"Republican Aid Committee Launched"
(Taken from "Saoirse", November 2003)
IN November 1953 a committee to raise funds to provide for the dependants of Republican Prisoners was formally inaugurat- ed in Dublin. The committee was named Cu mann C a b h r a c h (Republican A i d Committee).
It had been informally in existence since the previous July when Joe Campbell of Newry was sentenced to five years for possession of explosives.
It was simply called the Republican Aid Committee for the first few months.
Then in October three Republicans were sentenced to eight years in England. There would be demands on a prisoners' dependants' fund for sometime and it was decided to put matters on a firm footing.
The committee became known as An Cumann Cabhrach, subtitled Republican Aid Committee, and its terms of reference and structure set out clearly in a small folder that Republicans called it's constitution.
The objects of the Committee were stated to be:
(a)to raise funds to provide for the dependents of Republicans Prisoners.
(b) To look after the welfare of such prisoners pending release.
(c) To create a Central Fund from which grants may be made at the discretion of the Committee in cases of distress arising directly out of Republican activities.
The structure was laid down as follows:
"The governing body shall be the Central Committee which shall be composed of a Chairman (sic), Secretary, and Treasurer, and at least four members, with powers to co-opt. The quorum for meetings shall be five.
The Central Committee shall elect three Trustees for the funds of the Committee. The Central Committee shall be empow- ered to set up Sub-Committees, if necessary, to deal with different branches of the work. Branches will be formed under the direc- tion of the Central Committee to organise local collections, céilithe, etc,to help the fund.
All monies raised (by Branches or other- wise) shall be paid into the Central Fund, and all grants will be made direct from that fund. All account books and minute books in use by the branches shall become the property of the Committee and shall be open to inspection by the Central Committee on request."
It should be noted that all funds raised were to be paid into the Central Committee fund and all disbursements were to be made direct from that fund.
In that way all Republican prisoners and their dependants would be assisted in equal manner, regardless of personal popularity or other circumstances such as prominence, etc.
The front page of the folder of constitution read as follows:
An Cumann Cabhrach, the Republican Aid Committee (For the Relief of Republican Prisoners and their Dependants).
The address was then given: c/o United Irishmanoffice,Seán Treacy House, 94 Talbot Street, Dublin.
The back page read: November 1953 Central Committee: Chairman: Donal O'Connor. Secretary: Tomás Ó Dubhghaill. Treasurer: Mrs E Woods. Committee: Gearóid Ó Broin, Seán Goulding, Miss Dillon, E Ní Sculláin, Mrs McGlynn. Trustees: Joe Clarke, Laurence Grogan and Mrs Russell.
The imprint was: Ardiff Printer, Kilmainham.
Donal O'Connor was the owner of the Castle Hotel, Gardiner Row, Dublin and a veteran Republican of the 1916-23 period. Tomás Ó Dubhghaill was a trade union official, President of Sinn Féin and had been a Republican prisoner during the 1940s. Ella May Woods had served a ten-year sentence in England from 1939.
Gearóid Ó Broin was a motor mechanic who had once been an organiser with Aitirí na h-Aiséirí. Emily Ní Sculláin came from a Republican family and with her sister was very active with the staff of An tÉireannach Aontaithe/The United Irishman. Rita McGlynn, neé McSweeney, had served a sentence in England in the 1940s while at the same time her husband-to-be Paddy McGlynn was in prison in the 26 Counties. Indeed the majority of the Central Committee had been Republican prisoners themselves.
Of the trustees, Joe Clarke was a 1916 Veteran who with Larry Grogan had served the Republican Cause right through from the 1920s. Mrs Russell was Lily Coventry of Dublin who had married a brother of Seán Russell and was active all her life. She spend a period interned without trial in Kilmainham jail in 1922-23.
The flavour of the activity of An Cumann Cabhrach may be obtained from this letter to a Donegal man who had offered to help. It was signed Tomás Ó Dubhghaill and went as follows:
"In reply to your note of the 5th instant we are anxious to get branches formed of the Republican Aid Committee in all the local areas.
If you can manage to get a few people together in Lifford who would be willing to form a branch to organise weekly collections, to run functions céilithe, etc to raise funds for the Committee, we would be very glad. Any funds raised should be sent to the Treasurer c/o this office as the Central Fund will have the responsibility of looking after boththeprisoners themselves andtheirdepen- dants whether in Dublin, London or Belfast. I am enclosing an official collection book. You should arrange to send on any funds you collect each week and a receipt for same will be sent to you. The book itself should be returned periodically for checking."
The valuable work done by An Cumann Cabhrach forseveral decades had beencarried out since the 1916 Rising by various bodies: Irish National Aid and Volunteers' Dependants' Fund, White Cross, Irish Republican Prisoners Dependants' Fund, Green Cross in the 1940s, Green Cross 1973 from that year on, etc, etc.
( Refs. An tÉireannach Aontaithe/The United Irishman, October and November 1953 and Irish Independent,