Sunday, June 30, 2013

Liam Walsh

Some great pictures and a good bit of info here on 50's vet Liam Walsh who was killed in 1970. Like most members of Saor Eire in Dublin, he was a member of the Christle Group and never reintegrated into the IRA. Some republican Dubs are currently collecting and recording their stories (see earlier post on Liam Sutcliffe) "On 13 October 1970 Saor Eire member Liam Walsh, a welder and fitter by trade and father of four, was killed in a premature explosion when himself and another member Martin Casey were planting a device at a railway line at the rear of McKee army base off Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin. Joining the Republican Movement in 1953, Walsh had been the commanding officer of the south Dublin unit of the IRA during the late 1950s and was interned for a time in the Curragh. He lived at 50 Tyrone Place, Inchicore and, at the time of his death, was awaiting trail on charge of taking part in an armed bank raid at Baltinglass in August 1969.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Donal Donnelly-i Prisoner 1082

 Donal Donnelly -Prisoner 1082

Posting this as its the best account of the wonderful story Donal (Danny) Donnelly without me writing one up myself.
Readers will be happy to know he's still alive these days, was at an Op Harvest commemoration last November with some comrades.

Daring Escape From Crum

April 7, 2010

Accounts of many escapes from Irish jails have been written – yet more books are still eagerly sought from which to learn more of the deeds of IRA prisoners. In truth, until this book,” writes guest reviewer, Gerry O’Hare, “I had only heard verbally anything about the escape attempts made by Danny Donnelly, from Omagh, and Belfast’s John Kelly, from Crumlin Road Jail (in 1960 during ‘Operation Harvest’).” Review continues…
      Eamonn Boyce’s ‘The Insider’, and its account of jail breaks of that time, was reviewed earlier.This is the definitive account of Danny Donnelly’s successful escape from the Crum in 1960 – and of the heartbreak and failure of North Belfast’s John Kelly, who didn’t quite make it. It is a story of two men’s attempts to overcome the odds against them by their jailers and – not unsurprisingly – the disapproval of some of their comrades.
    Donnelly and Kelly didn’t inform the IRA’s jail council for fear permission would be refused them.
    In a tribute to his comrade, Danny dedicates the book to the late John Kelly who died in 2007. The dedication also praises the Kelly family who lived in the shadow of Crumlin Road Jail, in Adela Street, which runs between the Crumlin and Antrim Roads.
    When Kelly’s mother died, there was a Belfast silent tribute paid to her. It was said, “She never locked her back door”. IRA men on the run would understand and nod approval. Practically every prisoner who was ever released found their way to Mrs Kelly for breakfast and onward help home.
‘Prisoner 1082, Escape From Crumlin Road – Europe’s Alcatraz’ relives the story of the preparations and escape of Danny Donnelly, an 18-year-old student from Omagh, County Tyrone, convicted of IRA membership in 1957 and sentenced to ten years. We learn that he came from a family steeped in the Gaelic tradition and republicanism.
      Born on September 8th 1939, he was the youngest of six children of Peter and Margaret Donnelly (nee Docherty) in a part of Omagh known colloquially as Gallows Hill.
His education was at the hands of the Christian Brothers, mostly from the South, and they would have appeared to install in the young student a love for his country and a yearning for its freedom from the British.
He tells us that growing up in Omagh gave him a sense of being a stranger in his own country. Discrimination was rampant. Catholics had no chance of a job in the town or even with the local county council. His brothers all emigrated except himself:  “I went to jail,” he says.
       This, of course, was not uncommon for Catholics in the six northern counties.
“We grew up in an atmosphere of disengagement from the organs of the state – from the Bureau of Employment to the local council to the police force. From an early age I wondered why people accepted these unfair conditions. I felt that things must change or be made to change. Such an opportunity seemed to present itself in the early 1950s,” he writes.
        Donnelly seems to have been fascinated by the results of British elections and the successes of Tom Mitchell and Philip Clarke.  He was outraged at the way the British unseated them, despite the people’s votes. It wasn’t long before he joined the IRA and came under the tutelage of Cork’s Daithi O’Connell. He learned the art of bomb-making and tells us that he became “rather adept” at it. He was also, along with the other local volunteers, taught to use Lee Enfield rifles and the Thompson sub-machine gun. It was the era of the Flying Columns around which ‘Operation Harvest’ was planned.
        It began on December 12th and Donnelly’s first taste of action involved an attack on Omagh Barracks. Some of his group went off to commandeer a lorry but, as he and others lay in a ditch, they heard an explosion and, a short time later, another. The column was told that the lorry hadn’t been commandeered as planned and their anticipated element of surprise was gone. They were advised to disperse and head for home in Omagh (others headed further up the Sperrin Mountains).
       The following day’s papers were full of other, more successful, operations: the blowing up of Magherafelt Courthouse in County Derry (this was Seamus Costello's op- LaochraUladh) a ‘B’ Special hall in Newry destroyed (probably Saor Uladh); a British Army territorial building blown up in Enniskillen and two bridges blown up in other parts of  County Fermanagh.
       The young Donnelly’s activities became known to the Special Branch and eventually he was arrested and given ten years for membership of the IRA. He was charged along with ten others from the Omagh districts. The jury took five minutes to convict him and sentence was duly handed down. He had expected four or five years.
Lord Chief Justice Mc Dermot, however, singled him out from the rest of his comrades and said, in passing sentence: “It is quite clear to me that you are one of the ring leaders. Parliament has made provision that the manner in which accused like you may be punished includes, not only long terms of imprisonment and whipping, but the sentence of death”.
        Danny says of this tirade: “I listened with growing incredulity as he sentenced me to ten years”.
      He finds jail life a culture shock, but knuckles down and continues his studies which will stand by him in later life. Escape was on his mind from the beginning and increased when he heard of the escape from the Curragh by Daithi O’Connell and Ruairi O Bradaigh in December 1958.
      “Since my imprisonment, I had dreamed of escaping. On smoggy days I wondered if I could climb the outer wall during periods when the warders would count and re-count, to establish if anyone was missing”.
    A decision by his jailers to build a higher wall actually hastened those plans.
     “The missing part of my jigsaw … was put in place when the authorities raised the low link-wall (from the administration block to the outer wall) to the same level as the outer wall”.
         Having found a weak link in the system, he realized he needed a companion and, in the summer of 1960, found a Belfast man to fit the bill. John Kelly instantly warmed to the idea, and so the plan was hatched. An extra bonus was that John’s cell was immediately above his own. Their idea was to cut through the bars of the cell to access a yard where the wall was nearest to the main Crumlin Road, giving them a starting point that allowed a restricted choice of timing.
        Next, they needed a rope, 70-feet long, to stretch from an anchored spot on the administration block across the new link-wall and down the outer wall, which they estimated at 30 feet high.
      “The challenge here was that, at a certain spot on the link-wall, and for the last ten yards, we would be in full view of the armed police in the gun towers while crossing. Therefore we planned to be less than ten seconds on that part of the wall so that, even if we were spotted, the chances of them taking up their weapons and firing in that space of time were fairly remote”.
Christmas Eve was set as the escape date, the logic being that Belfast would be so full of shoppers it would be difficult for the police and soldiers to spot them. Also Christmas-time within the jail was a bit more relaxed, especially for the warders.
       “As a 21-year old, I also had a romantic historical reason for choosing the date as it was on Christmas Eve that Red Hugh O’Donnell escaped from Dublin Castle in 1592.”
        We learn how they acquired their rope and hacksaw blades. It was John’s job to get the material and Danny’s to find the hiding places. There follows a detailed account of the trials and tribulations of their attempts to prepare for the escape – nothing’s ever that easy!
        Events led to them having to postpone the escape until Boxing Day. Both men got out of John’s cell and made it to the wall. Danny gets to the top – but the rope breaks, and John falls back into the prison area. They had agreed a plan in case they were separated and, in driving snow, Danny is disappointed there is no outside help. Unfamiliar with the locality, he manages to heed John’s directions and finds himself outside the Kelly home where the door is opened by a young Oliver Kelly.
       “Come on in,” he says, as if escaped prisoners are the norm at their door!
Danny says, “The Kellys were highly respected within their own neighbourhood, by churchmen in Belfast and among the business community with whom they worked on a daily basis.
       “Internees and released prisoners had a standing invitation to go directly to their house, where they would receive a great welcome, a meal, good advice, directions or lifts to bus and train stations and, on many occasions, money.
        “The Kelly household was revered in republican circles not only throughout the North but among many in the South also.”
In excellent hands, he makes good his escape across the border.
      It was not all without pain for Danny. He suffered serious injuries to his foot and vertebrae which took a long time to heal. Nevertheless, he reported back to GHQ and eventually met the then Chief of Staff, Ruairi O’Bradaigh, and Mick Ryan.
      The final phase of his book concerns how he sought work and continued his business studies.
       It is a remarkable tale of success leading to his selection as Honorary Secretary of the Council of the Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management in the Republic and later, on two occasions, President of the Institute.
       He drifts away from his active involvement in the IRA gets married and has a family. That he took such a long time before he got down to writing the book is explained through his concern about the direction the IRA took, leading to the long, armed campaign from the ’70s to the ’90s. He blames the British for not acting earlier to promote a just society, and I leave readers with his explanation for not remaining involved.
         “I avoided being personally involved in the physical conflict by chance and, to a certain extent, through having other commitments.
       “Thus I never rejoined the IRA as many of my Crumlin Road comrades did at that crucial time, nor was I part of the bitter Provisional/Official split. I knew many on both sides, and still meet with some of them from time to time. However, I was, quite frankly, appalled at the ruthlessness with which those feuds were carried out and the business that informed them.
      “I consider myself quite fortunate to have been outside all that.”
     The book is important as this escape seemed until now to have disappeared off the map.
     Historians and the ordinary reader will be grateful to the author for telling his story.
‘Prisoner 1082 – Escape From Crumlin Road’ by Dónal Donnelly, published by The Collins Press, Price: £11.99/€12.99

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pearse and Teeling Columns Roll Call

 Roll Call for the Pearse and Teeling Columns

(This was published some time ago in Saoirse, same link as the O'Bradaigh article posted previously, so there may be several more RIP's to be added. )

Teeling Column at Derrylin

December 30, 1956

Noel Kavanagh, Dublin. OC.
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Longford. 2 in C. (RIP)
Charlie Murphy, Dublin. GHQ.
Pat McManus, Fermanagh. KAS
Paddy Duffy, Cavan.
Pat McGirl, Leitrim.
John Joe Ruane, Galway.
Paddy Hanniffy, Galway, RIP
Willie Folan, Galway.
Peadar Murray, Mayo.
Joe Daly, Meath.
Leo Collins, Meath. RIP
Dermot Blake, Meath.
Des Clarke, Meath.

KAS — killed on active service.
RIP — Deceased.

Pearse Column at Brookeborough
January 1, 1957

Seán Garland*, Dublin. OC
Dáithí Ó Conaill, Cork. 2 in C RIP.
Seán Sabhat, Luimneach. SL, KIA
Feargal Ó hAnluain, Muineachán, KIA.
Pat Connolly, Fermanagh.
Paddy Tierney, Fermanagh.
Seán Scott, Galway.
Mick Kelly, Galway.
Liam Nolan, Dublin. SL.
Harry Goff, Wexford. RIP.
Vincent Conlon*, Armagh RIP.
Phil O'Donoghue*, Dublin.
Paddy O'Regan*, Dublin.
Mick O'Brien, Dublin.
KIA — killed in action;

* — wounded;
SL— Section Leader;
RIP — Deceased.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Young Seamus Costello

Seamus Costello is widely considered one of the great intellectuals of latter day Irish Republicanism. But, like everyone, he began somewhere; in this lecture Louise Minihan (Eirigi) she tells of his early years, experiences during the border campaign, and what he learned from it.


Costello became interested in republicanism at the early age of 14, when he read about the IRA arms raid on the officer Training Corps in Essex, England.

At the age of 15, while in Croke Park, Costello bought a copy of the United Irishman, the paper of the republican movement, and in it he read an advertisement for that year’s Easter Commemoration concert in the Gaiety Theatre. Former IRA Chief of Staff Éamonn Mac Thomáis has written about what happened next.

“It was in the early fifties that Séamus came along to me at the Easter Commemoration concert in the Gaiety Theatre and he asked to join the IRA. I asked him how old he was, he said he was fifteen. So I said, ‘Look son, you are too young. Join the Fianna.’

“‘No’, he says, ‘I want to join the IRA.’ ‘Well’, I said, ‘Come back in a year’s time and we’ll see what we can do for you.’ So I thought that was the end of him, but lo and behold a year passed by and the next Easter Commemoration concert in the Gaiety he walked up and looked at me straight in the eye and says, ‘Do you remember me?’ I said I did all right. ’Well,’ he says, ‘I’m sixteen now and I want to join the IRA.’”

That was the determination of Costello. Even at the tender age of 16, he was going to let nothing stand in his way from playing a full a part in the struggle for national liberation.

Costello was not a blind militarist, however, and he understood the importance of building a revolutionary political party. At the same time that he joined the IRA he became active in Sinn Féin and he was the driving force in the establishment of a Sinn Féin cumann in Bray, the first since the Tan War. In the beginning, the cumann confined itself to the sale of the United Irishman newspaper in Bray. But as Costello found his feet as a political organiser, it wasn’t long before the paper was sold in every area in Wicklow.

Costello played a full role in the IRA’s Border Campaign. Aged just 17 Costello took command of the IRA active service unit in South Derry, where his skill as a leader earned him the nickname, ‘The Boy General’. The unit was engaged in several successful operations including the burning of Magherafelt Courthouse.

Arrested in Glencree, County Wicklow in 1957, Costello was sentenced to six months in Mountjoy. As soon as he was released, Costello was interned in the Curragh concentration camp.

It was while in prison that Costello sharpened his political and military skills. Referring later to his time in the Curragh as his university days, Costello used this time to discuss and debate the future of the struggle, its strengths and weaknesses and how the republican struggle could be successful.

He also studied international struggles for national liberation, and attempted to apply their lessons to the Irish context. He was particularly impressed by the struggle lead by the communists in Vietnam, which saw badly armed peasants, deeply driven by a politically Ideology, defeat a larger professionally armed and trained enemy.

His time in prison did not prevent him from taking part in revolutionary activity. Costello was appointed to the camp’s escape committee, and he was one of the driving forces in the successful escape of Ruairí Ó Bradaigh and Daithí Ó Conaill.

It was while in gaol that Costello came to the conclusion that the border campaign had failed not due to lack of popular support but because it had failed to win the popular involvement of the Irish people. On the ending of internment in 1959, Costello threw himself into the re-organising of the republican movement.

It was Costello’s firm belief that for the republican struggle to be successful, republicans must become involved in the everyday battles of the people, and provide leadership in their communities. Purely militarist movements were not going to win the popular involvement of the masses because they were elitist and removed from the struggles of the people.

As part of this republican re-organisation, Costello began to build a strong republican base in Wicklow. It was his belief that by building revolutionary strongholds in the areas where republicans had a presence that these strongholds could become the foundation blocs of a successful revolution.

In the early Sixties, Costello became a full time republican organiser for Wicklow and set about building strong links with the county’s urban and rural communities, as well as local working class organisations.

(Admin: The rest, as they say, is history)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ruairi O'Bradaigh RIP - Interview on the Border Campaign

 This past week saw the passing of Ruari O'Bradaigh; may he rest in peace.

 He was one of the few remaining, if not the last, political giants to come out of the Border Campaign. He was the commander of the Teeling Column and in his honor I'm posting this interview with Saoirse in which he gives his thoughts regarding the Campaign. Standing out is his dispassionate analysis and keen attention to strategy, not often seen in republican leaders.

Revolt in the North 1956-62

On December 12, 1956 in due recurrent season a Campaign of Resistance to British rule in Ireland opened in the Six Occupied Counties. As some 20 attacks took place on that day throughout the British-occupied area, the IRA stated in a proclamation that the Resistance ". . . has now entered a decisive stage."
It went on: "This is the age-old struggle of the Irish people versus British aggression. In the final analysis it is the Irish people themselves – by their sacrifices, their endurance and their will to victory – who must free Ireland."

"Operation Harvest", defined as "a general directive for a guerrilla campaign" was the Operation Plan. It provided for the raising of four flying columns to assist local units North of the Border. These columns would be based in South Armagh, South Fermanagh (north of Upper Lough Erne), South Fermanagh (south of the same lake) and West Tyrone.

The Fermanagh columns were code-named Pearse and Teeling. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was a GHQ staff-officer with a brief to raise and train the Teeling Column in the West of Ireland. In the event there was some change over of personnel between the columns operating in County Fermanagh.

In commemoration of the events of 40 years ago, we publish verbatim the questions put in recent times by a third-level student to Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and his replies to them.

Q. What do you consider to be the main reasons for the failure of the campaign?

RÓB. The ground was not sufficiently prepared in the Six Counties for the campaign. The only area which approached this was possibly the Mid-Ulster constituency. The impact of the Armagh and Omagh raids on the Army (IRA) was such as to force a quick entry into the decisive stage of the campaign on December 12, 1956. The campaign proper began with the raid on Gough Barracks, Armagh on June 12, 1954 – two-and-a-half years earlier.

Accordingly the provision for a civil disobedience and non-co-operation phase – which was spelled out in the original Overall Plan (and there was such a document drawn up by the Military Council, a sub-committee of the Army Council) was skipped over. This was a fatal error. Comparisons with the 1968-70 Civil Rights period was obvious.

Q. Why was the campaign led from Dublin and manned largely by southern volunteers? Surely the failure of the Brookeborough attack, for example, and the success of Pat McManus in south Fermanagh showed clearly the advantages of local men controlling operations in their area.

RÓB. The answer here arises out of the reply to Question One. Incidentally the failure of the mines at Brookborough was what triggered the over-all result while the lack of local roots accentuated this.

Q. What are your views on Liam Kelly's Saor Uladh organisation? Were their aims and political philosophy – recognition of the Dáil – not more realistic and therefore attainable?

RÓB. Kelly's Saor Uladh was an IRA splinter group which tied up with Clann na Poblachta in the 26 Counties and accepted the 26 County State. This was a fatal error on their part as basic Republican support was therefore denied to it in the 26 Counties apart from some immediate Border areas.

It also raised the question of pushing the confessional and neo-colonial southern state on Unionists who found it abhorrent and nationalists who felt it distasteful instead of a totally New Ireland built by all communities on this island. This was another short-cut in this case a political one and it availed the Kelly people nothing.

They were interned without trial in the Curragh just as were the Republican Movement people. Accepting the 26 County State did not gain them release until the Dublin Administration felt ready to release them. They lost three men, inflicted no fatalities on the enemy and folded in 1960 (after very few operations since 1955) when Liam Kelly went to the US.

Q. Can you briefly outline your impressions of Tony Magan (Chief-of-Staff 1948-57)?

RÓB. Tony Magan is well described in Bell. I thought highly of him. He had certainly learned from the mistakes of the 1940s – perhaps overmuch since protests on the streets were curtailed too much during the 1957-59 internment in the 26 Counties.

The quick development from June 1954 to December 1956 – and the emergence of the Christle splinter-group – separated him from the other two members of the Triumvirate described by Bell. These were Pádraig Mac Lógáin and Tomás Mac Curtáin. This brings us back to the reply to Question One. We keep coming back to it.

Q. What are your views about the timing of the start of the Campaign? Was it too soon, or were the IRA as well prepared as they could be?

RÓB. The choice was autumn-winter 1956 or autumn-winter 1958 with the ground better prepared. Dublin Head of Government Costello had issued an ultimatum following Kelly's raid on Roslea RUC barracks in November 1955.

This played into Dublin's hands: "We have seen Irishmen fighting Irishmen in the presence of a woman and her children". He then threatened "your next move is your last!"

IRA attacks, eg Armagh, Omagh and Arborfield in England had been against the British army and were acceptable to the broadest section of opinion. Not so Roslea and Dublin took advantage of this. Answer to second part of this question in contained in my first answer.

Q. Do you agree with Bell's assessment (Secret Army p284) that the campaign's most obvious weakness was that "two thirds of the population were Unionists, dedicated and determined enemies of Irish Republicanism."

RÓB. Of course Bell is correct but was it not so in Fenian times, 1916 and 1919-21? There were parallels with the Turkish population in Cyprus (EOKA struggle), the colons in Algeria (FLN) and Portuguese in Angola (MPLA). None of these are exact analogies of course but the situation did not deter the movements named.

Of course Partition since 1921 had made a minority in Ireland into a local majority. This aggravated the situation but what the Movement of the ‘50s and early ‘60s had to face was this daunting reality. Bell admits elsewhere (On Revolt: a book published in 1976 where he makes world-wide comparisons) that the situation in the Six north-eastern Counties of Ireland was valid for revolt although "flawed" by reason of the Unionist majority there.

Q. As leader of the "Teeling" Flying Column, do you in retrospect feel that it was an outdated operational method by 1956, particularly where there was no ‘green sea' of support?

RÓB. I was Second in Command Teeling Column not OC. Fifteen-man Border columns were based on the Operation Harvest operational plan and were unsuitable.

Later it was a battle-team of two sometimes joined to another with a Section-Leader in charge making up five Volunteers. Other battle-teams could be added in extraordinary situations. This was Mac Lógáin's view early on and was accepted by Seán Cronin and the Army generally. Mac Lógáin was an Armagh man who had operated in North Antrim in 1919-21. He knew his people and his situation.

Q. What are your recollections of Pat McManus and his part in the campaign?

RÓB. Pat was a "natural" and it showed. He operated with Pearse Column first (Lisnaskea RUC barracks) and was later with Teeling (Derrylin barracks). A multiplication of Pat McManus and a "green sea" of support was what was needed. He had my utmost respect as a Republican soldier.

Q. Do you feel in retrospect that it may have been possible successfully to mobilise public opinion behind the campaign (at least in the Republic) following the deaths of Seán South and Feargal O'Hanlon, as previously happened following the Easter Rising and its aftermath?

RÓB. This was done in the 26 Counties for the March 1957 election when four of us became Deputies to an All-Ireland Parliament. But Fianna Fáil received a big over-all majority and, viewing the situation in 1940 terms, imposed internment by early July. This majority left no political openings and internment came much too soon. The Six-County situation is covered by the reply to Question One.

Q. In view of the vote which Sinn Féin received in the Republic's General Election of March 1957, do you feel that more emphasis on political organisation might have helped at that stage, ie a "ballot box and Lee Enfield" strategy?

RÓB. The Movement was almost completely beheaded in the swoops of January 1957. Local election successes in 1955 helped but again the situation needed much greater political development. The ready-made armoury of repression and the closeness in time to the all-out coercion of the 1940s combined with the same personnel in office (de Valera and co) narrowed the ground here considerably.

Q. "Control from the top had been lost and with it the direction of the 1958-59 season." (Bell p327). Could the leadership dissension which brought this about have been avoided?

RÓB. The Army leadership was almost entirely seized in late September 1958. Dáithí Ó Conaill and I – newly escaped from internment – were handed the situation. After close on two years imprisonment we had to familiarise ourselves with a new situation on the ground and do our best, he as Director of Operations and I as Chief-of-Staff.

The position had deteriorated and Pat McManus had been killed in July. His contribution was sorely missed.

It was not leadership dissension in the Curragh which was the cause. They were all unavailable for service and the dissension hurt morale outside gradually. The dissension was due to differing priorities in an obviously deteriorating situation. All leadership material felt a tremendous responsibility for this position. I doubt if it could have been avoided in the claustrophobic conditions of the internment camp, but it was not the cause.

Q. What was morale like in the IRA when you became Chief of Staff in the autumn of 1958?

RÓB. Answer to previous question covers this in part. Morale was reasonable but the time taken in reorganising by HQ and getting used to operating "on the run" and underground and getting new personnel for active service delayed matters. This did not help and the rumours from the Curragh increasingly caused questioning which was unwelcome.

Q. Can you confirm that you were mainly responsible for drafting the IRA's public statement ending the campaign in 26 February 1962?

RÓB. The definitive statement of February 26, 1962 was an Army Council pronouncement. It reflected their views and was endorsed by the members who went through it with a "fine tooth comb". As such it was a leadership declaration and not the property of any one individual.

Q. What does the statement mean when it says in the penultimate paragraph that the IRA realised "that the situation obtaining in the earlier stages of the Campaign has altered radically . . . ?

RÓB. The Army was no longer able to operate in areas away from the Border. This was the case perhaps since February 1959 and certainly since November of the same year.

The last two years had operations confined to the Border areas only.

Politically it was being bruited about that membership of the EEC – Dublin and London had applied in July 1961 – would cause "the Border to wither away".

Republicans countered that it would not remove the British garrison from the Six Counties but in the absence of an effective campaign the "soft option" while obviously fallacious had gained ground.

Q. In your view, would you say the average IRA volunteer who took part in the Border Campaign was in the mould of Seán South – a devoted and pious Catholic – or how big a part did religion play in the lives of Volunteers?

RÓB. Moving from the particular to the general is wrong as you know well and using Seán South as a prototype is misleading. Seán was an inspiration to his generation as was Feargal Ó hAnluain. But Seán was not typical. Volunteers were ordinary young men who were idealistic and prepared for service and sacrifice.

A small number of Protestants were in the IRA on both sides of the Border. This was always the case as Catholics have no monopoly on Irish Republicanism or on idealism and self-sacrifice.

The Volunteers were typical young men of their time. Brendan Behan was not a typical IRA Volunteer of the 1940s; neither was Se&225;n Sabhat of the 1950s.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Meanwhile in Wales - "Timeline of Welsh Events, 1946-1956"

 Meanwhile in Wales Part 1

(This is the first of a 3 part series I'll be posting on the events in Wales during the 50's and 60's )

   Despite being an ancient Celtic nation (the original "Britons" were in fact, the Welsh) with its own language and culture still very much alive to this day, Wales has long been subject as a backyard of the British Empire.
Armed resistance had effectively ended with the defeat and disappearance of Owain Glyndŵr in the 1400's; it was the conclusion of almost 3 centuries of war and the Welsh were unable to make a major resurgence afterwards.
  This timeline covers the events and campaigns which were begun in the late 40's and 50's to protest British rule and stir people into action against London's policies in Wales.

 It was put together by veteran Welsh campaigner Gethyn Gruffydd on his blog:

 Be sure to give the blog a look, some great info, past and present.

Welsh Republican Movement 1946 – 1956: Time Line.
By Gethyn Gruffydd

1946: WW II ends, Welsh Service Men return home some with new political ideas and Ideals.

(Compare with Algerian Insurrection; Old Nationalism and post war new young nationalist radicalism).

1947: Cliff Bere Writes and publishes “The Welsh Republic” - “Welsh Republicanism” is born?

1948: An “English speaking” (Republican Sympathising) Branch of Plaid Cymru is formed in Caerdydd.

· On 23 October 1948 at the Cory Hall in Caerdydd organises “Republicans” within Plaid Cymru.

1949: Ithel Davies produces a document on proposed “Welsh Republican Policy” later their “manifesto”.

· On 30th April 1949 at Rhydaman: “Welsh Republicans” heckle meeting of James Griffiths MP.
· At the annual conference of Plaid Cymru in Dyffryn Ardudwy Republicans attempt policy change.
· 24 – 25 September 1949 at Castell Nedd: The Welsh Republican Movement was founded.

A Green, Red & White Tri Colour is adopted as flag of the newly formed W.R.M. launches an all Wales Union Jack burning campaign that leads to a number disturbances, arrests and court appearances. Welsh Republican flags are tied to tops of lamp posts and trees – imitating successful Irish anti – English Monarchist campaigns.

1950: The Council of the WRM determines to stand a Republican candidate at Ogwr in the B.G.E.
· Trefor Morgan a “Republican” stands for election as an Independent Nationalist ‘in Merthyr Tudful.
· At Eisteddfod Abertawe Republicans launch their paper ‘Y Gweriniaethwr’’ also at this Eisteddfod appeals are made to Welsh Republicans not to burn Union Jacks.

1951: Links made with the Irish R.M and WRM Branches start to be established in areas of rural Cymru.
· 28th April 1951 WRM meeting at Creunant hears speech warning against ‘Pacifism’.
· 16th June 1951 at Neath a WRM Union Jack Burning rally is disrupted by police action.
· 25th July 1951 appears at Magistrate court in Caerdydd making WRM case against conscription.

1952: Welsh Republican Movement instigates various campaigns through out the land.
· .Against Forestry Commission land grabbing in Ystrad Tywi.
· 17th June 1950 Republicans launch Anti – Conscription Campaign at street rally in Aberdar.
· Union Jack flag burning campaign continues.
· Campaign in support of imprisoned Bretons.
· Campaign for restoration of lost lands ‘Blaenau Diroedd’. (We need to revive this campaign)
· Call for a Welsh Trade Union Congress and independent Welsh Unions.” Republican Trade Unionism”
· 5th October 1952: Celtic Alliance Campaign Rally in Trafalgar Square.

19th October 1952: Bomb attack on the Fron Aqueduct in Central Cymru as protest against water theft. By England in building of the Claerwen Dam project, also viewed as a protest against the English Monarchy with it being known that Elizabeth of England would open the dam.

1953: Coronation Year Celebrations in Wales reminds Republicans just how servile the Welsh are.
· 13th March 1953 Republican Beriah G. Evans on trial for being in possession of Explosives.
· 20th March 1953 Peter Rhyswil Lewis in custody for possession of detonators later imprisoned.

· Welsh Republicans express their discontent with the ‘Parliament for Wales Campaign’.

1953: Witnesses the fourth year of publication of ‘Y Gweriniaethwr’ and in Oct – Sept issue of the paper, boldly printed on the front page was celebration of the 19 October 1952 first anniversary of the Fron Aqueduct bomb attack and birth of contemporary “Secret Underground Welsh Resistance Movement’’

1954: Signs appear of a crisis within the Welsh Republican Movement?

· June 1954 Pedr Lewis is released from Stoke on Trent Prison.

WRM ‘Y Gweriniathwr’ continues to be published and distributed, no doubt the best ‘’nationalist publication’’ ever and only seconded by its reissue in the late 1970’s by a new generation of ‘Welsh Republicans’’ led by Niel ap Siencyn and Gareth ap Sion representing a form of ''Cultural" Radical Cymric Republicanism (See Padreag Pearse and Irish Republicanism).

1955: Republicans despite issues with, foolishly I believe supports the ‘Parliament for Wales Campaign’, ‘Y Gweriniaethwr’ continues to be published but there is little evidence of usual campaigning?

1956: The Welsh Republican paper continues to be published but little to record of any activities.

interestingly an editorial in ‘Y Gweriniaethwr’ states REMEMBER AND BE PROUD – The Lessons of our National Struggle…Editorial goes on to say….I quote in full: "In this year of 1956, Wales celebrated a number of significant anniversaries. First in point of time, it is a century & a quarter this summer since Lewis the Huntsman and Dic Penderyn rallied their men on the windy heights of Twyn – y – Waun, above Dowlais, and raised for the first time in our land, the Red Flag” NB: historically this is wrong, it was Hirwaun Common that should have been referred to (see my writings on the 1831 Insurrection) where the Red Flag was raised on 31 May 1831 by Lewis Lewis and Radicals of Penderyn and Hirwaun.

1957: The Cilmeri Cenotaph is unveiled and it seems from reading ‘The Young Republicans’ that editorial of the WRM I paper finds this to be some kind of worthy marker mile stone along the “Welsh Republican Road to Independence’’. I say it is not and I find it very ironic that in this same year it looks as if the first Welsh Republican Movement comes to an end? Which leads me to ask a number of considerations: despite the first WRM as other WRM’s declaring its ‘Socialism’, ultimately all attempts at ‘Republicanism’ in Wales have fallen prey to their ‘Welsh Nationalism’ and this is no better seen and exemplified by the rather pity full sight of professed ‘Welsh Republicans’ meandering about at what may be perceived as "Welsh Medieval Monarchist Commemorations" at Machynlleth, Corwen and not least – what now seems to me to be the death bed of so called ‘Welsh Republicanism’ the Cilmeri Cenotaph. I might beg the question should there not be inscribed upon that ‘rock’ the words ‘W.R. M. 1946/7/8 – 1957 R.I.P.?
My thanks to Cliff Bere RIP and the book THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS by “Gweriniaethwr’’ published by ‘Gwasg Garreg Gwalch’. I strongly suggest that you obtain this book and read it, I remind that many Welsh Republicans of this period have died and few are left and are now themselves growing old. Should not some one set out to record their important ‘WELSH REPUBLICAN RECOLLECTIONS’

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A lost chance to end Partition: Liam Kelly and the Seanad

 A Lost Chance to End Partition: Liam Kelly and the Seanad

By Michael K

On November 25, 1954, Liam Kelly gave his maiden speech to the Seanad in support of a proposed motion which would:

"provide that all elected parliamentary representatives of the people of the six occupied counties of Ireland will be given a right of audience in the Dáil or in the Seanad or alternatively requests the Government to submit this question for the decision of the Irish people by means of a plebiscite.”
     The Dail claimed to be the government of all Ireland in theory- but in reality it only had representatives from 26 counties. The motion would essentially "complete" the government. It more importantly, in a subtle but significant way, opened the door to a 32 county republic by political means.
    There had been lengthy debates in the preceding months regarding the issue, with lengthy arguments by Sean MacBride and even the Toaiseach himself. On the one hand, the Pomeroy Riots and Kelly's imprisonment had created a good deal of sympathy. On the other, many remained strangely and unexplainedly apathetic about the 6 counties or were caught up in unfound fears of letting Northerners in.

 Owen Sheehy. Skeffington (son of Francis Sheehy, murdered by the british during Easter Week) started off the debate by explaining that people in the north, in his opinion, were economically better off than those in the south; "in aiming at abolishing Partition," he declared "we want first of all to know what are the conditions in partitioned Ireland. I want to make the point, when we are asking for the removal of the Border, and asking our friends [320] in the North of Ireland to come down here to give us their views, and giving them audience, that we want to be able to know what is the situation there, what we can offer them, and what sacrifices, if any, we have to ask them to make if, as I take it, the motion is intended as a step towards the abolition of Partition.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator will observe that the motion merely asks that the representatives of the people of the Six Counties of Ireland be given the right of audience here.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I realise what it asks, and I am assuming that its purpose is to serve as a step towards the abolition of Partition. ... The aim of the motion is to act as a step towards the abolition of the Border."

The motion was indeed a step towards ending partition. Skeffington's problem was, he explained, after long winded and unclear debating, that partition was not against the will of the people except for parts of two counties or so and true to his father's pacifist legacy he condemned any attempt to overthrow it by force. In addition he reiterated the North was more fair economically to its people than the south was.

After some time of this, Liam Kelly rose to say his piece. In Kelly's speech- the only one he gave to the Seanad- his skills as an orator shine forth, and his analysis, particularly of the repercussions of partition, is as true today as it was then:

A Chathaoirligh, is mian liom cuidiú leis an rún atá os cóir an Tighe, ach sara ndeanaidh mé sin ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do rud eile. Seard is mian liom a dhéanamh ná mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí Dála agus leis an Seanadóir Proinnsias Ó Domhnaill as mé ainmniú don tSeanaid.

 I rise to support the proposal for the admission of the elected representatives of the Six Counties to the Dáil or Seanad. Before enumerating the reasons which, in my view, render the adoption of this proposal so necessary, I wish to put into perspective some general considerations in regard to Partition. Apart from the direct injury which Partition has inflicted on our nation, one of its chief evils has been the internal dissension which it rendered inevitable. Whenever a powerful State determines to disrupt a nation by lending its financial and military support to a minority, it can usually succeed in sowing seeds of internal dissension. This is, in fact, how Partition was [345] created and how Partition is now maintained by Britain.

In the course of our own lifetime we have had many instances of how this scheme of disruption can be spread by an unscrupulous aggressor. Britain's claim to exercise sovereignty in portion of Ireland, backed as it is by the use of an army of occupation, by money and by political support, upset the very foundation of democratic government. Not only is the ordinary democratic process prevented in the Six Counties but it is also prevented in the rest of the country as well by reason of Britain's interference in our affairs. So long as the Irish people are prevented from determining their own affairs freely by democratic means and so long as a portion of our country remains occupied by Britain, a section of our own people, the most courageous, generous and patriotic section, will seek to assert by any means available to them the sovereignty of the Irish people in our own country.
 This is an inescapable truth and a consequence of the situation which has been imposed upon our nation. The same consequence would result, and has frequently resulted, in the case of other nations that have been partitioned or occupied by an aggressor against the will of the people. It is an inescapable result of such a situation. That, indeed, is not a reason why we should hang our heads in shame. We might, indeed, have cause for shame were we to accept silently or without protest the dismemberment of our nation and the negation of justice to our people.
It is particularly essential, in dealing with the abnormal situation which has been imposed upon our country, to maintain a clear perspective of the issues involved on the plea of maintaining constitutional government in this part of the country. It would be easy for a Government to drift into a position where, in fact, it was fighting a section of its own people to defend the existing position. In the face of our present situation, this would mean that the machinery of the State here would, in fact, be used to aid Britain in maintaining Partition.

 I feel it necessary to speak bluntly on this issue, as I am afraid that, unfortunately, [346] on a number of occasions in the past, in the course of the last 30 years, some of our Governments have found themselves trapped into that position. I am quite prepared to acknowledge that these Governments were, themselves, anxious to end Partition and to free Ireland from any bonds of sovereignty to an alien Power. However good their intentions were, they found themselves fighting a section of their own people to maintain the status quo, and I submit that to defend the status quo is to defend Partition. As a result of this, much national energy was dissipated. In addition, oppressive measures were enacted which were, themselves, harsh and destructive of the ordinary concepts of justice and liberty. With the tragedy of our recent history in this regard staring us in the face, is it not essential to avoid a recurrence of such a situation?

Whatever outward appearances and declarations may convey, the heart and sympathy of the Irish people will always be with those seeking to right the wrongs inflicted on the nation and not with the Government that seeks to justify that wrong or to maintain the status quo. It is with such considerations in mind that we, in the part of Ireland from which I come, decided to organise on the basis of the Constitution of this country.

We in Fianna Uladh recognise the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland under which this State operates and we are prepared to work within its framework to extend its operation to the whole of Ireland. Recognising only the Constitution and the sovereignty of the Irish people, we naturally reject the claim of Britain and of any of her institutions to exercise sovereignty in any portion of Ireland. We decline to prostitute our nationality and our consciences by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown as a condition of parliamentary representation.

The people of mid-Tyrone who honoured me by electing me to be their candidate have unequivocally endorsed this and have given me a mandate to take a seat in Oireachtas Éireann and nowhere else. Actuated by generous [347] and patriotic motives, public representatives in the Twenty-Six Counties elected me to the Seanad. But for this, the people of mid-Tyrone whom I represent would be disfranchised in Oireachtas Eireann. The people of South Armagh have likewise elected Mr. McGleenan but they have been deprived of representation in Oireachtas Éireann because the public representatives of the Twenty-Six Counties were not given an opportunity of choosing him as a member of this House.

I should mention in this regard that Mr. McGleenan has now joined the Executive of Fianna Uladh and to that extent I can claim to speak here also on behalf of the people of South Armagh. It is obviously anomalous that my right to address a House of the Oireachtas on behalf of the people in mid-Tyrone or South Armagh should depend on the goodwill or generosity of the public representatives of the Twenty-Six Counties. I appreciate, of course, and am grateful for this gesture of understanding and goodwill on their part. I claim for the people of mid-Tyrone, South Armagh and of any constituency in any part of Ireland that desires to do so the right to representation in Oireachtas Éireann.

I know that the other parliamentary representatives elected by the Nationalist areas of the Six Counties also desire the right of representation in the Oireachtas. In fact, I am aware that the chairman of the Anti-Partition League which comprises all seven elected members of Parliament of the Nationalist areas, wrote to the Taoiseach recently asking permission from him to address the Oireachtas on this very question. The assertion that only some of the Nationalist representatives demand this right is entirely false. The Constitution lays it down that Oireachtas Éireann is the National Parliament, Article 15, Section 1. If the Dáil and the Seanad constitute the Parliament of the nation, then the elected representatives of the people of Tyrone, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Antrim are entitled to be heard. If they are shut out, then Oireachtas Éireann cannot [348] claim to be a National Parliament and will find it hard to command the allegiance or even the respect of the Irish people. So long as Oireachtas Éireann of its own act and volition continues to debar representatives from the partitioned areas from being heard, then it is itself maintaining Partition and the status quo. It is, in fact, taking sides with Britain in preventing the extension of the Constitution to the whole of Ireland and is depriving a section of the Irish people from representation.

I have already referred to the inherent danger resulting from Partition whereby an Irish Government may find itself at any time in conflict with the most patriotic section of its own people. If this danger arises in the present situation, it is in no small measure due to the complete lack of policy and positive action on the part of Governments here. The Government claims the right to exercise leadership. It is entitled to claim that right, but it will only secure loyalty if it exercises leadership. The defence of the status quo and the policy of doing nothing does not inspire confidence. It is this lack of confidence and this refusal to face the realities of the situation which has prompted others to take action of a more direct nature.
The adoption of the proposal in the motion put forward by Senator McHugh and Senator O'Donneil will at least be some earnest that Partition is no longer being accepted. The election of representatives from the Six Counties to Oireachtas Éireann would become the focal objective for the nationalist population. It would enable them to secure representation and it would free their representatives from the indignity of having to commit perjury. It would be the first step towards the extension of the Constitution to the whole of Ireland. It would restore the confidence of the people not only in the Six Counties but of the whole of Ireland and in her national institutions.
It is accepted surely that the attainment of unity amongst all sections of the nationalist people of the North would contribute to a solution of Partition. The major bone of contention [349] amongst Northern Nationalists is the question of attendance at or abstention from Stormont and Westminster. The acceptance of this motion would mean that the question of attendance would not even arise and thus unity might definitely be assured.

The Taoiseach stated that those using and talking about the use of force had declared that Oireachtas Éireann and the Government had no right to carry of the Government of the country. Is not the Taoiseach aware that the attitude of successive Governments in maintaining Oireachtas Éireann as a strictly Twenty-Six County assembly is to some extent the cause and that due directly to that we have the present tragic state of affairs? The Government has repeatedly found itself in a position of conflict with the most courageous and most patriotic section of the people, with a section of the people whose only objective was the reunification of Ireland. Is the Taoiseach not aware that the maintenance of Oireachtas Éireann as a Partition Assembly in the eyes of a section of the people has forced successive Governments to accept the rôle of watchdog, jailer and hangman to the British Empire?

I am not attempting to justify nonrecognition of Oireachtas Éireann but I am pointing out that if this motion was accepted, the initial steps would have been taken in the formation of a 32-County Parliament and that such a 32-County Parliament would command the respect and allegiance of every Irishman. The acceptance of this proposal is in my view absolutely essential in that eventually it would have the twofold effect of securing unity of approach among Northern Nationalists and of the avoidance of conflict within the Twenty-Six Counties.
I believe it to be the clear duty of the political Parties in this Assembly to take off the Whips and allow each member of the House to vote in the manner his conscience tells him is in the interests of his country. I regard this proposal of acceptance of the elected representatives of the Six Counties to the right of audience in [350] An Dáil or the Seanad as of paramount importance and as the first logical step towards the formation of an all-Ireland Parliament and as the only reasonable alternative at this stage to the continuation of Partition. In a debate on Deputy McQuillan's motion in the Dáil recently the Taoiseach posed the question would the suggestion, in any effective way, help or contribute to the solution of our problem of Partition? He further said that if he were satisfied that this proposal would in any way contribute to the solution of the national problem, it would receive his enthusiastic support. I submit that I have pointed out how the adoption of this motion would in fact contribute to the solution of Partition and I have done that in the hope that it will be accepted by the people here."

   The speech was well received and made an impression even on the motion's opponents. Senator Sheridan called it "an inspiration...If we could only get a few members of the calibre of Senator Kelly into the House, nothing but good would come from it."

    Kelly's supporters were no less impassioned or eloquent, and spent some time arguing on his behalf. It was generally agreed that most present sympathized in spirit, but many were still deterred by status quo worries, or a simple lack of interest.

  Senator O'Donnell, who had put forward the motion in the first place, declared in frustration :
"We want to bring down to this part of the country that spirit which is lacking to-day. There has been talk of mechanics and people ask: “What good can they do if they come down here?” Is this attitude sufficient in an Assembly of an Irish Parliament in 1954? Is that the attitude of mind of a group of Irishmen such as you have to-day; that we should say to our brethren in Northern Ireland, those Nationalists of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Antrim and Down: “You are of no use to us here. We cannot use you. We cannot have you. No, all you can do is to make speeches. Go home”? Is that the reply we are going to give in this House to-day? Are we going to say to the world that we have no use for these men, that we had no use for men from the Belfast, from which came Jemmy Hope, and Tone? Are we going to say that to Senator Kelly?
     Let us get down to realities, and to what we are asking in this motion. We are asking you to say to those people: “We recognise you as of our blood, of our kin, of our faith, and of our ideals, and in so far as we can, we will give you all the succour and help in your time of trouble.” We have already had evidence of cynicism in this debate, a cynicism or belittlement, as it were, which is killing that flowering of mind which has been evidenced in Pomeroy and elsewhere."

    Despite their best efforts, the motion was defeated; only 12 were sufficiently convinced to vote aye ; 35 voted nil. "Cynicism" had indeed won the day.

   While in 1954 John F Kennedy had not yet famously articulated that "Those who make peaceful resolution impossible make violent conflict inevitable," the Irish politicians could have learned well from it. Kelly remained elected into the Seanad until 1957, but he never addressed it again. Kelly the senator was to be replaced by Kelly the Volunteer and by the same time exactly a year later, in the early hours of November 26th, he was leading a column of Saor Uladh men in the ill fated attack on Rosslea Barracks.


United Irishman Clipping