Sunday, March 27, 2005

Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta Easter Sunday Address - 2005

Eighty-nine years ago tomorrow on Easter Monday, brave Irish men and women took up arms to rid Ireland of the cruel master who had brutalized and terrorized the populace for nigh on eight hundred years. The events of that day and the war that followed gave hope and courage to other victims around the world. It set in motion a ground swell of armed resistance and civil disobedience in countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean. The beginning of the end of the tyrannical British Empire began its disintegration into nothingness on that fateful Easter Monday morning.
They, the men and women who bore arms on that day were brave and honorable and we shall always remember and honor them.
The rulers of the British Empire rode the waves for centuries plundering the wealth, natural resources and antiquities of their innocent victims. They set indigenous peoples against each other by favoring one group, tribe or clan over another. Their ‘divide and rule’ policy used religion and skin color; very divisive and easy tools to use in the right hands. They started the opium trade in China and supplied the slave trade in the Americas from their African colonies. They destroyed the Irish language, tried hard to destroy Irish core values and customs and in general wrecked havoc on the Irish psyche. Their arrogance was typified by the way they behaved after losing the American colonies in 1776. Instead of accepting defeat gracefully and the new reality of a free America, they tried a comeback in 1812. Let all of us be grateful and thankful to Andrew Jackson and other brave Americans who made sure that a comeback was not in the cards.
Although the sun has set on the British Empire, England the mother country needs to hold on to some semblance of a world power. Other than on the playing field, mother England prefers to be referred to as the United Kingdom. On the world scene it sounds more important than England. How ironic that six of Ireland’s counties are claimed as part of the fanciful United Kingdom instead of being part of a United Ireland, where after all, their natural affinity lies. It is doubtful if the Good Friday Agreement will change that. On the contrary, provisions of that agreement go a long way to make the six occupied Irish counties a permanent part of the United Kingdom.
The great irony surrounding the 1916 Easter Sunday uprising and the war that followed is that the sacrifices of all those who fought and died was not enough to bring freedom and unity to Ireland, whereas freedom and independence prevail in many of the other countries who took their cue from the Irish insurrection. Eighty-nine years later we are still witnessing the consequences of letting the enemy dictate the terms of their defeat. This could not have happened then or now without the collaboration of opportunists and profiteers posing as republicans and nationalists.
Our task here in the U.S is to continue to represent the aspirations of the men and women of 1916. It is a formidable task fraught with challenges and obstacles but with God’s help we shall prevail. We are confident in the knowledge that we represent what the martyrs of 1916, and the martyrs who came before and after, fought and died for. We will continue to strive until Ireland is reunited in an all-Ireland federal Republic free of outside interference and inside corruption and profiteering. The British initiated Good Friday Agreement will not achieve that; The Irish crafted Eire Nua plan will.
The premise on which Eire Nua is based, the devolution of power in an all-Ireland federal Republic, would negate the need for future armed conflicts and eliminate the prevailing climate of criminality and corruption permeating the political system throughout Ireland. Men and women of good will should settle for nothing less.
In conclusion let us reflect once more on the following excerpt from the Proclamation of 1916

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonor it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Republican Movement 2005

On this the 89th anniversary of the historic 1916 Rising the Leadership of the Republican Movement extends fraternal greetings to members and supporters throughout the world. We particularly extend greetings of solidarity to all our imprisoned comrades held in British and Free State jails and we pay tribute to the Republican Prisoners Action Group who are engaged in a campaign against the British attempts to criminalise our POWs in Maghaberry jail.
We extend fraternal greetings to all the people throughout the world who are struggling against forces of oppression.
Since last Easter the Irish people have once again witnessed yet another failed attempt by the British and their Irish agents to re-launch the partitionist parliament at Stormont. We have watched the continued grovelling of all shades of Irish nationalists to British rule in our country, but at the end of the day as we had predicted the grovelling was not enough for the British master.
It was however significant that once again the Provisionals were prepared to perform a final act of betrayal in destroying all the military material which does not belong to them, but to the Irish people.
The recent public exposé of their other criminal activities has contributed to a frenzy aimed against Irish Republicanism. This and the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast are typical examples of what the Provos are about. It is not about freedom, it is not about justice, it is not about equality and, above all, it has nothing to do with the honourable Republican struggle to end British rule in Ireland once and for all. We again call upon this organisation to desist from claiming any linkage to this honourable cause as they attempted to usurp and sully all that true Republicanism stands for.
Over the past year our supporters throughout the whole of Ireland have been the subject of continued harassment, intimidation and false imprisonment at the hands of the British Forces of Occupation in the Six Counties and by their lackeys in the Free State.
We note the outcry from all quarters over the raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast, where has been the outcry over the theft of money from Republican Sinn Féin by the Free State police, just a month earlier? These same forces should well remember that they will not succeed where others have failed, and should be mindful of the true saying that it is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can endure the most who will finally overcome.
The past twelve months have been a difficult time for those who remain committed to resisting the continued colonial occupation of our country. We are faced with an unprecedented combination of forces railed against us. We will undoubtedly see in the coming twelve months a further renewed and forceful attempt to quell Republican resistance to this colonial rule, but let us again reassert our commitment and absolute determination to ensure that this resistance not only remains, but prospers.
There will never be an acceptance of colonial occupation, however it is remodelled. All Republicans committed to this resistance must unite under the banner of Irish Republicanism. Our unity of purpose will serve both to reject those who have usurped Republicanism and to resist the colonial occupier.

There will be no surrender, there will be no compromise. Onwards to the Republic!

2005 Easter Statement from the Continuity IRA POWs in Portlaoise Gaol

A Chairde,
Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The Easter rising was another signifiacant time in Republican chronology in our nations struggle for independence and again brave Irishmen and Irishwomen took up arms to break the connection wit a foreign oppressive enemy.

89 years on, and we still have 6 occupied counties. We have seen an agreement which has copper fastened British rule and seen the surrrender of arms procured for national liberation. The honourable men and women who sacrificed their lives throughout Irelands struggle, would turn in their graves if they were alive to see the current climate.

All of us gathered here today, are incarcerated because we sought to break the connection with England. We have followed the ideals of the 1916 martyrs. We are opposed to the occupation of our 6 counties and as long as one British foot remains on Irish soil, we will always see Republican resistance.

The current cliamte is tough at the moment but we but persevere. There is still a lot of hard work to be done. It is not over until the Brits are gone home.

When the signatories signed the historic proclamation, they had one objective in mind and that was an independant 32 county Irish Republic.

To accept anything less than that is the ultimate betrayal to all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

Tiocfaidh ár Lá
Republican Prisoners
Portlaoise Gaol

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

March 22nd, 1981 - Ray McCreesh Joins Hunger Strike

Raymond McCreesh

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.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981.

March 22nd, 1981 - Patsy O'Hara Joins Hunger Strike

Patsy O'Hara

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.

Patsy O'Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city.

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.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

March 20th, 1964 - Death of Brendan Behan

On March 20th, 1964, Brendan Behan, acclaimed poet and writer of plays, short stories, and novels, died in Dublin of diabetes and heavy drinking. Behan, a former member of Fianna Éireann and an IRA Volunteer, was imprisoned twice for his role in the struggle for freedom, once as a young man in a borstal in Suffolk, England where he was taking part in an IRA bombing campaign, and later in Mountjoy prison for firing at a peeler during an IRA parade. An IRA guard of honour escorted his coffin.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

March 20th, 1920 - Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás MacCurtain is Murdered by Black and Tans

March 20th, 1920 - Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás MacCurtain is murdered in his home by the newly-arrived Black and Tans.

Tomás MacCurtain pictured with his wife and young family
in March, 1920, just a few days before his murder.

Tomás McCurtain was born on the March 20th, 1884 in a farmhouse in the village of Ballyknockane in County Cork. He was the 12th and last child of Patrick Curtin and Julia Sheehan. In school, he showed a keen interest in Irish history, poetry, music and archeology. When he was 13, Tomás moved to Cork City to live with his sister and attend the Christian Brothers North Monastery where he became an enthusiastic student of the Irish language.
When the struggle for Irish freedom began to gain momentum, Tomás didn't hesitate to get involved. By 1911, he was involved in Na Fianna Éireann, and in 1914 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Volunteers. During the Easter Rising, MacCurtain was in command of the Volunteers in Cork, and although no fighting occurred in Cork during the Rising, he was arrested and imprisoned in England through 1917.
Upon his release, Tomás returned to Cork where, through mutual participation in the Gaelic League, he met Eilish Walsh. They married in June of 1918, settled in the Blackpool area of Cork City, and had six children, the first not surviving infancy.
In January of 1920, local elections were held in Cork and MacCurtain, running as a Sinn Féin candidate, succeeded in being elected Lord Mayor, becoming the first Republican to hold the office. The election did not sit well with everyone, however. On the 16th of March, MacCurtain received a letter in the post. It bore a cross with a cryptic message written beneath it: "Thomas MacCuratin - Prepare for Death. You are doomed."
In the early morning hours of March 20th, the Black and Tans, which had arrived in Ireland earlier that month, made good on this threat. Several men with blackened faces burst into the MacCurtain home. Two of the murderers rushed up the stairs and shot Tomás multiple times in his bed. As the killers fled, Mrs. MacCurtain ran out into the street, calling for help and for a priest. Tomás died after receiving the Last Rites.
The public was outraged by the murder, and the enormous turn-out at the funeral was testament to both the esteem in which Tomás was held by the community, and the anger and disgust that community felt towards his killers. On the 22nd of March, he was laid to rest at Finbarr's Church graveyard in a plot facing the main gate.

A memorial to Tomas MacCurtain outside Cork's City Hall.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

March 15th - Francis Hughes Joins Bobby Sands on Hunger Strike

Francis Hughes

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.

Eluding for several years the relentless efforts of the British army, UDR and RUC to track him down, Francis operated boldly throughout parts of Tyrone and north and south Antrim, but particularly in his native South Derry, with a combination of brilliant organisation and extreme daring - until his capture after a shoot-out with the SAS - which earned him widespread popular renown, and won general support for the republican cause, as well as giving him an undisputed reputation as a natural-born soldier and leader.


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.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

March 6th, 1923 - Ballyseedy Massacre

Late at night on the the 6th of March 1923, nine Republican prisoners - Pat Buckley, John Daly, Pat Hartnett, Michael O'Connell, John O'Connor, George O'Shea, Tim Tuomey, James Walsh and Steven Fuller, were driven to the remote Ballyseedy Wood near Ballyseedy Cross to be executed. As they were being loaded into the lorry, the Free State Army guards asked them if they would care to smoke, telling them it'd be their last cigarette. They were taken to a remote location near the banks of the River Lee, where a large log stretched across the Castleisland Road. The Republicans were all tied to the log alongside a mine which was then detonated. Several of the Republicans, however, survived the initial explosion. The Free State soldiers then proceeded to throw a number of grenades and shoot at them in an attempt to finish them off. This succeeded in killing all except for Steven Fuller who had been thrown by the initial blast into the river, from which he crawled to a nearby IRA hideout in Cnocan.
For more information, see the account about 3/4 of the way down on this page.

Kerry remembers Ballyseedy massacre on 75th anniversary

(published in the April, 1998 edition of Saoirse)

Republicans from all over Ireland travelled to Tureen, outside Tralee, Co. Kerry on March 8 last to mark the 75th Anniversary of the infamous Ballyseedy Massacre of March 6-7 1923.

In one of the most notorious acts of Free State murder, nine captured IRA soldiers were taken out from the Ballymullen Barracks and tied to a mine which was then detonated.

Eight of the nine were fatally injured — Patrick Hartnett, Timothy Twomey, John O’Connor, George O’Shea, James Walsh, Michael O’Connell, John Daly and Patrick Buckley — but Stephen Fuller survived to tell the tale.

The hugely popular 1997 RTÉ documentary Ballyseedy — which was repeated on March 8 to mark the anniversary — showed conclusively that the reprisal murders of IRA prisoners had been authorised as a matter of policy by the Chief-of-Staff of the Free State Army, Richard Mulcahy.

The 75th anniversary ceremonies on March 8 last began with a parade from the Ballyingarry House at 2.30pm to the impressive monument, erected in 1959 beside the Tralee-Dublin road.

The heroic bronze figures of the monument were the work of Breton Sculptor Yann Renard Goulet and the architect was Uinseann Mac Eoin. Yann Goulet was unable to travel to the anniversary ceremonies but his best wishes were conveyed to Tralee by Uinsionn Mac Eoin, who was in attendance.

Several dozen members of Fianna Éireann headed the parade behind a Republican Colour Party and a lone piper. The main oration was delivered by Derry Republican Sinn Féin member Déaglán Ó Donghaile.

During his speech he said: “It is a great honour and a privilege to address the Republican people of Kerry at this hallowed spot where eight Republican soldiers gave their lives for the freedom of Ireland. The sacrifices endured by the people of Kerry for the All Ireland Republic in the bitter period of the Tan and Free State Wars have always been an inspiration to the Republicans of the Six Counties.

“Of all the historic sites in Ireland Ballyseedy stands out in infamy, for it was to this lonely place that nine Republican soldiers were dragged to be murdered by the Free State army. But Ballyseedy is also a place of great heroism, for the bravery of those Volunteers is the bravery that will one day free our country.

“Patrick Buckley, father of five children and a seasoned freedom fighter; John Daly, a fearless Republican and Volunteer for many years; young Michael Connell, only 22 years old but dauntless beyond his years; James Walsh, a natural leader and inspiration to the people of Kerry; George O’Shea, Tim Twomey , Pat Hartnett , John O’Connor and Stephen Fuller, who suffered unspeakable torture at the hand of the Free State terrorists, yet who refused to surrender their comrades and their cause. Only Stephen Fullar would survive the brutal massacre to tell the world of the atrocity.

“In 1922 these brave men could have chosen the easy path of compromise and surrender by accepting the Treaty of Surrender. They could have enjoyed the comfort and wealth which the English rewarded their slaves in the Free State. But they refused.

“Today the British are offering a new Treaty of Surrender to the people of Ireland in the guise of a ‘peace process’. This containment process is aimed at purchasing a section of the Irish people and terrorising the rest of us. By murdering uninvolved nationalists, the Brits plan to consolidate their hold on the Six Counties. Via their agents in the colonial military forces and those in the death squads, whom the British armed with South African Apartheid weapons, the Brits slaughtered 15 people in 1997 and they have butchered another 10 innocents this year.

“Most recently Britain’s death squads have murdered Philip Allen and Damien Trainor in Poyntzpass, Armagh, on Tuesday March 3. By means of outright terrorism the Brits intent to modernise and update Partition and to re-establish the regime at Stormont under Lloyd George’s old threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’.

“Just as the Republicans of Kerry did not hesitate to reject Partition first time round in 1922 we call on the people of Ireland to vote in opposition to the Stormont sell-out and Britain’s second Treaty of Surrender Vote ‘No’ to a New Stormont and British rule under whatever guise in the forthcoming Partitionist referenda.”

“Irish Republicans continue to struggle to restore the Republic for which the Ballyseedy Martyrs died. For this to be achieved the true Republican Movement requires the support and solidarity of all those who profess to follow the revolutionary philosophy of the Ballyseedy Martyrs. Anyone worthy of the title ‘Irish Republican’ will join the people’s movement for the freedom of Ireland. At this critical moment in our country’s history we repeat the words of James Connolly:

“ ‘For our part we are for a narrow platform, a platform so narrow that there will not be a place on it where anyone who is not an uncompromising enemy of tyranny can rest the soles of his feet. And yet broad enough for every honest man.’

“We call on the Republican people of Kerry to join us and achieve in our lifetime the restoration of the All-Ireland Republic for which the Martyrs of Kerry suffered so much and died”.

• Four Special Branchmen boarded the Dublin bus as it was leaving for Kerry on March 8 and harassed the occupants.
One political policeman distinguished himself by asking Fianna boy Eoin Ryan (10) to stand up and then dragged him up from his seat saying “I will take you in under Section 30, you little bastard”. Eoin was badly shaken by the experience.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

March 5th 1867 - The Fenian Uprising Begins

Today marks the 138th anniversary of the start of the 1967 Rebellion, also known as the Fenian Uprising. The following is a bit of basic background information on this Rising.
The Fenian Movement, named after the legendary band of warriors, the Fianna, led by the Gaelic hero Fionn mac Cumhail (or Finn MacCool), got its start on the 17th of March, 1858. In Dublin, James Stephens, a vetern of the 1848 Young Ireland Uprising, formed a secret society which would become known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Shortly thereafter in New York, another vetern of the 1848 Rising, John O'Mahony, became the leader of a secret society known as the Fenian Brotherhood. The two organisations came to be considered part of the same revolutionary movement, and the Fenian label was applied to that movement as a whole.
The nascent Fenian Movement attracted many eager new recruits both in Ireland, where considerable passion for the ideals of the Young Irelanders still burned in the hearts of many people, and in the Irish emigrant population in America, many of whom had been driven out of Ireland by the Great Hunger. In Ireland, Stephens started a newspaper, the Irish People, much to the chagrin of O'Mahony who believed secrecy was of utmost importance. Meanwhile, in America, many Fenians gained military experience in the American Civil War and anticipated an uprising in which they could put their newly-acquired skills to the test.
When the war in America ended, Stephens promised such an uprising and began making plans. Unfortunately, those plans were betrayed by spies. Stephens and several of his fellow revolutionaries were arrested and arms were confiscated. Stephens managed to break out of prison and escape to France, later sailing on to America. However, as a result of the planning fiasco, he had lost all real influence, and responsibility for re-organisation now had to be assumed by others. However, the Fenian Movement in America was in disarray. It had split into two factions - one led by O'Mahony and the other by W.R. Roberts. O'Mahony wished to wait for new plans for an uprising in Ireland to come together. Roberts, on the other hand, had come up with an overly-ambitious plan to raid Canada (a British territory) and seize Campobello Island in New Brunswick. The plan was, basically, to hold the island hostage in exchange for Ireland's freedom. The invasion failed, with many resources lost in the process.
Despite the Canadian fiasco, the plans for an uprising in Ireland went ahead. Sadly, the 1867 Rising was to be no more effective. Informers were rampant. Weapons were scarce, in some cases amounting to pikes and daggers. Coordination was poor and strategy was wholly inadequate. A number of minor "battles" took place, mainly in the south and west of Ireland, but were easily put down. Most of the leaders were arrested. Despite some receiving death sentences, none were executed. Though it failed to achieve it's goals, the Fenian Rising once again made evident Ireland's insatiable hunger for freedom.

Friday, March 04, 2005

March 4th, 1778 - Birth of Robert Emmet

On the 4th of March 1778, Robert Emmet, one of Ireland's most famous revolutionaries, was born in Dublin. Emmet was a member of the United Irishmen and leader of the Uprising in 1803. He was captured and convicted of
"high treason". On 20 September 1803, he was hanged, drawn and quartered, and beheaded. His Speech from the Dock stands as one of the most memorable and moving speeches in Irish history.

The following is a speech made by Seán Ó Brádaigh at the bicentenary commemoration of Robert Emmet's death:

It has become fashionable in some quarters to talk about the ‘myth’ of Robert Emmet. Let me say at the outset that the story of Robert Emmet is not in the realms of fiction. We know sufficient about him and his short life to be able to say that there is no need to create any myth about the man.

The Society of United Irishmen to which he belonged was no myth either. Nor is the Republican resistance to English rule in Ireland, before Emmet’s Rising and since, a myth. The invasion, conquest and plantation of Ireland are no myths, nor is the suffering of the Irish people. We know of the laws against Catholics, we know of the landlord system and the evictions, the starvation of 1845-48 and the coffin ships. None of these are myths.

Robert Emmet was a fine, respectable, idealistic young man who walked these streets of Dublin and who understood well the degradation and suffering he saw all around him. He was bright and intelligent and studied at Trinity College until he was expelled from there because of his Republican activities. He travelled throughout Ireland, in England and Scotland, on the continent of Europe and spent some time in France. He met some of the great intellectuals, revolutionaries, writers and statesmen of the period. He was all the time developing and formulating his ideas, and planning about how best to bring English rule in Ireland to an end. When he inherited his father’s estate he spent every penny of it on the cause of Irish Freedom.

So, there is no need to indulge in the realms of mythology. If we know less about him than we know about Tone, or Pearse or Connolly, it is because his life was shorter than theirs. There is, nevertheless, plenty of evidence as to his background, the influences which formed him and the deeds he did. We also have many of his letters, his Manifesto and his inspiring Speech from the Dock.

There is something special about Robert Emmet, something exceptional and even lovable, that has made him ‘the darling of Erin’, for the last two hundred years. He has inspired scores of biographies and hundreds of songs. Thousands of boys are named after him. He has become a hero on both sides of the Atlantic, in France and in the United States, as well as at home. He has brought us all together here today from all parts of Ireland, to meet at this hallowed spot where his young life was brutally taken from him in order to protect and secure English rule in our own country. It was on this very day, September 20, 1803, at this very spot in front of St. Catherine’s Church and at this very hour that young Emmet died for Ireland on England’s gallows tree.

Emmet deserves our respect, our admiration and our gratitude. Were it not for him, and countless other patriots, the Irish nation would long ago have faded away and disappeared in the mists of history. His memory endures and his deeds and words have inspired many who came after him, chief among them Patrick Pearse. In his speech from the Dock, Emmet said: “This is my hope, that my memory and name may serve to animate those who survive me”. And indeed it has. Emmet, as one of his biographers, Leon Ó Broin said, “was pure gold”, and the people of Ireland shall never forget him.

Nor shall we forget his gallant comrades in revolution, Michael Dwyer, Thomas Russell, Jemmy Hope, Miles Byrne and many others. The valiant Anne Devlin was faithful to the end. Despite many bribes and inducements, pain and torture, she never revealed one iota to the agents of the Crown. She died in poverty in 1851.

We remember also with pride all those who died in action in 1803, most of whose names we shall never know. John Keenan bled to death as a result of an explosion in the Patrick Street arms depot on July 16, 1803. His brother, Thomas Keenan was hanged here in Thomas Street, the scene of Robert Emmet’s execution.

Also hanged here in Thomas Street were Edward Kearney, Owen Kirwan, Maxwell Roach, John Killeen, John McCann, John Hayes and Michael Kelly. Denis Lambert Redmond was hanged at Coal Quay, now called Wood Quay. Felix Rourke was hanged at Rathcoole, Co Dublin. James Byrne and John Begg were hanged in Townsend Street. Thomas Donnelly and Nicholas Tyrrell were hanged at Palmerstown, Co Dublin. Henry Howley was hanged at Kilmainham Gaol. John McIntosh was hanged in Patrick Street.

Thomas Russell, James Corry and James Drake were hanged at Downpatrick, Co Down. Andrew Hunter and David Porter were hanged at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.

We salute their memory. Republican Ireland shall never forget them.

We of Republican Sinn Féin, who have gathered here today, hold true to Tone’s and Emmet’s teaching and purpose – to break the connection with England and establish an independent Irish Republic, uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of Irishman. Tone and Emmet, Pearse and Connolly, saw Ireland as one nation of thirty-two counties. They regarded English rule in Ireland as an illegality. Now, two hundred years later, Republican Sinn Féin adheres to the same judgement. This is the bedrock of Irish Republicanism, along with the corresponding proposition that all Irish men and women, as citizens of Ireland, are entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities. The corollary of this is that all owe allegiance to the Irish nation.

On September 19, 1803, Robert Emmet was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a Special Commission of three judges, sitting in Green Street Courthouse. The handpicked jury did not even retire to their room to consider their verdict. Emmet spent that night in Kilmainham Gaol, where he wrote his last letters and tided up his affairs; and where two clergymen of the Church of Ireland saw to his spiritual needs.

On the afternoon of September 20, he was brought under heavy guard to this spot, travelling via Islandbridge, Benburb Street, recrossing the Liffey at Queen’s Bridge (now Mellows Bridge) and ascending Bridgefoot Street to Thomas Street. A public gallows had been erected here and it was on this very spot that he was hanged. His body was then stretched on a deal table and the head severed from it. The executioner held the head aloft by the hair and marched up and down the platform, crying out: “Here is the head of the traitor, Robert Emmet”.

Because this is the exact day and the exact hour of Emmet’s execution, we who have gathered here, are probably, as Pearse said at the grave of the Fenian O’Donovan Rossa, in closer spiritual communion with him today than ever before or perhaps ever again.

We of Republican Sinn Féin are in close spiritual communion with Emmet for other reasons also, besides standing on this spot on this bicentenary day. Because we uphold the Republican principles of Tone and Emmet, some of our members have stood in recent years, and in recent months, in Emmet’s dock in Green Street Courthouse, before the Special Non-jury Court. I speak of people like Emmet, of respectable families and good standing in society, arrested under draconian legislation and an attempt made to tarnish their good name, by association with criminal elements and other means. There are Republican prisoners in custody today who are refused political status, just as Emmet and his comrades were in 1803.

It is important that we appreciate that the Rising of 1803 was more than just an aftershock of the Rising of 1798. It was organised by the same United Irish movement, the first generation of Irish Republicans, but one major event separated the two. This was the Act of Union of 1800 which abolished the Irish Parliament in College Green. The brand new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was designed to bring Irish separatism to an end forever, by absorbing Ireland into total and complete union with England “in perpetuity”. The outside world was told that England’s Irish problem had been resolved.

The Act of Union came into force on the first day of the new century, January 1, 1801. But in that same month, Robert Emmet and Malachy Delaney arrived in Paris to seek French assistance, just as Theobald Wolfe Tone had done previously. The French were inclined to the belief that the Act of Union had changed the situation in Ireland. But Emmet and Delaney in their memorial to the First Consul, Bonaparte stated as follows:

“We have been instructed to declare to you that the English Union has in no way eased the discontent of Ireland. The silence . . . . has been but a politic silence, under a state of persecution”.

The French Government archives show how the Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, interpreted this memorial when sending it to Bonaparte, on January 18, 1801:

“The Irishmen have presented a well-crafted memorial, which is clear, precise and nobly written. It presents the state of Ireland, demonstrating that the parliamentary Union is imposed by constraint, and not by the consent of the nation”.

Here we have evidence of the intellectual, diplomatic and literary skills of the young Emmet, then but 23 years of age. He had many other talents as well, as we know from the substantial material preparations he and his comrades made, under the very noses of the Dublin Castle authorities, in the spring and early summer of 1803. Emmet’s Rising of July 1803 served notice on England and her minions in Ireland that the so-called Irish problem had not been solved by the Act of Union, far from it. Twice more in the nineteenth century, and four more times in the twentieth century, three of these in my own lifetime, Irish men and women asserted Ireland’s right to freedom in arms.

The Act of Union of 1800 sought to copperfasten English rule within a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was not the final settlement with England. The Treaty of 1921 ushered in a new United Kingdom, this time of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was forced on the Irish people at great cost in blood and suffering and with native Irish collaboration. It was not the final settlement either.

The Stormont Agreement of 1998 has also sought to copperfasten English rule in the Six Counties, by seeking to anchor it in the consent of both Unionists and Nationalists. We have not achieved the sovereign independent Republic of 32 Counties, based on equal rights and equal opportunities for all itchildren. The major obstacle to attainment of that objective is English rule and an English army of occupation in the North. On this side of the Border, we have full official cooperation and collaboration with the government of England and its regime in the Six Counties. And we have coercion, intimidation and threats against those who oppose it.

Robert Emmet’s appeal to future generations, in the name of Irish freedom, on the basis of the common name of Irishman, was a call to national service. There are many people who serve Ireland today in numerous ways, both in paid employment and in voluntary work. Many Irish people work abroad unselfishly, for the welfare of suffering mankind. Their labours bring honour to Ireland and her good name.

But, there is still an appreciation among Irish people that Emmet’s epitaph cannot yet be written because Ireland, is not yet free of foreign rule. And, when it comes to the basic, continuing and enduring issue of confronting English rule in our country, denying its legitimacy and leading the vanguard in an endeavour to end it, it is Republican Sinn Féin, almost alone, which mans an bhearna bhaoil.

As Patrick Pearse also said at the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa, the defenders of English rule think that they have pacified Ireland, by purchasing one half and intimidating the other half. In the words of the constitutional nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell, they think they have succeeded in setting the ne plus ultra to the march of the Irish nation, setting the limit of thus far and no farther. They proclaim the lie that Ireland consists of just 26 Counties and that ‘Northern Ireland’ is another country. The new label for Ireland is ‘the island’! What a ghastly and appalling distortion and caricature of an ancient and illustrious nation. I cannot but ask when the self-esteem and dignity of the Irish people will assert that this is not acceptable.

To maintain its bridgehead in Ireland, England has not only created sectarian divisions and used the 18% of the Irish people who describe themselves as Unionists, but she has cleverly sought to get the rest of the Irish people to acquiesce in this arrangement and claims democratic legitimacy for it. But the partition of Ireland remains what it always was, a denial of democracy, by dividing, by force of arms, the historic Irish nation and the historic province of Ulster, on the basis of a sectarian headcount.

We can come to some understanding of how this can happen if we ponder the words of the 1916 leader, Thomas McDonagh, to his courtmartial: “In this ceaseless struggle there will be, as there has been, and must be, an alternate ebb and flow”. In the last 200 years since Emmet’s time, there has been this seemingly inevitable ebb and flow, or swing of the pendulum between constitutional Nationalism and revolutionary Republicanism.

We all desire peace. I have never met anyone who preferred war to peace. The necessary prerequisite, the essential requirement, for peace, is justice, and it is that peace, based on justice, that we Republicans of today strive to achieve. It is not the Pax Britannica, nor the Pax Americana, but the Peace of the Gael. There is room in the Republic of Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, of Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, of Seán Sabhat and Bobby Sands, for all Irishmen and women, under the common name of Irishman, irrespective of when and in what circumstances their ancestors arrived in Ireland. The only qualification is that they give their allegiance to the historic Irish nation.

For the moment, the forces of constitutional nationalism, among whom I include the Provos of today, have, for the first time, totally accepted English rule in the Six Counties as legitimate. We can, however, already detect the beginning of the fall of the pendulum from this dishonourable and ignominious position, as people discern the receding prospect of a free and united Ireland through the so-called peace process. Republican Sinn Féin will continue to advocate the clear Republican doctrine of breaking the connection with England.

Some may consider us small in number and, at this point in time, ineffective in action. But there have been times before in Irish history when the separatist cause seemed to be weak. We of Republican Sinn Féin are the nucleus, which represents what Emmet represented, the soul of Ireland, the prophetic shock minority, those who are neither purchased nor intimidated. This nucleus will in due course become the dynamism and the driving force within the crashing waves of the flowing tide when it returns.

This will not come about by accident or mere good luck. Our historic task and duty is to inform, educate and mobilise the youth of Ireland, putting before them the concept of service in the noble enterprise of achieving the 32-County Irish Republic. The abject sell-out by the Provos and the shameful corruption in Irish public life today are the very antithesis of all that Robert Emmet stood for. They also provide fertile ground for us to cultivate. Our task is immense, but we are inspired by our patriot dead, and young Emmet is our guiding star.

His Speech from the Dock was a defiant challenge to English rule in Ireland and a challenge to Lord Norbury’s Special Court. More than that, it was a challenge to future generations of Irish men and women to continue the struggle for a free and united Ireland, which would take her place among the nations of the earth.

Republican Sinn Féin has taken up that challenge. Our ÉIRE NUA Programme for a four-province federal Ireland is a blueprint for a modern democracy at national, provincial and local level. Our primary objective is to uphold and promote Emmet’s noble design for his country.

In continuing to pursue this objective, as he reminded us, we must in all our endeavours, “cause the law of morality to be enforced and respected”. True Irish Republicanism, in other generations, was always based on truth, justice and high standards. If we are to succeed, we must abide by the same lofty and noble principles of Robert Emmet.

An Phoblacht Abú!

(Speech by Seán Ó Brádaigh at Emmet Bi–Centenary Ceremony)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Failed Entity

Failed Entity

Michael Benson • 6 December 2004
The Blanket

It's been a long time since I put pen to paper. It's also been a long time since I was in jail. Both of those things are connected. I wrote because I was in jail and after coming out, I'd no need to be writing. Sure, I wasn't very good at it and there were others much more eloquent in their prose than I could ever be. I'm not even sure now why I am writing because I'm certainly not naive enough to think that my demonic scribbling will make any difference. But recently I have thought that if I don't say something, in writing, that my head will explode with anger.

For ten years I have watched incredulous as the Sinn Fein leadership have abandoned everything they ever stood for. I have listened to them tell lie after lie to the Republican community. I have watched as they have been continually backed into corners from which the only escape was to jettison even more Republican principles.

I have spoken to the poor deluded foot soldiers who tell me that all of this was a tactic. They told me, mostly straight faced, that Republicanism was splitting Unionism. None of them ever actually explained to me how this "splitting" would actually benefit our quest for an Irish Republic. Of course, the "splitting" theory doesn't seem so sound now as instead of splitting we now see Unionism resurgent and the prospect of the arch-bigot and Ulster Resistance founder Paisley as our leader.

One honest and sincere young man for whom I have the greatest respect and who unlike so many recent Republican converts actually found himself in Long Kesh told me that the Republican Movement had NEVER decommissioned anything and that De Chastelain had been conned. Conning there may well have been but I don't think it was the Canadian General who was conned. And no doubt if there is another act of decommissioning that the foot soldiers will be again told some outlandish story. On arms its really quite simple. A victorious Army do not relinquish their weapons. All the gloss the Leadership wants to put on it cannot disguise that. No amount of platitudes about "gestures by the IRA to enhance the peace process" will cover the ignominy of this act of surrender. Photographs of the destruction of weapons are a side issue. If the IRA leadership does not see that they have been humiliated for 10 years then a few Kodaks are going to make no difference.

One thing that really made me angry was to listen to Gerry Kelly say on TV last week that Republicans had struggled for 30 years for equality. Gerry, cara, I too was in the IRA like yourself, although your leader wasn't apparently, and not ONCE did anyone tell me I was struggling for equality. I have spent years in jail. I have been at hundreds of meetings, both of the conspiratorial type and the open type and no one EVER mentioned equality. Maybe I was just another dumb foot soldier who thought he was fighting for a Republic.

I don't have an answer to all of this and I don't see many around who do. The Leadership did their work well and their man-management skills have to be admired. They conned some, bought off some and scared off others. But that doesn't make them right. They are the people who have stabilised this "failed political entity". They have strengthened this state more than the Unionists ever could have. This "failed political entity" is in a better position than at any time since 1921. So, well done boys. It wasn't quite Victory 74, but what the hell, you are in Government…….a British Government.

1969-94: An Armed Civil Rights Campaign?

1969-94: an armed civil rights campaign?

Source: IRIB

Date: 16/09/2004

by Liam Sheridan
To mark the 10th anniversary of the PIRA ceasefire some of the Northern news agencies interviewed former and current leading members of the Provisional movement. Danny Morrison was one of the more interesting interviewees during the 10th anniversary. In one particular interview, when question about the current state of the PIRA ceasefire, Mr. Morrison stated that the only situation in which the PIRA would return to war was if the civil rights of the nationalist population in the North were to be infringed upon again, as had happened in previous decades.

The general gist of the interview was that the basis for the PIRA's war was a battle for civil rights for the nationalist minority in a gerrymandered six county statelet. This somewhat revisionist view of the last thirty years of struggle is not entirely surprising given the recent soundings from Provisional spokespersons on the need for the PIRA to disband.

The Provisionals are trying to conveniently disguise the fact that the Irish republican struggle transcends a minimalist civil rights campaign within a British occupied six county state. The objective of the Irish republican struggle is self-determination: the ownership of a free and independent Ireland by the people of Ireland, and a belief that this ownership is sovereign and indefeasible. These are the integral driving forces of the Irish republican struggle. Don't get me wrong, the civil rights issue was and is an important - albeit minor - part of the republican struggle. However, under the auspices of the Adams-McGuinness leadership, the demand for nationalist civil rights within a British six county state has replaced the traditional political objective of free and independent Ireland. This is the political crux of the matter.

It's much easier to say that the struggle was for civil rights and now that has been achieved there is no longer any need for the IRA. However, the truth is that the war was fought to remove the British state from this Island and many believed that the IRA would not stop until such times as this was achieved. The current path chosen by New Sinn Féin has no room for armed struggle or the PIRA and thus the demand for civil rights takes precedence over the objective of a British withdrawal.

It must be hard for the Provisional leadership to sit down and negotiate with the London government. After years of fighting various British administrations the Provisionals now have to sit (politically impotent), while the Blair government calls the shots regarding devolution and the exercise of power at Stormont.

One other noticeable aspect of the period surrounding the 10th anniversary was the criticism that New Sinn Féin received for the claim that they are "building an Ireland of equals". Recently, some of the letters pages of the northern papers have taken issue with this slogan - and rightly so. How can a party claim to be building an Ireland of equals when it supports the maintaining of the Raytheon factory in Derry (Raytheon are a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin the largest arms manufacturer in the world and are making electronics for war planes)? How can they claim to be building an Ireland of equals, when they rush up to Hillsborough to meet George W. Bush (the number one state-terrorist in the world)? Where is this Ireland of equals, when they kidnap and threaten those who disagree with their politics or voice political dissent?

New Sinn Féin pays lip service to socialism but only does so in order to keep certain sections of their membership content. As we all know they have no intention of looking after the interests of the Irish working class. Ask yourself, as a member of the working class, have things got better for you under the Belfast Agreement? Has this new devolved Stormont produced a huge amount of new jobs? Is there an extension of health care with A&E departments being kept open and maternity and cancer services being extended? Is there now a universal opportunity for the working class to go to third level education? The simple answer to all these questions is no. Leave aside the fact that as republicans we are principally opposed to a partitionist assembly and we can still see that Stormont is such a waste of time and money. What has it achieved? Nothing!