Saturday, November 30, 2013


Taken from Chapter 4 of John McGuffin's masterful book "Internment"

"The 1956-1962 border campaign was planned well in advance. Raids at Felstead (Essex OTC school) in July 1953, Gough barracks, Armagh, in June 1954, and Arborfield on 11 August 1954, had gained guns and kudos, as well as life sentences for Donal Murphy, James Murphy and Joe Doyle,[33] and eight years for Cathal Goulding, Sean MacStiophan and Manus Canning. By December 1955 the IRA felt it could act. In many ways they were more sophisticated than before, but the old naïveté persisted. In a directive from Oglaigh na h-Eireann to all O/Cs, dated 12 December, GHQ stated;

In view of recent pronouncements by the leader of the Twenty-six County Government and his reminder to the press of the fact that certain Acts, passed by the Leinster House regime in 1939, are still in force, it is not reasonable [sic] to assume that coercive measures against the army are under consideration by the Twenty-six County authorities.[34]

The campaign got under way on 11 December 1956 with a series of explosions. Eleven days later internment was introduced in the North and 30 men were lifted; the figures rose to 256 (about 400 were detained at first). After signings-out, 167 remained in for the duration. On 1 January 1957, in the abortive Brookeborough barracks raid, Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon were killed, only to become immortalized in the Republican songbook. All 12 survivors of the raid who got back over the border got six months under the Offences Against the State Act for refusing to answer questions, but massive turnouts at the funerals of South and O'Hanlon convinced many Republicans in the South that the Taoiseach, Costello, would not move against them. Nonetheless, on 8 and 12 January swoops netted virtually the entire IRA council and GHQ staff, including MacCurtain, Magan, Grogan and Russell, who all ended up in the Bridewell and later in Mountjoy with three six month sentences. The number of prisoners rose to 53, but MacBride and his party, Clan na Poblachta, forced Costello to call an election. Fianna Fail won with 78 seats. Republicans were jubilant. De Valera and Fianna Fail had condemned the arrest of the Republican prisoners, and surely they would release them as they had done in 1932.
     Sinn Fein polled 65,640 votes and had O'Bradaigh, J.J. Rice, J.J. McGirl (in Mountjoy at the time) and Fergal O'Hanlon's brother elected. Now they could even claim some sort of mandate from the people.
     The elation was to be short lived. Some prisoners were released. But on 4 July 1957 an RUC man, Cecil Gregg, was killed at Forkhill. Colonel W.W.B. Topping the North's Minister of Home Affairs, demanded internment in the Twenty-six Counties. The Dail had adjourned for its summer recess that day, but within the next two days 63 Republicans were arrested. Most had made no attempt to go underground, believing that quiescence in the Twenty-six Counties would guarantee immunity. They had no concept of the economic and diplomatic pressures which could be put upon the Southern Government and, despite their abhorrence for politicians and party politics, they had failed to realise how easily TD's or MP's can shelve their principles.
     On 8 July the Government of the South announced that Part 2 of the Offences Against the State Act was in operation. Internment was on again. Those Fianna Fail TD's (especially in North Tipperary) who had publicly supported resolutions calling on Costello to release all Republican prisoners had to keep quiet or resign. There were no resignations. Moreover, 36 Republicans still in Mountjoy were trapped. On their release, they would go straight to the Curragh camp. On 20 July, 24 tried to escape with a large scaling ladder, but were spotted. All were soon in the Curragh camp.
     Conditions this time were better, but certainly not as pleasant as T.P. Coogan paints them in The IRA. The Irish Red Cross, headed by Mrs. Tom Barry, inspected the camp and found it 'excellent'. She, however, did not have to live there. Numbers were fewer – four huts with 40 men in each hut,[35] but the huts were still damp and dirty and the timbers were rotting. The camp authorities claimed that red tape was responsible for delays in obtaining new planks, and it was a year before the rotting timbers were replaced. The camp was surrounded by five sets of barbed-wire fencing and there was a trench, six feet deep and eight feet wide, which was booby-trapped with flares. Watch towers were manned by armed guards who also patrolled the perimeter and were equipped with ammonia grenades. Despite these precautions there were escapes. Three prisoners, Conlon, O'Toole, Kelly, climbed through the showers' window, an obvious weak spot in the defence, and made off but were recaptured a few days later. This provoked intense speculation in the camp. Official IRA policy was 'no escapes, it's too risky', but many internees were unwilling to accept the rule. On 27 September 1958, Rory O'Bradaigh and Dave O'Connell (then 18 and now a leading Provisional), escaped through the wire during a football match and, after hiding under a camouflage grass blanket, made their escape. This was an 'official' escape, made with the blessing of the O/C MacCurtain. But to the men in the Charlie Murphy group, brooding in their hut, which was known as 'Little Rock', it was not ambitious enough. Accordingly, after hearing from Sean MacBride that the International Court at Strasbourg would be unlikely to find against the Government, Murphy decided to go ahead with a mass break attempt. The military guards were accustomed to frequent alarm drills often caused by sheep springing the trip wires. They were, therefore, somewhat lethargic. On the face of it, the attempt was madness, but, on 2 December, 26 men armed with wire cutters rushed the wire in broad daylight. The guards were so astonished that the men were through the first fence before warning shots were fired. The men ignored them and ran on past the guards. Brian Boylan was shot and wounded, but the rest cleared the second and third fences. At the ditch ammonia grenades were hurled at them, flares went off and prisoners reeled about in a haze of gas while bullets flew. The guards did, however, fire high – the only man who did not was disarmed by a prison officer. Despite the wire and gas 16 men got through and only two were recaptured. A week-long police and army hunt was in vain because the local people hid most of the escapees.
     Surprisingly, there were no reprisals in the camp and life continued as boring as ever for most of the prisoners, the oldest of whom, Padraig O'Ceallaigh of Mayo, was 68; the youngest, 17-year-old Michael Kelly of Galway.
     The huts were open at 7.00 a.m., and recreation included football and darts as well as handicrafts; the usual plethora of crosses and handkerchiefs was produced. Frank McGlade, who had experienced internment in Derry, Crumlin, and on the Al Rawdah, was in the Curragh during 1958-1959 (he had been on the run since 1956) and described it as his 'favourite'. He liked the open countryside, but found it ironic that the tricolour flew and the huts were named after men like Pearse, McDonagh and Brugha.
     This time the campaign to release the internees was more active. It was costing the Prisoners Dependants Fund £400 a month to keep up the payments, inadequate though they were, and money was scarce. The imaginative suggestion of internee Frank Driver that a wife of an internee with ten children should take them to the palace of the late Most Reverend Dr. John C. McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, and deposit them there for safekeeping until her husband was released, was not put into operation. Nor was his scheme for a band of women relatives to march on the camp armed with wire cutters and cut their way in. More practical steps were taken. Sean MacBride took up the case of Gerry Lawless. Lawless and eight others had been interned in July 1957 but were given a separate hut to themselves because they were ostracized by the rest of the camp. Eight were released upon signing an undertaking, but Lawless, who was not in the IRA, having sided with Joe Christle in the split, refused to do so. After the appeal to the High Court failed, MacBride took the case to the Human Rights Commission at Strasbourg, where it was entered in November 1957 and ruled admissible on 30 August 1958.[36] On advice of his lawyers, Lawless signed out on 10 December 1958. It was not until 1 July 1961 that the verdict was eventually given, long after the last internee was released. It went against Lawless (as Unionists such as Brian McRoberts were to gleefully point out whenever internment was challenged) but mainly on technicalities. It did establish that the 'undertaking' given by internees who sign out has no legal status since it was not included in the Offences Against the State Act. Even more importantly, the court ruled that it was for them to judge whether a state of emergency existed in the country in question and that in future they need not merely accept the assurances of whatever government chose to opt out of the provisions against detention without charge or trial – as Greece was to discover in 1970.
     The IRA border campaign of 1956-1962 was an almost unmitigated disaster. The IRA could claim that about 200 militants had taken on 5,000 TA men, 3,000 RUC men, 12,000 B men, 1,500 specially trained commandos plus a large number of security guards – close on 30,000 men. There had been, in the five-year campaign, 300 major incidents. And several hundred minor ones. Six members of the RUC had been killed, 19 wounded. Eleven B specials and two soldiers had been wounded also. Several million pounds of damage had been caused – the overtime bill for the police alone was £10m. But in the last analysis the campaign was an abysmal failure. Two IRA men had been killed in action by the police and five had accidentally blown themselves up. The people had not rallied, as anticipated, behind the IRA. The Six Counties had not been 'won back'. The Unionist Government had, indeed, been strengthened. "If the IRA had not existed, they would have been invented," as many a Unionist politician said to his friends. And so the campaign petered out. By 15 March 1959 the last internee in the South had been released. The North was not to follow suit until April 1961. A forthcoming visit of the Irish President, Sean T. O'Kelly, to the USA probably had something to do with the Southern Government's decision, but by then it was clear that the campaign was sputtering out. Moreover, there were always the military courts to sentence recalcitrants. Accordingly the Curragh was closed.

"Omagh and After" - 1954

 The following is a piece from The Spectator (26 Nov, 1954) after the botched raid on Omagh Barracks.




"It was an army of soldiers that England first sent over to conquer our Nation. It is with an army of soldiers that England today maintains the conquest of our Nation. What established the conquest and what maintains the conquest—FORCE--is the one effective weapon that we can use to undo it."

This succinct statement of policy appears in a small news- sheet published in Dublin and entitled The United Irishman. Below is a list of names--including two in Scotland and one in England—of ' contact addresses for people who wish to join the -Republican movement.
    Lest they should be in doubt about what they are doing, the advertisement says : "An active Civil Organisation backed by a strong military arm can smash England, but not without your help.' And on the front page is a glowing account of the raid by the Trish Republican Army on the Omagh barracks.

The name of the IRA recalls to British minds, no doubt, the days of 1939 anthe days of 1939 and bombs in pillar-boxes. To the Irishman it rings with half a' dozen different notes. For it was an IRA that fought the Black and Tans, and its ex-members today draw State pensions and parade on Easter Sunday, decked with medals, behind the Aryl), hand,

The IRA split on the Treaty, and when the civil war began Mr. de .Valera threw in. his lot With the anti-Treaty faction and became their nominal head.

But, in 1926, when he decided to form his political party, Fianna Fail, the IRA split away from him, too: and he, who was once its leader, became one of its bitterest enemies when his Government was obliged to execute IRA members., From that time onward it was an underground movement, proscribed by law, rent by its own differences of leadership and policy. With no leaders well known to the public and making little impact on everyday life.

The strength of the IRA has always been a matter for conjecture, and remains so today. It must be so, indeed, because it is impossible for even the well-informed outsider to draw a line between, the " activists" ' and the mere fellow-travellers and sYmpathisers. During the war the number interned was about 2,000 (nearly 1.000 of them in Eire), and the total strength may have been 7,000 or 8,000. But the war brought a major split on principle. The rightists and the opportunists —those whose only principle was to support anybody who was fighting England —wanted to aid Germany. and some contacts were in fact established. But the leftist-liberal element, which has always been strong since the days of the Citizen Army, could not stomach the idea of an alliance with the Nazis. In the prison camp this split on principle was embittered by the clash of personalities. and when war ended and the internees were released the IRA was only a remnant of its former strength. The last few years have seen a rebuilding of the organisation combined (apparently) with changes in leadership and policy.

The pre-war IRA was purely a military movement which called itself a 'government.' Today it is the military arm of a political movement whose speakers appear in public and which publishes The United Irishman. The " activists ' number perhaps 800 to 1,000. They still have substantial dumps of arms, and they are sustained by funds coming largely from America. As a matter of policy, the organisation seems to have abandoned the wiping out of old scores within the Twenty-Six Counties: there is no more talk of the ' execution lists' that were notorious during the war. The new policy is concentrated on one objective, expressed by The United Irishman: . . . ' after thirty Years or futility . . . getting down to the 'vital, fundamental Issue—to get the invaders out, completely and as quickly as Possible.'

"The invaders": those words are the keynote. It is an article of faith that England is the only architect of Partition. The United Irishman denounces those who misrepresent' the purpose of the IRA as an attack on Northern Protestantism as such and no doubt it is sincere, as it is no part of the IRA
tradition to be the spearhead of "Rome Rule.' But one can imagine that the distinction seems a fine one to the 750,000 or so people in the North who vote Unionist. In fact, this distinction, or lack of one, seems to lie at the root of the conflict between IRA policy and Government policy. In the Dail debate that followed the Omagh raid, Mr. John A. Costello, the Prima Minister, made a reasoned case against the use of force, and he was supported by Mr. de Valera as leader of the Opposition. Both of them accepted explicitly the fact that' the ending of Partition depends on winning over the Northern Unionists, and that getting the invaders out.' even if it were possible, would
be no solution. Let us have a united nation,' said Mr. Costello, but let it be a union of free men, and not a united nation in which one-fifth of the people have been cowed by • force or fear and feel themselves enslaved.'

How is it that, against all this consensus of political wisdom, the lRA can still gain recruits for its ' physical force ' policy? The answer 'is that those political leaders themselves, who . have now attained to wisdom with the years, have put the sticks under the pot. The right of a fervent minority to take it upon itself to represent the nation is sealed by the niemory of 1916 (when there were some 300,0(X) Irishmen in the British forces, as compared with a thousand in the Rising) and 1922. The "lesson that you can get nothing out of England except by force ' is rammed home by a teaching of history which represents a gallant Ireland as forcing the mighty Empire to its knees. In fact, for all the courage and resourcefulness of the men who carried on the war, the victory was won in 1921 by public opinion, in the world at large and in Britain itself. And it is that force of world opinion which would be firmly, decisively and almost unanimously against any use of force to reunite Ireland today. To Americans-- --even to Irish Americans. -the alliance with Britain against Communism is too important- to be jeopardised by quarrels like this.

The elder statesmen lit the fire, and now they find themselves ignored or scorned when they try to damp it down. Indeed, it is not hard to see why their hard-won wisdom is spurned by those ardent young men whose anger has been aroused by the injury of Partition. Not only the extremist but the moderate must feel that thirty years have failed to produce a positive policy on Partition, and that moderation, in the official mouth, is only an excuse for doing nothing. It is possible, I feel, to produce a policy which, if it will not appease the extremists, will relieve the moderates of their feeling of frustration. First of all, there is one point on which the Northern Ireland case is vulnerable, and can be shown to be vulnerable. The two counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone have consistent nationalist majorities, and there is no argument for dividing the Six Counties from the Twenty-Six which will not go equally for dividing these two from, the Six. Here is the point on which to concentrate propaganda. The alleged misdemeanours of the Northern Ireland Government. which Republican spokesmen have spent so much time in denouncing, are totally irrelevant, as long as it continues to get elected.

Secondly, there is no evidence (or at any rate none known to the public) that the Government of the Republic has ever given a day's thought to the practical problems—fiscal, financial, economic—which would be raised instantly by the abolition of the Border. Why should it not appoint at once a non-political Working Party, to ask the necessary questions and try to work out the answers ? A start could be made with an examination of the practicability of a customs union between North and South. Here there would be the precedent of Benelux. and the blessing of OEEC; and no doubt the scheme could count on United States support. It would be at least a start towards a plan for wiping out a Border which cannot, after thirty years, be demolished simply by proving it absurd. if the result was merely to force an ackhowledgement of their true position on some of the Southern businessmen who are making money out of non-competitive, tariff-protected industries, the Working Party would have paid its keep.

Friday, November 29, 2013

PoW material- United Irishman, 1956

The Welsh Ivy

 Some long time readers might recall a post about the Welsh republicans in the 1950's. On that note, here is an explanation of the Welsh equivalent of the Easter Lilly . Do remember to wear an ivy - or stick up one of the following designs (see photo and links below)- as a gesture of support.


Irishmen wear an Easter Lilly to honor their dead, specifically on Easter Sunday; the English, a poppy on November 11; the Scottish, a thistle; but were you ever told of the Welsh day of mourning and its symbol?

On December 11, 1282 , Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last independent Prince of Wales (thereafter known as "Llewlyn the Last") met the forces of King Edward I at the Battle of Orewin Bridge. It was the culmination of decades of struggle between Norman expansionism and the Welsh princes and leaders, many of whom had made peace (or compromised) before but were forced into rebellion by Norman taxes, laws, and aggression against those who remained independent.

During the battle, Llywelyn was separated from his army under questionable circumstances and ambushed near the town of Cilmeri, along with 18 of his guards, retainers and chaplains who were with him. As he lay dying he revealed his identity and was executed on the spot. His head was afterwards cut off and paraded through London where they crowned it in ivy in mockery.
   Llywelyn's 18 companions were killed as well, along with most of his army. His brother Daffydd fought on for a short period but was captured and became the first recorded person to be hung, drawn, and quartered.
Wales, effectively leaderless, was soon after brought under British rule and has remained so since.

Llywelyn's death has come to symbolize the death of the Welsh nation as a whole. On December 11th Welsh nationalists wear an Ivy in honor of Llywelyn and many others from then to now who fought and died for their freedom.

Cofiwn- Remember

    Gethin ap Gruffydd, along with the late Tony Lewis, has done much to put the Ivy campaign back in public consciousness in recent decades. At the following link he has some photos, background, and creative ideas:

Informative website (Official Commemorative group):

Monday, November 25, 2013

Connie Green and the Rosslea Raid


By Miceal


    By 1955, several years had passed since Liam Kelly was expelled from the IRA and formed Saor Uladh, but there had been little action in that time beyond training and organizing. The organization initially consisted of most of the Derry and Tyrone brigades, but membership spread to pockets around the country, fueled primarily by the IRA's lack of action in the North, in addition to ideological differences such as what some saw as a "civil war mentality" in the Southern IRA men who dominated policy making and strategy.
    IRA intelligence kept tabs on the organization, and reported back in mid-1955 that they appeared to be planning an attack on one of several targets. In the end they chose the RUC barracks in Rosslea, a sleepy two story building guarded by 4 or 5 men. The object was to capture their store of weapons (whatever political implications were intended is up for debate). Despite being an elected official on both sides of the border, Liam Kelly would be taking part, along with men from around the country, from Derry to Cork.


   At 5:40 on the morning of November 26th, a column of Saor Uladh men in two cars approached the barracks. They placed a mine by a guardroom window on the bottom floor and withdrew to the back. It exploded, shaking the building to its foundations and setting off the alarm, providing a 6' x 3' hole through which they could enter. The entry party went through whilst raking the bottom floor with gunfire. To the side was the stairway leading to the top floor, where the arms rack was. They first called up for the policemen to surrender.
    Sergeant William R Morrow, in charge of the station and living in the married quarters, had jumped out of bed, grabbed a sten gun, and was watching through the shadows and smoke as the other policemen roused themselves. He responded to Saor Uladh's call to surrender with a burst of gun fire into the sea of smoke below. There then followed an exchange of gunfire at the stairway for some time (one report said 15 minutes). What Sgt Morrow did not know was that he was shooting at a World War 2 veteran and former British special forces soldier, Connie Green. Saor Uladh's training officer, he was leading the attack on the stairway but was hit in the side. From his position, Morrow saw some movement and then there was silence. He crept downstairs and found the raiders taken their wounded leader and had withdrawn, abandoning some of their own arms in the process (including American tear gas pistols and Thompson guns.*) (1) The whole affair lasted only 20 minutes.
     The B-specials were mobilized for an enormous, lengthy manhunt, sweeping the countryside and raiding local houses for arms. Nothing turned up however; the column was gone.


    Gordon Knowles, an orderly, had been on the ground floor by the window and was knocked unconscious by the mine blast. He then received 7 gunshot wounds in the back from the fire of the entry party, though they most liked were not even aware of his presence. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and was on the danger list for some time. By a miracle he survived (and ended up marrying the nurse who took care of him). Sgt Morrow received the George Cross for his actions at the stairway.

    Connie Green was less fortunate. He was spirited off by his comrades to the other side of the border and brought to a farmhouse belonging to James and Ellen McKenna near the village of Tydavnet. Medical help was much more difficult to get however and after a friendly priest administered Last Rites, he died a few hours later. He was 35.
    While smarting from his death, Kelly did his best to ease the disastrous threat of publicity. He called up his friend and political ally Sean MacBride, asking for there to be no inquest. That was impossible, but MacBride pulled some strings to have the inquest held secretly. Garda detectives took control of the house, removed evidence, and oversaw the controlled inquest. The verdict was listed as death from shock and hemorrhage. The doctor recalled "There was no name... In the age collumn I wrote 'about 30'. That was all." (2)
     Connie was buried the next day in Carrickroe Cemetery (north of the border, in his native Ulster) with the rites of the Catholic Church and a full salute from his comrades.


   At dinner with the column on the night before the raid, Connie Green had remarked it was their "last supper." It turned out to be prophetic. (4)
      His mother knew he was missing but only learned he was dead from a priest who knew of the burial. His death came as a shock to the family, who were unaware of any republican activities of his. They hardly ever spoke about it afterwards. His friends, among whom he was well liked, knew him just as a war veteran turned plasterer and had not know of any "involvement" either.
     He had joined the army at the age of 16. During World War 2 he saw action in North Africa as a sergeant in the commandos, and later in Italy, before transferring to the paratroopers. He was given the Africa Star and Italy Star, though he was reticent about his wartime experiences. He was a handy boxer as well. Later as Saor Uladh's training officer he brought experience that was unrivaled by any volunteer at the time. Liam Kelly later remarked in a booklet of ballads about Green that he was "a remarkable soldier, and given all he had been through, it is even more remarkable he died on the receiving end of RUC bullets in his native Ulster." (3)
    Liam Kelly had persuaded Connie to join his fledgling organization in the first place, and was present as he died; his memory would stay with him the rest of his life. When organizing in America decades later, Kelly named a support group of transport workers the "Connie Green" Republican Club. Its fund-raising abilities were legendary, and consisted of nearly all non-Irish workers. Connie would have been proud.


   On the surface, it was a daring move by Saor Uladh to initiate its own war when the IRA appeared to be doing nothing. Beyond that, they had lost an invaluable volunteer and events backfired on them in every possible way.

    The British authorities at first blamed the usual suspects in the IRA. The IRA quickly denied responsibility. Suspicion then fell on Laochra Uladh, Brendan O'Boyle's organization, but it had more or less died with O'Boyle earlier that year. No one knew there was another group at work, and its leader was a member of their own assembly in Storemont.
     The IRA's statement disclaming the attack contained a warning for people not to join Saor Uladh, though without naming them. The IRA had been none too warm towards them or their leader, political heretics and strategic liabilities, and the Rosslea attack certainly did nothing to endear them.
     In response Fianna Uladh put out a statement berating the IRA for aiding the state's "process of elimination," which would focus repression against them:
   "Fianna Uladh neither admits nor denies responsibility. It is now and always our policy not to felon set, inform on political prisoners, or to give any information whatsoever to the usurpers of our country which would aid the process of elimination, which in our opinion helps the English army of occupation and its satellites."
    On December 16, Saor Uladh finally accepted responsibility for the raid, but the war of words over statements denying involvement would continue for the rest of Saor Uladh's existence (to the chagrin of its volunteers).

    All this made no difference to the public. Ruairi O'Bradaigh later explained how "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." Response was indeed overwhelmingly negative, particularly when it was realized Sgt Morrow's wife and two children were in the barracks- albeit nowhere near the targeted weapons or mine blast. John Costello, the Taoiseach himself, exclaimed "We have seen Irishmen fighting Irishmen in the presence of a woman and her children," and then, a chilling threat to all Republicans: "your next move is your last!"

    To make matters worse, word leaked out a man was killed and secretly buried. The Sunday Independent ran a story on the 28th, based on rumors, questioning why more was not being said about this. After much finger pointing and frenzied statements the secret inquest (or lack thereof) came to light. Unionists in the North were livid. Secretary of Home Affairs Hanna declared "I charge the Government in the South to be morally responsible for the raid." Another said it was an example of why their fathers had refused to join the 26 Counties in the first place.


   The Rosslea Raid set off a chain of events which led to the IRA commencing their Border Campaign in 56. Despite the backlash, Saor Uladh did not go away; it remained active for another 5 years, and its volunteers went on for decades more. It was just one expression of the sentiment for freedom for Ireland, for which Connie gave his life, along with thousands like him. As Patrick Pearse wrote,
"They shall be remembered forever,
They shall be alive forever,
They shall be speaking forever
The people shall hear them forever."

*- From the cache Brendan O'Boyle gathered; his supporters transferred it to SU after his death.

1-Details of the attack from J Bowyer Bell's book.

2- Most of the information on Connie Green and his war record from "Milestones in Murder" by Hugh Jordan.

3- Statements and inquest background from "The IRA" by TP Coogan


Most other info from newspaper clippings and personal reminisces. Information is scant, often contradictory, and the handful of people present who could clear things up are now mostly deceased, so apologies for any inaccuracies; any corrections or additions for the record would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vol Connie Green's Grave

The grave of Volunteer Connie Green (Saor Uladh):
"A Grave in Carrickroe" - a lament for Connie

Monday, November 11, 2013

Edentubber Martyrs- 56 years Today

The Eentubber Martyrs -died 56 years ago today.

  Vol. Paul Smith

Adjutant Paul Smith from Bessbrook, Co. Armagh was the eldest of a family of seven.

An architects apprentice he was said to be of a happy and carefree nature, was widely and deeply read and had a flair for leadership and responsibility.

Slightly built he was described as being' as hard as iron' and had been involved in many daring missions.

For this the British and Stormont authorities had put a price on his head. Paul who had been away from home for over six months died aged 19 years.

Vol. George Keegan

George Keegan came from an impeccable tradition of separatism going back to to 1798. Born under the shadow of Enniscorthy's Vmegar Hill, a fact of which George was extremely proud, he came from a family with a deep rooted Republican tradition being a descendant of a rebel hanged in 1798.

His father Capt. Patrick Keegan was commandant of the North Wexford brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the Tan War (1919-21) and was in the Atheneum in Enniscorthy in 1916 when they were the last group in Ireland to surrender to the British forces.

In 1948 he was also involved in the 150th anniversary commemorations of 1798. His father before him was also involved and was arrested for being a Fenian organiser.

As boyhood friends of the young George, Mick Leary and Bob Kehoe have many fond memories. 'He was a genius in school with a great knowledge of history, dates and facts and was also very talented with his hands. Even as a schoolboy he was politically involved -launching an appeal to save the life of the 'Boy from Tralee', Vol. Charlie Kerins who was to be hanged by the Fianna Fail government in 1944. He was always very mature for his age, had a dry sense of humour and was very cheery going.

All his short life he was extremely popular and had no times for phonies." Mick and Bob continue: "George had great culinary skills too. Whenever his comrades in the Vmegar Hill column were billeted together, he was affectionately given the title 'cook-sergeant'. A baker by trade he was also known to poach the salmon." Through enigmatic in some ways', he was described by those who served with him as 'the ideal soldier perhaps more suited to Tom Barrys column of the Tan War and left an indelible impression on all around him.'

A single man he was last seen in Co. Wexford several weeks before his death at Edentubber, aged 29.

Vol. Paddy Parle

Paddy, from WIlliam St., Wexford town was a founding member of the Parnell G.A.A. Club. A worker in a local printing firm, he loved all things Irish, was a member of Conradh na Gaeilge and was a fluent Irish speaker, having secured a scholarship to Colaiste Charman, outside Gorey in his schooldays -a distinction of which he was very proud.

Paddy was born into a staunch labour family in Wexford in 1930. That influence led him to have a special regard for James Connolly and the working class cause.

He became an apprentice typesetter in the firm of John English and Co., Custom House Quay in the mid forties and remained there until his seven years were concluded. He also worked in Cahills of Dublin and spent a short period in England.

On returning to Wexford in the mid fifties he joined the local IRA. unit on the outbreak of the 'border campaign' and was largely instrumental in organising an active membership. Seven or eight Wexford men became part of the Vinegar Hill column and operated for a few months until arrests etc. put an end to their activities. Also the Chief of Staff of Oglaigh na hEireann of that period was of Wexford background and was fused with the '98 vision.

Paddy was described by a comrade, Labhras O'Donnghaile as the 'life and soul of the group on the border', was good humoured and lifted the spirits of those around him. During the years previous to volunteering for the campaign, he acted as 'Fear an Tl' at the many ceilithe held in the town hall and was a very popular character. Though devoted to the memory of Connolly, he was described by a comrade as being 'cut out in the mould of Pearse and acted out that role without realising it. Besides the cultural aspirations he was a deeply spiritual person and had not truck with vulgar talk etc. and was attentive to his religious upbringing.'

Bob and Mick recall his good humoured nature, cheering all the rest of them up and his flair for singing rebel songs. Bob recalls the last words heard from Paddy on that night in Edentubber -words that would ring prophetically, it was his favourite song, 'Padraig Pearses Farewell' -
'Farewell, farewell my lovely land farewell, When May dawn breaks, The last May I shall see ..." A single man he had been last seen by his brother, two months previously. Died aged 27.

Vol Oliver Craven

Oliver from Newry, Co. Armagh was a labourer and had been a driver before joining Oglaigh na hEireann.

Described as powerfully built and quietly spoken, he was particularly noted for his cool headedness.

On the run and wanted by the Stormont authorities, he had evaded capture several times.

Like the others, he read a lot in his spare time. Also, single, he had been away from home for almost six months and was only 19 when he died.

Michael Watters

Michael who owned the cottage where the bombs exploded was a forestry worker and had lived their alone since the death of his mother two years previously.
   l-r Keegan, Parle, Smith, Craven, and Watters. Photo from An Phoblacht and Text from Edentubber 50th website.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Edentubber Martyrs

Montage of the Edentubber Martyrs

Vol Jim Lane

Interviews with Vol Jim Lane, Cork, about his experiences and that of the Cork Brigade before and during Operation Harvest; and later the Irish Revolutionary Forces in the early 60's, and the events leading up to 69.
A must watch.

Part 1

Part 2

Great work by Mick Healy and co with this; see the interview with Liam Sutcliffe posted earlier, or check out his website at

A few things...

First, a shout out for info regarding some people- mostly Saor Uladh related-

Pat Murphy

Jim Killeen (prominent 30's and 40's man)

Joe Lyons

Sean O'Neill

And particularly, if anyone reading this knew Liam Kelly I'd be especially grateful.

   Second, my previous e-mail (miceal3@) has been acting up, not sending or receiving, and I just received a notice it will be shut down in 24 hours for something (couldn't be arsed to make sense of the alert). Apologies to anyone who wrote, I'll be using as the unofficial blog e-mail for now.

   In case anyone hasn't seen yet, I've updated the piece on Leo Steenson, with a rather interesting operation - Go raibh mile maith agat to his son Malachy for providing new info and polishing details.

   I also completely revised my piece on Cathal Goulding- some atrocious inaccuracies from hasty publishing I'm loathe to admit to!

   This month has the anniversaries of Edentubber and the death of Connie Green on the 11th and 26th respectively. Will be posting lots about both. Even if you're unable to attend a comm' do remember them in your own way.

And finally, we've reached the 2000 mark and even had some visitors from Russia, Ukraine, and even Finland- "a hundred thousand welcomes" to all!

Bonfires on the Border- Armistice Day,1956

   In the early hours of Armistice Day 1956 Saor Uladh and the Christle Group, in a joint operation, destroyed 12 targets, including 6 customs huts along a 150 mile stretch, the length of nearly the entire border. Taking part in the raid were, among others, Liam Kelly and Pat Murphy from Saor Uladh, and Joe Christle himself.
    The customs posts destroyed were "Mullan and Clontivern Fermanagh; Moybridge, Aghnacloy, Tyrone; and Middletown, Carnagh and Tullyodonnell in Armagh." Of these, 5 were destroyed with explosives and a sixth burnt down. One of the attacks was even witnessed by some IRA volunteers (including Charlie Murphy) who were casing targets of their own when the explosives under a nearby hut went off.

    The following minutes from House of Commons provides some insight into the British view of events:

 "Christopher Armstrong (representing County Armagh), asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the blowing up and burning of Customs stations on the Irish border on Remembrance Day.

Mr Henry Brooke: Customs land boundary posts were destroyed as a result of explosion and fire. There was no loss of life or injury. Arrangements have been made for the Customs to operate from temporary accommodation, and investigations by the Royal Ulster Constabulary are continuing into these outrages.

Christopher Armstrong (Co Armagh):
As it seems unlikely that it will be possible to take effective steps to stop the periodic explosions on the Irish border, can my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed to rebuild these Customs huts in the cheapest possible material, as they have been built before, and, if so, whether arrangements will be made for important papers to be removed at night?

 Henry Brooke:
I would not like to make any forecast about the steps that we shall take when we have done all we can to clear up what happened on these occasions. I fully appreciate the importance of looking after papers, and that is always done.

 Patrick Gordon Walker:
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why these stations were not guarded?

 Henry Brooke:
They were unmanned that night—

 Patrick Gordon Walker:

 Henry Brooke:
—because it would be most helpful to smugglers if they knew that Customs officers throughout the night always sat in the same place.

Mr Alan McKibbin (from East Belfast):
Does my right hon. Friend not consider that it speaks well for the loyal people of Ulster, who are so anxious to remain in friendship with their neighbours in Eire, that throughout these raids they have remained so restrained? Does not he also consider that, inasmuch as Her Majesty's Government are going to take any action, it should not be restricted to representations?

Mr Henry Brooke:
The implication of the latter part of that supplementary question goes far beyond my responsibilities. I am anxious for restraint in all directions.

   In the end its most serious implication was for the IRA as it put pressure on them to commence their own campaign. Columns from around the country had been assembled in Co Meath that very weekend. Several unforeseen developments had urged them to commence Operation Harvest prematurely (they had been preparing intensively for several months) and there was heated debate between those who favored starting November 12 and those who favored waiting for a more opportune time. News of the attacks reached them whilst this was going on and Tony Magan feared that should any more follow the RUC would seal up the border. The matter was decided and the next morning the columns filtered across the border and lay in wait to start their campaign.

Customs Posts had been a popular target in the past. Brendan Behan's first operation was burning down Customs in honor of the investiture in 1937. "We burned them down on both sides with great liberality" he recalled. As a song by Brian O'Higgins on a customs attack in the 20's said so well:

"Here´s to the lads that played the game,
Here´s to the minds that planned it,
Here´s to the hands that lit the flame,
Here´s to the winds that fanned it:
May it blaze again from shore to shore
Consuming our land´s disorder:
May it leap and roar from shore to shore
Till it burns away the Border!"

-The IRA, Tim Pat Coogan
-The Secret Army, J Bowyer Bell
-The Lost Revolution, Hanley and Millar
-"A Rebel Spirit," Seamus Linehan
-Fermanagh Record 1950-59
-"Brendan Behan Sings Irish Rebel Songs"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Goulding "On the Inside"

Goulding "On the Inside"

By Miceal
   In the early 50's the IRA had sufficiently restored its confidence after the disaster of the 40's to carry out an arms raid in England. This raid was to be part of similar raids ongoing in Ireland to gather arms for the hopeful yet seemingly distant next campaign. The target was the Officer Training Corp in Felstead near Essex. It was a school, which meant low security, yet it had a considerable armory. A republican-inclined Scotsman informed the IRA of the fact, and their own investigation confirmed it. To avoid disaster, the raiding party was small, even for IRA standards, and avoided already established Republicans in England for their own security. Sending men into England, the proverbial "belly of the beast," was a dangerous task but the leadership felt it was worth the risk if pulled off.

    Cathal Goulding was one of the IRA's leading men at the time, despite being only 30. He had served time as a POW in the 40's campaign and was a popular figure in prison. When he emerged afterwards he found an army without leadership on a grassroots level, and quickly took the initiative to fill the gap. He reorganized and revitalized the Dublin Brigade and set up -and ran -training camps in the Wicklow mountains. He was also made the Dublin Brigade's intelligence officer, and was on the GHQ Army Council which governed the organization. Thus his organizational skills and experience, made him top billing to lead the team.

   A young English born volunteer and mechanic in the RAF, John Stephenson, was also chosen to take part. He afterwards recalled being taught his first words in Irish by Cathal Goulding while preparing for the raid; Stephenson later gaelicised his name and became known as Sean MacStoifain. The third and final man Manus Canning was called from Derry. Chief of Staff Tony Magan personally made arrangements for them in London and wanted to take part in the raid but was - luckily, as it turned out- talked out of it. 

  The raid (July 25) was a success. There was indeed low security and they gained entry by simply prying open a window at night. They then loaded the arms into an old van parked nearby with the windows pasted over with paper. It was an enormous haul, including 98 rifles, eight sten guns, ten brens, dummy bombs, an anti-tank PIAT and mortars. So much in fact, that the van at first would not move when they tried to leave. They unloaded some material and set off, yet they were still overloaded.

    The raid was a success but they encountered problems in the getaway. First they lost their way on the unfamiliar streets and were still driving about come daylight. Also they had not taken into account the effect of the weight, and the erratically driving, heavily loaded vans, slowing rows of traffic and loosing control on down slopes, drew the suspicion of the police. The van tried to avoid the first police car that pulled out but they were unable to make a break for it and a second car forced them to pull over. With police now swarming around them, they were searched and the baggage was duly discovered. 
Photo: Left to right, Canning, MacStoifain, and Gouldng are led away.

    On October 7th a jury found them guilty and sentenced them to eight years in prison. "Without retiring," MacStoifain recalled, "the jury found us guilty in a record 90 seconds by the simple procedure of turning to each other and nodding." Goulding declared to the court:
     "We are soldiers of the Irish Republican Army: we believe the only way to drive the british from our country is by force of arms. For that purpose we think it no crime to capture arms from our enemies. We make no apology for our action."

      Cathal Goulding became prisoner 1584. His previous convictions and prominence in the IRA made him a Class A prisoner- always under the watch, continually transferred (an estimated total of 9 times), and while the other prisoners could freely associate, he was often kept isolated. In addition to contending with the medieval conditions of the prison, Sean MacStoifain recalled how they were always monitored wherever they went and no matter what they did. As a result the prisoners had no room to themselves and "nothing to draw on for strength to carry them through their sentences." Goulding fought against this well by withdrawing into himself, keeping his self discipline, and staying busy mentally through reading and planning. Well did a eulogist later state "Cathal knew the surest way to lose one's faith is to succumb to one's immediate environment."

     Any volunteer in jail is a loss to the organization, but loosing Goulding was a particularly severe blow. Tony Magan was understandably eager to get him back and went over several escape plans for the purpose. Charlie Murphy was made messenger between the two so they could discuss the plans. It was invaluable help for other republican prisoners as well, most of whom had no way of securely communicating with the IRA back home. For all his talent and charisma, the problem was, in J Bowyer Bell's words, he was "cursed with incredibly bad luck."

    In one plan, hatched in Wakefield, Goulding calculated that at one point of the day he had enough time to make it to the wall, where two supporters on the other side would throw a rope over, and he could climb out before the alarm was sounded. Wakefield's wall was over 30 ft high, and on the inside was a 14 foot trench: Cathal made it into the trench, but the two with the rope fumbled throwing it over. Time and again they tried until Cathal finally decided to climb out and jump for the rope, but as he did they pulled it away. The time limit was up and he had to scramble back into the prisoners area.

     Another plan sanctioned by Magan involved Sean Garland and Sean Cronin flying a C-47 full of volunteers disguised as a drama group (complete with Cumann na mBan "actresses") to an airfield outside Wakefield. Goulding would then see the volunteers inside the prison over the wall where they would be escorted to the C-47 and fly home. Everything went according to plan until the prisoners once again could not get over the wall in time and Cronin, Garland, and their men had to flee the scene to avoid being put in the gaol as well. Magan lamented how buying the C-47 for an unsuccessful mission had nearly bankrupt the IRA but then as another volunteers told him, they always were bankrupt. For his escape attempts, patches were added to Cathal's uniform by the prison authorities as a brand of sorts, to mark him as an escaper to be watched.

    Out of all the prisons he saw the inside of, Wakefeld was the most important in the long term as Goulding was exposed to a melting pot of peoples and causes of the time.

      Foremost among them were about a half dozen Cyrpiot EOKA men. The IRA and EOKA men recognized the similarities in their struggles and turned to each other to help survive their stay. Goulding quickly formed a joint escape committee of the two groups. While his transfer came before he could see any plans come to fruition (in late 1956), the committee was the source of close dialogue between the two organizations. Military cooperation was on the cards for some time and a joint escape was in fact hatched in 1959. After his death in 1998 the surviving members of the Wakefield EOKA men presented a plaque posthumously to his son, Cathal Og, in gratitude.

     In the same prison he also met Welsh socialist and saboteur Pedr Lewis, in for trying to destroy the Fron Aqueduct in the bitter contest between England and Wales for Welsh water resources. Lewis' connection with Goulding was the first of many for the latter with Welsh Nationalists, culminating with his sending arms to the Free Wales Army and sheltering OTR Welshmen in later years.
    The most significant personality may have been Klaus Fuchs, a scientist turned spy who leaked England's atomic secrets to the Soviets. He aided the volunteers in a variety of ways and is said to have converted some to marxism. Around this time Goulding began professing a brand of marxism quite similar to that of Fuchs and became well read on the Russian revolution. He read about current left wing leaders as well- such as Tito- and even suggested to Sean MacStoifain they contact the Soviet Union for assistance. Now how much of this can be credited to Fuchs is up for debate. Many (especially future Provisionals such as Joe Cahill and Ruairi O'Bradaigh) claim it was Fuchs. Others say it was Goulding's own development. Seamus Murphy says "Fuchs never tried to turn anyone- it was hard to get a word out of him!" As Murphy was in Wakefield and shared Cathal's growing political interest, his version is the most likely one. In any event, it would have far reaching implications that went unseen at the time.

  Aside from these few events and contacts, they were still trying years for Cathal. He missed out on any role in Operation Harvest, and the latter was no doubt all the worse for it. After Wakefield he served another 3 years in several prisons, mostly in solitary confinement for trivial reasons and, as Sean Garland put it, "the odd serious reason such as attempting to escape on numerous occasions." "He always maintained his humanity and never allowed the screws to get the better of him," Garland continues - which was no small feat.
    One episode illustrates well how he refused to let the screws get to him. In the late 50's his old friend and fellow volunteer Brendan Behan appeared on BBC live, completely drunk. Since he was in the country, Behan had scheduled a visit but instead the warden canceled it. He called Goulding into his office to explain that he would never allow a drunk like that to enter his prison. Cathal replied "But drunk or sober, you'll never be on BBC!"

     After serving six of their eight years he, Macstoifain, and Canning were released in 1959. Cathal was welcomed home to Dublin with enthusiastic celebrations and a parade. He did not waste time though, and just as soon as he returned he was leading the Easter Commemoration and was back at work with the Dublin Brigade as Quartermaster, where his first project was arranging a shipment of bazookas from America. In a few short years he had risen to Chief of staff.

    This time however, he used his position to reorganize the movement's politics rather than its military. He was always left-leaning, but he had now developed his own specific analysis in line with his working class background, reinforced by what he had read in jail. "I could see that he was different" Ruairi O'Bradaigh says. He teamed up with like-minded individuals (such as Thomas Mac Goilla, Roy Johnston, Sean Garland- the future leaders of the Officials) and tried to shift the movement slowly but surely towards class politics while promising another campaign, which, he declared in a memo to the volunteers, "I intend to be the last."


"Armed Stuggle"- Richard English

"The IRA"- J Bowyer Bell

"Cathal Goulding: Thinker, Socialist, Republican, Revolutionary" Pamphlet

"Official Irish Republicanism"- Sean Swan

Various United Irishman clippings

"Memoirs of a Revolutionary"- Sean MacStoifain

"The Lost Revolution- Hanley and Millar
(Thanks to the above for the quote from MacStoifain. Kenneth, who runs it, is writing a bio of Goulding so if anyone reading this is interested or has information do check it out

Thanks also to G. B for the images.