" A wealth of information..."

"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)

This blog was listed as one of the 'Finalists' in the '2016 current affairs/politics' category of the Littlewoods Ireland blog awards - but we didn't win the award. Ah well! Thanks to everyone involved for getting us to the final stage of the competition and sure we'll try again next year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016



By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.


Diving into the bottomless lake

beginning to wonder will it awake.

Breath diminished, life at stake

desperately seeking that golden gate.

Lungs are empty, heart is still

never before such a thrill

body and mind two separate parts

one the beginning, the other the start.

Feeling like it's floating in space

confident now that it'll win the race,

floating along at a steady pace

high on the plateau of cosmic grace.

Returning to base it feels each follicle,

absorbing air, omitting molecule.

(Next - 'Ethan' , by David Lynch.)


The Far Right has been resurgent across continental Europe for several years. But only in the last 12 months has Ireland seen an emergence of openly neo-Nazi cells.

By Alan Walsh.

From 'Magill' magazine, May 2002.

Far-right politics seem somehow an alien concept in Irish culture, despite being widespread throughout the rest of the continent. The last outright movement of this type here was the 'National Socialist Irish Workers Party' back in 1986 and, up until very recently, the Garda hadn't even been keeping statistics on racially motivated crime.

With many of our EU partners, however, the new far right is very familiar and, in some quarters already, even a tradition, often converging directly with the mainstream. The failure of social democrat and labour parties in Britain and across the continent to successfully present Europe as a culturally cosmopolitan utopia has seen a steep decline in membership and, in some cases - such as the 'Social Democrat Party' in Austria - removal from office.

Low turnouts in many elections, especially that in Austria, are indicative of an electorate, particularly the middle and lower middle class, entirely alienated from traditional politics. These are the precise circumstances used by certain groups to propose themselves as fighting against both corporate dominated globalisation and the handcuffed piecemeal measures of the parliamentary left. These groups, in order to avoid confronting the factual necessities of the market, select the easiest and most deceptively obvious factors on the ground, such as immigration, crime and an abandonment of traditional values as their scapegoats... (MORE LATER).



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

CATCH 22 - IN CAGE 22. (In memory of Ned Maguire RIP)

I was alone and in a Catch 22 situation ; was Big Ned having me on or not? This was the question. I had to take a chance : I shouted "What exactly is it that you are looking for?" and, as Ned told me again what he needed, I detected that look on his face that told me that he thought that he had got one over on me. "Where are you going to get the leather for two holsters?" , asked Tommy Barnes. "I have a plan", I answered with a wink, and I put that plan in motion after I had a cup of tea. Of course. I gathered the stuff about me to implement my plan, walked over to the wire and shouted over to Fra McCann in Cage 6 : "Fra, give Big Ned a shout for me but make sure you let everyone know that there's something afoot..."

I couldn't have spoken a truer word : Ned came out to the wire, and I could see dozens of Cage 6'ers behind his back, taking vantage points to find out what was happening. "Any joy, mate?", asked Big Ned. "It was touch and go, comrade, but I've came up trumps for you," I answered. "I managed to get two bits of old leather that should prove perfect for your needs. Stand back from the wire and catch this bag." As Ned made his way to the centre of the cage I launched the bag containing two busted Dr. Marten boots into Cage 6. As the boots were in mid-air I told Ned that it was the best of leather. At one time...

"What the fuck's this?", Ned screamed. "Two bits of leather", I replied. "Are you trying to make an eejit out of me?", asked Ned. "No way, comrade.What's the problem? You asked me for two old bits of leather for holsters and I thought that they would be perfect. I even got them for a left-handed or right-handed draw..." Big Ned looked at me as if I was simple and asked - "Are you simple?" "If they're no good I might be able to get my hands on a pair of Beatle Boots for you", I said. In for a penny, in for a pound. The entire Cage 6'ers and most of the Cage 22'ers held their breath awaiting Big Ned's response. My stomach was churning... (MORE LATER.)


And I am. Shouldn't be, I know, but I feel like a fish out of water - uneasy, disorganised. But I'm getting there : for our post next week (Wednesday 28th September 2016) I'm told we'll have a piece about two FBI agents who were spying on an Irish republican in California but who were themselves being spied on by a college security officer...but, for now, here's two 'On This Date' pieces that we borrowed from elsewhere :


On the 21st September 1827 - 189 years ago on this date - Michael Corcoran (left), a brigadier general in the Federal Army during America's Civil War, was born in Carrowkeel, County Sligo. Corcoran served as a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary but resigned during the Great Hunger, no longer able to condone the repressive actions of that police force against the starving Irish. He emigrated to New York and found work in the city's employ while also joining the 69th New York State Militia as a private. He rose through the ranks to colonel commanding the regiment and won the hearts of the city's Irish population when he refused to parade the 69th for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The state intended to court-martial him for this but the start of the Civil War led officials to dismiss the charges, and Corcoran led the regiment to Washington. At the Battle of 1st Bull Run, Corcoran was wounded and captured and spent the next 13 months in various Confederate prisons before he was finally exchanged.

His health would never recover from that time in Southern prison camps. Promoted to brigadier general on his return, he recruited a brigade of volunteers from Irish enclaves in New York state that became known as Corcoran's Legion. He led the legion and then a division during the Suffolk (Virginia) campaign in April 1863. While there he was involved with a regrettable incident. While riding with fellow Fenian leader John O'Mahoney, Corcoran shot and killed Lt. Col. Edgar Kimball of the 9th New York Infantry. Corcoran was ordered to face a court-martial in the case, but it was never convened. On December 22nd, 1863, Corcoran was riding with Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher and others when he suddenly fell from his horse and died shortly afterwards. Many articles on Corcoran say he was killed when his horse fell on him, but recent research points toward a stroke as the most likely cause of death. On December 27th, he was interred at Calvary Cemetery in the borough of Queens, today within New York City. (From here, as is the 'Eamonn Ceannt' piece - also, more on Michael Corcoran here.)


On this date - 21st September - in 1881, revolutionary Éamonn Ceannt (left) was born in Glenamaddy, County Galway. He was educated at University College, Dublin, and worked on the clerical staff of Dublin city council. Éamonn joined the Gaelic League in 1900 and later taught classes in Irish. He was a pipe player, once playing the uileann pipes for the Pope in Rome. He was said to love the language, music and dance of his native country and to have an unshakeable commitment to Irish freedom. Ceannt joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1908 and was also one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and was elected to its Provisional Committee. The day before the Easter Rising in 1916, Ceannt was one of the seven signatories to the Proclamation, in effect, signing their death warrants. During the Rising, he commanded the area of the South Dublin Union. The plan called for him to hold the area with 1,000 men; he had only 130, but his small command, especially Cathal Brugha, resisted the British until Patrick Pearse surrendered the entire rebel force. Like the other leaders of the Rising, Éamonn Ceannt faced the kangaroo court that condemned him with his head held high. On May 7th 1916, he wrote his wife a note, telling her "I shall die, like a man for Ireland's sake" and, On May 8th, he was put up against a wall in Kilmainham Jail and shot by the British.


On this date 15 years ago (2001) the then State 'Taoiseach', Bertie Ahern (pictured, left) announced 'that Ireland (by which he meant the 26-County State) will put its airports, airspace, refuelling facilities and garda intelligence at the disposal of the US in the battle against terrorism' (and is on record for also claiming that "we" [the Leinster House administration and/or those that voted for them?] are "happy to facilitate" such American actions - see page 8, here) and, on the 21st September nine years ago (2007) he was exposed for his 'inconsistencies' (!) in relation to his testimony (under oath, not that that means anything to him and his ilk) at the Mahon Tribunal.

Or am I just another kebab plotting against him, in the hope of upsetting the apple tart...?

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



Due to the luas works on the island at the GPO, which is affecting traffic etc on O'Connell Street, it will not be possible to hold the annual Eve of All Ireland Rally, in its usual format, at the GPO this year ; instead, Republican Sinn Féin will hold an 'Éire Nua' picket from 12noon to 2pm under the portals of the GPO.

Alternative routes and compositions etc (for instance, to hold the whole event at the Garden of Remembrance, rather than to just assemble there) were discussed at length by the organising committee but, due to the nature of the problem and the shortage of time in which to suitably advertise any new arrangement, it was finally agreed that a republican presence - a picket, in this case - should be maintained at the GPO on the eve of the All-Ireland final. Such a presence has been visible at that location on the day before the final since at least 1958: "One of the largest public rallies seen in Dublin for years was held by Sinn Féin at the GPO on the eve of the All-Ireland Football Final. Headed by a Colour Party and a pipe band, a parade of more than 2,000 people marched from Parnell Square through the main city thoroughfare as a protest against the continued unjust imprisonment of Irishmen without charge or trial. Contingents from all over the country took part and many carried banners and placards including groups from England and Scotland. In the Ulster section was a strong representation of the Derry supporters who thronged the capital city for the Final. One placard they carried asked -'Why are Six-County nationalists interned in the Curragh?'....." (From 'An tÉireannach Aontaithe/The United Irishman' newspaper, November 1958.)

This change, unfortunately, also affects the ability to properly distribute the 'song book'-leaflet packs which will now be kept in storage for another occasion, although other material will be distributed, as best as possible, allowing for the constrained space we have been obliged to operate in and this new, temporary, format also denies the organisers the use of the small stage and lectern unit which has been a feature of the event since the 1980's. But we'll make the best of what we've got - see you at the GPO in Dublin on Saturday, 17th September 2016, between 12 noon and 2pm.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016



...100% over there*, but not firing on all cylinders here just yet!

But we're working on it, even as we find ourselves thrown in at the deep end! On Sunday next, 11th September 2016, RSF Dublin are holding a 650-ticket raffle in the usual sports pub on the Dublin/Kildare border and, as usual, we're helping to organise same and will be there on the day to assist in running it. And, for once, there are three sporting fixtures which we are hoping to watch - the Red Bulls are playing against DC United, the Jets are up against the CB's and the Yankees are gonna have their work cut out for them if they hope to teach the TB Rays a lesson! YAY RA RA! and all that...!

Then the following weekend (on Saturday 17th September) we have been asked to help out with a republican event in O'Connell Street in Dublin at which about fifty 124-page Irish republican songbooks (and other Irish republican printed material) will be distributed, free of charge - details here. We hope to post one of our usual offerings here on Wednesday 14th September next but, considering that the weekend coming (Sat/Sun 10th/11th) is spoke for, as is Monday evening, 12th (raffle autopsy in Dublin city centre!) and then it's straight into final preparations for the 17th September rally, we can't be 100% sure of our output! But do check back with us anyway and, in the meantime, have a nice day!

(*...but of course 'output' would have to be located there. Well, it is - and it is 100%!!)

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Saturday, September 03, 2016



..are the preparations that have to be made before you go, in relation to the 'life' you're temporarily leaving and the 'life' you're temporarily entering, and the fact that you have to play 'catch-up' when you return. And more so, on both counts, when it's a five-week holiday you're taking, and even more so again when you're a mother who works outside the home as well as in it.

But the five of us planned and plotted every move within an inch of its life and then, naturally (!) cut corners and muddled through as we had to in order to secure our five-week break and now, having returned to the 'life' we temporarily left, we are having to once again cut corners and muddle through as best we can and accept the fact that we can no longer decide to people-watch in Central Park and/or watch the sun rise during a rooftop party in the Bronx and/or hangout for a few hours with friends in Marcus Park in Harlem and/or dance with the Devil (retired!) on the boardwalk at Coney Island and the hours spent with the chess players in Union Square Park and the dozens of other treats we afforded ourselves on a daily basis. And we're still rebelling against having to live within the confines of this 'life' even as we make ourselves do so, consoling ourselves at every juncture with the knowledge that we're not finished by a long shot with our New York adventures. Just temporarily so...

Anyway : back to blog business - before our holiday we discovered that we had been nominated in the 'best current affairs/political blog' category in the 2016 Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards competition and, on our return from New York, discovered that we had somehow made it as far as the 'shortlist' for that category and, in the last few days, have noticed that this wee blog has managed to make it to the 'finals'! The competition will be held on Thursday 15th September 2016 in Dún Laoire, Dublin but, win or lose, we thank all those who voted for us and got us this far, as it's nice to know that our readers appreciate the political message that we promote here. And, if we lose, all those who voted against us will be introduced to our new friends from Coney Island...!

Thanks for reading ; we'll be back soon to our usual output but, for now, anyway, the five-hour time difference and the need to get back to our overall 'normal' day-to-day operations are battling with our objections and unwillingness to do so. And the latter feeling will get an award for the way it's winning...!

Slán go fóill anois, Sharon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016



..a wonderful piece of shit : rats carved out of bone, dodging the rattling subways and shaking themselves awake to scurry 'round confused people, who measure their tragedies against those of their neighbour. A city of immigrants in transition, enduring breakfast, lunch and dinner in a traffic jam, a people jam or a subway jam. And we can't fully let go of it. Beautiful chaos! (Apologises to Nicodemus Nicoludis.)

Five weeks isn't enough. As regular readers will know, this wasn't our first holiday in New York and it sure won't be our last. The five of us are breathless after it ; wrecked, shattered, exhausted, broke - unhinged, even, and not willing to settle back into our 'normal' routine. Indeed, not able to settle back into our normal routine, and not even prepared to try and do so. We never had an experience like it and we know we never will again. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of those five weeks we were alive and in our element. It's the place where we are meant to be. That city suits us - the pace it moves at, the easy ability to blend in, the concrete atmosphere, the noise, the smells, the heat, the ignorance and arrogance of it, the callousness and cruelty we witnessed and, above all, the different ways which New Yorkers (and guests) coped and/or attempted to cope with those attributes : some fought back with kindness and generosity but others let it get to them and turned, temporarily, ignorant and arrogant. And maybe that's why they named it twice - despite 'all the scandal and the vice', the city and its people have a heart of gold.

One of the many homeless people we encountered in New York - collecting empty 'soda' cans and empty plastic water bottles from trash cans in the streets,for which one of the many recycling yards will pay six cents per unit. We witnessed, and talked to, more elderly than young people engaged in this endeavour.

We gave him a fiver, and told him if he has a similiar sign re Clinton, we'll give him another fiver!

We landed in JFK airport at about 2pm their time on Saturday 16th July 2016 and were loudly met by two of our friends, Shay and Emma (hugs and kisses all 'round!) and, when we eventually got to the arrivals lounge, Joel had arrived in a huge 'town car' and, after even more hugs and kisses (!), we loaded our bags into the car and our two-car convoy headed to the Bronx, where Pat, Frank and Sam had the beautiful apartment ready for us, and the kettle boiled! We were there for hours, chatting, then we put our stuff away and headed out for a walk around the neighbourhood, a by-now familiar territory.

The 3rd Avenue subway station in the Bronx - although Joel insisted we call him whenever we were ready to hit the town, we used the subways and busses to get there (wherever 'there' was!) and would usually give Joel a call to collect us, if he didn't mind. He never complained once, bless him, even though it would be very late (or very early in the morning!) and we would probably have been tired and emotional (!) by that stage...!

During our evening strolls in the Bronx we met loads of fellas and girls that had befriended us over the years and all of them had a story to tell about our previous visits (blush blush!) and arrangements were made for two weeks worth of sight-seeing. And, somehow, we managed to squeeze what must have been about six weeks worth of partying out of those two weeks in the Bronx, included in which were two roof-top parties and four occasions where we toasted the sun coming up over the NYC skyline. Unbelievable and breathtaking.

Five of us went out on one of many such strolls through whatever neighbourhood we happened to find ourselves in : I took the pic of my two friends as the three of us were out searching for the other two. Found them, about an hour later, in a shopping mall...!

Our third week (despite the protests of all our friends in the Bronx, who wanted us to stay in the area, offering us alternative accommodation!) found us in Queens, in a fantastic and spacious apartment, where we would have been waited on hand and foot by Kevin, Heno, Mel, Larry and the girls and our other friends in that great borough had we wanted - but we didn't stand still long enough for any of them to catch us, never mind to keep up with us, although we did have a big, kick-ass picnic in Kissena Park, at which about thirty of us sat for a few hours in the shade of old trees and had our fill of food and drink on a hot day and then quenched our thirst and relaxed again in the evening with a few beers (and ciders!) in The Courtyard Bar, in Sunnyside. Oh the simple pleasure of having nothing to do and all day to do it, especially when you're in New York!

We had the pleasure of moving between Harlem and Hell's Kitchen for our fourth week, with Liz and Susie, their fellas and our friends from previous visits all making sure we were comfortable, and we took full advantage of the brilliant sunshine in the many parks and basketball courts in those boroughs to rest in and recharge ourselves for the actual shopping and window shopping that we over-indulged in. It's days like those that you don't want to end - in the middle of a stampede of time-poor people yet able to move in any direction at your own pace. It's simple things like that that help you appreciate your surroundings. Our final week - for this year, anyway - was enjoyed in a scrumptious apartment in Brooklyn, from where we went dancing in Williamsburg and scoffed ice-cream cones in Coney Island, and had great craic altogether for a few hours with a group of men, in their late 60's and early 70's who, as we found out afterwards, were retired 'wiseguys' and "would be best avoided" ; no doubt in their youth that would be the case but, at all times while they were with us, they were gentlemen to a tee and treated the five of us with the utmost respect and courtesy, and insisted on walking us back to the subway station that evening and staying with us until Joel arrived to collect us at midnight.

'Wiseguys' stay out of hot water at Coney Island!

Which, when you think of it, is emphatic for New York life itself - very capable of doing you harm if approached in the wrong manner but the best company to share time with otherwise! And a special mention here for Joel who, as always, looked after us like we were family, and for whom no job was too big or too small, too early or too late. As you can imagine, collecting five 'merry' Irish women at, for instance, 4am, requires a certain 'understanding' on any man's part!

Anyway : we're home now, with our new shoes and handbags and all our other new and bargain-priced acquisitions and all our new reminders, memories and pics of the most unreal experience we have ever had in each others company in all the years we've known each other. And we want to do it all again. We will!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

(We'll be back to normal blog business soon but, for now, my head is not quite ready for it and my heart is still apple shaped...)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016



We touch down in JFK on Saturday, 16th July 2016, at about 2pm local time - myself and the four girlfriends and as much baggage as we're allowed : this is a five-week holiday (YES! 5 WEEKS!! ) so there won't be any crazy spending sprees (although we will squeeze in one trip each to Jersey Gardens and Woodbury Common. Maybe two..!) nor, indeed, would there be a five-week holiday at all only for the fact that our friends, colleagues and comrades in that great city have, once again, offered the five of us the full use of empty apartments they own in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen, no charge (but we'll take them out to An Béal Bocht for lunch!), and we have also been gifted the use of a town car and our usual (!) driver, Joel, for the five weeks!

Our first two weeks will be happily spent in the Bronx, courtesy of Shay and his girlfriend, Emma, where we'll be 'minded' by Pat, Frank and Sam and it is in that lovely borough that the five of us have been invited to two roof-top parties, both of which, naturally, we'll attend! Our previous stays in the Bronx were absolute magic - the people we were with and the dozens upon dozens of locals that we spent our days with, the venues they took us to, the contrasting atmospheres we shared with them, the trips to local parks and pubs (hello all in the Celtic House, MacDwyers and Séan Mulligans!!), the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Mall, to name just a very small number of the attractions in that borough which, along with Union Square in Manhattan, are two of the best and must-see locations in that great city.

For our third week, we're booked in to our usual lovely apartment in Queens, where Kev, Heno, Mel, Larry and the girls will spoil us rotten before unleashing us to wreak havoc on the neighbourhood - in the nicest possible way, of course! - then to Harlem (East 101/Lex!) for our fourth week, which is a fantastic place - much like the Bronx - in that the people that live there are real down-to-earth, with no airs or graces, and we have always got on famously with all the Harlemites that it has been our pleasure to share company with - they, like their Bronxite 'cousins', seem to share an affinity with us Irish, in that they have much the same sense of humour and outlook on life. A 'home from home' for us, if you like but, as in any city or town - in any country - 'home' sometimes just has to be anywhere that's warm and relatively safe and, in instances like that, a ten-minute chat to a person less fortunate than yourself can be as welcome to all involved as the cash or food you give them. And we enjoy those occasions : there but for the grace of God.

Our fourth week will see us graciously ensconced in a three-bed duplex apartment among our new and old friends in Hell's Kitchen (hello again, Liz and Susie, and all those we agree with in singing 'To Hell with Clinton Hill'!!) - we are looking forward, again, to our tours of the taverns and speakeasies and basketball courts and local parks and sight-seeing on the Hudson River docks and so much else - too much, indeed, to cover in just one week. But we'll certainly give it a good shot, and you lot know what to expect this time!

Our fifth and last week will be enjoyed in Brooklyn, which means meeting up again with our dance buddies in Williamsburg (and its lovely bridge) and our surfer dude friends in Coney Island - I could show you some pics from our last outings there but you'd have to prove that you're over 21 first. And even then, they'd be heavily censored! That's enough now (and for ever!) about 'last week' holiday stuff - we don't want to know. The five of us are gonna let rip, again, on this holiday and we're really looking forward to every hour of it, which we will gladly spend in the best of company in that amazing city. We'll be back home on the 20th August next and should be capable of putting a blog post together within days. I said "should be..." !

(*A.S.A.C.R.O - 'As Soon As Cash Runs Out'!)

Thanks for the visit - and have a nice day, y'all...!


Wednesday, July 06, 2016



Near the end of 1975, the then British Secretary of State for 'Northern Ireland' (sic), Merlyn Rees, announced that as of from March 1976, those found guilty of " terrorist offences" would be treated as "criminals" ; Irish republicans at that time highlighted the issue in question (ie political status) by referring back to the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, when republican prisoners in Dublin's Mountjoy Jail demanded to be treated as Prisoners Of War, not as "commom criminals". The British refused, and a hunger-strike was called - Irish Republican Brotherhood leader Thomas Ashe went on hunger-strike and died after being force-fed by the British, which is just one example of many when Irish republicans fought back as best they could against a political regime which was attempting to criminalise them.

In mid-January 1976, the Free State Gardai located what they claimed to be a "bomb factory" in the Donabate area of North Dublin ; five Irish republicans were in Free State custody in connection with that 'find' - Jim Monaghan, Donal Murphy, Michael O'Rourke, John Hagan and Joe Reilly. And the leadership of the then IRA wanted those men out. At the end of June 1976, it became known that the 'trial' of the five men would see them together in the one building for a short time during the following month, July 1976 ; the then IRA's Acting Adjutant General and the Adjutant of the IRA's Dublin Brigade held a meeting - it was known that the 'trial' would be over by mid-July 1976 , and it was then the end of June 1976. Things would have to move fast. However, the IRA GHQ Staff asked if a successful rescue operation could be mounted in such a short period of time and another meeting was arranged ; this was held on 6th July 1976 - 40 years ago on this date - and those present from IRA GHQ Staff asked for detailed plans on how the rescue attempt would proceed. The requested details were handed over by the Intelligence Officer of the Dublin Brigade IRA and discussed between the group, which included the Adjutant of the Dublin Brigade, the Acting-Adjutant General, the IRA Director of Intelligence, the IRA Director of Finance and a GHQ/Dublin Brigade Officer. Detailed plans of the lay-out of the inside of Green Street Courthouse had been acquired, as had the roster by which the Gardai on duty worked.

The five prisoners themselves had been contacted re the rescue attempt and were prepared to take part in it, so the 'go-ahead' was given for an agreed date : 12th July 1976, a Monday, although this was later changed to Thursday, 15th July 1976, for reasons unknown to this scribbler. The plan called for simultaneous action by the five prisoners and the IRA Unit - at an agreed time, the five men were to force their way into the courtyard of Green Street Courthouse and run towards the gates, where the explosives were. Seconds before the men were to have started their run, the gates were to have been blown off their hinges by an explosives charge. The confusion caused by the explosion would, it was expected, allow the five men to make it to the cars which would be waiting for them, and then driven to pre-arranged safe-houses. The explosion at the gates of Green Street Courthouse was to be timed for 1.30PM, lunch-break, because it was known that security would be slacker than usual. On Wednesday , July 14th, 1976, about one dozen IRA men held a last meeting to finalise the next days action ; the Dublin Brigade QM and Engineering Officer, the Brigade Adjutant and the Intelligence Officer were present, and each man re-checked their role in the job. Satisfied that they could do no more, the men went their separate ways. Early on Thursday morning, July 15th, 1976, the plan came together ; the IRA Unit met-up, as arranged, and took up their positions. And waited. Then, at 1.30pm, a loud explosion lifted the locked gates off their hinges and crumbled most of the walls either side of where the gates had been - at that time, too, the five republican prisoners had broke free from their captors and were running towards the remains of the gates - one of the prisoners, Donal Murphy, was dazed by the explosion and lost his bearings ; he ended up in the actual Courtroom, was recognised and jumped on and held by the Gardai.

The other four escapees - Jim Monaghan, Michael O'Rourke , John Hagan and Joe Reilly - ran into a scene of total confusion ; the gates were smoking and still rattling on the ground, bits of concrete and brick were still flying through the air, a dust-cloud made it near impossible to see more than a few yards and people were running in all directions. The escapees couldn't locate the get-away cars and made off on foot ; but by now the immediate area was filling-up with Gardai and armed Special Branch and, within minutes, things went wrong : three of the men - John Hagan, Jim Monaghan and Joe Reilly - were pulled-in by the Special Branch on Granby Place and re-arrested. Meanwhile, the other escapee, Michael O'Rourke, was by now on O'Connell Street getting into a taxi. He was taken safely out of the State and put-up in a safe-house in America, but was arrested in 1980 ; a four-year legal battle began but, in 1984, Michael O'Rourke was extradited to Ireland and imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison. The break-out made international headlines and embarrassed the then Dublin administration, led by Fine Gael's Liam Cosgrave. It also proved, once again, to the Free Staters, that the spirit of Irish republicanism cannot be incarcerated.


By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

NEVER SAY NEVER. (By Pat Kelleher.)

In your eyes, in your soul

mind starts playing, blood runs cold

forbidden secrets never to be told

can't stop this feeling

can't close the door

can't see the reason

can't take no more.

Bolts of white lighting

with the thunder of drums

hit and miss in the dark

Q those instructions

weeping like willows

on pillows of down

ancient almighty

forever and on.

Battle with the demons in your head

walk the primal path with the walking dead

dance with tribal dancers

with their flowers and wreaths

a common god is what we need.

And when you die it's not the end

into the great abyss your soul is your friend

a sponge absorbing water

a being absorbing life

oblivion deliverance

eyes closing alive.

(Next - 'Cosmic Grace' , by David Lynch.)


The collection consisted of an eight-pointed star of Brazilian diamonds with an emerald shamrock and ruby cross at its centre, and a similar badge of rubies and diamonds as well as a gold harp and crown, all of which were discovered to be 'missing' from the safe they were secured in, on Saturday, the 6th of July, 1907 - 109 years ago on this date :'The main suspects are long dead, the scapegoat lies rotting in a bitter grave, and brown envelopes have replaced knighthoods as the reward for politically motivated collusion....the men associated with the theft never associated with each other again, and many of them met with grizzly ends. Goldney died in a car crash in 1914. Pierce Gun Mahony — a nephew of Vicars — was shot through the heart in a hunting accident. Vicars was tied to a tree and shot by the IRA in 1921, while Gorges was struck by a train in 1944. As for the jewels, they were most likely broken up and sold as individual pieces, though there is documentation that the Russians tried to sell them back to an uninterested government in 1927. While the Gardaí dug up areas of Three Rock Mountain, in Dublin, after a death-bed confession by a member of the IRA in 1983, £1,000 was offered as reward for their discovery at the time. It is still unclaimed....' (from here.)

The man responsible for their safekeeping at the time, Arthur Vicars, the 'Officer of Arms' of Dublin Castle, wrote, in his last will and testament - "I might have had more to dispose of had it not been for the outrageous way in which I was treated by the Irish Government over the loss of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907, backed up by the late King Edward VII, when I was made a scapegoat to save other departments responsible and when they shielded the real culprit and thief, Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the explorer who didn't reach the South Pole). My whole life and work was ruined by this cruel misfortune and by the wicked and blackguardly acts of the Irish Government. I had hoped to leave a legacy to my dear little dog Ronnie, had he not been taken from me this year...." (from here.)

Not 'Ronnie' the pooch - just a depiction of how he might have looked..!

Between Russian involvement (mentioned above), and/or the Irish Republican Brotherhood and/or the part played in the 'alleged'(?) theft by a homosexual network (!) and/or it being a plot by anti-republican unionists to thwart/highlight the 'Home Rule' issue (details here!), we can only hope that Ronnie the pooch might yet get a new headstone from his connection to this nefarious episode - the items have, it seems, been found : '...a startling new discovery at Kilmorna House, outside Listowel, indicates the jewels have in fact been recovered by a person or persons unknown..' The man who found their 'last resting place' '...was instructed by an informant, with a distinct English accent, to go to the old garden of the house where he found a stone with a Latin inscription which had been removed from behind a brick wall...he believes the stolen jewels...were removed from a box attached to the stone (and) removed at the dead of night because the people who figured out where they were hidden did not want to have to go through the necessary bureaucratic measures to get permission to search for the jewels..' (from here.)

Well...my next input to this mystery will be to volunteer to look for the items, having enlisted the aid of a few girlfriends. Because, when it comes to jewellery and where to find it, we know what we're looking for..!


'Magill' magazine has unearthed new information which raises a grim but important question : were explosives from within this Republic used in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? It is a question which, bizarrely, also encompasses the controversial Dónal de Róiste case. By Don Mullan, author of the book 'The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings'.

From 'Magill' magazine, February 2003.


Ex-Commandant Patrick Walshe has distinguished himself as a loyal officer to the State and, more especially, to the protection of lives, north and south. When Garrett FitzGerald was informed of Walshe's detailed and forthright reporting on Clonagh, motivated by his suspicion that there was a definite correlation between the Provisional IRA's bombing campaign in the North and the lack of security at the County Meath factory, FitzGerald responded -

"If what you are telling me about him is true, I would have a very high regard for his loyalty. He seems to have been a very vigilant person, concerned for the interests of the State. He did his duty."

FitzGerald was then told that ex-Commandant Walshe's best friend in the State Army was Dónal de Róiste and that their friendship endures to this day. He was asked to comment on the apparent anomaly between Walshe being an officer of such high calibre and unquestionable loyalty to the State and, on the other hand, his keeping company with an officer accused of recklessly compromising State security by cavorting with republican subversives.

He responded - "You are quite right to relate the two things. I can see that. You are right."

FitzGerald's final words to 'Magill' are, unquestionably, relevant to both the Dónal de Róiste case and the Clonagh affair. He said - "Nothing should be covered up. I have always had that view. If you make a mistake, admit it. No cover-up ever lasts. It always comes out anyway."

(END of 'Explosive Questions'. Next ; 'If It Ain't White' , from 2002.)



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

CATCH 22 - IN CAGE 22. (In memory of Ned Maguire RIP)

"How can I help you, comrade?", I asked, pretending I really meant it. Alarm bells were going off in my head. "The thing is, mate, I need a couple of bits of leather, even old stuff," Big Ned said. This might seem a small request but in actual fact it was an impossibility. All the leather and handicraft material had been destroyed in the fire and had not been replaced as yet. I put my tried and tested pessimistic look on my face - "Two bits of leather? Hmmm, tall order, Ned. What's it for?," I asked. "I need to make two pooches" (holsters for toy handguns), said Ned. "You can see the problem there right away, Ned, can't you", I asked him.

I looked across the divide between Cage 22 and Cage 6 and knew that Big Ned didn't see the problem and didn't share my pessimism. "Are you telling me no?" , asked Ned. "No way," I replied, "In fact I'm at this very minute trying to think of how to facilitate this under-normal-circumstances reasonable request. But the way things are at this moment, well..." I was clutching at straws. Big Ned upped the pressure : "Like, if you don't want to help me don't worry about it..." I was really worrying now. "..I've got good mates who'll help me out.." "Ah hold on, Ned, don't be taking that attitude," I said. "Fuck off," Ned replied, taking the very attitude I had hoped he wouldn't.

My comrades in Cage 22 started disappearing from around me. "Oy! Dark, hold on a minute...," I shouted, as young Hughes made good his departure. "I can't wait," said the Dark, "I'm going in to read Dan Breen's 'My Fight For Irish Freedom". I knew this was a blatant lie as I read that book and I know there's no pictures in it... (MORE LATER.)


The political party 'Clann na Poblachta' ('Family of the Republic') was founded by Seán MacBride in 1946 to appeal to young urban voters and disillusioned republican voters and was officially launched in Barry's Hotel in Dublin on the 6th July 1946 - 70 years ago on this date. A few years previously another political party, 'Clann na Talmhan' ('Family of the Land'), had been formed in answer to high levels of frustration and anger in rural Ireland. For a time the two parties played a significant role in Irish politics before they were both dissolved in 1965.

Ireland in the mid 1940's was suffering from high unemployment, emigration, poor housing, poverty and diseases such as tuberculosis. The Fianna Fáil Government led by Éamon de Valera, which had been in power since 1932, had interned militant republicans and had some executed following trial by military tribunal. When the interned republicans were released they formed Clann na Poblachta. The new party grew rapidly and in 1947 contested three by-elections. They were successful in two, Dublin County and Tipperary. In the general election of 1948 Clann na Poblachta had high hopes of replacing Fianna Fáil as the largest party in Ireland. In the event, despite fielding 93 candidates, they won just ten seats.

Following the election Clann na Poblachta became part of ireland's first Inter-Party Government which was also made up of Fine Gael (31 seats), the Labour Party (14 seats), National (sic) Labour (5 seats), Clann na Talmhan (7 seats) and seven independents. John A Costello of Fine Gael was elected Taoiseach and all parties were represented in the cabinet. Despite the disparate nature of the parties the government lasted for almost three-and-half years and Ireland saw a big improvement in almost every area of its economy. During the lifetime of the Inter-Party Government the declaration of the Republic of Ireland was made in 1949. Also, tuberculosis was practically eradicated, the Industrial Development Authority was established, agriculture was improved with funds from the Marshall Plan and housing was improved.

The Government fell in 1951 following its failure to introduce free health care for mothers and children through the Mother and Child scheme. In the subsequent election Clann na Poblachta secured just two parliamentary seats. The party went into decline and was disbanded in 1965. (From here.)

*The history of breakaway parties in Ireland is not encouraging for those who may be thinking of staking their political careers on the formation of a new one. Most of the smaller parties which littered the political landscape in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's either collapsed or merged with larger ones. The first such party was The Centre Party, formed in 1932 by a number of independent Leinster House members, including Paddy Belton. They were joined later by James Dillon. It was a conservative and pro-Treaty Party (ie - the 6th December 1921 'Treaty of Surrender') and won over 9 per cent of the vote and eleven seats in 1932. In 1937, it merged with the Blueshirts and Cumann na nGaedhail to form Fine Gael.

The next new party was radical : this was Clann na Talmhan, founded in 1938 to represent the small farmers of the West of Ireland. Together with a number of independent farmers' candidates, it won 10.6 per cent of the vote and 14 seats in the 1943 general election ; ten of those seats going to Clann na Talmhan. In the general election the following year it won nine seats and, in 1948, seven seats. It entered the first inter-party government along with Clann na Poblachta, the Labour Party, the National Labour Party, Fine Gael and a number of independents. In the next election, three years later (1951) its number of seats fell again, to six. It declined steadily thereafter, winning five seats in 1954, three in 1957 - following which it supported the second inter-party government - and two in 1961. It collapsed in 1965, twenty-seven years after its foundation due to, among other occurrences, the fact that it had a rival political party in the form of Clann na Poblachta, which is perhaps better remembered, although it only briefly had as much support as Clann na Talmhan and did not last as long.

Clann na Poblachta was founded as a radical Irish republican party by Sean MacBride in 1946, and the following year won two out of three by-elections, defeating Fianna Fail. The General Election of 1948 marked its high point ; it won 13 per cent of the vote and 10 seats. It too entered the first inter-party (Free State) government, and one of its members, Noel Browne, held the key Ministry of Health. This provoked the 'Mother and Child' controversy, when Browne's progressive proposals were repudiated by the government, including his own party colleagues. In the next election the party lost heavily, emerging with 4.1 per cent of the vote and only two seats. Even Sean MacBride lost his seat. In 1954, Clann na Poblachta won three seats, but a smaller share of the poll (3.8 per cent). In 1957, the party got 1.7 per cent of the vote and one seat, and this remained its representation in Leinster House until it was wound-up in 1965.

The 1940's also saw a split in the Labour Party vote : in 1944, the 'Irish Transport And General Workers Union' (ITGWU - now known as SIPTU) split from the Labour Party over the latter's relationship with Big Jim Larkin, bringing five Leinster House members with it to form the 'National (sic) Labour Party'. The 'NLP' won four seats in the 1944 election, and five in 1948, when it too joined the first inter-party (Free State) government. In that administration, it reunited with the Labour Party in 1950. The split between Noel Browne and Sean MacBride in Clann na Poblachta brought with it the seeds of yet another political party, though these did not come to fruition until 1961 - in that year, Noel Browne, along with Jack McQuillan, formed the 'National(sic) Progressive Democrats', which fought the general election and got only 1 per cent of the vote, but it got two seats. In 1963, they joined the Labour Party.

During the rest of the 1960's, only the three main parties - Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour - were represented in Leinster House. Then the 'Arms Trial' produced a crisis in Fianna Fail and the beginnings of two further parties - the first of these was Aontacht Eireann, formed by Kevin Boland in 1971 ; he was joined by Seán Sherwin and Captain James Kelly, one of the key figures in the 'Arms Trial'. But Sean Sherwin failed to retain his seat in 1973, and in 1976 Kevin Boland resigned as leader and the party folded. Neil Blaney adopted a different course of action. He formed a grouping which he described as 'Independent Fianna Fail', appearing as an 'independent' in election results. Although there were other candidates on this ticket, none of them was ever elected. In 1977 there was another attempt to form a radical party, again involving Noel Browne : he and a number of prominent Labour Party members split to form the Social Labour Party, with Browne as its only Leinster House member but differences emerged between him and other leading members and when he left Leinster House, the party collapsed.

In the next election, in 1981, the 'Workers Party', formed ten years earlier out of a split in Sinn Féin, won a seat in Leinster House after three attempts in the three previous elections. In 1982 it won three seats, with 2.3 per cent of the vote, but lost one in the subsequent election, though its share of the vote remained almost the same. The only other small party to have won seats in Leinster House is Sinn Féin , which contested the 1957 election on an abstentionist platform and won four seats ; it lost them all in 1961, and did not contest another election until 20 years later, in 1981, when it was heavily involved in the election campaigns of the H-Block prisoners who ran to highlight the Hunger-Strike. Of obvious necessity, they ran on an abstentionist platform and two of the republican prisoners, Paddy Agnew and Kieran Doherty, were elected ; Doherty died on Hunger-Strike, and Paddy Agnew did not run in 1982. (*The above is an edited version of a piece we first posted here in 2004.)


Regular readers will know that we don't usually post our usual offering on the blog on the Wednesday following the second Sunday of each month, due to time constraints - on that particular Sunday each month, a 650-ticket fund-raising raffle is held for either the Dublin Comhairle of RSF or for the Cabhair organisation, and this coming Sunday (10th July 2016) is no exception, as work is already underway for the Dublin Comhairle raffle which will be held on the above-mentioned date.

But we'll be making an exception this time : we'll post here on that Wednesday (13th) but it will be an exceptional piece, similar to that which we have posted here a number of times over the years. Hope you're curious enough to check back with us then..!

Ah, stern harsh city, that in your wretched way

Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,

Has pushed my timid little feet of clay,

The sacred brown feet of my falling race!

Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet

In Harlem wandering from street to street...
(Apologises to Claude!)

Thanks for reading, Sharon.