Bobby Sands was born on the 9th March 1954 - 62 years ago on this date - in Belfast and, on the 9th April 1981, he was elected as 'an abstentionist member of parliament' (having received 30,492 votes) after being nominated to contest a seat by Dáithí Ó Conaill, the then vice president of the then Sinn Féin organisation. Bobby Sands was, as far as Irish republicans are concerned, a 'Teachta Dála' (TD) who was elected to take a seat in a 32-county Irish parliament, unlike the Free State representatives who sit in an institution in Kildare Street in Dublin today and claim to be 'TD's in an Irish parliament' and, indeed, Bobby's motives and those of Dáithí and the other then Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle members who nominated him to contest the election were pure, unlike the motives of the self-serving time-keepers who sit in that Kildare Street premises : the motives of the former involved a principled unwillingness to allow themselves and the struggle they were part of to be criminalised and to highlight to the world that they were fighting a political struggle against Westminster and its allies in this country. Others, however, are not as principled when it comes to issues of this magnitude.
Bobby Sands was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his alleged part in a fire-bombing campaign which, as part of an economic war against the British presence in Ireland, targeted business premises (in this instance, the Balmoral Furniture Company) with the intention of making it financially unviable for Britain to maintain its grip on that part of Ireland, a fact which present-day Provisional Sinn Féin members seek to ignore or gloss over when referencing the so-called 'ineffectual/grubby deeds' of those who continue that struggle today. On the 9th April, 1981, Bobby Sands was elected by 30,492 of those that voted in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone district, prompting, years later, this thesis from a republican leader : "Contrary to allegations made in the news media, there was not a straight line from the election of Bobby Sands in 1981 to the Stormont Agreement of 1998. Rather was the line from March, April and May 1981 to the same months in 1998 disfigured and distorted by an internal power-struggle for the leadership of Sinn Féin accompanied and followed by deceit and artifice as the ideals of Bobby Sands were steadily perverted and a section of the then powerful revolutionary Republican Movement turned into a constitutional party..." (from here).
Bobby died in Long Kesh Prison on the 66th day of his hunger-strike on the 5th May, 1981, at 27 years of age and, on Thursday 5th May 2016, a black flag vigil will be held in his memory on the traffic isle facing the GPO in O' Connell Street, Dublin city centre, from 4pm to 5.30pm. And a picket to show support for republican prisoners will be held this Saturday (12th March) at the same location, from 12.45pm to 1.45pm. All genuine republicans welcome!
PROSE AND CONS.
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.
Isabella I love you
more than you'll ever know
I really really felt this love
the morning I had to go
Although you won't remember
and were probably too young to see
the first night I set eyes on you
you meant the world to me
Then you seemed to grow and grow
and never seemed to stop
I realised this one morning
as you were climbing from your cot
Your first love was a rabbit
it's funny you couldn't see
he was shaking and afraid of you
behind the Christmas tree
The reason why he felt like this
he was never on the ground
instead you held him in your arms
and always upside down
He was also a little terror
which could not be left alone
'cause if you took your eyes off him
you'd be left without the phone
All these lovely memories of you
are not on any shelf
they're locked deep within my heart
and the key I keep myself.
Dónal de Róiste case. By Don Mullan, author of the book 'The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings'.
From 'Magill' magazine, February 2003.
PART ONE : THE PANDORA'S BOX.
Who was it in 1997 who saw the potential of Dónal de Róiste's controversial 1969 'retirement' from the Irish Army* (ie the Free State army) as a stake to destroy the heart of his sister Adi Roche's presidential campaign? Whoever it was has only succeeded in opening up a Pandora's Box and the ramifications have yet to be fully realised.
A former Irish Army* commandant, Patrick Walshe, a soldier with an unblemished record who served both the Irish state and the United Nations with distinction, has his suspicions about the source of the leak - "The details of Donal's case would have been known to very few at the time of its introduction in the presidential race. I believe the information had to come from an army or ex-army source," he told 'Magill'.
Walshe is a key player in the Dónal de Róiste saga : his allegations may ultimately force the Irish state to admit that a terrible wrong was done to de Róiste. Walshe was ex-Lieutenant de Róiste's best friend in the army : both men loved traditional Irish music and travelled the length and breadth of the country during their free time to participate in various sessions.
The notion of a friendship between Walshe and anyone who associated with republican subversives - the contentious allegation levelled against, and denied by, de Róiste - is extraordinarily unlikely, for reasons that will soon be explained... (MORE LATER.)
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
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!
"MY FINGER CAME OFF."
It was one of my finest hours. I had already scored a hat trick, the first in my long but not too illustrious career. My first goal was a volley-cum-tap-in from a distance of two feet. I had run round the keeper and was delighted to find Barnes' volley just about to enter the net and, seizing the opportunity, I smashed the ball into the empty net, to my great delight and Joe Barnes' disgust. "McCann, ye bastard, that was my goal...", he yelled.
"Joe, I couldn't take a chance on it, after all we're only winning 13-nil," , I replied. The annoying thing was he had already scored nine goals and was trying to claim 'my' goal. I shrugged off his pettiness and assumed my position, hiding behind the opposition's goalkeeper. Offside can be so subjective. My next two goals couldn't have been more different, while remaining fundamentally basic. I can't remember much about my second - when the ball rebounded off the back of my head into the net, I was nearly knocked out by the force of it!
My third was put through the keeper's leg (Barnes was the master of this, if nothing else!) and I tapped it in from behind the keeper again. One person's instinctive striker is another person's poaching bastard. It was well into the second half when it happened : personally it couldn't have came at a worse moment for me as I was on my first ever mazy run with the ball. My head, eye and brain co-ordination were as one , I was floating down the wing, the sun was on my back and the wind was blowing through the fantastic head of hair that I possessed at that time. I beat one man - it was only Bobby Darling, and anyone who knows Bobby will understand the significance of this. And also people who watch 'The Simpson's' , especially Homer. But it was comprehensive.
Dede McTasney came running up to me. "Hold on, Dede, you're not playing...," I shrieked at him. "MY FINGER CAME OFF...!", he screamed... (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (9TH MARCH) 95 YEARS AGO : IRA MAN WHO REFUSED THE OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE WAS DECLARED 'GUILTY' BY HIS BRITISH CAPTORS AND THEN EXECUTED.
- the words of Patrick Moran, Adjutant of D Company Irish Volunteers, 2nd Battalion (Dublin), to his comrades Ernie O'Malley (who had passed himself off to the British as 'Bernard Stewart') and Frank Teeling as they were about to walk to freedom through a gate in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, which they had forced open, on the 14th of February 1921. Patrick Moran believed he would be found innocent at his 'trial' and saw no reason why he should take the opportunity to escape.
He was a 'dangerous man', as far as Westminster was concerned, and had been imprisoned in Dublin Castle on the 7th of January 1921 and charged with the 'murder' of two British Army/paramilitary gang members, Ames and Bennett, after been mistakenly identified as having been involved in the shooting dead of both men - Lieutenant Peter Ashmun Ames and British Army Lieutenant George Bennett (both of whom were in command of 'The Cairo Gang') on the 21st of November 1920 at 38 Upper Mount Street in Dublin. Patrick Moran stayed behind on the night of the prison break ,refusing to take part in same, having encouraged Simon Donnelly to go in his place, a decision which was was to cost Patrick Moran his life.
On the 15th of February 1921, he was put on 'trial' (during which sixteen people and an RIC man verified he was elsewhere!) but was, as expected, found 'guilty' and, three days later - on the 18th of February 1921 - he was transferred to Mountjoy Jail, Dublin. On Wednesday, 9th of March 1921 - 95 years ago on this date - Patrick Moran was sentenced to death and he was executed by hanging five days later, on Monday, the 14th of March. He had defended the integrity of his country in Jacob's Factory Garrison during Easter week in 1916, where he served under Thomas MacDonagh, and had been imprisoned at Knutsford and Woorwood Scrubs in England, and in Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales. He was one of 'The Forgotten Ten' in that he, and his nine comrades, were 'forgotten' by the State but have always been remembered by the Republican Movement.
Finally, the planning and execution of the escape itself is worthy of a few paragraphs : On the 11th February 1921, Frank Teeling and Ernie O'Malley were joined in Kilmainham Jail by Simon Donnelly, who was taken into their confidence and told of the up-coming plan of escape. The peep-holes in the cell doors were three inches in diameter and, if one of the men could get his arm through it, it would be possible to open the door from the outside ; the plan then was to make their way to the yard, as the men had noticed that the door leading from the prison to the yard was usually left closed-over, but not locked, and then cross the yard to a large iron gate on the west side of the jail, cut the bolt on it and escape. A 'Plan B' had been made in case the bolt cutter should fail - IRA Volunteers from 'F' Company, Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade, would take up positions outside the prison wall with a rope ladder and, awaiting an agreed signal, throw in the rope attached to the ladder, so that the prisoners could haul the ladder over to their side of the wall.
Oscar Traynor (on the left, in this photograph), IRA Dublin Brigade O/C, had secured a bolt cutter and that, along with two revolvers, were packaged and smuggled into the prison by a friendly British soldier. The prisoners were not sure that the bolt cutter would be up to the job but were determined to carry out the escape plan, as Frank Teeling was in line for execution ; on the night of February 13th, 1921, the three men made their way to the outer prison gate but, as the handles of the bolt cutter were incorrectly fitted, they were unable to cut the bolt. They went to 'Plan B', and gave the signal for their comrades on the other side of the prison wall to throw in the rope attached to the ladder - the rope jammed on top of the wall and snapped when the men outside attempted to pull it back to them. The three prisoners had no alternative but to return to their cells. The following day, the British soldier who was in on the plan repaired/adjusted the handles on the bolt cutter and, that night, at 6.30pm, the three prisoners decided to make another escape attempt.
The three Irish republican prisoners again made their way down to the gate and, this time, the bolt cutter worked. They used butter and grease, which they saved from their meals, to help ease the remaining portion of the corroded bolt out from its latch and two of the men got their revolvers at the ready as the third man pulled on the heavy door which creaked open sluggishly on its rusty hinges and the three men walked out! Simon Donnelly had tried to persuade Patrick Moran to join them, but Moran - who was not involved in shooting Ames or Bennett, and had what he considered the perfect alibi for that night - refused to leave the prison except by the front gate as a free man. Patrick Moran paid with his life for relying on British justice : as stated above, on Wednesday, 9th of March 1921 - 95 years ago on this date - Patrick Moran was sentenced to death and he was executed by hanging five days later, on Monday, the 14th of March. Not the first innocent man to be put to death by the British, and not the last Irish person to be punished by them in revenge.
A "WORM WITH LEGS" WHO ROARED LIKE A LION!
It was on this date, the 9th March, 240 years ago (in 1776) that the above-mentioned book was published. He lived in late 18th Century Edinburgh, and was shunned completely by society ; he was known to ramble around in a trance, not properly dressed, and was of a very nervous disposition (ie he 'twitched' constantly) and spoke loudly to himself. His appearance was said to be that like a "worm with legs". He never married and lived all his life with his mother. While ostracised by the establishment of the day, he certainly had their measure - "People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion but the conversation always ends in a conspiracy against the public" and was wary of politicians : "There is no art that one government sooner learns from another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people."
A far-sighted man, in our opinion, mentally ahead of those that considered themselves the superior class. Just thought we'd give him a quick mention!
ON THIS DATE (9TH MARCH) 109 YEARS AGO : DUBLIN WITNESSES 'THE RISING OF THE MOON'.
'The Rising of the Moon', by Isabella Augusta Persse Gregory (Lady Gregory, pictured, left) premiered in Dublin in the Abbey Theatre, and was also produced by that venue. The cast included W G Fay, J M Kerrigan, J A O'Rourke and Arthur Sinclair : 'On a moonlit night at an Irish wharf by the sea, three Irish policemen in the service of the occupying English government pasted up wanted posters for a clever escaped political criminal. Convinced that the escaped rebel might creep to the water's edge to be rescued by sea, they all hoped to capture him for the hundred-pound reward and perhaps even a promotion. The Sergeant sent his two younger assistants with the only lantern to post more leaflets around town while, uneasily, he kept watch at the water's edge. A man in rags tried to slip past the Sergeant, explaining that he merely wanted to sell some songs to incoming sailors...' (from here.)
The lady author was born in Roxborough House, near Loughrea in County Galway, and was schooled at home by a nanny, Mary Sheridan, who obviously passed-on her interest in Irish history to her pupil. At 28 years young, Isabella married 'Sir' William Henry Gregory, who 'owned' a large estate at Coole Park, near Gort, in County Galway, thus conveying on her the title 'Lady' : as a 'Lady of Leisure' who now found herself in the 'Big House' she availed of the large library and, when not reading, accompanied her husband on business trips throughout the world. Her education, the library and her foreign travels sparked within her a love of the written word and she quickly became a published author.
Her husband died when she was 41 years of age but she continued to live in 'the Big House', where her interest in all things Irish was nurtured, to the point that she practically converted the house into a 'retreat' for those who, like her, were smitten by Ireland and its troubled history - Edmund John Millington Synge, William Butler Yeats (and his brother, Jack, a well-known painter) , George Bernard Shaw (who described her as "the greatest living Irishwoman") and Sean O' Casey were amongst those who visited regularly and, indeed, she was believed to have had romantic connections with the poet Wilfrid Blunt and a New York lawyer, John Quinn.
Despite her privileged lifestyle (or, indeed, perhaps due to it, as it afforded her the time to 'look within her soul') Isabella Augusta Persse Gregory, who had a regular 'audience' with the 'Upper Class' of the day, loudly declared to all and sundry that it was "..impossible to study Irish history without getting a dislike and distrust of England..". A 'poacher-turned-gamekeeper', if you like but, unusual in our history, one who 'turned' the right way. She died in that 'Big House' on the 22nd May 1932, at 80 years of age, and is fondly remembered by those of us who share her convictions and agree with her "impossible to study..." declaration. The academic Mary Colum said of her - "With all her faults and snobbery, she was a great woman, a real leader, one of those who woke up Ireland from the somnolence and lassitude it was too prone to fall into. It is very doubtful that Yeats could have produced as much work as he did without her help. It is almost certain that, but for Lady Gregory, the Irish national theatre would have remained a dream, or ended in being that failure that so many hopeful undertakings in Ireland became."
Isabella Augusta Persse Gregory : 15th March 1852 - 22nd May 1932.
ON THIS DAY NEXT WEEK (WEDNESDAY 16TH MARCH 2016).....
...we won't be posting our usual contribution, and probably won't be in a position to post anything at all until the following Wednesday ; this coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 12th/13th March 2016) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Dublin Executive of Sinn Féin Poblachtach in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the 'autopsy' into same which will take place on Monday evening, 14th, in Dublin, meaning that we will not have the time to post here. But we'll be back, as stated above, on Wednesday 23rd March 2016, with an 'ON THIS DATE...' piece concerning a Blueshirt debt collector, a Dundalk tout and two IRA men...see ye then!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.