Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mountjoy POWs

The. Edentubber Cross

Vol. Willie O'Reilly (Armagh), speaking beneath the memorial Cross to the Edentubber Martys in St Patricks Cemetary, Armagh. Mid 60's.

The Cross as it is today:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gerry Lawless on Saor Uladh

  In what is one of the only published pieces by a former member, Gerry Lawless talks about Saor Uladh and the Christle Group.
     It is an excerpt from a much larger article called "Where the Hillside Men have Sown" (See here: ), written by Lawless in reply to a series in the United Irishman commemorating the 10th anniversary of Operation Harvest. He points out the fact the IRA was not the only one at war and calls them out for the unfair treatment meeted out to dissidents of the time.

 "....The impression deliberately given that the IRA was alone in the field: but it was Saor Uladh which began the campaign independently with the burning of the 6 customs posts along the border on Armistice Day 1956 – more than a month before the 'official' campaign began. In the Role of Honour Aloysius Hand is listed, and the inference is that he was of the IRA ... but be was a member of Saor Uladh. During his political life he was slandered and ostracised by the IRA and Sinn Fein in Monaghan in the most viciously sectarian manner, by institutionalised leaders who feared for their own control. For years they ignored his death. And now they silently slot his name into their Role of Honour! But still not mention is made of his comrade Connie Green, killed in 1955. Why? Because they must preserve the fiction that there was no activity before their official campaign began in Dec. 1956. Even in tearful eulogies to their dead they tamper with the records, behaving like sordid bureaucrats!

They boast about the preparatory arms raid on Armagh barracks in June 1954, but do not mention that over half the participants had been expelled by 1956, and slandered as police spies and British agents (see United Irishman Oct. and Nov. 1956).

    Another item highlights the work of the Republican Publicity Bureau which, says United Irishman, “built up a reputation for integrity and truthfulness". In fact the RPB, the voice of the narrow sectarians who led the IRA, more than once aided the state against Saor Uladh. RPB disclaimers of Saor Uladh activities, in the name of “The Republican movement”, played into the hands of the Special Branch.* Once the RPB issued a statement disclaiming a 'job' Special Branch and the RUC knew who to look for. In 1957 when members of Dublin Saor Uladh were arrested and charged with armed robbery at an explosives dump, workers refused to identify them. Some days later the RPB denounced the raid, and the denunciation was used by the police to persuade the witnesses to identify those whom the police said were “Dublin gangsters” - Sean Geraghty and Joe Chrystal. Saor Uladh conveyed the truth to these workers just in time for them to retract their evidence.

The main article says that in 1958 the Cypriot EOKA made contact with the IRA, and joint plans to release Irish and Cypriot prisoners were laid, these being broken off when the Cypriot struggle ended and the EOKA prisoners were released. This is not quite the truth. In 1958 the more militant members of EOKA contacted the more militant Republicans - i.e. Nicky Samson contacted Joe Chrystal. The 'dialogue' did not end: the EOKA militants played their part in releasing Joseph Murphy from Wakefield jail in 1959. The only member of the 'official' movement involved was the prisoner -- and he too has now (1966) been expelled!

An Cumann Cabhrach is credited with the "Herculean labour” of caring for the prisoners' dependents. This is a lie. It is also a slander, because if An Cumann Cabhrach successfully cared for all prisoners' dependents, then those who formed the Irish Political Prisoners Fund must have been guilty of false pretences. Sinn Fein refused aid to the dependents of those who would not accept its discipline in jail. One man treated thus had lost a leg in the ambush in which Aloysius Hand died. Still, at meeting after meeting in New York in 1958 Sinn Fein spokesmen gave assurances that no discrimination was being practised in the distribution of money ... False pretences?

No, it is not as pleasant a picture as they paint it in the United Irishman. And the putrefaction emerges more clearly still in view of the situation inside the Curragh Camp.

In the first year in the camp twelve men who between them had taken part in the Arbourfield raid, the first Roslea raid, the return to Armagh and the return to Omagh; two of whom had been continuously on the run from '55 to their internment in '57; five of whom had been members of the first Column to move North; all but two of whom had been involved in the opening shots of the Campaign (11.XI.56, not 12.XII.56) – these twelve were deliberately and systematically ostracised by the other prisoners on the orders of the Camp OC, Thomas MacCurtain. Any prisoner who associated with them was himself victimised. Clothing and foodstuffs sent in by sympathisers and intended for all were denied them, Why? Because the twelve refused the discipline of MacCurtain - who had been elected OC at a meeting to which they were refused admission! Only the official leaders' ability and willingness to cut off aid from the dependents of those who refused this discipline within the camp allowed them to impose this shamelessly sectarian regime on the other prisoners.

   Saor Uladh were more serious in their approach (than the IRA), rejecting much of the traditional out-[word illegible] of the 'hillside men'. They felt under no obligation to keep faith with an [word illegible] whose strength was superior force; tactically they recognised the courts; they rejected the official line that RUC and Dublin Special Branch should not be shot at. More important, they tended to face the [act, religiously denied by Sinn Fein and the IRA, that it is not merely a question of 'British occupied Ireland' but of the tie-[word illegible] of both sections of Irish capitalism, as the local garrison of Imperialism; and that it was a question of civil war against this garrison, on both sides of the border. Largely made up of workers, Saor Uladh became involved in Dublin unemployed struggles, helping to form unemployed defence groups in 1958. It also became involved in land agitation in Kerry. It tried to link up with the world movement against colonialism, thus departing from the traditional myopia of seeing only British imperialism, and had contact with the EOKA and the FLN. The tendency of Saor Uladh, striving to escape the contradictions of traditional Republicanism, is clear. But as a body it did not succeed in adopting a clear revolutionary working class perspective. However, its conflicts with the IRA had the effect of starting a number of its worker members on the road to a Marxist class consciousness.

-----------------(end excerpt)-------------

* A couple of points:
- Lawless uses the name "Saor Uladh" for both "the" SU and the men of Joe Christle group, who operated together but were quite distinct from each other. His analysis of war on both sides of the border in the last paragraph is a reflection of the Christle Group's views, not Saor Uladh, who politically recognized the Free State and abhorred "civil war mentality."

     The purpose of reposting this is not to reopen wounds or to make a point against the whole IRA, but just to record the historical fact of what happened to a group of dedicated, worthy republicans- both for the record and a warning for today.

Arrests in Tyrone- 1957

 A newspaper report of an incident in Tyrone from 1957.

"On December 30, 1956, three men were captured in the Dunamore area of Co. Tyrone. They were John Kelly of Belfast, John Oliver Madden of Cork and David T. Lewsley of Lurgan, Co. Armagh. They were sentenced to eight years imprisonment each. Peter Monaghan of Dunamore, Co. Tyrone, was charged with aiding and abetting them and was sentenced to three years." -Sean Cronin, Resistance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vol. Liam Daltun

     Liam Daltun

"At 18 years of age in 1954 he joined the IRA. He later left the IRA and operated with the breakaway Joe Christle group during the 1950s Republican Border campaign. The Christle Group along with Daltun blew up nine customs posts along the border with the north of Ireland in 1956. Around this time he was arrested in Dublin his trial was held the next day. He defended himself, recognised the court and was acquitted, at a time when Irish Republicans refused to recognise the authority of the courts."*

    After the campaign ended he and other members of the Christle Group (including Gerry Lawless) emigrated to London where they organized into several Irish marxist groups- the Irish Workers Union, The Irish Communist Group, and the Irish Workers Group- and a newspaper called "The Irish Militant," in which Daltun wrote enthusiastically in favor of reviving the Irish Citizen Army.
     Sean Matgamna recalls "He was a knowledgeable, thoughtful man in his mid 30s, who took his Marxism seriously. Unusually among us exiles, he had had some sort of college education."** He worked as a builder and knew a number of languages.
     In the late 60's and early 70's he was involved with Saor Eire ( formed and led by former Dublin Brigade volunteers like himself.) He helped publish their manifesto and, with Bob Purdie and Tariq Ali, the International Marxist Group's underground newspaper "The Red Mole."
   He died in 72 after jumping off a train in what appeared to be a suicide.

*Go raibh mile maith agat to Mick at the Irish Republican Marxist History Project for the quote on his Border Campaign activity and the first photo, and to Frank Keane for the second photo.


Lisnaskea Barracks- 1956

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Des Cox

 Obit of a 50's man, Des Cox, from "Saoirse", 1998.

(Note:He was also a supporter of Fianna Uladh in its early years.)

Deasún Mac Coiligh (Des Cox)

Des Cox, who died at his home in Armagh city on Friday, February 4, was born in Dublin 79 years ago but went to live in in his father's native Derrygonnelly, Co Fermanagh when he was nine years old.

His mother was from Co Mayo. Married to Molly from Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim, who died in 1999, he had three children, M?ire, Frankie and Michael.

A life-long Republican, Des Cox became involved with the Republican Movement when he came to reside in Enniskillen in 1950. A keen follower of Gaelic games he was soon to become secretary of Enniskillen Gaels GFC and represented them for many years at County Board level.

He first came to prominence in the Republican Movement when along with that dedicated veteran from Dungannon, Art Mac Eochaidh, they canvassed to get Phil Clarke elected in Fermanagh/South Tyrone at the expense of Colonel Grosvenor of the unionists. This was after the Omagh barracks raid and nationalist opinion was strong due to the undemocratic capering of the Stormont government.

When the IRA Campaign started in 1956 Des joined the South Fermanagh Brigade under O/C Paddy McManus but due to ill-health he was unable to partake in military engagements. However he worked earnestly for the organisation and his house in Queen Street, Enniskillen was readily available for Volunteers coming from the South.

Des at the time was working as a conductor for Ulsterbus and it was he who brought Dáithí Ó Conaill across the Border for the first time on his bus to leave him with Frank Maguire in Lisnaskea.

The IRA were active in Fermanagh and after the discovery of a dugout at Cavanacross and an attack on the RUC barracks in Enniskillen about fifty yards from Des Cox's home. He was arrested with five others, Frankie and Éamon Goodwin, Joe Owens, Kevin Carson and Henry Martin and brought to Crumlin Road jail in an open jeep. There they were harshly treated as was common practice at the time and young Carson broke down under severe questioning.

Des was thrown into a cell with no window, no light, no toilet and was locked up for 24 hours. Then after strenuous questioning over prolonged periods he collapsed. However they were unable to produce evidence to charge him and he was interned. The two Goodwins, Martin and Owens were sentenced to five years. Carson was released.

Des was interned in C Block, Crumlin Road jail where he was for a period O/C of the Block. After spending a year and a half in jail he was released from the prison hospital on health grounds. Back in Enniskillen he was unable to resume his work with Ulsterbus as the company was notified by minister of home affairs in the Six Counties Tipping that he was not a suitable person to be employed and that they were removing his PSV licence.

He then became a sales representative for Gael-Linn in Ulster. From the start he was successful although he had to contend with continuous harassment and detention by the RUC in barracks the Six Counties. Des, however, was soon to be promoted to sales supervisor and in the mid-sixties he moved residence to Armagh. From the Gael-Linn office in that city he played a prominent role in building a strong Gael-Linn organisation all over Ulster. He moved to Head Office in Dublin in 1970. Des was appointed national sales manager in the 32 Counties and travelled throughout every county in Ireland until his retirement in 1986.

In Armagh he became involved in the Republican clubs and in Sinn Féin. He became a member of the Provisionals in 1970 and was involved in the reorganisation of Easter parades.

When the split occurred in 1986 he was soon to join Republican Sinn Féin, an organisation he had endeavoured to develop in Armagh and to spread its ideals. A lover of all things Irish, his sincerity, idealism and determination in spite of adversity was an inspiration to all Republicans to continue the struggle until ultimate freedom is achieved. Until his death he was still very active in the Corrigan/McKearney Cumann of Republican Sinn Féin and he will be greatly missed by Republicans not just in Armagh but throughout Ireland.

At the removal to Armagh Cathedral on February 6, his Tricolour-draped coffin was driven through Armagh city, preceded by a piper and accompanied by a Republican Sinn Féin guard of honour.

He was buried in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery on February 7. The funeral cortege was met at the cemetery gates by members of the Ard Chomhairle of Republican Sinn Féin, including Ruairí Ó Brádaigh President, both Vice-Presidents, Cathleen Knowles McGuirk and Des Long and Ulster chairperson, Mary Ward.

The graveside proceedings were presided over by Joe O'Neill, Bundoran, wreaths were laid on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin and a piper played a lament. Pádraig Ó Baoighill,a long-time friend and colleague of Des, gave a fitting oration.

SAOIRSE extends its deepest sympathy to his daughter Máire, sons Frankie and Michael, grandchildren and family circle.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wexford monument unveiling

  Charlie Murphy unveils a monument to the Wexford men who fought in in Operation Harvest. (Photo from An Phoblacht:

 As Intelligence officer, training officer, and adjutant general, Murphy was one of the primary "behind the scenes" figures responsible for organizing and running the IRA in the 50's.

Weapons seized- 1958

A Arms and gear seized by Free State in 58.