded by the activities of the gangster politicians, property speculators and bankers who, although already wealthy and financially comfortable, wanted more and, because they move in the same ‘circles’, closed ranks to protect each other’s backs as their joint efforts bankrupted the State. Those who still have jobs, and those who have lost them, are now being penalised for the mistakes and the outright greed of that ‘elite’… (from here.) Unfortunately, more of those that voted went with the establishment and the good guys lost, prompting the following from us –

‘I don’t write this post as a sore loser, or a begrudger or because I’m in a vindictive mood (well..no more than usual, anyway!) but rather as someone who has seen the same mistake being made over and over again and, despite repeated warnings to the victim, as someone who has recently witnessed the same again : scare tactics and a pro-administration and business-friendly media manipulated enough victims into the path of the cushion-covered snare it had hidden in the undergrowth and obtained the result that their employers in the IMF and the EU ordered : a ‘YES’ vote for more austerity for the unemployed and the low paid, to secure the continued comforts of the ‘protected class’ ie the politicians themselves and their ‘friends’’ (‘interests’, rather..) in the banking and property-speculating industries.

Although over three million people (3,144,828) in this State were entitled to vote on the ‘Austerity Treaty’, only slightly more than one-and-a-half million (1,584,179) of those actually did so and, of that latter figure, 955,091 voted for more ‘austerity’ (after being told by the ‘Establishment’, among other frightening lies, that the ATM’s would soon be cashless!) whilst 629,088 voted ‘NO’..

The ‘Yes’ vote was signed into FS law by the Free State President, Michael D. Higgins, on 27th June 2012 but, five years after the fact, the Euro currency is still in trouble, the ‘cops’ (who are as ‘careless’ now as they have been in the past..), like the State that employs them and gives them succor, are bent but are still sometimes the only point of rescue for those that the State would rather forget while those that the decent among us would rather forget are allowed free reign. And neither Brussels or Leinster House will do anything – except probosculate about it, occasionally – because the careerists in those institutions would be making headlines like that themselves were it not for the fact that they are placed in positions where they can cover for each other.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

THE SERPENT. (By Cian Sharkhin.)

Sliding through the swaying Savannah
his presence is scarcely felt.
Satan’s sacred servant
is slinking through the veldt.
A glint, a gleam and shimmering sheen,
his form so lithe and svelte.

Skulking in the Savannah
that swaddles the Swaziland,
he stops and smiles, his simpering smile,
whilst striking the serpents stand.
He sighs a lisp, a sibilant lisp,
sensing his prey at hand.

The rummaging rat came rooting,
sniffing, twitching, snooting, snouting.
Rustling, bustling through the brush,
its presence it was-a-flouting.
Without a care and unaware
it was on its last outing.

The reptilian gin whips it in
with swishing slash and scything.
A squeal, a squeak and piercing shriek,
in tightening tendrils writhing.
A twist, a quirk and spasmodic jerk,
the resistance is now subsiding.

Swallowing the prey, he slithers away,
never lauded as heroic.
That wry simpering smile,
so merciless and stoic.
A projection of our darkside,
so complexly metaphoric.

(Next – ‘In My Heart’, by Keith Sinnott.)

 

ON THIS DATE (31ST MAY) 219 YEARS AGO : ‘UNITED IRISHMEN’ LEADER ELECTED.

Farewell my brave United men,
who dearly with me fought,
though tyrant might has conquered right,
full dearly was it bought.
And when the sun of freedom
shall again upon you shine,
oh, then let Bagenal Harvey’s name array your battle line

Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey was born in Wexford in 1762, into a fairly well-off (Protestant) family, and was educated at Trinity College in Dublin (his father was a senior civil servant). Beauchamp, by now a barrister, was an outspoken supporter of Catholic emancipation and, at 30 years of age, joined the ‘Dublin Society of United Irishmen’. In that same year (1792) his father died, leaving him property in Wexford and Waterford, which yielded an annual rental of £3,000.

Harvey was arrested by the British in late May 1798 and was imprisoned in Wexford Jail but the prison was forcibly taken over a few days later by the United Irishmen and he was set free. On the 31st of that month – 219 years ago on this date – he was appointed by the approximate four-thousand strong rebel army in that area as their Commander-in-Chief. He gathered his forces and headed for the walled-town of New Ross, intending to set up camp there – they set up a temporary base at Three Rock, just outside Wexford Town, and spent about three days there, drilling and learning basic military manoeuvres. From New Ross they intended to march on Kilkenny, where they could recruit more fighters. On the 5th June 1798, Harvey sent a despatch rider into New Ross with an instruction to the British general in charge (Johnson) demanding the surrender of the town ‘to avert rapine and bloodshed’ but the messenger was killed by Johnson’s yeomanry. The Irish, numbering approximately four-thousand strong, attacked New Ross and won the fight, and the town, only to lose it when the British re-grouped and drove them out. However, within hours the Irish had themselves re-grouped and were ready for another attack.

The rebel leaders – Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, Thomas Cloney, Father Philip Roche and John Kelly – led their army into New Ross again and scattered the British but failed to properly secure the town ; the British again re-grouped, attacked and, for the second time, put the Irish to flight. Feeling that a final victory was within their grasp, the United Irishmen assembled for another push – the third such attack. They divided into three groups, two of which – each consisting of hundreds of rebels – were dispatched towards Wicklow, to confuse the enemy, while the third contingent, consisting of about three-thousand men and women, headed for New Ross again. The two ‘Wicklow’ groups put up a fierce struggle against professional British Yeomanry, but were eventually forced to scatter, leaving hundreds of fellow rebels dead or dying. By this time, the largest group (under Harvey) had reached Carrickbyrne Hill, about two-hours march from New Ross ; on their journey from Three Rock to Carrickbyrne Hill they had encountered and defeated armed British contingents and Harvey decided they should set-up base at the Hill and teach the rebel army how to use the captured pieces of artillery which they had taken from the British forces they had met along the way.

After a few days in training, the rebel army were judged to be ready to be moved to the next ‘camp’, Corbett Hill – the last such stop before they would reach the town of New Ross, and from where they could look down on the town. They knew that there was about three or four-thousand enemy soldiers in New Ross, commanded by a General Johnson and a ‘Lord’ Mountjoy, the latter in charge of an enemy Brigade from Dublin. Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey wanted to take the town without bloodshed, if possible, and sent a number of his men, under a flag of truce, to let the British know that he was willing to accept their surrender and take prisoners. The British shot the truce party dead. A battle that was to last thirteen hours was about to begin.

The rebels gathered a huge herd of cattle and stampeded the animals towards the town, following immediately behind the terrified beasts. The British outposts fell, and the Irish fought their way into the middle of New Ross , meeting strong resistance – the enemy retreated, re-grouped and, once more, succeeded in forcing the United Irishmen out of the town. Some of the rebel army were reluctant to lose the ground they had gained, and had to be practically dragged away by their own comrades ; one such rebel was Mary Doyle, who ran from body to body of dead and dying enemy soldiers, finishing them off or just making sure they were dead before removing their ammunition belts and weapons which she then distributed to her own side! –

‘By 1798 the wearing of the colour green was forbidden by order of the English government, but this order was defied by the women, especially in Wexford. The women of Wexford had their petticoats, handkerchiefs, cap ribbons and all parts of their dress that exhibited a shade of green, torn off and were subjected to the most vile and indecent language by the Yeomen. Any women who encountered the government troops ran a most terrible risk. In
a desperate encounter with a Hessian Captain, Anne Ford of Garrysackle, County Wexford, slew him with a mallet. Peg Kavanagh was one of many women who conveyed despatches and food to Michael Dwyer and Joseph Hall in their hiding place in the Wicklow Mountains. Susan O’Toole, the blacksmith’s daughter of Annamore, carried ammunition and provisions to the insurgent chiefs for many a long year. Joseph Hall used to call Susan O’Toole his “moving magazine”. William Rooney has immortalised the memory of Mary Doyle, a fearless Wexford insurgent :

But a figure rose before us,
Twas a girl’s fragile frame
And among the fallen soldiers

There she walked with eyes aflame,
And her voice rang o’er the sea :
“Who so dares to die for Ireland
Let him come and follow me!”
(more here.)

It was during that retreat that Mary Doyle was said to have climbed on to a British cannon and vowed to stay with the gun regardless of what happened – her own comrades could only get her to safety by wheeling the weapon out of the town, with Mary Doyle said to be sitting on the barrel of it! The town of New Ross was now on fire, with buildings crumbling and hundreds of bodies strewn around ; one of the leaders of the United Irishmen, John Kelly (from Killane), assembled the remnants of the rebel army for one last push, which he led. It was in that last attack that Kelly was badly wounded and Mary Doyle was killed by one of the many fires which now consumed the town. Both sides were by now exhausted. One of the surviving United Irishmen, Thomas Cloney, described the last battle as a free-for-all “with two confused masses of men struggling alternatively to drive the other back by force alone.” For the third time in 13 hours, the Irish rebels were forced out of their own town – they had lost the battle. The British ‘Lord’, Mountjoy’, who was in command of a British force from Dublin, was killed during the fight. Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey was captured within a few weeks by the British and was ‘tried’, convicted and hanged on the 28th June 1798 at the bridge of Wexford. His body was then beheaded, the torso thrown into the River Slaney and his head displayed on a spike at the courthouse in Wexford town.

The British no longer ‘behead and spike’ their enemy anymore (at least not in Ireland) but they continue to make enemies of the calibre of the Harvey’s and Mary Doyle’s of this world and will continue to do so until they realise that their ‘days of empire’ are over.

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

Had there truly been a pan-nationalist front, the Sinn Féin leadership would never have found itself in a situation of having to approach the IRA to ask them to destroy weaponry under the gaze of a British proxy. The present departure is, partly, a leap of faith by the republican leadership (sic – the author was referring to the leadership of the Provisional grouping) in the goodwill of Blair and the British government. Partly, too, it has occurred because this was the only tactical option open to republican leaders in a situation that had been constructed to corner them (‘1169’ comment : what nonsense! That leadership willingly walked into a political cul-de-sac, feigned surprise that it actually was a cul-de-sac, and then attempted to blame those who pointed them in the direction of that cul-de-sac!).

The narrow-minded streets of Glenbryn may yet remove the veneer of a settlement. In some ways it is already business as usual in the Alabama of the North, with pipe bombs and burnings on a weekly (and sometimes nightly) basis. If history tells us anything, it tells us that the nice new mission-statemented ‘Police Service of Northern Ireland’ will look and act remarkably like the ‘old’ RUC.

What has happened over the past couple of years is that the leadership of the republican movement (sic – the author was referencing ‘the PSF leadership’), cut adrift by the Dublin government, had no choice but to consent to unionist demands (‘1169’ comment – so those the author considered to be ‘the leadership of the republican movement’ had placed themselves in the political position wherby they were reliant on the backing of a Free State administration? Completely ludicrous to suggest that any republican would do that. A (constitutional) nationalist would, but not a republican..). No amount of ‘strategic thinking’ by the republican base will get away from that central reality… (MORE LATER).

 

GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…

SIN SCÉAL EILE.

By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

“HEY, DO YOU WANT ANY DRUGS?”.

It was Saturday afternoon in Cage 11, Long Kesh, and most other places as well, I suppose. Anyway, I was out walking around the cage – the crims (‘ODC’s) were out on the football pitch, as was normal for a Saturday, playing football. I recognised one or two, as I walked around, and waved to them.

The match was getting a bit heated so I stopped to watch for a while. It started to cool down again and wasn’t much of a spectacle, so I decided to continue my dander. “Hey, do ya want any drugs?”, asked a voice from the other side of the wire on the football pitch. “I’ll drugs ya, yea wee bastard ye, if I get my hands on ya…”, I shouted. One of the lads on the pitch that I knew came running over to me – “What’s wrong, Jim?” , he asked. “That skinny wee bastard there is trying to sell me drugs”, I replied.

“Hey you, fuck off”, he said to the pusher. “I’m only trying to swap some drugs for cigarettes”, the pusher moaned. “He doesn’t wany any, so fuck off”, was the reply he got from my friend, who was a good republican who, charged with an unscheduled offence, could not qualify for ‘Special Category Status’. He explained to me that there was a major drug problem among the young crims and how it was easier to get drugs than cigarettes… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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“IT IS MY DUTY TO TELL YOU WHAT I BELIEVE SHOULD BE DONE..”

“Because I believe these things I will always stick to them, but I do not want to force any other person to believe as I do. Let everyone be honest with himself and do what he thinks right. It is my duty to tell you what I believe should be done..” – Commandant Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle, pictured, left.

Commandant O’Boyle was born on a small farm at Leac Eineach, near Burtonport in County Donegal, in 1898. He grew tall and thin, and was known to keep himself to himself as a teenager, but livened up as he grew older, and continually expressed an interest in the political affairs of the times he was witnessing and had a great interest in the Irish language. But he was not one for trying to impose his own beliefs, whether to do with politics, history, or the Irish language, and was known by now as a Sinn Féiner but couldn’t take his interest to the level he would have liked, as he was helping to look after his father, who was in poor health : the man died in 1917, and ‘Plunkett’, now 19 years of age, needed a secure job to assist the family – he got a position as a guard with the ‘Londonderry(sic) and Lough Swilly Railway Company’ but was forced to leave that job when he was 21 due to continued harassment from the RIC, a British ‘police force’ in Ireland, which knew of his Sinn Féin beliefs.

He left Ireland for Scotland and got a job as a miner in the ‘New Mains’ Colliery, where he joined the IRA’s 2nd Battalion Scottish Brigade, B Company. His IRA work included procuring weapons for Army use in Ireland and ensuring that same received safe passage home. At 22 years of age, he was caught by the Scottish police while organising a shipment of arms and was sentenced to five years hard labour in Peterhead Prison and was known to have been singled-out for particularly rough treatment by the prison authorities, including long periods of solitary confinement.

The ‘Treaty of Surrender’ was signed in late 1921 and ‘Plunkett’ was one of many who qualified for early release under its terms and conditions (even though he was opposed to that Treaty) and, in 1922, at 24 years of age, he was released and he returned home to Donegal, but was arrested a few months later and placed in detention in Dungloe and then moved to Drumboe. Finally, he was put ‘on hold’ in Finner Camp until arrangements were made to move him to Dublin. From the moment he was first arrested he was determined to escape : he had intended to jump from the Free Staters lorry that was transporting him to Drumboe but another prisoner beat him to it. In Finner Camp he had started a tunnel but this was discovered, so he and others planned to seize the tug boat on which they were to be taken to meet the ship that was due to transport them to Dublin. When this didn’t work, they then planned (unsuccessfully) to try and take control of the ship itself!

When ‘Plunkett’ and his comrades landed in Dublin, they were taken to Newbridge Barracks where they almost immediately began work on a tunnel, but this plan was soon improved on when one of the men got his hands on a Board of Works map which highlighted the sewerage system and the existing tunnel was then re-directed towards those pipes. They soon reached the buried pipes and in October that year (1922) approximately 160 IRA prisoners effected an escape through the sewerage system and came out the other end in the Kildare section of the River Liffey, from where Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle got to Dublin and was placed in command of the Dublin No. 2 Brigade IRA, 3rd Battalion, and was stationed in the Wicklow area : it was now November 1922 and, for the next six months, his IRA unit operated and lived rough in a mountainous area between Tallaght and Glenmalure.

The Ceasefire Order of April 1923 was adhered to by ‘Plunkett’ and his men but they stayed in hiding, as did many IRA units, until the general situation became clearer – but the Free State Army still hunted them and, indeed, his unit was attacked by the Staters on 8th May 1923. Michelle Boyle, a relative of ‘Plunkett’, put the following account on the record at the time : ” Around 5am Rosie Kelly was out with (—-) when she seen Free State soldiers in the vicinity. She told the volunteers. They went into the woods and hid behind a wall. As soon as Free State soldiers came looking, Plunkett and the column opened fire. The Free State soldiers sheltered behind Kelly’s house. It wasn’t long until another band of Free State soldiers came from Moin a’ Bhealaigh and they shot into the woods. They hit their own men but none were hurt seriously. Some volunteers were in Free State soldier’s clothes and managed to escape quickly across the hills. The Column was all very tired and was glad to rest that night. At around this time Plunkett was after getting a shipment of arms from Belfast. That night in Kylebeg they had 2 Thompson guns and 7 rifles. The soldiers had Lewis guns and rifles and there were about 80 soldiers. Plunkett was a good leader, he was hot-headed but you couldn’t frighten him. He had a sharp mind, knew what time to attack and what time to retreat. And when they were escaping, Wicklow men could guide him to safe houses and over the hills..”

In mid-May 1923, ‘Plunkett’ and his men were in a safe house in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow when, in the early hours of the morning, they were surrounded by Free State forces under the command of a Belfast man, Felix Mc Corley. IRA man Tom Heavey, who was in the house at the time, explained what transpired : “Plunkett wanted the mother and daughter to be let out of the house. The Staters wouldn’t hear of that and threatened to bomb them out. That was a favourite trick, throwing grenades through the window. This put Plunkett in a spot as he couldn’t let the women be injured. So he said, ‘Let me come out’. Out he came with his hands up and walked slowly towards a stone stile at the right hand corner of the house. When he got there he spoke a few words with this Free State Officer named McCorley, a Belfast man perched on a stone ditch above him. Suddenly McCorley raised his revolver and shot Plunkett in the eye, the bullet passing through his upraised hands. For good measure he shot him again through the head. He just shot him. I saw it all. It was cold blooded murder. The others in the house were rounded up and taken away..” (from Pádraig O’ Baoighill’s book, ‘Óglach na Rosann’).

The 94th anniversary of the State execution of Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle will be marked in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow, on Sunday next, 28th May 2017, at 3pm : those attending are asked to assemble at the Church in Hollywood at 2.30pm and a bus to the commemoration will be leaving from Dublin city centre at 12.45pm – phone 01-8729747 for details. All genuine republicans welcome!

 

ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 76 YEARS AGO : “DRAFT RIOTS” AS WESTMINSTER ANGLES FOR CONSCRIPTION IN IRELAND.

In Ireland, in 1941, conscription was again being discussed in Westminster ; this time for the partitioned six north-eastern counties of Ireland. It is recorded that, at a meeting between the then ‘American Ambassador to Ireland’ (sic – the Free State), a Mr. David Gray (who was said to be friendly with the British Ambassador to America, ‘Lord’ Halifax) and Eamonn de Valera, which took place in January 1941, Gray rounded on de Valera “for capitalising on hatred of Great Britain for political reasons and so must take some responsibility for the existing popular state of mind..”, by which he meant the Free State policy of (so-called) ‘neutrality’ and the then impending strong possibility of conscription by Westminster in the Six Occupied Counties, which de Valera and his State Administration were opposed to.

Grey stated that de Valera “began to talk about his rights. I told him that the only right that he and myself enjoyed was to believe in our religion, and be burned for it if need be. Every other right depended upon force to maintain it, and he was steering a very dangerous course if he thought otherwise..”

Although pro-British in his mindset, Gray recognised the reality of the then existing political situation in Ireland : on the 24th May, 1941 – 76 years ago on this date – he sent a wire-cable (like a ‘text message’, for our younger readers!) to the American Secretary of State, stating – “Opposition leaders yesterday informed me that conscription without a conscientious objectors escape clause for minority Catholic nationalists will constitute a major irretrievable and probably fatal political blunder at this time and play directly into de Valera’s hands with grave possibilities for American interests. They [the opposition leaders] predict draft riots, the escape of draft dodgers to Southern Ireland who will be acclaimed as hero martyrs by three-quarters of the population and the fomenting of trouble by republicans and fifth columnists.
The clearest-headed leader predicts that de Valera will seize the opportunity to escape from economic and political realities by proclaiming himself the leader of the oppressed minority and with the blessings of the Cardinal will rouse anti-British feeling and call a Holy War. I think it a very likely prediction. All classes of opinion here unite in condemning the move as calamitous. It appears to be a repetition of the same fatal blunder made during the last war. The weak and failing Ulster
[sic] Government is probably seeking to sustain itself by provoking a crisis. Unless Great Britain is prepared from a military point of view to seize the whole country it appears to be madness. So little can be gained and so much lost.

Eighty thousand Irish Volunteers in the British Army will be disaffected, there will be no material number of nationalist conscripts, a government, a popular majority and an army inclined to be friendly to Great Britain rather than to the Axis will become definitely hostile, possibly giving active aid to Germany and most important of all the pro-British opposition will be helpless and the opportunity for dividing the country on the question of the ports will be lost for the duration. The effect on Irish-American opinion at this juncture is not for me to estimate. This is a grave situation.”

Shortly afterwards, Churchill wrote –“..the (British) Cabinet is inclined to the view it would be more trouble than it’s worth to go through with conscription. No immediate decision will be taken and in the meantime the less made of the affair the better.” It took, as usual, the threat of force, or force itself, before the British realised that there would be a consequence to their action. And it still does today.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT… (By Cian Sharkhin.)

“The elephants on my foot.” The squeaky voice piped up, breaking the spell of the Maenad. ‘THWAACK!’ The zoo keeper’s cane reverberated off the baby elephant’s rump, causing him to lumber forward, releasing me. It never even hurt when he was standing on my foot, it was like somebody sitting on my foot, I just couldn’t move.I should’ve felt relieved, I didn’t – I felt overwrought.

Just as the ‘naughty boys’ in the film had caused Dumbo’s mummy to go crazy and attack them in defence of little Dumbo, whose ears the naughty boys were pulling whilst teasing the baby elephant. I had betrayed the baby elephant causing the zoo keeper to whack it with his long bamboo stick. I felt awful.

“Oh Christopher, my little pet. Are you alright?” My mother gently cooed into my ear as she dandled me and groomed my curly blond tresses. Gone was the Maenad, transformed back to my mother, her features had softened and the Doris Day light shone forth from her. My mother’s face was a case study of divinity, a Madonna.

“Oh don’t worry, my pet, why didn’t you say? Oh never mind , you were probably frightened, you poor thing…” My mother continued both asking and answering her own questions, leaving me to reflect on my act of ‘treachery’. Poor old Dumbo. (End of ‘Dumbo the Elephant’ : next – ‘The Serpent’, by Cian Sharkhin ).

 

ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 94 YEARS AGO : IRA ORDERED TO ‘DUMP ARMS’.

“To All Ranks : Comrades – The arms with which we have fought the enemies of our country are to be dumped. The foreign and domestic enemies of the Republic have for the moment prevailed” – ‘Dump Arms’ order issued by the then newly-appointed IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken (pictured, right), on Thursday, 24th May 1923 : 94 years ago on this date.

 

“Further sacrifice on your part would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment, with those who have destroyed the Republic. You have saved the nation’s honour, preserved the sacred national tradition, and kept open the road of independence” – an echo of the above ‘Dump Arms’ order to the IRA, issued on the same date [24th May 1923] by Éamon de Valera (pictured, left).

Yet, three years later, that same man actually joined those “who have destroyed the Republic” when, in March 1926, following an extraordinary meeting of the then Sinn Féin organisation, he resigned as leader and, splitting the Movement, brought others with him in forming (on the 23rd March 1926) “a new national movement” – Fianna Fáil. He and the other defectors stated that they had no option except to leave the Movement after their Ard Fheis motion calling for elected Sinn Féin members to be allowed to take their seats in the Free State parliament (Leinster House), if and when the controversial ‘Oath of Allegiance’ was removed, was defeated in a vote.

‘He was born in New York on the 14th of October in 1882 to Catherine Coll (a young Irish immigrant from
County Limerick) and Juan Vivion DeValera (an immigrant of Spanish origin). Little is known of his early childhood except that his family moved from America in 1885 to Ireland where the young Éamon studied at Blackrock College in Dublin and was largely reared by his Grandmother. He studied languages and mathematics and was, like Michael Collins, a student of English Rule in Ireland. The early 1900’s was a time of the great Gaelic cultural revival in Ireland as literature, drama, sport and the language of the Gaelic nation were all revived. The main spearhead of the revival was The Gaelic League which he joined in 1908. He was greatly influenced by the League and learned the Irish language whilst immersing himself in the Gaelic culture.

The Gaelic League was an obvious recruiting ground for the various revolutionary organisations of the time and it was not long before de Valera became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was second in command to Thomas MacDonagh of the Dublin Brigade during the Easter Rising of 1916. The Rising failed and the seven leaders, MacDonagh and Pearse among them, were executed, along with 9 other rebels. de Valera was also sentenced to death as an organiser of the revolt but was to escape the firing squad because of the confusion surrounding his ancestry (the English authorities did not want to risk the execution of an American citizen)..’(from here).

New York-born Éamon de Valera died at 92 years of age in Blackrock, Dublin, in 1975, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. His ‘Dump Arms’ colleague, Frank Aiken, also died in Blackrock, Dublin, eight years after de Valera (1983), aged 85 ; ‘From an adolescent farmer to a local Sinn Fein activist and provincial guerrilla leader, and eventually to chief-of-staff of the IRA, Frank Aiken has an early, hidden history. As with so many of his political generation, Aiken’s path to politics began amid the violent upheaval of the Irish revolution..’ (from here).

On the 20th April 1923, Frank Aiken was elected as Chief of Staff for the IRA and almost had his tenure brought to an end within two days : on the 22nd of that month, Aiken was holed up in a so-called ‘safe house’ in Castlebellingham in County Louth with the Quinn brothers, Pádraig and Séan. The three men were part of the leadership of the IRA’s ‘Fourth Northern Division’ (Frank Aiken was commander of that unit, Pádraig was the quartermaster general and Séan was adjutant general) and, as such, were high on the Free Staters ‘Most Wanted’ list. The ‘safe house’ was surrounded (on the 22nd) by Free State forces and a firefight ensued, during which both Quinn brothers were wounded (Séan died from his wounds, and Pádraig was captured) but, in the melee and confusion of the action, Frank Aiken managed to escape. Three short years later, however, he left Sinn Féin and, working alongside (colluding with, to be more apt) Seán Lemass, Gerry Boland and Countess Markievicz, established a political party – Fianna Fail.

The Republican Movement continued its struggle against the British military and political presence in Ireland and found itself having to do battle, too, with Frank Aiken and his fellow Free Staters who, in their attempts to present the Free State as ‘a normal society’ rather than that which it was (and, indeed, still is today) – a corrupt and bastardised political entity – tried to control the news of the day : ‘Censorship was under the charge of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, Frank Aiken. It was necessary to prevent publication of matter that might undermine the neutrality of the State and to prevent it becoming a clearing house for foreign intelligence, though over the period of the Emergency, the Act started to be used for more party political purposes such as preventing the publication of the numbers of Irish soldiers serving in the United Kingdom armed forces or industrial disputes within the state. In addition, the information made available to Irish people was also carefully controlled…’ (from here).

As the Free State ‘Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures’ (as he was from 1939 to 1945), Frank Aiken could (and did) ‘authorise and provide for the censorship, restriction, control, or partial or complete suspension of communication’ – in other words, he propagandised for Free Statism on behalf of Westminster and, as such – like his Fianna Fail/Free State colleagues – was seen as a persona non grata by the IRA. Indeed, when his old IRA ‘boss’, Paddy Rankin, died in 1964, Frank Aiken made the journey from Dublin to Newry to attend the funeral and was told in no uncertain terms when he got there that it was an IRA-organised funeral and his presence might not be appreciated by all concerned. It was recorded at the time that, following that conversation, “..Mr Aiken made a quick retreat up the Dublin Road..”.

Free Staters, and the Free State entity itself and the mentality that they and it support and represent, has ‘dug in’, politically, since de Valera and Aiken, among others, nurtured it into life, and its ‘retreat’ will not be quick but, for the sake of those of us who respect this country, it has to happen. And the sooner, the better.

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

One of the key tasks facing the IRA officers who ‘green-booked’ new recruits into the army was to make sure they had the psychological strength necessary to withstand the trauma of killing at close range and, in order to do this, IRA volunteers had to be 100 per cent sure that they were 100 per cent justified in using the gun. There had to be complete moral certitude, but the recent decommissioning ‘event’ has caused a certain creeping moral ambiguity to seep into the belief system of IRA volunteers. This is no small matter.

The Garda Special Branch approached social scientists in Maynooth in the 1980’s with the simple question : “How do we beat the IRA?” The answer was simple – “Destroy their belief system.” One of the main casualties for the Republican Movement in entering this process was the belief system that equipped volunteers to sustain their operational effectiveness as much as did the guns. Bobby Sands was imprisoned because he was in possession of a firearm – the core question was the legitimacy and legality of what he was doing with that automatic pistol. To the British administrators of the northern state he was a criminal but, to his comrades, he was a legitimate soldier doing his national duty at a time of national emergency.

The ‘event’ now slightly opens the door guarding that moral certitude. Doubt may creep into those who spent their youth preoccupied with the guns and their deadly use. This is new terrain for republicans, especially those who remember the 70’s and 80’s ; cries of ‘sell-out’ in the direction of the current leadership are arrant nonsense, given the situation they find themselves in. Perhaps accusations of acquiescing in a compulsory purchase order would be more apt. (‘1169’ comment – and ‘purchased’ they were, and sold themselves cheap, to boot. The “situation they find themselves in” is one of their own making ie the Adams/McGuinness leadership allowed the political establishment to guide them to a point where to join that political establishment could be ‘sold’ as the smart/cute/republican thing to do and, unfortunately, the majority of the membership allowed it to happen.) (MORE LATER).

 

(1) ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 96 YEARS AGO : FIRST ELECTION TO A PARTITIONIST ASSEMBLY HELD IN IRELAND.

‘The first election to a devolved legislature in Northern Ireland (sic) took place on 24 May 1921*. A record-breaking turnout delivered 40 Unionist seats in the Northern Ireland’s new House of Commons, with Sinn Féin in second place. At a time of political uncertainty, when the future status (or even location) of the Border was not yet established, the election was a crucial moment in the construction of Northern Ireland’s political infrastructure for the next half-century and more…’ (from ‘The Irish Times’ newspaper, here / *under the terms of the British 1920 ‘Government of Ireland Act’ ie two ‘Home Rule Parliaments’ for Ireland)

And, today – 96 years later – that institution is still there, still funded by Westminster and, as ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’, still doing the bidding of the British political establishment. Irish republicans are abstentionist in relation to the Stormont institution and the Leinster House assembly in Dublin, as both ‘parliaments’ were put in place by acts of, and to the advantage of, Westminster. Neither ‘House’ can be of any use in regards to Irish reunification, as both accommodate advocates of the continued partition of this country, regardless of what they may say or put in writing ; as with all career politicians, you have to watch what they do as opposed to what they say.

 

(2) ON THIS DATE (MAY 24TH) 96 YEARS AGO : “ALMOST AN IMPOSSIBILITY” TO DEFEAT THE IRA – BRITISH ARMY GENERAL.

On the 24th May 1921 – 96 years ago on this date – British Army General ‘Sir’ Nevil Macready (pictured, left) wrote a memorandum to the British Cabinet in which he stated that a full military victory against the guerrilla forces of the IRA was almost an impossibility ; he suggested the introduction of total martial law, the suppression of all newspapers, the licensing of all public traffic on the roads, identity cards and the suppression of any Irish republican parliament! A proper Gentleman, by all accounts…

However, Macready’s political masters in Westminster let it be known that, in their opinion, ‘such measures were too extreme’ ; in reality, however, there was one over-riding reason why such an order would not be issued to General Macready – Westminster was already voicing its opinion, diplomatically, to as wide an audience as it could get to, that the ‘behind-the-scenes’ talk about a ‘Truce’ was the ‘answer’ to the ‘Irish Question’ : Westminster was not worried about being too harsh on the Irish – if Macready’s demands were met, the British ‘spin’ would be blown apart and questions would be asked as to why such measures were needed when the issue had been, as Westminster was insinuating, practically settled.

Macready’s ‘wish list’, if implemented, would have led to a fresh wave of American support for the IRA, and the British politicians in Westminster knew it. British ‘King’ George V, Lloyd George and General Smuts had sent-out ‘peace signals’ to the IRA and those they perceived to be its political leaders or representatives – among those ‘come-hither’ advances was this beauty of political hypocrisy, delivered in Belfast on the 22nd June (1921) by British ‘King’ George V, who was in Belfast to open the new ‘Home Rule Parliament’ at Stormont – “I speak from a full heart when I pray that my coming to Ireland today may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife among her peoples, whatever their race or creed. In that hope, I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forebearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill.” Blaming the Irish for the situation, but willing to forgive us for trying to defend ourselves. The ‘king’ should have stuck to collecting stamps, and more’s the pity he wasn’t introduced to his doctor sooner than he was

However – those ‘peace signals’ bore fruit – a message from Richard Mulcahy, IRA Chief of Staff was circulated to all active personnel – “In view of the conversations now being entered into by our Government with the Government of Great Britain, and in pursuance of mutual conversations, active operations by our forces will be suspended as from noon, Monday, 11 July…”

Then, in London, on the 6th December that year (1921), the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ was signed, bringing this cursed Free State into being and succeeding only in ‘kicking the can down the road’ – to this day, Westminster continues to claim jurisdictional control over part of Ireland, a claim enforced politically and militarily. We have had other ‘Treaty’s ‘ since then : 1973 (Sunningdale), 1985 (Hillsborough) and 1998 (Stormont) – and no doubt we will suffer more of them in the future. But until such time as any offered treaty contains a date for British military and political withdrawal from Ireland, it will not ‘solve the Irish problem’ ; Irish republicans have not endured an 848-years long struggle for freedom only to now say to Westminster, as those in the Free State ‘parliament’, and system, have said – ‘Stay if you want, just treat us better’.

 

GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…

SIN SCÉAL EILE.

By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

INTELLECTUAL STUPIDITY.
The Older Son.

In the barracks a couple of well-placed kicks to the back of the testicles brought forward the information that the younger son had an elder brother whom we will call ‘the older son’. The older son was attending Queens University and like his younger brother was coming down with O-Levels and A-Levels etc. Up until then I always equated this with intelligence.

No sooner did the older son cross the door of his house than back came the RUC and the British Army. There were no pleasantries exchanged – the older son was arrested under the same Act as his younger brother. “What’s this all about?”, asked the older son. “You’ll find out”, replied an RUC man.

While the younger son was being held by the privates and sergeants of the Kosbies in the cells of the barracks, the older son was being interrogated by RUC detectives as to how the rifle came to be in his home and who brought it there. The older son denied all knowledge of it, and the RUC man then produced it – it was a Lee Enfield 303. The older son’s face showed the hint of a grin, which the RUC detective noticed – “Do you think this is funny?”, he said. “You must think that I came up the Lagan in a bubble”, the older son replied, sarcastically. “What do you mean?”, asked the RUC man. “That’s not the rifle that was in our house…” “Why, what was it like?”, asked the RUC man. “It wasn’t as big as that! said the older son, who then spent the next fifteen minutes describing in great detail all the major and minor characteristics of an M1 Carbine.

The younger son went to prison for a rifle he knew nothing about and the older son went to prison for a rifle that officially never existed. O-Levels and A-Levels indeed. (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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REPUBLICAN PRISONERS : PICKET IN REMEMBRANCE, STATEMENT IN SUPPORT.

HUNGER STRIKE COMMEMORATION, Dublin, Saturday May 6th 2017, GPO Dublin, 12 noon to 2pm : Between the years 1917 and 1981, 22 Irish men died on hunger strike in the fight for Irish freedom. That same fight continues today, as six Irish counties remain under the jurisdictional control of Westminster, which enforces that control with military occupation. The annual Hunger-Strike Commemoration – organised by the Republican Movement – will be held this year on Saturday, 6th May, when a picket and rally will be held at the GPO in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, from 12 noon to 2pm. All republicans welcome!

The following statement was issued by the RSF POW Department on Sunday, 30th April 2017 : ‘Gabriel Mackle in isolation in Maghaberry for a further 28 days : Gabriel Mackle has been in isolation in Maghaberry jail, Co Antrim, since he returned from parole for a family occasion at the end of March. Most of that time has been in the ‘Care and Supervision Unit’ (CSU) – the isolation unit. This situation arose when Gabriel returned from parole in March and he refused to come under the structures of the IRPWA on Roe 4. Gabriel was and is a CABHAIR-supported POW, he was a guest on Roe 4 for some time and worked under his own structures. He was approached by members of the IRPWA and told he would be removed from the landing if he did not comply with the IRPWA directive. He refused to do so and was removed from Roe 4.

Gabriel’s father got a stroke four weeks ago and died on Sunday, April 23rd. Gabriel did not have a visit with his father in the hospital. Though he applied for 48-hour compassionate parole, he was allowed parole for just eight hours to attend the funeral on the Tuesday. This was a callous act on the part of the prison regime. The physical change in him was dramatic and his family and friends were shocked to see his weight loss and his unhealthy pallor. He has not been given his personal belongings and has no access to newspapers or books. His drinks are placed outside his cell door and he must knock on the door when he wants a drink. He has no access to kitchen facilities as he did in Roe House, so he has either to eat what is given him or starve, which would explain his weight loss.

He has had no visits and is allowed only a five-minute phone calls to his wife. This is particularly hard on the children who had regular visits with their father, suddenly he is removed from visits. His yard time is one hour on his own during which he is verbally abused by other prisoners. On April 28th last, the governor and a member of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) visited Gabriel with the intention of moving him to Bann House where the loyalist prisoners are held. Naturally Gabriel refused such a move. But that refusal is viewed by the prison regime as a refusal to obey an order, so once again Rule 32 was cited and he is on punishment for another 28 days, another full month in the CSU punishment block, and the cycle starts all over again.

A long battle for political status has been fought in the jails in the Occupied Six Counties. When political status was signed away in the Stormont Agreement in 1998, the POWs who were jailed had to begin that fight all over again and many were injured in the process. Roe House was set aside for republicans when it was clear that POWs would never accept criminalisation. And now when one group, by sheer volume of numbers, try to manipulate all POWs in Roe House, those who will not come under their control are criminalized. Maghaberry Prison tops the list of the three prisons in the Occupied Six Counties for the longest stays in the CSU, (1,813 in 2015). In September 2015 it was reported that ‘prisoners were held in solitary confinement for months and even years in Maghaberry Prison, despite a call from United Nations’ inspectors for a worldwide ban on more than 15 days. In 2014 at least ten prisoners were held in solitary confinement in Maghaberry for over 100 days each, with four prisoners held for over a year and in one case a prisoner was held for five years. The United Nations considers solitary confinement as the physical isolation of individuals who are in their cells for over 22 hours a day and it has called for a worldwide ban on durations of over 15 days.’ SUPPORT THE HUNGER-STRIKE PICKET, SUPPORT POW GABRIEL MACKLE!

 

ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 101 YEARS AGO : THREE REPUBLICAN DISSIDENTS EXECUTED BY THE BRITISH.

Pictured, left – Pádraig Pearse, Thomas J Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh.

On the 29th April 1916, a republican ‘surrender document’ was circulated between the combatants, which read – ‘In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin civilians and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and county will order their commands to lay down arms..’

– the document (above) was signed by, among others, Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, and it signalled the end of six days of fighting between approximately 20,000 British troops (including, in their ranks, Irish men) and a volunteer rebel force of about 1,500 Irish men and women (and other nationalities). At about 3.45pm on Saturday, 29th April 1916, the Rising was brought to an end – Pádraig Pearse surrendered to British Brigadier-General Lowe, James Connolly surrendered on behalf of the ‘Irish Citizens Army’ and Ned Daly surrendered to British Major De Courcy Wheeler ; it is not mentioned as often as it should be, but before the surrender of Ned Daly and his forces, all of whom fought bravely in the North King Street area of Dublin, the British Officer who was in command of that particular engagement, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Taylor of the South Staffordshire Regiment, had lost 11 of his men with a further 28 having being wounded.
Following the surrender of Daly and the Dublin 1st Battalion, Taylor – who was to claim later that he was acting under orders from his superior, Brigadier-General William Henry Muir Lowe – ordered his men, who were enraged over having lost so many of their number, to ‘flush out’ any remaining enemy forces. Taylor’s troops began breaking into local houses and, before their bloodlust was satisfied, they shot and/or bayoneted 15 boys and men to death, all of whom were ‘rebel fighters’, according to the British. Approximately 590 people died during the six days of the 1916 Rising, of which 374 were civilians (including 38 children, aged 16 or younger), 116 British soldiers, 77 Irish rebel soldiers and 23 members of the British ‘police force’ which operated in Ireland at that time (‘1169’ comment – the objective has not yet being obtained, as not one of those rebel/dissident fighters took up arms to ‘achieve’ a so-called ‘Free State’ : the aim then, as now, is to secure a Free Ireland).

Padraig Pearse, Tom Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh, three of those in command of the republican dissidents during the Rising, were court-martialed by the British on the 2nd May 1916 and sentenced to death and, the next day – 3rd May 1916, 101 years ago on this date – they were taken to the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail and, at dawn, were shot dead by a British Army firing squad. It was these executions that prompted British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to warn General Maxwell that ‘a large number of executions would sow the seeds of lasting trouble in Ireland’ – that was the Westminster elite once again missing the point in regards to their ‘Irish outpost’ : ‘lasting trouble in Ireland’ is, unfortunately, guaranteed by the fact that it is the British military and political presence here that brings ‘trouble’, not the manner in which that presence treats its ‘subjects’.

Before he was executed, Padraig Pearse stated : “We seem to have lost. We have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose ; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on a tradition to the future. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed…”

Pádraig Pearse was born in Dublin on the 10th November 1879 to an English father (who worked as a sculptor) and an Irish mother, both of whom encouraged him to learn about and appreciate his roots. At 21 years of age he joined the ‘Gaelic League’ and his enthusiasm ensured his advancement within that organisation – he was appointed as the editor of their newspaper, ‘An Claidheamh Solais’ (‘The Sword of Light’). Not content with just a newspaper from which to voice his pro-Irish opinion, he founded a school – St. Enda’s College in Dublin, at 29 years of age, and structured its curriculum around Irish traditions and culture and tutored in both the Irish and English languages. It was through the League that Pearse met like-minded individuals who also wanted ‘to break the connection with England’.

At 35 years of age, in 1914, he was accepted as a member of the supreme council of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB), a militant group that had stated its intention to use force to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland and, during the 1916 Rising – which he was heavily involved in organising – he was in command of the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin. He was executed at dawn by a British Army firing squad on the 3rd May 1916, in the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail.

‘The Mother’
By Pádraig Pearse.

I do not grudge them : Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed.

But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers :
We suffer in their coming and their going ;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow. And yet I have my joy :
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

Tom Clarke was born in a British military camp at Hurst Park in the Isle of Wight, on the 11th March 1858. His father was then a Corporal in the British Army but, like Tom’s mother, was Irish born. A year later Corporal Clarke was drafted to South Africa where the family lived until 1865. Tom first saw Ireland about 1870, when his father was appointed a Sergeant of the Ulster Militia and was stationed at Dungannon in County Tyrone.

It was there that he grew to early manhood, and his father wished him to follow in his own footsteps and join the British Army, but the ‘Poor Old Woman’ had already enlisted Tom in her own small but select Army, at a time when the prospects of putting food on the table were not good – an Gorta Mór and the defeat of the Fenians still hung heavy over the land. Tom Clarke was sworn into the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ by Michael Davitt and John Daly ; he could have had no more worthy sponsors.

In 1880, at twenty-two years young, he emigrated to the United States where he joined Clann na Gael and quickly volunteered for active service in Britain. The ship he travelled on struck an iceberg and sank, but he was rescued and landed on Newfoundland. Resuming his interrupted journey, he reached London where he was soon arrested – he had been followed from New York by ‘Henri Le Caron’, a British spy. On 14th June 1883, at the ‘Old Bailey’, he was, with three others, sentenced to penal servitude for life.

For 15 years and nine months, in the prisons of Chatham and Portland, Tom Clarke endured imprisonment without flinching ; 15 years and nine months of an incessant attempt, by the British, to deprive him of his life or reason. This torture did not cease with daylight and recommence on the following day ; it was maintained during the hours of darkness when even the vilest criminal was entitled to sleep and rest. But Tom Clarke and his comrades got neither sleep nor rest – cunning devices for producing continuous disturbing sounds were erected over their cells – these are described in his book ‘Glimpses of an Irish Felon’s Prison Life’ . The relentless brutality at length drove two of his comrades, Whitehead and Gallagher, hopelessly insane. With John Daly, they were released in 1896 ; Daly had been arrested a year after Tom Clarke, and had hitherto shared the same prisons with him ; though kept apart, they had managed to communicate with each other now and again. The release of his friend was a sore loss to Tom Clarke who, for a further two years, had to endure alone an even more intensified form of torture.

Released in 1898, aged 40, he spent a short time in Limerick with his friend John Daly before returning to America where, in 1901, he married Kathleen Daly, John Daly’s daughter. With Devoy, he founded the ‘Gaelic American’ newspaper and, as its assistant editor, worked in New York until 1907. Then he returned to Ireland and opened a newspaper shop at Parnell Street, Dublin, which quickly became the meeting place for Pádraig Pearse and that valiant company of a new generation who weren’t prepared to wait for crumbs from the British table. They knew Tom Clarke as a man who had for so long been tested in the crucible of suffering and had been found unbreakable, and he didn’t fail them. In 1916, they repaid him by insisting that his should be the first signature to the Proclamation of the Republic ; it was the greatest day of his life, though well he knew it meant for him the end. He was shot on the 3rd May 1916, at 58 years of age, of those only eighteen of those had been spent in Ireland. If a man is judged by the life he has led then there is no more splendid figure than Tom Clarke ; the onset of the years chills the blood of most men – add to this the incredible physical and mental torture which he had endured for almost sixteen of those years. Most of the remainder were years of hardship and disillusionment. His father’s influence and his early environment militated against his faith yet, like Padraig Pearse, he turned his back on ‘the beautiful vision of the world’, and set his face to the road before him, the road indicated by ‘the Poor Old Woman’.

On the 1st February 1878 a child, Thomas, was born in Cloughjordan in Tipperary, into a household which would consist of four sons and two daughters – the parents, Joseph and Mary (Louise Parker) MacDonagh, were both employed as teachers in a near-by school. He went to Rockwell College in Cashel, Tipperary, where he entertained the idea of training for the priesthood but, at 23 years of age, decided instead to follow in his parents footsteps and trained to be a teacher.

He obtained employment at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny and, while working there, advanced his interest in Irish culture by joining the local ‘Gaelic League’ group and was quickly elected to a leadership role within that organisation but, by 1905, he had left the League and moved on to teach at St Colman’s College, Fermoy, where he also established himself as a published poet. Three years later he moved to a new position, as resident assistant headmaster at St Enda’s, Pádraig Pearse’s school, then based in Ranelagh, Dublin. In 1911, after completing his BA and MA at UCD, he was appointed lecturer in English at the same institution. In 1912 he married Muriel Gifford, sister of Grace, who would later marry Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol.

In the years prior to the 1916 Rising MacDonagh became active in Irish literary circles and was a co-founder of the Irish Review and, with Plunkett, of the Irish Theatre on Hardwicke Street. MacDonagh was a witness to Bloody Sunday in 1913 and this event appears to have radicalised him so much so that he moved away from the circles of the literary revival and embraced political activism. He joined the Irish Volunteers in December 1913 and was appointed to the body’s governing committee. In 1914 he rejected John Redmond’s appeal for the Volunteers to join the fight in the First World War. On the 9th September 1914 he attended the secret meeting that agreed to plan for an armed insurrection against British rule. By March 1915 he had been sworn into the ranks of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ and was also serving on the central executive of the Irish Volunteers, was director of training for the Volunteers and commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade.

In 1916, at the age of 38, he joined his comrades in challenging a then world power, England, over the injustices which that ‘world leader’ was inflicting in Ireland and, with six of his comrades, he signed a proclamation declaring the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, free of any external political or military interference. He was found guilty by a British court martial that followed the 1916 Rising, and was sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad on the 3rd May that year. His friend and fellow poet Francis Ledwidge wrote a poem in his honour after his death ; Ledwidge, the ‘Poet of the Blackbirds’, fought for the British in the ‘First World War’ and was injured in 1916 – he was recovering from his wounds in hospital when news reached him of the Rising and he let it be known that he felt betrayed by Westminster over its interference in Ireland –

Lament for Thomas MacDonagh.

He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky where he is lain
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.

And when the dark cow leaves the moor
And pastures poor with greedy weeds
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

In his address to the court martial, Thomas MacDonagh said : “Gentlemen of the court martial, I choose to think you have done your duty according to your lights in sentencing me to death. I thank you for your courtesy. It would not be seemly for me to go to my doom without trying to express, however inadequately, my sense of the high honour I enjoy in being one of those predestined to die in this generation for the cause of Irish freedom. You will, perhaps, understand this sentiment, for it is one to which an Imperial poet of a bygone age bore immortal testimony : “T’is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.” You would all be proud to die for Britain, your Imperial patron, and I am proud and happy to die for Ireland, my glorious fatherland…there is not much left to say. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic has been adduced in evidence against me as one of the signatories. I adhere to every statement in that proclamation. You think it already a dead and buried letter – but it lives, it lives! From minds alive with Ireland’s vivid intellect it sprang, in hearts alive with Ireland’s mighty love it was conceived. Such documents do not die.

The British occupation of Ireland has never for more than one hundred years been compelled to confront in the field of flight a rising so formidable as that which overwhelming forces have for the moment succeeded in quelling. This rising did not result from accidental circumstances. It came in due recurrent reasons as the necessary outcome of forces that are ever at work. The fierce pulsation of resurgent pride that disclaims servitude may one day cease to throb in the heart of Ireland — but the heart of Ireland will that day be dead. While Ireland lives, the brains and brawn of her manhood will strive to destroy the last vestige of foreign rule in her territory. In this ceaseless struggle there will be, as there must be, an alternate ebb and flow. But let England make no mistake. The generous high-bred youth of Ireland will never fail to answer the call we pass on to them, will never full to blaze forth in the red rage of war to win their country’s freedom. Other and tamer methods they will leave to other and tamer men ; but for themselves they must do or die. It will be said our movement was doomed to failure. It has proved so. Yet it might have been otherwise.

There is always a chance of success for brave men who challenge fortune. That we had such a chance, none know so well as your statesmen and military experts. The mass of the people of Ireland will doubtless lull their consciences to sleep for another generation by the exploded fable that Ireland cannot successfully fight England. We do not propose to represent the mass of the people of Ireland. We stand for the intellect and for immortal soul of Ireland. To Ireland’s soul and intellect, the inert mass drugged and degenerated by ages of servitude must in the destined day of resurrection render homage and free service receiving in turn the vivifying impress of a free people. Gentlemen, you have sentenced me to death, and I accept your sentence with joy and pride since it is for Ireland I am to die. I go to join the goodly company of men who died for Ireland, the least of whom is worthier far than I can claim to be, and that noble band are themselves but a small section of the great, unnumbered company of martyrs, whose Captain is the Christ who died on Calvary. Of every white robed knight of all that goodly company we are the spiritual kin. The forms of heroes flit before my vision, and there is one, the star of whose destiny chimes harmoniously with the swan song of my soul. It is the great Florentine, whose weapon was not the sword, but prayer and preaching ; the seed he sowed fructifies to this day in God’s Church. Take me away, and let my blood bedew the sacred soil of Ireland. I die in the certainty that once more the seed will fructify.”

Thomas MacDonagh – born on the 1st February 1878, executed by Westminster on the 3rd May 1916.
 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT… (By Cian Sharkhin.)

“DON’T HAVE ME TO COME OVER THERE…!!” – my mother had lost it! Her ‘posh’ accent had crumbled, caved in, and from the ruins of her disintegrating telephone voice something raw and feral was rearing up, fused with the rampaging forces of the darkest abyss. I knew I had to answer her, I dare not defy her any further.

“I can’t, Mum…” – that was it. Everyone in the crowd seemed to go quite, even the wriggling and pushing behind me stopped. Everyone certainly knew who Christopher was now. I could’ve melted away, I wished the baby elephant was Dumbo and I could have jumped on his back and flown away, but no such easy escape was available to me.

“What do you mean YA CAN’T!?” My mother screamed in her thick Dublin north inner city accent. The persona had most definitely slipped. She came striding towards me, or should I say that possessed creature that once was my mum and now was more like Mary the mad Maenad came bouncing towards the crowd, her hair was flouncing up and down as she strode towards me, and the funny thing was that even though I knew I was in for it, I thought of ‘dark brown sable colour glow’. She always sent me around to the chemist for dark brown sable colour glow. It was weird… (MORE LATER.)

 

ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 96 YEARS AGO : MAYO MEN ROUT THE BRITS!

“One is very privileged to speak at the funeral of such a great and good man on this historic occasion. One is also deeply aware of ones lack of qualification to speak…” – Dr. Brian P. Murphy of Glenstal Abbey, historian and author of ‘Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal’, speaking at the funeral of IRA Comdt. General Tom Maguire, who died on the 5th July 1993, at 101 years of age. His family had fought at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691 and another ancestor joined the United Irishmen and fought in 1798. Tom’s own father was in the Fenians, and Tom himself joined the Irish Volunteers shortly after they were formed in 1913. In September 1920 he was appointed O/C of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On March 7th 1921 they ambushed a lorry load of British troops, capturing weapons and taking prisoners.

On the 3rd of May 1921 – 96 years ago on this date – 30 men of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army fought against 600 Black and Tans at Tourmakeady. The British losses at that battle were 10 killed with 13 wounded, whereas the Mayo Brigade lost two men that day, their Brigade Adjutant, Michael J. O’Brien and Volunteer Padraig Feeney, who was brother to Tom’s future wife, Christina. Comdt Maguire suffered a gunshot wound to the arm that day while another Volunteer was slightly wounded. The British used aircraft to tackle the IRA Brigade in the aftermath of the ambush and the Maguire family home in Cross, County Mayo, was demolished by the Black and Tans as a reprisal for that attack at Tourmakeady.

On the 19th May 1921 Tom Maguire was elected to the 2nd Dáil Éireann and sometime afterwards was appointed to the rank of Comdt. General of the Second Western Division, IRA, under a commission signed by Cathal Brugha, the All Ireland Minister for Defence. On the 7th January 1922 at the debate on the Treaty of Surrender, Tom remained loyal to the Republic he had pledged his loyalty to by stating “Ní toil” (“I do not agree”).

He was captured in Headford by Free Staters late in 1922 and court-martialed in Athlone in January 1923, but was not executed as he thought he would be. On April 11th 1923, while Tom was still incarcerated, his younger brother Seán, along with six others, were executed in Tuam by the Free State. These men we know today as the ‘Tuam Martyrs’. On June 10th Tom escaped along with five others and while on the run was elected by the people of Mayo South in the General Election of August 1923.

In December 1938 Tom, along with the surviving members of the 2nd Dáil, delegated their executive powers of Government to the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army in accordance with the resolution passed at the First Dáil Éireann meeting of March 11th 1921. In 1969 and again in 1986 Tom Maguire’s loyalty to the All Ireland Republic was tested by those who thought they could turn stones into bread like the tempter in the desert, by taking seats in Leinster House and Stormont : in 1969 he recognised The Provisional Army Council of the Irish Republican Army as the legitimate successor to the 1938 body. The Army convention had “neither the right nor the authority to pass a resolution recognising the British and two partition parliaments..”, he declared and, again, in 1986 he held true to the Republic by stating “I do not recognise the legitimacy of any army council styling itself the Council of the Irish Republican Army which lends support to any person or organisation styling itself as Sinn Féin and prepared to enter the partition parliament of Leinster House”.

In 1987 Comdt. General Tom Maguire declared in a statement of recognition “I hereby declare that the Continuity Army Council are the lawful Executive and Army Council respectively of the Irish Republican Army, and that the governmental authority, delegated in the Proclamation of 1938, now resides in the Continuity Army Council and its lawful successors”.

Comdt. General Tom Maguire served Ireland and Ireland alone. (The above is an edited version of the original, sourced from here.)

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

In the hierarchy of needs, we can identify four distinct factors dictating why the northern nationalist population has required some of its members to bear arms. Firstly, there was the physical survival of an unarmed people who were being attacked by the nearest thing these islands have seen in the 20th century to Bosnian Serbs. How close the people of Clonard, Ardoyne or Short Strand came to a Sabra or Shateela is a moot point. But the very fact that agents of the State were “virtually indistinguishable from the loyalist mob” (Cameron Report on the then RUC and B-Specials), meant that ordinary people would acquire whatever means they could to defend themselves, their families and their neighbours.

Thus, republicans acquired the franchise of defending the nationalist areas from pogrom. Secondly, there was the clear inability of the northern State to provide any parity of esteem for all those it governed. Reasonably polite requests for civil rights had been met with State violence – the genteel rules of passive resistance were not understood by the grim-faced burghers who ran Stormont.

Thirdly, there was the national question of the partition of the country – in 1969, despite being defeated in a campaign seven years earlier, the IRA hadn’t gone away. Finally, there was the socialist republic. The fact is that the IRA has been forced to destroy its weapons while the causes of the conflict remain virulently in place (‘1169’ comment – not “forced”, but encouraged to do so, by a nationalist, rather than republican, leadership). The four chief reasons why the current leadership became youthful activists in 1969 remain largely unresolved. The physical threat is nightly there in the form of pipebomb attacks, and the equality agenda is still far from achieved. (MORE LATER).

 

GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…

SIN SCÉAL EILE.

By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

BÁS DON BÉARLA.

Taking a buwl (a stroll) around the cage next morning, I was beckoned to the wire of the cage by a comrade from Cage 16 on his way to see the prison doctor. “Did you see us on the TV last night?” I asked.“That’s what I’m here for. The OC of the Camp wants to know why in the name of Jesus Cage 10 put that stupid banner up last night, making an eejit of the whole lot of us.” “What are you rambling on about?” I replied, “You’re all just jealous because you never came up with a slogan as good as ours…”

“You were told to put up a banner with a revolutionary slogan,” he said. “And so we did…” – but suddenly I remembered that Cyril was the only person in Cage 10 that spoke Irish. I whispered into the OC’s ear and reminded him that we didn’t really know what ‘Bás don Béarla’ meant : “Emm, what exactly have we got on our banner?”, asked the OC of Cage 10. “Don’t you know?”, asked the comrade from Cage 16. “Well, we think it says something like emm…ahh..SMIG! What the fuck does it say?”, asked the OC. Smig looked quizzically at both the OC and the messenger on the other side of the wire, then told us that he hadn’t a clue what it said.

The OC inquired of our comrade from Cage 16 if he could throw some light on our dilemma. The messenger wasn’t going to lose this opportunity to make us squirm – “‘Bás don Béarla’ means ‘Death to the English Language’…” , he chuckled.

The month of punishment Cyril suffered cleaning the toilets on reflection looks a bit harsh to me now. The thing about Cyril is that he really believed that his slogan was revolutionary but, sadly, at the time, we didn’t. He couldn’t understand our embarrassment in front of all our comrades throughout Long Kesh.

(MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 38 YEARS AGO : TYRANT ASCENDS TO THE THRONE.

Margaret Thatcher formed her first government as Prime Minister of the ‘United Kingdom’ on the 3rd May 1979, after the general election, and proceeded to cause havoc for the working class and the unemployed until she died in April 2013. If you’re a Thatcher ‘fan’ then turn away now. ‘Cause we’re not.

Not forgetting that even Margaret Thatcher had parents and, therefore, was loved at one time or another by at least those two people and will be missed by at least two others (her children), the air seems cleaner since 2013 and almost all seems to be now right with the world, despite her best efforts to fully foul the planet. Her arrogance and her misjudged sense of self-worth was plain for all to see in her dealings in her own country with the trade union movement and in this country with, among her other failings, the 1981 Hunger-Strikers ; she despised both organisations and the representatives of same, the former because she realised that ‘ordinary Joe Soaps’ had to be ‘kept down’ if her vision of a fully capitalist society was to come to fruition and the latter because such principled fighters for justice were not only alien to her political belief system but courageous people like Bobby Sands and his comrades also threatened her preferred society.

That Margaret Thatcher, the politician, was a complete hypocrite was perhaps best illustrated in November 1989 when, during an interview she gave to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World At One’ programme, in connection with the ‘opening up’ of East Germany, she brazenly declared : “You cannot stifle or suppress a people’s desire for liberty”, which, of course, was exactly what she was attempting to do in Ireland, among other countries. Three years earlier, during the Westland Helicopter Affair, which led to the resignations of then British Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine and Trade Secretary Leon Brittan, British Labour Party MP Thomas Dalyell Loch described Thatcher as “a sustained, brazen deceiver : I say she is a bounder, a liar, a deceiver, a cheat and a crook.” Well qualified, then, to sit in Westminster.

As stated, her two children no doubt still miss her but, with a bit of practice, their aim will get better.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (26TH APRIL) 272 YEARS AGO : ‘LORD’ KILLED BY A DRAGO(O)N’S ‘STING’.

‘Positive and overbearing,
Changeful still and still adhering,

Spiteful, peevish, rude, untoward,
Fierce in tongue, in heart a coward.
Judgement weak and passion strong,
Always various, always wrong.’

“On this date (26th April 1745 – 272 years ago today), John Allen (3rd Viscount Allen), former MP for Carysfort, kills a dragoon in a street brawl : ‘His Lordship was at a house in Eustace Street. At twelve in the night, three dragoons making a noise in the street, he threw up the window and threatening them, adding as is not unusual with him a great deal of bad language. The dragoons returned it. He went out to them loaded with a pistol. At the first snapping of it, it did not fire. This irritated the dragoon who cut his (ie Allen’s) fingers with his sword, upon which Lord Allen shot him.’ The wound occasions a fever which causes Lord Allen’s death on 25 May…”

Or maybe, perhaps, the ‘3rd Viscount’ did not invite such misfortune onto himself – ‘..he seems to have been mugged in the centre of Dublin one night in 1745, and although he fought off his attackers – and killed one of them – he received a wound in his hand which became infected and caused his death a month later…he died on 25 May 1745 from an infected wound in the hand received when he was ‘insulted in the public streets by some disorderly dragoons’ – one of whom he killed – on 26 April 1745..’ (from here.)

And this, sourced from ‘Google Books’ – ‘This nobleman being insulted in the public streets by some disorderly dragoons 26 April 1745, received a wound in the hand which occasioned a fever, and caused his death 25 May…’

But, really, whatever about John Allen (the’nobleman’) inviting trouble by being verbally aggressive to three ‘loud’ soldiers (karma that all four participants were birds of a feather!) or whether the three soldiers momentarily forgot they were on home ground and simply behaved as if they were ‘on duty’ elsewhere in their ’empire’, the parties involved caused trouble only too and for themselves, unlike another ‘John Allen’, featured here, who would attempt to convince you (having himself obviously being convinced by his ‘betters’) that the ’empire’ he served is some sort of benevolent and charitable organisation, rather than the thieving and toxic entity it is.

That last link will permit you to ‘View More Comments’, and you should – “And I’m sure that many members of the Red Army were “fully dedicated to the well-being and advancement of the people they served” and had a “sense of mission” too..the problem is that ruling over people without their consent (which is what colonialism is a subset of) is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you do it for purely “greater good” or paternalistic reasons, it’s still wrong…it would be much better for us as a society to really stop lying to ourselves and face the reality of the British Empire. It committed genocide across the world, stole the natural resources from the countries we claimed as ours, destroyed and laid waste to the cultures of millions of people, raped, pillaged and then in the dog days of empire we pretend we were their (sic) to protect the people from terrorists..”

At least this ‘John Allen’ admits to being a comedian, unlike the other two, and acknowledges that ‘his house is a mess’ – the other two John Allen’s, by virture of their professions, preferred to ‘mess up’ everybody else’s ‘house’…

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT… (By Cian Sharkhin.)

“Christopher!” My mum called, beckoning me to join them, so I could cross the road with them. The baby elephant lurched sideways and raised its trunk ; everyone on my side of the elephant stepped back and gasped in unison. I couldn’t move, I was hemmed in, only inches away from the elephant and I could feel its breath warm against my hand. It made me shiver.

“Christopher!”My mother called out again. “Come here!” But I couldn’t move. I didn’t even look at her. “Christopher! CHRISTOPHER!!” Her voice, ten decibels higher, penetrated me. The crowd looked around at each other, all looking to see who Christopher was, I guessed. I joined in, ignoring my mother, not a good idea at the best of times, but I couldn’t have moved anyway.

“Christopher! Come here!” Her ‘telephone voice’ had degenerated. All semblance of control was fast slipping away. The angry voice from the darkest recesses was emerging. Trouble! I glanced furtively over at her. She caught me, glared at me with the eyes of a crazed woman. “Come here right NOW!” I lowered my eyes and they unwittingly came to rest on the zoo keeper’s long bamboo cane. I felt my ears getting hot and I could still feel my mother’s gaze burning into the back of my head. I saw a luminous after vision of her eyes searing into the soft tissue of my brain… (MORE LATER.)

 

SOCCER?? THIS IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT

Regular readers will know that we rarely do a ‘sports’-related item on this blog, as it’s not a subject we’re really interested in and we don’t follow it enough to know the ‘in’s-and-out’s’ about it, and certainly not to the extent where we would post our opinion on the subject.

But the pic on the left is from ‘The Irish Times’ newspaper of Tuesday, 25th April 2017, and was sent to us by one of our readers who, rightly, pondered what the reaction would be if a sport-related headline was published in a newspaper declaring that ‘England will meet Northern England in World Cup qualifying’ or ‘Portugal will meet Northern Portugal in World Cup qualifying’ or ‘Wales will meet Northern Wales in World Cup qualifying’ or… – you get our drift!

A ludicrous ‘State’ of affairs, obviously, but here in Ireland it’s all part of the ‘normalisation’ process whereby repeated use of language and terms like that serve a purpose – to make it seem acceptable and second-nature to present this country as consisting of two separate entities and, by default, to present those who challenge instances of that nature as ‘old-fashioned and outdated odd-ball nitpickers’ or some such. And so be it – welcome to our wee old-fashioned and outdated corner of the web (which, of course, is divided into a five-cornered unit. And we’re gonna keep saying that until you believe it…!)

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

For Cathal Goulding, ‘IRA’ did mean ‘I Ran Away’. Goulding and his class-conscious comrades did indeed run away from the sectarian realities of the Belfast proletariat. The battle of the Short Strand saw the Provos buy the franchise of armed republicanism in the North and, subsequently, the whole island. The deal between armed republicanism and the nationalist population was rewritten for a new generation. The glacial pace of the Adams agenda to constitutionalise the Provos has been a keen understanding of that contractual arrangement. Holding the franchise is a temporary arrangement. The title deeds* are not for sale. Currently there is no viable bidder and that may hold for some time – just as there was no credible bid in the marketplace in 1962. (*’1169′ comment – the “title deeds”, so to speak, are not ‘for sale’, true enough – but they never were, and were certainly never even on offer to those who would take that ‘paperwork’ into the toilet that is Leinster House).

If the Republican Movement was a company, then at no time in its history has it had a CEO of the quality of Gerry Adams (‘1169’ comment – lol! If the author of that statement was a lawyer, he could play this part for real!). Moreover, the quality he can call in from his vice president, Martin McGuinness, and the rest of the boardroom is peerless on either of what we term ‘these islands’. They are easily a more formidable negotiating team than the plenipotentiaries sent by de Valera to barter with Lloyd George (‘1169’ comment – Wow! Lionel has really lost the plot : if I didn’t know better, I’d be inclined to believe he was after a PSF ‘inhouse’ job. Or, perhaps, promotion to a management position…!). They have negotiated from a far weaker position, against greater odds than the Collins team had to contend with. They have done so with great skill and endurance (…come, now, Lionel, they can’t take all the credit…).

They have been forced to capitulate on the weapons issue in a way that is the obverse of what Nelson Mandela told de Klerk when asked about the ANC’s ‘illegal’ weapons – Mandela simply told him they would be handed in “when we are the government collecting them”. At that point, of course, the need for ANC weapons would be over as the cause of that conflict – apartheid – would also be removed… (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (26TH APRIL) 101 YEARS AGO : IRISH PACIFIST EXECUTED BY THE BRITISH.

Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was born on the 23rd December 1878 in Bailieborough, Co Cavan, and was 37 years of age in 1916 when some of those who shared mostly the same social interests as he did and frequented the same venues (Thomas MacDonagh, James Connolly, Countess Markievicz and Joseph Plunkett, for example) organised and took part in an armed uprising against the British. Sheehy-Skeffington would have been sympathetic to their objective but not to their method.

On Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, the Irish republican Proclamation was circulated in Dublin and, in reply, on Tuesday 25th, the British circulated their own ‘Proclamation’ in Dublin –

‘ A PROCLAMATION –
WHEREAS, in the City of Dublin and County of Dublin, certain evil disposed persons and Associations, with the intention of subverting the supremacy of the Crown in Ireland, have committed diverse acts of violence, and have with deadly weapons attacked the forces of the Crown, and have resisted by armed force the lawful authority of His Majesty’s Police and Military forces ; and WHEREAS by reason thereof several of His Majesty’s liege subjects have been killed and many others severely injured, and much damage to property has been caused ; and WHEREAS such armed resistance to His Majesty’s Authority still continues :

NOW WE, Ivor Churchill Baron Wimborne, Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland, by virture of all the powers thereunto enabling us, do hereby proclaim that from and after the date of this Proclamation, and for the period of one month thereafter, unless otherwise ordered, the City of Dublin and County of Dublin are under and subject to Martial Law ; and WE do hereby call on all loyal and well-affected subjects of the Crown to aid in upholding and maintaining the peace of the Realm and the supremacy, and authority of the Crown ; and WE warn all peaceable and law-abiding subjects within such area of the danger of frequenting or being in any place in or in the vicinity of which His Majesty’s forces are engaged in the suppression of disorder :

AND WE do hereby enjoin upon such subjects the duty and necessity, so far as practicable, of remaining within their own homes so long as these dangerous conditions prevail ; and WE do hereby proclaim that all persons found carrying arms without lawful authority are liable to be dealt with by virture of this Proclamation.

Given at Dublin,

This 25th day of April, 1916.
WIMBORNE.
GOD SAVE THE KING.’

That British ‘Proclamation’ was only in circulation for a day when three men were ‘arrested’ by British forces : Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Patrick McIntyre and Thomas Dickson. It was earlier on that same day, Wednesday 26th April 1916, that 1,600 British soldiers from the ‘Third Cavalry Brigade’, artillery from Athlone and the 176th and 178th Infantry Brigades of the 59th North Midland Division of the British Army were preparing themselves for the march from ‘Kingstown’ Harbour (Dun Laoighaire) to Dublin city centre. Tension was high in the city ; Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a leading writer and well-known pacifist, was in Dublin city centre, on his way home to Rathmines when he tried to help stop looters who were out in force, taking advantage of the disorganised situation in the capital, but he was ‘arrested’ by British troops from Portobello Barracks, as were two other civilians – Dublin journalists Patrick McIntyre, then editor of the ‘Labour’ newspaper, ‘Searchlight’, and Thomas Dickson, then editor of a pro-republican weekly newspaper, ‘The Eye-Opener’.

Word circulated on Thursday morning, April 27th, 1916, that the three men had been shot dead in the barrack square by a British Army firing squad, without any ‘formal’ charges having been brought against any of them. Later , the British Army Captain in charge of the firing squad, a Bowen Colthurst, a member of the ‘Royal Irish Rifles’, from Dripsey in County Cork, who was a decorated officer who had fought in the Boer War and afterwards served in India, including the 1904 British military incursion into Tibet. He had been injured while leading a disastrous attack against a German position on the western front in September 1914 and was sent back to Ireland. He was attached to the 3rd Battalion stationed at Portobello Barracks when the 1916 Easter Rising took place. Colthurst was later ‘tried’ by court-martial regarding the order he issued to the firing squad and was found ‘guilty but insane’, but a different account re the shooting of the three men was beginning to emerge : it was during the court-martial of Bowen Colthurst that a different version of the events surrounding the executions of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Patrick mcIntyre and Thomas Dickson was spoke of – a British Army Officer in Portobello Barracks stated that he heard a number of shots on the Wednesday (April 26th, 1916) and went to investigate ; he claimed to have seen three stretchers being carried out of the porch of the guardroom on which were three dead bodies – one of those bodies had a blanket thrown over it and a bowler hat placed across the face and, from either side of the stretcher, an arm hung down, dripping blood.

This (unnamed) British Army Officer claimed that the body with the bowler hat on the face was that of Francis Sheehy Skeffington – the ‘witness’ stated, apparently in a jovial manner, that the firing party had done its work so badly that a second one had had to be summoned to finish Skeffington off. Were the three men shot dead in the guardroom on the Wednesday night (26th April 2017) by a vengeful British enemy and then, in order to cover-up the deed, were their corpses ‘wheeled out’ the following day for an ‘official’ British Army ‘execution’..?

The following letter makes for interesting reading in relation to the circumstances surrounding this particular event –

From Henry Lemass
To : Herbert Henry Asquith
13 June 1916
31 PARLIAMENT STREET, DUBLIN,
SIR

As solicitor for Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington – for whose husband’s murder, on 26th April, Captain Bowen Colthurst has been adjudged guilty – I have the honour to inquire when the promised Public Inquiry will be held? My client is profoundly dissatisfied with the limited information afforded at the Courtmartial, when the insanity of the accused was suggested. While she abhors the idea that fresh blood should be spilt, my client is equally resolute that the truth should be known, so that the people of the three Kingdoms may determine whether the same measure of justice has been meted out to all parties affected by the rebellion.

That there were circumstances giving rise to anxiety connected with the recent trial will be evident from the following facts : Lieutenant Wylie, K.C. who had prosecuted to conviction other men recently executed, was released from this Courtmartial and an English Counsel, not fully acquainted with the facts or imperfectly instructed, was appointed. Although no plea of inability to plead was entered for the accused, the question of his sanity was raised from the outset.

Yet the manner in which he effected the arrest of the other murdered men (Messrs Dickson and McIntyre) was not proved, nor the process by which he selected them for execution from amongst eight prisoners. Nevertheless, it was within the knowledge of the Military Authorities that Messrs Dickson and McIntyre were taken into custody on the premises of Alderman James Kelly, ex-High Sheriff, by the accused, under the idea that the shop belonged to Alderman Thomas Kelly, a person of wholly different politics.
They also knew that Colthurst threw a bomb into the premises and subsequently “planted” Mr. Dickson’s trunk therein to give rise to the suspicion that Mr. Dickson had been harboured by Alderman James Kelly who was also lodged in Portobello Barracks.

Nor was the Court informed that two sisters of Mrs. Skeffington, viz: Mrs Kettle (wife of Lieutenant Kettle), and Mrs, Culhane (widow of a public official lately deceased) called at Portobello Barracks on Friday, 28th April, after the murders, and, on inquiring for their brother, Lieutenant Sheehy, were put under arrest and brought before Captain Colthurst, and that he denied all knowledge of Mr. Skeffington and was perfectly calm and collected in his demeanour and falsehoods. Similarly, the tribunal was not made aware that on the evening after his examination of these ladies, Captain Colthurst ordered a search of Mrs.Skeffington’s house; that his soldiers first fired into her dwelling, and then, producing a key taken from the body of the murdered man, opened his locked room and removed documents to try to furnish the accused with ex post facto justification for his crime.

The second raid on the widow’s house by Colthurst’s orders on the following Monday, as well as the fact that one of the soldiers who took part in it was the Sergeant left in charge of Dickson’s trunk at Alderman James Kelly’s, was also left unmentioned. There was an equally significant silence as to the protests of the murdered men on the morning of their execution, and as to the accused’s refusal of spiritual solace to them in their last moments. The Courtmartial were likewise unaware that Captain Colthurst was allowed to remain at large by his superiors until the 6th May – nearly a fortnight after the murders – while the non-production of Major Sir Francis Vane, his Senior Officer, disabled it from learning that on the 1st may (a week after the murders) the accused was promoted to the charge of the Defence of Portobello Barracks.

His conduct on shooting the lad, Coade, on Rathmines Road previous to the three murders, was not introduced, although Coade’s father immediately lodged information at the Barracks. None of the soldiers who formed the firing party was called to speak as to the nature of the accuseds commands and demeanour, or explain how Mr. Skeffington came to be taken from a locked cell without authority. The added tragedy which led to a second squad of soldiers being called out to fire at the prostrate body of Mr. Skeffington would not have become known (although proved at the private preliminary inquiry) but for the candour of the noble President of the tribunal, Lord Cheylesmore.

As for the attempt to fasten complicity with the rebellion on Mr. Skeffington by the production of a document published previously by Alderman Thomas Kelly (which deceased, as a journalist, kept in his house) – it stands in strange contrast with the silence preserved concerning the innocence of the other slaughtered men and the Court was not even told who or what they were. The admission of this document after Adjutant Morgan, who produced it, had sworn that it was not found on Mr. Skeffington, may have been due to inadvertenance, but the cunning of the untruthful endorsement on it by the accused to the effect that it was found on the body, seemed to call for observation on the issue of sanity, as corroboration of the fact that Captain Colthurst from the date when he knew the murders were discovered, was engaged in the manufacture of evidence to palliate his guilt.

I therefore have to ask that in view of the promised Inquiry you will make arrangements with the Military Authorities to have in attendance thereat, in addition to the witnesses called on behalf of the prosecution at the late Courtmartial, the following persons : 1 — The soldiers under command of Lieutenant Wilson when Mr. Skeffington was marched out of his cell into the street to serve as a hostage. 2 — The soldiers who composed the first and second firing parties. 3 — Lieutenant Colonel McCammond who was in command of the Royal Irish Rifles. 4 — Major Sir Francis Vane, 2nd in Command. 5 — Lieutenant Tooley and Lieutenant Gibbon. 6 — The officers and soldiers who were sent after the murder to search Mrs. Skeffington’s residence on two occasions – especially Sergeant Claxton.
Of course, the names, regiment and regimental number of all the proposed witnesses should be supplied to me some days before the Inquiry, unless the Government undertake to call them for examination. I should also be furnished the Notes of the preliminary Inquiry which the Courtmartial were supplied with. In addition I request that all documents, etc., taken from the person of Mr. Skeffington, or seized at his residence, should be returned, and if this is refused that copies should be supplied to me.

I should likewise be afforded an opportunity of examining and taking copies of any reports or entries dealing with the circumstances attending the arrest or execution of Mr. Skeffington, or the searches at his residence. I shall feel obliged by an intimation of an early decision.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient Servant
HENRY LEMASS.

To THE RIGHT HON. H. H. ASQUITH, K.C., M.P.,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street, London, S.W.’

Francis Sheehy Skeffington : Born 23rd December 1878, Bailieborough, County Cavan ; Died 26th April 1916 (aged 37) Portobello Barracks, Dublin.

 

GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…

SIN SCÉAL EILE.

By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

BÁS DON BÉARLA.

We wondered how long it would take for this slogan to take off and how long it would be before it was out-selling Che Guevara T-Shirts in all the major capital cities of the world. “What exactly does it say, Cyril?” The question was asked at long last. Cyril gave a look that would have melted you, so we decided it was a stupid question, never to be asked again.

From our lofty vantage point on top of the huts we could just about make out some other banners that our comrades in other cages had erected on top of their huts. They were so predictable (see ‘Smuggle Us In Some Fags, Ma’ and other such suggestions!). Unfortunately, we couldn’t anchor our banner securely to the huts, so all of us had to take turns standing there, holding them up. It was absolutely freezing, although it was still warmer than being inside the huts.

At around four o’clock a helicopter appeared over the top of the huts and we could clearly see the cameraman filming us. The electricity came on about six o’clock and we ran down to get a cup of tea and watch the news on television before the electricity went off again. A huge cheer went up from all assembled at the TV – there we were, in glorious black and white , the men of Cage 10 on top of the huts holding their banner. The news item then showed some of the other cages with what we considered to be their crap banners. We gloated at our innovative banner and compared the banal efforts of our comrades at the Sentenced end of the Camp. “Did ye see that one they had up in Cage 13? Jesus, we rejected that one immediately!”, boasted a guy from Toomebridge. The criticism of the other banners went on into the early hours of the morning in Cage 10… (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (26TH APRIL) 36 YEARS AGO : “TWENTY THOUSAND MARCHERS…”

Dear Mum
Dear Mum, I know you’re always there
To help and guide me with all your care,
You nursed and fed me and made me strong
To face the world and all its wrong.
What can I write to you this day
For a line or two would never pay
For care and time you gave to me
Through long hard years unceasingly.
How you found strength I do not know
How you managed I’ll never know,

Struggling and striving without a break
Always there and never late.

You prayed for me and loved me more
How could I ask for anymore
And reared me up to be like you
But I haven’t a heart as kind as you.
A guide to me in times of plight
A princess like a star so bright
For life would never have been the same
If I hadn’t of learned what small things came.
So forgive me Mum just a little more
For not loving you so much before,
For life and love you gave to me
I give my thanks for eternity.
Bobby Sands.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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A WANNABE ‘BOARD MEMBER’.

Four drunken members of the British ‘establishment’ in Ireland turn on each other – karma?….a loud shrill voice and a baby beast…a peerless ceo and boardroom, as perceived by one who hopes to join the ‘board’…an ‘eye-opener’ of a ‘searchlight’ and an Irish pacifist who was executed twice by the British…(MORE ON WEDNESDAY 26TH APRIL 2017 – see you then!)

Thanks for the visit, Sharon.


 


 


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EASTER MONDAY COMMEMORATION, DUBLIN, 17TH APRIL 2017.

RSF President Des Dalton, speaking at the RSF Easter Monday Commemoration (17th April 2017) in O’Connell Street, Dublin.

The main RSF Easter Commemoration in Dublin this year was held on Easter Monday (17th April) at the GPO in O’Connell Street – the organisers had to set-up their equipment and hold the event on the traffic isle facing the post office due to the amount of barricades and Luas-related building work that was taking place in the area that weekend but the event, despite the terrain(!), was a noted success. All-in-all, about 300 people stayed with us for the hour-and-a-half that we were in O’Connell street, albeit in three different places : a good crowd stood their ground around the six columns at the GPO, some joined us on the traffic isle and more lined the footpath on the other side of O’Connell Street.

The commemoration was chaired by one of the RSF Treasurers, Anthony Donohue, the main speaker was Líta Ní Chathmhaoil and, between them, Róisín Hayden and Pádraig Ennis read the Easter Statement and the 1916 Proclamation. RSF President Des Dalton gave a rousing speech from the stage in which he referenced the hypocrisy of State representatives seeking to ‘honour’ the men and women of 1916, as those same Free Staters can trace their political lineage back to those that fought against the 1916 fighters, and he was loudly applauded by the crowds present for making that comparison, and rightly so.

All of the 300 leaflet packs were distributed and, indeed, had we got half-as-much again we would have handed those out as well, such was the demand. We publish a few pics with this post, and a more detailed report will be published in the May 2017 issue of ‘Saoirse’ , which goes to print on Wednesday, 10th May next :

Anthony Donohue officiating at the Easter Monday Commemoration in Dublin.

The RSF Colour Party, Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Éireann representatives at the Dublin Commemoration.

Líta Ní Chathmhaoil delivering the main oration on Easter Monday at the Commemoration.

RSF are to be congratulated for presenting themselves in such a fine manner at this event, and should continue to feel proud of themselves for upholding the political objectives and principles of those they commemorated on the day. Maith thú, a chairde!

 

 

 

ON THIS DATE (19TH APRIL) 77 YEARS AGO : IRA DIRECTOR OF PUBLICITY DIES ON HUNGER-STRIKE.

IRA man Jack ‘Seán’ McNeela (pictured) was born in Ballycroy, Co. Mayo, in 1912 and, although only 27 years of age at the time, was an experienced IRA Volunteer when, in 1939, the Leinster House (Free State) political administration introduced an ‘Offences Against the State Act’, incorporating a ‘Special Criminal Court’, which effectively re-classified republican prisoners as ‘special criminals’ rather than that which they were (and are), political prisoners.

IRA prisoners in Mountjoy Jail vehemently objected to that policy change and the following story of that particular period in our history, as recorded by Michael Traynor, was given to Republican Sinn Féin by Carmel McNeela, widow of Paddy McNeela and sister-in-law of Jack ‘Seán’ Mc Neela – but a bit of background, first : Tony Darcy (a Galway IRA man and Officer Commanding of the IRA Western Command at the time, who began his hunger strike on 25th February 1940 and died on 16th April, in St Bricins [Free State] military hospital in Dublin, after 52 days on hunger strike) was sentenced to three months imprisonment for refusing to account for his movements or give his name and address when arrested by Free Staters at an IRA meeting in Dublin. The POW’s went on hunger strike after Meath IRA man, Nick Doherty, was imprisoned on the criminal wing in Mountjoy Jail and a request to transfer him to join his political comrades in Arbour Hill Jail was refused by the Staters. One week into the protest, the prison authorities made a move to take the IRA OC of the prisoners, Jack ‘Seán’ McNeela, for ‘trial’ before the ‘Special Criminal Court’ but he refused to go with them. Barricades were built and D-Wing was secured as best as possible by the IRA prisoners and they were soon attacked by armed Special Branch men, backed-up by the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Among the casualties were McNeela and Darcy, both of whom were beaten unconscious and suffered wounds that were never allowed to heal.

This is the account of that period, by Michael Traynor : “When Seán Russell became CS (Chief of Staff) of the IRA in 1938 he immediately appointed Jack McNeela OC (Officer Commanding) Great Britain with the particular task of putting the organisation there on a war footing and amassing explosives and preparing for the forthcoming
bombing campaign. After a few months of tense activity Jack was arrested and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. He returned to Ireland in 1939 and was appointed Director of Publicity. Jack was very disappointed with this appointment. He said he knew nothing about publicity and would have preferred some task, no matter how humble, which would have kept him in contact with the rank and file Volunteers. However Publicity had to be organised and Jack threw himself to the job with zeal and energy.

After two months, out of nothing, Jack had his Publicity Department functioning perfectly. Writers were instructed and put to work, office staff organised, radio technicians got into harness. Another big disappointment at this time for Jack was the instructions he received about the raid on the Magazine Fort. He nearly blew up when he was told that he could not take part in the operation, that HQ staff could not afford to lose more (Volunteers) if the operation failed. He was a man of action and wanted to be with his comrades in time of danger. He repeatedly requested permission to take part in the operation but without success. But Jack was there, orders or no orders, and he did about ten men’s work in the taking of the fort and the loading of the ammunition. He was a very pleased man that night, for he, like all the rest of the members of GHQ, knew that this ammunition was necessary to the success of the Army’s attack on the Border, which was planned to take place in the following spring.

He was arrested about three weeks later with members of the Radio Broadcast Staff and lodged in Mountjoy jail. He was OC of the prisoners when I arrived in the middle of February 1940. Tomás Mac Curtáin was there, and Tony Darcy, who was a very great personal friend of Jack’s, so was Jack Plunkett and Tommy Grogan. I was about a
week in jail, life was comparatively quiet, great speculation was going on as to what would happen to the men arrested in connection with the raid on the Magazine Fort. The crisis developed when Nicky Doherty, of Julianstown, Co Meath, was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Instead of being transferred to Arbour Hill (where other
republican prisoners had political status), Nicky was lodged in the criminal section of Mountjoy Jail. Jack, being OC of the republican prisoners, interviewed the governor of the jail and requested that Nicky be transferred to Arbour Hill on the grounds that he was a political prisoner and that it was unjust and unchristian to attempt to degrade and classify as criminal a republican soldier. The request was ignored. Jack and his prison council met to consider the situation : it was decided that a demand was necessary and with the demand for justice went the ultimatum that if he refused a number of prisoners (who were still untried) would go on hunger strike until the demand was accepted. A short time limit was set, but the demand was also ignored.

Jack, I remember well, was very insistent that the issue should be kept clear and simple. The hunger strike was a protest against the attempted degradation of republican soldiers. There was no other question or issue involved. A simple demand for justice and decency. Seven men volunteered to go on hunger strike and when the time limit [February 25, 1940] of the ultimatum expired they refused to eat any food, although tempting parcels of food kept arriving every day from their relatives and friends. It was felt by the men on hunger strike that the struggle would be either a speedy victory or a long, long battle, with victory or death at the end. It was victory and death for Jack McNeela and Tony Darcy.”

“Seven days after the commencement of the hunger strike, Special Branch policemen came to take Jack to Collins Barracks for trial before the ‘Special Criminal (or was it the Military) Court’. Jack refused to go with them. They told him they’d take him by force. They went away for reinforcements. A hasty meeting of the Prisoners’ Council was held. They felt it was unjust to take Jack for trial while he was on hunger strike, and that everything possible should be done to prevent the hunger strikers from being separated. Barricades were hastily erected in the D-Wing of the jail. Beds, tables and mattresses were piled on top of each other ; all the food was collected and put into a common store and general preparations made to resist removal of Jack, their OC. A large contingent of the DMP arrived together with the Special Branch at full strength. The DMP men charged the barricades with batons ; the Special Branch men kept to the rear and looked on while the DMP men were forced to retire by prisoners with legs of chairs. Several charges were made but without success. Some warders and a few policemen suffered minor injuries. The governor of the jail came down to the barricade and asked the prisoners to surrender. They greeted him with jeers and booing.

After some time the DMP men returned, armed with shovel shafts about six feet long, hoping with their superior weapons to subdue the prisoners. After several charges and some tough hand-to-hand fighting the policemen again retired. The most effective weapon possessed by the prisoners was a quantity of lime, liquefied by some Mayo
men, and flung in the faces of the charging DMP men. It was reminiscent off the Land League days and the evictions. Finally the fire hydrants were brought into use and the force of the water from these hoses broke down everything before them. The barricade was toppled over and the prisoners, drenched to the skin, could not resist the
powers of water at pressure ; they were forced to take cover in the cells. I got into a cell with Tony Darcy and Jack McNeela. We closed the door. After a few minutes the door was burst open and in rushed about five huge DMP men swinging their batons in all directions. Tony, standing under the window facing the door, put up his hand but he was silenced by a blow of a baton across the face that felled him senseless. Jack was pummelled across the cell by blow after blow. Blood teemed from his face and head.

These wounds on Jack and Tony never healed until they died.”

“It lasted only a few brief minutes, this orgy of sadistic vengeance, and then we were carried and flung into solitary confinement. Jack was taken away that evening and tried and sentenced by the Special Court. The next time I saw Tony and Jack was in the sick bay in Arbour Hill. Jack Plunkett was also there with them. We exchanged
experiences after the row in the ‘Joy’. Day followed day, I cannot remember any particular incident, except that regularly three times a day an orderly arrived with our food, which we of course refused to take. We were by now nursing our strength, realising that this was a grim struggle, a struggle to the death. We jokingly made forecasts of who would be the first to die. Jack was almost fanatic about speaking Gaelic. Most of our conversation while in the Hill was in Gaelic. Tony used to laugh at my funny accent. While he couldn’t speak Gaelic he understood perfectly well all that was said and sometimes threw in a remark to the conversation. When conversation was general, English was the medium. Jack Plunkett didn’t know any Gaelic at all. We were in the best of spirits. Rumours filtered through to us, I don’t know how, because we were very strictly isolated from the rest of the
republican prisoners in the Hill. We heard that one of our comrades had broken the hunger strike at the Joy ; we didn’t hear the name for a few days. The report was confirmed. We were inclined to be annoyed, but we agreed that it was better for the break to come early than late. It had no demoralising effect.

After Jack was arrested all the books he had bought (mostly Gaelic) were sent into the Joy. He intended to make good use of his spell of imprisonment. He kept requesting the Governor of the Hill to have them sent to him. After about three weeks a few tattered and water-sodden books were brought to him, all that remained of his little library, the others had been trampled and destroyed by the police in Mountjoy. Jack was vexed. He hadn’t smoked, nor taken drink, and every penny he had went to the purchase of these books that he loved. We were, during all this time, as happy as men could be. In spite of imprisonment and all that it means we were not all despondent nor feeling like martyrs. Everyday, we reviewed our position; what we had done, our present state of health, the prospect of success. The conclusion we came to was that de Valera, Boland and Co had decided to gamble with us – to wear us out in the hope that we would break and therefore demoralise all our comrades and if we didn’t break, to give political treatment to all IRA prisoners when we were in the jaws of death. The issue, as we saw it, was of vital importance to us, but of practically no consequence to the Fianna Fáil regime. We knew of course that de Valera and the Fianna Fáil party hated the IRA, because we were a reminder of their broken pledged to the people.

On the eve of St Patrick’s Day we were removed to St Bricin’s military hospital. A few days later Tomás Mac Curtáin and Tommy Grogan joined us. We were terribly disappointed with their report from the ‘Joy’. The men who had been sentenced were accepting criminal status instead of refusing to work as they had been instructed to do ; that is another story, although it led directly to the death of Seán McCaughey six years later in Portlaoise jail.

We were in a small hospital ward. Three beds on each side, occupied by six hungry men and every day was a hungry day. Every evening each of us would give the description of the meal he would like most, or the meal he had
enjoyed most. Salmon and boxty loomed large in Jack’s menu. About this time we began to count the days that we could possibly live. The doctors who examined us, sometimes three times a day, told us that we had used up all our reserves and were living on our nerves ; they tried to frighten us, assuring us that if we didn’t come off the hunger strike our health would be ruined. We all agreed among ourselves that the doctors were actuated by purely humane motives, although their advice if acted on by us would have been very satisfactory to their employers. After 50 days on hunger strike we were unable to get out of bed, or rather the strain of getting up was too great an expenditure of energy, which we were determined to husband carefully.

We did not see any change on each other. The change came so imperceptibly day after day. Jack, lying in the next bed to me, seemed to be the same big robust man that I had known before we were arrested, yet, we each were failing away. The doctors and nurses were very kind. We were rubbed with spirit and olive oil to prevent bedsores ;
all our joints and bony places were padded with cotton wool, for by now the rubbing of one finger against another was painful. None of us could read anymore, our sight had lost focus and concentration on material objects had become difficult. We were face to face with death, but no one flinched or if he did he prayed to God for strength
and courage. On the 54th night of the strike, about midnight, Tony cried out (we were all awake): ‘Jack, I’m dying.’ We all knew that it was so. Jack replied, ‘I’m coming, Tony’. I felt, and I’m sure Jack and the others felt also that getting out of bed and walking across the room to Tony would mean death to Jack also. As well as I remember Mac Curtáin, Plunkett, Grogan and myself appealed to Jack not to get out of bed. But Tony’s cry pierced Jack’s heart deeper than ours so he got up and staggered across the room to his friend and comrade. Later that night Tony was taken out to a private ward. We never saw him again. He died the following night. A great and staunch and unflinching soldier and comrade ; oh that Ireland had twenty thousand as honourable and fearless as he.

The day following Tony’s removal from the ward, Jack’s uncle, Mick Kilroy, late Fianna Fáil TD, came to see Jack. Alas, he didn’t come to give a kinsman’s help, but attacked Jack for “daring to embarrass de Valera” the “heaven-sent leader” by such action and demanded that Jack give up his hunger strike at once. Jack’s temper rose and had he been capable of rising would have thrown him out. He ordered him out of the room, so did we all. It was the first time in 56 days that we felt enraged at anything. The brutal treatment of the police after seven days’ hunger strike was trivial in comparison to this outrage. The next day Jack was taken out of the ward. We never saw him again. A
few hours after his removal we received a communication from the Chief of Staff IRA. The following is an extract :

‘April 19, 1940. To the men on hunger strike in St Bricin’s Hospital : The Army Council and the Nation impressed with the magnitude of your self-sacrifice wish to convey to you the desire that if at all consistent with your honour as soldiers of the Republic you would be spared to resume your great work in another form. We are given to
understand that the cause you went on strike has been won and that your jailers are now willing to concede treatment becoming soldiers of the Republic. In these circumstances if you are satisfied with the assurances given you – you will earn still more fully the gratitude of the people – relinquishing the weapon which has already
caused so much suffering and has resulted in the death of a gallant comrade.’

Jack had requested confirmation from HQ of the assurances given to us by Fr O’Hare, a Carmelite Father from Whitefriars Street, Dublin. Fr O’Hare had interviewed Mr Boland, the Minister for Justice in the Free State government, and received his assurances that all republican prisoners would get political treatment. Naturally we did not want to die, but we could not accept any verbal assurance so we felt that written confirmation by our Chief of Staff was necessary. When the confirmation arrived Jack was out in the private ward. I was acting OC. We were reluctant, the four of us who remained, to come off the hunger strike, with Tony dead and Jack at death’s door. Yet we had the instruction from HQ that our demands were satisfied. The doctors assured us that if the strike ended Jack had a 50-50 chance of living so I gave the order that ended the strike. I believe the doctors worked feverishly to save Jack’s life, but in vain. Jack McNeela, our OC and comrade, died that night and joined the host of the elected who died that Ireland and all her sons and daughters would be free from the chains of British Imperialism and happy in the working out of their own destiny.”

On the 19th April 1940 – 77 years ago on this date – Jack ‘Seán’ McNeela, a 28 year old IRA Volunteer from Ballycroy in County Mayo, died in Arbour Hill Military Detention Barracks in Dublin, after 55 days on hunger strike, fighting against the Free Staters for political status. Incidentally, a radio programme produced by ‘Midwest Radio’ highlighting the abuse meted out by those same Staters at McNeela’s funeral was the subject of a complaint to the ‘Broadcasting Complaints Commission’ in that, according to the complainant, the programme lacked ‘…balance (and) impartiality (and) distorted the facts and (the) historical perspective..’. The complaint was rejected. The complainant was a retired garda. More here…

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT. (By Cian Sharkhin.)

Standing beside the baby elephant was amazing. I’d never been that close to an elephant before. I could’ve reached out and touched him, and I did – his skin was like bark, it made him seem older, he wasn’t like Dumbo was in the film. Dumbo was happy, but not when the naughty boys were pulling his ears. Dumbo’s face was cheeky, shiny and he bounced around, but the real elephant had thick leathery skin, sad piggy little eyes and he shambled around.

I wasn’t the only kid who was petting the baby elephant – there were other kids and parents surrounding him, too. The zoo keeper held the end of a rope which went around the elephant’s neck, and in his other hand he carried a long bamboo cane. He indulged us, waiting patiently whilst the crowd petted the elephant and took photos. I was hemmed in on the elephant’s left flank by some other kids behind me, who tried to squeeze closer to the elephant, forcing me closer to the bark-skinned beast.

The kids behind me had wriggled into the space that had been vacated by my parents and two little sisters, Sally and Denise, who were all holding hands preparing to cross the road, which was about twenty yards from where I was standing. I could just see them through the wriggling, writhing mass that jostled me from behind. I was trapped… (MORE LATER.)

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

The Arms Trial should have been about the inability of Free State arms to protect Irish citizens on the island of Ireland but, instead, it focused on a tangible symptom of a cause no one wanted to address. The conspiracy by elements within the Dublin government to equip northern nationalists with the means with which to defend themselves was not the problem, the fact that a movement that emerged from the burning ghettos of 1969 now has the means to arm an infantry battalion is not the problem – the problem is the situation that led shopkeepers to become quartermasters and grammar school girls to become active service unit commanders. It was this issue that brought me to meet with all of the main players in ‘The Split’, as research for part of a politics degree back in 1982.

I interviewed Seán MacStíofáin, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Seán Garland and Cathal Goulding, and concluded at the end of my thesis that the realities of a loyalist pogrom on Catholics meant that Official Sinn Féin’s vision of an Ireland polarised along socio-economic lines – through a Marxist rather than a tribal viewfinder- was dangerous nonsense for the people of, for instance, the Short Strand.

With the exception of Gerry Adams, all the current republican leadership are children of 1969 – the ‘B-Specials’ made the Provos as surely as the Cold War and the Gulf War made bin Laden. The split in 1969 was essentially about guns – Cathal Goulding moved them out of Belfast to stop a shooting war, the Provos split to get guns into Belfast so that they could take part in exactly that… (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (19TH APRIL) 75 YEARS AGO : ‘COOPERATING WITH THE OCCUPIERS’.

A lesson here for our home-grown ‘cooperators’ :
’19th April 1942 – France Vichy Government : the New Vichy Government, headed by Pierre Laval at the bidding of his German masters, in an attempt to bring the insurgent French people back into line with Nazi ruling…promised to protect the people from the Nazi Regime by gaining concessions

‘The Vichy Government was born of defeat at the hands of the Germans in June of 1940. Military weakness and political divisiveness had combined to ensure a French defeat in only six weeks of fighting…France turned to the aged hero of Verdun, Henri Petain, to save France in this dark hour. Petain took over and negotiated with the Germans to leave part of France unoccupied. The unoccupied part of France was ruled from the city of Vichy (famous for its ‘Vichy water’). The new government had a much stronger president and brought more stability to the French political system. Petain was viewed as a veritable national savior. He promised to get peace with honor – or as much honor as could be gained in such circumstances…the Vichy Government was much more authoritarian than the Third Republic. A secret police force, more restricted civil rights and less power for the legislative branch were characteristic. Vichy also cooperated (‘collaborated’) with the Nazis partly out of sympathy, but mostly out of intimidation (as) Vichy ruled, after all, purely at the pleasure of the masters in Berlin (and) as Nazi pressure increased, Vichy began to cooperate even more

 

‘Pétain’s Vichy Government was not a fascist regime and Pétain was not a puppet of the Nazis, at least he liked to think so – but the anti-Semitic laws were his own. Right from the start the Vichy Government set out its stall, actively doing the Nazi’s dirty work with little interference: conducting a vicious civil war against the French resistance, implementing numerous anti-Jewish laws, and sending tens of thousands of Jews to the death camps. Within six months, 60,000 non-French citizens had been interned in thirty concentration camps that had sprung up in France with alarming speed and efficiency

On the 2nd June 1944, General de Gaulle proclaimed a provisional French government – it was on that date that the Vichy regime came to an end. In August 1944, Pétain, Laval (later to be convicted of ‘treason’) and several others were taken away by the Germans in their general retreat from France back to Germany. In France, during the summer of 1945, collaborators were hunted down and some were executed without trial. Pétain, who had returned to France, was condemned to death but this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Laval, along with other collaborators, was executed : ‘Pierre Laval was shot today at 12.32pm after a vain attempt to poison himself had delayed his execution…when his advocates told him last night that General de Gaulle would not commute the sentence or the Minister of Justice order a retrial, Laval had been composed and cheerful. When this morning at 8.45am, Mornet, the Procurator General, came to him to inform him that he was to be executed at 9.30am, Laval was lying in bed. Without replying, he put his head under the blankets. His advocates thought that he had had a moment of weakness and one of them raised the blanket to ask him to master himself, but saw at once from Laval’s appearance that he must have taken poison. He was already losing consciousness. He had in fact drunk from a bottle of cyanide of potassium which he still held, but in his hurry he had not drained the bottle and had not shaken it before drinking. Immediate medical attention prevented his attempted suicide, and half an hour later Laval was again conscious

On October 15th 1945, Laval was shot in the courtyard of Fresnes Prison and Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain, generally known as ‘Philippe Pétain’ or ‘Marshal Pétain’, died on the 23rd July 1951, aged 95, in Île d’Yeu, in France – he had been exhibiting signs of mental illness and would occasionally lose control over his bodily functions, and suffered from hallucinations. He
succumbed to senility two years before he died, and had heart problems and was unable to move without assistance – indeed, the second ‘broken entity’ he was to be associated with. Had he practised his ‘political art’ in this State, he would have been labelled as ‘a hero’ and the 23rd July would by now be an ‘official holiday’, such is the level of ‘vichism’ we suffer from here.

 

GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…

SIN SCÉAL EILE.

By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

BÁS DON BÉARLA.

Word reached us from the Sentenced end of the Camp to manufacture a large banner of protest ; the instructions came with some ‘Blue Peter’-type diagrams – we were somehow to sew three prison-issue white bed sheets together and paint revolutionary-like slogans on them and, when this done, we were to stretch the banner between three huts. We pondered the wording for our banner in Cage 10. Some of the ideas were along the lines of ‘DEATH TO THE BRITISH IMPERIALISTS’, ‘PATRIA EL MUERTA’ (I think), ‘GO BACK TO ENGLAND, YE BASTARDS’, ‘ALL BRITS ARE BASTARDS, ESPECIALLY HER SOLDIERS AND POLITICIANS’, ‘SMUGGLE US IN SOME FAGS, MA’ and ‘DOWN WITH THE IMPERIALIST WAR DOGS’.

It was all starting to get a bit predictable. We needed something innovative : “I have it!” said Caoimhin, a comrade from the Markets area in Belfast – “Cyril from Limerick knows Irish – he can do one in the Irish language for us.” “Perfect”, said Boco from the Short Strand, so we approached Cyril en masse. He looked a bit uncomfortable – “Caide atá uaibh?”, he asked. “Never mind that crap, we need a banner,” said Boco. Cyril thought long and hard for about four seconds. “I’ve got it, the very thing. We could put…” Hinge-Jaw Boco cut in – “Cyril, never mind the Irish class, just write the friggin’ thing down on this piece of paper.”

The three sheets were stitched together, then we got all the paint and magic markers we could find and waited for Cyril and his slogan. He produced his slogan and we started painting it on the sheets. We had to finish it off with shoe polish. It was nailed onto two brush-poles and we made our way to the roofs of the middle hut and the canteen of Cage 10. The legend on our banner read – BÁS DON BÉARLA – we looked up open-mouthed and with an ignorant pride, and some of the younger comrades were ‘welling up’ with emotion, and I must admit that I bit my own lip to stop myself from crying… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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