Monday, September 30, 2013

Volunteers Handbook, 1956

"A Handbook for Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, issued by General Headquarters, 1956"

Issued shortly before the campaign commenced, this manual was anonymously written by Sean Cronin and contains an outline of Republican history and philosophy, his notes on guerrilla warfare, and a briefing on military tech of the era.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pow list - 1954

POW list from 1954

The End of the Campaign II - Afterwards

A lecture by Billy McMillan shortly before his death on the winding down of the Campaign (during which he was a prisoner in The Crum) and subsequent developments:‘the-role-of-the-ira-1962-1967’-by-liam-mcmillen-official-sinn-fein/

   And, as a compliment to the above, two issues of An-tOglach from the same period. An-tOglach was an underground paper meant only for the eyes of Volunteers, containing organizational news and notes on strategy and ideology. It was founded during the Tan War and was intermittently revived in each of the following decades with the same purpose.
    In 1967 it was revived by Dublin volunteers Sean Garland (Pearse Column O/c) and Mick Ryan (another Column commander and GHQ member). Compare with some of the bulletins and papers from the 50's posted earlier and one can see how quickly and how radically the Army was re-designing is politics and strategies.

The first re-issue in October of 67:–-offical-organ-of-the-irish-republican-army-no-1-c-1967/

December 67 issue, along with a wonderful article by Brian Hanley:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sean South Funeral

The hearse and honor guard at Sean South's funeral:
A short, but invaluable bit of footage from the funeral, showing the crowd (50,000 were in attendance) and the coffin being carried out:

(Go raibh mile maith agat to TomBarry 1921 for uploading this!)

The End of the Campaign - GHQ statement (1962)

 IRA statement announcing the end of the campaign, released by the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau (February 26, 1962)

     The leadership of the Resistance Movement has ordered the termination of the Campaign of Resistance to British occupation launched on 12 December 1956. Instructions issued to Volunteers of the Active Service Units and of local Units in the occupied area have now been carried out. All arms and other matériel have been dumped and all full-time active service volunteers have been withdrawn.
     Foremost among the factors motivating this course of action has been the attitude of the general public whose minds have been deliberately distracted from the supreme issue facing the Irish people - the unity and freedom of Ireland. The Irish resistance movement renews its pledge of eternal hostility to the British Forces of Occupation in Ireland. It calls on the Irish people for increased support and looks forward with confidence -- in co-operation with the other branches of the Republican Movement - to a period of consolidation, expansion and preparation for the final and victorious phase of the struggle for the full freedom of Ireland."

"J. McGarrity, Secretary."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Documentary: IRA in the 1950's

 "Anamnocht - IRA in 1950s"

Superb hour-long documentary by TG4. Contains interviews with many veterans, some great re-enactments, and sympathetic, in depth analysis of strategy and events.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

IRA Men's Deaths That Caught Whole Country's Imagination

IRA men's deaths that caught whole country's imagination

By Valerie Robinson, Irish News

Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon entered the realms of history and song when an IRA raid on a Co Fermanagh RUC barracks went dramatically wrong 50 years ago today (Monday) – on January 1 1957. Southern correspondent Valerie Robinson reports.

On a cold overcast New Year's Day in 1957 an IRA unit launched an ill-fated attack on an RUC barracks, sparking a bloody battle that has reached almost mythological status in Irish history.

Limerick man Sean South (28) and 20-year-old Fergal O'Hanlon, from Monaghan, had been members of the 14-strong IRA unit, led by Sean Garland, that set out that morning in an attempt to storm the Brookeborough RUC barracks in the Co Fermanagh village.

The assault had been planned as part of Operation Harvest – the IRA's Border Campaign between 1956 and 1962, which intended that flying columns would cross the border from the Republic and attack military and infrastructure targets within Northern Ireland.

An IRA document found in 1956 stated that the aim of the campaign was to "break down the enemy's administration in the occupied area until he is forced to withdraw his forces".

IRA members had travelled from as far afield as Cork, Dublin, Wexford, Galway and Limerick to take part in the New Year's Day assault. But their plan to bomb the barracks went dramatically wrong.

In his book Sean South of Garryowen, author Des Fogerty says that about a week earlier the RUC had received intelligence that a border station would be attacked. Officers at Brookeborough were well-armed while the station had been sandbagged and equipped with a radio telephone to call for reinforcements if needed. The fateful gun battle began within seconds of an RUC officer discovering by chance the IRA man Phil O'Donoghue attempting to lay a bomb at the barracks door. Two devices failed to detonate and a grenade bounced off the barracks and injured O'Donoghue instead.

Seven men were injured in the attack. Five would survive but Sean South had received a fatal wound to the lower back while Fergal O'Hanlon was bleeding badly after being struck in the legs.

The unit fled the scene, taking temporary shelter in a cowhouse where O' Hanlon lay dying. It is likely that South was already dead.

The survivors eventually managed to make their way back across the border to a farmhouse.

The wounded were later taken to hospital while the others were arrested.

An inquest would find that South had been beyond help when the unit had entered the cowhouse but that O'Hanlon's life could have been saved by first aid – a finding that has been disputed over the decades.

Sean South had lived a quiet but industrious life with his mother and two brothers in Limerick before the raid.

His brother Ger, aged 21 at the time of the Brookeborough attack, recalls how the killing of the man they had known as a hard-working timber yard clerk, scout leader and Irish-language enthusiast had a lasting effect on the family.

"We had all been unaware of the depth of his involvement in the IRA at the time," Ger South said.

"We first learned of what was happening shortly after he went to the north and used me as a conduit for communicating with the family. We realised that he had been working away while training with the IRA in the mid-west.

"We'll never be fully sure what motivated him to take the line he did. We lived together. We slept in the same bed. We were very close. But when he was away from here nobody would know where he was. He was obviously out training.

"He'd always loved books and would buy some every week when he got his wages.

"It was after his death that we looked at what he'd been reading and got some insight into what he was thinking.

"There were books on economics, how wealth was dispersed in society, the Irish language and Irish organisations."

Ger South remembers that his brother had "seen a lot of life" in the years before his death. He had joined the FCA (An Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil or army reserve) and An Rialt, an Irish-speaking wing of the Legion of Mary. As a scout leader, he had encouraged local youths to speak Irish.

"But after Sean died there were a lot of changes. Our house had always been full of chat and craic but my mother Mary refused to live there and we moved to a corporation flat. There were too many memories."

Over the decades, Ger South has heard "all strands of the republican movement" claim they would have had his brother's support.

He remains convinced Sean would not have taken his decision to join the IRA lightly.

"He would never do anything in a foolish or haphazard way," he said.

"Everything was thought through. He obviously had studied [the situation in the north] to the extent he felt it was the only thing to do. It annoys me when people think they know what he would or would not want today."

Fergal O'Hanlon had worked as a clerk and local authority draughtsman. He spent his spare time going to dances and playing Gaelic football and handball in his native Monaghan.

His sister Padraigin Ui Mhurchadha, aged 15 at the time of his death, describes him as a "wonderful son and brother" who had many friends and was "great to everybody in the family".

While the South family had been taken by surprise at news of Sean's IRA activities, the O'Hanlons had been been brought up in a "very republican house".

"He would have grown up with Irish as his first language. We lived in a border county so we were very aware about what was happening in the six counties. We knew that Catholics were enduring terrible intimidation and suffering.

"Although I was young and it wouldn't really have been discussed in front of me, I would have sensed that Fergal was involved in the [border campaign] but we believe [Brookeborough] was his first military activity."

Ms Ui Mhurchadha, a Sinn Féin Monaghan town councillor, had been visiting a relative's house when the radio reported that two men had been killed in the north.

"We had known Fergal was away because he had said goodbye to us all. He had taken his leave of my mother Alice and when we heard the news she felt straight away he had been killed.

"The next morning we were asked by the gardai to go to Monaghan Hospital and were told by the men being treated there that Fergal was dead.

"I remember all the sounds – the knock on the door by the guards, Daddy telling Mammy, her crying.

"He was a month off 21. We were very proud of Fergal. He had been fighting for Ireland but we were heartbroken when he died.

"We received many many visitors, letters and telegrams of support. It was incredible. Thousands attended the funeral. Fergal and Sean's deaths had caught the imagination of the whole country."

However, for the unionist community, the men had simply been "terrorists who had attacked us and were caught in a gun battle".

Retired Fermanagh Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sam Foster was a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary in 1957, assisting the RUC in patrols and searches.

"It was a very watchful time, patrolling the area during what was regarded as a terrorist campaign. We got a bad name but I was in the force for 20 years and I never gave offence to anyone. I just did my duty. We were there to guard the province. We contended we were British and that was our right.

"Obviously, the station [in Brookeborough] was in the centre of a village and it had to be defended and that was how South and O'Hanlon got killed."

Crowds lined the route to the border to pay a final tribute to South and O'Hanlon as their bodies were carried from Enniskillen to the cathedral in Monaghan, where they lay in state overnight. Thousands more attended the funerals in Monaghan and Limerick.

January 23, 2007
This article appeared first in the January 1, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Volunteer Kevin Neville

Vol Kevin Neville Kevin Neville (1921-1964) was an accomplished IRA volunteer, POW, RAF member during World War 2, and O/c of Saor Uladh's southern units, before meeting an untimely death at the age of 43. The following are 1- a statement by the Irish Revolutionary Forces. 2- Funeral oration by Saor Uladh Leader Frank Morris. 3- His grave in Inniscarra, Cork.
A great many thanks to Jim Lane for providing the above, and Phil at theirishrevolution for putting them out there. Regarding his joining the RAF, Lane writes in his "Notes on Republicanism and Socialism in Cork": "Gerry Higgins told me that, following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Kevin Neville heeded the advice of leading socialist figures and sought and received parole from the Curragh Camp, going on to join the RAF. The advice given at the time was that all able bodied socialists should join the armies of the Allied forces in the fight against fascism and in defence of the Soviet Union. Later, when back in Cork, he found there was no welcome for him in the ranks of the IRA." Later in "Notes" he tells of how when the IRF faced similar ostracization from the Republican Leadership, which went so far as to seize the stencils for their newspaper and intimidate their supporters, Kevin Neville assisted them in a series of raids and confrontations which made clear to the leadership (in a bloodless manner) bullying would not be tolerated. After his death on June 16th 1964, independent Cork republicans formed the "Kevin Neville Commemorative Committee" to construct a fitting monument over his grave and had it erected less than a year later (as seen in the last photo)*. While he does not appear on any roll of honor, Kevin Neville gave his life to the dynamic struggle of freeing the North from British occupation and all Ireland from economic enslavement- a struggle which remains to be fulfilled. *- The committee reflected the broad range of friends he had; it was initiated by IRF members, chaired by Socialist Party member Maura Sheeehan, and Spanish Civil War vets Mick O'Riordan and Jim O'Regan were both considered for the oration.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Operation Harvest Vets Today- Photos

 A group of Operation Harvest veterans in 2009 at the funeral of Willie Reilly:
Official Republican / WP Archive's photo.

And, in 2011, at an Edentubber Commemoration:

Front (LtoR) Cathal McQuaid, Oliver McCaul. Middle (LtoR): Noel McLoughlin, Mick Ryan, Francie Donoghue, Dan Moore, Paddy Smith, Donal Donnelly, David Lewsley.
 Back (LtoR): Tony McLoughlin, unidentified, Seamus O'Hare.

(Thanks to the Official Republican/ WP Archive for the photos.)

The Gough Barracks Raid

 The Gough Barracks raid - Remembering the Past (An Phoblacht- June 2005 Edition)


In January 1954, Leo McCormick, the Training Officer for the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, was on a visit to Armagh. As he passed Gough Barracks, the home of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, McCormick noticed that the guard on duty outside the barracks was armed with a sten gun without a magazine. McCormick concluded rightly that Gough Barracks was in effect being guarded by an unarmed guard.

On his return to Dublin, McCormick informed the Dublin Brigade of his chance observation. Alas, McCormick was not to see the end result of his information, as he was arrested soon after and received four years for possession of a document.

By April, the General Head Quarters decided that they would raid Gough Barracks for arms. But first, more information was needed.

Eamon Boyce the Intelligence Officer of the Dublin Brigade, was asked to travel up to Armagh and check out the barracks. Boyce travelled up many times and soon had a detailed account of life outside the barracks. But GHQ wanted more inside details. Charlie Murphy got over this problem by asking Seán Garland to go up to Armagh and enlist in the British Army.

Not long after Garland's enlistment, a stream of maps, documents, time schedules and even photographs flowed into GHQ for processing. Finally, a last intelligence coup was arranged. Using Garland's information, the IRA got inside the barracks to have a look around.

On a Saturday night in May, Boyce and Murphy slipped into the barracks as 'guests' at a weekly dance. With them they brought a girl, Mae Smith, who was later to become chairperson of Sinn Féin. After a few dances, Garland took Mae outside for what his fellow soldiers assumed was an hour of light passion but was in fact a detailed tour of the entire barracks.

The operation was launched on 12 June 1954, from a farm just outside Dundalk. A large red cattle truck had been commandeered at the last moment and 19 IRA men, about half of the Dublin Brigade, climbed in and were informed as to what their target was. It was almost 3 o'clock on a busy Saturday afternoon when the cattle truck and a car drove into Armagh.

Paddy Ford got out of the car and walked over to the sentry and asked him about enlisting in the British Army. While the sentry was dissuading Ford of what he considered a foolish course of action, he looked down into the barrel of a .45 calibre colt revolver in the perspective recruit's hand. As the sentry was held at gunpoint, three IRA men went past him into the guardhouse. The sentry was then brought in after them. While the sentry was being tied up, a new IRA sentry, complete with British uniform, white webbing belt, regimental cap and sten gun with magazine stepped out to stand guard over Gough Barracks.

As soon as the IRA sentry appeared, the cattle truck drove through the gate and came to a halt outside the arsenal door. After fumbling through 200 keys, Eamonn Boyce found the right one and opened the armoury. Murphy raced up the stairs and in the first room two British soldiers demanded to know what a civilian wanted inside the barracks. Murphy had some trouble getting his revolver out of his pocket and was further embarrassed when the two soldiers refused to put up their hands. However, another IRA man arrived carrying a Thompson sub machine gun, which quickly convinced them to do as they were told. Posting a Bren gun at the armoury window to command the barracks square, the IRA began stripping the armoury.

During the course of the raid a woman, noticing something was wrong, stopped a British officer in the street and urged him into the barracks to investigate. Once inside the gate the officer was taken under control and, protesting that he was an officer and a gentleman, refused to be tied until a gun was put to his head.

An NCO then noticed what was happening, got into a lorry and drove for the gate, intending to block the exit. But an IRA man (later to become editor of An Phoblacht) stood at the gate brandishing a revolver and shouted "Back". He forced the NCO to reverse the lorry. The NCO was placed under arrest in the guard room. By the end of the raid, the IRA had tied up 19 British soldiers and one civilian.

In less than 20 minutes the job was done. The lorry carrying 340 rifles, 50 sten guns, 12 bren guns, and a number of small arms drove out of the barrack gates and rumbled through Armagh in the direction of the 26 Counties. Eamon Boyce and the group in the car followed after locking every gate and door for which they could find keys (the keys were later auctioned in America to raise funds for the IRA). At 3.25pm the first alarm in the barracks was given but it was not until 5 o'clock that the general alarm was given and by that time the big red truck was long gone.

The raid for arms in Gough Barracks gained international attention. The IRA, which had been described by some as moribund since the '40s campaign, had once more risen from its slumber to strike a blow against the forces of occupation. The raid awoke a calling in many to join the IRA and take part in the Border Campaign, which kept alive the flame of republicanism through to the present time.

On 12 June 1954, 50 years ago, the IRA raided Gough Barracks in County Armagh.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Remembering the ICA

  (This will be my last non-Border Campaign era related post, but its a timely one. And the fact I'm unable to find any way to connect the two- the people, ideas, or strategy- says something interesting in itself that might be best analyzed later.)

Remembering the ICA

   There's no doubt that the ICA is one of the landmark organizations of modern Irish History. In honor of Labor Day here in America and the 100th anniversary of the Lockout, I've compiled some of the best links and online resources on them:

Very good introductory history:

James Connolly's explanation of why they formed:

Worth including is this instructional pamphlet Connolly addressed to the Citizens' Army on revolutionary warfare:

Recruiting poster and uniforms:

Their RoH:

Sean O'Casey's Memoir:

Memoirs by volunteers:
 Frank Robbins (later published as "Under the Starry Plough")

Matthew Connolly (brother of Sean, KIA)

James O'Shea

Willie Oman

Maeve Cavanagh

Rosie Hackett:

 An article on their unlikely and today uncredited allies in the AOH's Hibernian Rifles:

And finally, on their little known existence from 1916-1930's. Brian Hanley wrote an excellent in depth article on the subject ("THfor Saothar in 2003), but its hard to find. Luckily SIPTU has a summary here:

Fermanagh 1950-1959

 The following is a public record of sorts relating to Fermanagh, 1950-1959:
 It does not give the author- he appears to have been a socially-conscious unionist, but he gives a good overall picture of the times purely through events. While Fermanagh does not appear to have been much affected by the Border Campaign, it still had its own share of incidents and these can be seen in their place against the backdrop of ordinary life. Records of sports victories, legal cases, speeches, and local goings-on are interspersed with landmine explosions, evictions, and arrests. In all an important societal document.

Here are a few excerpts:

(If anyone knows more about James O'Donnell of the bottom paragraph, please let me know.)

"Exciting scenes were witnessed in the border village of Magheraveely, Newtownbutler, on Friday, when bailiffs accompanied by members of the RUC arrived to execute an eviction on Mr. Francis Wilson, The Cottages, Magheraveely. As they approached they were met by Mrs Wilson holding aloft a large tricolour flag. She told officials that if she had to leave she would do so under an Irish flag. She refused to hand over the flag and then ran through the village pursued by the RUC who desisted when she ran into a shop and a large crowd began to gather. Mrs Wilson addressed the crowd while nearby officials were removing her furniture to the roadside. Welfare officers were present but she refused to hand them over and with the rest of her five children and her husband she crossed into Monaghan two miles away to take up temporary residence in a roadside tent. In the last war Mrs Wilson was an NCO in the ATS.

580222 Shots were fired at Belleek R.U.C. Barracks at 3.30 am on Friday morning. The firing came from the direction of the railway bridge which spans the border. The police returned the fire and sent up flares. The shooting lasted about five minutes. About 4.15 firing began again and lasted about 15 minutes. Other than a broken window and bullet marks on a wall there was no other damage.
580301 Another Lisnaskea Housing Scandal. Twenty two houses were let at a rent of 27/6 to 30/- per week and of these 18 went to Protestants and 4 to Catholics.
580308 Land mine wrecks Land Rover at Corragunt, near Roslea. Lucky to escape were Constable William G. Beatty (38) a native of Knockaraven, Derrylin, the driver and Constable Norman Johnston of Cookstown.
580426 James O’Donnell, (23), steel erector, of Lisnastrane, Coalisland, was sentenced to ten years in jail on charges of being a member of Saor Uladh and three charges in connection with causing an explosion at a railway signal station at Coalisland on June 12th last.

Lament for Sean Cronin

 A song written by veteran Irish American activist Seoirse MacDomhnail on the life of Sean Cronin, the mastermind of Operation Harvest. It was played at his funeral mass.

Tom Barry on Guerilla Warfare

 I don't like going off-topic, but this was simply too good to not post. A 1 hour talk by Tom Barry on guerrilla warfare and the strategy and tactics of the West Cork Brigade:

(A hundred thousand thank you's to youtuber TomBarry1921 for uploading this! Maith thu.)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Sad to say but military men of his caliber in
the struggle are as rare as honest bankers...

   Operation Harvest was actually the first
return to active republicanism he had since the 30's. He had disagreed with the "S Plan" (the 40's campaign) for strategic and moral reasons, in addition to reservations about the connections to Germany. He returned as an advisor and helped run training camps in the run up to 1956. Sean Cronin* is said to have been one of his admirers and based his strategy on that which Barry used during the Tan War and proposed for use afterwards in liberating the north. Unfortunately, Cronin did not have at his disposal the manpower and resources Barry did, or the political power the "old IRA" wielded.

 The rest, as they say, is history....

*Both Cronin and Barry were in the Free State Army during "The Emergency" aka WW2.