Monday, October 14, 2013

Vol Leo Steenson

An Op Harvest volunteer displaying a machine gun captured in a raid
  Taken from the 1967 edition of "The Easter Lily" by Sean O'Callaghan.*   
    Volunteers in photos - even now iconic ones- usually go uncredited but in this case we know that it is in fact Leo Steenson.
     Leo was born and raised in Lower Falls, Belfast and worked as a maintenance fitter. Upon joining the Belfast Brigade in the early 50's he was instructed to apply for work with the British Civil Service's War Office. He did so, and for a while he and some other volunteers ran a highly successful spy ring within the Office, collecting information and passing it on to the IRA. In time however it was exposed -with much damage to the Brigade, and a good bit of scandal on the British side- and Leo was forced to go on the run. Friends (including a well-known boxer) helped smuggle him over the border to Dundalk, in the relative safety of the Free State, and from there he took refuge with relatives in the seaside village of Annagassan.      
     He settled down in Dublin, where he married Cuman na mBan volunteer Marion Murphy, and became a valued member of the republican scene there. (He appears in the IRA guard at Brendan Behan's Behan's funeral in 64.)
    In 1966, during the 50th anniversary of 1916, he was in the color party of the Movement's well attended and triumphant Easter parade. Jealous Gardai baton charged them several times, but were beaten off. In retaliation he and a number of other comrades were dragged out in a dawn swoop and given various sentences- Leo receiving 6 months in jail. Reports describe their complaints of incessant Gardai harassment which rivaled anything he would have experienced in Belfast. 
     Committed to the social aspect of Republicanism, he later sided with the Officials and remained a "significant but low key"** member of the Dublin Brigade in the following decades. Among his many other tasks, he was called on more than once to help volunteers on the run from the North as he once had been. 

  *- Different from the latter day informer of the same name! Also authored "To Hell or Barbados."

**- "The Lost Revolution", Hanley and Millar. Among those he assisted was Joe McCann, with whom he transferred weapons. He was present when his O/c Jim Flynn was shot and only escaped death himself when the assailant's gun jammed

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