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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kings County AOH is celebrating the 1916 Uprising with Commemorative T-Shirts. They come in Large, XL and XXL in Blue on White and White on Blue. Contact for ordering.

Posted by Jim on November 30, 2015

AOH Tshirts

Anniversary of Croke Park massacre marked

Posted by Jim on November 28, 2015

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has marked the 95th anniversary of
the British army killings of 14 people at a sports match in Dublin,
which became known as Bloody Sunday.

British troops randomly opened fire into the crowd at a GAA game on
Sunday 21 November 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.

The association marked the anniversary of the Croke Park stadium attack
before Saturday’s International Rules test between Ireland and

The names of the victims were read out before the match, and 14 flames
were lit in their memory.

The dead included 24-year-old GAA player Michael Hogan, after whom Croke
Park’s Hogan Stand is named. Senior GAA staff laid a laurel wreath at
the spot where he was shot, followed by a moment of silence.

The event is often referred to as the original Bloody Sunday, to
distinguish it from the 1972 British Army massacre of 14 civil rights
demonstrators in Derry.

GAA Árd Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy said: “The events of Bloody Sunday on
November 21, 1920 are as much a part of the history of Croke Park as any
of the epic sporting contests which have taken place there since Gaelic
games were first played on Jones’ Road.

“The tragic loss of 14 lives on that fateful day, when almost 15,000
turned up to enjoy a football game between Dublin and Tipperary, was a
harrowing moment for the Association, and while we have thankfully left
those dark days behind us, it is only fitting that we honour the memory
of those who were killed.

“The memory of Tipperary’s Michael Hogan, who was 24 when he was killed,
has lived on through the famous stand at Croke Park that bears his name.
We are happy to play a part to ensure the names of the other 13 lives
lost at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday – Jane Boyle (26), James Burke (44),
Daniel Carroll (30), Michael Feery (40), Tom Hogan (19), James Matthews
(48), Patrick O’Dowd (57), Jerome O’Leary (10), William Robinson (11),
Tom Ryan (27), John William Scott (14), James Teehan (26) and Joe
Traynor (21) are also honoured.”


A gravestone was also unveiled at grave of Jane Boyle in Glasnevin
Cemetery on the 95th anniversary of her death in Croke Park on Bloody

Jane Boyle, the only woman out of 14 people killed by Crown forces at
the Dublin-Tipperary football challenge match on 21 November 1920 in
Croke Park.

Ms Boyle was attending the match with her fiancé Daniel, and the couple
were due to get married five days later. Initially it was reported that
she had been trampled to death, but records released in 1999 revealed
that she had been shot.

Her great-nephew Richard Staveley led the effort to have a gravestone
erected when he discovered his great-aunt’s plot in Glasnevin Cemetery
was unmarked.

His effort received the support of the GAA and the extended Boyle
family, many generations of which attended the ceremony at the graveside

The stone was unveiled by her great-nephew’s Dr Eamonn Boyle and
Professor Tony Boyle, both of whom had travelled from the United States
to be there. Her niece, 91 year old Nancy Wynne laid a wreath.

A century of secrecy for Derry victims

Posted by Jim on

A century of secrecy for Derry victims

The scale of British state secrecy efforts in the north of Ireland has
been highlighted after it emerged that a British Army film file on its
murderous ‘Operation Motorman’ in Derry has been declared ‘locked’ for
a period of 100 years.

A Freedom of Information request from the Derry Journal found that
Britain’s National Archive had three military films from the 1972
operation, but one has been marked as classified for a period of 100

Two teenagers were killed by the British Army in Creggan on July 31,
1972, as it sought to assert control in the ‘Free Derry’ area.

In 2011, an inquest into the death of fifteen-year-old Daniel Hegarty
finally cleared his name of British military lies that he was engaging
in armed resistance when he was shot dead. In that inquest, one
military file was also deemed classified for a century.

The controversy over Britain’s refusal to admit the truth in its
actions in the Six Counties reignited last week when a deal in crisis
talks avoided any discussion on dealing with the past conflict as a
result of British ‘national security’ concerns.

The so-called ‘Fresh Start’ deal signed by Sinn Fein, the DUP and the
two governments has been strongly condemned by groups representing
victims and survivors of state killings and collusion.

Daniel’s sister, Margaret Brady said she wasn’t even aware that the
newly found film footage existed.

“I find this more than strange. In fact I find it shocking. Why is
locked for 100 years? Are they again trying to wait until we are all
rotting in the ground before they reveal the truth?

“They are just trying to manufacture a story that suits them. We have
political parties here talking about ‘fresh starts’. How can there be a
fresh start when the British government continue to hide things.

“But, like I’ve always said, it is not the innocent who have to fear
the truth. It is those who committed these crimes who are running
scared,” she said.

The other Motorman victim, 19-year-old IRA Volunteer Seamus Bradley,
was unarmed when shot by the British Army, arrested and tortured. The
process to get a fresh inquest into his death is underway.

Lawyer for the Bradley family, Richard Campbell said he had never come
across an incident before where material had been closed for such a
length of time.

“We have made a request to the Coroner’s Service, who have
investigatory powers for their help in getting all material in relation
to Motorman released.

“But, this is bizarre. Why is it locked for 100 years. What could be
contained in this material that is so bad that it is to be locked for a
century?”, he said.

The lawyer said he will be tabling the issue at the next meeting
working towards the establishment of a date for a new inquest into
Seamus Bradley’s death.

Anti-agreement republicans back 1916 parade plan

Posted by Jim on November 25, 2015

by Connla Young
ANTI-agreement republicans are planning to hold a commemoration to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Co Tyrone next year.
The National Republican Commemoration Committee, which in a statement justified “armed revolution,” gathered in St Patrick’s Hall in Coalisland yesterday to launch the parade .
The committee is affiliated to republican prisoners held on the Roe Four landing at Maghaberry Prison who are aligned to the ‘IRA’.
On the morning of the Rising in 1916 republicans from across the north gathered at St Patrick’s Hall to take part in the rebellion, but their part was eventually called off.
The ‘Unfinished Revolution’ parade will take place from Clone to Coalisland on Easter Sunday next year.
Among the gathering was Kevin Hannaway, who is currently on bail after being arrested in Dublin earlier this year and charged with assisting the IRA.
He is one of 14 Catholics, known as the ‘Hooded Men’, who claim they were tortured by the British government after being detained during internment in 1971.
In a statement, the committee said the planned parade will “serve as an opportunity for those who legitimately continue to struggle for Irish freedom, by whatever means necessary, to re-dedicate ourselves to the ongoing fight to end the British occupation of our country and the establishment of a 32 county democratic socialist republic.”
The parade organisers said the Easter Rising is an “unfinished revolution, armed and otherwise.”
“While we have listened to the opinions of those who state that the time is not right for a continuation of revolution by any and all means, it is our opinion that while the denial of national self determination and British occupation continue, so too will armed revolution,” it said.
“Those who remain true to the ideals and principles of the 1916 Proclamation need to publicly re-dedicate ourselves to the achievement of that vision.”
Mr Hannaway said he was happy to attend the march launch.
“I believe I have a common denominator with everyone in this room, I, with them, will always oppose the British presence in Ireland,” he said.
“I have tried to live my life as an Irish republican and I will go to my grave as one.”
Also in attendance was Derry and Strabane councillor Gary Donnelly and prominent Co Tyrone republican Kevin Murphy.
In 2012 explosives charges against Mr Murphy were dropped while in 2004 he was one of four men cleared of conspiring to kill police and British soldiers and possession of a rocket launcher near Coalisland RUC station in February 2002.
He was joined at the launch by Tyrone man David Jordan, who was recently released from Portlaoise Prison, in Co Laois, after serving a sentence for possession of a weapon and Derry man Thomas Ashe Mellon, who earlier this year completed a sentence connected to the discovery of a note smuggled into republican inmates at Maghaberry Prison
High profile Lurgan republican Paul Duffy also attended the event.
He was acquitted of paramilitary charges last month after a judge ordered prosecutors to hand over details of a tracking device used during a multi-million pound MI5 surveillance operation.
SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said he remains opposed to the use of violence.
“The use of violence during the course of the Troubles was wrong and the continued use of violence is still wrong” he said.
“The Irish people as a whole, both north and south, have on a widespread basis supported democratic change in Ireland and that is the broad spectrum of opinion through the body politic in Ireland.”
Mid Ulster Sinn Féin MP Francie Molly said his party’s approach is working.
“We believe we have a strategy to deliver on the proclamation, it’s the right strategy and is delivering,” he said.
“We believe it’s the best way to bring about the republic proclaimed in 1916.”

Calls to bring “democracy” back to parade

Posted by Jim on November 24, 2015

The venue for the meeting was Cathedral High School in Manhattan.

By Aaron Vallely
Bringing back “democracy to the running of the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade was a particular focus of participants in a meeting of parade affiliated organizations held even as the parade’s immediate future appeared to be in the hands of the courts as opposed those same organizations.

The recently formed Committee of Concerned Affiliated Organizations held the meeting Wednesday last in Cathedral High School in Manhattan.

It was chaired by Dennis Grogan and John Manning, both leading members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians though the meeting was not a Hibernian gathering per se.

Between 150 and 180 people were in attendance.

Amongst matters discussed, was the idea of “bringing democracy back to the parade” and including more transparency in how the parade is organized.

The issue of on-going litigation between certain parties was raised, though not discussed in detail.

A case was made for greater accountability on the part of the parade board to the affiliated organizations.

This included the proposal to remove all board members who are not qualified under the criteria and current by-laws. This was met with a round of applause.

Election of the Parade Celebration Committee, Grogan told the attendees, should be by the delegates of the affiliated organizations of the parade.

Using slides as an illustration there was also a case made for the 2017 Grand Marshal to be elected by the delegates of the affiliated organizations of the parade, or at least by a committee created by the affiliates.

There was also what was termed “A Call To Action”, whereby affiliates were invited to put some pressure on the board to hold a meeting and discuss these issues.

Affiliates were then invited to ask questions or make comments.

Mr. Martin Kiely, an active member for 40 years, said: “I am glad some people seen what I have seen. Money is what causes problems, and the parade belongs to the people.”

Ms. Eileen Cronin made the point that certain members involved in the litigation deserved to get the credit for their hard earned work and not just criticism.

There were also some critical comments regarding the participation of certain groups in the parade in light of the decision to include gay marching units in the parade.

John Manning made the point that “last year’s decision is what it is, and still stands.”

Afterwards, Dennis Grogan said that “when all is said and done, the parade belongs to the people and the groups that make it up, and that is why we are holding this meeting.”

John Manning stated that many people were very frustrated with the situation surrounding the parade and were trying to address these concerns in a fair, open, and transparent way.

The ticking clock dilemma

Posted by Jim on

McGurk’s Bar activist, Robert McClenaghan, writes on the reality of
Britain’s inability to face up to its human rights abuses, and how this
now becomes his own ticking clock dilemma.

I was with other family members in west Belfast to hear about the
current situation with the Stormont House Agreement and how families who
lost loved ones during the conflict are yet again abused by the British
state. Britain does not want to deal with its past.

I found out the British Government are using what they call “National
Security Issues”to allow them to hold onto documents and files which
they think are too important to British National Security Interests to
give to families of those murdered or injured during the conflict.

And it does not matter to them if your son, daughter, father, mother,
was IRA, UDA, UVF, UDR British Army, INLA, IPLO, Ulster Resistance, or
civilian Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter.

Every single family is being refused the truth because of British
National Security Interests.

My Thoughts

Firstly, when we talk about Legacy Issues, Dealing with the Past or
National Security, we lose sight of the human beings we are actually
talking about. The victims are faceless and nameless. They have no
family and left nobody behind that mourns for them every day. They do
not exist. And neither do we.

This brings me to my own personal case which I would like to share with
you as it has been on my mind recently.

I call it the Ticking Clock Dilemma.

On the one hand we have the British Government steadfastly refusing to
tell the truth about its involvement in the conflict here for fear it
may reveal terrible dark crimes committed in its name by the British
Army, the RUC, the UDR and MI5 as well as its gangs of agents recruited
to wage war as a counter to the IRA campaign to destroy the State of
Northern Ireland as they saw it.

On the other hand of the Ticking Clock Dilemma is my Dad, Sam.

Sam is 86 years of age and I love him to bits. On December 4 1971 my
Dad’s step-father, Philip Garry, was murdered along with 14 other
innocent men women and children in McGurk’s Bar in the New Lodge area of
North Belfast. He was having a quiet pint when the bomb exploded. My
grandfather was 73 years of age at the time of his death. 73.

Within 12 hours of the murders in McGurk’s Bar, the RUC made up the
story that my grandfather was a bomber, an IRA man who along with the
others blew themselves up as part of an IRA own-goal.

I was 12 at the time and I am 56 now.

We have been waiting for nearly 44 years for the authorities to tell the

The Ticking Clock Dilemma for my Dad is this:

On Friday the 24 October the Chief Heart Consultant in the RVH told Sam
that he has only one artery to his heart left working and it is being
kept open by a small metal tube called a stent. The rest of his arteries
have all collapsed and cannot be repaired. They sent him home from
hospital saying there was nothing more medically could be done for him
and it was now in Gods hands how much longer he had left to live. I
cried when he told me as now I know my Dad is living on borrowed time.
One artery is now doing 100% of the work and sooner or later it is going
to stop and Sam will be dead.

The Ticking Clock for the British is that they want to waste as much
time as possible before they are forced by public opinion to tell what
they did as part of the conflict here.

They are refusing to hand over to my Dad crucial documents relating to
McGurk’s Bar.

My Dad along with other McGurk’s Bar families have taken the former PSNI
Chief Constable Matt Bagott and the present Chief Constable to court to
overturn a report by the failed and discredited Historical Enquiries
Team which was sanctioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The
HET’s report lied and said that the RUC did nothing wrong in December
1971 when they blamed the IRA for the atrocity and not the real culprits
the UVF.

This is despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary discovered and
presented to the by our campaign to the police from the state’s own
files. They have it in front of them in black and white. They deny us
other information which they are attempting to deny us access to for 84

What delay means

I mention all this because i want to highlight our particular case to
prove a general point which is simple.

My Dad and other families cannot afford any further delay in getting the
British Government to admit not only what happened at McGurk’s Bar in
1971 but also hundreds and hundreds of other cases.

The RFJ website estimates that 365 people where murdered by the British
State and a further 1100 where murdered on top of that by the UVF and
UDA and Ulster Resistance as a result of a policy of collusion with the
British State.

The McGurk’s Bar case is one of the first cases of the British State
using counter-gangs to try and defeat the IRA, and to deter the
Nationalist community from supporting the IRA. The control of the
narrative in the aftermath which presented the bombing as an own-goal
was a classic psychological operation. It is a psychological operation
which continues to this day.

The McGurk’s Bar fell into a timeline. It did not explode in a vacuum.

The Ticking Clock dilemma persists as the British State tries to cripple
the coronial system, or the proposed Historical Inquiries Unit, and it
still refuses to allow any information that they do not like to see in
the public domain to be shared with anyone.

The British want to see the clock tick longer and further into the
future. My Dad Sam does not have the luxury of time. Something has to
give. Either my Dad’s heart or the British State.

The blockages in my Dad’s heart can be compared to the blockages put in
the way of the truth. We all must do our best to unblock them. Sam needs
it before it is too late. Thousands of other family members need it too.

Bloody Sunday: Ministry of Defence ‘insulting’ families of the dead

Posted by Jim on November 22, 2015

A relative of two of the victims of Bloody Sunday has described as an “insult” that the British Ministry of Defence is to foot the legal bill for soldiers arrested in connection with the PSNI investigation into the events of January 30, 1972.

The news emerged after an emergency question was lodged in the House of Commons over last week’s arrest of a former member of the Parachute Regiment. ‘Lance Corporal J’ was arrested on November 10 and it is understood he was questioned in relation to the killing of William Nash, John Young and Michael McDaid as well as the wounding of Alexander Nash. The ex-soldier was detained in County Antrim and questioned at a Belfast police station before being released on bail pending further police police inquiries.

This prompted seven other soldiers to seek a judicial review in London. It is understood these soldiers are soldiers B, N, O, Q, R, U and V. These were the anonymous names applied to the ex-soldiers during the 12 year Saville Inquiry.

Lawyers for the soldiers contended that the motivation behind the arrest of ‘Lance Corporal J’ was “politically motivated” and also followed on from the realisation that if they are charged their anonymity could be put aside. It is also possible that if charged and subsequently convicted that they may not quality for early release under the Good Friday Agreement as it falls outside the timeframe agreed for non-qualification agreed in the 1998 accord.

 The seven soldiers also lodged objections to not being given at least 24 hours notice of arrest, whereby they could arrange to present themselves to local police stations for questioning. They have also objected to being transferred to Northern Ireland for police questioning.

The judicial review will take place at a Divisional Court in London, next Thursday, November 26. Mr Justice Ouseley ordered that families of those killed on Bloody Sunday are not persons “directly affected” by the application as the case concerns the lawfulness of the anticipated arrests, chiefly because the soldiers are willing to be interviewed in England, and because of risks faced in Northern Ireland.

Independent MP for North Down, Lady Sylvia Hermon, asked in the House of Commons if the Ministry of Defence will pay for his and other soldiers’ legal costs.

She said: “That’s the legal advice and legal representation – top legal representation – of any former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland and who are charged in connection with any inquiry, Bloody Sunday or indeed inquests such as those announced for Ballymurphy.”

Confirming that legal fees will be paid, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Ben Wallace, said that the Ministry of Defence recognises it has a duty of care to all current and former members of the armed forces.

He said: “As an essential part of that, we will pay for independent legal advice, so that they are able to defend themselves when they face legal proceedings on matters related to their former service.”

Reacting to the news that the ex-Paratrooper’s will have their legal fees paid by the Ministry of Defence, Kate Nash whose brother was shot dead and father wounded, told the ‘Journal’: “Again the British Government have insulted the family’s and victims of Bloody Sunday.

“They are paying legal expenses for former soldiers they say they owe a duty of care to. Are they serious? What about the innocent victims who’s lives ended that day? What about the innocent people they wounded? What about the hundreds they arrested and brutalised? What about the people who still suffer because of their memories of that day.

“They are paying for these cowards because if they don’t they might tell the real story-that they were ordered in to do exactly what they did, murder Irish people.”

Struggling firefighter injured after just 10 days into new job

Posted by Jim on

By Susan Edelman, NY Post

A female firefighter who was allowed to graduate the Fire Academy despite failing physical tests has already gone out on medical leave — just 10 days into the job, The Post has learned.

Probationary firefighter Choeurlyne Doirin-Holder injured herself Monday while conducting a routine check of equipment at Queens’ Engine 308 in South Richmond Hill. Getting off the truck, Doirin-Holder missed a step and landed on her left foot, suffering a fracture, sources said.

It was her second shift after a transfer from Engine 301. In training for a hazmat assignment, officers found her struggling to perform the required tasks.

Firefighters called the tripping incident embarrassing — and alarming.

“If you’re going to get hurt in the firehouse checking a rig, what would happen at a fire?” an insider asked.

On Nov. 6, Doirin-Holder celebrated her FDNY graduation as one of four new female Bravest, bringing the number of women to 49 — an all-time high in the FDNY’s 150-year history.

But Doirin-Holder’s competence was questioned by sources familiar with her training. They said academy instructors let her pass the Functional Skills Test, a rigorous obstacle course of job-related tasks, even though she had failed to complete it in the required 17 minutes and 50 seconds or under.

In addition, when she failed to finish a 1.5-mile run in 12 minutes or less — even after the course was shortened — she was allowed to demonstrate aerobic capacity on a StairMaster machine under watered-down requirements enacted by FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Doirin-Holder, who turns 40 this month, is one of 282 “priority hires” passed over in 1999 and 2000. Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered they must get preference as victims of past discrimination against minorities.

It was Doirin-Holder’s third attempt to pass the academy. She failed midway through an academy class in 2013 and returned to her former job as an EMT. Two other female priority hires in that class did well.

Doirin-Holder started another class in early 2014 but dropped out because of an injury. The FDNY then gave her a desk job and kept her on the payroll at top firefighter salary, $76,488. She made $81,376 with overtime in 2014 and entered her third class this summer.

Since she was injured on duty, she is eligible for a disability pension that would pay three-quarters of her annual salary, tax-free, if deemed unfit to return.

In an online FDNY forum, firefighters fumed at the preferential treatment.

“If you can’t meet the standards, you are a danger to yourself, the public and most importantly everyone operating on the fire ground who is doing their job,” one wrote.

The FDNY said it won’t discuss personnel or medical matters.

Marley family seek justice

Posted by Jim on November 21, 2015

Informers within the Provisional IRA are suspected of providing
information that led to the loyalist murder of a senior republican in
north Belfast man almost 30 years ago.

Laurence Marley, known as Larry, was shot dead by the UVF in front of
his wife and new-born son as he answered a knock at the door of his
Ardoyne home in April 1987.

The senior IRA figure was gunned down 18 months after serving a 13-year
jail term for his part in the armed struggle, which included helping to
mastermind the famous Long Kesh prison breakout of 1983.

His family is now preparing to sue the PSNI police, the British Ministry
of Defence and Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers over his death. They
believe the Crown Forces played a part in targeting the father-of-six by
passing information to his loyalist killers, facilitating the attack and
protecting their own agents.

His funeral was delayed for three days after the RUC police launched a
massive security operation and formed a heavily armed cordon around his
home to prevent a republican funeral.

Two attempts to bury the IRA man were aborted after a platoon of RUC
surrounded his cortege. His funeral finally took place six days after
his death.

During the stand-off undertakers had to re-embalm the body in the house
amid threats from the RUC that it would be seized under public health

The episode led to Bishop of Down and Connor Cahal Daly calling on the
RUC to rethink its approach to dealing with republican funerals.

It is now thought that the senior republican was set up by a number of
agents within the IRA who supplied information to their Crown Force
handlers on his movements — and who in turn passed it on to the UVF.

His son Setanta believes that information was “passed on by republican
agents to their handlers which would have added to the knowledge of my
father’s involvement in planning the ‘great escape’ in 1983 which was a
major embarrassment to the Thatcher administration, especially in the
shadow of the hunger strike.”

Setanta, who was only two week’s old when his father was killed, accused
the PSNI of failing to investigate his death properly.

“The behaviour of the security forces at the funeral is nothing short of
proving investigative bias,” he said.

He said the family wants “accountability and truth on the part of the
British government” and has been “put in a position where they have to
pursue a civil action in the hope that the discovery process divulges
information that can provide assistance and the truth”.

Mr Marley, who is himself a member of the legal team at KRW Law taking
his father’s case, said the family was also engaged with the Police
Ombudsman on the matter.

He said he believes his father’s murder was “sanctioned at the highest
echelons of the British establishment” and described the RUC’s actions
during the funeral as “vicious”.

Mr Marley said that in the months before his father’s death he had been
arrested several times and threatened while being interrogated by the
RUC at its Castlereagh base.

He said that floor plans and diagrams of the family home were also taken
during Crown raids in the run up to his death. Mr Marley said his family
also wants a new inquest under Article Two of the European Convention of
Human Rights.


Posted by Jim on

There are fears that this week’s talks agreement represents such a
victory for unionist and British negotiators that it could wreck the
North’s political process, rather than sustain it.

The so-called ‘Fresh Start’ agreement comes after ten weeks of talks
aimed at reviving the main elements of the failed Stormont House
Agreement, which was reached in the run-up to last Christmas.

Unionist commentator Newton Emerson said he was unnerved by what he
described as a “total defeat for Sinn Fein”. He warned the deal was
“destabilising and unsustainable”.

Every aspect of the negotiations saw setbacks for nationalists,
republicans and progressives. Arguably the most controversial
development was that an entire section of the previous agreement on
dealing with the past was shelved. That component was dropped over the
British government’s insistence that its “national security” take
precedence over the release of information to victims of the conflict.

Sinn Fein officials said no deal on legacy issues was better than a bad
deal. However, victims groups said the party should have refused to
sign up to any agreement at all.

“In their homes around the country, those who lost loved ones in the
conflict will be privately grieving and angry,” said Relatives for
Justice and Justice for the Forgotten.

On the welfare issue, Sinn Fein pointed to a headline figure of
financial measures of 146 million pounds a year to compensate those
affected by cuts in welfare and tax credits.

Overall, however, the ‘Fresh Start’ agreement contains less money than
the Stormont House deal it is meant to replace, to the tune of 85
million pounds. A broad range of left-wing groups and political parties
have denounced it, and protests have already been organised for this

There are reports that some in Sinn Fein could rebel against the deal.
The party’s leader on Belfast council Jim McVeigh, in a message to
supporters, warned that planned cuts in corporation tax might not go
ahead “unless we afford it and we won’t be able to afford it any time
soon, comrades”.

That earned an apparent rebuke from Martin McGuinness, who said: “Sinn
Fein will honour all commitments it made in this week’s agreement.”

The new deal includes cuts to all working age benefits, a benefit cap
for families with children, and also agrees to another round of cuts
currently before Westminster.

“It is overwhelmingly children who will suffer,” said Eamonn McCann of
People Before Profit. He said Sinn Fein had now joined the ranks of the
pro-austerity parties.

“Staying in government with the DUP took precedence over standing by
the most vulnerable,” he said. “The worst-off people in deprived places
like Derry will be hardest hit. If the Coalition in the South
introduced this sort of package, Sinn Fein would be elbowing its way to
the front of street protest.”

The British Crown Forces in the North are the new deal’s clear
financial winners. The PSNI and a new cross-border agency will receive
160 million pounds of additional funding over the coming years, with an
additional 85 million pounds to secure interface area as well as issue
payments to “community workers”.

The deal appears stacked against republicans by concentrating on
illegal cross-border activity — there is no requirement for the PSNI
or other British state agencies to address loyalist criminality or
sectarian and racist violence.

In another embarrassing development, Sinn Fein was required to openly
cut its ties to the Provisional IRA’s Army Council by agreeing to a
principle to “accept no authority, direction or control on our
political activities other than our democratic mandate alongside our
own personal and party judgment”. Neither unionists nor the British
government have an equivalent commitment to end their co-operation with
loyalist paramilitaries.


In a key intervention, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
promotion of truth and justice, Pablo de Greiff, warned against the
British stance on dealing with the past.

He said it had worked “to cover up the action of their agents, army,
police and political establishment by using a so-called national
security veto.

“That pretext for blocking disclosure is clearly nonsense as much of
the information families are looking for is related to events 30 to 40
years ago,” he said.

Brian Gormally of the Committee for the Administration of Justice
described Mr de Greiff’s remarks as “significant”.

Accusing the British government of pulling down the shutter on legacy
investigations, he said: “This is contrary to international standards
and unacceptable to victims.

“It will use state power to give impunity to state agents. In so doing,
it jettisons the interests of victims and the truth, continues its
violation of international human rights standards and undermines the
rule of law.”

Relatives for Justice spokesman Mark Thompson said British ‘national
security’ issues were not raised during the Stormont House Agreement
last year.

“It’s introduction was an indication that the British government do not
want to face into the truth of their responsibility and role in the
conflict,” he said.

“They are denying families from all sides of the community who lost
loved ones the truth and facts about those murders.”


The other political parties at Stormont sought more time to examine the
contents of the agreement when it was released on Tuesday. However, the
welfare element was pushed through by Sinn Fein and the DUP at the
Belfast Assembly within 24 hours.

The motion ended Sinn Fein’s opposition to the Tories directly
legislating on the matter from Westminster. There are fears that the
axe is now set to fall on a range of crucial welfare payments and
frontline public services as collective punishment of the nationalist

In the day-long debate, Sinn Fein was accused of capitulating on its
main ‘red line’ vow to oppose Tory cuts, and also needlessly agreeing
to give London 60 million pounds a year to balance potential changes to
tax credits.

Sinn Fein denied it was supporting austerity in the Six Counties but
opposing it in the 26 Counties. Its Minister for Regional Development
Conor Murphy said the devolved administration had acted as a “bulwark”
against the Tory government’s austerity policies.

“I think what is being proposed and agreed in part of this
implementation plan gives us protection measures better than exist
anywhere on these islands for people who are struggling,” he said.

However, SDLP deputy leader Fearghal McKinney accused Sinn Fein of a

“We are being asked to hand over to the Tories – or ‘Thatcher’s
children’ as Martin McGuinness likes to call it – decisions on
legislating on welfare,” he said.

“Only a matter of weeks ago Sinn Fein would have described this as a
huge serious mistake but now Sinn Fein are doing Tory austerity, and in


In its response, Republican Network for Unity spokesperson Nathan
Stuart said the Sinn Fein had agreed on a document that “would make
Margaret Thatcher blush”.

“Once again, and after a nine month delay, the right-wing coalition in
Stormont have shafted the Irish working class in favour of feathering
their own nest,” he said.

“All anti-imperialist groups must begin a process of working together
and putting the doctrine of Irish sovereignty back on the agenda.”

The 1916 Societies said the fact that Sinn Fein had agreed to move
forward while Britain still refused to admit its ‘Dirty War’ was a
“clear demonstration of who holds sway in Ireland”.

“The Sinn Fein project of drawing power away from Westminster,
supposedly towards regional decision-making processes, stands in ruin,
the handing back of key powers to London exposing the same as facade,”
they said.

“All of this makes clear the deal in question has been framed to uphold
partitionist government, fulfilling the needs of the British state and
its occupation system, with the people barely an afterthought.”

But Sinn Fein insisted the deal was an important milestone.

“I am hopeful that we will be able get on with the important work of
building a fairer society for all the people on the island of Ireland,”
said the party’s Galway West election candidate, Trevor O Clochartaigh.

“The agreement is as Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described
it, evidence of a common commitment to a better future,” he said.

“There are of course aspects of the agreement that we may not be overly
happy with but there is enough in it that is positive and constructive
and allows us to move forward.

“Our aim must be to focus on the positive aspects and look to the

British Government must honor its commitments on disclosure to victims

Posted by Jim on November 20, 2015


IN THE Stormont House Agreement that was reached in December 2014, the British government committed to providing full disclosure to families of victims of the conflict but have now done a U-turn from that position.The British government has failed to honour this agreement, just as they failed to honour the agreement for a full and independent inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

It continues to cover up the actions of its agents, army, police and political establishment during the conflict in Ireland by using a ‘national security’ veto. Because of this, no agreement has been possible on dealing with the legacy of the past as part of the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan announced on 17 November.

THE British government’s proposals on legacy are unacceptable, Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said on 17 November following the conclusion of talks at Stormont.

“The British government’s proposals on legacy issues pre- sented during the most recent talks were about preventing the full disclosure to the families of victims of the conflict they committed to as part of the Stormont House Agreement last year.

“The ‘national security’ pretext for blocking disclosure is clearly nonsense as much of the information families are looking for is related to events 30 to 40 years ago.

“This is unacceptable and means that no agreement was possible on dealing with disclosure and the past.

Mr Murphy said Sinn Féin will continue to work with victims’ groups and families to hold the British government to account.

“The two governments committed to return to this issue to seek an early resolution – and we intend to hold them to that,” he said.

While welcoming the agreement, the Sinn Féin MLA criticised the role of the British and Irish governments throughout the talks process.

“The influence of Britain’s military establishment and security and intelligence agencies is the major factor in reinforcing the Westminster Government’s intransigence against revealing the truth about its role in the conflict,” he said.

“They are absolutely hostile to Sinn Féin being in government in the North and share with the Southern political establishment an opposition to the continued electoral rise of Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties.

“The British government has failed to honor the Stormont House Agreement on full disclosure to meet the needs of victims. “The Irish government must stand as a co-equal guarantor of the agreements, must honour its commitments and must hold the

British government to account. They have failed to do this.”

Victims groups criticise British government position on disclosure

“In their homes around the country, those who lost loved ones in the conflict will be privately grieving and angry at London’s insistence that it must be able to redact/censor reports from the proposed Historical Investigations Unit on ‘national security’ grounds.

“The PFC and JFF consider it totally unacceptable for the state to demand the right to conceal the actions of its agents in bombings, shootings and murders during the conflict. This was not part of the Stormont House Agreement in December 2014.”

“Let us be very clear – this is not a question of the ‘local parties failing to agree’. It is the UK Government that has vetoed progress by demanding the right to use ‘national security’ to cover up the unlawful activities of its agents. “It will use state power to give impunity to state agents. In so doing, it jettisons the interests of victims and the truth, continues its violation of international human rights standards and undermines the rule of law.”

Stormont House legacy elements in “suspension”

Posted by Jim on

by Connla Young 
A Negotiator in the talks that ended with this week’s political deal has said the legacy elements of the Stormont House Agreement are now “in suspension”.
Alex Attwood was speaking after the ‘Fresh Start’ document failed to include agreement on how Troubles-related killings will be investigated – including the setting up of a dedicated Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).
The SDLP assembly member said while the British government’s insistence on a ‘national security’ veto is an obstacle, other issues relating to legacy investigations also need to be resolved.
The HIU formed part of the Stormont House Agreement and was due to replace the now defunct police Historical Enquiries Team.
Earlier this year the British government was forced to shelve legislation on dealing with the past after nationalists objected to powers to withhold information on national security grounds.
Mr Attwood said that during the 10-week negotiations his party submitted eight separate papers dealing with legacy issues.
“We wanted to get into law all that needed to be got into law, we felt there was progress being made,” he said.
He added that his party wants talks to resume soon.
“We will be looking to close on all the issues, national security being one of the biggest.”
The Stormont House Agreement last Christmas also made provision for an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, an Oral History Archive and the creation of an Implementation and Reconciliation Group.
“All the legacy elements are now in a place of suspension,” Mr Attwood said.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth and justice, Pablo de Greiff, visited the north last week and met with Troubles victims.
Speaking last night, he said none of the stakeholders can assume the position of “neutral arbiters of the Troubles”.
He said that while “everyone must acknowledge the significance of national security concerns, it must also be acknowledged that particularly in the days we are living in, it is easy to use ‘national security’ as a blanket term”.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness met with British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers yesterday.
“They continue to cover up the action of their agents, army, police and political establishment by using a so-called national security veto,” he said.
“That pretext for blocking disclosure is clearly nonsense as much of the information families are looking for is related to events 30 to 40 years ago.”
Relatives for Justice spokesman Mark Thompson said national security issues were not raised during the Stormont House Agreement last year.
“It’s introduction was an indication that the British government do not want to face into the truth of their responsibility and role in the conflict,” he said.
“They are denying families from all sides of the community who lost loved ones the truth and facts about those murders.”
Brian Gormally of the Committee for the Administration of Justice described Mr de Greiff’s remarks as “significant” because of the British government’s “insistence on total control of disclosure of the results of investigations in the name of national security”.
“This is contrary to international standards and unacceptable to victims,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said the British government “continues to support the provisions of the Stormont House Agreement”.


Posted by Jim on


by Bill Donohue

When I became president of the Catholic League in 1993, there was no Catholic League unit in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That soon changed. For the past 20 years we have had a small contingent in the parade, but we will not be marching in 2015.

As I have already indicated, my support for the parade’s rules, about which I have invested a lot of time and energy defending on radio and TV for the past two decades, was based on the principal that no groups with their own agenda could march. I have constantly defended the exclusion of pro-life Catholic groups on this basis, using it analogously to defend the right of parade officials to exclude gay groups. So when I was asked how I would react to a gay group being asked to join, I said I could support this decision only if a pro-life group were also invited. Indeed, I explicitly pressed for confirmation that there has been a formal change in the parade’s rules. I was told that there was and that a pro-life group would march in 2015. Count me in, I said.

It soon became apparent that things were different. I was asked to keep the news of the parade rule change confidential prior to being announced on September 3. I did. I was also told that the parade’s new spokesman, William O’Reilly, would call me on September 2 to inform me of how he was going to roll out the story. He never called. Moreover, someone leaked the story to Irish Central and the Associated Press late on September 2. When I got to work on the 3rd, the story was out and I was being called by the media for my reaction.

The media were sent a statement by O’Reilly on the morning of the 3rd formally making the announcement. I was not sent a copy. The statement was worrisome because it made no mention of a change in the parade’s rules, or that a pro-life unit would be welcome. Instead, it concentrated exclusively on the gay group.

I did not allow my displeasure with the absence of a principled rule change in O’Reilly’s statement to alter my commitment to marching. But I intentionally titled my news release, “NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Amends Rules,” saying, “I have been assured that the rules have been formally changed to allow both of these groups [a gay and a pro-life unit], as well as others, to march under their own banner. That being the case, there should be no controversy.”

O’Reilly said on the morning of the 3rd that no gay group, other than Out@NBCUniversal would be marching in 2015. Later that day he was overridden by John L. Lahey, the vice chairman of the parade committee: he told the media at the New York Athletic Club that other gay groups could still apply to march in next year’s parade. Lahey is the president of Quinnipiac University and an advocate of gay groups marching in the parade; he is next in line to become chairman of the parade committee.

Curiously, no mention of a pro-life group was cited in either O’Reilly’s statement or Lahey’s remarks. But on the evening of the 3rd, the Wall Street Journal wrote that “As part of the change in policy, the organizers also will now let a ‘pro-life’ group march with a banner, said parade spokesman William O’Reilly.”

When I learned that a pro-life group would be marching, I felt relieved. But it didn’t empty my concerns. According to Lahey, there would be more gay groups marching in 2015. Which gay groups? DignityUSA says it is a Catholic gay group, but it openly rejects the Church’s teachings on sexuality and is properly regarded as a dissident, if not anti-Catholic, group. I also noticed that there was no talk about having more pro-life groups marching.

On September 8, Lahey was again asked if more gay groups would be marching next year. He hedged. “I won’t say that it is possible that we would consider another group,” he said. “We are under pressure to shorten the parade—I would be surprised if we would.” As usual, he never said a word about pro-life Catholics marching.

On September 9, O’Reilly was asked by Wall Street Journal reporter Mark Morales to reply to the promise that parade officials had made to me, namely that a pro-life group would march in the parade. “Mr. O’Reilly said that if a group opposed to abortion rights applied, parade organizers would look at the application favorably, but that none did so.” O’Reilly also said that the list of groups marching in the 2015 parade was “settled.”

This is truly amazing. The fact is there was no reason for either gay groups or pro-life groups to apply given the reality that there was no public announcement of a rule change. This accounts for the fact that no pro-life group applied. So what about the NBC gay group? How did they know there was a rule change when no other group did?

OUT@NBCUniversal didn’t have to apply—it was selected. NBC televises the parade and it threatened not to broadcast the event if a gay group was not included. Francis X. Comerford is the chief revenue officer at NBC and a member of the parade committee; he is also a past grand marshal of the parade, as is Lahey. The dots are not hard to connect. There is a lot of money at stake, both for NBC and the parade. There is also a lot of prestige to be had in elite Catholic circles to show their colleagues how “progressive” they are.

The final straw for me was when Lahey was asked by Irish Central to comment on my assertion that a pro-life group was slated to march. On September 10, he said, “That won’t be happening.” In other words, I was double-crossed.

The goal of some in the Irish community is to neuter the Catholic element in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They want it to be an ethnic celebration. But as I have said, we are not the Irish League: we are the Catholic League. Indeed, our full name is the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Under the direction of Lahey, who has effectively taken over control of the parade, there is no room for a pro-life Catholic group in 2015, but there is room for a non-Irish, non-Catholic, gay group. But the worst is yet to come.

When Lahey was told that radical gay groups, led by Brendan Fay, would like to march in 2016, he “reacted enthusiastically.” Fay is a former official of DignityUSA, an outfit that works against the teachings of the Catholic Church. “I think Brendan Fay will find we’re very receptive,” Lahey said.

For the record, DignityUSA is a group which had Paul Shanley as its chaplain, the most infamous child rapist priest in the history of the Catholic Church. More recently, it opposed the request made by the Catholic League that the Empire State Building light its towers in honor of Mother Teresa’s centenary. In 2010, it expressed its displeasure with the election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan as the new president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This explains why the Catholic League is finished with the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 8)

Posted by Jim on November 19, 2015


from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack

On Easter Sunday, after sending out new mobilization notices from the Hibernian Hall to local Volunteer companies, Pearse ordered the Louth Volunteeres to demolish a section of the Portleix railway to prevent troops from reaching Dublin.  They also raided the Wolfhill RIC Barracks becoming the first to fire shots in the Rising.  Meanwhile, 1000 copies of the Proclamation were printed in the basement of Liberty Hall as the Countess painted the words Irish Republic on a green flag that would fly over the GPO the following day next to the tricolor raised by Argentine-born Volunteer Eamon Bulfin.  Bulfin had attended Pearse’s school at St. Enda’s and his sister would later marry Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride.

As Easter Monday dawned, a smaller than normal group of Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna hEireann gathered at Liberty Hall. John J. Scollen, knew by the cancellation notice in Sunday=s paper that some- thing was afoot so he ordered his Hibernian Rifles to gather at the Hibernian Hall as well.  Posts were assigned to each leader: the Four Courts to Ned Daly; Jacob=s Factory to Tom MacDonagh; Boland=s Mill to Eamon deValera; the South Dublin Union to Eamonn Ceannt; St. Stephen=s Green to Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz; and the Mendicity Institute to Sean Heuston. They were to capture surrounding buildings as necessary and follow the battle plan laid out by Joseph Plunkett to prevent British troops from reaching the General Post Office (GPO) Headquarters. They hoped to hold out long enough for the world to pressure Britain to free Ireland since the excuse for WW1 was to free small nations.

At noon on Easter Monday they marched into the streets of Dublin and onto the pages of Irish History.  One of the men asked Connolly, Is the Citizen Army in the lead and Connolly replied, there is no longer a Citizen Army or Irish Volunteers, only the Army of the Irish Republic!  For the first time since the invasion of Canada 49 years earlier, the Irish Republican Army was back in the field.  The insurrection was to start with a bang as the Magazine Fort, a Phoenix Park storehouse of British munitions, was to be blown, but the men sent to blow it couldn’t get into the locked storeroom so they blew the fort but the storeroom did not explode.  At noon, Pearse, with Clarke and Connolly at his side, read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to startled passers-by.  There were a few cheers, but for the most part the people were simply astonished.  Inside the GPO, men were filling mail bags with scraps and blocking the windows. They also used figures from the Wax Museum on Henry Street and thought it ironic that King George, Queen Mary and Lord Kitchner would stop incoming British bullets.

That afternoon The O=Rahilly, long opposed to a rising, drove up in his classic De Dion Bouton automobile loaded with rifles.  To those surprised to see him he said, I=ve helped to wind this clock, I=ve come to hear it strike!  Sadly, neither he nor his expensive auto would survive the rising.  His car would be buried with the rubble from the Rising at the railway end of Croke Park B the GAA athletic field B and covered over.  Later immortalized as Hill 16 it became perhaps one of the most famous sports terraces in the world.  The four British Barracks: Marlborough, Richmond, Royal and Portobello were caught napping with only 100 soldiers on duty in each.  The first British incursion into Dublin took place Monday afternoon as a group of mounted Lancers rode up O=Connell Street to clear the GPO; they were scattered by firing from the Post Office roof.  The first thing the IRA did was to cut the telephone wires to prevent the British from calling for aid, but a Castle telephone exchange was secure and soon troops from Athlone, Templmore, Belfast and the Curragh were on their way.

In order to get word out to the world, Joseph Plunkett sent a party of 7 men to the Wireless School of Telegraphy which had been shut down.  They managed to repair a 1.5 Kilowatt transmitter and Dave Bourke, an experienced Marconi operator, began transmitting in Morse Code the message >Irish Republic declared in Dublin . . . Irish troops have captured the City and are in full possession . . . the whole country is rising=. Since early telegraphic communications were station to station, Marshal MacLuhan, philosopher of communication, considers this diffused message to be the world’s first radio broadcast!  One of the 7 men was the Dublin-born, Protestant patriot Arthur Shields, later an American movie star who would appear as the Protestant minister in the Quiet Man with his brother Barry Fitzgerald.  John J. Scollan sent a message to Connolly that the Hibernian Rifles were ready to assist.  Connolly replied saying he was glad of the assistance and at later sent orders to the Hibernian Rifles to proceed to the G.P.O.  They were put under the command of The O=Rahilly who ordered the group to break and barricade all the windows on the upper floors. One member P.J. Walsh was stationed at the telegraph station on the second floor since he had a good knowledge of Morse Code and was able to pose as a government agent sending out queries about the rising to the government station in an effort to obtain information.  He received a few items of information which he reported to Plunket and Pearse.  Connolly detailed Scollan to check reports of British troops in the area while other Hibernian Riflemen helped to construct barricades in the streets.  On Easter Monday evening in the GPO, Pearse commissioned Jack Stanley proprietor of the Gaelic press to issue an official bulletin. Stanley seized O=Keefe=s Printworks on Halston Street and printed >Irish War News=, a four-page news sheet on Tuesday morning which had ASTOP PRESS!@ on the back page announcing the establishment of an Irish Republic.  Although the Proclamation of the Irish Republic does not name the Hibernian Rifles as participants in the rising, >Irish War News= lists them as part of the >Dublin Division of the Army of the Republic=.  The surprising tranquility of the first day of the Irish Republic passed with little confrontation, but that was about to end. On Tuesday morning, British General Lowe arrived with orders to put the rebellion down in any way possible.


Posted by Jim on


Prepared by the KRW-LLP law firm. November 18, 2015



Lawyers from KRW LAW LLP have always received a receptive welcome from our colleagues in the USA. We have briefed lawyers, academics and politicians on behalf of our clients in the North of Ireland specifically on the matter of collusion between the British government and paramilitary organisations during the Conflict and the use of agents and informers in what as has been described as a “Dirty War”. Recently the extent of this Dirty War is becoming increasingly apparent as new information emerges through the process of civil litigation taken on behalf of the victims of collusion in their quest for truth, justice and accountability.

In 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the existence of collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane following the publication of the De Silva Review Report. Congress is well aware of the resonance of this case given the eloquence of persistency of Patrick’s widow Geraldine Finucane and her family who continues to demand an independent statutory inquiry into the murder of her husband. Patrick Finucane was killed by Loyalist paramilitaries with the complicity of state agents – agents of the British government engaged in a government sanctioned policy of collusion during the Conflict.

For many years it has also been known that the British government – specifically the shadowy agencies of the RUC Special Branch, MI5 and the Force Reconnaissance Unit, ran agents infiltrated into the IRA including agent Stakeknife, recognised as Freddie Scappaticci.

We represent a number of relatives of victims who were murdered by the IRA Internal Security Team known as “The Nutting Squad” which headed by alleged British informer and agent Freddie Scappaticci – Stakeknife. It is believed that Scappaticci and The Nutting Squad were responsible for at least 24 murders during the Conflict and that the activities of Scappaticci possibly extended to the early period of the PSNI, the institutional successor to the RUC. As noted, the nefarious activities of Scappaticci throughout a sustained period engage serious allegations of collusion with British Security Forces including RUC Special Branch, FRU and MI5.  The victims of Scappaticci included Caroline Moreland and Joe Mulhern amongst others. We hope now that Scappaticci, his crimes and his employers – the British government – will now be independently investigated and held to account.


The questions the victims we represent have is to what extent were the murders and violence perpetrated by Scappaticci and his colleagues sanctioned by the British Security Forces, what extent could any of these deaths have been prevented and what was the role of Scappaticci as an informer and agent? Lord Stevens conducting three investigations into allegations of collusion between paramilitaries and state agents during the Conflict in the North of Ireland initially with specific reference to the murder of Patrick Finucane. Had a Stevens 4 investigation have been allowed to have been undertaken it may well have examined the role of Scappaticci and the murders and violence he is implicated in. In the event the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) assumed aspects of the Stevens brief, the outcomes of which are well known – as members of Congress are aware the HET was closed following a report exposing its bias and unlawfulness.


Last month we were  informed by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI)whose Office has been undertaking an investigation into the activities of the IRA Internal Security Team and the role of the RUC, that an interim report into this linked complex investigation of 24 murders involving Scappaticci that commenced in 2013 and revealed evidence of culpability, complicity and collusion amounting to criminality of both RUC officers and members of the British Security Forces specifically MI5 has been sent to the Director of the Public Prosecutions Service for Northern Ireland (PPS)

Because PONI has no jurisdiction to investigation allegations against state agents other than RUC or PSNI personnel, he referred his interim investigation report to the Director of Public Prosecutions: the DPP has now requested the Chief Constable of the PSNI to conduct an investigation into the activities of Scappaticci and the culpability, complicity and criminality of RUC and MI5 officers. Further, the DPP has, on the advice of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, requested an investigation into an allegation of perjury by Scappaticci in a 2003 prosecution.

KRW LAW LLP welcomes this referral by PONI to the DPP and the order made by the DPP to the PSNI. However, we must sound a note of caution on behalf of our clients which Congress should be alert to when being briefed on these serious matters by the British government.

First, the announcement of the DPP comes as legal proceedings against the PSNI are in the process of being lodged with High Court regarding the failure of the PSNI to undertake a thematic investigation into the role of Scappaticci into the murder of Caroline Moreland by the IRA in 1994 and that she was murdered because she was an informer for the British Security Forces and killed to protect the position of Scappaticci. We are arguing that so far the PSNI has failed to undertake a thematic investigation into the activities of Scappaticci, the RUC and MI5 and that it does not have the resources to do so and that any such thematic investigation will lack the necessary degree of independence to deliver truth, justice and accountability to the family of Caroline Moreland.

Second, on that basis we are sceptical as to whether the order of the DPP to the PSNI to undertake a thematic or linked investigation into the complex case of Scappaticci and collusion on the basis of the work of OPONI is both a possibility in terms of resources or feasible in terms of the requirements of human rights law when the British government must undertake a human rights compliant investigation when there has been a breach of the right to life of the ECHR (Article 2).

The PSNI Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) has taken over aspects of the work of the defunct and discredited HET but is a smaller unit with lesser resources a directly within the operation command of the PSNI and employs a number of former RUC officers. It cannot satisfy the demands of human rights compliance.

Third, if the PSNI consider that it either cannot perform such an investigation into Scappaticci and collusion because of resources or because of necessary independence then another mechanism is needed. As yet the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) proposed under the Stormont House Agreement 2014 has yet to be legislated for as a Stormont House Agreement Bill has not be published. What is known about the proposed Bill is that the HIU will also not necessarily be Article 2 compliant in terms of independence.

We therefore suggest either a statutory inquiry into this matter is established to undertake an investigation into collusion during the Conflict in Northern Ireland including the activities of Scappaticci or another mechanism is developed to discharge the obligations of the British government – legal, moral and political – which are on-going human rights obligations to the relatives of the victims and survivors of the violence of the legacy of collusion.

We would request that all members of the Congress of the USA press the British government, on behalf of all victims of collusion during the Conflict in the North of Ireland, to establish such an inquiry, so that the wounds of the past can be sutured and the quest for the truth, justice and accountability concluded.





Third Floor, The Sturgen Building

9-15 Queen Street Belfast Co Antrim BT1 6EA


Peter Robinson to quit politics

Posted by Jim on

DUP leader Peter Robinson has confirmed that he will step down as the
North’s First Minister and the leader of its largest party within weeks.

The 66-year-old unionist hardliner says he will not contest the next
Assembly elections in May and is expected to officially retire by the
end of the year.

The DUP is holding its party conference this weekend and will be
dominated by the debate over his potential successor, most likely to be
Nigel Dodds, another Belfast-based hardliner.

The development follows the announcement two days ago of the latest
partial agreement in the North’s political process, officially known as
‘Fresh Start’, and seen by political analysts to have favoured the
unionist and Tory agenda.

DUP officials have already portrayed the agreement as a testament to
Robinson’s skills as a negotiator and a landmark in his “normalisation”
strategy. But while the party prepares to hail Robinson’s legacy at its
forthcoming annual conference, there have been mounting accusations of
large-scale financial impropriety and corruption as well as questions
over his personal health.

He told the unionist Belfast Telegraph newspaper today that he would be
gone within a matter of weeks.

“I am telling you this now, because I think it would be disrespectful to
the party membership if I was to go through a conference with the
pretence that I would be leading the party into the next election. I
think they have a right to know what the circumstances are.”

Robinson, one of the founding members of the DUP and with a political
career lasting more than 40 years, said he had accomplished the aims he
had set himself as DUP leader.

First Minister at Stormont since 2008, when he took over from firebrand
Ian Paisley, Robinson was always seen as more pragmatic than the
religious/sectarian zeal of Paisley’s Free Presbyterian clique. The
business-minded former MP for East Belfast was known for building his
own family empire, known to pundits as ‘Swish Family Robinson’.

Amid a number of financial scandals, the gravest came this year with
unresolved accusations at the Stormont Assembly that Robinson was due to
benefit in a seven-figure ‘finder’s fee’ in regard to the corrupt sale
of assets held by NAMA, an asset management agency of the 26-County

Robinson had shown himself to be a great political survivor,
particularly in 2008 when an extraordinary sex scandal erupted involving
his wife, Iris, her 19-year-old lover, and undeclared loans totalling
fifty thousand pounds.

However, the latest financial scandal, coupled with serious health
problems, had appeared to make his departure inevitable. He admitted
there were “massive pressures” in his work.

He said he is looking forward to retirement and says his family are too.

“I might be a journalist,” he said. “I have nothing decided and that is
part of the attraction of it all. I am not the sort of person who sits
at home with a blanket around my knees. I want to continue doing

Time Dublin listened to nationalists’ voice

Posted by Jim on November 18, 2015

“In recent years the Irish government has gone too far in the opposite direction. Contrasted with the part Barry, also a Fine Gael minister, played,[ Irish Foreign Minister] Charlie Flanagan’s contribution has been feeble and muted….  on the vexed issue of the legacy of the past, which has been the sticking point for some weeks, what has Flanagan said to encourage nationalists that the Irish government shares their concerns about the role of successive British governments in covering up the nefarious activities of their regular soldiers and the UDR?”

Time Dublin listened to nationalists’ voice
Brian Feeney. Irish News(Belfast). Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It’s 30 years since Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough Castle on November 15 1985 while a unionist mob bayed outside. Until the Good Friday Agreement it was the most momentous occasion between the Irish and British governments since partition.

The key feature of the agreement was that it gave the Irish government the right to a say in the north’s affairs. Dublin was entitled to put forward ‘views and proposals’ on any northern matters not devolved and of course in 1985 nothing had been devolved. Secondly, it established a permanent secretariat first located at Maryfield beside Palace barracks Holywood, manned continuously by Irish and British civil servants.

The two governments were required by the treaty ‘to make determined efforts’ to resolve any differences on these views and proposals. It was the nearest the Irish government could get to joint authority and despite British protestations to the contrary necessary to try to placate unionists, it was a diminution of sovereignty. The agreement was a public recognition that the north is not exclusively an internal UK affair.

There was another important message in the agreement and that was the determination of the two governments to override disputes between unionists and nationalists in the north if the disputes threatened the good relations between London and Dublin: that relationship was paramount. In 1985 the evidence of that determination was first obvious in overriding the unionist veto on any movement whatsoever. So Lady Hacksaw faced down mass unionist demonstrations, strikes, attacks on police, boycotts, resignations, you name it.

However, that relationship between the two governments did not prevent the Irish government openly criticising decisions made by the northern secretary. The then Irish foreign minister Peter Barry publicly espoused nationalist discontent when he felt it necessary to demonstrate the Irish government’s concern on certain matters, usually security force misbehaviour.

In recent years the Irish government has gone too far in the opposite direction. Contrasted with the part Barry, also a Fine Gael minister played, Charlie Flanagan’s contribution has been feeble and muted. Of course with matters such as welfare reform he has no role but on the vexed issue of the legacy of the past, which has been the sticking point for some weeks, what has Flanagan said to encourage nationalists that the Irish government shares their concerns about the role of successive British governments in covering up the nefarious activities of their regular soldiers and the UDR?

Does Flanagan have nothing to say about the fact that the British government refuses to release documents about the Dublin-Monaghan bombings 40 years ago? They were carried out under a Fine Gael/Labour government like the present one, which shamefully did not press the British for an explanation.

Instead of making representations about attempts by the British government to hide behind ‘national security’, which is anything a proconsul[NI Secretary of State] wants it to be, the last statement we had from Flanagan was another Little Sir Echo of the British line,  namely,  that he shared the same view as our proconsul that ‘a comprehensive agreement’ must be made by the middle of the week. Still, at least it’s an improvement on his first intervention in the talks in September 2014 when he told Sinn Féin they had to accept welfare reform. And you thought he had no business in internal Northern affairs?

You have to wonder all the time if Flanagan’s involvement is driven by the horror of the prospect of Sinn Féin winning 25 seats in next spring’s Dáil election,  rather than for the benefit of Northern Nationalists as a whole. Thirty years ago it was unimaginable that the SDLP could be overtaken as the major party of Northern Nationalists. Indeed Garret FitzGerald was able to sell the Anglo-Irish Agreement to the British as a way to stem the rise of Sinn Féin.

Southern parties, and particularly Fine Gael, have never come to terms with a genuinely ational party also representing northern nationalists with leverage in Leinster House. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was constructed at a time when the SDLP was the voice of the Dublin government in The North.

It’s time this Dublin government listened to the voice of Nationalists in the north like it or not rather than trashing the messenger.

Nelson revelations highlight need for full disclosure – Kelly

Posted by Jim on


Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today revelations in a Belfast newspaper on a campaign of murder waged against Republicans and nationalists by British military intelligence points up the necessity for full disclosure of the truth to victims and survivors of the conflict.

And the North Belfast MLA said that the Irish government need to hold the British government to account for its plans to launch another UDA bombing campaign in the south against civilian targets.

Gerry Kelly said:

“The revelations in the extracts of British military intelligence agent Brian Nelson’s manuscript are another damning indictment of those who ran Britain’s Dirty War and those charged with investigating it.

“It is time for the British Government to come out from behind the wall of ‘National Security’ and allow the victims and survivors to have the truth about the deaths of their loved ones.

“British military intelligence actively directed and assisted, at the highest levels, UDA death squads responsible for the murder and attempted murders of nationalists and republicans.

“The British state provided weapons and intelligence to the UDA through Nelson and other agents and directed and cleared them to assassinate Pat Finucane, Jack Kielty, Loughlin Maginn, Michael Power, Francisco Notorantonio and Gerard Slane.

“This state-sponsored gang also shot and wounded Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, targeted Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and made numerous attempts to murder other nationalists and republicans.

“Nelson has also revealed that his military intelligence handlers had also encouraged him to mount a bombing campaign in the south of Ireland.

“The Stevens inquiry sent files to the then DPP in 2003 on 25 individuals including military intelligence personnel with a view to charging them with offences related to this murder campaign.

“Twelve years later despite mounting evidence of collusion between military intelligence and unionist death squads there has been no progress made in prosecuting those at the heart of this.

“I have contacted senior police today and am writing to the Director of the Public Prosecution Service to ask for a meeting to discuss the latest revelations and to seek answers about the failure to prosecute a single person following John Stevens third inquiry into collusion.

“The British state has demonstrated clearly that it is not capable of investigating the illegal and murderous actions of its own forces in the conflict.

“There is a need too for the Irish government to hold the British government to account on its efforts to launch a UDA bombing campaign against civilian targets in the South.

“The bombing campaign planned by military intelligence handlers in the late ‘80s followed on from a series of British inspired bombings in the south in the 1970s including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings which claimed 34 lives.

“It is imperative that we agree the architecture of dealing with all legacy issues in the present talks process. For that to be successful the British Secretary of State must relinquish her veto over families receiving the truth. The term ‘National Security’ is being used to hide involvement in State collusion and State-sponsored murder.”

Partial deal announced as Stormont talks are wound up

Posted by Jim on November 17, 2015

A partial agreement has been unveiled after Sinn Fein, the DUP and the
London and Dublin governments brought the latest round of Stormont
crisis talks to a conclusion today.

An international body will be set up to monitor IRA and loyalist
paramilitary activity, with appointees nominated by the Dublin and
London governments and the Six County Executive. It will have an annual
budget of 3.2 million pounds.

New principles are to be put in place to ensure politicians work towards
the disbandment of IRA and paramilitary structures. Sinn Fein and the
DUP signed up to an agreement that ‘politicians must not take
instructions from anywhere other than those who have given them their
democratic mandate’. The new principles will apply not only to
ministers, but to all members of the Stormont Assembly.

Due to a British government insistence on full secrecy on matters of
“national security”, there was no agreement on the past or on victims.
These ‘legacy’ issues have been deferred to a separate round of talks to
begin sometime next year.

Measures previously planned to address the issues of flags and parades,
agreed in the 2013 talks under US envoy Richard Haass, are expected to
now go ahead.

The deal will also see Stormont Assembly members tomorrow pass an
emergency motion giving the British parliament in London the power to
implement cuts to the North’s welfare system. The move is intended to
ensure responsibility — and blame — for such cuts is deflected onto
the British government.

However, there will be a series of other financial measures to
compensate for the welfare cuts, including spending on roads and other

Institutional changes include the concept of an official opposition at
Stormont for the first time.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said his party remained determined “to do
all in our power to oppose this austerity and protect our people and our
public services”.

He said the party’s efforts had helped to secure more than half a
billion pounds of additional funding for Stormont with “flexibilities
that can be invested in growth and public services”.

“We will continue to do all we can to support those in need,” he said.

“The legacy of the past remains a huge gap in this work,” he added.

“The onus remains on the British government to live up to their
responsibilities to victims, in particular full disclosure.

“We also addressed directly the issue of paramilitarism. There can be no
place for armed groups in our society. That is why the agreement
includes additional resources for policing and mechanisms to challenge
armed gangs and criminality.

“Our political institutions are the best way forward. The First Minister
and I are absolutely united on this.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the agreement as a
“breakthrough” and an “important turning point for Northern Ireland”.

“The agreement secures sustainability for Northern Ireland’s budget,
sets out how we’ll deal with paramilitary groups, and could provide a
basis for a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The progress we’ve achieved is testament to the commitment and hard
work put in by the Northern Ireland parties, backed by Theresa Villiers
and the Irish Government, and I’m very pleased we’re taking this step

“What is vital now is that the parties in Northern Ireland use this
agreement as the platform for stable devolved government that delivers
on the day to day issues that matter to people.”

A statement from the Dublin government’s Foreign Affairs Minister
Charlie Flanagan described the deal as “another milestone agreement”.

Addressing the lack of agreement on legacy issues, Flanagan said:
“Regrettably, it did not prove possible to find an agreement at this
stage on the appropriate balance between the onward disclosure needs of
families and national security arrangements.”

DUP leader Peter Robinson has said he believed the agreement would
“consolidate the peace, secure stability, enable progress and offer all
our people hope for the future”.

He added: “Today represents another milestone along the way as we
normalise and build our society.”

‘Nelson files’ link British authorities to UDA death squads

Posted by Jim on November 16, 2015

‘Nelson files’ link British authorities to UDA death squads

Jim McDowell. Irish Independent. Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shock revelations about British army collusion with loyalist paramilitary death squads are set to rock the political institutions in Dublin and London.

The fresh information is understood to focus on personal and highly incriminating files compiled by Brian Nelson.

He was recruited by British Military Intelligence (BMI) to infiltrate the outlawed Ulster Defence Association at its network of headquarters in Belfast.

A major story in the ‘Sunday World’ will link both the British military and the political establishment in London to UDA death squads headed up by now-deceased loyalist paramilitary godfathers, like ‘brigadiers’ John McMichael and Tommy ‘Tucker’ Lyttle, plus a battery of other UDA so-called brigadiers who are still alive.

Nelson, who died from cancer in 2003, kept a concise and meticulous handwritten journal, running to 120 pages, of his role as a British army/UDA double agent during the darkest days of the so-called ‘Dirty War’ in Northern Ireland.

Those files reveal how he twice set up TD Gerry Adams for murder, as well as the now Stormont deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, among some 50 others.


And Nelson writes that one of his BMI-sanctioned undercover operations, a botched UDA plot to smuggle arms and rockets from South Africa, went “right to the top”.

Margaret Thatcher, who the Provos tried to murder in their Brighton hotel bombing in 1984, was Britain’s prime minister at the time.

Nelson also said that his spymaster British army ‘Boss’ told him to bomb the Republic.

That was a full 13 years after the other main loyalist terror gang, the UVF, had bombed Dublin and Monaghan, killing 33 innocent people and leaving more than 200 injured.

In 1974, Nelson was jailed for the torture of an innocent Catholic man, Gerald Higgins, who subsequently died.

Released from jail after serving less than half of his seven-year sentence, Nelson tried to start a new life in West Germany.

But he was approached by the BMI and placed back in Belfast as a paid ‘supertout’ to re-join the UDA.

Using his previous British military background (he had served in the Black Watch regiment), Nelson flew up the ranks of the killer terror gang, which was responsible for over 300 murders during the nadir of the Troubles, many of them solely sectarian attacks on Catholics.

Nelson became the UDA’s chief ‘IO’, or intelligence officer. He received montages and lists of IRA suspects, giving their personal details, from his BMI handlers.

And he personally scouted out targets for assassination – at the same time reporting back to, and colluding with, British intelligence service agents.

NYC Parade Chairman and Critic of St. Patrick, Harvests Fetal Tissue by Joseph Schaeffer

Posted by Jim on

John Lahey









The new chairman of New York City’s iconic Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, who has proposed eliminating the honoring of Saint Patrick from the parade’s bylaws, is “a director” of a foundation that financially supports medical experiments that use fetal tissue harvested from abortions and acquired for a fee from a company at the heart of the Planned Parenthood video scandal that has horrified the nation.

Dr. John Lahey, who took control of the parade’s board of directors in July, called a meeting for Oct. 29 with agenda points designed to secularize the traditional celebration of Irish Catholic heritage.

Matthew Hennessey, writing in Crisis, reports:

According to the meeting’s published agenda, committee members will decide whether to remove the section that states, “The Parade will be held in honor of St Patrick, the Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of New York and the Patron Saint of Ireland….”

[T]he board of directors will also vote on whether to remove the requirement that members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee be Roman Catholic, active members of a parish, and of Irish descent. The formation of a new executive committee will exclude affiliated organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians from any future decision-making role in the parade and grant Lahey near total control of the event.

The meeting was later postponed, Irish Echo reports.

Lahey is also president of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. On his bio page at the university’s website, Lahey is listed as “a director of” a group called the “Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.”

Lahey is listed among the board of directors on the medical foundation’s website, in which the organization declares its mission is to “support the extraordinary potential offered by cell and gene-based therapies to accelerate effective and safe treatment of all types of cancer.”

One of the ways the Alliance supports such therapies is by financially backing federally-supported studies that use human organs that have been mined from aborted infants and sold to researchers.

On the National Institutes of Health website is an “author manuscript” of a 2013 study titled “Humanized mice: novel model for studying mechanisms of human immune-based therapies.”

The manuscript by medical researchers Louis Gonzalez, Natasa Strbo and Eckhard R. Podack states, “We have set up and tested in our laboratory the latest technology for generating mice with a human immune system by reconstituting newborn immunodeficient mice with human fetal liver-derived hematopoietic stem cells.”

The source of the fetal human tissue involved in the testing is bluntly admitted:

Human fetal liver and thymus from elective terminations, 12–23 weeks of gestational age (Advanced Bioscience Resources, Alameda, CA), are acquired on a fee for service basis, and the tissue is delivered approximately every 14 days.

Under a section titled “Acknowledgments,” the researchers gratefully note “support from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT).”

Advanced Bioscience Resources has been exposed for paying Planned Parenthood abortion clinics to procure intact organs for them as the clinics dismembered unborn children.

In an August 6 article, Politico reported that “One of the companies identified as a fetal tissue supplier in sting videos of Planned Parenthood counts two federal health agencies among its customers, earning at least $300,000 for material used in research of treatments for HIV and eye disease.”

In one of the videos secretly recorded by the Center for Medical Progress, who conducted the undercover investigation into the grisly business of cash for baby body parts, “Katharine Sheehan, identified in the film as former medical director of Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest, mentions [Advanced Bioscience Resources] in passing,” Politico reports.

“We have already a relationship with ABR,” she says to someone posing as a competitor to the company.

“We’ve been using them for over 10 years—a really long time. … They’re doing the big collection for government-level collections.”

The Center for Medical Progress has posted an overview from Advanced Bioscience Resources on its website. Under a section titled “Service and Processing Fees” the company states:

Participating medical facilities that enable ABR to execute its tissue acquisition and distribution programs may be paid a nominal fee for such services. A minimal processing / preservation shipment fee is also assessed for services provided to research facilities.

A footnote to the humanized mice manuscript on the NIH website shows profit as a key motive behind the research that relies on ABR’s harvested fetal tissue. The footnote states:

Conflict of interest Dr. E. R. Podack and the University of Miami have financial interest and hold equity in a commercial enterprise developing this vaccine technology.

This same Dr. Podack is listed along with Lahey on the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy website. Podack is referred to as an “ACGT Fellow.”

He died Oct. 8 at the age of 72 due to “respiratory issues,” the Miami Herald reports.

ACGT mourned his passing.

Liberal NPR talk radio host Diane Rehm dedicated her Sept. 30 show to a discussion of the use of fetal tissue harvested from abortions in medical research.

According to a transcript, a caller named Phyllis from Greenwich, Connecticut called in and said:

I work for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy here in Greenwich and Stamford, Connecticut. And we work with many scientists, who are looking for [unintelligible] gene therapy treatments. I am wondering why all of the scientists, such as your guest from Johns Hopkins University, who are benefitting in their research from the use of this fetal tissue are not speaking out to illuminate to the public at large that it is essential to their work.

Lahey’s ACGT also sponsored a 2008 genetic therapy study that used a line of human kidney cells known as HEK293 that were originally harvested from an aborted child. The acknowledgment section reads:

Grant sponsor: Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Young Investigator Award

The cell line has been in the news over the past couple of years due to the revelation that a company that makes flavor enhancers for behemoth food and beverage corporations such as Nestle and Pepsi was developing its products by experimenting with HEK293 human kidney cells.

Clues to the intellectual foundations of the parade chairman’s active support for using murdered infant body parts in medical research can perhaps be found in an interview Lahey gave upon being named “Irish American of the Year” by Irish America magazine in 2011. The interview was published on the website.

Discussing his days as a student at the Catholic-affiliated University of Dayton, Lahey reveals that Patrick is not the only saint who apparently makes him uncomfortable.

“Lahey found his niche when he enrolled in his second philosophy course at Dayton,” the article reads. “The class explored the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, and little else.”

As Lahey tells it:

At this point, it was still 1964 or ’65, and only certain types of philosophy were officially taught. Since Dayton was a Catholic university, they were still only teaching the traditional philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, upon which much of Catholic theology is based. There was a whole index of banned works they weren’t allowed to teach: essentially, anything that was deemed to be inconsistent with St. Thomas Aquinas or Catholic doctrine.

He continues:

Another student and I were asking a lot of questions in class. We didn’t want to get Professor Balthasar in trouble, but we were curious about how to reconcile scientific thought with Catholic doctrine. One day, he asked us both to stay after class, and he said “Look, you two. I’ll give you an A for the course, you know what you’re doing in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas. You don’t have to come to class for the rest of the semester, but come to my office and I’ll teach you the philosophy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I can’t teach you this officially in the classroom but there’s nothing to prevent you from reading the books.”

So he gave me two of his books: Phenomenon of Man and The Divine Milieu. And it was exactly what I had been looking for. The author, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was somewhat of a contradiction at that time: he was a Jesuit priest, a philosopher, and a scientist, and had written extensively about his belief that the creationist theories of how man, the world and the universe came into being could be reconciled with evolution; that Catholicism and the theory of evolution could co-exist. At the time, this was deemed to be totally inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

But I was a young person, and evolution understandably had a lot of enticing aspects. Not only was it supported by a lot of scientists, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, but it was also a dynamic kind of philosophy that allowed for change. I had heard there was a contradiction between being a good Catholic and believing in evolution. But here was a brilliant scientist who was also a Jesuit priest! He used philosophical thought to combine the two things I wanted to combine in my own life. I was totally taken by it.

The progressive scientific theology of de Chardin seems to have led Lahey directly down a road that has found its way to the abortuaries of Planned Parenthood.

Renowned Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote a critique titled “Teilhard de Chardin: A False Prophet” in his book, Trojan Horse in the City of God, which was published in 1967.

Franciscan Father Maximilian Mary Dean has posted the entire critique on his blog site.

In it, von Hildebrand slams Teilhard de Chardin as a philosopher whose “own theories dehumanize man” by valuing the spirit of the communal above that of the individual:

Now, the point we wish to make is that Teilhard himself ignores the value of high natural goods and that, contrary to his claim, a real dehumanization takes place in his monistic pantheism. We have seen that his ideal of collective man and superhumanity necessarily implies a blindness to the real nature of the individual person and, derivatively, to all the plenitude of human life. But dehumanization also follows inevitably from his monism which minimizes the real drama of human life—the fight between good and evil—and reduces antithetical differences to mere gradations of a continuum.

Is it really a stretch to suggest that a mind seduced by a theology that values the collective over the individual would eventually come to embrace the utilization of the remains of slaughtered individuals in the name of “progress” for a collective humanity?

The shocking Planned Parenthood revelations of the past few months have led outraged Americans to decry the callousness of people who seemingly have no values at all.

This may be missing the point entirely.

In fact, these are people fired by a core belief every bit as intense in its religiosity as the polar-opposite spirit Lahey is trying to remove from the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The chief component of this opposing theology is the belief in the unquestioned good that is always to be found in “progress.”

One of the unreleased Planned Parenthood undercover videos allegedly leaked by a congressional staffer reveals a panelist at a National Abortion Federation conference telling abortion providers that they should stop ignoring the existence of the fetus in public comments on abortion, saying “let’s just give them all ‘it’s violence, it’s a person, it’s killing.’”

“Let’s just give them all that. And then the more compelling question is, why is this the most important thing I can do with my life?”

Spoken like a true believer.

For His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York—or anyone else—to participate in a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade headed by Dr. John Lahey is to march arm-in-arm with someone complicit in the lucrative business of killing infants in the name of “progress.”

Hope for Bloody Sunday families as ex-soldier questioned

Posted by Jim on November 13, 2015

Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims say they feel “a flicker of hope”
following the questioning of a former British soldier involved in the
1972 massacre, despite renewed efforts to block their justice campaign.

Thirteen people were killed when British paratroopers opened fire on a
civil rights march through the city in January 1972. A fourteenth died

‘Soldier J’, who appeared before the Saville Inquiry in 2002, was
questioned and released by detectives from the PSNI’s new Legacy
Investigations Branch, which replaced the discredited Historical
Enquiries Team (HET).

Kate Nash, whose 19-year-old brother, William, was killed on Bloody
Sunday, said she welcomed the news.

“I started to shake. I couldn’t believe it. I became very emotional. To
see a soldier even being questioned has truly shocked me. I never
thought it would get to this. There is a flicker of hope. It’s a very
positive step.”

The 66-year-old, who lives in County Antrim, is the first person to ever
be arrested as part of the Bloody Sunday investigation.

The PSNI man leading the investigation said the arrest “marked a new
phase in the overall investigation which would continue for some time”.

Family members have expressed their hope that murder charges against the
soldiers could finally reveal who ordered the massacre. But there were
signs that powerful forces in the British establishment remain
determined to maintain a cover-up.

Former British defence minister Gerald Howarth described the arrest of
ex-soldiers over Bloody Sunday as “not in the public interest”. The Tory
MP for Aldershot, where the Bloody Sunday paratroopers were based, said
the British prime minister David Cameron had intended the Saville
Inquiry and his apology to close a “painful chapter”. “Matters should
not be re-opened”, he declared.

Former British Direct Ruler Lord Mandelson also said the investigation
should be stopped. He told Channel 4 News: “There are perils in going
back so far into history. Perils over the evidence that is available,
people’s memories, people’s ability to produce their own evidence and
facts so long ago.”

Seven former soldiers have now begun legal action against the PSNI in
the High Court, demanding a judicial review of the way the PSNI is
conducting its inquiry.

According to reports, lawyers for the soldiers have questioned the
legality of the investigation and claim it is being pursued for
political reasons. They also claim it would be illegal to arrest any of
the soldiers in their homes without 24 hours prior notice.

The Bloody Sunday families have demanded that the PSNI treat former
paratroopers the same as any other suspect in a murder investigation.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot dead on Bloody
Sunday, said the legal move was an indication that former soldiers
realise they could be receiving the “same knock on the door as Soldier

“As far as I am concerned it should be business as usual for the PSNI
investigation. Why should they be treated any differently; what sort of
a society would we live in if that was to happen?” he said.

State harassment continues for veteran republicans

Posted by Jim on

Peace activist and former republican prisoner Patrick Magee said he was
refused permission to board a flight last week, simply because it was
due to pass over US airspace.

Mr Magee was sentenced to 35 years in jail in connection with the IRA
attack on Britain’s war cabinet in Brighton in October 1984. He had
intended to fly from London to Mexico City to take part in a
high-profile conference on public policy when authorities turned him
away because the “flight would cross into US air space”.

Mr Magee was travelling directly to Mexico with Jo Berry, whose father
Anthony Berry died in the Brighton attack. She was allowed to continue
with her journey, but he was refused boarding, apparently at the request
of the US.

After being banned from the planned flight from London, the 64-year-old
then flew to Madrid where he was due to catch a second direct flight to
Mexico, but was again turned away.

After consulting with conference organisers he then caught another
flight from Madrid in Bogota in Colombia before connecting to Mexico
City. However, on arrival he was detained by authorities before being
deported back to Colombia and then Spain.

He said he was not given any explanation for his deportation but
believes it is due to his 12-year involvement in the IRA.

He had been expected to take part in an eight-day talking tour of Mexico
which was to finish off at the high profile Ciudad de las Ideas (City of
Ideas) conference.

In the past he has travelled across the world with Ms Berry giving talks
about reconciliation.

He said: “I have spent the last 15 years working in reconciliation field
but we still have a lot of work to reverse the American view of it.”


In a separate development, a Tyrone man has been arrested and released
on bail in connection with a Provisional IRA bomb attack at Coalisland
PSNI (then RUC) station in 1997.

Paul Campbell returned to Coalisland in late 2001 and worked as a barman
in McGirr’s pub in the town. The court was told the police always had
evidence against Campbell, but “failed to act on it”.

He only became a ‘person of interest’ after a property connected to him
was searched as part of the investigation into an attack by a breakaway
IRA group in 2011. After living in the town for years without incident,
he was arrested late last month.

He was granted bail by Mr Justice Horner who said: “It seems absolutely
extraordinary that no steps were taken to detain him” before last week.

The father of three had been assured that he was not wanted in
connection with the attack as part of the ‘On The Run’ (OTR) scheme for
republicans facing potential prosecutions.

During the bail hearing it was pointed out that Mr Campbell was stopped
twice by the PSNI in 2010 in relation to driving matters and was not
arrested despite giving his personal details.

Last year Donegal republican John Downey, accused of involvement in the
1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing, was released from the Old Bailey after it
was confirmed he’d been given an OTR letter through Sinn Fein’s Gerry
Kelly. A judge ruled that despite a claim the letter had been given “in
error”, the 63-year-old could not be prosecuted.

Mr Campbell is expected to rely on a similar assurance he was no longer
wanted as part of his defence against the allegations against him.

Spies and spooks – the same old story

Posted by Jim on

By Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (for Leargas)

As long as Britain has been involved in Ireland it has bought or cajoled
or intimidated some people into acting as their eyes and ears, their
spies and spooks, and advocates. Some of these do so because it suits
their own politics and prejudices. But the end result is that citizens
die and freedom is denied.

These strategies are not unique to Ireland or indeed to the British.
They are as old as wars. However, in the most recent period of conflict
their use became an indispensible part of Britain’s counter insurgency
strategy in Ireland. As I have recorded in these columns before the
foremost counter-insurgency strategist was the British Army’s Frank
Kitson. When he arrived in Belfast in 1970 he set about restructuring
the RUC and British Army approach based on his experiences in post
second world war British colonial wars.

The British Army brought with it the techniques of torture; of
counter-gangs; of propaganda, and of media and political manipulation.
The key objective for Kitson, and for others in the British intelligence
and security services, was to reshape the government, the law, the
judiciary and the media to defeat Irish republicanism. It didn’t matter
how this was done or what the consequences were.

Kitson who served in many of Britain’s counter-insurgency campaigns
wrote: ‘The fundamental concept is the working of the triumvirate,
civil, military and police, as a joint and integrated organisation from
the highest to the lowest level of policy making, planning and

For example Kitson rationalised the use of death squads and the
corruption of justice: ‘Everything done by a government and its agents
in combating insurgency must be legitimate. But this does not mean that
the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an
emergency as existed beforehand. The law should be used as just another
weapon in the government’s arsenal, in which case it becomes little more
than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the

Of course, he wasn’t the first to apply these arguments. The stories of
spooks and spies, of agents and informers working for the British state
during the centuries of Ireland’s long struggle for freedom are legion.
An informer called Owen O’Connally gave information to the British
during the 1641 rebellion that led to the arrest and executions of two
of the leaders, Lord Maguire and Colonel McMahon. Money was his reward.

The 1798 rebellion by the United Irish movement was bedevilled with
informers. Many are named in the history of that period. Men like
Leonard McNally and Samuel Turner and Thomas Reynolds were informers. In
his ‘History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798’ WH Maxwell writes: ‘The
prisons were crowded with persons denounced by those infamous informers,
Armstrong and Reynolds, Dutton and Newell, with a list of subordinate
villains acting under the direction of police agents, themselves steeped
deeper in iniquity than the perjured wretches they suborned … Numbers,
innocent in most cases, through the instrumentality of those bad men,
were brought hourly to the scaffold.’

In later years agents and informers remained an integral part of
Britain’s colonial class in Ireland in their efforts to subvert the
Young Irelanders; the Fenians; the Land League and Charles Stewart

It was the evidence of Pierce Nagle, who met Chief Inspector Mallon each
week in Dublin Castle that led to the arrest of the Fenian leaders
O’Donovan Rossa, John O’Leary and others. It was also at this time that
the Special Branch was established. Mayo man Michael Davitt, leader of
the Land League, recorded some of the actions of the spies and spooks at
work against the tens of thousands seeking land reform. In his book,
‘The Informer’s’ by Andrew Boyd writes: ‘Davitt accused the British
government of employing terrorists to lure young Irishmen in political
crime and them have them arrested, imprisoned and even hanged’.

The Tan War saw the use of agents and informers increase enormously as
the British sought to defeat the IRA. For its part the IRA dealt with
such spies ruthlessly. Michael Collins execution of 14 British agents on
the morning of Sunday November 21st is one of the best remembered
actions of that period. But there were hundreds of others killed as
informers. One occasion two IRA volunteers brought one man out onto a
river and drowned him rather than shoot him.

In the most recent decades of conflict the application by MI5 and the
RUC Special Branch and British Military intelligence of evolving and
increasingly complex technologies to listen, record, monitor, track and
trap their enemy became an essential element in all of this. Recent
court cases show that this is still going on.

Forty years ago these same organisations were involved in the
establishment of armed loyalist paramilitary groups which they then
supplied with information and weapons to kill Irish citizens and foment
sectarian strife.

The recent publication by the British Secretary of State Theresa
Villiers of the MI5 report into allegations of paramilitarism but
specially the IRA, is an example of how the use by Britain of agent
provocateurs, and of spies and spooks continues. The political
exploitation of this report to attack Sinn Fein, especially by some
elements of the Dublin based media, is also evidence of the deep desire
on the part of some to use any excuse to criticise republicans. They are
unconcerned about the bone fides of the authors.

So, the fact that MI5 has been involved in the murder of countless
hundreds of Irish citizens, including those murdered by the
Dublin-Monaghan bombs, and has no credibility as an independent source,
is deemed irrelevant.

One contemporary example of this emerged within days of the publication
of the panel report. The Public Prosecution Service in Belfast revealed
that it was initiating a major investigation into the role of an MI5
agent – named Stakeknife – and his alleged involvement in the murders of
between 24 and 40 people. Critically this investigation will also
examine the roles of all of those in the RUC Special Branch and MI5 who
were involved in running Stakeknife.

But Stakeknife was not alone. MI5 and other British security agencies
ran hundreds of agents. Whether it was people like Mark Haddock, a
loyalist serial killer in north Belfast, or those who murdered human
rights lawyer Pat Finucane, MI5, British Military Intelligence and the
RUC colluded in the murder of citizens.

Today there are still some in those organisations who believe that the
peace process was wrong. That it was possible to defeat the IRA. And who
resent deeply the growth and popularity of Sinn Fein.

In my view the report from Theresa Villiers was and is primarily aimed
at undermining the political institutions and the Good Friday Agreement.
It is regrettable but not surprising that elements of the Irish
political establishment and sections of the Irish media are willing to
exploit this specious report to attack Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin launches National Programme of Events to mark Centenary of 1916 Rising

Posted by Jim on November 10, 2015

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has launched his party’s National Programme of Events to mark the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The launch took place in Wynn’s Hotel on Abbey Street and was attended by some of the 1916 relatives, by musicians, artists and historians along with other special guests.

Gerry Adams said;

“The 1916 Proclamation in this era of austerity policies and partition remains unfinished business.

“We need the spirit and the vision; the selflessness and generosity of those who struck for freedom almost 100 years ago.

“Our goal, like theirs, is to build a new future, a new Republic.”

Full text of Teachta Adams’ address follows:

Remember, successive Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil governments didn’t just abandon commemorating Easter 1916, they also banned others from marking it too.

On one shameful occasion the daughter of James Connolly, Nora Connolly O Brien, by then an old woman, was arrested for daring to do what Irish republicans have never failed to do – to honour our patriot dead.

But none of this deterred the thousands who took to the streets on that Easter Saturday 1991.

I was there. It was a great day of music and craic and drama.

So in spite of the harassment, of censorship and misrepresentation the Reclaim the Spirit of Easter was a huge success.

Comhghairdeas le achan nduine a chuidigh leis nó a ghlach páirt ann.

I am pleased to say that next year we will again be working closely with Bobby and his broad alliance of comrades.

We and they share the common goal of a new Republic.

So, next April 24th – the date the Rising began – there will be a national march in Dublin under the theme: ‘Reclaim the Vision of 1916 – A Citizens Initiative for 2016’.

I would appeal to all those who believe in freedom and unity, and who want to honour the heroism and vision of those who took part in the Rising, to join us on Sunday, April 24th 2016.

This morning Sinn Féin is launching our own National Programme of Events to celebrate the Centenary of the 1916 Rising.

It is a first class programme of events which seeks to be inclusive, and to embrace and reflect all aspects of 1916 and its cultural, political, social and historical relevance to the Ireland of 2016.

Of course, when looking at the momentous events of 1916 we must set them in their historical context.

The decade between 1912 and 1922 witnessed a series of historically significant events from the signing of the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force; through the establishment of the Irish Citizen Army, the Dublin Lock-out; the formation of the Irish Volunteers, the first World War, the Easter Rising and the creation of the Irish Republican Army, the 1918 election, the First Dáil, the Tan War and the Civil War.

It was an unparalleled period of change and revolution on the island of Ireland which shaped society and government for the next 100 years.

The response of the Irish government to appropriately marking this centenary of events has been singularly lacking in ambition and substance.

The launch of the government programme was a joke – a bad joke.

Their video had to be withdrawn.

But this shambolic approach is actually an accurate reflection of Fine Gael and Labours leadership’s attitude to 1916, and in particular the Proclamation.

Little wonder they don’t want to celebrate the Proclamation.

They don’t believe in it.

They are embarrassed by its content.

The government’s failure to protect and properly develop the National Monument in Moore Street, as well as the laneways of history – those adjacent streets and lanes where the men and women of 1916 valiantly fought the British Army – has been shameful.

Le fada, tá easpa aislinge ann ag Fine Gael agus ag Páirtí an Lucht Oibre mianta 1916 a chur chun cinn agus a chaomhnú.

Sinn Féin’s focus is on commemorating and celebrating the courage and vision of those who planned, led and participated in the Easter Rising 100 years ago.

Then it was an alliance of Irish republican organisations and others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the GAA, the woman’s movement, socialists, trade unionists, nationalists and Irish language activists.

They rose up against British rule in Ireland and declared a Republic.

On that Easter Monday April 24th 1916 Padraig Pearse marched with a small number of comrades to the General Post Office and read from its steps the Proclamation of a new Republic.

For Ireland and for the British Empire this was a point from which all changed utterly.

It was a hugely courageous act.

A few hundreds of Irish men and women taking on the might of what was then the largest empire in history, and the foremost global power.

By 1916 the British Empire controlled a fifth of the world population and a quarter of the world’s landmass.

For the British the Easter Rising, and struggle for self-determination and sovereignty, set an example that was to be imitated successfully in the following decades in its countless colonies around the globe.

For the people of Ireland it was the declaration of an independent Republic.

But not just any Republic.

This Republic was to be uniquely democratic and positively inclusive.

The core values of it were mapped out in the 1916 Proclamation, which remains for me one of the great documents of history and the mission statement of modern Irish republicanism.

It is a freedom charter for this whole island and all the people who live here.

It guarantees religious and civil liberty and is avowedly anti-sectarian.

It promotes equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens.

It addresses Irishmen and Irishwomen.

At a time when women did not have the vote  this was a revolutionary commitment to universal suffrage.

The Proclamation is a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights based society in which the people are sovereign.

At the end of six days the centre of Dublin was in ruins and the leaders of the Provisional Government met for the last time in 16 Moore Street and ordered the surrender.

The leaders were court martialled and 15 were executed over the following two weeks.

Roger Casement was later hanged in London.

The executions caused outrage.

The British hoped by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished.

They were wrong.

At his court martial Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right:

‘Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.’

In my view the vast majority of Irish people instinctively understand this.

The Nobel prize winner, writer, journalist and essayist George Bernard Shaw wrote: “My own view … is that the men who were shot in cold blood after their capture or surrender were prisoners of war, and that it was, therefore, entirely incorrect to slaughter them …”.

The Easter Rising is one of the great watershed moments in Irish history.

It transformed politics and the public mood.

This was given expression in the writing of the period.

George William Russell (AE) wrote:

“Their dream had left me numb and cold,

But yet my spirit rose in pride,

Refashioning in burnished gold

The Images of those who died,

Or were shut in the penal cell.

Here’s to you, Pearse, your dream not mine,

But yet the thought, for this you fell,

Has turned life’s water into wine.”

In the elections that followed in December 1918 the Irish Parliamentary Party was decimated.

It was a landslide victory for Sinn Féin which took 73 of the 105 seats.

On January 21st 1919 the First Dáil met in the Mansion House.

It was an unequivocal act of national self-determination that left the British government and the world in no doubt that the Irish people demanded freedom.

April 1916 saw a small band of patriots declare that we are a people created equal.

The Proclamation and the Rising was a declaration heard around the world – that we were no longer colonized subjects; we were free Irish citizens; and that our destiny would not be determined for us; it would be determined by us.

The patriots of 1916 believed that a better Ireland was possible.

And to achieve it – to win their freedom – to win our freedom – they were willing to lay it all on the line.  Their lives.  Their futures.

But the struggle is not over.

The reality is that the revolutionary period was followed by a counter revolution and an awful civil war.

Our island was partitioned.

Narrow and mean minded conservative regimes were established and the old colonial administration was replaced by native elites – north and south.

Partition has retarded and distorted life on this island ever since.

Emigration and partition are the two most glaring failures of successive Irish governments.

The 1916 Proclamation – especially in this era of right wing austerity policies and partition – remains unfinished business.

We need the spirt and the vision; the selflessness and generosity of those who struck for freedom almost 100 years ago.

Our goal, like theirs is to build a new future; a new Republic.

A new future in which citizens are sovereign and equal; in a society which is tolerant and inclusive of every person irrespective of race or colour or class or creed or gender or disability.

An Ireland built on positive change, on equality and on partnership.

A new Ireland which is open, transparent and accountable.

A new Republic where the wealth is invested creatively and fairly, and where our children are not burdened by poverty.

Where our schools are properly resourced and where no one lies on a hospital trolley or has no home or no job.

These goals are achievable.

So the centenary celebration of the Easter Rising is a time to build.

It is a time to rededicate ourselves to the achievement of the politics of Wolfe Tone, of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly, of Maire Drumm and Mairead Farrell, and of Bobby Sands.

Let us remember and honour those who rose in rebellion but more importantly let us complete their work.

Let us imagine and achieve that better future.

The Proclamation summons her children to her flag and strike for her freedom.

We are those children.

I invite you to join in that great historic enterprise.

Táimid anois ag cuimhniú siar ach ag an am céanna taimid ag amharc ar aghaidh.

Mar sin, bígí linn, ar aghaidh linn

Keep the Spirit of St. Patrick and Democracy in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade”

Posted by Jim on November 1, 2015

A Thank You to All Signers of the Petition
Concerned Members of the Affiliated Organizations of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Nov 1, 2015 — Dear Supporter of the Petition to Keep St. Patrick and Democracy in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

As you may be aware, the St. Patrick’s Day Inc. Board meeting for October 29th, in which changes to the bylaws were to be enacted that would fundamentally change the meaning of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, was canceled. This was because you and your fellow signers of the petition made clear that you want to keep the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade a celebration of our Patron Saint, our faith, our heritage and our patriotism. That the petition was able to garner over 4,000 signatures in less than a week shows the level of commitment the community has to this beloved institution. Your voice was loudly heard even behind the still closed doors of the St. Patrick’s Day Inc. boardroom. We sincerely thank you.

As important as this victory is, it is only a reprieve. We regret that Dr. Lahey and the Board still choose not to engage in dialogue with the Affiliated Organizations, but continue to engage in monologue through the media. Dr. Lahey bemoans “There is a lot of confusion and misinformation”. We agree, and for this sad state of affairs Dr. Lahey must shoulder the responsibility by holding meetings where representatives guaranteed by the By-Laws (a provision Dr. Lahey ironically cites to the press as an indication that Affiliated Organizations still have representation) are banned and meetings moved to new venues with no prior notice. The remedy for “confusion and misinformation” is transparency and two-way dialogue, an obvious solution that Dr. Lahey and the Board still choose not to embrace.

We expect that Dr. Lahey and the Board will now use parallel, on-going legal action as a reason for continuing to not engage the Affiliated Organizations directly. With nothing but past practice by Dr. Lahey and the Board to guide us, we anticipate that they may wait for public scrutiny to die down and then call a “lightning meeting” of the Board to pick up again the agenda of the canceled 10/29 meeting. We ask your continued support and please keep yourself aware of new developments by following our website and friend our facebook page .

Thank you again for taking the time to speak our to preserve and keep our faith and traditions alive.

Gerry McGeough: Supreme Court rejects IRA evidence appeal

Posted by Jim on October 24, 2015

BBC – Northern Ireland

Gerry McGeough
Image caption Gerry McGeough was released after serving less than two years of his 20-year sentence

An appeal by a man jailed for the 1981 attempted murder of an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier has been rejected by the UK Supreme Court.

Gerry McGeough, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, was jailed in 2011 for 20 years for shooting Samuel Brush.

He argued that a trial judge was wrong to take into account evidence about his IRA membership in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, a panel of five judges at the UK’s highest court of appeal dismissed his claim.

Mr Brush, who is now a DUP councillor, was shot in an IRA gun attack in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, in 1981.

McGeough was given a 20-year prison term but served less than two, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether admissions of IRA membership made by McGeough during a Swedish asylum application should have been relied upon during his 2011 trial.

At his trial in Belfast, the judge had decided that he could take that information into account when making decisions on McGeough’s guilt or innocence.

McGeough claimed that the judge had acted unfairly.

He suggested that information he had given to Swedish authorities was confidential and said its use as evidence against him offended a “rule against self-incrimination”.

But the Supreme Court backed the trial judge’s decision and said he had rightly taken what McGeough had said to Swedish authorities into account.

Appeal judges had earlier also ruled against McGeough.

Rocky Sullivan’s kicking off Irish language Classes

Posted by Jim on October 14, 2015

Contact Rocky’s for time and date

34 Van Dyke Street (at Dwight Street) Brooklyn, NY




AOH Kings County Board meeting 4th Monday of the month at 8:00PM in the Baile na nGael 2750 Gerritsen Ave. B’klyn 11229

Posted by admin on


Meetings to be held in the Baile na nGael on 2750 Gerritsen Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11229 on the last Monday of the month at 7:30pm unless otherwise indicated.


All County Board members and all Division Presidents and Vice Presidents are required by County By-Laws to attend County Board meetings. All Division Officers should attend and all members are invited to attend. Current Travel cards are required for entry to meetings, those, that can’t attend a meeting, should notify the County President or Vice President at least 24 hrs in advance.

President: Steve Kiernan Div. 35

We hope that all members of the A.O.H. in Brooklyn work as tireously for this Board as they have for the past Boards.

Kings County Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians has announced it’s participation, 12 years now, in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. Posters will soon be distributed to participating businesses and Organizations. Please contact Jim Sullivan (347-224-4822) or, Chairman of the Kings County A.O.H. Toys for Tots program for information on “How to Participate”.

Posted by Jim on


Cushendall killings : Villagers call on Britain to apologise for sectarian killings

Posted by Jim on

Residents of a quiet Antrim seaside village have used the 83rd anniversary of the sectarian murder of three local men to call on the British government to apologise for its role in the slaughter.
On June 23, 1922, a British army and Special Police battalion entered Cushendall, singled out three young nationalists and dragged them up an alley, where they were shot dead.
The murders of John Gore, John Hill and James McAllister were in reprisal for the IRA murder the previous day of Field Marshal Henry Wilson — the man who ordered the pogroms against Northern Catholics throughout the early 1920s.
Wilson was shot dead in London by the republicans Reggie Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, who had served in the British army during World War I. Both men were later hanged.
A subsequent British government inquiry into the Cushendall killings dismissed claims from soldiers and police that they had been fired upon first.
The English official FT Barrington-Ward, who headed the investigation, concluded: “No one except the police and military ever fired at all.”
Medical reports revealed powder burns on the dead bodies, indicating the victims had been shot from close range.
However, the then Northern unionist government, led by Ulster Unionist James Craig, rejected the findings and held its own inquiry into the shootings.
The Northern government dismissed all the evidence given by residents of Cushendall implicating the British army and police and accepted the soldiers’ claims that they had been fired upon first.
After the killings, Britain’s Liberal government — at the behest of TP O’Connor, the Westmeath-born MP for Liverpool — threatened to publish the findings of Barrington-Ward’s inquiry.
However, the Liberals were replaced at the next election by the Conservative Party, which was more sympathetic to the Ulster Unionist administration.
One of the first acts carried out by the new Tory government was to place the details of the Barrington-Ward inquiry under the Official Secrets Act, barring it from view for 50 years.
Historian Michael Farrell best explains the cover-up in his book Arming the Protestants.
He writes: “O’Connor was told that the British government had commissioned the report only because British troops had been involved.
“The Northern government showed no concern to discipline its forces and stamp out reprisals and seemed oblivious to the effect this must have on the Catholic population. The British coalition government made only a very feeble effort to get Craig’s government to take action. Their Conservative successors did nothing at all.”
Barrington-Ward’s report was again due to be made public in 1972 but publication was delayed for a further 25 years because of the Troubles.
It was not until 1997 that the people of Cushendall became fully aware of the horror that had occurred in the village on June 23, 1922.
Sinn Féin councillor Oliver McMullan has led the calls for the British government to apologise for its role in the three murders.
He said: “These were innocent men killed by British troops in cold blood.
“The British government’s own inquiry ruled that the only people to open fire in Cushendall that night had been the military.
“If the then Northern government was satisfied that the soldiers had been fired upon first, why were the circumstances surrounding the shootings covered up for 75 years?
“The people of this village are owed an apology.”
Relatives of John Gore, John Hill and James McAllister still live in the north Antrim area, as do the families of two other men wounded on the night, Danny O’Loan and John McCollum.
Two Cushendall men whom the Special Police falsely accused of opening fire on the military and prompting the murders were forced to flee to the United States, fearing for their lives.
Several other nationalists in the village, including Oliver McMullan’s grandfather, were threatened by the Special Police with death.
Mr McMullan said a British government apology would go some way to lifting the shadow of the murders that has hung over his village for close to a century.
He said: “A few years ago, locals clubbed together and put up a plaque commemorating the lives of John Hill, John Gore and James McAllister.
“Their needless deaths are something we always have in the back of our minds.
“It was certainly the biggest sectarian murder ever to occur in Cushendall and one of the worst in the Glens area.
“An apology won’t bring them back but it at least will give some comfort to the families of those murdered.
“The British government should recognise the role its forces played in what were nothing more than sectarian state killings.”

The Pin In My Lapel

Posted by Jim on

That Emblem of the Order
I think is simply grand,
Has ancient Irish symbols,
To remind us of our land.

In the lapel of my tweed jacket,
There’s a pin of brightest gold,
No bigger than my thumbnail,
But its worth cannot be told.

‘Tis the Emblem of an Order
Of Irish folk proud of their land,
And their glorious religion,
Under the Lord’s command.
In friendship we are gathered,
We strive for Unity,
To serve our Church and brethren
In Christian Charity.

We maintain Christ’s own teachings,
We guard the Irish race,
We help the sick and fallen
With the aid of God’s own grace.

Proud to be called Hibernians,
From Erin’s ancient Latin name,
By defending Catholic priests and nuns,
We earned undying fame.

This Ancient Order of whom I speak
I proudly wear their pin,
As did my loving father,
And his father before him.

It bears the letters “A.O.H.,”
Its shape is like a shield.
It bears our famous Irish harp,
Upon a shamrock field.

The two hands clasped in friendship
In the centre of this crest,
Reminds each A.O.H. man
That brotherhood is blessed.

Rising o’er the hills of Ireland,
In the crest is the sunrise,
‘Tis the dawn of Irish freedom,
‘Tis the cause that never dies.

The four largest green shamrocks,
Symbols of the Trinity,
Remind us of the provinces
Of Erin’s antiquity.

Four mighty Irish kingdoms,
Proud and most beauteous lands,
One breaks the heart of Ireland,
Remains in sasanach hands.

Yes, shining bright in my lapel
Of which I’ll proudly tell,
‘Tis the Emblem of the A.O.H.
Worn in my heart as well.

The burning of Bombay Street

Posted by admin on October 13, 2015


In 1969, a sectarian mob burned 1,500 residents from their homes on

Bombay Street, Belfast, 44 years ago this week. Out of the ashes will

arise the Provisional IRA. Originally recorded in 1999, the following

are the recollections of people who bore the brunt of one of the worst

loyalist pogroms of the recent conflict.






“We lost everything but our sense of humour,” says Rita Canavan. In a

photograph taken in August 1969, two small boys are standing outside the

burnt out facade of what had been the Canavan family’s Bombay Street

home. Short trousers, spindly legs and cropped hair, one child stands up

straight for the camera, but his face seems pensive, anxious, unsure.

His companion, hands on hips, strikes a more defiant pose.


Behind them, a row of modest terrace houses, fire gutted, roofless,

without doors or windows, stand in silent testimony to the sectarian

hatred in which they had been engulfed. It’s a simple snapshot but all

the elements are there, fear and defiance, vulnerability and courage.

For the last 30 years, the image of Bombay Street has haunted not only

the memory of residents whose homes were destroyed but the Northern

nationalist psyche. And not without reason.


Between 1969 to 1973, it is estimated that 60,000 Six-County Catholics

were driven from their homes. Last year, over 1,600 residents, the vast

majority Catholic, requested rehousing following sectarian intimidation.

To the present day, the petrol bomb remains a pivotal weapon in the

loyalist arsenal of sectarian violence. Just over a year ago, the burnt

out image of a house in Ballymoney was also accompanied by a photograph

of small boys, three faces just as well scrubbed but whose fate was less



Thirty years after the Bombay Street pogrom, children are still found on

the front door step of Rita Canavan’s home but the scene is no longer

one of desolation. Now 73 years of age, Rita is a proud mother of five,

grandmother to ten and “I’ve one great-grandchild,” she says. Outside

the youngest members of the family are playing in a street bathed only

in the light of summer sunshine. “Take our photo,” they call to An

Phoblacht’s photographer.


As newlyweds, James and Rita Canavan moved into Bombay Street almost 50

years ago. Today a roof high wall straddles the two communities, it’s

presence affording a measure of protection from the loyalist gangs who

still regularly pelt nationalist homes with bricks, stones, paint bombs

and less frequently petrol bombs. Thirty years ago there was “no peace

wall,” says Rita. “Protestant and Catholic houses were back to back.”


Rita remembers the area as a “quiet community of decent hardworking

people.” The largest factory, “Mackies”, despite being located in a

predominantly Catholic area of West Belfast, drew its workforce almost

exclusively from the Protestant community, the vast majority from the

Shankill. Catholics were more likely to be employed in unskilled, low

paid jobs, as store keepers in warehouses, in the mills and at the Royal

Victoria Hospital.


Whenever there was trouble brewing, Catholic families lived in fear of

Mackies’ afternoon shift finishing before the local men, forced to work

outside the area, had returned home. When on Friday 15 August, 1969,

hostile loyalist crowds began to gather for a second evening running,

“there was an insufficient number of men to defend the area,” says

Rita. “Some women wanted to put up barricades but we were persuaded

that everything would be alright by a local priest who was in contact

with members of the Protestant community.”


Outside a shoe shop on Cupar Street, members of the RUC and B Specials

were standing with a crowd of loyalists. “We thought the RUC were there

to stop the loyalists invading the area,” says Rita. “We were wrong,

they gave us no protection at all.” As fears of a loyalist incursion

increased, the decision was taken to evacuate Bombay Street and a number

of vulnerable streets in the surrounding area. “Crates of petrol bombs

had been seen by one of my neighbours.” Residents boarded up windows

and barred their front doors. “Mrs McCarthy and I were the last two in

the street to leave,” says Rita.


St Paul’s parish hall was overflowing with refugees. “There were people

there from Ardoyne and other areas of Belfast where Catholics were being

attacked,” says Rita. Despite the noise and smell of burning, the

refugees at the parish hall did not anticipate the scale of the

destruction which would greet them the following morning. “A priest

told everyone to go home except those families from Bombay Street,”

says Rita. “We thought the house had been looted, we never imagined the

whole street had been burnt to the ground. There was nothing to salvage.

All we had were the clothes we stood up in.”


With four young children and expecting a fifth, Rita and her family

stayed with relatives until they were allocated a caravan in Beechmount.

“It was like a refugee camp,” says Rita. “We stayed there throughout

the winter of ’69. It was so cold even the toothpaste froze in the

tube.” But as well as the hardship, Rita remembers a sense of community

and individual acts of kindness with affection and praise.


The young men who held loyalist gangs at bay while their families saved

what they could, “they were heroes,” says Rita. The Travelling

community who faced loyalist violence to collect the furniture of

fleeing Catholic families in their lorries, “they were great,” says

Rita. And the many thousands of people who contributed time and money to

rebuild Bombay Street are also remembered. “I moved back into Bombay

Street on 11 July 1970,” says Rita, “and I’ve lived here ever since.”




“Bombay Street was a watershed for me and many of my generation,” says

Seán Murray. “It started in Derry, but at 16 years of age it wasn’t

until I saw what was happening on my own streets that it really hit



When large scale riots broke out in Derry after the first civil rights

march in October 1968, it seemed to one of the organisers that it was

“all out of proportion” to the housing and employment issues they had

been protesting about. After all, sectarian discrimination had been

borne quietly by the nationalist community for decades. They had seen,

as the song goes, “it through without complaining.”


In his study, ‘From Civil Rights to Armalites’, Niall O Dochartaigh

identifies the actions of the RUC and B Specials as the key factor in

the escalation of the conflict. “From the outset, the response of the

state and its forces of law and order to Catholic mobilisation was an

issue capable of arousing far more anger and activism than the issues

around which mobilisation had begun,” writes O Dochartaigh. “Police

behaviour and their interaction with loyalist protesters probably did

more to politically mobilise large sections of the Catholic community

than did any of the other grievances.”


On Tuesday 12 August 1969, an Apprentice Boys parade through Derry

clashed with nationalist residents. The RUC responded by baton charging

the nationalist crowd and armoured cars roared into the Bogside. In the

Bogside, the RUC encountered fierce resistance from the residents, who

forced the RUC into retreat armed only with bottles and stones.


August 13 and with Derry still under siege, RUC barracks in nationalist

areas in Belfast were stoned in protest. On 14 August, loyalist mobs

responded by burning Catholic houses in Belfast. “It was rumoured that

loyalists were coming to burn down Clonard,” says Seán, “I remember a

lot of people being on the streets and the priests promising to ring the

chapel bell if the area came under attack.”


The loyalists didn’t attack Clonard that night but from the chapel

grounds, Seán watched houses burning as loyalists attacked other parts

of the district. “There were houses burnt down in Dover and Percy

Street, down facing Divis Street,” says Sean, “Catholic homes in

Conway and Cupar Streets were also attacked. We stood and watched in

sheer disbelief.”


“One particular lorry was piled high with the belongings of a family

forced to flee for their home,” says Seán. “As it was turning from the

Kashmir Road into the Clonard area, a loyalist threw a petrol bomb onto

the lorry and the whole thing went up in flames.”


Using Browning machine guns mounted on Shorland armoured cars, the RUC

fired indiscriminately into nationalist areas. In Divis Flats,

nine-year-old Patrick Rooney was killed as he sheltered in his back

bedroom. Four high velocity bullets pierced two walls before striking

the child in the head.


As morning broke on Friday 15 August, the scene in several nationalists

areas of Belfast was one of utter devastation. Six people had been

killed, more were injured. Catholic homes across the city were burning;

in some districts entire streets had been destroyed and hundreds of

nationalists had been force to flee their homes.


“After the Mackies men got out of work on Friday afternoon, loyalist

crowds started to gather,” says Seán, “and the scene was set for

further sectarian attacks that night.” Families living in Cupar Street,

Bombay Street and other vulnerable areas had already left their homes.

The loyalist invasion of Clonard began early Friday afternoon. The RUC

refused to come into the area, they gave the loyalists a free hand.”


“We had to defend ourselves,” says Seán. “People came out and did the

best they could. Gerald McAuley, a 15-year-old member of Fianna Éireann,

was shot dead defending this area, others were shot, some seriously

injured. Alex Robinson and Eddie Donnelly were two of several seriously



d for many young people at the time, once the disbelief had been

dispelled, a grim determination to make sure it could never happen again

set in.


“We were politicised overnight,” says Seán.




“He’s not coming home,” says Nellie McAuley. “They were the words

that confirmed my worst fears.” A large black and white pen portrait of

her son hangs in the living room of Nellie’s terrace street home. “It

was drawn by one of the prisoners in Long Kesh,” says Nellie, “and

given to Gerald’s uncle. It’s a good likeness.”


Gerald McAuley was 15 years old when he was shot dead while defending

the Clonard district from loyalist attack. The likeness shows all the

optimism and confidence of youth. The kind of face which should have

been more at home on a GAA pitch challenging his peers, than facing a

pitched battle against a rampaging Orange mob.


At 7am on Friday 15 August, Nellie was in Belfast city centre where she

was working as a cleaner in one of the big stores. “I was working when

I heard the news that a wee boy, Patrick Rooney, had been shot dead by

the RUC in Divis Flats the night before,” says Nellie.


There were no buses for the return journey home. “A young woman was

standing at the bus stop in the town,” says Nellie. She was a

Protestant, the girl told Nellie, and was too afraid to walk home

through West Belfast. “I told her she’d be alright with me, and we

linked arms and walked home together.”


Years later, the two women met again. “She remembered me and also knew

that my son had been shot dead just hours after we first met,” says

Nellie. She thanked Nellie for her kindness and said she had been sorry

to hear Gerald had been killed. “It was ironic,” she said. “No, it

was tragic,” said Nellie.


“I’d been out queuing for bread,” says Nellie, “and when I returned

home there was a commotion at the house. Someone said Gerald had been

shot. Another neighbour said he’d only been hit with a stone.” With an

increasing sense of foreboding, Nellie began a desperate search for her



“I heard some of the wounded had been taken to the Royal Victoria

Hospital. I pleaded with a nurse to let me search the wards.” A

neighbour waiting in Casualty for his injuries to be treated confirmed

that Gerald had been shot but he wasn’t at the Royal.


Back at home, news reporters had visited the McAuley’s, asking for a

photograph of Gerald. “He must be dead,” Nellie told her daughter

Frances. Finbar McKenna’s father took Nellie to the City Hospital. “A

sister at the hospital said Gerald wasn’t there but there was a

19-year-old youth in the morgue at Musgrove Barracks,” says Nellie. “I

knew it was Gerald; he was only 15 but he was big for his age.”


Returning home, the reaction of people manning a barricade at Kennedy

Way added to Nellie McAuley’s fears. “They moved so quickly and quietly

out of our way.” From across a road a priest called to Nellie. “Are

you looking for your son?” said the priest, “He’s not coming home, go

home now, he died for his faith.” Later that night Gerald’s father

travelled to Musgrove to identify his son’s body.


“I didn’t know Gerald was a member of the Fianna,” says Nellie. “He

was often away from home cycling and camping but I never thought

anything of it. I was told later that he had been helping evacuate

families, loading their furniture onto the back of a lorry.”


The McAuley family’s ordeal did not end there. Three weeks later a

British army captain knocked on their front door. “He asked for my

husband and told him he was wanted down the barracks to identity his

son,” says Nellie. “My husband told him Gerald was dead and buried but

he insisted. ‘Is it Jim?’ he asked. At the barracks the RUC roared with

laughter. It was their idea of a joke, a sort of initiation stunt for

the British army officer.”




“They were a few men with very few weapons but they fought bravely to

defend this district,” says Patrick McParland. Patrick was a young man

of 20 when he watched a handful of IRA Volunteers repel an armed

loyalist mob intent on driving Catholics out of the Clonard area.

“Bombay Street had already gone up in flames,” says Patrick, “but I

tell you it could have been a lot worse.”


Patrick describes the attack of 15 August 1969 as “well planned” by

loyalists and endorsed by the RUC. “In the early hours of Friday

morning, the RUC raided a house in Kane Street, arrested two men and

‘recovered’ the only weapon in the district,” says Patrick. The RUC’s

action suggests they not only knew of loyalist plans to attack the area

but also colluded by disarming nationalists in advance.


At Mackies factory, the loyalist workforce held a secret meeting. “A

Catholic working in the factory walked into the meeting in the tool room

by chance,” says Patrick. “The room fell silent and he was questioned

about what he had overheard.” When Mackies afternoon shift finished

work, the workforce was strangely quiet and quick to leave the district.


“Trouble started as soon as Mackies workers were away,” says

Patrick,” as if they had waited until everyone was safely home on the

Shankill before turning the heat up.” The Catholic district began to be

showered with hundreds, perhaps thousands of petrol bombs.


“They must have been up all Thursday night preparing that amount of

petrol bombs,” says Patrick. “This was not a spontaneous riot.” The

RUC had guaranteed Clonard Monastery that they would defend the area

against any sectarian attack. “The RUC lied,” says Patrick. “They did



As residents desperately tried to defend their homes, fires began to

take hold in some houses under petrol bomb attack. “At Teddy Lynch’s, a

loyalist threw a grenade and the whole house just went up.” says

Patrick. Teddy later came back to collect his motorbike – “Motorbike?

there was no bloody house!”


“Geordie McMahon took the initiative,” says Patrick. “He hijacked an

articulated lorry and threw it across the bottom of the Kashmir Road.”

At a gap between the back of the lorry and a wall, a loyalist gunman



“He was dressed in a black hat and black tunic and his face was covered

with a hankie. He was carrying a sterling sub machine gun.” As the

gunman appeared, nationalist residents at the top of the hill ran to the

left. “Gerry McAuley ran to the right, he made it as far as Waterville

Street, but there was a burst of fire and he fell.”


The gunman who killed the 15-year-old was a well known local loyalist

whose family lived next door to a Catholic-owned bar in Cupar Street.

Three other people were shot and seriously injured by loyalist gunmen in

the Clonard district that day.


As Bombay Street began to burn, firemen refused to drive into the

street. “I think they must have been intimidated by the loyalists,”

says Patrick. “Colm Meehan drove one of the fire engines up himself. We

didn’t know how to use it but it was worth a try.” The fire engine was

abandoned when loyalist gunmen fired through the windscreen.


Then the IRA arrived. “A handful of men and they weren’t very well

armed ” says Patrick, “but what they lacked in manpower and firepower

they made up for in courage and tenacity. The men who fought that day

became the founding fathers of the Provisional IRA of today.”




“A .303 rifle with eleven rounds of ammunition saved Ardoyne,” says

Martin Meehan. “In August 1969, the IRA of that time left nationalists

in North Belfast defenceless.” Trouble had been brewing in the north of

the city for weeks. By August, as sectarian attacks on Catholic areas

intensified, the steady flow of families fleeing their homes became a

tidal wave of refugees.


“It was like something you would see in Kosovo,” says Martin, “wave

after wave of refugees fleeing to relative safety within Ardoyne and

further afield to West Belfast.” Every classroom in the local school

was sheltering families with their few belongings.


In early August, the then IRA leadership decided to move any weaponry

held in North Belfast into a central pool in the west of the city. “It

was all done very quietly,” says Martin. “They disarmed the area, we

were left defenceless and we didn’t even know. It was to cause a lot of

resentment later.”


On Thursday, 14 August, the RUC and B Specials “came in very heavy”.

Catholic homes and businesses were burnt along the front of the Crumlin

Road. The decision was taken to use buses at a local depot to barricade

the district against further attack.


“About 50 buses were used,” says Martin. “They were used to block off

as many roads into the Ardoyne as possible. It was our line of

defence.” That afternoon loyalists opened up with shot guns,” says

Martin, “20 people were hit and Ardoyne was in turmoil.”


Martin remembers with some amusement the casualty ward in the Mater

Hospital. Injured nationalists and loyalists sat within spiting distance

of each other “and never a word was spoken,” says Martin.


Snipers had climbed to the top of mills overlooking Ardoyne and were

firing at anyone who moved. Unarmed and under fire, a few local men

later set fire to the mills as a defensive measure to deny the sniper a

vantage point.


“Someone produced a .303 rifle and 11 rounds of ammunition. That rifle

saved this area,” says Martin. The weapon was moved from street to

street and “the roar of it gave the impression that we were well



Both loyalists and the RUC did not attempt to invade the area beyond the

barricade of buses. “Catholic homes on the other side of the barricades

were attacked and burnt but on this side we were able to defend the



“In the immediate aftermath Republicans paid a heavy price for the then

leadership’s decision to take weapons out of the area. The seeds for the

split which gave birth to the Provisionals were partly sown in North

Belfast in ’69.”




“My husband was murdered for being a good neighbour,” says Ann

McLarnon. In the front parlour of the McLarnon family’s Ardoyne home,

Ann recounts the night when as a young wife she was robbed of a gentle

husband and her three small children lost a father they were too young

to really know.


On the wall hangs a small snapshot of a happy couple on their wedding

day, holding hands as they walk together down a terraced street. Above

the television hangs a much larger framed newspaper cutting of Sammy

McLarnon’s funeral cortege.


As Ann tells her story, her voice is trembling and there are tears in

her eyes. If Sammy and his bride’s joy had been brief, the grief of his

widow has been as long as the trailing line of grim-faced mourners

carrying Sammy’s coffin along a winding road.


“We heard shooting earlier that night but I didn’t know what shooting

was and when Sammy dismissed it as only blanks I was reassured,” says

Ann. “Sammy wanted me and the kids to go and stay in his mother’s house

but I refused.”


Ann and Sammy moved into Herbert Street shortly after they were married.

By August 1969 the young couple had a two-year-old son, Sammy, a baby

daughter, Ann Marie and Ann was expecting their third child, Samantha.

Ann was only 20 years old, her husband just 27.


At the top of the street, a crowd of loyalists had gathered together

with some members of the RUC. “A house had been set on fire,” says

Ann, “and Sammy went up to help put out the flames.” Shots were fired

as a few local residents tried to save the house. “Leave the fenian

bastards to us,” an RUC officer had shouted to the loyalist mob.


“When Sammy came back into the house we both stood by the front window

watching two fellas standing directly across the road,” says Ann. “The

RUC spoke to the two men and they were moved away.” Ann went out into

the kitchen.


It was only a few moments later. “As I walked back into the front room,

three shots rang out,” says Ann, “Sammy fell to the ground.” Ann

remembers calling her husband’s name, screaming and running for help

next door.


Sammy McLarnon’s body lay where he fell for over five hours while the

RUC and B Specials refused to let an ambulance through to the house. In

the end, the dead man was taken away in a black taxi. Ann and her

children were taken to Sammy’s mother’s house in Andersonstown. “I was

in a state of shock,” says Ann. “I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to

believe Sammy was dead.”


Later on the night of the killing, the RUC opened fire again on the

McLarnon family’s home. The walls of the house were riddled with

gunfire. It was over a month later before the RUC sent a forensic team

to investigate the crime scene.


“There was only three shots fired when Sammy was killed,” says Ann.

“I have no doubt that those shots were aimed. The RUC deliberately

killed my husband and then covered it up. The house was riddled so that

it seemed as if Sammy had been killed by a stray bullet, an accident.”




Three past members of Kings County Division 19 grew up on that street,

joined the provos, went to Long Kesh and came to Brooklyn and joined

the A.O.H. Two have sinced died. Both are buried in Miltown Cemetary,

one was buried with full  Honours. They are my friends and brothers

Eamon and Kieran Meehan. The third Colm, after Eamon died, moved

back to Belfast where he currently resides. Kings County has its F.F.A.I.

fund set up to honor Kieran and for all he has done for Irish Freedom

while in the U.S. Those wishing to donate to the Funds Christmas Appeal,

please contact Jim@


Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 6)

Posted by Jim on September 24, 2015


from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack

Tom Clarke, anticipating a war between England and Germany, returned to Ireland to organize another rebellion.  John Devoy recommended him to the Supreme Council of the IRB which had grown inactive. The BBC website on the IRB notes: the key figure in purging its aging leadership was Thomas Clarke, a veteran republican. He succeeded in bringing a new purpose and vitality to the organization, so that it was able to exploit opportunities for insurrection when they arose. With his wife, Kathleen, they assisted in directing the pride inspired by the Gaelic Revival into a focused sense of militant nationalism.  Clarke left his Manorville, Long Island, NY home in December 1907 and opened a tobacco shop at 55 Amiens Street in Dublin.  As a parolee, he had to take a silent role in nationalist affairs or face re-arrest under the Offenses Against the Realm Act so he silently re-organized the IRB through men like Bulmer Hobson and Sean MacDiarmada.

By the General Election of December 1910, Liberals and Conservatives in the House of Commons were evenly matched, but Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party held the balance of power.  They supported Asquith’s Liberals in return for another Home Rule Bill and the Parliament Act, which curtailed the veto power of the House of Lords.  The Parliament Act stated that if a bill passed Commons twice, Lords could no longer veto it, they could only delay it for two years.  The Parliament Act passed in August 1911 and in 1912 the third Home Rule Bill became the second to pass Commons.  It would become law in 1914!  Starting on 28 September, 1912 nearly 500,000 unionists signed a Solemn League and Covenant pledging to defy Home Rule by all means possible.  The Covenant was authored and organized by Unionist MPs Edward Carson and James Craig.  By January 1913, 232 Unionist Clubs across Ulster coalesced into the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) sworn to fight Home Rule.

In October 1913, Hobson and Michael ‘The’ O’Rahilly convinced Gaelic League Secretary and UCD Professor, Eoin MacNeill, to write an article in the influential League journal, An Claidheamh Soluis (Sword of Light), encouraging the formation of an Irish Volunteer Force to defend the implementation of Home Rule, just as the Unionists had done to oppose it.  On 1 November, The O’Rahilly took over as editor of the paper and in the very next issue, MacNeill’s article The North Began and an article by Pearse entitled The Coming Revolution appeared.  In his article Pearse stated: To every generation its deed. The deed of the generation that has now reached middle life was the Gaelic League – the beginning of the Irish Revolution. Let our generation not shirk its deed, which is to accomplish that revolution.

Clarke’s IRB had already begun drilling IRB men with the Dublin GAA led by Harry Boland.  With MacNeill agreeing to take part, The O’Rahilly and Hobson arranged a meeting at Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street, Dublin, on 11 November, 1913 to discuss a formal organization with members of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the United Irish League, the AOH, the GAA, the Foresters, the IRB and others.  At the same time, James Connolly was establishing his Irish Citizen Army in the aftermath of the lock out.  They had similar aims, but no connection with the planned Irish Volunteers.

The Irish Volunteer organization was launched on 25 November 1913 to safeguard the implementation of Home Rule as a legislated right of Irishmen.  Their first public meeting and enrolment rally was held at the Rotunda in Dublin.  Five thousand enlistment blanks were distributed by IRB men each wearing a small silken bow, the center of which was white, with one side green and the other orange – colors introduced by Young Ireland and which the Fenians had adopted as a national banner.  The hall was filled to its 4,000 person capacity, with another 3,000 on the grounds outside.  Speakers included MacNeill, Pearse and young Michael Davitt, son of the Land League founder.  The O’Rahilly was made Treasurer and Director of Arms and began to organize the arming of the Volunteers.  In February they launched a 16-page weekly newspaper entitled The Irish Volunteer as membership began to grow across the country.

In March, 1914, Officers at the main British Barracks in the Curragh, Co. Kildare pledged to resign rather than fight the Ulster Volunteers and enforce Home Rule.  The government did nothing about the mutiny, prompting thousands more recruits to join the Irish Volunteers.  On 2 April 1914, Agnes O’Farrelly and a group of ladies founded Cumann na mBan (Council of Women) as a Ladies Auxiliary to the Volunteers to advance the cause of Irish liberty and assist in arming and equipping Irish men for the defense of Ireland.  Ireland was becoming a tinder box and open conflict between the two Volunteer groups seemed imminent. On the night of April 24, the UVF smuggled 25,000 rifles and 3 million rounds of ammunition into Larne in Co. Antrim and to Bangor and Donaghadee in Co. Down. They had amplified the UVF’s fire-power while backing up their challenge against Home Rule.   In July, Erskine Childers with his wife Molly and Mary Spring Rice smuggled 1,000 German rifles into Howth Harbor and distributed them to waiting Irish Volunteers. Another small arms shipment was smuggled into Kilcoole a week later by Sir Thomas Myles.  Compared to the UVF, only a small number of the Volunteers were armed, even though they also had a variety of personal weapons and Lee Enfields which had been stolen from military and police barracks around the country.  There were even pikes, daggers, bayonets and some bombs made from lengths of pipe, milk tins and jam jars.  Though certainly insufficient to take on the British Army, the over-confidant Irish Volunteers felt ready.

“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” Padraig Pearse , August 1915

Posted by Jim on September 19, 2015

AOH Kings County Board Meeting

Posted by Jim on September 8, 2015

All meetings are on the 4th Monday of the month at 7:30pm

     Keep an eye open for a newsletter from our Recording Secretary.
In Our Motto,
Steve Kiernan
AOH Kings County President

Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 4)

Posted by Jim on September 3, 2015

from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack
As the American-Irish and their Irish-American sons and daughters coalesced into a wage-earning community of  Diaporadoes in support of Irish freedom, the rise of nationalist sympathy had already begun in Ireland with the formation of patriotic groups emboldened by the Gaelic Revival.  Significantly, despite the subordinate status of women in the British empire, Irish women began to take a substantial role in national affairs as members of the Irish Literary Society (1892) and the Gaelic League (1893).  On Easter Sunday 1900, 15 women met in the Celtic Literary Society clubrooms to present a blackthorn stick to Arthur Griffith for defending the outspoken patriot, Maud Gonne, from a maligning editorial.  The meeting turned to planning a ‘Patriotic Children’s Treat’ to reward children who would boycott the children’s picnic in Phoenix Park  planned to celebrate Queen Victoria’s April visit.  More than 50 women enlisted on the committee which funded and sponsored a historic event with 30,000 children parading to an alternate picnic punctuated by anti-British speeches.  James Connolly called it ‘the first political parade of the coming generation. It was a great sight to see the little rebels taking possession of the city, a sight more promising for the future of the country than any we can remember!’  The funds left over were used to start Inghinidhe na hEireann (in-EEN-ie na HAIR-inn) or Daughters of Erin – with Maud as President, to encourage all things Irish and boycott all things British.  Their feelings were expressed in their newspaper Bean na h’Éireann (woman of Ireland) edited by Helena Molony and advocating militancy, separatism and feminism.  They also produced patriotic plays as part of a National Theater Society which had been founded by Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats in 1898.
On 25 November 1913, the Irish Volunteers were formed at Dublin’s Rotunda to work for Irish independence.  A few months later a group of women met in Wynn’s Hotel, Dublin, to discuss forming an organization of women to work in conjunction with the Volunteers.  On April 2, 1914, Cumann na mBan (Council of Women) was launched in the Pillar Room of the Mansion House.  Branches were formed throughout the country and were directed by a Provisional Committee. The first group, named the Ard Chraobh (High Branch), held their meetings in Brunswick Street.  They absorbed Inghinidhe and announced to detractors that they were not the handmaidens nor camp followers of the Volunteers – we are their allies!  Their constitution stated they were to advance the cause of Irish liberty, to organize Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object, to assist in arming and equipping a body of Irish men for the defense of Ireland and to form a fund for these purposes to be called ‘The Defense of Ireland Fund.  The fund helped purchase the arms smuggled into Howth Harbor which members aided in hiding. Its recruits were white-collar workers, professional and working-class women.  In September 1914, the Irish Volunteers split over John Redmond’s appeal for its members to enlist in the British Army. The majority of Cumann na mBan members supported the 2,000 men who rejected this call and who retained the original name, the Irish Volunteers.

On 24 April 1916, when the Military Council of the IRB launched the Easter Rising, it brought Cumann na mBan, along with the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Hibernian Rifles and Fianna Eireann into the ‘Army of the Irish Republic’. Patrick Pearse was appointed overall Commandant-General and James Connolly Commandant of the Dublin Battalion.  On the day of the Rising, Cumann na mBan members entered the General Post Office on O’Connell Street with their male compatriots.  Winifred Carney arrived armed with both a Webley revolver and a typewriter.  By nightfall, women insurgents were in all the rebel strongholds throughout the city except Boland’s Mill and the South Dublin Union under Éamon de Valera and Eamonn Ceannt.  The  women worked as Red Cross nurses, couriers, procured rations, gathered intelligence on scouting expeditions, carried despatches and transferred arms and munitions between arms dumps across the city and insurgent strongholds.  Constance Markievicz, armed with a pistol, shot a policeman as they took control of St Stephen’s Green.  Later, along with other female fighters, she carried out sniper attacks on British troops in the city center.  She suggested that they  bomb the Shelbourne Hotel, but before they could, British troops entered the building by the Kildare street door.  At dawn the British opened fire from the hotel on the Green forcing the Irish to retreat.  Markievicz, Mary Hyland and Lily Kempson were part of a force of twelve who raided Trinity College and found fifty rifles; but by that time the Green garrison had retreated to the smaller, but stronger, College of Surgeons.  Helena Moloney was among the soldiers who attacked Dublin Castle, where she worked with the wounded.  A number of Cumann na mBan members died in the Rising.

At the time of surrender, Pearse insisted that the women leave the GPO saying, when the history of this fight will be written, the foremost page in the annals should be given to the women of Dublin who had taken their place in the fight for the establishment of the republic.  He told them that their presence had inspired the men, whose heroism, wonderful though it was, paled before the devotion and duty of the women of Cumann na mBan and he prayed God would give them the strength to carry on the fight.  Reluctantly they left except for Julia Grennan who cared for Joe Plunkett, Winifred Carney who tended the wounded James Connolly and Elizabeth O’Farrell who would accompany Pearse to his surrender and carry his cease fire order to the outlying posts. More than 70 women were arrested after the Rising and many of them were imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail; all but 12 had been released by 8 May 1916.  The 12 remaining were released by July, 1917.  Their release was not the end of their service, for they were to be a significant force in the coming War of Independence.

Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 3)

Posted by Jim on August 28, 2015

from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack
In 1911, near 26,000 families lived in Dublin’s inner-city tenements; 20,000 in former apartments divided into one room flats. They died in great numbers from cholera, typhus, influenza and TB.  Requests for improvements to unsanitary conditions were ignored by the Dublin Corporation since 16 of its members owned tenements in the slums and actively prevented enforcement of regulations against their properties.  Other counties were just as bad as low wages forced workers to the cheap life in the slums to which those fortunate enough to have jobs returned, after putting in 17-hour days.

Early attempts at organizing labor unions had been made by James Connolly in 1896, but with limited success since workers were so intimidated by management.  In 1903, Connolly accepted an invitation to work with the American labor movement and emigrated, ending up in Troy, NY.  Then in 1908, along came Big Jim Larkin.  He began to harvest the seeds Connolly had sewn, organizing all workers, Protestant and Catholic, regardless of trade, into one large Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU).  Meanwhile, in America, Connolly was involved in the International Workers of the World promoting the idea of one union for all workers allowing the use of sympathy strikes to empower  action.  He published a newspaper aimed at the Irish in America’s labor market and included articles on events in Ireland.  Noting Larkin’s struggle, he soon realized that Ireland was where his heart had always been and he returned  in 1910.  He settled in Belfast to help Larkin organize his union along the lines of the IWW.  In a year’s time, Connolly moved his family to Dublin and, with Larkin and William O’Brien, helped to organize the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labor Party.  They were able to secure wage increases for some workers, but the idea of one giant union was beginning to worry employers.  By 1913, 30,000 workers had signed up making the General Worker’s union Ireland’s largest.

Enter William Martin Murphy – an example of how an Irish Catholic could succeed by working within the system of the oppressor.  He owned the Dublin Tramway System as well as the largest newspaper, department store and hotel.  He claimed that he was not against craft unions, but opposed Larkin’s idea where workers would control everything, even the government. The union’s success was from sympathy strikes because when all workers belonged to one union, it was easy to get strikers to walk off related jobs.  In 1912, more than 400 nervous employers responded to Murphy’s call to form the Dublin Employers’ Federation Ltd. (DEF) to break Larkin’s Union by refusing to recognize the ITGWU.  Murphy demanded that his workers reapply for their jobs and a condition of acceptance was a pledge to shun the union.  This act of challenging the worker’s right to organize provoked the greatest labor struggle in the history of western Europe.  Larkin and Connolly saw this as a death threat to their union and knew that they had to act!  They called a walkout by Murphy’s tram workers on 26 August 1913 – the first day of the Dublin horse show!  The workers walked off the job and Murphy fired them all!  He brought in scab labor protected by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

A strike is a weapon to gain concessions, but this strike sought no concessions, it was a matter of self-defense. Clashes between workers and police-protected scabs broke out in various places during which police baton-charged the workers.  A warrant was issued for Larkin’s arrest claiming he incited the riots.  Larkin promised to address his followers the next day from the balcony of Murphy’s hotel. On 31 August, police surrounded the hotel and allowed no one to enter except one elderly clergyman.  It was Larkin!  Disguised by the great patriot and Abbey Theater actress, Helena Molony, Larkin appeared on the balcony, pulled off a fake beard and addressed the huge crowd to wild cheers.  Police forced their way up to the balcony and arrested Larkin.  Then they baton-charged the crowd, killing two and injuring hundreds.  Larkin called for sympathy strikes against all parts of Murphy’s DEF and the merchants fired all members of Larkin’s union and replaced them with scabs and unemployed workers from England! This preposterous act became known as the Great Dublin Lockout.  By 29 September, more than 25,000 workers were locked out of their jobs.  With the help of Countess Markievicz, Larkin set up food kitchens at union headquarters in Liberty Hall to feed the striking workers families and the AOH in America sent more than a $1,000. ($25,000. today) to striking members of the AOH American Alliance.

Then, Connolly met Jack White, a disaffected former British Army officer, who proposed the creation of a worker’s militia to protect picket lines from assaults by the DMP and gangs in the pay of the employers.  The notion of a Citizen Army, drilled by White, was enthusiastically accepted as White stated, to put manners on the police.  In 1913, the Countess helped White form the Irish Citizen Army which would become a far more significant force than either of them ever planned.  The Citizen Army drilled and trained at Liberty Hall and even purchased uniforms and arms to alert the DMP that they could no longer attack workers with impunity.  However, despite the assistance provided to the union, as winter winds began to blast the tenements, it was evident that they could not sustain the fight and starving workers began to drift back to work on the employers’ terms.  In January 1914, Larkin conceded, we are beaten.  But they had achieved something more significant.  They opposed Murphy’s attempt to destroy the union and in that they succeeded.  Plus they had created a fighting force in the Citizen Army that would soon join with the IRB, Irish Volunteers, Hibernian Rifles, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Eireann to become the Irish Republican Army and strike for Ireland’s freedom on Easter Monday, 1916.

Battle of Brooklyn – America’s 1st battle for Independence from England

Posted by Jim on

Saturday August 29th, Noon


 Maryland 400 Roll Call of Honor Ceremony – Followed by wreath laying at burial site at the Old Stone House led by lone bagpiper.  Wreath laying followed by reception.
   In conjunction with the closing Ceremonies of the 239th Anniversary of “The Battle of Brooklyn” Week, highlighting the Intertwined Histories of Ireland and America and the vast contributions and significant and historic role of the Irish in the first battle of the American Revolution fought in Brooklyn.
   Meet at the Archway past the Cemetery Gate on 5th Ave and 25th Street.  Memorial march led by Lone Bagpiper to the Memorials and gravesites for the Wreath Laying Ceremonies.  Several historic sites visited, followed by the Battle of Brooklyn Ceremony on Battle Hill at 2:00 PM.

Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 3)

Posted by Jim on August 23, 2015

from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack
In 1911, near 26,000 families lived in Dublin’s inner-city tenements; 20,000 in former apartments divided into one room flats. They died in great numbers from cholera, typhus, influenza and TB.  Requests for improvements to unsanitary conditions were ignored by the Dublin Corporation since 16 of its members owned tenements in the slums and actively prevented enforcement of regulations against their properties.  Other counties were just as bad as low wages forced workers to the cheap life in the slums to which those fortunate enough to have jobs returned, after putting in 17-hour days.

Early attempts at organizing labor unions had been made by James Connolly in 1896, but with limited success since workers were so intimidated by management.  In 1903, Connolly accepted an invitation to work with the American labor movement and emigrated, ending up in Troy, NY.  Then in 1908, along came Big Jim Larkin.  He began to harvest the seeds Connolly had sewn, organizing all workers, Protestant and Catholic, regardless of trade, into one large Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU).  Meanwhile, in America, Connolly was involved in the International Workers of the World promoting the idea of one union for all workers allowing the use of sympathy strikes to empower  action.  He published a newspaper aimed at the Irish in America’s labor market and included articles on events in Ireland.  Noting Larkin’s struggle, he soon realized that Ireland was where his heart had always been and he returned  in 1910.  He settled in Belfast to help Larkin organize his union along the lines of the IWW.  In a year’s time, Connolly moved his family to Dublin and, with Larkin and William O’Brien, helped to organize the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labor Party.  They were able to secure wage increases for some workers, but the idea of one giant union was beginning to worry employers.  By 1913, 30,000 workers had signed up making the General Worker’s union Ireland’s largest.

Enter William Martin Murphy – an example of how an Irish Catholic could succeed by working within the system of the oppressor.  He owned the Dublin Tramway System as well as the largest newspaper, department store and hotel.  He claimed that he was not against craft unions, but opposed Larkin’s idea where workers would control everything, even the government. The union’s success was from sympathy strikes because when all workers belonged to one union, it was easy to get strikers to walk off related jobs.  In 1912, more than 400 nervous employers responded to Murphy’s call to form the Dublin Employers’ Federation Ltd. (DEF) to break Larkin’s Union by refusing to recognize the ITGWU.  Murphy demanded that his workers reapply for their jobs and a condition of acceptance was a pledge to shun the union.  This act of challenging the worker’s right to organize provoked the greatest labor struggle in the history of western Europe.  Larkin and Connolly saw this as a death threat to their union and knew that they had to act!  They called a walkout by Murphy’s tram workers on 26 August 1913 – the first day of the Dublin horse show!  The workers walked off the job and Murphy fired them all!  He brought in scab labor protected by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

A strike is a weapon to gain concessions, but this strike sought no concessions, it was a matter of self-defense. Clashes between workers and police-protected scabs broke out in various places during which police baton-charged the workers.  A warrant was issued for Larkin’s arrest claiming he incited the riots.  Larkin promised to address his followers the next day from the balcony of Murphy’s hotel. On 31 August, police surrounded the hotel and allowed no one to enter except one elderly clergyman.  It was Larkin!  Disguised by the great patriot and Abbey Theater actress, Helena Molony, Larkin appeared on the balcony, pulled off a fake beard and addressed the huge crowd to wild cheers.  Police forced their way up to the balcony and arrested Larkin.  Then they baton-charged the crowd, killing two and injuring hundreds.  Larkin called for sympathy strikes against all parts of Murphy’s DEF and the merchants fired all members of Larkin’s union and replaced them with scabs and unemployed workers from England! This preposterous act became known as the Great Dublin Lockout.  By 29 September, more than 25,000 workers were locked out of their jobs.  With the help of Countess Markievicz, Larkin set up food kitchens at union headquarters in Liberty Hall to feed the striking workers families and the AOH in America sent more than a $1,000. ($25,000. today) to striking members of the AOH American Alliance.

Then, Connolly met Jack White, a disaffected former British Army officer, who proposed the creation of a worker’s militia to protect picket lines from assaults by the DMP and gangs in the pay of the employers.  The notion of a Citizen Army, drilled by White, was enthusiastically accepted as White stated, to put manners on the police.  In 1913, the Countess helped White form the Irish Citizen Army which would become a far more significant force than either of them ever planned.  The Citizen Army drilled and trained at Liberty Hall and even purchased uniforms and arms to alert the DMP that they could no longer attack workers with impunity.  However, despite the assistance provided to the union, as winter winds began to blast the tenements, it was evident that they could not sustain the fight and starving workers began to drift back to work on the employers’ terms.  In January 1914, Larkin conceded, we are beaten.  But they had achieved something more significant.  They opposed Murphy’s attempt to destroy the union and in that they succeeded.  Plus they had created a fighting force in the Citizen Army that would soon join with the IRB, Irish Volunteers, Hibernian Rifles, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Eireann to become the Irish Republican Army and strike for Ireland’s freedom on Easter Monday, 1916.

Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 2)

Posted by Jim on August 21, 2015

from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack
As the American Irish and their Irish-American sons and daughters coalesced into a wage-earning community of  Diaporadoes, organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians were formed in 1836 from early Ribbon societies to defend Catholic values.  They also nursed a dream of an independent Ireland and maintained links with their Ribbon mentors.  In the 1850s, several Ribbon groups in Ireland adopted the AOH name and facing extreme anti-Catholic bias, became effectively a green version of the Orange Order.  While still supporting Irish freedom, they became more religious-oriented than the militant Irish republican groups around them.  However, in America many Hibernians maintained dual membership in the Fenian Society which had sprung from the AOH Emmet Monument Society.  These organizations remained allies as the American AOH raised funds and political awareness to support Irish independence and the Fenian successor, Clan na Gael, supported a military approach in union with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).  The AOH also created a military sub-committee called the Hibernian Rifles to drill and train and serve as a protective honor guard for AOH functions.

The AOH in Ireland eventually became a political force supporting the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) and Home Rule (a peaceful attempt at limited self-government under the Crown) while the AOH in America grew as a benevolent, but more nationalist society.  Administrative and conceptual differences emerged and in 1886 the Order split between the AOH Board of Erin (BOE) and the AOH in America.  A number of divisions in Ireland, more militant than the BOE leadership, confirmed affiliation with the American AOH calling themselves the AOH American Alliance (AA).  Around 1907 a split occurred between the BOE and AA over registration as a Friendly Society of the British Empire.  The BOE continued to support Redmond’s IPP while the AA and the AOH in America remained allied with Clan Na Gael and the IRB indicating that the split was clearly between physical force and constitutional nationalists.  The American AOH was also regarded as being less sectarian as it had opened membership to more than native-born Irish so that Irish-American sons could join and limited honorary membership was offered to benefactors.  John J. Walsh of the Irish Volunteers in Cork commented on the two Hibernian groups in Ireland saying, They were in opposition on many matters, but the AA was the more national.

AA National Director John Joseph Scollan, noting that the American AOH provided for a military sub-committee, organized a Hibernian Rifles company in each Irish division.  He wrote,  I started a unit in each division and succeeded in getting about 20 men to join in each. These were all highly selected men. At this time the total number of members of the divisions (in Dublin) were 80, 100 and 150, approximately. The first recruiting ads appeared in James Connolly’s newspaper The Worker on 22 November 1913.  It stated that membership was open to all Catholic Irishmen of good character however, Scollan claimed that the Hibernian Rifles was non-sectarian and that its constitution did not bar anyone from joining. It was a semi-public organization open to all religions. The AA national board was supposed to be in command of the Hibernian Rifles but Scollan, as Commandant, directed and controlled the force which consisted of a ranking system of riflemen, captain, vice commandant and commandant.  Each company selected its own officers.  J.J. Walsh was made Vice Commandant and other officers were Captains Breslin, Garret and Sean Millroy.  Sympathetic Irish ex-British soldiers provided instruction in foot drill and military training in the Hibernian Hall at 28 North Frederick St.

Recruitment was from AA Divisions and ads in their newspaper The Hibernian which was published weekly from June 1915 until April 1916 with a national circulation of about 2,500 copies. The Hibernian also serialized a ‘Roll of Honor’ listing those who had been killed, wounded, imprisoned, deported or served with exclusion orders for republican activity.  The paper also carried notices for the Irish Volunteers.  The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) kept intelligence files on  members of the Order and the DMP applied to the attorney general to have the paper suppressed since it was not registered in accordance with Newspapers Libel and Registration act of 1881.

With the rise of the unionist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Scollan detected a feeling abroad that something of a counteraction should take place and this resulted in recruiting for our units becoming much easier.  By late 1913 the Hibernian Rifle units had been established in Armagh, Belfast, Castlebar, Cork, Dingle and Dundalk, each with a membership of 30 or 35 from existing AA Division.  During the 1913 lockout the Hibernian Rifles sided with the striking workers as many members belonged to Connolly and Larkins’s union.  Even those AA who were not part of the Union raised money for the strikers. The BOE and Catholic bishops both actively condemned the strike and supported the employers. Scollan applied to the AOH in America to support the strikers and received more than a $1,000. ($25,000. today).  This money was used to augment the strike pay of Hibernian Rifles members of the union ensuring strong ties with Connolly’s Citizen Army.

After Redmond split the Volunteers by offering them to the British Army to fight in WWI, the Irish Volunteers were free from the influence of the IPP and the BOE Hibernians. As a result the Hibernian Rifles and Citizen Army developed a new attitude toward the IRB-dominated Irish Volunteers and all three groups were united in anti-recruiting activity, attending parades and public meetings organized by Connolly, the IRB and the Irish Volunteers.

Initially the Hibernian Rifles had no arms, but after the formation of the UVF, Scollan wrote to the AOH in America seeking arms.  He recorded, They did not supply any and we received a supply of American Military text books. However, in 1914, with money from America, they soon found a source of arms.  Scollan wrote, There was a division of Enniskillen Fusiliers based in Dollymount and from them we were able to purchase about one hundred rifles.  Notoriously underpaid British soldiers gladly sold their arms as they would be issued new ones.  The Brits would see those rifles again during the Easter Rising – in the arms of Hibernians and aimed at them.

Mickey Devine – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on August 20, 2015


Died August 20th, 1981

A typical Derry lad

TWENTY-seven-year-old Micky Devine, from the Creggan in Derry city, was the third INLA Volunteer to join the H-Block hunger strike to the death.

Micky Devine took over as O/C of the INLA blanket men in March when the then O/C, Patsy O’Hara, joined the hunger strike but he retained this leadership post when he joined the hunger strike himself.

Known as ‘Red Micky’, his nickname stemmed from his ginger hair rather than his political complexion, although he was most definitely a republican socialist.

The story of Micky Devine is not one of a republican ‘super-hero’ but of a typical Derry lad whose family suffered all of the ills of sectarian and class discrimination inflicted upon the Catholic working-class of that city: poor housing, unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Micky himself had a rough life.

His father died when Micky was a young lad; he found his mother dead when he was only a teenager; married young, his marriage ended in separation; he underwent four years of suffering ‘on the blanket’ in the H-Blocks; and, finally, the torture of hunger-strike.

Unusually for a young Derry nationalist, because of his family’s tragic history (unconnected with ‘the troubles’), Micky was not part of an extended family, and his only close relatives were his sister Margaret, seven years his elder, and now aged 34, and her husband, Frank McCauley, aged 36.


Michael James Devine was born on May 26th, 1954 in the Springtown camp, on the outskirts of Derry city, a former American army base from the Second World War, which Micky himself described as “the slum to end all slums”.

Hundreds of families – 99% (unemployed) Catholics, because of Derry corporation’s sectarian housing policy – lived, or rather existed, in huts, which were not kept in any decent state of repair by the corporation.

One of Micky’s earliest memories was of lying in a bed covered in old coats to keep the rain off the bed. His sister, Margaret, recalls that the huts were “okay” during the summer, but they leaked, and the rest of the year they were cold and damp.

Micky’s parents, Patrick and Elizabeth, both from Derry city, had got married in late 1945 shortly after the end of the Second World War, during which Patrick had served in the British merchant navy. He was a coalman by trade, but was unemployed for years.

At first Patrick and Elizabeth lived with the latter’s mother in Ardmore, a village near Derry, where Margaret was born in 1947. In early 1948 the family moved to Springtown where Micky was born in May 1954.

Although Springtown was meant to provide only temporary accommodation, official lethargy and sectarianism dictated that such inadequate housing was good enough for Catholics and it was not until the early ‘sixties that the camp was closed.


During the ‘fifties, the Creggan was built as a new Catholic ghetto, but it was 1960 before the Devines got their new home in Creggan, on the Circular Road. Micky had an unremarkable, but reasonably happy childhood. He went to Holy Child primary school in Creggan.

At the age of eleven Micky started at St. Joseph’s secondary school in Creggan, which he was to attend until he was fifteen.

But soon the first sad blow befell him. On Christmas eve 1965, when Micky was aged only eleven, his father fell ill; and six weeks later, in February 1966, his father, who was only in his forties, died of leukaemia.

Micky had been very close to his father and his premature death left Micky heartbroken.

Five months later, in July 1966, his sister Margaret left home to get married, whilst Micky remained in the Devines’ Circular Road home with his mother and granny.

At school Micky was an average pupil, and had no notable interests.


The first civil rights march in Derry took place on October 5th, 1968, when the sectarian RUC batoned several hundred protesters at Duke Street. Recalling that day, Micky, who was then only fourteen wrote:

“Like every other young person in Derry my whole way of thinking was tossed upside down by the events of October 5th, 1968. I didn’t even know there was a civil rights march. I saw it on television.

“But that night I was down the town smashing shop windows and stoning the RUC. Overnight I developed an intense hatred of the RUC. As a child I had always known not to talk to them, or to have anything to do with them, but this was different

“Within a month everyone was a political activist. I had never had a political thought in my life, but now we talked of nothing else. I was by no means politically aware but the speed of events gave me a quick education.”


After the infamous loyalist attack on civil rights marchers in nearby Burntollet, in January 1969, tension mounted in Derry through 1969 until the August 12th riots, when Orangemen – Apprentice Boys and the RUC – attacked the Bogside, meeting effective resistance, in the ‘Battle of the Bogside’. On two occasions in 1969 Micky ended up at the wrong end of an RUC baton, and consequently in hospital.

That summer Micky left school. Always keen to improve himself, he got a job as a shop assistant and over the next three years worked his way up the local ladder: from Hill’s furniture store on the Strand Road, to Sloan’s store in Shipquay Street, and finally to Austin’s furniture store in the Diamond (and one can get no higher in Derry, as a shop assistant).

British troops had arrived in August 1969, in the wake of the ‘Battle of the Bogside’. ‘Free Derry’ was maintained more by agreement with the British army than by physical force, but of course there were barricades, and Micky was one of the volunteers manning them with a hurley.


At that time, and during 1970 and 1971, Micky became involved in the civil rights movement, and with the local (uniquely militant) Labour Party and the Young Socialists.

The already strained relationship between British troops and the nationalist people of Derry steadily deteriorated – reinforced by news from elsewhere, especially Belfast – culminating with the shooting dead by the British army of two unarmed civilians, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, in July of 1971, and with internment in August. Micky, by this time seventeen years of age, and also politically maturing, had joined the ‘Officials’, also known as the ‘Sticks’.

He became a member of the James Connolly ‘Republican Club’ and then, shortly after internment, a member of the Derry Brigade of the ‘Official IRA’.

‘Free Derry’ had become known by that name after the successful defence of the Bog side in August 1969, but it really became ‘Free Derry’, in the form of concrete barricades etc., from internment day. Micky was amongst those armed volunteers who manned the barricades

Typical of his selfless nature (another common characteristic of the hunger strikers), no task was too small for him.

He was ‘game’ to do any job, such as tidying up the office. Young men, naturally enough, wanted to stand out on the barricades with rifles: he did that too, but nothing was too menial for him, and he was always looking for jobs.

Bloody Sunday, January 30th, 1972, when British Paratroopers shot dead thirteen unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry (a fourteenth died later from wounds received), was a turning point for Micky. From then there was no turning back on his republican commitment and he gradually lost interest in his work, and he was to become a full-time political and military activist.


Micky experienced the trauma of Bloody Sunday at first hand. He was on that fateful march with his brother-in-law, Frank, who recalls: “When the shooting started we ran, like everybody else, and when it was over we saw all the bodies being lifted.”

The slaughter confirmed to Micky that it was more than time to start shooting back. “How” he would ask, “can you sit back and watch while your own Derry men are shot down like dogs?”

Micky had written: “I will never forget standing in the Creggan chapel staring at the brown wooden boxes. We mourned, and Ireland mourned with us.

“That sight more than anything convinced me that there will never be peace in Ireland while Britain remains. When I looked at those coffins I developed a commitment to the republican cause that I have never lost.”

From around this time, until May when the ‘Official IRA’ leadership declared a unilateral ceasefire (unpopular with their Derry Volunteers), Micky was involved not only in defensive operations but in various gun attacks against British troops.

Micky’s commitment and courage had shone through, but no more so than in the case of scores of other Derry youths, flung into adulthood and warfare by a British army of occupation.


In September, 1972, came the second tragic loss in Micky’s family life. He came home one day to find his mother dead on the settee with his granny unsuccessfully trying to revive her.

His mother had died of a brain tumour, totally unexpectedly, at the age of forty-five. Doctors said it had taken her just three minutes to die. Micky, then aged eighteen, suffered a tremendous shock from this blow, and it took him many months to come to terms with his grief.

Through 1973, Micky remained connected with the ‘Sticks’, although increasingly disillusioned by their openly reformist path. He came to refer to the ‘Sticks’ as “fireside republicans”, and was highly critical of them for not being active enough.

Towards the end of that year, Micky, then aged nineteen, got married. His wife, Margaret, was only seventeen. They lived in Ranmore Drive in Creggan and had two children: Michael, now aged seven and Louise, now aged five.

Micky and his wife had since separated.

In late 1974, virtually all the ‘Sticks’ in Derry, including Micky, joined the newly formed IRSP, as did some who had dropped out over the years. And Micky necessarily became a founder member of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), formed to defend the IRSP from murderous attacks by their former comrades in the sticks.

In early 1975, Micky became a founder member of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) formed for offensive operational purposes out of the PLA.

The months ahead were bad times for the IRSP, relatively isolated, and to suffer a strength-sapping split when Bernadette McAliskey left, taking with her a number of activists who formed the ISP (Independent Socialist Party), since deceased.

They were also difficult months for the fledgling INLA, suffering from a crippling lack of weaponry and funds. Weakness which led them into raids for both as their primary actions, and rendered them almost unable to operate against the Brits.

Micky was eventually arrested on the Creggan. In the evening of September 20th, 1976, after an arms raid earlier that day on a private weaponry, in Lifford, County Donegal, from which the INLA commandeered several rifles and shotguns, and three thousand rounds of ammunition.


Micky was arrested with Desmond Walmsley from Shantallow, and John Cassidy from Rosemount. Along on the operation, though never convicted for it, was the late Patsy O’Hara, with whom Micky used to knock around as a friend and comrade.

Micky was held and interrogated for three days in Derry’s Stand Road barracks, before being transported in Crumlin Road jail in Belfast where he spent nine months on remand.

He was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment on June 20th, 1977, and immediately embarked on the blanket protest. He was in H5-Block until March of this year when the hunger strike began and when the ‘no-wash, no slop-out’ protest ended, whereupon he was moved with others in his wing to H6-Block.

Like others incarcerated within the H-Blocks, suffering daily abuse and inhuman and degrading treatment, Micky realised – soon after he joined the blanket protest – that eventually it would come to a hunger strike, and, for him, the sooner the better. He was determined that when that ultimate step was reached he would be among those to hunger strike.


On Sunday, June 21st, this year, he completed his fourth year on the blanket, and the following day he joined Joe McDonnell, Kieran Doherty, Kevin Lynch, Martin Hurson, Thomas McElwee and Paddy Quinn on hunger strike.

He became the seventh man in a weekly build-up from a four-strong hunger strike team to eight-strong. He was moved to the prison hospital on Wednesday, July 15th, his twenty fourth day on hunger strike.

With the 50 % remission available to conforming prisoners, Micky would have been due out of jail next September.

As it was, because of his principled republican rejection of the criminal tag he chose to fight and face death.

Micky died at 7.50 am on Thursday, August 201h, as nationalist voters in Fermanagh/South Tyrone were beginning to make their way to the polling booths to elect Owen Carron, a member of parliament for the constituency, in a demonstration – for the second time in less than five months – of their support for the prisoners’ demands.


Eirí Amach na Cásca (Part 1)

Posted by Jim on August 19, 2015

from The Road to Rebellion by Mike McCormack
John F Kennedy said in a 1962 speech that Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable which is why we believe that it’s not the rebel that creates the violence, but the violence that creates the rebel.  Early Americans knew that and the American Revolution was the result.  The patriots of 1916 also knew that and the Easter Rising was the result.  But that rising was different from all others in Irish history.

The desire for independence has always been at the core of the Irish heart, but to understand what made 1916 unique, there are three things to consider and coincidentally, three had always been a special number for the Irish.  As far back as the ancient time, the Shamrock was  sacred to the Druids because it illustrated why things natural came in threes like sea, earth and sky, and things human like birth, life and death.  Saint Patrick even validated that number in the Trinity.  Even Irish proverbs came in threes like the three things to be most wary of: the horn of a bull, the bark of a dog and the word of an Englishman!  It is significant, therefore, that the Easter Rising would not have happened were it not for three factors; like the three leaves of the Shamrock of Insurrection, you might say.

The first leaf was the political and economic pendulum that swung back and forth from hope to hostility for an entire century from 1816 to 1916.  In 1816 the peace of a shared prosperity, created by the Napoleonic War economy, ended and by 1820 post-war selfishness on the part of Parliament provoked the Rockite Rebellion which was brutally put down. Then in 1823 a peaceful  attempt by Daniel O’Connell’s Catholic Association renewed hopes of self-reliance.  But, by 1830 it was back to violence as Parliament incited a Tithe War which was again brutally put down.  In 1840 peaceful promise was again tried in the Repeal Association, but from 1845 on, official neglect during the Great Hunger gave rise to violence again in 1848 when the Irish Confederation rose and was defeated.  Then in 1852 another peaceful attempt was born in the Irish Conservative Party but landlord opposition killed that effort by 1858 at which time the Irish Republican Brotherhood was born and that was violently subdued in a failed Rising in 1867.  In the 1880s, another attempt at peaceful accord was made by Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party, but by 1891 Westminster-instigated schemes split his Party until Parnell died.  Then in 1913, a peaceful labor movement ended in the Great Labor Lockout and official violence against workers drove James Connolly to start the Irish Citizen Army to fight back.  Then came 1914 and another peaceful promise  with the passage of a Home Rule Bill.  But that Bill was being undermined by Orange Order opposition, the Curragh Mutiny in which British military refused to enforce it and Parliamentary duplicity in attempting to change the Bill to partition Ireland. History was repeating itself. For 100 years, peaceful attempts had always been frustrated, driving the Irish to violence only to be put down after which a peaceful approach was tried again and the cycle was repeated, over and over. But they never gave up and the goal of every attempt – peaceful or violent, remained the same – self-determination.  But that frustration was common to all previous risings. What made this time different was the second leaf of the Shamrock of Insurrection.

The second leaf was that behind the repeated frustration of promise and conflict, a dream was born with the Gaelic Revival – a national educational movement that revived a pride in their heritage through history.  Indoctrinated by fireside tales in the days before television, few grew up without hearing the seanachie tell of past attempts at eliminating colonial oppression. Those tales were validated by teachers, fathers and grandfathers and a dream took shape with the formation of nationalist-oriented groups.  There came Literary clubs like the Ossianic Society, the Phoenix Literary Society and the Dungannon Clubs. They formed societies like the Gaelic League, the Gaelic Athletic Ass’n, the Hibernian Rifles and Irish Volunteers; Ladies societies like Inghinidhe na hEireann and Cumann na mBan and youth clubs like na Fianna hEireann.  And all the while Newspapers like the Sword of Light, the United Irishman and the Irish Volunteer promoted the nationalist gospel of self-determination.  The Gaelic Revival stimulated the longing for liberation.  Even Pearse recognized that when he said the Irish revolution really began when the seven Gaelic League members met in O’Connell Street.  The germ of all future Irish history was in that back room.  But, if it was the Gaelic Revival that put the frustrated Irish on the Road to Rebellion, it was the Irish in America who paved that road for they were the third leaf of the shamrock of insurrection!

The motivation to action came from the Irish who were forced to flee their homeland, but who never fled their heritage.  Britain had forced into exile angry Irish rebels like John Devoy, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and Tom Clarke.  They had also forced into emigration millions of Ireland’s sons and daughters fleeing hunger and eviction during the Artificial Famine.  These displaced Irish formed a desperate Diaspora that I call the Diasperadoes.  Americanized-Irish like Devoy, Rossa and Clarke joined with Irish-American sons of exiles, like Judge Daniel Cohalan and others, to influence existing organizations like the AOH to form such committees as the Emmet Monument Association and they created new societies like the Napper Tandy Clubs, Clan na Gael, Friends of Irish Freedom and more. They organized fund-raisers among the Diasperadoes who had overcome American prejudice to become a community of wage-earners – a community whose memories of the Great Hunger created a mentality that supported retribution.  And they provided the weapon that would enable the Irish to topple the crown.

Thomas McElwee – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on August 8, 2015

Died August 8th, 1981

Sincere, easy-going and full of fun

THE TENTH republican to join the hunger strike was twenty-three-year-old IRA Volunteer Thomas McElwee, from Bellaghy in South Derry. He had been imprisoned since December 1976, following a premature explosion in which he lost an eye.

He was a first cousin of Francis Hughes, who died after fifty-nine days on hunger strike, on May 12th.

One of the most tragic and saddening aspects of the hunger strike was the close relationships between some of the hunger strikers.

Joe McDonnell following his friend and comrade Bobby Sands on hunger strike and then into death, both having been captured on the same IRA operation in 1976.

Elsewhere, similar close ties, parallels, between one hunger striker and another: the same schools; the same streets; the same experiences of repression and discrimination.

And for those families, relatives and friends most acutely conscious of the parallels there is of course an even more intense personal sadness than for most, in the bitter tragedy of the hunger strike.

But of all those close relationships, none was surely as poignant as that between Thomas McElwee and his cousin, Francis Hughes: two dedicated republicans from the small South Derry village of Bellaghy, their family homes less than half-a-mile apart in the townland of Tamlaghtduff, who were close friends in their boyhood years and who later fought side by side in the towns and fields of South Derry for the freedom of their country.

It came then as no surprise to those who knew them when Thomas and Francis stood side by side again in the H-Blocks (along with Thomas’ younger brother, Benedict) in taking part in the thirty-strong four-day fast at the end of the original seven-man hunger strike last December.

And when the deaths of Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes, on the subsequent hunger strike, only months later, failed to break the Brits intransigence, the McElwee family were already certain that either Thomas or Benedict, both of whom had volunteered, would soon be joining the hunger strike as well.


What are the qualities that make a twenty-three-year-old South Derry man ready to die a painful death on hunger strike, in defence of his political principles and to end, for himself and for his comrades, the horrors of the H-Blocks in which he had already spent almost four years?

The story of Thomas McElwee is not of a uniquely courageous, or uniquely principled young man, any more than were any of the hunger strikers unique in some way.

But it is the story of a fairly typical young Derryman, kind and good-natured, full of life, and with a craze for cars and stock-car racing who is also filled with a love of his country and its way of life, who (like many others) had watched that country overrun by foreign and hostile troops, torn by sectarianism and discrimination, and who had spent over half of his young life striving to achieve the liberation of his country.

Within those few years he had become part of a tradition of the resistance of ordinary Irish people, that will never be criminalised.


Thomas McElwee, the fifth of twelve children, was born on November 30th, 1957, into the small, whitewashed home built by his father, along the Tamlaghtduff Road in the parish of Bellaghy.

His father, Jim (aged 65), a retired builder, has lived in Tamlaghtduff all his life, coming from a family of farmers which settled in the area at the turn of the century. One of his sisters, Margaret, married into the Hughes family, and is the mother of the late Francis Hughes. Thomas’ mother, Alice (aged 56), lived in Philadelphia until she was seven years old, her family having moved there from County Derry but later returning, and she has lived in Bellaghy for most of her life.

Jim and Alice married in 1950 and had twelve children, the oldest thirty, the youngest fourteen. They are: Kathleen, the eldest; Mary; Bernadette; Annie; Enda; Thomas; Benedict; Joseph; Nora; Pauline; Majella; and the youngest James. Even within the Irish countryside where strong family bonds are the rule, the McElwee family are considered to be particularly close and considerate to one another, and there are strong ties too between them and the Hughes family.

As children, Thomas and Benedict and Francis Hughes, along with other neighbours’ children, used to walk together each day to the bottom of the Tamlaghtduff road to catch the bus to school, returning home again each evening. They went to St. Mary’s primary in Bellaghy, and then to Clady intermediate, three miles away.

Thomas got on pretty well at school. His favourite subjects were English and Maths, and he was also good at Geography and History.

At home he was quiet, very good natured and sincere, and particularly good towards his mother, helping out around the house and with jobs like cutting the hedge and putting up fencing.

He was also, however, very much an outdoor person, and although more serious than Benedict (who would usually have started off the devilment the pair got involved in), he was full of fun, with a strong sense of humour and adventure.

One of the pranks they sometimes got up to along with other local lads, earning them the temporary wrath of neighbours, was climbing on to the roof of a house, blocking the chimney, and then watching as the smoke began to appear in the kitchens. “They weren’t too popular when that happened”, remembers one of their sisters, laughing.


But frequently too, Thomas was out-at week-ends and during school holidays – helping neighbours, including Protestant farmers, with their crops and machinery. He also used to go to work, picking gooseberries, at the monastery in Portglenone, staying there for maybe ten days at a time, during school holidays.

He had always been a determined person, arguing his point of view with his sisters and brothers, and if he wanted something, often a present for a member of his family, he would work hard to earn enough for it.

From the time he was eleven Thomas had an intense interest in working with cars and all types of machinery. On one occasion his mother brought a lawn mower which Thomas immediately dismantled, to see how it worked. When he reassembled it, it worked, but perhaps not just quite as well as before!

As he grew older, his fascination for engines grew stronger. He got his driving license as soon as he was old enough, and got his own car. He used to travel all over the place to watch stock-car racing, particularly at Aghadowey near Coleraine, in North Derry, and once he even got his own stock-car for a while.

At weekends he used to go to local dances in neighbouring towns and villages such as Ardboe and Clady. Usually, if it was ceilidh dancing, he had to be dragged along, but he enjoyed it once he was there.


Yet, though full of life, there was a serious, reflective side to Thomas too.

He enjoyed playing records, often of traditional music, sometimes of republican ballads, at a time when the ‘troubles’ had barely begun. Even before 1969, the McElwees, including Thomas, would sometimes go to folk concerts in the village where many of the ballads recalled the tradition of resistance to British mis-rule.

Given that background and Thomas’ personal qualities of courage and concern for his neighbours it was not surprising that he joined na Fianna Eireann when he was only fourteen, and subsequently joined the independent unit led by his cousin, Francis Hughes, which concentrated on defence of the local area and ambushes of British forces, before it was recruited in its entirety, after a period of time, into the IRA.

The following few years, before Thomas’ capture in October ’76, were active ones in the South Derry area with a succession of successful bomb blitzes of the commercial centres of towns like Magherafelt, Bellaghy, Castledawson, and Maghera, and a high level of ambushes and booby-traps which made the British forces reluctant to wander into the country lanes surrounding Bellaghy.

Thomas had a reputation of a dedicated and principled republican who knew what he was about, and knew moreover what he was fighting to ultimately achieve. He was particularly interested in local republican history and knew what had happened in Bellaghy and the surrounding areas over the past fifty years.


Because of his discretion as a republican, and, doubtless, good luck as well, Thomas – unlike Francis Hughes – was not forced to go ‘on the run’ and continued to live at home.

After leaving school he had gone to Magherafelt technical college for a while, but later changed his mind and went to Ballymena training centre to begin an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. But harassment from loyalist workers there forced him to leave and he then went to work with a local mechanic.

Although not ‘on the run’ Thomas was still subject to the extreme harassment at the hands of the Brits and the RUC that began to be felt in the area in the mid-seventies, even before the IRA’s military campaign in the South Derry countryside, led by Francis Hughes, began to bite deep against the occupation


Like many young men, whenever Thomas went out he was liable to be stopped for lengthy periods of time along empty country roads, searched, maybe threatened, and abused.


There were also house raids

The McElwees’ home was first raided in 1974, and Thomas was arrested under Section 10, for three days. That time it was over twenty-four hours later before the family learned that Thomas was being held in Ballykelly interrogation centre. On another occasion, both he and Benedict were arrested, and taken to Coleraine barracks, after a raid on their home.

The last time that the family would be together, however, was on the evening of October 8th, 1976. That evening the ‘Stations’ took place in the McElwees’ home, a country tradition where Mass is said in one house in every townland during Lent, and during the month of October. That month in Tamlaghtduff it was taking place in the McElwees’s and most of the neighbours were there as well. After the Mass there was a social evening, with food and music.

The following afternoon – Bernadette’s birthday – at 1.30 p.m. on October 9th, Kathleen answered the phone, to be told that both their brothers Thomas and Benedict were in the Wavery hospital in Ballymena following a premature bomb explosion in a car in the town, shortly beforehand.


In the explosion, Thomas lost his right eye, while two other Bellaghy men were also injured: Colm Scullion, losing several toes and Sean McPeake, losing a leg.

Benedict McElwee, fortunately, suffered only from shock and superficial burns. Following the explosion, several other republicans in the town were arrested, later to be charged. These included Dolores O’Neill, from Portglenone, Thomas’ girlfriend, and Ann Bateson, from Toomebridge, both of whom joined the protest in Armagh women’s jail.

Thomas was transferred from the Ballymena hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for emergency surgery to save his remaining eye. It was three weeks, however before he was able to see at all.

After six weeks he was transferred again, this time to the military wing of the Musgrave Park hospital, where Benedict also was. One week before Christmas, both brothers were charged and sent to Crumlin Road jail.

At their subsequent trial in September 1977, having spent over eight months on remand in Crumlin Road, Thomas was convicted, although he made no statements, not only of possession of explosives but also of the killing of a woman who accidentally died in a bomb attack elsewhere in Ballymena that day and with which other republicans were also charged.

That ‘murder’ conviction was, on appeal, reduced to manslaughter but a twenty-year sentence remained, and Thomas returned to the blanket protest he had joined immediately after his trial, in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.


Their imprisonment was particularly harsh for the McElwee brothers who were frequently singled out for brutality by prison warders, outraged at the stubborn refusal of the two to accept any form of criminal status.

For a while they were able to keep in touch with each other as they were both in H6 Block, but they were split up and had hardly any opportunity to see each other at all for over two years.

Both Thomas and Benedict have been frequently mentioned in recent years in smuggled communications detailing beatings meted out to blanket men. On one occasion Thomas was put on the boards for fourteen days for refusing to call a prison warder ‘sir’. In a letter smuggled out to his sister Mary, one time, Benedict wrote of the imprint of a warder’s boot on his back and arms after a typical assault.

Throughout, though, the brutality and degradation they had to endure served only to deepen yet further, and harder, their resistance to criminalisation.

The McElwee family weren’t surprised last December when they discovered that both Thomas and Benedict had joined the thirty-strong hunger strike, as Sean McKenna neared death, but even then the partial breakdown in communications between H Blocks at that critical time meant that the family learnt first that Benedict was going on hunger strike, only to be informed an hour and a half later that Thomas was going on the fast too.


Speaking of the hunger strike and her sons and their comrades during Thomas’ strike, Mrs. McElwee said: “I know Thomas and Benedict would be determined to stand up for their rights. In the Blocks one will stand for another. If this hunger strike isn’t settled one way or another they’ll all go the same way. There’ll never be peace in this country.”

Thomas McElwee died at 11.30 a.m. on Saturday, August 8th. Indicative of the callousness of the British government towards prisoners and their families alike neither had the comfort of each other’s presence at that tragic moment. He died after 62 days of slow agonising hunger strike with no company other than prison warders – colleagues of those who had brutalised, degraded and tortured him for three-and-a-half years.


Kieran Doherty – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on August 2, 2015

Died August 2nd, 1981

A dedicated republican and an outstanding soldier

WHEN the family, friends and former comrades of Belfast IRA Volunteer twenty-five-year-old Kieran Doherty learnt that he was joining the H-Block hunger strike, as a replacement for Raymond McCreesh, it came as no surprise to them.

Although Kieran had spent seven of the last ten years imprisoned, his complete selflessness and his relentless dedication to the liberation struggle left no-one in any doubt that Kieran would volunteer for this terrible and lonely confrontation with British rule inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Last December he was amongst those thirty prisoners who were on hunger strike for four days prior to the ending of the original seven-strong strike.

Kieran was born on October 16th, 1955 in Andersonstown, the third son in a family of six children. His two elder brothers, Michael, aged 28, and Terence, aged 27, were interned between 1972 and 1974.

Kieran has two younger sisters, Roisin and Mairead; and his younger brother, Brendan, aged twelve, is still at school.


Kieran’s mother, Margaret, is a Catholic convert from a Protestant background. His father, Alfie Doherty, who is a floor-tiler by trade, is a well-known figure in Andersonstown.

Kieran’s paternal grandfather comes from Limavady, County Derry, and after his people moved to a house in North Belfast in the ‘twenties, they were threatened that the house was going to be burnt.

This was during the loyalist-initiated pogroms which followed partition.

They had to flee to West Belfast enacting a tragedy which was to repeat itself in front of Kieran’s eyes in the early seventies, and stir him to take action.

Alfie’s uncle, Ned Maguire, took part in the famous IRA roof-top escape from Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail on January 15th, 1943.

Ned Maguire’s son, also called Ned, and a second cousin of Kieran, was an internee in Cage S of Long Kesh in 1974, when he took part in the mass escape from the camp during which Hugh Coney was shot dead by the British army. Young Ned Maguire was one of the three who managed to reach Twinbrook before being recaptured. He is now on the blanket.

Ned’s sisters (and Kieran’s second cousins), Dorothy Maguire, aged 19, and Maura Meehan, aged 30, were shot dead by the British army on October 23rd, 1971, in a car in the Lower Falls area of Belfast. Both were members of Cumann na mBan.

Another relative of Kieran’s, his uncle, Gerry Fox, was part of the famous Crumlin Road jail ‘football team’, who escaped from the jail by climbing over the wall in 1972.


However, Kieran’s childhood was relatively ordinary. He loved sport more than anything else, and was always out playing Gaelic football, hurling or soccer.

Kieran went to St. Theresa’s primary school, then moved to the Christian Brothers secondary school on the Glen Road, where he studied until the age of sixteen.

A keen Gaelic footballer, he won an Antrim Minor medal in 1971 for St. Theresa’s GAC.

Kieran took up cycling for a while, following his brother, Michael, in St. Thomas’ cycling club. His mother recalls him taking part in a race with a faulty bicycle: “Although the chain came off at least twenty times through the race, he was so stubborn that he finished with a bronze medal.”

St. Thomas’ cycling club was later decimated by internment. Kieran, his brothers, and many other Andersonstown boys were to end up behind the wire. To such an extent, that Kieran s young brother, Brendan, asked his mother one day in 1975 when it would be his turn to go where all the ‘big boys’ were kept. Brendan was then six.

In the summer of 1971, Kieran got a job as an apprentice in heating engineering but was laid-off when the firm closed down a few months later. He worked for a while at floor-tiling with his father.


In the meantime, however, internment had burst open the lives of many Andersonstown families. Kieran had never been interested in politics until then: nor had his family ever discussed the political situation in front of him.

Like hundreds of other boys and girls of his age, he was moved by the sight of uprooted families leaving a home in cinders behind them. As all of the evacuees were being catered for in local schools, Kieran and his brothers begged their parents to allow them to go and help. Kieran saw the British army on the streets, his friends and their families harassed. He joined na Fianna Eireann in the autumn of ’71.

Kieran proved himself to be an outstanding member of the Fianna. Reliable, quick on the job, he was obviously giving the best of himself to every task assigned him with the aim of being noticed and recruited for the IRA as quickly as was possible.

Even at this early stage of his involvement, he is remembered for his initiative and his discreet ways. Unlike some boys of his age, he never boasted about his activities.

But the British army soon noticed him too and Kieran, his family, and his home, became a target for frequent British army harassment.

On October 6th, 1972, the British army came to arrest Kieran, despite his father’s objection that Kieran was under seventeen. The Brits had checked up, they said, and after a heavy house raid they took Kieran away in the middle of the night. His father got him released eventually after waking up the sexton of St. Agnes’ chapel and obtaining Kieran’s birth certificate.

The Brits were ten days too early.

True to form, on October 16th, the British army were back in force and swamped Kieran’s district, waiting for his return from work. But relatives managed to warn him and he was driven over the border to an uncle in Limerick.

He did not much enjoy his enforced exile and, bursting to get back into action, he made his way back to Belfast at the beginning of ’73.


A week or so later, he was arrested, taken to Castlereagh, and then interned in Long Kesh where he spent over two years from February ’73 to November ’75. He was among the last internees released.

Always even-tempered and quiet-spoken he used his time developing his military skills.

In a letter to his mother he wrote: “They might intern all of us, but we will come out fighting.”

He made a lot of handicrafts during his two-and-a-half years in captivity.

His parents’ home displays a lot of his work, in particular a hand-carved wooden plaque commemorating Dorothy Maguire and Maura Meehan.

On the eve of his birthday in October ’74, Long Kesh prison camp was burned. When visits were eventually resumed he did not complain to his parents of brutality but just remarked jokingly on the ‘birthday party’ he had been given.

He was released from Long Kesh in November ’75, as undaunted as he sounded in his letters, and reported back to the IRA immediately. Always eager to operate, he was included in a team of Volunteers from around Rossnareen which gave the British army in Andersonstown many sleepless nights until a wave of arrests in the summer of ’76.

As the IRA/British army truce petered out at the beginning of ’76, ‘Big Doc’, as he was known by all, soon had to move out of his parents’ house. Raids were a fortnightly occurrence, at least, with furniture wrecked and floorboards lifted.

Mrs. Doherty was tidying up a first-floor bedroom after such a raid when she fell through the carpet, the floor, and partly through the sitting-room ceiling. The Brits had omitted to replace the floorboards. The scar on the ceiling can still be seen.

Many friends who met Kieran after his internment period found him extremely mature for a lad of twenty, not boisterous like most people of his age. He obviously, by then, had thought things out, made a definite choice, and assessed the dangers.

As an operator he was a perfectionist and his comrades recall feeling extremely safe with him. Even in the eventuality of things going wrong they knew Kieran would not give anything away.


He had many narrow escapes.

One night, as he was shifting ‘gear’ in Andersonstown, he was chased up and down the side streets for over five minutes by two Brit landrovers.

Another time, as he was driving to a night job as security man for a firm, armed, as he often was, he drove into a British army road block.

He calmly took his tie out of his pocket, put it on, tidied himself up, and, winding down the window, shouted: “What’s up lads? Let me through, please, I’m going to my work, over there, security staff.”

And the British soldiers opened the way for him. ‘Big Doc’ was welcome in many Andersonstown homes and highly respected by all who knew him.

Families with whom he billeted remember how security conscious he was, staying away for days, using billets in no regular pattern.


Through those months of intense involvement Kieran had little chance to unwind. He mostly liked to go to local clubs for a quiet pint with a few friends.

He also had a reputation as a practical joker. One day he rang a friend from a pub and told him they were wrecking the place, simply to have his friend rush over in his car to pick him up.

In July ’76, a few weeks before his arrest, Kieran enjoyed one of the rare holidays he ever had since the arrival of British troops on his local streets. With a few close friends he drove to the South and was able to indulge in his love for outdoor activities, exhausting his friends with long walks and swims.

By that time he had met his girlfriend, Geraldine, the only steady relationship he ever formed during his short period of freedom.

They did not get much of a chance, as Kieran’s heavy republican involvement often interfered with their dating and since August ’76 they only met for a few minutes once in a while under the gaze of prison warders.


Kieran’s comrades-in-arms recall one particular operation, of the many he was involved in, when one Andersonstown Volunteer – Sean McDermott – was shot dead.

Kieran got away and was told to lie low for a few days, but nevertheless he appeared at his comrade’s funeral.

Sean McDermott’s mother has a photograph of the funeral cortege in which Kieran can be seen, standing on the footpath, sombre, alone, looking on as the coffin is carried to Milltown cemetery.

Sean’s death, and the arrest of other comrades involved, hit Kieran very hard.


In August ’76, as Kieran and his unit were on a bombing mission, the van in which they were travelling was chased by the RUC near Balmoral Avenue in Belfast.

Kieran got out of the van and commandeered a car, which he left some streets away and walked off.

Meanwhile, the others in the van were cornered, Liam White being captured immediately, and the others, Chris Moran, Terry Kirby and John ‘Pickles’ Pickering – himself later to embark on hunger-strike – finally giving themselves up when surrounded in a house they had taken over.

The RUC picked Kieran up one-and-a-half miles away from the scene, unarmed.

He was later charged with possession of firearms and explosives and commandeering the car. Forensic tests could not link Kieran to the first two charges, and although it was impossible for the RUC to have spotted him escaping, seventeen months later, at his trial, RUC Constable Bryons perjured himself twice in order to see Kieran locked up.

On remand in Crumlin Road jail he met Francis Hughes and developed a great admiration for him. Friends often speak of the similarities between the two, always defiant, always fighting, born free.

In Crumlin Road, Kieran was often ‘on the boards’ as punishment for his refusal to acknowledge the warders in any way. He carried this attitude into the H-Blocks after he was sentenced, in January 1978, to eighteen years imprisonment for possession, and four years for commandeering the car.


Kieran joined the blanket protest immediately as did his comrades sentenced with him. He spent all but two weeks of his three years and almost eight months in the H-Blocks, in H4-Block (the temporary spell was in H6), before being moved to the prison hospital during his hunger strike.

Recollections of Kieran’s experiences in the H-Blocks give an impression of relentless conflict between himself and the warders, who made him a target both because of his height and because of his stubborn defiance of the prison regime.

On ‘appeal’ visits he always had to be dragged away, ignoring all calls to end the visit. He never looked a warder in the face when one addressed him and never replied to their orders. He always refused to submit to the anal searches over the mirror before and after visits and was beaten for this.

The worst incident occurred in July ’78 when Kieran refused a mirror search before a legal visit. Eight warders jumped on him, one squeezing his testicles until he became unconscious. He received blows to every part of his body and was taken to the prison hospital.

Although people who visited him recall how often he arrived pale or with grazes on his arms or bloodshot eyes, he never complained, brushing their questions off with a shrug: “I’m OK. What’s the sceal?”


Although Kieran had not been taught Irish at school, and had no time to learn it, later he became a fluent speaker in the H-Blocks like hundreds of his imprisoned comrades.

Another skill mastered by Kieran, whilst in the H-Blocks, was playing chess – crude chess men were made from scraps of paper and the game was played on a mock board scratched out on the cell floors.

Displayed proudly in his parents’ sitting room is an engraved plaque bearing a stunning yet heartbreaking story in eight words: ‘Kieran Doherty, 1980 Champion, Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’.

And, next to it, another shield, again engraved ‘Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’, but this time with twelve metal tags, the top of which bears Kieran Doherty’s name and ‘1980’, the other eleven still blank. A clue to Kieran’s patience and ability, a clue to the blanket men’s grim determination to outlast the H-Blocks.


In June of this year, in the Free State general election, Kieran was elected a member of the Leinster House parliament for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency with 9,121 first preference votes – only 303 votes behind the then-sitting Free State Minister of Education.


To a friend who visited him after the first hunger strike, which ended last December, Kieran said: “They (the warders) are really rubbing our noses in it. By God, they will not rub mine!”

Asked whether he would not settle down – after all, with five years done and remission, another six years would soon be over. He replied: “Remission has nothing to do with it. There is much more than that involved.”

So he went on hunger strike on Friday, May 22nd, having put his name forward for it long ago, as undaunted and full of fighting spirit as when he roamed free on the streets of Andersonstown.

A child, like hundreds of others a product of British brutality and stupidity in the North, who revealed himself to be an outstanding soldier of the republic.

Kieran was a shy, reserved, easily-embarrassed young man who was single-minded and determined enough to have become, in himself, a condensed history of the liberation of a people.


Kevin Lynch – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on August 1, 2015

Died August 1st, 1981

A loyal, determined republican with a great love of life

THE EIGHTH republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O’Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

A well-known and well liked young man in the closely-knit community of his home town, Kevin was remembered chiefly for his outstanding ability as a sportsman, and for qualities of loyalty, determination and a will to win which distinguished him on the sports field and which, in heavier times and circumstances, were his hallmarks as an H-Block blanket man on hunger strike to the death.

Kevin Lynch was a happy-go-lucky, principled young Derry man with an enthusiastic love of life, who was, as one friend of his remarked – a former schoolteacher of Kevin’s and an active H-Block campaigner: “the last person, back in 1969, you would have dreamed would be spending a length of time in prison.”

The story of Kevin Lynch is of a light-hearted, hard-working and lively young man, barely out of his teens when the hard knock came early one December morning nearly five years ago, who had been forced by the British occupation of his country to spend those intervening years in heroic refusal to accept the British brand of ‘criminal’ and in the tortured assertion of what he really was – a political prisoner.


Kevin Lynch was born on May 25th, 1956, the youngest of a family of eight, in the tiny village of Park, eight miles outside Dungiven. His father, Paddy, (aged 66), and his mother, Bridie, (aged 65), whose maiden name is Cassidy, were both born in Park too, Paddy Lynch’s family being established there for at least three generations, but they moved to Dungiven twenty years ago, after the births of their children.

Paddy Lynch is a builder by trade, like his father and grandfather before him – a trade which he handed down to his five sons: Michael (aged 39), Patsy (aged 37), Francis (aged 33), Gerard (aged 27), and Kevin himself, who was an apprenticed bricklayer. There are also three daughters in the family: Jean (aged 35), Mary (aged 30), and Bridie (aged 29).

Though still only a small town of a few thousand, Dungiven has been growing over the past twenty years due to the influx of families like the Lynches from the outlying rural areas. It is an almost exclusively nationalist town, garrisoned by a large and belligerent force of RUC and Brits. In civil rights days, however, nationalists were barred from marching in the town centre.

Nowadays, militant nationalists have enforced their right to march, but the RUC still attempt to break up protests and the flying of the tricolour (not in itself ‘illegal’ in the six counties) is considered taboo by the loyalist bigots of the RUC.

Support in the town is relatively strong, Dungiven having first-hand experience of a hunger strike last year when local man Tom McFeeley went fifty-three days without food before the fast ended on December 18th. Apart from Tom McFeeley and Kevin Lynch other blanket men from the town are Kevin’s boyhood friend and later comrade Liam McCloskey – himself later to embark on hunger strike – and former blanket man Eunan Brolly, who was released from the H-Blocks last December.


Kevin went to St. Canice’s primary school and then on to St. Patrick’s intermediate, both in Dungiven. Although not academically minded – always looking forward to taking his place in the family building business – he was well-liked by his teachers, respected for his sporting prowess and for his well-meant sense of humour. “Whatever devilment was going on in the school, you could lay your bottom dollar Kevin was behind it,” remembers his former schoolteacher, recalling that he took great delight in getting one of his classmates, his cousin Hugh (‘the biggest boy in the class – six foot one’) “into trouble”. But it was all in fun – Kevin was no troublemaker, and whenever reprimanded at school, like any other lively lad, would never bear a grudge.

Above all, Kevin was an outdoor person who loved to go fishing for sticklebacks in the river near his home, or off with a bunch of friends playing Gaelic (an outdoor disposition which must have made his H-Block confinement even harder to bear).


His great passion was Gaelic games playing Gaelic football from very early on, and then taking up hurling when he was at St. Patrick’s.

He excelled at both.

Playing right half-back for St. Patrick’s hurling club, which was representing County Derry, at the inaugural Feile na nGael held in Thurles, County Tipperary, in 1971, Kevin’s performance – coming only ten days after an appendix operation – was considered a key factor in the team’s victory in the four-match competition played over two days.

The following season Kevin was appointed captain of both St. Patrick’s hurling team and the County Derry under-16 team which went on in that season to beat Armagh in the All Ireland under-16 final at Croke Park in Dublin.

Later on, while working in England, he was a reserve for the Dungiven senior football team in the 1976 County Derry final.

Kevin’s team, St. Canice’s, was beaten 0-9 to 0-3 by Sarsfields of Ballerin, and he is described in the match programme as “a strong player and a useful hurler”. Within a short space of time after this final, Kevin would be in jail, as would two of his team mates on that day, Eunan Brolly and Sean Coyle.


The qualities Kevin is remembered for as a sportsman were his courage and determination, his will to win, and his loyalty to his team mates. Not surprisingly the local hurling and football clubs were fully behind Kevin and his comrades in their struggle for the five demands, pointing out that Kevin had displayed those same qualities in the H-Blocks and on hunger strike.

He was also a boxer with the St. Canice’s club, once reaching the County Derry final as a schoolboy, but not always managing as easily as he achieved victory in his first fight!

Just before the match was due to start his opponent asked him how many previous fights he’d had. With suppressed humour, Kevin answered “thirty-three” so convincingly that his opponent, overcome with nervous horror, couldn’t be persuaded into the ring.

At the age of fifteen, Kevin left school and began to work alongside his father. Although lively, going to dances, and enjoying good crack, he was basically a quiet, determined young fellow, who stuck to his principles and couldn’t easily be swayed.

Like any other family in Dungiven, the Lynches are nationally minded, and young Kevin would have been just as aware as any other lad of his age of the basic injustices in his country, and would have equally resented the petty stop-and-search harassment which people of his age continually suffered at the hands of Brits and RUC.

The Lynches were also, typically, a close family and in 1973, at the age of sixteen, Kevin went to England to join his three brothers, Michael, Patsy and Gerard, who were already working in Bedford.

Both Bedford and its surrounding towns, stretching from Hertfordshire to Buckinghamshire and down to the north London suburbs, contain large Irish populations, and the Lynches mixed socially within that, Kevin going a couple of times a week to train with St. Dympna’s in Luton or to Catholic clubs in Bedford or Luton for a quiet drink and a game of snooker. He even played an odd game of rugby while over there.

But Kevin never intended settling in England and on one of his occasional visits home (“he just used to turn up”), in August 1976, he decided to stay in Dungiven.


Shortly after his return home, coming away from a local dance, he and nine other young lads were put up against a wall by British soldiers and given a bad kicking, two of the lads being brought to the barracks.

Kevin joined the INLA around this time, maybe because of this incident in part, but almost certainly because of his national awareness coming from his cultural love of Irish sport, as well as his courage and integrity, made him determined to stand up both for himself and his friends.

“He wouldn’t ever allow himself to be walked on”, recalls his brother, Michael. And he had always been known for his loyalty by his family, his friends, his teammates, and eventually by his H-Block comrades.

However, within the short space of little more than three months, Kevin’s active republican involvement came to an end almost before it had begun. Following an ambush outside Dungiven, in November ’76, in which an RUC man was slightly injured, the RUC moved against those it suspected to be INLA activists in the town.

On December 2nd, 1976, at 5.40 a.m. Brits and RUC came to the Lynch’s home for Kevin. “We said he wasn’t going anywhere before he’d had a cup of tea”, remembers Mr. Lynch, “but they refused to let him have even a glass of water. The RUC said he’d be well looked after by then.”

Also arrested that day in Dungiven were Sean Coyle, Seamus McGrandles, and Kevin’s schoolboy friend Liam McCloskey, with whom he was later to share an H-Block cell.

Kevin was taken straight to Castlereagh, and, after three days’ questioning, on Saturday, December 4th, he was charged and taken to Limavady to be remanded in custody by a special court. The string of charges included conspiracy to disarm members of the enemy forces, taking part in a punishment shooting, and the taking of ‘legally held’ shotguns.

Following a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast, he was tried and sentenced to ten years in December 1977, immediately joining the blanket men in H3, and eventually finding himself sharing a cell with his Dungiven friend and comrade, Liam McCloskey, continuing to do so until he took part in the thirty-man four-day fast which coincided with the end of the original seven-man hunger strike last December.


Since they were sentenced in 1977, both Dungiven men suffered their share of brutality from Crumlin Road and Long Kesh prison warders, Kevin being ‘put on the boards’ for periods of up to a fortnight, three or four times.

On Wednesday, April 26th, 1978, six warders, one carrying a hammer, came in to search their cell. Kevin’s bare foot, slipping on the urine-drenched cell floor, happened to splash the trouser leg of one of the warders, who first verbally abused him and then kicked urine at him.

When Kevin responded in like manner he was set upon by two warders who punched and kicked him, while another swung a hammer at him, but fortunately missed. The punching and kicking continued till Kevin collapsed on the urine-soaked floor with a bruised and swollen face.

In another assault by prison warders, Kevin’s cellmate, Liam McCloskey, suffered a burst ear-drum during a particularly bad beating, and is now permanently hard of hearing.


Even as long ago as April 1978, just after the ‘no wash’ protest had begun, Kevin was reported, in a bulletin issued by the Dungiven Relatives Action Committee, to “have lost a lot of weight, his face is a sickly white and he is underfed”.

His determination, and his sense of loyalty to his blanket comrades, saw him through, however, even the hardest times.

His former H-Block comrade, Eunan Brolly, who was also in H3 before his release, remembers how Kevin once put up with raging toothache for three weeks rather than come off the protest to get dental treatment. It was the sort of thing which forced some blanket men off the protest, at least temporarily, but not Kevin.

Eunan, who recalls how Kevin used to get a terrible slagging from other blanket men because the GAA, of which of course he was a member, did not give enough support to the fight for political status, also says he was not surprised by Kevin’s decision to join the hunger strike. Like other blanket men, Eunan says, Kevin used to discuss a hunger strike as a possibility, a long time ago, “and he was game enough for it”.

Neither were his family, who supported him in his decision, surprised: “Kevin’s the type of man”, said his father, when Kevin was on the hunger strike, “that wouldn’t lie back. He’d want to do his share.”

In the Free State elections, in June, Kevin stood as a candidate in the Waterford constituency, collecting 3,337 first preferences before being eliminated – after Labour Party and Fianna Fail candidates – on the fifth count, with 3,753 votes.

But the obvious popular support which the hunger strikers and their cause enjoyed nationally was not sufficient to elicit support from the Free State government who share the common, futile hope of the British government – the criminalisation of captured freedom fighters.

The direct consequence of that was Kevin’s death – the seventh at that stage – in the Long Kesh hospital at 1.00 a.m. on Saturday, August 1st after seventy-one days on hunger strike.


Martin Hurson – Hungerstriker

Posted by Jim on July 13, 2015

Died July 13th, 1981

A hard-working and extremely likeable republican

IN THE early hours of Tuesday morning, November 9th, 1976, a series of British army and RUC swoops in the Cappagh district of Dungannon in East Tyrone led to the arrest from their homes, under Section 10 of the Emergency Provisions Act, of three young local men: Pat Joe O’Neill, Dermot Boyle and Peter Kane. Two days later, November 11th, in similar dawn swoops in the area, four other men, James Joseph Rafferty, Peter Nugent, Kevin O’Brien and Martin Hurson, were arrested from their homes.

Over the next few days all seven men were held in Omagh RUC barracks, interrogated about IRA operations in East Tyrone since 1972, and systematically tortured by detectives from the newly established Regional Crime Squad.

The men had their hair pulled, their ears slapped, they were made to stand for prolonged periods in the ‘search position’ against a wall, they were kicked and punched and forced to do exercises for lengthy periods.


Finally, two men, Peter Nugent and James Rafferty, were released without charge, Rafferty to Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh where he spent four days recovering from his injuries. The remaining five were charged (and subsequently convicted) on the sole basis of statements made during that interrogation.

One of the five is now in the cages of Long Kesh, the other four became blanket men in the H-Blocks.

Four-and-a-half years later with revealing ironic insight into the nature of the British judicial system in Ireland, while four RUC detectives involved in those Omagh interrogations were awaiting trial on charges of assaulting James Rafferty during interrogation, in the prison hospital of Long Kesh, one of those convicted on the basis of a tortured ‘confession’ – Martin Hurson – lay dying on hunger strike for political status.


Edward Martin Hurson was born on September 13th, 1956, in the townland of Aughnaskea, Cappagh, near Dungannon, the eighth of nine children: six girls and three boys.

Both of his parents, John, aged 74, a small hill farmer, and Mary Ann (whose maiden name was Gillespie) who died in April 1970 after a short illness, came from the Cappagh district, and the whole of their family – including Martin – were born into the white washed farmhouse perched precipitously on top of the thirty hilly acres of rough land that make up the Hurson farm.

The Cappagh district is a wholly nationalist area of County Tyrone, composed mainly of farmers, and comprising between two and three hundred closely knit families. The land is infertile, lowland hills, good only for grazing cattle and rearing a few pigs, yet the roots of families like the Hursons stretch back maybe two or three hundred years. The land may not be much but it is theirs.

Over by Donaghmore, a few miles away, where the fields are bigger and the grass more lush, most of the farmers are loyalists.

Martin was close to the land as he grew up. Although he went first to Crosscavanagh school in Galbally, and then to St. Patrick’s intermediate in Dungannon, when he was not at school he was more often than not helping out about the farm, driving a tractor, helping to rear ‘croppy pigs’ or looking after cattle.

A ‘typical’ country lad in many ways, part of a very close and good humoured family, Martin was a quiet, very religious, and easy going young man, who nevertheless, before his arrest, enjoyed social pursuits such as dancing and going to the cinema, and enjoyed the company of other people, among whom he had a well-earned reputation for being a practical joker and a bit of a comedian.

Like many others, he was capable of being very outgoing and talkative on occasions, while remaining essentially a rather shy and quiet personality.

Perhaps because he was one of the youngest of the family, Martin was particularly close to his mother, whose premature death in 1970 when he was only thirteen, came as a deep shock to him.

It was Martin who returned home one day to find his mother taken seriously ill and who ran to a neighbouring farm to ring a doctor. That day, a Saturday, Mrs. Hurson was taken to Omagh hospital, and from there to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where she died the following Thursday, April 30th.

Martin was so shocked by the tragedy that he lost his memory completely for a week, only regaining it when a tractor he was driving up a steep slope, with his father, overturned, throwing the pair to the ground, this fresh shock dramatically restoring his memory.

That period of his life was also the time when ‘the troubles’ began to have an impact.

Although the family did not discuss politics, and internment did not affect anyone from the Cappagh area, it was impossible not to be keenly aware of British oppression so close to Dungannon which – spearheading the civil rights campaign through the late sixties – had fostered such a strong current of republicanism in the process.

However, Martin’s personal resistance to that British repression and his subsequent intense suffering at the hands of it were not to occur for several years. In his teens his great delight was to play practical jokes on his family and neighbours, particularly on April Fool’s Day and on Hallowe’en.


“He liked a joke and a laugh” remembers a long-time friend of Martin’s. “Him and Peter Kane were a comical match”. Or, as his brother Francis remembers with a laugh, “If he thought it would make you mad he would do it”.

Like the time he ran breathless to Paddy Donnelly’s to tell him that Sylvie Kane’s cows had toppled his milkchurns and the milk was going everywhere. And as Paddy dashed down to save his milk, Martin called out, “Hey Paddy, April Fool” before disappearing through a gap in the hedge.

Leaving school, Martin started work as an apprentice fitter welder at Findlay’s, and after a stint there he went across to England for a while, living in Manchester with his brother Francis and his wife, and working for McAlpine’s. But not long after Francis and his wife returned to Tyrone, Martin too returned when the particular job he was working on had finished at Christmas in 1974, rather than move to another job.

He had spent almost a year-and-a half in England but wasn’t particular about it, a view confirmed early on after his arrival, when he was forced to spend two weeks in hospital having been struck by one of McAlpine’s mechanical diggers!

Back in the farmhouse at Cappagh, Martin bought himself a car on hire purchase and got himself a job in Dungannon at Powerscreen International. He paid for the car within a year, having always had a gift for scraping money together.

As a child, whenever he managed to get hold of a penny or a shilling, here or there, instead of spending it he would take it to a nearby farmer and family friend who put it into a box for him until he had enough to buy, once, a white cob, or a pig to rear. He was ‘old fashioned” in that way, his brother Francis recalls.

He also loved to work and was a “great riser” in the morning, his father says, never missing a day’s work until his arrest.


Late in 1975, he met and started going out with Bernadette Donnelly, at the wedding of her sister Mary Rose to a cousin of Martin’s, at which he was best man.

Bernadette, aged twenty-three, comes from Pomeroy: she was extremely active in the hunger strike campaign, along with members of Martin’s family, appearing on rally platforms and taking part in marches and pickets all over the country.

Before his arrest, Martin and Bernadette were often both behind the practical jokes he loved playing. His brother Francis was often the victim.

On one occasion, Francis, his wife, and their two children, were asleep in a caravan in the Donegal resort of Bundoran. They awoke however to find themselves not on the caravan site but on an adjacent road, Martin and Bernadette having towed it off-site during the night.

On another occasion the pair borrowed Francis’ almost new cine-camera to film the wedding of a friend, Seamus McGuire, in Donegal. Somewhere along the route back from Donegal they found out they’d lost the camera and lost it remained.

Afraid to tell Francis, they kept quiet about the camera for several weeks, before Francis remembered to ask for it back. Instead of owning-up, Martin gave Francis an almost identical replacement hoping he wouldn’t notice. But when he did, Martin, not lost for words, just explained: “I left it into a shop for fixing, but they said it wasn’t worth fixing.”


But those relatively light-hearted and easy-going days were coming to an end.

East Tyrone, like many other areas in the North, was a centre of highly proficient republican operations against the enemy forces.

To combat the level of republican military activity, deputy chief constable of the RUC Kenneth Newman (shortly to be promoted to chief constable), was one of those behind the restructuring of the RUC in early 1976, which led to the setting up of what were called Regional Crime Squads.

Their primary function was to ensure convictions for all ‘unsolved’ republican activity by extracting signed statements, in effect to ‘clear the books’ of an embarrassing list of unattributable republican operations.

Under the torturer Newman, and the then direct-ruler Roy Mason, the Regional Crime Squads only responsibility was to ‘get results’ (a guarantee of promotion) without undue regard to the methods they employed. One method they did employ was torture.


Martin was arrested and taken to Omagh RUC barracks on November 11th, 1976, along with the six others arrested that day and two days previously.

He was badly, and professionally tortured in Omagh for two days, beaten about the head, back and testicles, spread-eagled against a wall and across a table, slapped, punched and kicked. He heard Rafferty’s screams as he was tortured in the adjoining room.

To escape the torture Martin signed statements admitting involvement in republican activity.

He was then transferred to Cookstown barracks, but as soon as he arrived he made a formal complaint of ill-treatment. Back in Omagh barracks, chief inspector Farr, realising this could prejudice the admissibility of Martin’s statements at his trial, got the Cookstown detectives to re-interrogate Martin and extract the same statements, which they did by threatening to ‘send him back to Omagh’.

On Saturday night, November 13th, Martin was charged, along with Kevin O’Brien and Peter Kane. Dermot Boyle and Pat Joe O’Neill had been charged the day before.

Martin was charged with a landmine explosion at Galbally in November 1975. This charge was later dropped, but he was then further charged with IRA membership, possession of the Galbally landmine, conspiracy to kill members of the enemy forces, causing an explosion at Cappagh in September 1975, and possession of a landmine at Reclain in February 1976 which exploded near a passing UDR landrover.


Even though the alleged speciality of the East Tyrone active service unit operating around Cappagh was explosives, the RUC offered not one shred of forensic evidence, against any of the five men, merely signed statements extracted by torture.

These statements, however, were good enough for Judge Rowland at the trial of the five men in November 1977, after a year on remand in Crumlin Road and in the remand H-Block of Long Kesh.

Admitting as evidence the statements Martin made in Omagh, and dismissing doctor’s evidence about the extent of Martin’s injuries, Judge Rowland sentenced Martin to twenty years for possession of landmines and conspiracy, as well as two other sentences of fifteen and five years respectively, the sentences to run concurrently.

The other four men received sentences ranging from fifteen to twenty years.

Martin appealed his conviction on the grounds that the judge had ignored medical evidence about his ill-treatment. The appeal was dismissed but he was granted a retrial.

At the four-day trial in September 1979, before Judge Munray, the Omagh statements were ruled inadmissible, but instead of Martin walking free the judge went on to accept the admissibility of the Cookstown statements, themselves extracted under threat of renewed torture.

One of the consequences of the retrial was the further postponement of the enquiry into James Rafferty’s allegations of brutality in Omagh, on the grounds that it might prejudice the retrial (to the RUC’s detriment!).

The enquiry had been reluctantly acceded to by the RUC Police Authority following the persistent endeavours of Authority member, independent Dungannon councillor, Jack Hassard. He, however, later resigned from the Authority, describing it as being “as independent as a sausage without a skin” when the tribunal which was set up failed to begin its enquiries. The tribunal finally collapsed earlier this year when the RUC detectives from Omagh refused to give evidence to it on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves!

Subsequently, four of the detectives who tortured James Rafferty, Martin Hurson and the others at Omagh that November: chief inspector Harold Colgan, and constables Michael O Neil, Kenneth Hassan, and Robert McAdore were charged with assaulting Rafferty.

Those four torturers, however, are only convenient scape-goats representing the tip of the iceberg in what was an orchestrated and widespread attempt during the Roy Mason era to jail republicans on the flimsiest of pretexts by means of torture extracted statements. Such men make up a substantial proportion of those political prisoners in Britain’s Northern and English jails today.

Martin Hurson went straight on the blanket after his first trial, and following his retrial he appealed once again against conviction, challenging the admissibility of the Cookstown statements, but his appeal was disallowed in June 1980.


On May 29th, this year, Martin joined the hunger strike, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLoughlin who was forced to drop out because of a burst stomach ulcer.

In the Free State general election in June, Martin was a candidate in Longford/Westmeath, and although missing election, obtained almost four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count, outlasting two Labour candidates and a Fine Gael contender.

Barely one month after election the Free State government’s bolstering of Britain’s barbaric intransigence led to the death of Martin Hurson, the sixth hunger striker, at that stage, to die.

Having seriously deteriorated after forty days on hunger strike, he was unable to hold down water and died a horrifically agonising death after only forty-four days on hunger strike, at 4.30 a m. on Monday, July 13th.


Joe McDonnell – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on July 8, 2015

A deep-thinking republican with a great sense of humour

Died July 8th 1981

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

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

As an active republican before his capture in October 1976, Joe was regarded by his comrades as a cool and efficient Volunteer who did what he had to do and never talked about it afterwards.

Something of a rarity within the Republican Movement, in that outside of military briefings and operational duty he was never seen around with other known or suspected Volunteers, he was nevertheless a good friend of the late Bobby Sands, with whom he was captured while on active service duty.

Not among those who volunteered for the earlier hunger strike last year, it was the intense disappointment brought about by the Brits’ duplicity following the end of that hunger strike, and the bitterness and anger that duplicity produced among all the blanket men, that prompted Joe to put forward his name the next time round.

And it was predictable, as well as fitting, when his friend and comrade Bobby Sands met with death on the sixty-sixth day of his hunger strike, that Joe McDonnell should volunteer to take Bobby’s place and continue that fight.


His determination and resolve in that course of action can be gauged by the fact that never once, following his sentencing to fourteen years imprisonment in 1977, did he put on the prison uniform to take a visit, seeing his wife and family only after he commenced his hunger-strike.

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

It was that commitment which he held more dear than his own life.


Joe McDonnell was born on September 14th 1951, the fifth of eight children, into the family home in Slate Street in Belfast’s Lower Falls.

His father, Robert, aged 59, a steel erector, and his mother, Eileen (whose maiden name is Straney), aged 58, both came from the Lower Falls themselves.

They married in St. Peter’s church there, in 1941, living first with Robert’s sister and her husband in Colinward Street, off the Springfield Road, before moving into their own home in Slate Street, where the family were all born.

These are: Eilish, aged 38, married with five children; Robert, aged 36, married with two children; Hugh, aged 34, married with three children; Patsy, aged 32, married with two children, and now living in Canada since 1969; Joe; Maura, aged 28 and single; Paul, aged 26, married with two children and Frankie, aged 24 and single.

Frankie is currently serving a five-year sentence on the blanket protest in H6-Block on an IRA membership charge, following his arrest in December 1976, and is due for release this December.

A ninth child, Bernadette, was a particular favourite of Joe’s, before her death from a kidney illness at the early age of three.

“Joseph practically reared Bernadette”, recalls his mother, “he was always with the child, carrying her around. He was about ten at the time. He even used to play marleys with her on his shoulders.”

Bernadette’s death, a sad blow to the family, was deeply felt by her young brother Joe.


One of his friends at that time was his future brother-in-law, Michael, and he began dating Goretti from around the time he was seventeen.

Joe and Goretti, who also comes from Andersonstown, married in St. Agnes’ chapel in 1970, and moved in to live with Goretti’s sister and her family in Horn Drive in Lower Lenadoon.

At that time, however, they were one of only two nationalist households in what was then a predominantly loyalist street, and, after repeated instances of verbal intimidation, in the middle of the night, a loyalist mob – in full view of a nearby Brit post, and with the blessing of the raving Reverend Robert Bradford, who stood by – broke down the doors and wrecked the houses, forcing the two families to leave.


The McDonnells went to live with Goretti’s mother for a while, but eventually got the chance to squat in a house being vacated in Lenadoon Avenue.

Internment had been introduced shortly before, and in 1972 the British army struck with a 4.00 a.m. raid.

Joe was dragged from the house, hit in the eye with a rifle butt and bundled into a jeep. Their house was searched and wrecked. Joe was taken to the prison ship Maidstone and later on to Long Kesh internment camp where he was held for several months.

Goretti recalls that early morning as a “horrific” experience which altered both their lives. One minute they had everything, the next minute nothing.

On his release Joe joined the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, operating at first in the 1st Battalion’s ‘A’ Company which covered the Rosnareen end of Andersonstown, and later being absorbed into the ‘cell’ structure increasingly adopted by the IRA.


Both during his first period of internment, and his second, longer, internment in 1973, as well as the periods when he was free, the McDonnell’s home in Lenadoon was constant target for British army raids.

During these raids the house would often be torn apart, photos torn up and confiscated letters from Joe (previously read by the prison censor) re-read by infantile British soldiers, and Goretti herself arrested.

In between periods of internment, and before his capture, Joe resumed his trade as an upholsterer which he had followed since leaving school at the age of fifteen. He loved the job, never missing a day through illness, and made both the furniture for his own home as well as for many of the bars and clubs in the surrounding area. His job enabled him to take the family for regular holidays but Joe was a real ‘homer’ and always longed to be back in his native Belfast.


Part of that attraction stemmed obviously from his responsibility to his republican involvement. An active Volunteer throughout the Greater Andersonstown area, Joe was considered a first-class operator who didn’t show much fear. Generally quiet and serious while on an operation, whether an ambush or a bombing mission, Joe’s humour occasionally shone through.

Driving one time to an intended target in the Lenadoon area with a carload of Volunteers, smoke began to appear in the car. Not realising that it was simply escaping exhaust fumes, and thinking it came from the bags containing a number of bombs, a degree of alarm began to break out in the car, but Joe only advised his comrades, drily, not to bother about it: “They’ll go off soon enough.”

Outside of active service, Joe mixed mostly with people he knew from work, never flaunting his republican beliefs or his involvement, to such an extent that it led some republicans to believe he had not reported back to the IRA on his second release from internment.

The Brits, however, persecuted him and his family continually, with frequent house raids, and street arrests. He could rarely leave the house without being stopped for P-checking, or held up for an hour at a roadblock if he had somewhere to go. A few months before his capture, irate Brits at a roadblock warned him that they would ‘get’ him.

Outside of his republican activity Joe took a strong interest in his children – Bernadette, aged ten and Joseph, aged nine – teaching them both to swim, and forever playing football with young Joseph on the small green outside their home.


His capture took place in October 1976 following a firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furnishing Company in Upper Dunmurray Lane, near the Twinbrook estate in West Belfast.

The IRA had reconnoitred the store, noting the extravagantly-priced furniture it sold, and had selected it as an economic target. The plan was to petrol bomb the premises and then to lay explosive charges to spread the flames.

The Twinbrook active service unit led by Bobby Sands, was at that time in the process of being built up, and were assisted consequently in this operation by experienced republican Volunteers from the adjoining Andersonstown area, including Joe McDonnell.

Unfortunately, following the attack, which successfully destroyed the furnishing company, the escape route of some of the Volunteers involved was blocked by a car placed across the road.

During an ensuing shoot-out with Brits and RUC, two republicans, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett were wounded, and four others, Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, Seamus Finucane and Sean Lavery, were arrested in a car not far away.

Three IRA Volunteers managed to escape safely from the area.

A single revolver was found in the car, and at the men’s subsequent trial in September 1977 all four received fourteen-year sentences for possession when they refused to recognise the court.

Rough treatment during their interrogation in Castlereagh failed to make any of the four sign a statement, and the RUC were thus unable to charge the men with involvement in the attack on the furnishing company despite their proximity to it at the time of their arrest.

ADAMANT From the day he was sentenced Joe refused to put on the prison uniform to take a visit, so adamant was he that he would not be criminalised. He kept in touch instead, with his wife and family, by means of daily smuggled ‘communications’, written with smuggled-in biro refills on prison issue toilet paper and smuggled out via other blanket men who were taking visits.

Incarcerated in H5-Block, Joe acted as ‘scorcher’ (an anglicised form of the Irish word, scairt, to shout) shouting the sceal, or news from his block to the adjoining one about a hundred yards away. Frequently this is the only way that news from outside can be communicated from one H-Block to the blanket men in another H-Block.

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


In June, Joe was a candidate during the Free State general election, in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency, in which he narrowly missed election by 315 votes.

All the family were actively involved in campaigning for him, and despite the disappointment at the result both they and Joe himself were pleased at the impact which, the H-Block issue had on the election, and in Sligo/Leitrim itself.

Adults cried when the video film on the hunger strike was shown, his family recall, and they cried again when Joe was eliminated from the electoral count.


At 5.11 a.m., on July 8th, Joe McDonnell, who – believeably, for those who know his wife Goretti, his children Bernadette and Joseph and his family – “had too much to live for” died after sixty one days of agonising hunger strike, rather than be criminalised.


Who fears to speak of Easter Week?

Posted by Jim on May 30, 2015

New York Attorney and long-time republican activist Martin Galvin on the
recent arrest and internment-by-remand of Ardoyne republican Dee Fennell.

As we move towards the Centenary Commemorations of 1916, the British
moved against Easter Commemoration speaker Dee Fennell. My view is that
conditions do not exist to support a continuation of Armed Struggle at
this time but this view will become harder to defend if the British
begin a clampdown on Easter Week Commemoration speakers.

The Carrickmore Easter Commemoration was attended by relatives of
Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. This Fenian patriot inspired the oft-quoted
words ‘Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’. With six counties
unfree, these words might be said to run afoul of British law. Should we
fear to speak these words and others including Maire Drumm’s, even as
Pearse’s oration is re-enacted in Centenary Commemorations elsewhere in

What of the 1916 Proclamation itself? It says the people of Ireland hold
the right to ‘national freedom and sovereignty’. It seems unlikely that
Tom Clarke put his name to something that did not count the people of
his home county Tyrone, and 5 others, amongst ‘the whole people of
Ireland’. It says this right is ‘indefeasible’, meaning something that
can never be bargained, sold, or bequeathed away (even by referendum).
It even makes reference to ‘standing on that fundamental right and again
asserting it in arms’. Surely these words suggest there have been
conditions where it was ‘legitimate’ to do so.

What of the Roll of Honour? British law today regards those that
resisted them during the Troubles as mere criminals. For example, Gerry
McGeough and Seamus Kearney were imprisoned for IRA actions that took
place in 1981. Ivor Bell faces accusations from 1972. How many
Republicans carry felon licenses, employment bars or travel

The Roll of Honour lists Republicans who were part of that same struggle
and died at the hands of British and pro-British forces. Their names on
a Roll of Honour say they were not criminals but patriots, whose deeds
were not alone legitimate but are remembered with respect and pride. The
Roll of Honour and Easter 1916 Proclamation are customarily read in
Republican commemorations, because we identify those on the Roll of
Honour with the same principles and struggle proclaimed in 1916. Must we
pretend otherwise?

There are no doubt readers and friends who will be at pains to argue
that Dee Fennell’s case will be the last of it. The British would never
clamp down on anyone else. They will make the same arguments they made
after Gerry McGeough’s arrest in 2007. Perhaps they can convince Ivor
Bell, Seamus Kearney or those holding OTR immunity certificates that the
re-elected David Cameron says need no longer be honoured.

Patsy O’Hara – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on May 21, 2015

Died May 21st, 1981

A determined and courageous Derryman

Twenty-three-year-old Patsy O’Hara from Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks, and joined IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike on March 22nd, three weeks after Bobby Sands and one week after Francis Hughes.

His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived. His eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned in Long Kesh for almost four years. The second eldest in the family, Tony, was imprisoned in the H-Blocks – throughout Patsy’s hunger strike – for five years before being released in August of this year, having served his full five-year sentence with no remission.

The youngest in the O’Hara family is twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth.

Before ‘the troubles’ destroyed the family life of the O’Haras, and the overwhelming influence of being an oppressed youth concerned about his country drove Patsy to militant republicanism, there is the interesting history of his near antecedents which must have produced delight in Patsy’s young heart.


Patsy’s maternal grandfather, James McCluskey, joined the British army as a young man and went off to fight in the First World War. He received nine shrapnel wounds at Ypres and was retired on a full pension.

However, on returning to Ireland his patriotism was set alight by Irish resistance and the terror of British rule. He duly threw out his pension book, did not draw any more money and joined the Republican Movement. He transported men and weapons along the Foyle into Derry in the ‘twenties.

He inherited a public house and bookmakers, in Foyle Street, and was a great friend of Derry republican Sean Keenan’s father, also named Sean.

Mrs. Peggy O’Hara can recall ‘old’ Sean Keenan being arrested just before the out break of the Second World War. Her father’s serious illness resulted in him escaping internment and he died shortly afterwards in 1939.

Mrs. O’Hara’s aunt was married to John Mulhern, a Roscommon man, who was in the RIC up until its disbandment in 1921.

“When my father died in 1939 – says Mrs O’Hara, – “John Mulhern, who was living in Bishop Street, and owned a bar and a grocery shop, took us in to look after us. I remember him telling us that he didn’t just go and join the RIC, but it was because there were so many in the family and times were hard.

“My father was a known IRA man and my uncle reared me, and I was often slagged about this. Patsy used to hear this as a child, but Patsy was a very, very straight young fellow and he was a wee bit bigoted about my uncle being a policeman.

“But a number of years ago Patsy came in to me after speaking to an old republican from Corrigans in Donegal, and Patsy says to me, ‘You’ve nothing to be ashamed of, your uncle being a policeman, because that man was telling me that even though he was an RIC man, he was very, very helpful to the IRA!”


The trait of courage which Patsy was to show in later years was in him from the start, says Mr. O’Hara. “No matter who got into trouble in the street outside, Patsy was the boy to go out and do all the fighting for him. He was the fighting man about the area and didn’t care how big they were. He would tackle them. I even saw him fighting men, and in no way could they stop him. He would keep at them. He was like a wee bull terrier!”

Apparently, up until he was about twelve years of age, Patsy was fat and small, “a wee barrel” says his mother. Then suddenly he shot up to grow to over six foot two inches.

Elizabeth, his sister, recalls Patsy: “He was a mad hatter. When we were young he used to always play tricks on me, mother and father. We used to play a game of cards and whoever lost had to do all the things that everybody told them.

“We all won a card game once and made Patsy crawl up the stairs and ‘miaow’ like a cat at my mother’s bedroom door. She woke up the next day and said, ‘am I going mad? I think I heard a cat last night’ and we all started to laugh.”

The O’Haras’ house was open to all their children’s friends, and again to scores of the volunteers who descended on Derry from all corners of Ireland when the RUC invaded in 1969. But before that transformation in people’s politics came, Mrs. O’Hara still lived for her family alone.

She was especially proud of her eldest son, Sean Seamus who had passed his eleven plus and went to college.


When Sean was in his early teens he joined the housing action group, around 1967, Mrs. O’Hara’s conception of which was Sean helping to get people homes.

“But one day, someone came into me when I was working in the bar, and said, ‘Your son is down in the Guildhall marching up and down with a placard!

“I went down and stood and looked and Finbarr O’Doherty was standing at the side and wee fellows were going up and down. I went over to Sean and said, ‘Who gave you that? He said, Finbarr!’ I took the placard off Sean and went over to Finbarr, put it in his hand, and hit him with my umbrella.’

Mrs. O’Hara laughs when she recalls this incident, as shortly afterwards she was to have her eyes opened.

“After that, I went to protests wherever Sean was, thinking that I could protect him! I remember the October 1968 march because my husband’s brother, Sean, had just been buried.

“We went to the peaceful march over at the Waterside station and saw the people being beaten into the ground. That was the first time that I ever saw water cannons, they were like something from outer space.

“We thought we had to watch Sean, but to my astonishment Patsy and Tony had slipped away, and Patsy was astonished and startled by what he saw.”


Later, Patsy was to write about this incident: “The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, ‘One man, one vote’ and singing ‘We shall overcome’ I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable.”


Shortly after his release in April 1975, Patsy joined the ranks of the fledgling Irish Republican Socialist Party, which the ‘Sticks’, using murder, had attempted to strangle at birth. He was free only about two months when he was stopped at the permanent check-point on the Letterkenny Road whilst driving his father’s car from Buncrana in County Donegal.

The Brits planted a stick of gelignite in the car (such practice was commonplace) and he was charged with possession of explosives. He was remanded in custody for six months, the first trial being stopped due to unusual RUC ineptitude at framing him. At the end of the second trial he was acquitted and released after spending six months in jail.

In 1976, Patsy had to stay out of the house for fear of constant arrest. That year, also, his brother, Tony, was charged with an armed raid, and on the sole evidence of an alleged verbal statement was sentenced to five years in the H-Blocks.

Despite being ‘on the run’ Patsy was still fond of his creature comforts!

His father recalls: “Sean Seamus came in late one night and though the whole place was in darkness he didn’t put the lights on. He went to sit down and fell on the floor. He ran up the stairs and said: ‘I went to sit down and there was nothing there’

“Patsy had taken the sofa on top of a red Rover down to his billet in the Brandywell. Then before we would get up in the morning he would have it back up again. When we saw it sitting there in the morning we said to Sean: ‘Are you going off your head or what? and he was really puzzled.”


In September 1976, he was again arrested in the North and along with four others charged with possession of a weapon. During the remand hearings he protested against the withdrawal of political status.

The charge was withdrawn after four months, indicating how the law is twisted to intern people by remanding them in custody and dropping the charges before the case comes to trial.

In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin’s Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.

Whilst living in the Free State, Patsy was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area, and campaigned against the special courts.

In January 1979, he moved back to Derry but was arrested on May 14th, 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade.

In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket.


What were Mrs. O’Hara’s feelings when Patsy told her he was going on hunger strike?

“My feelings at the start, when he went on hunger strike, were that I thought that they would get their just demands, because it is not very much that they are asking for. There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else’s son go. Someone’s sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son.”


Writing shortly before the hunger strike began, Patsy O’Hara grimly declared: “We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men.

“They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.

Patsy witnessed the baton charges and said: “The people were sandwiched in another street and with the Specials coming from both sides, swinging their truncheons at anything that moved. It was a terrifying experience and one which I shall always remember.”

Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara believe that it was this incident when Patsy was aged eleven, followed by the riots in January 1969 and the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in August 1969 that aroused passionate feelings of nationalism, and then republicanism, in their son. “Every day he saw something different happening,” says his father. “People getting beaten up, raids and coffins coming out. This was his environment.”


In 1970, Patsy joined na Fianna Eireann, drilled and trained in Celtic Park.

Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers. Internment, introduced in August 1971, hit the O’Hara family particularly severely with the arrest of Sean Seamus in October. “We never had a proper Christmas since then” says Elizabeth. “When Sean Seamus was interned we never put up decorations and our family has been split-up ever since then.”

Shortly after Sean’s arrest Patsy, one night, went over to a friend’s house in Southway where there were barricades. But coming out of the house, British soldiers opened fire, for no apparent reason, and shot Patsy in the leg. He was only fourteen years of age and spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.


On January 30th, 1972, his father took him to watch the big anti-internment march as it wound its way down from the Creggan. “I struggled across a banking but was unable to go any further. I watched the march go up into the Brandywell. I could see that it was massive. The rest of my friends went to meet it but I could only go back to my mother’s house and listen to it on the radio,” said Patsy.

Asked about her feelings over Patsy be coming involved in the struggle, Mrs. O’Hara said: “After October 1968, I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all”.

Mr O’Hara said: “Personally speaking, I knew he would get involved. It was in his nature. He hated bullies al his life, and he saw big bullies in uniform and he would tackle them as well.

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the ‘Republican Clubs’ and was active until 1973, “when it became apparent that they were firmly on the path to reformism and had abandoned the national question”.


From this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted.

One day, he and a friend were arrested on the Briemoor Road. Two saracens screeched to a halt beside them. Patsy later described this arrest: “We were thrown onto the floor and as they were bringing us to the arrest centre, we were given a beating with their batons and rifles. When we arrived and were getting out of the vehicles we were tripped and fell on our faces”.

Three months later, after his seventeenth birthday, he was taken to the notorious interrogation centre at Ballykelly. He was interrogated for three days and then interned with three others who had been held for nine days.

“Long Kesh had been burned the week previously” said Patsy, “and as we flew above the camp in a British army helicopter we could see the complete devastation. When we arrived, we were given two blankets and mattresses and put into one of the cages.

“For the next two months we were on a starvation diet, no facilities of any” kind, and most men lying out open to the elements…

“That December a ceasefire was announced, then internment was phased out.” Merlyn Rees also announced at the same time that special category status would be withdrawn on March 1st, 1976. I did not know then how much that change of policy would effect me in less than three years”.

Patsy O’Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st – on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.

Even in death his torturers would not let him rest. When the O’Hara family been broken and his corpse bore several burn marks inflicted after his death.


Raymond McCreesh – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on

Died May 21st, 1981

A quiet, good-natured and discreet republican

THE THIRD of the resolutely determined IRA Volunteers to join the H-Block hunger strike for political status was twenty-four-year-old Raymond McCreesh, from Camlough in South Armagh: a quiet, shy and good-humoured republican, who although captured at the early age of nineteen, along with two other Volunteers in a British army ambush, had already almost three years active republican involvement behind him.

During those years he had established himself as one of the most dedicated and invaluable republican activists in that part of the six counties to which the Brits themselves have – half-fearfully, half-respectfully – given the name ‘bandit country’ and which has become a living legend in republican circles, during the present war, for the courage and resourcefulness of its Volunteers: the border land of South Armagh.

Raymond’s resolve to hunger strike to the death, to secure the prisoners’ five demands was indicated in a smuggled-out letter written by Paddy Quinn, an H-Block blanket man – who was later to embark on hunger strike himself – who was captured along with Raymond and who received the same fourteen year sentence: “I wrote Raymie a couple of letters before he went to the prison hospital. He wrote back and according to the letter he was in great spirits and very determined. A sign of that determination was the way he finished off by saying: Ta seans ann go mbeidh me abhaile rombat a chara’ which means: There is a chance that I’ll be home before you, my friend!”

Captured in June 1976, and sentenced in March 1977, when he refused to recognise the court, Raymond would have been due for release in about two years’ time had he not embarked on his principled protest for political status, which led him, ultimately, to hunger strike.


Raymond Peter McCreesh, the seventh in a family of eight children, was born in a small semi-detached house at St. Malachy’s Park, Camlough – where the family still live – on February 25th, 1957.

The McCreeshes, a nationalist family in a staunchly nationalist area, have been rooted in South Armagh for seven generations, and both Raymond’s parents – James aged 65, a retired local council worker, and Susan (whose maiden name is Quigley), aged 60 – come from the nearby townland of Dorsey.

Raymond was a quiet but very lively person, very good-natured and – like other members of his family – extremely witty. Not the sort of person who would push himself forward if he was in a crowd, and indeed often rather a shy person in his personal relationships until he got to know a person well. Nevertheless, in his republican capacity he was known as a capable, dedicated and totally committed Volunteer who could show leadership and aggression where necessary.

Among both his family and his republican associates, Raymond was renowned for his laughter and for “always having a wee smile on him”. His sense of humour remained even during his four-year incarceration in the H-Blocks, as well as during his hunger strike where he continued to insist that he was “just fine.”


Raymond went first to Camlough primary school, and then to St. Coleman’s college in Newry. It was at St. Coleman’s that Raymond met Danny McGuinness, also from Camlough, and the two became steadfast friends. They later became republican comrades, and Danny too then a nineteen-year-old student who had just completed his ‘A’ levels was captured along with Raymond and Paddy Quinn, and is now in the H-Blocks.

At school, Raymond’s strongest interest was in Irish language and Irish history, and he read widely in those subjects. His understanding of Irish history led him to a fervently nationalist outlook, and he was regarded as a ‘hothead’ in his history classes, and as being generally “very conscious of his Irishness”.

He was also a sportsman, and played under-sixteen and Minor football for Carrickcruppin Gaelic football club as well as taking a keen interest in the local youth club where he played basketball and pool, and was regarded a good snooker player.

When he was fourteen years old, Raymond got a weekend job working on a milk round through the South Armagh border area, around Mullaghbawn and Dromintee. Later on, after leaving his job in Lisburn, he worked full-time on the milk round, where he would always stop and chat to customers. He became a great favourite amongst them and many enquired about him long after he left the round.


During the early ‘seventies, the South Armagh border area was the stamping ground of the British army’s Parachute regiment, operating out of Bessbrook camp less than two miles from Raymond’s home. Stories of their widespread brutality and harassment of local people abound, and built-up then a degree of resentment and resistance amongst most of the nationalist population that is seen to this day.

The SAS terror regiment began operating in this area in large numbers too, in a vain attempt to counter republican successes, and the high level of assassinations of local people on both sides of the South Armagh border, notably three members of the Reavey family in 1975, was believed locally to have been the work both of the SAS, and of UDR and RUC members holding dual membership with ‘illegal’ loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Given this scenario and Raymond’s understanding of Irish history, it is small wonder that he became involved in the republican struggle.


He first of all joined na Fianna Eireann early in 1973 and towards the end of that year joined the Irish Republican Army’s 1st Battalion, South Armagh.

Even before joining the IRA, and despite his very young age, Raymond – with remarkable awareness and maturity – became one of the first Volunteers in the South Armagh area to adopt a very low, security conscious, republican profile.

He rarely drank, but if occasionally in a pub he would not discuss either politics or his own activities, and he rarely attended demonstrations or indeed anything which would have brought him to the attention of the enemy.

It was because of this remarkable self-discipline and discretion that during his years of intense republican involvement Raymond was never once arrested or even held for screening in the North, and only twice held briefly in the South.

Consequently, Raymond was never obliged to go ‘on the run’, continuing to live at home until the evening of his capture, and always careful not to cause his family any concern or alarm.

Fitted in with his republican activities Raymond would relax by going to dances or by going to watch football matches at weekends.


After leaving school he spent a year at Newry technical college studying fabrication engineering, and afterwards got a job at Gambler Simms (Steel) Ltd. in Lisburn. He had a conscientious approach to his craft but was obliged to leave after a year because of a fear of assassination.

Each day he travelled to work from Newry, in a bus along with four or five mates who had got jobs there too from the technical college, but the prevailing high level of sectarian assassinations, and the suspicion justifiably felt of the predominantly loyalist work-force at Gambler Simms, made Raymond, and many other nationalist workers, decide that travelling such a regular route through loyalist country side was simply too risky.

So, after leaving the Lisburn factory, Raymond began to work full-time as a milk roundsman, an occupation which would greatly have increased his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, as well as enabling him to observe the movements of British army patrols and any other untoward activity in the area.


Republican activity in that area during those years consisted largely of landmine attacks and ambushes on enemy patrols.

Raymond had the reputation of a republican who was very keen to suggest and take part in operations, almost invariably working in his own, extremely tight, active service unit, though occasionally, when requested – as he frequently was – assisting other units in neighbouring areas with specific operations. He would always carefully consider the pros and cons of any operation, and would never panic or lose his nerve.

In undertaking the hunger strike, Raymond gave the matter the same careful consideration he would have expended on a military operation, he undertook nothing either a rush, or for bluff.


The operation which led to the capture of Raymond, his boyhood friend, Danny McGuiness, and Patrick Quinn, took place on June 25th, 1976.

An active service unit comprising these three and a fourth Volunteer arrived in a commandeered car at a farmyard in the town land of Sturgan a mile from Camlough – at about 9.25 p.m.

Their objective was to ambush a covert Brit observation post which they had located opposite the Mountain House Inn, on the main Newry – Newtonhamilton Road, half-a-mile away. They were not aware, however, that another covert British observation post, on a steep hillside half-a-mile away, had already spotted the four masked, uniformed and armed Volunteers, clearly visible below them, and that radioed helicopter reinforcements were already closing in.

As the fourth Volunteer drove the commandeered car down the road to the agreed ambush point, to act as a lure for the Brits, the other three moved down the hedgeline of the fields, into position. The fourth Volunteer, however, as he returned, as arranged, to rejoin his comrades, spotted the British Paratroopers on the hillside closing in on his unsuspecting friends and, although armed only with a short range Stengun, opened fire to warn the others.

Immediately, the Brits opened fire with SLRs and light machine-guns, churning up the ground around the Volunteers with hundreds of rounds, firing indiscriminately into the nearby farmhouse and two vehicles parked outside, and killing a grazing cow!

The fourth Volunteer was struck by three bullets, in the leg, arm and chest, but managed to crawl away and to elude the massive follow up search, escaping safely – though seriously injured – the following day.

Raymond and Paddy Quinn ran zig-zag across open fields to a nearby house, under fire all this time, intending to commandeer a car. Unfortunately, the car belonging to the occupants of the house was parked at a neighbour’s house several hundred yards away. Even then the pair might have escaped but that they delayed several minutes waiting for their comrade, Danny McGuinness, who however had got separated from them and had taken cover in a disused quarry outhouse (where he was captured in a follow-up operation the next day).

The house in which Raymond and Paddy took cover was immediately besieged by berserk Paratroopers who riddled the house with bullets. Even when the two Volunteers surrendered, after the arrival of a local priest, and came out through the front door with their hands up, the Paras opened fire again and the Pair were forced to retreat back into the house.

On the arrival of the RUC, the two Volunteers again surrendered and were taken to Bessbrook barracks where they were questioned and beaten for three days before being charged.


One remarkable aspect of the British ambush concerns the role of Lance-Corporal David Jones, a member of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute regiment. According to Brit statements at the trial it was he who first opened up on the IRA active service unit from the hillside.

Nine months later, on March 16th, 1977 two IRA Volunteers encountered two Paratroopers (at the time seconded to the SAS) in a field outside Maghera in South Derry. In the ensuing gun battle, one SAS man was shot dead, and one IRA Volunteer was captured. The Volunteer’s name was Francis Hughes, the dead Brit was Lance-Corporal David Jones of the Parachute regiment.

In the eighteen months before going on hunger strike together neither Raymond McCreesh or Francis Hughes were aware of what would seem to have been an ironic but supremely fitting example of republican solidarity!

After nine months remand in Crumlin Road jail, Raymond was tried and convicted in March 1977, of attempting to kill Brits, possession of a Garand rifle and ammunition, and IRA membership. He received a fourteen-year sentence, and lesser concurrent sentences, after refusing to recognise the court.

In the H-Blocks he immediately joined the blanket protest, and so determined was his resistance to criminalisation that he refused to take his monthly visits for four years, right up until he informed his family of his decision to go on hunger strike on February 15th, this year. He also refused to send out monthly letters, writing only smuggled ‘communications’ to his family and friends.

The only member of his family to see him at all during those four years in Long Kesh two or three times – was his brother, Fr. Brian McCreesh, who occasionally says Mass in the H-Blocks.


Like Francis Hughes, Raymond volunteered for the earlier hunger strike, and, when he was not chosen among the first seven, took part in the four-day hunger strike by thirty republicans until the hunger strike ended on December 18th, last year.

Speaking to his brother, Malachy, shortly after Bobby Sands death, Raymond said what a great loss had been felt by the other hunger strikers, but it had made them more determined than ever.

And still managing to keep his spirits up, when told of his brother, Fr. Brian, campaigning for him on rally platforms, Raymond joked: “He’ll probably get excommunicated for it.”

To Britain’s eternal shame, the sombre half-prediction made by Raymond to his friend Paddy Quinn – Ta seans ann go mbeid me abhaile rombat – became a grim reality. Bhi se. Raymond died at 2.11 a.m. on Thursday May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.


Francis Hughes – Hunger Striker

Posted by Jim on May 12, 2015

Died May 12th, 1981

A determined and totally fearless soldier

THE SECOND republican to join the H-Block hunger-strike for political status – a fortnight after Bobby Sands – was twenty-five-year-old Francis Hughes, from Bellaghy in South Derry: a determined, committed and totally fearless IRA Volunteer who organised a spectacularly successful series of military operations before his capture, and was once described by the RUC as their ‘most wanted man’ in the North.


Francis Hughes was born on February 28th, 1956, the youngest son amongst ten children, into a staunchly republican family which has been solidly rooted, for most of this century, in the townland of Tamlaghtduff, or Scribe Road, as it is otherwise called.

His parents who married in 1939, are Patrick Joseph Hughes, aged 72, a retired small cattle farmer born in the neighbouring town land of Ballymacpeake, and Margaret, aged 68, whose maiden name is McElwee, and who was born in Tamlaghtduff.

A quarter-of-a-mile away from the Hughes’ bungalow, on the other side of the Scribe Road is the home of Thomas and Benedict McElwee – first cousins of Francis. Benedict is currently serving a sentence in the H-Blocks. Thomas – the eldest – embarked on hunger strike on June 8th, and died sixty-two days later on August 8th.

In Tamlaghtduff, as throughout the rest of Bellaghy, sympathy as well as active support for the republican cause runs at a very high level, a fact testified to by the approximately twenty prisoners-of-war from around Bellaghy alone.

Francis was an extremely popular person, both to his family and to his republican colleagues and supporters.

His father recalls that as a boy he was always whistling, joking and singing: a trait which he carried over into his arduous and perilous days as a republican, when he was able to transmit his enthusiasm and optimism both to Volunteers under his command and to Sympathisers who offered them – at great personal risk, food and shelter

It was qualities like these, of uncomplaining tirelessness, of consideration for the morale of those around him, and his ruling wish to lead by example, that have made Francis Hughes one of the most outstanding Irish revolutionary soldiers this war has produced and a man who was enormously respected in his native countryside.


As a boy, Francis went first to St. Mary’s primary school in Bellaghy, and from there to Clady intermediate school three miles away.

He enjoyed school and was a fairly good student whose favourite subjects were history and woodwork. He was not particularly interested in sport, but was very much a lively, outdoor person, who enjoyed messing around on bikes, and later on, in cars.

He enjoyed dancing and regularly went to ceilidh as a young man, even while ‘on the run’, although after ‘wanted’ posters of him appeared his opportunities became less frequent.

His parents recall that Francis was always extremely helpful around the house, and that he was a “good tractor man”.


Leaving school at sixteen, Francis got a job with his sister Vera’s husband, as an apprentice painter and decorator, completing his apprenticeship shortly before ‘going on the run’.

In later days, Francis would often do a spot of decorating for the people whose house he was staying in

On one occasion, shortly after the ‘wanted’ posters of him had been posted up all over South Derry, Francis was painting window frames at the front of the house he was staying in when two jeep-loads of British soldiers drove past. While the other occupants of the house froze in apprehension, Francis waved and smiled at the curious Brits as they passed by, and continued painting.

It was such utter fearlessness, and the ability to brazen his way through, that saved him time and time again during his relatively long career as an active service Volunteer.

On one such occasion, when stopped along with two other Volunteers as they crossed a field, Francis told a Brit patrol that they didn’t feel safe walking the roads, as the IRA were so active in the area. The Brits allowed the trio to walk on, but after a few yards Francis ran back to the enemy patrol to scrounge a cigarette and a match from one of the British soldiers.

A turning point for Francis, in terms of his personal involvement in the struggle, occurred at the age of seventeen, when he and a friend were stopped by British soldiers at Ardboe, in County Tyrone, as they returned from a dance one night.

The pair were taken out of their car and so badly kicked that Francis was bed-ridden for several days. Rejecting advice to make a complaint to the RUC, Francis said it would be a waste of time, but pledged instead to get even with those who had done it, “or with their friends.”

Notwithstanding such a bitter personal experience of British thuggery, and the mental and physical scars it left, Francis’ subsequent involvement in the Irish Republican Army was not based on a motive of revenge but on a clear and abiding belief in his country’s right to national freedom.


During the early part of ‘the troubles’, the ‘Officials’ were relatively strong in the South Derry area and Francis’ first involvement was with them.

However, disillusioned, as were many others, with the ‘Sticks’ unilateral ceasefire in 1972, he left to set up and command an ‘independent’ military unit in the Bellaghy area. About the end of 1973 the entire unit – including Francis – was formally recruited into the IRA.

Francis’ involvement brought him increasingly to the attention of the British army and RUC and he was regularly held for a few hours in Magherafelt barracks and stopped on the road by British patrols; and on one occasion he was held for two days at Ballykelly camp.

As the 1975 IRA/British army truce came to an end Francis, fearing his imminent arrest, went ‘on the run’. From that time on, he led a life perpetually on the move, often moving on foot up to twenty miles during one night then sleeping during the day – either in fields and ditches or in safe houses; a soldierly sight in his black beret and combat uniform, and openly carrying his rifle, a handgun and several grenades as well as food rations.

The enemy reacted with up to fifty early morning raids on Francis’ home, and raids on the homes of those suspected of harbouring him. Often, houses would be staked out for days on end in the hope of capturing Francis. Often, it was only his sheer nerve and courage which saved him. One night, Francis was followed to a ‘safe house’ and looked out to see the Brits surrounding the place and closing in. Without hesitating, the uniformed Francis stepped outside the door, clutching his rifle, and in the darkness crept gradually through their lines, occasionally mumbling a few short words to British soldiers he passed, who, on seeing the shadowy uniformed figure, mistook him for one of themselves.

On numerous occasions, Francis and his comrades were stopped at checkpoints along the country roads while moving weapons from one locality to another but always calmly talked their way through. Once, a UDR soldier actually recognised Francis and his fellow Volunteers in a car but, fully aware that Francis would not be taken without a shoot-out, he waved their car on.


The years before Francis’ capture were extremely active ones in the South Derry and surrounding areas with the commercial centres of towns and villages like Bellaghy, Maghera, Toome, Magherafelt and Castledawson being blitzed by car bombs on several occasions, and numerous shooting attacks being carried out as well.

Among the Volunteers under his command Francis had a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian and perfectionist who could not tolerate people taking their republican duties less seriously, and selflessly, than was necessary. He also, however, inspired fellow Volunteers by his example and by always being in the thick of things, and he thrived on pressure.

During one night-time operation, a weapon was missing and Francis gave away his own weapon to another Volunteer, taking only a torch himself which he used to its maximum effect by shining it at an oncoming enemy vehicle, which had its headlights off, to enable the other Volunteers to direct their fire.

Francis’ good-humoured audacity also showed itself in his republican activity. At the height of his ‘notoriety’ he would set up road-blocks, hoping to lure the Brits into an ambush (which by hard experience they learned to avoid), or he would ring up the Brits and give them his whereabouts!

Such joking, however, did not extend only to the enemy. One day, lying out in the fields, he spied one of his uncles cycling down a country road. Taking careful aim with his rifle he shot away the bike’s rear wheel. His uncle ran alarmed, into a nearby house shouting that loyalists had just tried to assassinate him!


The determination of the British army and RUC to capture Francis Hughes came to a head in April 1977. In that month, on Good Friday, a car containing three IRA Volunteers was overtaken and flagged down on the Moneymore Road at Dunronan, in County Derry, by a carload of RUC men.

The Volunteers attempted to make a U-turn but their car got stuck in a ditch as the armed RUC men approached. Jumping from the car, the Volunteers opened fire, killing two RUC men and injuring another before driving off. A hundred yards further up the road a second gun battle ensued but the Volunteers escaped safely.

Subsequently, the RUC issued a ‘wanted’ poster of Francis Hughes and two fellow republicans, Dominic McGlinchey and Ian Milne, in which Francis was named as the ‘most wanted man’ in the North.

When his eventual capture came, it was just as he had always said it would be: “I’ll get a few of them before they get me.”


At 8.00 p.m. on March 16th, 1978, two SAS soldiers took up a stake-out position opposite a farm, on the south side of the Ronaghan road, about two miles west of Maghera, in the townland of Ballyknock.

At 9.15 p.m. they saw two men in military uniform and carrying rifles, walking in single file along the hedgeline of the field towards them. Using their ‘night sights’ in the darkness, the SAS men observed the military behaviour of the two on-comers and having challenged them, heard the men mumble a few words to each other in Irish accents and assumed that the pair were UDR soldiers.

One of the pair, in fact, was Francis Hughes, the other a fellow Volunteer, and with only a second’s hesitation both Volunteers cocked their rifles and opened fire. One SAS man fell fatally wounded but the other – though shot in the stomach – managed to fire a long burst from his sterling sub-machine gun at the retreating figures, and to make radio contact with his base.

Within three minutes, nearby Brit patrols were on the scene and the area was entirely sealed off. The following morning hundreds of Brits took part in a massive search operation.

Fifteen hours after the shooting, at around 12.15 p.m. the next day, they found Francis Hughes sitting in the middle of a gorse bush in a field three hundred yards away, bleeding profusely from a bullet wound which had shattered his left thigh. As he was taken away on a stretcher he yelled defiantly, through his considerable pain: “Up the Provies”.

His comrade, though also wounded, slightly, managed to evade the dragnet and to escape.


How he survived the night of the shooting, possibly the coldest night of that year, bears eloquent testimony to Francis’ grim determination to evade capture. After being shot, he dragged himself – unable to walk – across the Ronaghan road and across two fields without a sound, before burying himself in a thick clump of gorse bushes.

At one point, en-route, Francis fell down a sharp drop between fields, and his left leg – the muscle and bone completely disintegrated – came up over his shoulder; but Francis worked it carefully down before continuing to crawl on his way. In his hiding place, he lay through the night, motionless and soundless, till his capture.

When he was found, unable to move through the cold, pain and stiffness, Francis, knowing that both Brits and RUC were on instructions to shoot him on sight, gave his name as Eamonn Laverty and his address as Letterkenny, County Donegal.

Francis was taken to Magherafelt hospital and from there to Musgrave Park military hospital in Belfast, and it was only then that his true identity was revealed. He spent ten months in Musgrave Park where his leg was operated on, reducing his thigh bone by an inch-and-a-half and leaving him dependent on a crutch to walk.


On Wednesday, January 24th, 1979, Francis was taken from Musgrave Park hospital to Castlereagh interrogation centre where he spent six days before being charged on January 29th. For more than four days Francis refused food and drink, fearing that it might have been drugged to make him talk.

His behaviour in Castlereagh was typical of the fiercely determined and courageous republican Volunteer that he was. His frustrated interrogators later described him as “totally uncooperative”.

Nevertheless, at his trial in Belfast in February 1980, after a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Francis was found ‘guilty’ on all charges.

He received a life sentence for killing the SAS soldier, and fourteen years for attempting to kill the other SAS man. He also received fifty-five years on three other charges.


In the H-Blocks, Francis immediately went on the protest for political status and, despite the severe disability of his wounded leg, displayed the same courage and determination that had been his hallmark before his capture.

And, just as always wanting to be in the thick of things and wanting to shoulder responsibility for other political prisoners as he had earlier looked after the morale of fellow Volunteers, Francis was one of those to volunteer for the hunger strike which began on October 27th, 1980. He was not one of the first seven hunger strikers selected but was among the thirty men who joined the hunger strike in its closing stages as Sean McKenna’s condition became critical.

That utter selflessness and courage came to its tragic conclusion on Tuesday, May 12th, when Francis died at 5.43 p.m. after fifty-nine days on hunger strike.



Posted by Jim on May 9, 2015


Sinn Fein 1916 Commemorative Events 2016

Posted by Jim on April 22, 2015

In honor of my friends, the Republican Meehan Family of Bombay St.

Posted by Jim on April 14, 2015

Bombay St 2

The burning of west Belfast’s Bombay Street on in August 1969 marked a pivotal moment in the history of the Troubles. It heralded the deployment of the British Army onto the streets of Belfast, Almost all of the houses on Bombay street were burned by the loyalists the RUCand the Ulster B specials,many others were burned on Kashmir Road and Cupar Street some of the most extensive destruction of property during the riots
Remains of Bombay Street after being torched by loyalists


Bombay St 1

The Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Sir Roger Casement

Posted by Jim on April 12, 2015

Posted by That’s Just How It Was


Roger David Case (later known as Sir Roger Casement) was born in Doyle’s Cottage, Lawson Terrace, Sandycove, South Dublin. His father was Captain Roger Casement of The Kings Own Regiment of Dragoons. His mother was Anne Jephson (or Jepson) who came from a Dublin Anglican family. They moved to Worthing, England where they lived in “genteel poverty.” While living in England, Rogers mother travelled to Rhyl, Wales to have him re- baptised into The Roman Catholic Faith. His mother died when he was nine years of age. The family then moved back to County Antrim where Casement spent his childhood living with family. By the time Roger was thirteen years of age, his father had also died.

After his father’s death, Roger and his brother Tom and sister Nora were cared for by relatives: the Youngs of Glangorm Castle in Ballymena and the Casements of Magherintemple. They attended the Diocesan School, Ballymena, and they were later enrolled in Ballymena Academy. At sixteen years of age, he left home to travel to Liverpool to live with his Aunt Grace Bannister (his mother’s sister.)

Casement got a job as a clerk in Elder Dempster Shipping Line Company in Liverpool. He remained in this position for three years. Looking for adventure, at the age of nineteen, he set out to find work on one of the ships bound for far off countries.  The captain of a ship called “The Bonney” that was bound for the Congo employed him as a purser. With his experience as a clerk, the captain was of the opinion that Casement was well qualified for the job. A purser is responsible for all administration and supply of goods on the ship,  and frequently the cook and stewards answer to the purser as well. When this trip was completed Casement returned to Africa where he found employment with Belgium’s “Congo International Association.” He then became a companion to artist and explorer Herbart Ward between 1889-1890. Ward wanted someone of experience to manage his affairs while he was on a lecturing tour of United States of America.

When Casement returned to Ireland, he was offered an official post as Acting Director-General of Customs. Leading on from that, his first consular appointment came in 1895. This appointment was to take him to Delagoa Bay in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique.) At this point in his career, he was very definitely “pro-British;” very much  opposed to the Boars and the Kruger. For these services the was awarded the Queens South African Medal. By June of 1902, the Foreign Office had assigned him to “go into the interior” and send reports of mismanagement of the Congo.  He found evidence of cruelty and mutilation of the Congolese, which the Foreign Office failed to act upon. This upset him greatly. For this work he was rewarded with the Order of Saint Michael and St George.

Following on from these successes, he accepted a consular post at Santos, Brazil 1908, and was then appointed as consular-general to Rio De Janeiro. Next, his success in the field of investigation was to take him to Putumayo Basin, Peru, appointed by the Foreign Office once again to investigate atrocities. Having written up his report by 191, he was rewarded with a knighthood.

Having gained an international reputation for exposing European colonial exploitation of native peoples in Africa and South America, he was well placed to understand how imperialism had been ingrained into all corners of the Globe. For more than twenty years he followed his profession as human rights activist, whereby accolades fell on him like leafs from a tree.

Casement had by this time, however, developed an increasingly anti-imperialist opinion.  He had joined the Gaelic League in 1904, and desperately tried to learn the language. Despite all his efforts, however, he found it difficult to get his tongue around the nuances. He did, however, have a command of several other languages that he had learned in his role as a British Consular.

Since joining the Gaelic League, he had become increasingly committed to the cause for Irish Independence. By 1913, he had retired from his role as a British Consular. He went on to form a friendship with Eoin McNeil, (who became Chief of Staff of the Volunteers) ably assisting him to co-write the Volunteers Manifesto. He also was very impressed by Arthur Griffiths’ Sinn Fein Party, who wanted Home Rule by using a non-violent series of strikes and boycotts.  However, Casement still remained committed to securing armoury for the Irish Volunteers.  Now a committed Irish rebel, in 1914 he travelled to the United States to raise money on behalf of the Volunteers from the large ethnic Irish communities. Through his friendship with Bulmer Hobson (a member of both the Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood) he was able to establish connections with Clan na Gael.  This organization was a committed and large community of Irish rebels in the USA who saw the need for insurrection in Ireland. Although he was not fully trusted by Clan na Gael, he nonetheless was able to secure a huge amount of funding for the Irish Volunteers.

It has been said, that Sir Roger Casement was the central figure in developing the rebels’ relations with Germany. Travelling to Germany under the guise of working for the Irish Parliament in 1914, he established links with the German Government.

With no love lost between Germany and Britain, the German Government agreed to allow Casement to recruit Irish prisoners of war for transportation to Ireland in its insurrection against British Rule.  However, despite all his efforts, recruitment was poor, as he was perceived as a traitor by many of these men.

Immersing himself at the forefront of the Republican movement in all its varying parts, Casement never quite succeeding in being trusted sufficiently to be granted access to the plans for the Easter Rising. Along with Roger Monteith, Casement was soon back into the role of negotiating terms with the German Authorities. This time Joseph Mary Plunkett had been sent to join him in the negotiations, as the leaders of the inner sanctum of the Irish Military Brotherhood had wanted one of their own there.  They succeeded in a promise of at least one consignment of armoury Armoury.This was said to be 25,000 Russian Rifles and  one million rounds of bullets. This consignment was ispatched on the 9th April, 1916, on board “The Aud.” At this point, Casement considered this one consignment to be totally inadequate, and believed that the Rising would be doomed if it went ahead with insufficient armoury..[Joseph Mary Plunkett was jubilant  that they had succeeded]

Casement believed that the German government was toying with him by only allowing the Irish Leaders one consignment. He thought that the Germans were not fully supporting the Irish cause for Independence. Back in Ireland, the inner sanctum of men( James Connelly, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Mary Plunkett et al.) were of the same opinion. By this time, Casement had used all his guile of diplomacy to persuade the German government to transport him back to Ireland in a submarine.

What the Leaders of the Rising did not know was that, by this time, British Intelligence had been able to intercept messages between the Leaders of the Rising and the German Embassy in New York. They were, therefore, anticipating both the arrival of “The Aud” and the submarine which had Casement on board. Before leaving Germany, Casement confided his personal papers to Dr. Charles Curry, with whom he had stayed at Riederau, on the Ammersee, Zungerbecken Lake in Upper Bavaria.

Some historical documents have Casement arrested on the shore at Banna Strand, Tralee, County Kerry immediately on setting foot on the strand.  Other historical records have him holed up with his two companions who were with him on the submarine: Roger Monteith and John McGoey (an Irish America who had recently joined the republican  movement.) In this version of events, Casement was too weak to travel, and was discovered at McKenna’s Fort (an ancient ring fort now called “Casements Fort” in Rathoneen, Ardfert) and was subsequently arrested.

He had trusted McGoey with being the “runner” to Eon MacNeill in Dublin to convey the news that, in his opinion, the Rising should be called off due to insufficient armoury. . McGoey disappeared, not to be heard of until 1964 when he died in the USA. Casement did eventually manage to get his information to Eoin MacNeill.

History now records that due to inept planning by the rebel leaders and a navigational error by the ships pilot of The Aud, local Irish Volunteers Forces had not been expecting it to land when it did.  It had failed to appear at what they though was their rendezvous point.

What had started as a full operational, equipped Irish Army of Volunteers to take on the might of the British Establishment, had now descended into a fiasco. Both submarine and gunship were captured and Casement was arrested on the 21st April 1916. Fearing leaks, the full knowledge of such sensitive information was not communicated to the authorities in Dublin by the Royal Navy. Therefore, Dublin Castle remained in ignorance of the plans for a Rising.

The Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers might have tried to rescue Casement over the next three days when he was holed up, but was ordered by its leadership in Dublin to “do nothing”.

Casement was charged with treason, sabotage ,and espionage against the Crown. He was taken straight to the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned. His Knighthood was duly stripped from him.

At his very highly published trial, the prosecution had trouble arguing its case; the 1351 medieval Treason Act seemed to apply only to activities carried out on English soil. The Casement Family of Antrim who had helped raise him until he was sixteen years of age; helped fund his trial and appeal.

During the trial and the appeal that took place shortly after, he had been condemned to death. The British Government had found his journals (known as The Black Diaries), and had circulated excerpts from them. Notables of the day who may well have intervened on his behalf, left him floundering for support when these diaries became widely distributed. His homosexuality had sealed his fate. In the fact of socially excepted norms and the illegality of homosexuality in this era, he was a doomed man.

Casement read out a statement at his trial which referred to the statute under which he was charged:

”When this statute was passed, in 1351, what was the state of men’s minds on the question of a far higher allegiance – that of man to God and His Kingdom; and “ I was not tried by my peers.”

On the day of his execution, as an adult he was received and baptised into the Catholic Faith. He was attended to  by Dean Ring and Father Carey. Father Carey called him a “saint.”

Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916, aged 51 years. Sir Roger Casement  was buried in quicklime: the British Authorities’ way of showing their contempt for him.

Since his death, then there has been speculation, debate; forgery theories, and even forensic testing to determine if the handwriting in The Black Diaries was Casement’s.

His sister Nora and cousin Gertrude Bannister went to their graves always adamant that while the handwriting may be his, the contents were accounts of the foul conduct he investigated at Putumayo, Peru. They both insist that the British government got the diaries and forged them to make it look like it was his own experiences he had written about.

Casement’s bones were repatriated to Ireland 1965.  His bones lay in state at Arbour Hill for five days. More than three million people filed past his coffin.  He was given a state funeral and was buried with full military honours in the Republican section with the other heroes in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The carriage on which Sir Roger Casement was laid in Ireland

The President of Ireland, Eamon De Valera was the only living Rising leader at this time. At over 80 years of age, he attended Casement’s funeral against all medical advice, along with all the other dignitaries of the Government of Ireland and over 30,000 people.

In death as in life, Casement has remained a controversial figure. His bones (or lack off)  have been the subject of yet more discussion and debate between England and Ireland; as late as 1998 the Sinn Féin newspaper An Phoblacht claimed that the coffin was full of stone. This was immediately contradicted by the historian Proinsias Mac Aonghusa .

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Seán Heuston

Posted by Jim on April 11, 2015

Posted by That’s Just How It Was


Seán Heuston is yet another young man who is scarcely known as one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.  He does not share the historical iconic status that is accorded to James Connolly or Patrick Pearse, for example.  He was and still remains one of many leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising who is “a shadowy figure” about whom little is known.

Heuston was born in Dublin along with his three siblings.  It has been said that his mother lived with her two sisters in Jervis Street, a slum area of Dublin, during this time.  She  continued to live there with her four children with all three women sharing the care of these four Heuston children.

Seán Heuston was enrolled at the very highly regarded Christian Brothers School.  He was an excellent student and became a fluent speaker in the Irish language — truly a master of the oral and written language.  He excelled at other subjects as well and achieved excellent results in various state examinations.  From there, he went to work for the Great Southern and Western Railways working as a clerk where he was highly respected.

His father has been recorded in the censuses of 1901 and 1911 as not being a member of this household.  He did not, however, disappear from the Heustons’ lives.  Records exist to show that Seán Heuston’s himself wrote to his father some days before he was executed.  His mother, Marie, wrote to her husband after the execution to inform him of the death of their eldest son.  As members of the “urban poor of Victorian Dublin,” it is impossible to trace or penetrate the inner workings of the Heuston social traditions.  They left few, if any, traces behind them.  This is, of course, typical of the poor in this era.  Most would just move on leaving behind no traces.

Culturally, however, there is evidence that education and religion played an important part in the Heuston family.  Seán’s eldest sister, Mary, became a school teacher, and then went on to join a religious order.  Micheál, his younger brother, became a Dominican Priest.

Being a young man who had been noted by his employer’s as having “an upwardly socially mobile trajectory,” he was promoted and transferred to Limerick.  This is where he then joined and became an active member of Na Fianna Éireann, which had been founded by Bulner Hobson and Countess Markievicz in 1909 as a youth organization.  Openly militaristic but not considered to be political, it was hierarchical in nature.  Heuston rose rapidly through the ranks (unknown to his employers, however, as they were staunchly pro-establishment).  It was in Limerick that he, too, became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).  Along with his excellent memory and knowledge of Irish History, his administration skills were soon noticed and put to good use by both Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He used his own native language whenever possible.  His charm and drive were such that he began recruiting young men into both Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  Heuston became synonymous with the rapid and successful establishment of Na Fianna in Limerick.

By 1913, Heuston had transferred back to Dublin where he was based at Kingsbridge Station.  His arrival back in the city of his birth coincided with the formation of the Irish Volunteers.  His skills already well known in the hierarchical establishment of the IRB, he received a commission within the new organisation and was given the task of doing what he did best — recruiting and military training of the rank-and-file members.

Records note that he must have led a double life.  By day he was, as ever, the diligent and trusted employee of the Great Southern and Western Railways; by night and at weekends, he was spending his time training the rank-and-file on quasi- military marches in the surrounding Dublin Hills.  His rise through the ranks of the Na Fianna Éireann and the Volunteers was considered to be phenomenal, and he was soon promoted to Director of Training and a member of the Central Council in 1915.

By 1916, Heuston was a full and accepted member of the inner circle of the IRB, and a successful and established leader in the Volunteers.  He held down several roles while continuing to a trusted member of the Great Southern and Western Railways.  Prior to the Easter Rising, he was promoted to be the leader of “D Company” of the First Battalion of the Volunteers in Dublin.  It is not clear if he was on familiar terms with the other leaders of the Easter Rising.  However, what is clear is that he was obviously a trusted Lieutenant of both Pearse and Connolly.  The documents that he was carrying had both Patrick Pearse’s and James Connolly’s names and signatures at the time of his arrest.  This would most probably have contributed to his ultimate fate.

Heuston was the officer commanding the Volunteers in the Mendacity Institution (now renamed Heuston’s Fort) on the south side of Dublin.  He was acting under orders from his commanding officer, James Connolly.  He was told to hold this position with the Volunteers for three to four hours in order to delay the advance of the British Troops.  His job was to disrupt and inhibit any British troop movements toward the city centre General Post Office (GPO) for as long as possible.  This is where the main body of the fighting was taking place, and by inhibiting the British Forces it would give the advantage to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

Heuston did, in fact, inspire his heavily besieged cohort of Volunteers to continue to hold out for almost three days.  This in spite of the fact that he was hopelessly undermanned.  He had totally inadequate supplies of arms, food and, not least, military experience in live action.  Sending a dispatch to his commanding officer, James Connelly, Heuston wrote that it was impossible to hold out any longer.  Connolly was amazed at their resilience and insisted on sending back a congratulatory note to Heuston, not knowing at that time that Patrick Pearse had ordered a surrender.

Caught by the British troops who spat upon and violated them in the most vicious of ways (because there had only been 26 Volunteers holding off a battalion of 300 British troops), the Volunteers were made to pay dearly for their defiance.  Heuston was  taken prisoner and transferred to Richmond Barracks.  He was tried by court martial on the 7th of May, 1916, and sentenced to be executed the next morning.

On the morning of his execution, Father Albert, O.F.M Cap. was sent for in order that he might pray with Heuston.  This is how he spent his final hours.  Father Albert wrote an account of those hours up to and including the execution (too long and emotional to be printed here).  The following is just a brief snapshot:

“Never did I realise that men could fight so bravely, and die so beautifully, and so fearlessly as did the Heroes of Easter Week. On the morning of Sean Heuston’s death I would have given the world to have been in his place, he died in such a noble and sacred cause, and went forth to meet his Divine Saviour with such grand Christian sentiments of trust, confidence and love!”

Seán Heuston was 25 years of age when he died.  Father Albert was literally a few feet away from his body, having walked all the way with him to the spot where he was to be executed.  He was on-hand to administer the last rights of the Catholic Church by anointing him.

Heuston Station in Dublin is named in his honour.

Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week ? – Opinion Piece from Gerry Adams

Posted by Jim on

When the government first unveiled its commemoration programme for 1916 it was widely viewed as short term, shambolic and superficial.

Since then a former leader of Fine Gael has put forward the view that the Rising was not needed and was a civil war.

Following widespread criticism, and in the run up to the elections the government has now brought forward a more fitting commemoration. This is to be welcomed

However there remains vacuity at the centre of the plans.

This government just doesn’t get 1916. It is an inconvenient issue and you get the impression that they just want the commemorations to be out of the way and to return to business as usual.

Their approach has been to strip away any politics and context to the rising. To reduce it to a tragedy in which death and injury was inflicted equally on all sides, and so all sides must be equally remembered.

This is a shallow and wholly self-serving approach to our history. Devoid of context or politics the Rising is portrayed as a moment in history that should be kept in a little glass case and studied or in the view of some in the Redmondite wing of Fine Gael an unnecessary moment of madness.

Without a doubt war is brutal. It visits death and injury on all sides.

The grief of a mother and father, brother and sister, or son and daughter is not diminished by circumstance of that loss. The grief experienced by the family of an RIC member was no different from that of a member of the IRA who fought in the GPO or a civilian killed on the streets. All have the right to be respected and remembered.

However it is wrong for the state commemoration to be reduced to solely to an act of remembrance for a collection of individuals.

While each is a story of individual courage and loss, those involved in the Rising were more than a collection of individuals. They were an army and a movement with a shared republican politics, shaped by their experience of the British Empire and world war.

Those who took part in the Rising, gave their lives and liberty, to deliver the republic enshrined in the proclamation. A republic built on the principles of equality and sovereignty, of human rights and civil liberties, and of unity and nationhood. Principles that remain a challenge to successive governments in this state.

It is in these principles that we find the government’s problem with the commemoration. For this government it is easier to deal with the notion of individual loss and sacrifice, than promote the ideas of the proclamation.

So the government does not address the inequality, division and lack of sovereignty, that drove a generation of republicans onto the streets of Dublin.

They even proposed to rewrite the proclamation and hope that we forget that the original one has been undermined by the actions of successive governments. Heaven forbid that we even mention the north or the continued failure that is partition.

The memory and ownership of 1916 does not exclusively belong to Sinn Féin, any other party or the government. The commemoration of the rising cannot be limited to a lecture, an exhibition or a parade.

It belongs to the Irish nation, all the people that share this island and the Irish nation spread across the globe.

While the commemoration must be an opportunity for remembrance, it is also an opportunity for national renewal, for building a new republic.

In the last election the government promised a democratic revolution and delivered hardship, inequality, continued loss of sovereignty, a hands off attitude to the North and the Good Friday Agreement. There is a demand across our nation for change, a demand for the republic promised in 1916.

Our history cannot be encased in a museum, or mausoleum it is part of who we are, where we are from, and were we want to go.

That is why Sinn Féin developed a programme of events to mark 1916. We are seeking to encourage communities to engage with their heritage and to rise to the challenge of delivering a republic for citizens.

t would appear that the government is afraid to speak of Easter week, afraid of the challenge that it opens and afraid of the views of citizens.

The most fitting tribute to the loss of past generations including republicans, British and civilians is to deliver the republic promised on the steps of the GPO.

A 32 county republic in which citizens have equality and rights and the sovereignty of the nation is protected.

This generation has the opportunity and ability to deliver such a republic without making the sacrifice of previous generations. There is now a peaceful and democratic way to achieve this. But it will require leadership, determination and putting the needs of the nation above individual political position.

Maybe the real reason that that the government does not
want to talk about the unfinished business of 1916 is that it will remind them of their failure and remind citizens that they retain the power to make good the proclamation.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Patrick Pearse

Posted by Jim on April 9, 2015

Posted by That’s Just How It Was

Pádraig Pearse (Patrick Henry Pearse) is one only a handful of men who have  enjoyed the dubious honour of becoming an iconic status in Irish History  books based on his role in the 1916 Easter Rising.  He was born in Great Brunswick Street in Dublin and had a  brother, Willie, and a sister ,Margaret.  His father, James, immigrated to Ireland from Birmingham in the 1850s and established a stone masonry and sculpture business.

James’ work became so popular that he was commissioned to do sculptures for churches and other and high-profile buildings.  This business flourished and it provide the family with a comfortable middle-class upbringing.  James was a Unitarian but raised his children to be free-thinkers.  James has two children from a prior marriage who, unfortunately, died in infancy.

Patrick Pearse’s mother, Margaret, was from Dublin; but her father’s family, who lived in County Meath, were fluent speakers of the Irish language.  Patrick loved listening to his  great-aunt Margaret speak in the native tongue.  Combined with her story telling in the Irish language, his mother’s influences, and the schooling he received at Christian Brothers on Westland Row, a real love for the native language was instilled in him.  Surrounded by books all his life, Pearse would eventually enter university where he would become a barrister, a poet, writer, and a Irish language school teacher.

Not surprisingly, Pearse soon became involved in the Gaelic revival (Conradh na Gaeilge).  He joined the Gaelic League at 16 years of age.  At the age of 23, he became the Editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light).

Pearse was inspired by such people as Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, both of whom were Protestants with a very clear vision of what a united Ireland should look like.

By 1900, Pearse had been awarded a B.A. in Modern Languages (Irish, English, and French) by the Royal College of Ireland.  He had studied at both the University College of Dublin and University College to gain these awards.  That same year, he was enrolled as a Barrister-at-Law at Kings Inns and was called to the bar in 1901.

Single-minded about education reform and the Irish language in particular, he co-founded Coláiste Éanna (for boys) and Coláiste Íde (for girls) in 1908.  Pearse was devoted to the education of Irish children through the Irish language.  Initially, he regarded educational reform as more important than political independence.  Up until 1912, he had shared a Home Rule platform with many of the Fenians and was openly committed to Irish Independence.  He became increasingly aware that while these platforms were useful in promoting  the cause for Irish Independence, it was a wasted opportunity.  He began to support the use of physical force and the necessity for a “blood sacrifice” if it became necessary (knowing only too well that this would mean outright war on British rule in Ireland).

Pearse joined the Irish Volunteers upon its foundation in 1913.  His knowledge and intelligence soon earned him rapid promotion to its headquarters staff.  He was always a good orator on all of the Home Rule platforms, so it was no surprise that he wrote and delivered the speech at the commemoration of Theobald Wolfe Tone in 1913.

Those who were secretly organizing the Easter Rising were impressed by Pearse’s lifelong commitment to Home Rule and high profile in organizing and delivering speeches at all Irish-related rebel movements.  In May of 1915, he was approached and offered a role with the secret inner sanctum of the Irish army.  Subsequently, he played a very active role in the arrangements for the landing of German arms.

On the 23rd of April, 1916, the Military Council appointed Pearse Commandant–General of the of the Army of Irish Republic and President of the Provisional Government.  During Easter week, Pearse served at the rebellion headquarters, the General Post Office, where he was in titular command only.  It is unlikely that he fired a single shot.  Throughout the conflict, he exuded a calm confidence.  He interpreted his role as that of offering encouragement and addressing the men to sustain morale.  He occasionally mixed with the public, most famously by reading the Proclamation on Easter Monday.  Privately, he agonised over the moral rectitude of what they had undertaken.

The onslaught of missiles and gun shots that had damaged the General Post Office was nothing compared to the fire that swept through the building.  They had no choice but to evacuate the building.  Pearse organized the evacuation.  He was the last to leave.  Deliberating overnight in makeshift accommodation, it was at noon the next day he accepted the majority view of all the leaders that they should negotiate with the British to prevent further slaughter of civilians and save the lives of the Volunteers.  At  2:30 p.m.,  he surrendered unconditionally on behalf of the Volunteers.  These orders were then made public by the Capuchin Friars who would be the “runners” between Patrick Pearse,James Connolly, and Dublin Castle.

Arrested on the spot, Pearse was taken to Richmond Barracks.  He was court martialled on the 2nd of May and transferred to Kilmainham Gaol.  He was attended to by the Capuchin friars.  He faced his death by whistling all the way to the Kilmainham yard.  He was blindfolded executed by firing squad on the 3rd of May, 1916.

While he was in Kilmainham, he wrote letters about why the Easter Rising needed to happen … justifying the need to free Ireland from British rule.

While writing to his mother, Pearse said:

“When we are all wiped out, people will blame us.  In a few years, they will see the meaning of what we tried to do.”

“This is the death I should have asked for if God had given me the choice of all deaths.”

Here is a poem Pearse wrote for his mother:

The Mother

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.

Margaret Pearse (Patrick and Willie’s Mother) joined Sinn Féin after the Easter Rising.  She was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin Council in the 1921 elections.

Insulting to remember British Army deaths equally during 1916 events

Posted by Jim on


by Niall O’Dowd

Following the Easter Rising, British Army soldiers search a car on Mount Street Bridge over the Grand Canal, in an area of Dublin that had seen fierce and prolonged fighting. Photo by: National Library of Ireland

The families of some British soldiers from 1916 are calling for a memorial in Ireland to the British Army dead in the conflict.

 31 British soldiers were killed in the fighting and the grandchildren of one of them, Captain Frederick Dietrichsen, have called for a permanent memorial.

The British Army memorial is becoming a bit of a movement.

 Writing in the Irish Times on Saturday political editor Stephen Collins approves of this.  He wrote: “The commemorative program for 2016 also recognizes the scale of civilian casualties in Easter 1916, and does not shirk from acknowledging that the British army and police casualties are also worthy of remembrance.”

But are they all equal?

If the shoe were on the other foot would the British equally remember IRA bombers who killed themselves planting bombs during The Troubles or would the Irish government forgive the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe as part of an acknowledgment that all participants and victims were equal in some way?

Should we hail the men who strapped James Connolly to a wheelchair, blindfolded him and executed him?

Or the men from the South Staffordshire regiment who, as commentator John Dorney has written, bayoneted 15 innocent civilians to death?

“Infuriated with the losses they had suffered, on late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, the troops broke into the homes of the locals and shot or bayoneted 15 civilian men whom they accused of being rebels. They killed three men at 170 North Kings Street whose dead bodies were found to have bayonet wounds, then broke into number 172 and killed two men. In number 174 two more were shot dead. Two more civilian men were killed at number 177 and in 27 North King Street another four men, who all worked there at the Louth Dairy were found dead in a basement and one more man was killed at number 91. The fifteenth was shot dead on adjoining Coleraine Street by the British troops.”

Such massacres were routinely carried out by the Black and Tans in later years and they too suffered major casualties in the War of Independence. Shall we hear calls to commemorate their fallen too equally?

Like it or no the British were in Ireland as conquerors, never accepted by the native people. The British Army in 1916 was defending an imperialist possession and was quite ready to kill maim and massacre those who opposed British rule.

In the new Ireland are these aggressors to be considered on a par with the Irish revolutionaries and the Irish citizens who died?

I think not. The Kumbaya theory of history only takes us so far.

It is a bad idea as Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin wrote on Twitter: “British Soldiers imposing oppression through violence should not be commemorated equally with volunteers seeking Irish freedom.”

Amen to that.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: James Connolly

Posted by Jim on April 8, 2015

James Connolly (Séamas Ó Conghaile) is one of the handful of men who share the dubious honour of being placed in the iconic status categories in the Irish history books based on his involvement in the Easter Rising 1916 as well as his role in the Trade Union movement.  He was born in Cowgate 1868 to Irish emigrant parents who had moved there for economic reasons from Monaghan.  Cowgate was a slum area of Edinburgh that did not enjoy a good reputation in Scotland. It was considered to be an Irish ghetto where many, many thousands of Irish settled in an attempt to gain employment. He belonged to the Parish of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was nick-named ‘Little Ireland,’ like many other countries all over the world where the Irish would settle .

Educated to the age of eleven years at the local Roman Catholic Primary School, he decided that he would be better off working. He worked at many different labouring jobs, like his father and grandfather before him. He then made the decision to enlist in the British Army like his older brother (who had deeply regretted his own decision).  The military did offer him food, shelter, and a wage; more importantly he would be educated in the art of military life. Like his brother, he lied about his age; he was only fourteen years of age, and his name was listed as Reid in the Army documents.  Entering a grown man’s world at such a young age…

Serving in Ireland for nearly seven years, he would gain the knowledge and experience and education that would serve him well for the rest of his life. This was a very turbulent period in rural Ireland, and he saw and had to do things that would have a profound effect on him. He developed a deep hatred for the British Army which would last all his life. When he heard that his regiment was being transferred to India, he deserted the British Army.

This is when he met a young woman called Lillie Reynolds. They moved back to Scotland and they were married in 1890. They had a few children within years of getting married. He joined the Socialist Movement and aligned himself to Syndicalism, a movement that was thought to have started in France to aid and support all workers. However, as much as he wanted to commit himself to this role of supporting people, he had a young family to keep.  He set up a cobblers shop which failed a month later, not least because his cobbling skills were insufficient. Another reason was that he was strongly active in the socialist movement and he prioritized this work over his Cobbler shop.

At this time his brother John was secretary of the Scottish Socialist Federation. He got sacked, however, from his Edinburgh Corporation job because he spoke out at a rally in favour of a eight-hour day. James then took over John’s role as secretary. This would become a pivotal point in his life because this is where he would meet Keir Hardy who formed the Independent Labour Party in 1893.  During this period he took up the study of Esperanto: a constructed language that was designed to make international communication easier.

It was through his connections in the Trade Union Environment that he heard that the Dublin Socialist Club were looking for full-time secretary, offering a salary of one pound per week. This of course was too good an opportunity to miss out on, so he applied for and got the position. So, just after the birth of his third daughter, Connolly moved his family back to Dublin, Ireland.

Under his leadership, the Dublin Socialists quickly evolved into the Irish Socialist Republican Party, which has gone down in the Irish history books as being of pivotal importance in the early history of socialism and republicans. He was among the founders of the Socialist Labour Party when it split from the Social Democratic federation in 1903.

Always acting in the best interests of the working people wherever they were, he joined Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffiths in the Dublin protest against the Boar War. At this time, he felt that economically he would be better off to emigrate to America. He immediately joined the Socialist Party of America 1906, and founded the Socialist Federation New York 1907.  Then he joined the Socialist Party of America 1909, and the Industrial Workers of the World movement, always wanting the workers to get what was justified.

He and his family moved back to Dublin in 1910, where he would meet up with James Larkin.  Larkin was a fellow Syndicalist (one who wants a economic society owned by the workers; a replacement for capitalism.) He became James Larkin’s right hand man in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

He stood twice for the Wood Quay Ward Dublin Corporation, but was unsuccessful. His name in the Dublin Census 1911 lists him as ‘National Organiser, Socialist Party.” In response to the Lockout 1913, he co-founded the Irish Citizen’s Army [ICA]. This is where the skills that he learned in the British Army came to fruition. The Irish Citizen’s Army was made up of approximately 250 men including another ex-British Army man who was one of the co-founders: Jack White.  All of these men were by background, labourers, who understood only too well the brutality that was perpetrated on the striking workers by the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Their goal of establishing The Irish Labour Party grew out of the need to the defend workers and strikers. The political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress met this need, and he soon became its National Executive. On Trade Union business, he travelled to Belfast, where he met Winifred (Nora) Carney. She became his secretary, and was with him during the week of the Easter Rising.

Connolly considered the Leaders of Irish Volunteers and The Irish Military Brotherhood to be bourgeois, and stood aloof from them.  In his opinion, he considered them to be merely posturing and unconcerned with Ireland’s Independence; thinking that they were unwilling to take divisive action against the British Government and Dublin Castle.

In his attempt to gage a reaction from them, he goaded them by threatening to send the Irish Citizen’s Army to war against the British Empire…alone, if it became necessary.

On hearing this, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who already had plans in place for an insurgence that very year, made haste to have a discussion with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached to prevent a disaster happening.

What has now become imperative in Irish history is that Roger Casement (a British Diplomat and an Irish Rebel) had been arrested while disembarking off a German submarine on his way to meet the Volunteers at the gunboat to unload the armoury. Compounding this travesty, MacNeill (Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers) on hearing of Casement’s arrest, countermanded the plans for the Easter Rising by advertising in the Independent that all orders given to the Irish Volunteers were rescinded. Confusion reigned throughout this period all over Ireland, with some of the Volunteers already having smashed their weapons and some going off to the Fairytown Races.  However, Pearse, Connolly, Cathal Brugha and all the inner sanctum of the Leaders confirmed that the Easter Rising should go ahead, knowing that their days were numbered by the arrest of Casement.

Connolly’s wife Lillie and his family arrived in Dublin from Tyrone where she had been staying. Accommodation had been found for them in Count Markiewicz’s cottage in the mountains outside Dublin. Connolly now felt able to  address the Citizens Army in Liberty Hall 1916, where he told then that the Irish Citizens Army no longer existed and that they were all now a part of The Irish Republican Army.   He stated that he was the Commandant-General of all the insurgent forces in Dublin.

History now records that Connolly, Pearse, Clarke, MacDermott, and Plunkette made their way up O’Connell Street [was Sackville Street] and based themselves in the General Post Office with all the Volunteers and Cumman na Mbann. They were to make their move at 12:00 PM; at the first stroke of the Angelus, the insurrection was to begin.

Patrick Pearse was the one who read out the Proclamation on the first stroke of the 12:00 Angelus, and so the Easter Rising began.

As mortars, bombs, and bullets rained down on the General Post Office, Connolly proved himself to be inspirational and effective: supervising the construction of defences, determining and adjusting strategy, and summoning reinforcements. That only nine volunteers died in the Post Office during the fighting is said to be a testimony to his talents.

It was only when fire swept through the General Post Office that the order was made to leave the building.  By that time, Connolly was severely wounded.  Even after he had been severely wounded and operated on by Dr O’Mahoney (a prisoner) in the closed off section of the makeshift headquarters, he remained staunchly supportive to his men; speaking to them from a hospital bed that had been wheeled into the troops where they had burrowed down following the excavation of the GPO. In order to prevent further blood loss, the fateful decision was made to surrender.

Patrick Pearse would write of him, “Wounded, still the guiding force of our resistance, nothing would break the will of this man.”

Immediately on surrendering, he was arrested.  Connolly was taken to the Red Cross Hospital at Dublin Castle. For the last fortnight of his life he was attended to by Surgeon Tobin who was greatly impressed by Connolly. He spoke to the world no more. His only visitors: his wife and children, his secretary, and Father Aloysius (Capuchin Friars) would be able to record his feelings and thoughts for the future. His reflections on the struggle would have to be reconstructed from these recollections, which were recorded while he was under terrible emotional stress and physical pain. One thought that he had was that he had a Scottish accent, and that the Irish people would not know why he was there:  “They will never understand why I am here; they will forget that I am an Irishman.”

He was court martialed while he was in Dublin Castle, propped up in bed. The statement that he would present at his court martial would find its way into his secretary’s hands later. His expectation that the Rising’s organisers would be shot, and the rest set free did not happen; as history now records.

At midnight on the 11th May,1916, he was woken to told that he would be executed at dawn the next morning. His wife Lilly and his secretary Nora were sent for; he surreptitiously slipped the hand written notes from his court martial into Nora’s hand. At dawn the next morning, he was taken by stretcher to Kilmainham Goal. Blindfolded, he was lifted into a chair and executed on the 12th May, 1916. He left a widow with seven young children. Fr. Aloysius was by his side.

The note that he surreptitiously slipped to Nora reads as follows:

“I do not wish to make any defense except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners.  We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call that we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die for to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.

Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, or even a respectable  minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government forever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.

I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of women and girls were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest to it with their lives if need be.”

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Éamon de Valera

Posted by Jim on April 6, 2015

Éamon de Valera is a man that has enjoyed iconic status in the Irish history books for more reasons than being one of the Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. He was born in New York in 1882 to a Irish mother and a Spanish father. His mother originated from Bruree, Limerick, and his father was Juan Vivion De Valera. His mother later re-married and had another son.

Reports over the years have suggested that Catherine and Juan were married on the 18th of September 1881 at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey. Archivists, however, have not been able to locate any such marriage certificate at St. Patrick’s Church. Nor have they found any birth, baptismal or death certificate information for anyone called Juan Vivion De Valera. They have even tried looking for an alternative spelling of the name, to no avail. De Valera’s original birth certificate has his name recorded as “George de Valero” and his father is listed as Vivion De Valero. In 1910 however, Eamon De Valera’s first name was change to Edward, and “de Valero” was corrected to De Valera. His father died in very poor circumstances in 1885, leaving Eamon and his mother destitute.  As a consequence of their abject poverty, his Uncle Ned took him back to Ireland at the age of 2 years.  There, he was raised by his grandmother, Elizabeth Coll, who was ably assisted by his Uncle Patrick and his Aunt Hannie.

He attended the local National School in Limerick, and then moved on to Christian Brothers School, Charleville, Co. Cork. At the age of 16 years, he won a scholarship to attend further education. He tried to gain entry to two colleges back in Limerick but was unsuccessful in these applications. He did, however, gain entry to Blackrock College with the assistance of his local priest. He excelled in academic life, and rugby was his chosen sport. At Rockwell College, he played fullback on the first team. This team reach the final of the Munster Senior Club. Subsequently, he went on to play rugby for the Munster Rugby Team. He retained a lifelong interest in rugby, even toward the end of his life when he was nearly blind.

He won “Student of the Year” at Blackrock College, and then went on to win further scholarships. He gained many certificates in education, and then went on to be appointed as a teacher of mathematics at Rockwell College, Co. Tipperary. It was here that he gained the now familiar nick name of ‘Dev,’ as well as ‘the long fellow,’ an affectionate name given by his colleague, Tom ‘O Donnell .

From there, he attended the Royal University of Ireland, graduating in 1904 with a degree in mathematics. He studied for one year at Trinity College, Dublin. Not having a scholarship to continue his education further, he had to leave to earn a living. He then returned to teaching. In 1906 he was appointed as a Mathematics Teacher at Belvedere College  where he would later teach Kevin Barry (a rebel who was executed at the age of 18 years for his role in the War of Independence.) From there, he worked in various colleges: Carysforth Teachers Training College, part time at Maynooth, Castlenock College (teaching under the name “Edward De Valera” there.) He then applied, unsuccessfully,  for a professorship at the National University of Ireland.

Always being a very religious man, he seriously contemplated the religious life, as his half-brother Father Thomas Wheelright had done. At one point, he even approached the President of Clonliffe Seminary in Dublin asking for advice on his vocation to the religious life.

He then joined the Gaelic League, where he would meet many fellow activists, including Sinéad Flanagan, a teacher and a fluent Irish language speaker who was four years his senior. They were married in St. Paul’s Church, Arran Quay, Dublin on January 8, 1910.

Always interested in the culture and language of Ireland, De Valera became an avid speaker for the cause of Irish Independence. He joined the Irish Volunteers in November, 1913. The Irish Volunteers were formed for a number of reasons, not least to try and curtail the brutality of the British Military and the Metropolitan Police on the strikers of the 1913 lock out. The Irish Volunteers also wanted to ensure the enactment of the Irish Parliamentary Party’s Third Home Rule Act, which was being opposed by the Ulster Volunteers .

De Valera took part in the Howth gun running.  After the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914, he was sworn into the Oath Bound Irish Military Brotherhood by Thomas MacDonagh, and rose through the ranks rapidly. The IRB secretly controlled the central executive of the Volunteers. It was not long before he was elected captain of Donnybrook Company, and by this time the IRB were pushing ahead for an armed revolt. He was subsequently made commandant of the Third Battalion and adjutant of the Dublin Brigade. He opposed secret societies, but he joined this one as it was the only way he could be guaranteed full information on the plans for the Easter Rising.

So it was, that when these plans were put into place for the 24th April 1916, De Valera led his troops through the streets of Dublin to occupy Boland’s Mill on Grand Canal Street. His task was to cover all of the approaches to the  southeastern side of the city.  After a week of fighting, the surrender command from Patrick Pearse and James Connolly was brought to him by one of the Capuchin Friars. He was the last to surrender.

De Valera’s troops occupied Boland’s Mill during the Easter Rising.

He was immediately arrested and taken to a different prison than that of the other leaders. He was then court-martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad.  However, his death sentence was commuted to penal servitude almost immediately after his court martial.

Differing historical accounts vary as to why his sentence was commuted to penal servitude and some of these are listed below; one, or all of these reasons saved the life of the future President of Ireland.  

  1. He was the last man to surrender and he was held in different prison, so his execution was delayed by practicalities.
  2. The US Consulate in Dublin had made representations before his trial to make it known that he was a United States citizen.  Britain were trying to bring the USA into the War in Europe at this time, so it was of paramount of importance not to upset that delicate balance of diplomacy that existed between the two nations.  This fact, however, did not halt the death of Thomas Clarke, who had been an American citizen since 1905.
  3. De Valera was not widely known as a rebel or an activist, and had no Fenian connections. His MI5 file was very slim in 1916. When Lt. Gen. Sir John Maxwell was asked to review his case, he is said to have asked, “Who is he?” He was told that De Valera was unimportant, and consequently, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
  4. Political pressure was being brought to bear on Lt. Gen. Sir John Maxwell by Prime Minister H.H. Asquith to halt all the executions.

De Valera was the only commandant not to be executed for his role in the Easter Rising. He and his comrades were interred in Dartmoor, Maidstone, and Lewes Prisons in England. They were released under an amnesty in June, 1917. By July, 1917 he had been elected a member of the House of Commons for East Clare.

As the world now knows only too well, De Valera was one of the most dominant political figures of  the twentieth century in Ireland, with his political career spanning over half a century.

He had five sons and two daughters. His son Brian predeceased his parents. Throughout his life, he was known for being a religious man, so it was no surprise that he asked to be buried in a religious habit on his death. According to tradition in Ireland in this era, the deceased should be dressed appropriately, with all areas of the body covered. This practice of being buried in a religious habit in Ireland still holds value in some rural communities.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Tomás Séamus Ó Cléirigh

Posted by Jim on April 5, 2015

Tomás Séamus Ó Cléirigh (Thomas James Clarke) was born on the 8th day of March in 1852.  He was  one of the oldest members of the 1916 Rising.  Clarke was also known as Henry Wilson, an alias he used to counteract any publicity that his own name may attract in his role as a revolutionary.  He was one of the foremost leaders of the Rising even though he does not enjoy the same historically iconic status as some of the other leaders.  Clarke was one of the Irish Republican Brotherhood members most trusted by Séan Mac Diarmada.

Both of his parents were Irish, but his father was a sergeant in the British army stationed at Hurst Castle in Milford-on-Sea Hampshire, England.  This is where Thomas Clarke was born.  While still only a young child, his father was transferred to Dungannon, County Tyrone in Ireland.  It was there tha he attended St. Patrick’s National School.  He is thought to have steeped himself in the Irish culture and the history of Ireland.

With unemployment being very high in Ireland at the time, Clarke emigrated to the United States of America where he joined Clan na Gael (family of the Gaels).  This is where he met Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who had been exiled to the United States because of his links to Fenian movements.  Clarke, an Irish revolutionary by nature, was chosen to go to London to blow up London Bridge.  This had been planned by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa as part of a Fenian dynamite attack.

It was 1882 when Clarke arrived in London under the alias of Henry Wilson.  However, the dynamite attack did not go as planned.  He was betrayed by an informer and subsequently arrested in possession of explosives.  He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and he served this time out in some of the most extremely harsh conditions in British jails, including Milbank, Chatham, and Portland.  He wrote his memoirs of this time called “Glimpses of an Irish Felon’s Prison Life” (1922).  On his release, which was called a “ticket of leave,” he once again emigrated to the United States.

Clarke found employment with Clan na Gael leader John Devoy.  He was the promoted to Assistant Editor in its sister paper, Gaelic American.  Through his links with Clan na Gael,  he met his wife, Kathleen Daly.  She was the niece of the veteran Fenian John Daly.  Kathleen was the sister of Edward (Ned) Daly who would also be executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Clarke became a citizen of the United States and purchased 60 acres of land in New York.  After he and Kathleen were married, however, they returned to Dublin where they bought a tobacconist / newsagents on Great Britain Street (now Parnell Street) and Amiens Street.  This was his way of trying to maintain a low profile as he was still on a “ticket of leave” from his time spent in British prisons.

Behind this low profile, however, he was a very influential figure in the preparation for the 1916 Easter Rising.  He, along with Belmar Hobson, Denis McCullough, and most notably Seán Mac Diarmada revitalized the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He was elected to the IRB Supreme Council and in late 1915 co-opted to its Military Council, which was responsible for planning of the Easter Rising.  Clarke worked out the general strategy and Mac Diarmada was responsible for the details.  Clarke was also the main link with John Devoy, Joseph McGarrity, and other supporters in the United States, which was where some of the funding came from.

Clarke was given the honour of being the first signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic by virtue of his seniority and his contribution over many years.  He was stationed in the General Post Office during the Easter Rising with most of the other leaders of the Provisional Government, he opposed the surrender but was outvoted.

Clarke was soon recognized by the British military as one of the leading Commanders.  He was subsequently arrested, court martialed, and held at Kilmainham Goal pending execution.  A message he sent to his wife reads as follows:

“I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom.  The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through.  In this belief, we die happy.”

He, too, was administered too by the Capuchin Friars at this time.  He was executed alongside Patrick Pearse at dawn on the 3rd of May, 1916 in Kilmainham Gaol yard.  His body was dumped in the pit in Arbour Hill and covered in quick lime.

PS — His widow, Kathleen, was elected a T.D. in the first and second Dáil notably speaking against the Anglo –Irish Treaty.  She was also a founding member of Cumann na mBan and was one of only a handful of people privy to the plans for the Easter Rising.  She was a T.D. and a Senator in both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, eventually being elected as the first female Lord.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Seán Mac Diarmada

Posted by Jim on April 4, 2015

Seán Mac Diarmada (Sean MacDermott) is yet another one of the 1916 Easter Rising leaders who has remained in the historical shadow of other prominent leaders who have enjoyed iconic status in the history books.  He has been described by some as one of the greatest of the Easter Rising’s leaders.

Mac Diarmada was born Corronmore, County Leitrim in 1883.  He was the son of Donald MacDermot, a carpenter / farmer, and his wife Mary McMorrow.  His father had been a Fenian in Limerick, and it was natural for him to follow in his father’s traditions.  He was educated during the daytime at Corradoona National School, and at night school in Tullinamoyle, County Cavan where he learned bookkeeping and the Irish language (which he spoke fluently).

During his childhood, he was brought up within a landscape that had all the signs of dereliction.  In addition to the ancient sweat houses, Mac Diarmada’s surroundings were characterised by symbols poverty and oppression, such as “mass rocks (where the Catholic mass had to be held due to Catholicism’s prohibition by the British establishment during the Penal Laws era).  Deserted houses and mud huts dotted the land where persecutions had taken place from the time of “The Great Hunger” onwards.

He eventually left County Leitrim, moving first to Scotland and then back to Belfast where he worked a tram driver and doing some work as a barman.

Mac Diarmada was always politically active.  This was due to a combination of factors, including his father’s influence and  and the memories of his childhood in County Leitrim; where he had witnessed the appalling dereliction.  He joined the Gáelic League and the politically moderate Ancient Order of Hibernians. He then joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was sworn in by fellow activist Denis McCullough.  He went on to assist with the organisation of the Republican Dungannon Clubs.

Left: Main road through Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim; Right: Seán Mac Diarmada’s boyhood house

Mac Diarmada also acted as an organizer for the Sinn Féin movement.  He became a full-time organizer for the Irish Republican Army (IRB) and managed its newspaper, Irish Freedom.  He was stricken with Polio about this time, which left him with a limp.  Undeterred, he eventually recovered sufficiently to be able to walk with a walking stick to carry on his dream of making Ireland a Free State.

It has been said that he was infiltrating the cultural organizations at this time, such as the Gáelic League and the Gáelic Athletic Association (GAA) recruiting members to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  Where possible, he would get them elected as officers of relevant committees, thereby creating a body of men who would inherently be under his command.

It has also been said that Mac Diarmada, together with Tom Clarke, McCullough, and Hobson revitalized the Irish Republican Army.  This group would eventually assume virtual control of all Irish groups around 1911.  The outbreak of the first World War saw him campaign against Irishmen joining the British Army.  His strenuous efforts were to gain him a four-month prison sentence under the Defence of The Realm Act.  He served out this sentence at Mountjoy Gaol.

Upon his release, both he and Tom Clarke were co-opted into the IRB Military Council.  It was in this organization that  Mac Diarmada (according to the historian F.X. Martin) played a leading role in the planning of the 1916 Easter Rising.  Martin characterizes him as being the “mainspring” in the planning of the Easter Rising.

Left: Seán Mac Diarmada upon his release from Mountjoy Gaol in 1915

Mac Diarmada was obsessively secretive about his role as planning officer as he knew from experience that past Irish freedom movements had been bedeviled with spies and informers.  Thus, he excluded most of his fellow IRB members from the planning phases.  This would eventually prove to be disastrous, and it would contribute to the confusion surrounding the outbreak of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Although he had no military rank, most possibly due to his disability, Mac Diarmada was recognized as one of the Commanders in charge.  This was largely due to his membership  and signatory of the Provisional Government and his role in the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He was stationed at the General Post Office throughout the Easter Rising as “one of the Provisional Government.”   In the aftermath of the fighting, he nearly got away by mingling with the crowd.  However, a British officer picked out the man with the  walking stick and declared that “he was the most dangerous man after Clarke.”  Another officer sneered, “So the Sinn Feiners take cripples in their army.”

One historian described him as follows: “Séan MacDiarmada was one of the greatest of the Easter Rising Leaders.  He was so quiet and unassuming that he tends to be forgotten; yet, he was one of the greatest Irishmen that ever lived.”

In a statement prior to his execution he said: “I feel happiness, the like of which I have never experienced.  I die that the Irish nation might live!”

Mac Diarmada was court martialled on the 9th of May, 1916.  On the 12th of May, 1916 at the age of just 33 years, he was executed by firing squad.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Eámonn Ceannt

Posted by Jim on April 3, 2015

Éamonn Ceannt is a little-known leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Born in Ballymoe in County Galway, he was one of nine children. His father was an RIC Officer stationed in Ballymoe, and the family were transferred around the country with his father, moving to County Louth, to Drogheada, then to Drumconda in Dublin. He attended the North Richmond Street Christian Brothers School where he was always a keen, intelligent, and interested student.  He excelled in his exams.  This is where he met two other like-minded people such as Séan Huston and Con Colbert. All three would go on to become leaders in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Following his exams, he was offered a position in the Civil  Service.  He turned this position down because he felt he would be working for the British Government.  Instead, he went on to become an accountant with the Dublin Corporation.

They Ceannt family were a religious Roman Catholic family.  It has been said that Ceannts’ religious teaching remained with him for the rest of his life.

Always interested in nationalism and politics, he took part in any event that was of interest to national unity.  In 1899, he joined the central branch of Gaelic League.  It was here that he met the men who would play a central role in the 1916 Easter Rising.

As time went by, he became increasingly involved in the Nationalism movements which led to a very strong interests in his heritage and the Gáelic language. The main purpose of the Gáelic League was to educate the Irish people about their heritage. This is turn led him to believe that Irish people deserved to learn about their own language and culture along with music, dance, poetry, literature, and Irish history.

Ceannt had a strong interest in his heritage and the Irish language.  The main purposes of the league were to educate people on the Irish culture.  This involved reviving the Irish language, Irish music, dancing, poetry, literature, and history. Ceannt was an extremely committed member of the league.  He was an elected a member of the governing body, and by 1905 he was teaching Irish language classes in branch offices of the League.

Along with Edward Martyn, Cennt founded Cumann bPiobain (The Pipers Club) in 1900.  His musical talents earned him respect around the globe, and was even asked to put on a performance for Pope Pius X.  His musical talents did, in fact, win him a gold medal at the 1906 Oireachtas for Irish dance.  Accolades abounded, and he is said to have been instrumental in the Gaelic language being the only language spoken in Cumman na bPiobain.  This, in turn, helped to revive the Irish Music scene.

He met his wife, Frances Mary O’Brennan, through the Gáelic League; they married in 1905.  Their son, Ronan, was born in 1906.

In 1907, becoming increasingly determined to see an Independent Ireland, he joined the Dublin branch of Sinn Fein. By 1912, he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Séan MacDiarmada.  Ceannt knew that this movement was pledged to achieving Irish Independence by whatever means, even using physical force if it became necessary.  As a senior figure of the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council met in May 1915 to begin plans for a rebellion.  Ceannt was made a Commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Volunteers.

During the Rising, he was stationed at the South Dublin Union with more than one hundred men under his command.  His second and third in command were Cathal Brugha and W.T. Cosgrove, who went on to become the President Of the Executive Council (Prime Minister) of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932.  As a Commandant and a powerful Leader, he held a position so strong that under his command they drove back repeated assaults from the determined British Regiments.  A contingent he placed at Marrowbone Lane were in a position of strength, and the passing British soldiers were mowed down by an enfilade of artillery.  The continued, grinding attacks broke through the Women’s Infirmary leaving Ceannt’s troops vulnerable to attack.  Continued attacks by the British soldiers failed to press home the advantage that they had at this point, despite the fact that Ceannt had twenty-times fewer men.

His troops were skilfully deployed as far away as Rialto Bridge, which was west of the City.  The British troops had to filter into buildings to escape the onslaught from Ceannt’s troops.  Although his troop numbers diminished due to casualties and fatalities, he continued his intense fighting following the Easter Rising on Easter Monday for a week.  He did, however, have to surrender his position when ordered to do so by his superior officer, Patrick (Padraig) Pearse.

After the unconditional surrender by the Irish Brotherhood Military Council (Patrick Pearse surrendered first in order to save the lives of his men), plain clothes detectives known as the “G-men” identified the leaders of the Rising on the first of May in 1916 — Ceannt being one of them.

Always a man who cared about his officers, he tried his best to protect them against British Court Martial.  General Maxwell (who served in the Mahdist War, Sudan, the Boer War, and the 1st World War) was determined to afflict the death penalty on all the leaders of the Easter Rising; but he was prevented from doing so by legal issues.  He is best known for his execution of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

These legal issues only allowed the death penalty if one was found aiding the enemy, which happened to be Germany at that time.  However, General Maxwell pursued his objective of the death penalty vigorously.  When he was handed letters written by Patrick Pearse to his mother, he had found his loophole at last.  These letters showed that Patrick Pearse had communicated with the Germans.  From that moment, Ceannt and his comrades had to accept that they would face the firing squad.

He left a message for the Irish people which was only allowed to be printed in The Irish Independent in July of 1926 which reads as follows:

“I leave for the guidance of other Irish Revolutionaries who may tread the path which I have trod, this advice, never to treat with the enemy, never to surrender at his mercy, but to fight a finish.  Ireland has shown she is a nation.  This generation can claim to have raised sons as brave as any that went before.  And in the years to come Ireland will honor those who risked all for her honor at Easter 1916.”

Ceannt was held in Kilmainham Gaol until his execution by firing squad on 8 May, 1916, aged 34.

Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising: Joseph Mary Plunkett

Posted by Jim on April 1, 2015

Posted by That’s Just How It Was on March 28, 2015

Joseph Mary Plunkett (Seosamh Máire Pluincéid) is one of the least known leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. He is perhaps one of a the few people that Seán Mac Diarmada trusted in the planning of the Rising. Born in 1887 into a very affluent family, he lived in one of Dublin’s most influential neighbourhoods: Fitzwilliam Street.  They also owned a farm in Kimmage, South Dublin. His father was a papal count, and they traveled widely. At a very young age he contracted tuberculosis and spent a lot of time in the warmer climates of Mediterranean North Africa. His mother never wanted to believe that he was as ill his diagnosis would indicate; trusting that time spent in warmer climates would cure him. Tuberculosis would define his whole life and leave him a very weak child and adult.

He was educated in England in early childhood, then in the Jesuits’ Belvedere College, Dublin, and later at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire: a very expensive and elite school. This is where he would acquire some military knowledge from the Officers Training Corps. After Stonyhurst, he returned to Dublin to study at University College Dublin and graduated from there in 1909. Due to his life-long illness, he spent two years traveling in warmer climates after he graduated. Plunkett’s interest in Irish nationalism spread throughout his family, notably to his younger brothers George and John, as well as his father.  Mr. Plunkett allowed his property in Kimmage, South Dublin, to be used as a training camp for young men who wished to escape conscription in England during World War I. The men that went there were instead trained to fight for Ireland.

In the planning stages of the Easter Rising of 1916, armory was brought to Howth by Erskine Childers, a Royal Navy Officer and an Irish Rebel), his wife Molly, and Sir Roger Casement on their Pleasure Yacht, the Asgard. It is said that there were some 900 Mauser M1871-11mm calibre rifles and 29.000 rounds of black power ammunition off-loaded at Howth Harbour. Simultaneously, a smaller number of Mauser rifles were landed at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, further down the coast from Howth. These were unloaded by Sir Thomas Myles, Tom Kettle, and James Meredith. These were all professional people: barristers, politicians, and surgeons.  The men were all known to the inner sanctum of the Irish Military Brotherhood. It is no surprise then, that all of this armory was stockpiled at Plunket’s family farm in Kimmage, to be used for training of the Volunteers.

Throughout his life, wherever he was studying, Plunkett took an active interest in Irish Culture and the Gaelic language. He was a co-founder of the Esperanto League where he would meet his fellow peers and comrades of the 1916 Easter Rising. He would become lifelong friends with Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh. Plunkett shared both Pearse and MacDonagh’s enthusiasm for literature, poetry, and a love of Ireland. MacDonagh tutored Plunkett in the Gaelic language. Their dedication to the cause of Irish culture, language, and independence out-weighted any risks that they could envision on the horizon.

Along with MacDonagh, Plunkett helped found the Irish National Theatre, and was also an editor of The Irish Review.

He joined the Irish Volunteers, and subsequently gained membership to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Having gained the trust of the inner sanctum of the Irish Military Brotherhood, during the planning of the Easter Rising he was sent to meet Roger Casement (a British Diplomat and an Irish Rebel) in Germany. Casement was there negotiating with the German Government on behalf of Ireland. Casement’s role as emissary was self-appointed. As he was not a member of the IRB, the organisation’s leadership wanted to have one of their own trusted members (Plunkett) to negotiate for German aid. Plunkett was seeking to gain a shipment of arms. His skilful negotiations and charismatic demeanor enabled him to secure a promise of at least one shipment of German arms to coincide with the Easter Rising of the following year.

Having completed this task successfully, Plunkett returned to Ireland jubilant with the promise of at least one shipment of arms. This success led him to be appointed as Director of Military Operations, with overall responsibility for military strategy, though his health prevented him from being terribly active by this time. He, along with Thomas Clarke and Séan MacDermott, was heavily involved in the planning of the Easter Rising.  Plunkett’s health worsened a week prior to Easter, and he had to be hospitalized. He underwent major surgery on his neck glands days before the Rising. Against all medical advice, he struggled out of bed to take part in what he would describe as the frustration of all the secret planning: The Easter Rising. Still bandaged, struggling to cope with the pain, he took his place alongside all of the leaders, the Volunteers, and Cumman na Mbann in the General Post Office. Plunkett was ably assisted by his energetic ‘aide de camp ‘ (a military officer acting as a confidential assistant to a senior officer.) This assistant was none other than Michael Collins, the icon of Irish independence history.

As gunfire and mortars rained down on the General Post Office in Dublin, the leaders held their nerve and fought like for like with the British Military. It was only when fire swept through the GPO that the command was given to evacuate the building. The troops burrowed down in accommodation nearby to discuss their next strategic plan of action. The majority view was that they should surrender to save the lives of the ordinary civilians being wounded and killed.

Upon their surrender, Plunkett was immediately arrested and taken to Kilmainham Gaol. He was subsequently court martialed and sentences to death by firing squad. At his court martial, he pleaded not guilty to the charges (taking part in an armed rebellion that was prejudicial to the Defense of the Realm and his Majesty, the King.) His oath of allegiance was to an Independent Ireland.

His defense:

“I have nothing to say in my defense, but desire to state that the proclamation referred to by Sergeant Burton’s evidence is signed by persons who are not connected with the Irish Volunteers, and the proclamation was not issued by the Volunteers.”

He was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad .

The Chapel in Kilmainham Gaol where Plunkett /Gifford were married; with his brothers at home in Dublin ; Grace Gifford

At 1:30 AM on the 4th of May, 1916, Grace Gifford was led into a small chapel at Kilmainham Gaol.  Gifford was Plunkett’s girlfriend; a protestant convert to Catholicism. Plunkett was led hand-cuffed to meet her at the altar. The Chapel was lit by candles, as there was no electricity.  The marriage ceremony was conducted by Fr. Eugene MacCarthy, and attended by twenty-two British Soldiers with fixed bayonets, lining the walls of the small chapel. Grace Gifford had bought a wedding ring the previous day. Plunkett was taken away immediately after the ceremony’s conclusion. Grace Gifford’s sister Muriel was married to Plunkett’s best friend, Thomas Mac Donagh .

Somewhere during the night, leniency was granted to the newly married couple. They were allowed to spend a little time together before he was taken to Kilmainham Stonebreakers Yard at the rear of Kilmainham Gaol.  At dawn, he was blindfolded and executed by firing squad.

In the Irish Times of Friday 5 May, 1916, there appeared the following marriage notice:

“PLUNKETT and GIFFORD – May 4th, 1916, at Dublin, Joseph Plunkett to Grace Gifford.”


Joseph’s brothers, George Oliver Plunkett and Jack Plunkett had joined him in the Easter Rising, and later became important Irish Republican Army men. George was sentenced to death for his part in the Ester Rising, but only served one year in confinement before he was released.

His father’s cousin, Horace Plunkett was a protestant unionist who sought to reconcile unionists and nationalists. Horace Plunkett’s home was burned down by the Anti-Treaty brigade during the Civil War.

Remember Irish Republican Political Prisoners

Posted by Jim on December 18, 2014


For tips on writing to IPOWs see



Cards can be mailed in bulk envelope to prisons, separated into individual floor/landing groupings  (**Please message us for further information re: individual affiliation).  Individua lenvelopes are not recommended, as they may be confiscated.  Please print recipients’ name inside the cardalong with your own return address.

This Poem was written by Gerry McGeough in 1989 when he was being held as an Irish Republican political prisoner in Germany. He was inspired to write the piece after having learned about the assassination of fellow Tyrone Republican Liam Ryan by loyalist gunmen operating in collusion with British State forces in the North of Ireland. The poem was read today at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of Liam’s death.

Posted by Jim on December 6, 2014

To the Fallen Heroes of Tyrone A Tribute




In the silent hours, we retrace the years

And remember them, with pride and tears

The fallen ones, who have gone to rest

Our gallant comrades, they were our best




They gave their lives, for cause and home

Defending Éireann, and green Tyrone

Against foreign might, and Saxon ways

They sacrificed, their golden days




Honour was theirs, and courage too

Withstanding the many, though they were few

They craved not laurels, nor sought they fame

In quiet dignity, they endured all pain




Soldiers were they, who knew no fear

They gave their all, for the land they held dear

Some died together, others alone

But we guard them all, in bushy Tyrone




From heathery hills, to meadows of green

And deep wooded glens, to the lough water’s sheen

Their names are alive, their memories revered

And by traitors and foes, are eternally feared




And they speak to us yet, though their voices are still

They speak to our hearts, and convey us their will

Comrades never despair, get confused or give in

It’s for Ireland we fight, and for Éireann we’ll win




We shall never forget them, the brave and the true

But honour and praise them, for all they did do

We salute them with pride, for they were our own

Our comrades who died, Volunteers from Tyrone.


We shall never forget

Posted by Jim on September 10, 2014

            When 9/11 arrives, remember the living
Home page image

They sacrificed their health. Photo by MATT MOYER

In a little more than a week, we will mark the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Here in New York, the names of those killed in the attacks will be read aloud by their family members, friends and coworkers. Across the country, Americans will gather at memorials to honor the memories of those who died.

As a nation, we rightly resolved to never forget the attacks. But the truth is, we haven’t entirely kept that promise.

What many Americans may not know is that as the nation recovered, a public health disaster was just beginning to unfold. Thousands are sick because of the attacks, as well as the rescue and recovery operations that continued for months afterward.

In the days approaching this Sept. 11 and on the day itself, we ask Americans to remember all the victims of that terrible day — those who lost their lives, and the thousands of living victims who are sick and dying from illnesses and injuries, some of which have taken years to fully manifest.

We all know the outlines of the story. After 9/11, Americans from all 50 states rushed to Ground Zero to help in any way they could. Thousands of people worked in extremely hazardous conditions, often without proper protective equipment.

As they labored, the site smoldered, and rescue and recovery workers breathed in a toxic stew of chemicals, asbestos, pulverized cement and other health hazards released into the air when the towers fell.

The dust cloud that so unforgettably rolled through lower Manhattan after the attacks settled in homes, offices, buildings and elsewhere — exposing tens of thousands more to the same toxins.

Thirteen years later, more than 30,000 9/11 responders, as well as survivors of the attacks and area residents and workers, have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath, and over two-thirds of those have more than one illness.

Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease, to name but a few.

Medical research has identified more than 60 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins. At least 2,800 people have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by the aftermath of the attacks, a number that is sure to grow in the years to come.

More than 800 New York Fire Department members and more than 550 New York Police Department personnel are struggling with serious 9/11-related illnesses, many of them cancers, and have had to retire from their jobs for health reasons.

That is in addition to the more than 70 firefighters and 60 NYPD officers who have died from their 9/11-related illnesses.

Memorials and monuments to our losses continue to be built across the country in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and elsewhere. This outpouring of commemoration — not just in metal and stone, but in solemn ceremonies and prayer vigils, stair climbs and other events — is important to the American spirit. It is a source of comfort for those who lost loved ones and shows that the nation truly remembers those who lost their lives.

But sadly, there is still little mention that 9/11 is, on a daily basis, impacting the health of thousands of living Americans every day. That needs to change.

This Sept. 11, as Americans gather to honor and remember those who lost their lives that day, we are calling on the organizers of these memorials — governors, mayors, city councils and neighborhood and civic groups throughout America — to recognize the living victims of the attacks as well.

As your town or neighborhood holds a 9/11 remembrance, we hope you will remember and mention the thousands who struggle every day with illnesses or injuries caused by the attacks. These heroes need your support, too.

Alles is national legislative director with the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. Slevin is vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Both are members of the 9/11 Health Watch board of directors .



We shall never forget
We shall keep this day,
We shall keep the events and the tears
In our minds, our memory and our hearts
and take them with us as we carry on.

Timeshare for Sale or Rent 10 mins. from Disney and Universal in Celebration Florida

Posted by Jim on August 25, 2014

AOH member has advised us that their timeshare is for sale or rent in Mystic Dune 5 Star Resort. The two bedroom condo sits on PGA alternate Golf course with screened in porch opening on course. The Resort is 10 mins. away from Disney Gate and Universal. Condo can sleep 8, has full Kitchen, washer/dryer, dinning room, huge living room with big screen TV, Master Suite has separate bath with whirlpool tub. Resort has 5 pools, offers miniature golf, basketball, tennis and fitness center. Country Club has fully stocked Pro-Shop, light snacks and sandwiches, full Restaurant offering 5 Star menu and Conference and Banquet Hall. The cost to buy Deeded Condo is $11,000.00 per Unit. The cost to rent is $1,000.00 per Unit per week. Anyone wishing more information on these properties contact Jim@BrooklynIrish for forwarding info.

From James Connolly’s “Songs of Freedom”

Posted by Jim on March 12, 2014

We Only Want the Earth

“Be moderate,” the trimmers cry,
Who dread the tyrants’ thunder.
“You ask too much and people By
From you aghast in wonder.”
‘Tis passing strange, for I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.

Our masters all a godly crew,
Whose hearts throb for the poor,
Their sympathies assure us, too,
If our demands were fewer.
Most generous souls! But please observe,
What they enjoy from birth
Is all we ever had the nerve
To ask, that is, the earth.

The “labor fakir” full of guile,
Base doctrine ever preaches,
And whilst he bleeds the rank and file
Tame moderation teaches.
Yet, in despite, we’ll see the day
When, with sword in its girth,
Labor shall march in war array
To realize its own, the earth.

The Brooklyn Irish

Posted by Jim on November 15, 2013

Posted on November 4, 2013 by

Although Irishtown had been known as Brooklyn’s most recognizable, infamous waterfront neighborhood for Irish immigrants in the mid 1800s, it was the city’s long waterfront property that stretched both north and south of Irishtown that was heavily settled by the Famine Irish. In truth, Irishtown could only be seen as the capital amidst the long stretch of Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods facing the East thp-merseyRiver and Manhattan.

By the census year of 1855, the Irish already made up the largest foreign-born group in New York. This constituted a dramatic shift in the ethnic landscape of Brooklyn. In just ten years, the amount of Irish-born inhabitants had jumped from a minimal amount, to 56,753. Out of a total population in Brooklyn of 205,250, its newly arrived Irish-born inhabitants made up about 27.5%.

The impact of such a large amount of immigrants in a short period of time may be difficult to imagine, but it must be remembered that these newly-arrived were not only all from one ethnic background, but they were also terribly destitute, bony from intense starvation, malnourished, disease-ridden, uneducated and untrained people that came from an outdated medieval agrarian community. On top of all of this, at least half of them did not speak English and instead spoke Gaelic and were landing in a culture that was traditionally hostile to their form of religion: Catholicism.

digging for potato during famine

Famous sketch from the 1840s of an Irish mother digging with her children desperately to yield a crop in time to save their lives.

The Great Hunger in Ireland of 1845-1852, or what is commonly, if not erroneously called the “Potato Famine,” caused over 1.5 million (if not more) Irish tenant farmers to flee for lack of food.

“Few newcomers had the resources to go beyond New York and therefore stayed for negative reasons,” said Ronald H. Bayor and Thomas J. Meaghan in their book, The New York Irish. “Most… had no other options… The best capitalized Irish immigrants were those who did not linger in New York, but went elsewhere, making New York and other harbor cities somewhat atypical of the rest of Irish America.”

The waterfront neighborhoods of antebellum Brooklyn was such a place. These neighborhoods of mostly English Protestants and old Dutch aristocracy were quickly overwhelmed by these Catholic “invaders” crippled by diseases, starving and with a legacy of rebelliousness, secrecy, violence and faction fighting within their fiercely communal cooperations. In short, these great numbers of Brooklyn immigrants were in no way interested in assimilating into the incumbent Anglo-Protestant culture.

Since 1825 and the opening of the Erie Canal, Brooklyn had begun to boom as the New York Ports along the Hudson and East Rivers now had access to the great and rising cities in the midwest and beyond.

A color drawing from 1855 looking west toward Brooklyn's Navy Yard. Just beyond it in the area that looks shaded was "Irishtown." The New York Times described it in an 1866 editorial thusly, "Here homeless and vagabond children, ragged and dirty, wander about."

A color drawing from 1855 looking west toward Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. Just beyond it in the area that looks shaded was “Irishtown.” The New York Times described it in an 1866 editorial thusly, “Here homeless and vagabond children, ragged and dirty, wander about.”

Soon, New York become the busiest port city in the world. There was labor work to be had in Brooklyn, in the manufacturing and loading and unloading of goods to be sent around the country and around the world.

Brooklyn was broken down into wards at that time, and although much of the population lived along the waterfront, there were plenty of other neighborhoods inland that were heavily populated by the English and Dutch before the Great Hunger. But the newly arrived Irish immigrants did not go inland, they stayed along the waterfront where the labor and longshoremen jobs were.

One neighborhood in particular gained fame, though it is not as much known today as it was then:


Fifth Ward

The Fifth Ward from an 1855 Fire Insurance Map, where Brooklyn’s Irishtown is located by the Navy Yard. It was called Vinegar Hill (from the 1798 rebellion in Ireland) even before the Great Hunger.

Located in the old Fifth Ward, Brooklyn’s Irishtown never gained the kind of infamous popularity that Manhattan’s Five Points garnered (as I previously wrote about in Code of Silence), it was nonetheless the center of the immigrant, working class slums and the brawling, closed-off culture of the wild Irish.

Located on one side next to Brooklyn’s Navy Yard that built ships and on the other side with the ferry companies connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan across the East River, Irishtown was centrally located.

Although Irishtown was the face of Brooklyn’s Irish community, it did not even have the distinction of having the most amount of Irish-born (which exclude American born of Irish stock) in it during the 1855 census. The dock and pier neighborhoods of Brooklyn were not just in the Fifth Ward, they were spread from the waterfront in Williamsburg north of Wallabout Bay all the way down to Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal.

During this time, there are three other wards that outnumber Irishtown in total Irish-born of the 1855 census. Cobble Hill, the Fulton Ferry Landing and southeast of the Navy Yard, north of Fort Greene Park. The brownstones of Brooklyn Heights are still considered mansions for the rich Brooklyn landowners at this time, but later will be divided and subdivided for the working class Irish.

The densest area of Irish-born is obviously from the Navy Yard, both  inland and on the water to the Fulton Ferry Landing, but surprising numbers existed in the north along the Williamsburg waterfront and south in Cobble Hill, Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal. In fact, 47.7% of the total population of Red Hook in 1855 is Irish-born.

  • *Census for the State of New York for 1855 (Ward#, area, Irish-born residents)
  • Ward 1 (Brooklyn Heights 2,227)
  • Ward 2 (now known as DUMBO 2,967) 
  • Ward 3 (East of Brooklyn Heights 1,964) 
  • Ward 4 (south of DUMBO 2,440) 
  • Ward 5 (Irishtown 5,629) 
  • Ward 6 (Fulton Ferry Landing 6,463) 
  • Ward 7 (Southeast of Navy Yard, north of Fort Greene Park 6,471) 
  • Ward 8 (Gowanus 1,717) 
  • Ward 10 (East of Cobble Hill 6,690) 
  • Ward 11 (West of Ft. Greene Park, south of Irishtown 4,985) 
  • Ward 12 (Red Hook 3,332) 
  • Ward 13 (East of Navy Yard where current Williamsburg Bridge is 2,036) 
  • Ward 14 (North of Williamsburg Bridge along waterfront 4,314) 
  • In these wards, Irish-born constituted 32% of Brooklyn’s total population

In fact it is Brooklyn’s most famous Irish-American toughs, the White Hand Gang that originated not in Irishtown, but in and around Warren Street in Cobble Hill and Red Hook at the beginning of the 20th Century.

So, it is right to assume that masses of Famine Irish landed and settled around the more famous neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Irishtown, but it is the general waterfront area from Williamsburg down to Gowanus, in the pier neighborhoods of the fastest growing port and industrial areas of the city where the majority of them settled. In fact, of the 56,753 Irish-born in Brooklyn in 1855, about 51,000 of them lived in the waterfront neighborhoods.


Long before Ellis Island took in immigrants, Southern Manhattan’s Battery Park did. After disembarking there, many Irish immigrants took the ferry to Brooklyn or moved from the slums of Manhattan to the Brooklyn waterfront for the jobs on the docks and piers there.

And they just kept coming, well after the famine ended. With connections in Brooklyn, Irish-born brought their extended families and friends to New York over the coming years, funding new passages to the city helping keep the Brooklyn working class Irish poor for many years to come.

By 1860, Brooklyn was the largest city in America with 279,122 residents, a large portion of which were either Irish-born or of Irish stock as it is still some years ahead of the considerable amounts of Jewish and Italian immigration to Brooklyn later in the century.

By the census of 1875, the population of Irish-born in Brooklyn jumps to 83,069. In 1880, the U.S. census, which counted both place of birth and parents’ birth place as well, estimated that one-third of all New Yorkers were of Irish parentage. By 1890 as Brooklyn neighborhoods were expanding east and south, the amount of people with Irish stock is at 196,372.

AOH Div.19: No report given

Posted by Jim on September 22, 2011

LAOH Div. 6: no report on next meeting

Posted by Louise Sullivan on

LAOH Div.22: no report given for next meeting

Posted by Louise Sullivan on

AOH Div.22: No report given

Posted by Jim on

Division 21 Breezy Point/Rockaway Beach( Membership meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month at the Knights of Colombus 333 Beach 90th St.,Rockaway Beach NY. Meetings start promptly at 8:00pm.

Posted by Jim on September 21, 2011

Contact: for prayers or announcements of fundraisers, etc. please contact or

Posted by admin on July 7, 2011

Pray for the following people and their families: The people and children who suffered with the aftermath of  the Hurricane Sandy and the floods that it brought (Midland Beach, South Beach, New Dorp, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Breezy Point, Rockaways, Broad Channel and Long Beach), the courageous people of the Short Strand section of Belfast, political prisoner Martin Corey. If anyone wants to have us remember a loved one in our prayers, contact us at

AOH Div. 12 ( : Meeting are held on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 8:00 PM in the K of C # 1251 Dongan Council 8122 5th Ave. (718)745-9175 Bay Ridge – All members should attend

Posted by admin on June 20, 2011

Division 12 Elected Officers are:

President – Kevin Mahoney

Vice- Pres. – Frank Thompson

Recording Sec’t – Steve Kiernan

Financial Sec’t – Tim O’Shea

Treasurer – Tom MacLellan

Marshall – ?

Sentinal – ?

LAOH Div 19 : Next meeting will be ? @ 8:00 PM at 2750 Gerritsen Ave.(718) 891-6622) Brooklyn, NY 11229 if available

Posted by Louise Sullivan on June 20, 2010

LAOH County Board Meetings: All County meetings will take place on the 2nd Wed. of each month at 2750 Gerritsen Ave. B’klyn, NY 11229 (718) 891-6622. There has been no notification of the next meeting.

Posted by admin on

Have a Happy Summer. Don’t forget the Coney Island Great Irish Fair in September


President – Joanne Gundersen Div 22

Vice Pres – Judy Rose Div 22

Rec Sect – Rose Coulson Div 22

Treasurer – Mary Hogan Div 6

Historian – Katherine Keane Div19

Miss&Char – Bridie Mitchell Div 6

Cath Act – Tricia Santana Div 19

Mist Arms – Margaret McEneaney Div 19

Sentinel – Ann Marie Bendell Div 19

AOH Div. 35: Meetings the third Weds. of each month at 8:00 pm in the K of C #126, Columbus Council (718)336-8117, located at Quentin Road & Nostrand Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11229

Posted by Louise Sullivan on