The Irish Times has a series of articles on the Irish Revolution roughly divided between even-handed accounts of those who fought for Irish self-determination and democracy and quite uneven apologias for those who opposed both in the name of British colonial rule in Ireland. Worth a read despite the caveats.
From the Irish Times:
“Campaigners have called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to take urgent steps to save the buildings that housed the last headquarters of the Provisional Government established in the 1916 Rising.
Relatives of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic expressed their shock and anger today at the condition of the buildings on Dublin’s Moore Street following a visit to the site.
James Connolly-Heron, great grandson of Citizen Army leader James Connolly, Helen Litton, great niece of the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Tom Clarke and Lucille Redmond, grand-daughter of The Irish Volunteer’s Thomas McDonough visited each of the buildings at 14-16 Moore Street this morning. It was the first time the campaigners were given permission to enter the buildings which have been closed to the public since 2008.
The buildings, which date back to 1763, were designated national monuments in 2007 but now face an uncertain future after development company Chartered Land, was granted permission for an 800,000sq ft development on the nearby 2.7-hectare site of the old Carlton Cinema on O’Connell Street in 2010.
A special advisory committee of Dublin City Council recommended recently that Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan withhold the ministerial consent required for development of the site.
Speaking after this morning’s extensive tour James Connolly-Heron expressed his outrage at the “shameful” and “shocking” condition of the buildings.
“I am staggered, I am shocked, I am appalled,” he said.
“These buildings have been abandoned. A cursory glance from the outside would tell you that. But if you walk through them they are in a shocking condition. It’s actually shameful at this stage how they have been allowed to deteriorate.”
Number 16, which he described as “the most important house in the terrace,” is in the “worst condition imaginable”.
Calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene, Mr Connolly-Heron said securing the future of the historic buildings is now “a political decision”.
“We’ve been now waiting for two years for a meeting with the taoiseach about this and that meeting is now imperative.”
“It’s imperative that we meet the taoiseach. It’s imperative that Minister Deenihan takes action. And that action needs to be immediate action. There can no longer be any delay in this – it’s too important.”
Proinsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly) who died on a street adjacent Moore St after leading a sortie from the GPO in an attempt to break free said he was “horrified” at the condition of the buildings.”
Given the neo-colonial impulses of the Irish political establishment I fully expect ordinary Irish citizens to go on being “horrified” at the deliberate destruction of our non-British heritage. In fact those impulses are perfectly summed up by one of the Comments left beneath the article:
”Noel Walsh: The G.P.O. is memorial enough for any number of republican insurrections.
[a better memorial would be] … a pluralistic democracy with freedom and equality for all in accordance with the basis our Christian traditions and in peace with our siblings on these British Isles. Our culture would blend with our Anglo Irish heritage in the languages and traditions of Ireland augmented by the status of our Irish nationhood.
What did we get? Rome Rule, Irish Aristocracy (self appointed ones lacking the good manners of their colonial forebears), and random self appointed elites…”
As opposed to the old Anglo-Irish colonial elites chosen by bloodline and the barrel of a gun? Sometimes one wonders if this is 21st century Ireland or 19th century? Honestly, the twisted world-view of the British Apologists on this island-nation never cease to amaze. For more information on the campaign to save the 1916 Battlefield Quarter you can listen to some audio interviews by Newstalk radio.
Last Monday I watched the second part of TV3’s drama-documentary series, “In the Name of the Republic”, where once again Eunan O’Halpin claimed to offer an analysis of the alleged actions of the Irish Republican Army during the Revolution of 1916-1923. Despite a few days of thinking it over and trying to see some historical value in the whole exercise it is hard to escape the impression that the programme (like the one before it) was anything other than some weirdly anachronistic anti-Irish Republican propaganda film. If fact it could have come straight from the film archives of the British Imperial War Museum, stamped 1921.
Stripped of the shallow pretence of balance it was obvious that the documentary makers had set out to “prove” that the men and women who fought to defend Irish democracy at the start of the 20th century were simply “terrorists” and “murderers” lacking in any sort of electoral mandate or support. In fact, going further, the programme all but justified British colonial rule in Ireland by taking the point of view of the country’s British paramilitary police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British judicial system, the British Occupation Forces and individual members of the Irish population who actively supported or collaborated with British rule.
I suppose if the Revisionist fringe of academia in the southern United States can produce books and movies to “prove” that the Confederacy was actually a paragon of democracy and morality with hundreds of thousands of happy-go-lucky slaves then why not a “reform” of Colonial Ireland? What is it that the Neo-Confederates in the United States now demand as the proper title of the internecine conflict that scarred the nation during the mid-1800s? It’s no longer the American Civil War, it’s now the War Between the States. Or should that be the War of Northern Aggression?
So what’s next for our own Irish Revisionist tendency? Will the Irish War of Independence become the War of Irish Aggression? Some Neo-Unionists in Ireland are already half-way there with their favoured meme of the moment: the Irish Terror. Not as in the Irish being terrorized by their then colonial rulers from Britain. Oh no. It’s the other way around. The Irish terrorized the British – and the Irish terrorized the Irish. Or so they would have us believe. And sure, if the facts of history don’t fit that interpretation don’t worry, they will be ignored or replaced with some home-made ones of their own. It worked before. Just ask Peter Hart.
“In the first episode, viewers met an aged Co Laois man who related his boyhood encounter with a neighbouring farmer, who claimed he had dug up a body while ploughing his field, one of three corpses supposedly buried there by the IRA.
Series host Prof Eunan O’Halpin (of Trinity College Dublin) told the audience his research had uncovered two civilians abducted by the Tipperary IRA and “never seen again”. The rest of the episode attempted to prove his theory that they were interred in this Laois field.
At considerable expense, a team of forensic archaeologists dug up the fine pasture, before informing O’Halpin that no corpses could be located. Meanwhile, O’Halpin travelled to Dublin to request the release of Department of Justice files relating to his two missing men.
The episode concluded with O’Halpin opening the sealed files, only to learn that both had survived the conflict. They were never killed by the IRA, much less secretly buried in Laois. The obvious lesson here is: Finish your research before you rent the JCB.
Undeterred, in the second episode, O’Halpin moves to more fertile ground in Cork City and Knockraha, a village a few miles east of Cork. In recent years, the area has attracted considerable speculation about the killing of alleged informers, especially Protestants.
Much interest stems from Gerard Murphy’s 2011 book, The Year of Disappearances, which received overwhelmingly negative reviews from historians concerned by his over-reliance on folklore and supposition. Murphy’s unlikely theories of covert revolutionary activity in Cork included the IRA’s unrecorded killing of up to 30 Freemasons in the spring of 1922, and the drowning of Protestant schoolchildren by IRA intelligence agent Josephine Brown.
The absence of such dramatic events in contemporary and later records (civilian, military, governmental, and religious) leads me to conclude that they did not occur. I was surprised, therefore, by the sight of Murphy relating additional theories for In the Name of the Republic.”
Surprise is one way of putting it. But then birds of a feather an’ all that.
Meanwhile historian John Dorney, who’s truly excellent website The Irish Story has gone to great lengths to present a dispassionate and fair evaluation of the revolutionary period, examines the issue of the 200 “murders” Eunan O’Halpin alleges were carried out by the Irish Republican Army:
“Immediately this set alarm bells ringing. In 2012, O’Halpin published the first results of his and Daithí Ó Corráin’s research, which revealed that the IRA in the War of Independence, was responsible for 281 of the 898 civilian fatalities, with British forces being responsible for 381. A further 236 deaths could not be confidently attributed to any party (the IRA, loyalist, rioters, undercover Crown forces).
This brings up two questions – first of all, where did all the extra ‘disappeared’ victims come from? There was no effort made in the programme to verify this figure of 200 secret killings by the IRA. Secondly, given that state forces actually killed more civilians, why was this not given greater prominence in the programme?
Even worse was the programme quoting the Royal Irish Constabulary as an impartial witness to events. An RIC DI was quoted saying, ‘People are afraid to be associated with the forces of the crown’, by an IRA – ‘system of universal terrorism’, and called for the ‘extermination of these bandits’. What else would a party to a counter insurgency campaign say?
In the second part, looking at County Cork, it was alleged that the IRA Cork Number 1 Brigade, which covered north Cork and the city, abducted and killed up to 90 victims and secretly buried them on the farm of one Martin Corry.
Corry claimed in his IRA pension that 27 bodies were buried on his farm and in a bog (now forest) called Knockraha. In recordings in the 1970s he claimed that there were ’60 even’. The problem with this testimony is that there does not seem to have been 60, 90 or even 30 victims missing that could fit into the alleged mass graves. Corry for instance told local historian Jim Fitzgerald that 17 ‘Camerons’ (of the Highland Cameron regiment) were buried there. In fact, John Borgonovo tells us, the regiment had only 3 men missing in its time in Cork.
I am informed that Jim Fitzgerald himself estimates that between Corry’s farm and Knockraha there may be 15 bodies buried. The figure of 90 secret deaths comes from Gerard Murphy, whose book, the Year of the Disappearances, was rightly savaged here on the Irish Story by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc for presenting supposition as evidence.
But there was no evidence presented for scores of disappeared civilians. Nor for tendentious talk about the Cork IRA’s campaign of ‘extortion’ and ‘torture’. The casual viewer would never have guessed that the IRA represented a political movement with overwhelming electoral support in the elections of 1918 and 1920.
…this was a bafflingly biased programme. It presented and inflated all the bad things the IRA did, shorn of context while proposing a thesis of hundreds of disappeared which was never even remotely proved.
So why the sensational anti-republican tone of ‘In the Name of the Republic’?
There is nothing to be gained by treating nationalist history as a sacred cow but nothing either by making radical claims unsupported by evidence.”
But that begs the question, is there nothing to be gained by the falsification of Irish history as it relates to the War of Independence? Or are there in fact real political gains to be made by inflicting untold damage on the Irish people’s understanding of their own history? Are we seeing in Ireland a larger “culture war”, as has been witnessed in the United States, over the nation’s past, present and future? A war played out in the pages of our national newspapers every week, and on our radios and TVs? The United States has Glenn Beck or Fox News. We have Kevin Myers or the Sunday Independent. In the struggle between Progressives and Regressives in Ireland the Irish Revolution represents the greatest loss of status and influence for the latter. Is it any wonder that they wish to contest it, even in retrospect?
And what about Ireland’s British-owned television channel TV3? Some more analysis and dramatic re-enactments of supposed events from world history in a series of exciting new TV programmes? Perhaps the “truth” about Anne Frank? Or a sympathetic examination of the Lost Cause? But after the farce of the last two weeks will anyone be watching?
I’ve just finished watching a history-documentary (and I use that term advisedly) on Ireland’s British-owned private television channel, TV3, called “In The Name of the Republic”. Presented by Eunan O’Halpin it set out to investigate the alleged “disappearance” of some 200 Irish people during the Irish Revolution, supposedly executed by the Irish Republican Army as part of its struggle against the British Occupation Forces from 1918-1923. Beginning with an archaeological dig searching for the corpses of three men found shot dead in 1921/22 by a local “eccentric” farmer the program goes on in drama-documentary style to present a case for the mass and indiscriminate murder by the IRA during Ireland’s War of Independence of countless innocent civilians (who may or may not have been British spies or informers, officers of the feared British paramilitary police, the Royal Irish Constabulary or RIC, or soldiers of the British Army).
Of course the archaeological dig failed to uncover any evidence of any murdered men (spies or otherwise), despite the fact that the program makers offered us some identities for two of the three supposed victims, complete with dramatic reconstructions of their capture and deaths. However (and quite bizarrely) at the end of the program we were told that the two suggested victims actually survived the conflict completely unharmed.
Not only do we not have the bodies of the ”murdered” we don’t even have any suggestions for who was “murdered”. In fact we don’t have any evidence that any “murders” happened in the first place! What we do have is a supposed drama-documentary from the Peter Hart school of Irish history, with a hefty dollop of Gerard Murphy (of which more here).
By the by, if any historians are looking for murder victims from the Irish Revolution with, you know, real actual identities and, hey, actually physical remains, here they are. The photographs above and below are of Patrick and Harry Loughnane, aged 29 and 22, both Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, detained, tortured and murdered by members of the RIC’s Auxiliary Division in November 1920. From Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc’s article that featured on The Irish Story in 2012:
“The Loughnane brothers were arrested in daylight at their family home at Shanaglish, Co. Galway on the 26th November 1920. Their partially burned and mutilated bodies were discovered in a pond near Ardrahan on 5th December that year. The two brothers had been tied to the back of an R.I.C. lorry and forced to run behind it until they collapsed from exhaustion and were dragged along the road. Both of Pat’s wrists, legs and arms were broken. His skull was fractured and there were diamond shaped wounds, resembling the cap badge worn by the RIC Auxiliaries, carved into his torso. Harry’s body was missing two fingers; his right arm was broken and nearly severed from his body. Nothing was left of Harry’s face except for his chin and lips. A doctor who examined the Loughnane’s bodies stated that the cause of death was “laceration of the skull and the brain.” The attached photographs of the brothers’ bodies at the time of their discovery show some of the horrific injuries they suffered. The same month that the Loughnane brothers were killed, members of the RIC in Galway also killed a pregnant woman and a Catholic priest.”
If I might also add, all that archive film shown in the “documentary” of supposed victims of violence by the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, including men, women and children made homeless sitting in ditches at the side of the road? They were actually from a contemporary newsreel showing Irish civilians hiding in the fields of north County Dublin following the Sack of Balbriggan. That is the burning of the small Irish coastal village of Balbriggan by the British Occupation Forces in 1920.
- Counter-Gangs – The Origins Of British Terrorism In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
Veteran Irish journalist and author Ed Moloney and his colleague Bob Mitchell continue their investigations into the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a British Army death squad that operated in the north-east of Ireland during the early 1970s. Its notoriety and reckless nature (with carloads of heavily armed undercover soldiers carrying out random drive-by shootings of the civilian populace in the city of Belfast) eventually led to its replacement with a number of other covert groups including the infamous Force Research Unit or FRU. By examining the 1972 attempted assassination of Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding D Company, 2nd Battalion, Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (and widely regarded as one of the most effective and thoughtful field commanders of his generation), Moloney and Mitchell have uncovered new evidence of the British Army’s modus operandi during the early years of the war in the North of Ireland. Evidence which corroborates Brendan Hughes own testimony of events from that time.
The military mastermind behind the introduction of the MRF and other covert units was the British death squad supremo, General Sir Frank Kitson GBE, KCB, MC & Bar, DL. On the basis of his “successes” in Ireland he rose to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Land Forces and Aide-de-Camp to the British head of state in the 1980s. In this BBC news-documentary from 1975 examining “war gaming” exercises Kitson can be viewed in action. The nature of the exercise, as described by the BBC Panorama programme, show that the concerns and ambitions of the British Army leadership in the 1970s ran far beyond the conflict in Ireland:
“Filmed at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, this programme offers a fascinating insight into officer training. Six years in Northern Ireland have given the British Army unique experience in counter insurgency and internal security techniques. Sandhurst recognises that the Army’s Ulster experience could – one day – have to be used in Britain, and there is a need to train officers for that possibility. So imagine a world where Scotland has left the United Kingdom, where some English cities are thinking of following suit and where law and order is breaking down in our towns. It may seem far fetched, but the recruits of Sandhurst are presented with just such a scenario.”
If you have difficulty viewing the documentary due to your location try installing Tor on your device (video guide here). The new investigation by Ed Moloney and Bob Mitchell, using redacted British military records, can be read in full here.
UPDATE: Here is the BBC 1975 Panorama documentary featuring Kitson, via YouTube (indirect link I’m afraid).
- “Northern Ireland” 48% Protestant, 47% British – So Why Is Ireland Still Partitioned? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Counter-Gangs – The Origins Of British Terrorism In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fantasy Troubles Part 4 (ansionnachfionn.com)
- That Infamous Nolan Show (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Move Over Belfast – Welcome To Béal Feirste (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Six Degrees Of Paramilitary Separation (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Unionism Closes Ranks (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Ian Hurst, Derek Haslam And Hackgate (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Dolours Price (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Britain’s War In Ireland – Learning The Lessons (ansionnachfionn.com)
Interesting to note that the DUP leader Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have agreed a joint “Unionist Unity” candidate, Nigel Lutton, for the Mid-Ulster by-election, and the furore that has emerged around it. Lutton is a former liaison-officer with the Northern Ireland Police Fund, a former volunteer with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (run by the British Ministry of Defence), a former British Army reserve soldier, a co-ordinator with the group South Down Action for Healing Wounds, a member of the Orange Order (the anti-Catholic, Protestant fundamentalist society) and a former researcher with the DUP.
He is also the son of Frederick “Eric” Lutton, a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC, the British paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland disbanded under the Irish-British Peace Process and the Belfast Agreement of 1998. Frederick Lutton had resigned from the RUC shortly before he was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army in May of 1979. Around the time of his killing rumours in the local Irish Nationalist community insisted that Lutton had been forced to resign by RUC management due to concerns about his family connections.
In fact his brother, Joey Lutton, was a British Army soldier with the Ulster Defence Regiment or UDR during the same period, a militia raised from within the British Unionist community (and also disbanded in the wake of the Belfast Agreement). This particular Lutton was convicted in 1979 of participating in a number of terrorist atrocities carried out by a British terror group known colloquially as the Glenanne Gang. It was made up of members of several British terrorist organisations, principally the UVF and UDA-UFF, most of whom were also former or serving soldiers and police officers with the British Army, UDR and RUC.
Joey Lutton’s offences included his involvement in the May 1976 bomb-attack on Clancy’s Bar that left three Irish civilians (Felix Clancy, Sean O’Hagan and Robert McCullough) dead and several others wounded, and a subsequent gun-attack on the nearby Eagle Bar resulting in the murder of Frederick McLaughlin and the wounding of numerous others. Lutton was widely suspected of involvement in a number of other murders in the Armagh region, many of which were carried out using ammunition and weapons later traced back to British Army stocks.
In 2007 the DUP MP David Simpson, who is a cousin and close associate of the “Unionist Unity” candidate Nigel Lutton (as well as an Orange Order member and proponent of “Creationism”), used legal immunity granted by the British parliament to claim in the House of Commons that prominent Sinn Féin politician, Francie Molly, was suspected of involvement in the assassination of Nigel Lutton’s father, Frederick.
Francie Molly is the Sinn Féin candidate in Mid-Ulster and Nigel Lutton’s opponent.
A “Unionist Unity” candidate is just about right.
- Six Degrees Of Paramilitary Separation (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Lutton denies running because of SF (bbc.co.uk)
- Unity candidate good news for Sinn Fein, says Basil McCrea (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
The excellent history site, The Irish Story, has recently posted two articles examining the ideological similarities between Irish and Israeli nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries and the fraternal links between the Republican and Zionist revolutionary movements in Ireland, Europe and North America. Its fascinating stuff and something I’ve developed an interest in over the last decade and more thanks to my frankly envious admiration for the revival of the Hebrew language (as noted here several times).
And before anyone starts leaving Comments attacking my expressions of admiration for Israel I shall note my critical stand on Israel’s deviation away from the left-of-centre principals of many of its founders and the appalling treatment of the Palestinian people that I highlighted here. Many forget that once upon a time Israel was the darling of the radical Left in Europe and beyond. Every good Trot wanted to sojourn on a kibbutz in the 1950s and ’60s.
As for the insidious canard spread by the fundamentalist Protestant Right in the United States that Ireland is anti-Semitic. Well much of it is patently racist in tone, that old strain of anti-Irish bigotry disguised as something new, with a typically swivel-eyed example here for you to read (if you have the stomach for it). I have had my own clashes with the crazies of the American Far Right, self-informed demagogues who rapidly crumble when challenged over their laughably false accusations of historic anti-Jewish sentiment in Ireland.
I wonder, now, does anyone remember Sarah Medali, a Russian-born Jewish mother of three children, murdered by the British Occupation Forces on Friday the 10th of December 1920 in a raid that heralded a pogrom in the City of Cork by the British Forces that left 17 dead and wounded (including a Catholic priest, Thomas Magnier) and culminated in the burning of the city? Certainly not the opportunistic militant Christian defenders of Israel pursuing their own death-craving vision of a new Jerusalem.
As an Irish Republican I believe in the historic right of the people of Ireland, as a whole or individually, to resist (where no other means exist) the British Colonial Occupation of our island-nation or any part of that nation through force of arms. However it is my firm belief that with such a right comes inescapable moral responsibilities and obligations. These beliefs are best summed up in the words of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic issued by the Provisional Government on the 24th of April 1916:
“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty…
…and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.”
Unfortunately that strict admonition was not always adhered to by those who claimed to serve the cause of Irish freedom in the years following the 1916 Revolution. In the last decade of the Northern War, as I came into adulthood, there were times when I was deeply ashamed to share the title of Republican with some of those who chose to engage in armed resistance to the oppressive remnant of the British Occupation in the north-east of our country but whose actions or beliefs were personally abhorrent to me (and to many others). Over the thirty years of the conflict many Irish Republicans have had their own moments of shame and each have their own individual tales of despair. While some think of the headline-grabbing events that still spark bitter debate my thoughts go instead to events of a smaller scale, which were nonetheless still dreadful to me and even more so to those directly affected by them. The name of Patsy Gillespie looms heavy in my mind.
The Irish writer and blogger Mick Fealty has a very important post over on the news and current affairs site Slugger O’Toole that should serve as a reminder of the grim and terrible realities of a historic war that was at times fought without restraint or morality. It should also remind those who appropriate to themselves the mantle of revolutionary Irish Republicanism that the excuse of “this is war” is no excuse at all. The end never justifies the means. They merely serve to corrupt and tarnish it. Where arguably other means now exist to resist and undermine the fading vestige of the British Colony on the island of Ireland those who chose the military path must give a greater justification for their actions than mere continuity or necessity. And if they remain determined to pursue resistance and liberation through armed force while rejecting the words and even more so the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation then they are simply a mirror-image of that they claim to oppose. Or worse.
How things have changed in the last 19 years – and how much they have stayed the same. In 1994 the American writer and journalist Rory Nugent was “embedded” for Spin Magazine with an Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army in the Occupied North of Ireland, from December 1993 to April 1994. The British government was so infuriated by the story that they issued an arrest warrant for the editor of the US-based publication.
The link to the original magazine article is here, “Inside The IRA” (page 64). It is a timely reminder of why politics must be made to work.
(Note: the video above is a low-quality version of copyrighted footage shot by the journalist Rory Nugent while writing a piece for Spin Magazine on the Irish Republican Army in 1994. The version shown here is used with permission)
- Dolours Price (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Open Unionism – More Like An Open Goal (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Media Panic – The Hysterical Press And The Continuity IRA (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fantasy Troubles Part 4 (ansionnachfionn.com)
I’ve devoted considerable space on An Sionnach Fionn to cataloguing Britain’s dirty war in Ireland highlighting a wide range of evidence gathered over the last forty years by human rights organisations, journalists and historians. Now the independent news and current affairs site Spinwatch has worked with the Pat Finucane Centre to publish a new study, “COUNTER-GANGS: A history of undercover military units in Northern Ireland 1971-1976“, a comprehensive investigation into the origins of British state-terrorism in Ireland.
The author of COUNTER-GANGS is Margaret Urwin, the secretary of Justice for the Forgotten, a branch of the Pat Finucane Centre which works with victims of Britain’s bombing campaigns in Ireland during the 1970s. Her report is based on years of work including interviews with former members of the British military and intelligence services and extensive documentary research. The publication presents evidence proving:
- that senior British Army officers stationed in the North of Ireland during the early years of the conflict developed close contacts with various British terrorist factions in Ireland as part of a wider counter-insurgency war against the Irish Republican Army and Irish civilian population in general.
- that the British Army created a special forces intelligence group, the Military Reaction Forces (MRF), in late 1971 and that the public exposure of the MRF as a death squad led to their replacement a year later by a larger organisation: the Special Reconnaissance Unit (SRU).
- that the SRU relied heavily on members of the Special Air Service (SAS) for special forces manpower. Successive British governments went to enormous lengths to conceal this fact from the British parliament and media, denying the role of SAS death squads in Ireland.
- that deliberately misleading information about British special forces and intelligence units in Ireland was fed to the British and international press as part of a black propaganda campaign. One resulting media story included information that would have enabled the Irish Republican Army to identify Louis Hammond as an MRF agent in their ranks. Hammond was shot shortly afterwards.
The report is the first of the State Violence and Collusion Project, an online research collaboration between SpinWatch and the Pat Finucane Centre, established with funding from the respected British-based Scurrah Wainwright Charity.
For more information please download the free PDF booklet “COUNTER-GANGS: A history of undercover military units in Northern Ireland 1971-1976” (verified virus-free). I also recommend the use of the independent wiki Power Base for more to the background of Britain’s thirty-year war in Ireland.
- Death Squad Britain (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Pat Finucane – A Victim Of Britain’s State-Sponsored Terrorism In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Named And Shamed – The Faces Of Britain’s Death Squads In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- That Infamous Nolan Show (ansionnachfionn.com)
- “Northern Ireland” 48% Protestant, 47% British – So Why Is Ireland Still Partitioned? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Jenny Muir Quits The British Labour Grouping In The North (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fantasy Troubles Part 4 (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Media Panic – The Hysterical Press And The Continuity IRA (ansionnachfionn.com)
- British State Terrorism from Northern Ireland to Syria (dissidentvoice.org)
Just a quick post to note the passing of Dolours Price, veteran Republican activist and a former Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, who died at her home in Mullach Íde on Wednesday. While much of the British news media and their parasitical sycophants in the Irish press have taken a certain delight in her passing those who knew Dolours and the personal price she paid for her commitment to the cause of Irish freedom will not forget her. Journalist Ed Moloney and author Anthony McIntyre have written a short tribute and addressed the issue of Dolour’s contribution to Boston College’s “Belfast Project”. In a different vein Irish blogger Fitzjames Horse has posted probably the best summation of the places and times that shaped Dolours Price and an entire generation of Irish men and women who grew up beneath the shadow of the British and Unionist regime in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. Britain reaped what it sowed and in the Price sisters it sowed a whirlwind.
My thoughts are with her children, sisters and broader family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.
- Dolours Price, RIP (thebrokenelbow.com)
- Death of Dolours Price opens up possibility that her taped oral history will be published (sluggerotoole.com)
Last week a significant number of the Irish political prisoners in the now notorious British-run Maghaberry Prison in the Occupied North of Ireland announced an end to their long-running “dirty protest”, a campaign to highlight the inhumane conditions they were being kept in. The prisoners were members of the Real Irish Republican Army or other unaligned Republican groups but are now attached to the “new” IRA, an amalgamation of several Republican Resistance organisations including the Real IRA and DAAD announced in July.
Speculation that the prisoners belonging to the Continuity Irish Republican Army, held on landing three of Roe House (or Roe 3) within the Maghaberry complex, would follow suit was confirmed with an announcement on Sunday:
“Statement from Continuity IRA POWs, Roe 3, Maghaberry Jail, Co Antrim:
After a long period of deliberation, it has been decided that we the Continuity Irish Republican Army POWs will suspend our current phase of protest from Monday November 26, 2012 in order to give the prison regime another opportunity to acknowledge and implement the agreement all parties signed up to in August 2010.
As Republicans we undertook the agreement in good faith and committed to honour it, and as Republicans, at no time did we break our word. After a period of six months it became increasingly clear that in the tradition of Perfidious Albion the British Government had reneged on their word to implement that solution and so we resumed our protest.
Now after 18 months of this second phase of protest, we believe that we have shown the prison regime our resolve and determination to oppose conditions not befitting Republican Prisoners of War. We also believe we can afford them the opportunity at this juncture to implement the agreement.
It is our hope that with this magnanimous gesture the prison regime will now honour their word. As Republicans we will not shirk our responsibility and we believe that it is now necessary for us to take this lead in bringing the agreement to its conclusion.
Like our Comrades on Roe 4 [the “new” IRA POWs], we assert that the resolving of this conflict lies squarely at the feet of David Ford [the regional northern justice minister from the Unionist Alliance Party] and the British Government, despite Ford’s assertion to the contrary.
Failure on the part of the British Government to implement the August 2010 Agreement in full, will result in a re-emergence of conflict in the Jail.
To all who have supported us up to this point, we ask for your continued support. We salute all people across the world who have worked on our behalf. We thank our families and our friends and CABHAIR [the Irish POW support organisation] who have given us unswerving support and assistance.
Signed O/C [Officer Commanding] Maghaberry Prison.”
The statement from the CIRA prisoners came as speculation mounts over behind-the-scenes negotiations between representatives of the Republican Resistance movements and the regional northern and British authorities via a number of intermediaries including some acting on behalf of the Government of Ireland.
Well what is one to make of all this then?
The Irish news media is reporting that a close associate of the late Alan Ryan, widely believed to have been the Officer Commanding the Dublin Brigade of the Real Irish Republican Army, has been wounded in a so-called “punishment shooting” in Ballyfermot. Ryan was murdered last September in a gun attack by two hired assassins acting on behalf of Dublin’s powerful crime gangs in a response to the Real IRA’s violent attempts to “tax” criminal activity in the capital to fund the organisation and its renewed campaign of armed resistance in the Occupied North of Ireland. The circumstances of Alan Ryan’s death remain controversial following allegations that the open surveillance of the suspected Republican by Garda officers was withdrawn shortly before the fatal attack but his funeral garnered enormous publicity for the Real IRA – both good and bad.
According to the Irish Independent:
“The injured man sustained a gunshot wound to his right knee at Le Fanu Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, at about 12.10am. Gardaí believe he was attacked by a number of men and that he may have been shot in a vehicle that then left the area.
He was taken by ambulance to St James’s Hospital, where his injuries are said not to be life-threatening. The man is in his 30s and is from Dublin city centre.
He was well known to key Real IRA member Alan Ryan, who was shot dead in north Dublin in September.
Gardaí are now trying to establish if the man shot yesterday was targeted by Real IRA members known to him, or criminal elements the Real IRA has been feuding with.”
The newspaper article goes on to claim that the shooting may stem from internal dissension within the Real Irish Republican Army. According to several reports and rumours doing the rounds the amalgamation of the Real IRA with several other Republican Resistance groups to form the “new” Irish Republican Army has led to an increased emphasis on politics and military discipline within the organisation as fears by some traditional Republicans of a descent into “narcoterrorism“ have grown.
The leadership of the new movement is predominantly composed of northern-based veterans of the guerilla campaigns in the North of Ireland and some believe that it is now seeking to purge the alliance of the criminal fringe that has prospered around the edges of the Real IRA over the last five years. As part of this new sweep the Irish Central is reporting that the Sunday Times newspaper has published details of an alleged mass dismissal of over one hundred Volunteers or supporters from the “new” Irish Republican Army believed to have been involved in criminal activities or otherwise thought to be unreliable or potential security risks. Meanwhile speculation is growing that the leadership of the “new” IRA is attempting to put “clear blue water” between itself and Ireland’s criminal underworld, specifically the drug cartels.
During the height of the Long War the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Ireland’s mainly Dublin-based criminal organisations tended to avoid confrontation with each other. The Dublin Brigade of the Provisional IRA imposed a modest “taxation” on the crime gangs, occasionally upping the stakes to take a share in larger criminal enterprises, while limited co-operation occurred in the areas of cross-border smuggling and money laundering. Direct conflict was relatively unusual as the gangs rarely felt confident enough to oppose the insurgent organisation (or organisations). The notorious crime-lord Martin Cahill was an exception to this rule and ultimately paid for his activities (including seeking an alliance with the British Unionist terror groups in the north-east of the country) with his life.
However the slow descent into criminality by the outliers of the Republican Movement in the late 1980s and 1990s, in particular the rival factions of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and it off-shoots, transformed the dynamic between the criminal underworld and the insurgent one. The crime gangs of Dublin no longer feared the Republican military organisations and became increasingly willing to seek confrontation, especially where areas of mutual interest butted up against each other.
Now the Irish crime scene is dominated by up to a dozen major drugs cartels in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick who have no hesitation in using violence against any opponents, be they other criminals, innocent members of the general public or servants of the state. With a ready access to weapons, explosives, vast amounts of money and a steady stream of willing gang members any current Republican insurgency would find itself in a difficult situation tackling the powerful organised crime groups.
Claims and counter-claims instead focus on the “new” IRA moving away from confrontation with the drug gangs and establishing a “cold peace”. Whether this will include the continued “taxation” of criminal activities to support the armed resistance, albeit at “agreed levels” is debatable. Some believe that the nascent Republican Resistance would rather have access to the crime gangs’ apparent contacts in the European arms’ markets and smuggling routes than any amount of financial returns. However it is understood that Alan Ryan’s closet comrades have steadfastly opposed any shift in policy, especially one that prevents military action against those responsible for the slaying of their Dublin commander.
- “New” IRA Prisoners End Their Dirty Protest In Maghaberry Prison (ansionnachfionn.com)
I’ve been meaning to write a review of the new biography of Pádraig Mac Piarais, “Patrick Pearse: the making of a revolutionary“ by the Dutch historian Joost Augusteijn, for several months but something has always got in the way. Now Philip Ferguson has penned an excellent examination of his own over on the Irish Revolution. The French blog Liberation Irlande carries a translation of the review in two parts, here and here.
Some of you might be interested to know that I’m working on a short study of the relationship between An Piarsach and his close friend and apparent object of affection, the Irish Republican and feminist writer Eibhlín Nic Niocaill, who died at the tragically early age of twenty-five during a visit to Na Blascaodaí (the Blasket Islands) off the west coast of Ireland. This should be posted in the coming weeks.
- Irish socialist republicanism, 1909 – 36 Adrian Grant (cedarlounge.wordpress.com)
John Paul Wootton is a twenty year old Irishman who was arrested on the 10th of March 2009 at the age of seventeen by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland. He was interrogated for two weeks by PSNI officers in the most appalling of circumstances following the killing of a fellow PSNI member, Steven Carroll, on the 9th of March 2009 by the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA). Despite his youth, concerns surrounding his arrest and three-year detention without trial and his nationality as a citizen of Ireland, John Paul was tried under the infamous no-jury Diplock court system which the British state has used since 1973 as part of its counter-insurgency struggle in the North of Ireland.
“John Paul Wootton – Letter To All:
My name is John Paul Wootton and I am now twenty years of age and I have been imprisoned in Maghaberry Prison for the last three years, that is, from when I was 17 years of age.
On the 10th of March 2009, while still a teenager, I was arrested and interrogated for thirteen days in relation to the fatal shooting of Constable Steven Carroll in Craigavon on the 9th of March 2009. From the outset of this period of interrogation I made it clear that I neither knew nor had any part in this incident and indeed the duration of my interrogation was only ended when my legal representative took out a legal injunction.
On the 30th of March 2012, after a trial before a Diplock Court [one of the British counter-insurgency non-jury courts imposed on the North of Ireland], I was convicted and sentenced to a life-sentence for the killing of Constable Carroll on the basis of a tracking device that had been fitted to my car at some point and which allegedly placed me at the scene of the shooting. However, the device in question, which had been placed there by members of MI5 [the British Security Service], went missing for a period of time and when it was finally recovered portions of the data allegedly recorded on the device were missing! These ‘gaps’ were supposedly filled by an MI5 operative who gave his evidence at the trial anonymously from behind a screen and his explanation for the data going missing was that, ‘he had left it on his desk and someone had moved and then replaced it without his knowledge’!
Additional to the missing data, the examination of my car, during the period of the missing data, also produced a brown coat that had particles of gun powder residue on it. These particles did not match the rifle or ammunition recovered by the PSNI that was claimed by the prosecution to have been the weapon that fired the fatal shot which killed Constable Carroll. This coat, which was a central piece of evidence in the case, not only did not belong to me but it had no physical connection to me, that is, no traces of my DNA, fibres or fingerprints were found on the coat.
In short, there was no physical evidence presented to the trial that linked me to this shooting rather a process of speculation and hypothesis that turned the legal principle of innocence until proven guilty on its head was applied.
During the trial my legal team attempted to tease out the anomalies of this case to demonstrate the complete lack of evidence against me, however, at each attempt they were met with the barrier of ‘Public Interest Immunity Orders’ being sought and granted to the prosecution [a controversial British government mechanism to prevent “sensitive information” being examined in court cases]. As a result of this crucial lines of inquiry about the movements of my car and the particles on the coat were denied to my defence.
As a consequence of all of the above I have instructed my legal team to appeal the conviction against me on the grounds that I did not receive a fair trial for the following reasons:
- I was refused the right to a trial by jury and instead I was tried by a single judge in a Diplock Court [a British non-jury counter-insurgency court].
- This single judge in the absence of any physical evidence against me resorted to negative inference and opinion.
- Evidence which may have assisted my defence or undermined the case against me was kept hidden from my legal team through the use of Public Interest Immunity Orders [the system of quasi-legal British government gagging orders].
- Several witnesses were granted anonymity thereby preventing the defence from properly cross-examining them.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this short description of what has happened to me and I would ask you to do all that you can to highlight this miscarriage of justice in the hope that I will get the chance of a fair trial at my appeal.
Further information on the legal detail of this case and the summary of the original trial are also contained on this web site. Please feel free to use them to demonstrate the scale of the injustice involved or to contact my legal representatives with any enquiries.
John Paul Wootton.”
Whatever one’s views on the tragic death of PSNI member Stephen Carroll and the continued campaign of armed resistance to the British Occupation in the North of Ireland, there can be no doubt that the arrest, prolonged interrogation, trial and conviction of a young Irishman, a teenage boy when first detained, in the most dubious and controversial of circumstances is not the answer.
- Irish Political Prisoners And The Revolutionary Dynamic (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Its The Process, Stupid (ansionnachfionn.com)
It’s been announced that a section of the Irish political prisoners engaged in a “Dirty Protest” in the notorious Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn in the Occupied North of Ireland are to end their campaign from today. According to media reports twenty-two prisoners who now form part of the “new” Irish Republican Army (a military coalition of the Real IRA, RAAD and some non-aligned Irish Republican guerrillas) called off their protests in a unilateral move designed to encourage new negotiations between their representatives and the regional northern and British authorities. All twenty-two prisoners are held in Landing Four of Roe House and a campaign has been running since May of 2011 in opposition to full body strip searches and other inhumane conditions by a majority of Republicans held in the prison. Since then the situation in Maghaberry has rapidly deteriorated culminating in the shooting dead of a prison guard, David Black, by Resistance Republicans. The northern justice minister, the Alliance Party’s David Ford, claims that no secret deals have been done to end the trouble. Which is hardly the first time we have heard that.
The following statement was issued by the twenty-two “Prisoners of War” in Maghaberry Prison aligned to the “new” Irish Republican Army:
“Following the signing of the August 2010 agreement with the Prison Service, Republican POWs continually attempted to resolve all outstanding issues. Despite the continued use of the brutal forced strip searches we regularly engaged with political parties and groups who showed an interest in bringing a resolution to the impasse.
This process of dialogue lasted nine months. The amount of time and effort put into this process cannot be over stated, unfortunately despite this lengthy engagement all we had to show were the injuries inflicted during these searches and beatings. The resumption of protest action became inevitable. On May 6th 2011 we commenced our current phase of protest action.
We are now into our 19th month of this phase of protest. Our resolve and commitment are unquestionable. As Republican POWs we are prepared to meet head on any attempt to reintroduce failed policies of the past. This should never have to be the case.
Following intense and detailed discussion and analysis, we, the Republican POWs on Roe 4 have decided on a unilateral initiative which we believe will provide the space required for a resolution of the current impasse.
As from Wednesday 21st November 2012 all Republican POWs on Roe 4 landing will cease our current protest action.
This initiative should be viewed as a genuine and sincere attempt to create the conditions in which a conflict free environment can flourish whereby all are treated with respect and dignity is guaranteed.
A dialectical process of engagement to resolve all issues should be the order of the day. Confrontation need not be part of the environment that we all have to live and work in.
Upon launching this initiative we call upon all those political parties and groups who profess to share our stated aim of a conflict free environment to immediately seize upon this initiative. We call upon you to use your political influence and position to bring about the progressive change that is required.
We call upon the prison service management at all levels to jettison the failed policies of the past and to move forward progressively.
Finally, to all who have campaigned on our behalf, we applaud your commitment and steadfastness and ask that you continue to highlight our plight.
For our part, we will not be found wanting in the task that lies ahead.
Republican POWs, Roe 4, Maghaberry.”
Interestingly Republican political prisoners elsewhere in Maghaberry Prison were by some accounts unaware of the new developments and remain on protest until their demands are met.
More here [Italian].
Without a single shred of evidence that could stand up in a court, apparently based upon nothing but hearsay and rumour, and driven by an obvious political agenda, the Herald newspaper has all but identified by name a woman working in the Law Library of Ireland that the tabloid alleges is a “suspected IRA recruiter”. And where does the Herald get its information? In one paragraph it is a “source”, in the next it is “sources”, yet we are not told who these people are. Are they fellow journalists? Members of An Garda Síochána? Politicians? Some bloke a Talbot Street hack met in a local pub?
And if serving Gardaí are the supposed “sources” why are they engaged in the unattributable defaming of an Irish citizen? Why are they acting outside the law, and their regulations, by passing on what one would presume is sensitive information to reporters?
Is it now the practice of Irish newspapers to engage in blatant libel? To engage in ideological witch-hunts? To push a McCarthyite agenda in contemporary Irish society?
And what if physical harm comes to this woman because of the Herald’s victimisation of her? In times past in this country claiming that an Irish citizen had a particular set of political beliefs or opinions could lead to his or her death. The family of Pat Finucane, an Irish civil rights lawyer murdered at the hands of British state-sponsored terrorists, can testify to that.
Is the right-wing tabloid reporting the news or creating it?
In my 2011 review of historian Liz Gillis’ new Irish Civil War study “The Fall of Dublin” from Mercier Press I wrote that:
“…one of the accusations made by some Republicans in the aftermath of the Fall of Dublin was the use of British troops in the assaults on the Republican forces entrenched in the city. Certainly this is given some credence in a paragraph by Gillis describing a mutiny of Pro-Treaty soldiers at Portobello Barracks:
‘Frank Carney, supplies officer at the barracks, was ordered to hand over weapons and other materials that were to be used in the assault:
He was about to obey the order when he recognised the officer receiving them as a British officer from the Phoenix Park depot [the British Army HQ]. Realising it was an alliance with British against Republicans that he was being called upon to take action, he refused to comply and resigned. Several men resigned with him and all were placed under arrest.’
However there is little other evidence of direct involvement by the British Forces in the fighting, though British troops were kept at the ready in bases around the city to intervene if need be and the British provided the artillery, heavy machine guns and armoured vehicles that the Free State forces used to swing the battle in their favour. Further offers from the British including the use of warplanes to bomb and strafe Republican positions were rejected. But later in the war direct British military assistance, particularly from the Royal Navy, was accepted so perhaps British ‘advisers’ were present during the battles at the Four Courts and maybe elsewhere? Certainly as the war progressed the Free State army increasingly resembled a ‘demobbed’ British Army in Ireland.”
Now new evidence has emerged to prove that the British Occupation Forces in Ireland did participate directly in the earliest stages of the Civil War. Indeed they played a pivotal role in the events that were to propel Ireland into the internecine conflict that was to scar the country for generations to come. First comes an article from Irish Central describing a new BBC radio documentary revealing the memoirs of Lance-Bombardier Percy Creek, a British soldier who served in Ireland during the Revolution:
“A newly discovered military memoir has claimed that British Army artillery crews were commandeered by Michael Collins at the start of the Irish Civil War.
The claim contradicts official accounts that Collins turned down an offer of soldiers and artillery from the British to end the three month occupation of the Four Courts by anti-treaty forces.
The claims have been broadcast by the BBC in Britain in a radio programme featuring the memoir of Lance Bombardier Percy Creek of the Royal Field Artillery.
His book was discovered by Open University academic William Sheehan and broadcast by BBC Radio 4’s Document series.
The Irish Times reports that Creek claims in the book how his unit of howitzer artillery was sent to Fermanagh, but later told to march by night to Dublin and ‘told not to speak to anyone and to keep as quiet as possible.’
The Irish National Army had failed up to then to disperse the anti-treaty forces occupying the Four Courts under the command of Rory O’Connor.
The Irish Army’s shrapnel blasts proved ineffective which is why, Creek claims, his unit was given the orders to fire two heavy rounds.
He recalled: “We then saw the shell rip into a wall of one of the courts. Then, all became quiet and I think the officers and dignitaries were all very tense.
“We only fired two rounds and quickly limbered up and went back to the rest of the battery. The situation in Dublin was very tricky.”
The broadcast recalled how Creek’s sergeant and commanding officer were worried beforehand because of the presence of Irish soldiers in the Royal Field Artillery unit.
He said: “A few days later we went to some docks and the whole battery was shipped back to Fishguard.”
Historian William Sheehan told The Irish Times that the Creek memoir is significant. He said: “It shows that the agenda was being driven by the British cabinet in London.
“Ministers there, including Winston Churchill, were concerned that anti-Treaty forces in Munster and elsewhere would mobilise to surround the National Army troops encircling the Four Courts.
The Nottingham-based academic added: “Collins was not a victim, but there is evidence that he was certainly not in control of what was going on around him. He’s choiceless. He is essentially doing what the British wanted.”
Collins’s biographer Tim Pat Coogan told the BBC programme he did not know if Creek’s version of events was accurate, but ‘it could have happened.’
University of Dundee professor Dr John Regan told the BBC that the account ‘complicates things’. He said: “It suggests that the British were there for the opening shots of the Irish Civil War.””
Creek’s testimonial has now been given greater weight with collaborative proof from British government files, as detailed in an article from today’s Irish Times newspaper:
“Lance-Bombardier Percy Creek had no intention of trying to overturn one of the State’s foundation stones when he sat down decades afterward to write of his time in the British army.
Last week sections of his memoir were published. In these he claimed that he and other British gunners were employed to shell the Four Courts in the opening chapter of the Civil War.
Despite the rumours then, and later, it had always been generally accepted that Michael Collins used British equipment and ammunition, but not troops. Creek’s account calls into question this version of history, however. Despite Creek’s doubters last week, and there were many, his account is backed by British cabinet minutes from late June 1922.
Open University academic William F Sheehan, formerly of University College, Cork, examined the cabinet papers for information that would support, or cast doubt, on Creek’s account.
Faced with the killing of Gen Henry Wilson in London, London demanded immediate action against the Four Courts, held by anti-treaty forces since April. During a meeting before noon on June 28th, ministers were told that the British commander in Ireland, Gen Nevil Macready, did not then believe Collins would ask for troops.
“(Lord Cavan, chief of the imperial general staff) thought it was a great pity that the provisional government had not asked the imperial troops to carry out the task for them,” the minutes record.
By 7.45pm, British ministers were back in conclave. The news from Dublin was not good: four 18-pounder guns had been lent, but they were now short of ammunition. New supplies could be shipped, but they could be 24 hours away: “The danger of delay was that reinforcements might arrive from other parts of Ireland for Republican forces,” the minutes record.
Lord Cavan reported that a Royal Artillery officer “had, at the request of the provisional government been giving its forces advice on how to use 18-pounder guns. However, 18-pounders “were not of much value for this kind of fighting” and “heavier ordnance” was needed “against such solid buildings”.
Michael Collins, however, was “not willing to employ it, apparently because the use of such material would require the employment of the regular (ie British) troops”.
Believing that Collins and the provisional government could yet fall to anti-treaty forces, British ministers feared that the delay in seizing the Four Courts could force it to act. “If the British troops had to undertake the task in the end, it would now be much harder and a new plan would have to be formed,” the June 28th minutes record.
Then come the paragraphs that back Creek’s version of events. He says he and his unit were first shipped to Fermanagh and then told to march by night to Dublin.
“Information was received just before the meeting that the provisional government were willing to employ British gunners and to utilise 60-pounder guns,” according to the minutes. Indeed, the Irish were discussing accepting troops.
The provisional government “must be supported in every way, and the operation must not be allowed to fail”, British ministers agreed. Emergency stores of 18-pounder ammunition were to be sent.
A few hours later, British ministers convened again, sending a telegram to Collins: “By all means use the 300 18-pdr high-explosive shells as soon as they arrive, but this will be little use without heavier guns and good gunners. Do not fail to take both. Both are available. It is essential to take the 60-pdr, its gunners and it is ammunition and most desirable to use the six-inch howitzers as well and all together.”
Later that day, the Four Courts was briefly, but heavily, shelled and “the greater part of the building” captured by Collins’s forces, who were now titled Free State, not provisional government, forces.
However, Churchill was concerned about charges in Dublin already circulating that Collins had acted “at the behest” of the British , which had “reacted adversely on public opinion”.
Addressing fellow ministers, he said they should “dwell on the fact that they should avoid any suggestion that the Free State government was acting on British inspiration, and to lay stress on the fact that they have undertaken the task on their own initiatives”.
The cabinet minutes lack a definite declaration that Creek and his men were deployed, but Sheehan believes that, together with Creek’s account, they make a compelling case.”
We now have two eyewitness accounts, that of Frank Carney, a Pro-Treaty IRA and Irish National Army officer, and Percy Creek, a British artilleryman, along with contemporaneous British government papers, all strongly suggesting that the British participated directly in the Battle of the Four Courts in 1922. We also have the numerous claims and rumours reported in Dublin city and elsewhere from this period of British Forces acting on behalf of the Free State government.
The case for the prosecution would seem unanswerable.
Well there is no surprise in this tragic news. In fact observers have been predicting something along these lines for several months now. According to the news media a member of the British-run Northern Ireland Prison Service was killed in an ambush in County Armagh. So far reports are pointing towards an operation by Resistance Republicans, partly on the basis of briefings by the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland, who initially believed the incident was the result of a road accident.
From the Guardian newspaper:
“Dissident republicans are believed to have shot dead a Northern Ireland prison officer in a motorway ambush.
David Black, who had worked in the Northern Ireland Prison Service for more than 30 years and was nearing retirement, was shot dead on Thursday on the M1 between Lurgan and Portadown, in County Armargh.
In what has been described as an ambush, Black, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was killed after shots were fired into the car as he drove to work at the top security Maghaberry jail near Lisburn, Co Antrim, which holds several key republican dissident prisoners.
At first the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) thought the death was caused by a road crash and shut down the busy motorway shortly after 7.30am on Thursday.
When officers later examined the vehicle they realised that shots had been fired into his car, prompting it to go out of control and spin off the motorway at the M12 junction.
Both the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army targeted and killed prison officers during the long disputes in the jails climaxing in the 1981 hunger strike.
At present, Maghaberry – Northern Ireland’s maximum security prison on the outskirts of Belfast – is the focal point for ongoing protests by Continuity IRA and other dissident republican inmates. There is also widespread anger among those republicans opposed to Sinn Féin’s peace strategy about the continued incarceration of the Old Bailey bomber and IRA veteran Marion Price in a prison hospital.”
Though some reports are linking the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) to the attack little evidence has been presented so far. In fact the vehicle registration of the car used in the ambush was a Dublin one (pointing towards the Real Irish Republican Army or RIRA) and operationally the CIRA remains crippled by internal disputes. However all that is an aside.
The real issue here is the ongoing protests by political prisoners in the North of Ireland and the slow descent into violence and anarchy now gripping the prisons in that part of the country, all of which have led to the unfortunate death of prison officer Black. Over the last year human rights’ activists, journalists, politicians and many others have repeatedly warned that the deteriorating situation in the prisons, specifically the now infamous Maghaberry Prison, were building up a head of steam that would inevitably lead to violence. With a significant number of prisoners being forced to engage in de facto “dirty protests” to highlight the brutality of their treatment and the deplorable conditions they are being kept in no one should or can be surprised by the tragic incident in Armagh.
Unfortunately the majority of the British media, along with much of its Irish counterpart, has resolutely ignored the prison protests in the North of Ireland, simply refusing to address or highlight what is going on. Instead it has been left to a legion of freelance journalists, bloggers, activists and a growing number of Irish and US politicians to highlight the growing trouble.
Despite the limited reform of policing through the disbandment of Britain’s former paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland, the notorious RUC, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has largely escaped rehabilitation. Some officers with long records of misconduct and brutality were retained right into the “Peace Process era” and a few continue to serve in the same roles for which they previously gained such infamy. Even the smallest attempts at reform have been met with stubborn resistance, with Peter Robinson, the DUP leader and Joint First Minster of the North, threatening to wreck the entire Peace Process at the mere mention of prison warders receiving new apolitical hat badges!
In fact the only genuine reform of the Prison Service since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998 involved massive financial ”bribes” to encourage long serving officers into early retirement.
This institutionalised culture of violence towards political prisoners continues to operate within the Prison Service with only limited controls put in place to ameliorate it. Simply read this report by Emmet Doyle, published on the 22nd of October, both on his blog and on The Pensive Quill (and now reposted on many other sites). Doyle is a member of the SDLP, a political party that strongly disagrees with the tactics and strategy of the Resistance Republican movement, yet note his outrage and concern here:
“Last Thursday I again found myself in the bleak surroundings of Roe House, Maghaberry Prison. Pat Ramsey and I went to visit some of the men, including Gerry McGeough. I thought that the shell-chocking effect of the place had hit me hard my first few visits, and that I couldn’t be shocked any further. Boy was I mistaken.
Usually, we enter Roe at landing four, and enter the Recreation Room to meet individuals and groups. It is a much larger, cleaner and more modern space. Akin, strangely, to my old school canteen. Not this time. We were led by the SO upstairs, to Roe 3 as the Officers and external staff were cleaning the floor on Roe 4, as a result of the on-going protest, and given it was early in the morning, the stench was almost overpowering.
At the foot of the stairs were bags and bags of Acro – the organic absorbent compound used to soak up urine on the floors, which is then hoovered up. As we descended, the clean, modern façade of Roe began to fade away. What I can only describe as a total mess, was piled up outside a cleaners store just before the security gate. An iron, cables, it was like someone had fly-tipped in the middle of the hall. Granted, they were all on a shelf, which I could spot after about ten seconds of looking, but this is supposed to be a Category A facility where human beings were held, it was a total travesty.
At the top of the stairs and through the first door, we had to wait until the gate was opened by Officers clad in CSI-white overalls, walkie-talkies and batons. Once on the landing, we were led to the “classroom”. I use inverted commas, primarily because there is no way on earth the room we were led to could be said to be a classroom. Other than the electronic whiteboard on the wall and the whiteboard on the floor at the back of the room with Irish on it, the only other thing that was in the room was dirt.
The desks must have been brought in from Long Kesh, they were so old. The computers at the back of the room, though they looked relatively modern, were covered in cobwebs and debris. On the wall was a canvass picture – of a red telephone box and Big Ben – ironic, I thought.
We met Gerry first, as always in good spirits and friendly, despite the obvious hardship he has endured. We all spoke for about 40 minutes, then we met a few other men, all who raised issues about the primary issue coming out of Maghaberry at present – healthcare.
That is a conversation for another day. After the meetings had ended, we emerged from the cave which was deemed a classroom, and were once again on the landing, smell and spray [which has brought me out in a rash again this week] right in our faces. It was lunchtime, and the Officers set about going to give the men their plastic covered food.
Pat set off down the right side of Roe, seeking out two opened cells at the bottom of the wing – one cleaned, one dirty. I set out down the left side, seeking out the new machine that was being used below to clean the cells, which had been causing annoyance to both staff and prisoners as it was used in conjunction with a diesel generator, and the fumes in such an enclosed area were not pleasant.
I couldn’t get downstairs, but I asked one of the officers to go down and see if he could get me the name of the machine, its make, serial number, any markings on it. He re-appeared a few minutes later, but with no information. I wasn’t leaving without it.
Pat came back up the landing from one of the dirty cells, shaking his head. I had caught a glimpse of the cell on way down to see if I could get downstairs, and would be lying if I said I wasn’t physically afraid of going to look into it.
When we were ‘spun out’ of the landing [the process whereby one officer has to radio another officer in another part of the building to release the turnstiles to let us out] we went back downstairs, though locked back from the landing on Roe 4. I asked to see the SO, to get the information I had sought about this machine, while making notes about the cleaning products and absorbent material being used for the protest clean-up. Again, no joy.
Surprisingly, and I have to give credit where it is due – one of the external workers, about my age, came right up to the gate and asked what I was looking for – I repeated, the name, serial number, model of the new cleaner – and he came back a few minutes later with the information on a post-it.
As we left, escorted by an Officer to the exit of the compound, that feeling of not wanting to leave but impatient to get out of the harrowing building again visited me, and Pat also, as it always did. As we walked up the driveway towards the main gate, the follow-up plans flowed, as they always did, what was next to address the issues raised, which family members did we need to phone.
Let no-one tell you that the men there, and indeed all prisoners regardless of colour, creed or nationality have no-one standing up for them in the Assembly – because we left the Quakers after a near two-hour visit to Roe and after getting our first food of the day (and toilet break given we are not permitted to use facilities in the prison) and drove straight to Parliament Buildings to address what we could from there.
I know that eight or nine Deputies are to visit Roe within the coming weeks – something made possible by the changing of prison rules that we had worked on for months to allow TDs equal access to Northern prisons as MLAs and MPs have. That will be important for all in Roe – to know that honourable men and women North and South have not forgotten.
I’ll finish by saying the intense itching in the car to Stormont and the rash and boils underneath my beard following the visit as a result of the spray, have now ceased, but I don’t know how they do it.
“A Day In Maghaberry Prison
Its 27th September about 5 o’clock in the morning I am lying in my cell nervously thinking about the day ahead.
Today I am in court and with court comes the brutal, degrading and humiliating tactic of the forced strip search of Republican prisoners. This is not my first time being brought to court so I know what lies ahead. My heart beats faster and faster I can actually hear it pumping through my chest as thoughts of what I am about to receive run through my mind. I might be worried but at the same time I know I wont comply to these bitter heartless torturers.
The next few hours seem to drag in then about 7 o’clock the alarm bells ring throughout the wing, they couldn’t be any louder. I lift myself up into a sitting position and stretching myself out I look into corner of the cell and see last nights dinner I had thrown it there as it wasn’t edible.
Looking on the floor beside my bed I see my breakfast, a small packet of Alpen and a half carton of milk, the screws [prison officers] had threw it into my cell the night before knowing I was for court this morning. I eat this and when finished I keep the spoon as I will need it later. I rip up the plastic container it came with and the milk carton and I throw them out the window, this procedure happens with the three daily meals, it stops them from using the containers and cutlery over and over again and it also leaves the outside of the Republican wing looking like a rubbish dump which annoys the administration as they have to pay industrial cleaners every so often to come in and clean it up.
I can hear the cleaners outside with big hoovering machines cleaning up the mess we had made by pouring the stuff threw the doors last night. I realise I had better go to the toilet quickly before they come and get me for court. The toilet consists of a sheet of newspaper on the ground and an empty half carton of milk, out the window the urine goes and onto the wall the rest of it goes. Its not a nice thing to be spreading this onto the wall first thing in the morning, not a nice thing to be doing anytime of the day but we have no other choice the administration has forced us into this position but at least today there is room to spread it, my cell was cleaned for the first time 2 weeks ago, before that the four walls were covered top to bottom with a double coat of excrement as well as the ceiling. The ceiling isn’t accessible to all the prisoners as height comes into play here. To cover the ceiling it entails stacking a load of newspapers on top of the plastic chair we have or placing your brown bag of clothes on top of the chair and standing on it, it takes good balance as it is awkward but it is a good feeling knowing that the person cleaning it with the power hose will be finding it difficult to dodge the waste coming down on him from the ceiling.
Shortly after the door opens and there they stand. The riot squad. These are the hateful rats that work our landing every single day. There are four of them “shower, you’re for court” one of them snarls. I walk out carrying my towel, toothbrush/paste and soapbox, one of them takes these from me and searches through the towel and box, another searches me from head to toe while the other two just stand and stare at me with hate filled eyes. The four of them walk me the short distance to the showers, two to the front of me and two behind me, this is what they call controlled movement. No other prisoner will be out on the landing while another prisoner is on it and at all times he will have four of this riot team around him.
At the showers they throw a box at my feet with a brown paper bag on top, in this box we have our clean clothes, they don’t let us wear the clothes we have in our cells when we leave the landing as they say they are contaminated.
I take my clothes out of the box and lift the brown bag, they open the steel barred grille let me in and then lock it behind me. I’m only in a few minutes when one of them shouts “hurry up the bus is here” I take my time I’m in no rush for what lies ahead. I put the clothes I had wore leaving my cell plus the towel and toiletries into the brown paper bag I walk over to the grilles the same four are standing waiting. One takes the brown bag and searches it thoroughly while another searches me again from head to toe and the other two yet again just stare with their hate filled glare. “Right use the phone” one of them says I tell him that I can’t use the phone as my phone card is in my cell “not our problem” he says and I quickly realise that I wont get my 5 min phone call to my family today with that he turns to other members of the riot team who have now gathered at the reception desk “that’s him for the bus, he doesn’t want the phone” they all burst out laughing. Pathetic.
Four of them again walk me the short distance to the grilles that leads me off our landing and out into to the circle, through one gate and then another a short walk to the turn-style,through it and straight onto the bus at the entrance of Roe house. The engine starts and away we go. There is a small hole in the material used to blank out the window and as we go through the two large electronically controlled gates I can see we pass the search box. The search box contains the boss chair which is a body scanner that can detect objects hidden inside ones body they put us through this on our way back from visits so why cant they just put me through it now instead of driving straight by it and on to the reception area where a body search will be forced upon me by a five strong riot team.
My stomach is in knots as the van pulls up to the reception area. I’m brought into the reception area and asked immediately if I am going to comply with the strip search. My answer is no. They put me into a small room and tell me I have 15 minutes reflection time to think about it. “I don’t need it” I say but the door slams firmly shut. During this time I am pacing up and down the small room taking deep breaths and moving my arms and wrists in circular motions to loosen them up for the attack that lies ahead. After the allotted time the door opens and a governor walks in he asks me am I going to comply with the strip search, more determined than ever I repeat “no”, he asks is there anything he can do that will change my mind again I say no, “ok then” he says “I am going to order the search” and he walks out. Within seconds a five strong riot team rush through the door, one of them runs to the corner with a hand held video camera in his hand while two quickly rush me and grab my arms, they pull them straight out from my sides and twist my wrists, fingers and arms into some kind of martial art lock. A third grabs hold of my head and pushes it down to my chest whilst pushing me hard enough to force me to my knees.
Whilst on my knees my arms are outstretched in a crucifix type position and my wrists are twisted agonizingly upwards. The fourth member goes behind me and pulls my legs from the kneeling position while the third one forces my head to the floor, all the while the other two still have my arms, wrists and fingers in locks, I am now lying face flat on the floor two of the riot squad are on the ground with me still with my arms wrists and fingers in these painful locks. Again the fourth member of the team begins taking off my shoes and socks, he searches them and finds nothing, he then pulls off my jeans and underwear leaving me naked from the waist down, again he searches these and finds nothing, Then the third one lifts my head about 8 inches off the floor while the other two have my arms wrists and fingers still in locks then the one doing the stripping pulls off my t-shirt searches it and finding nothing, he throws it on top of me and the senior officer of the riot squad tells them one by one to pull out. The first to go is the one stripping me he is then followed by the one who is holding my head to the floor. This leaves three of them still in the room, one in the corner who has been videoing the whole ordeal and the other two who have my arms, wrists and fingers in locks. All of a sudden one of them starts shouting “stop resisting, stop resisting” I can’t move never mind resist and at this they systematically pull my arms up outstretched behind my back. I squeal in agony, I don’t know how to explain the position I am in because I don’t think it would be humanely possible to put ones body in this shape, I think my shoulders are going to pop out, I feel my wrists are at breaking point, I am still screaming in pain when they let me drop to the floor, “don’t get up till we leave the room” one of them says. I just lie there in agony but a sigh of relief comes over me, it was over, for now.
I get myself together and get on my feet I look at the door, the hatch is open and the one who had the camera is still videoing, I get dressed and the hatch slams shut. Within a minute the governor walks into the room “have you any complaints about the search?” he asks I say it was overly aggressive and uncalled for. “I’ll make a note of it” he says he leaves the room and a nurse enters “have you any injuries?” I just look at her, and she leaves. The screws at the door shout “lets go.”
I walk out to the reception area and there is the riot squad standing laughing, they all stand tall as if they had just carried out something to be proud of. I just look at them smirk and turn and walk to the front door.
Out we go and into the prison van for the short journey to Laganside courts in Belfast. Once there I am brought straight down to the cells and I wait to be called. Within the hour I am brought upstairs to the courtroom. I get to sit beside three of my friends who are in the dock with me, all four of us in court on trumped up charges placed against us by the RUC [PSNI]. Within minutes the judge adjourns it as the so called police witnesses haven’t appeared.
I shake hands with my friends and am lead back down to the cells. I am held here for a few hours. They bring me lunch, a sandwich and a packet of crisps and then its back onto the prison van and the same short journey back to Maghaberry.
The nerves in my stomach return again. I know they are waiting on me.
Back in reception the whole brutal procedure is repeated again.
I am in agonizing pain as I am brought back to Roe 4. I am lead straight to my cell by four of the riot squad. Two in front and two behind.
The cell door slams behind me. My dinner is already sitting on the bed, freezing cold potatoes and some kind of cheese and broccoli slice. I throw it behind the door and lie down on top of the bed and think about the day I’ve just had. I ask myself, why do they drive past the search box with the boss chair in it?
If they put us through the boss chair leaving Maghaberry then there would be no need for these brutal forced strip-searches. Then reality kicks in, it is all about power and control. I cant help but wonder what sort of person would you have to be to go to work every day and brutalise another human being ? A sick individual is my only conclusion.
As I lie there in thought my cell door opens “anything for the duty governor” one of them says, I don’t even lift my head to acknowledge him the cell door slams shut.
Its about half 6 now time to start the nightly building of the dam to block the door for when I put the stuff out later. Some skill is needed in mastering this art but within a few days I had it sussed.
When I need to go to the toilet later I will use the plastic spoon I saved from this morning from breakfast to mix it all together until it turns into a brown nasty liquid which I will be able to pour out onto the landing.We never get to see it but I would love to see the state of the landing and the mess they have to clean up after all the lads have emptied their mix out the doors. With this done and after a little bit of reading I close my eyes and settle down for the night. Tomorrow brings a new day and although we might be locked up 23 hours a day I will get to see my friends and comrades during that little bit of exercise time. This brings a smile to my face because despite the treacherous conditions we are forced to live in despite the brutal regime we are forced to endure, the craic and the spirit couldn’t be greater.
It fills me with great pride to play a small part in this phase of the prison struggle. We are more determined now than ever to see this protest through to the end and we will win. These men on dirty protest here in Maghaberry are brave men, these men are strong men but above all else these men are Irish Republicans.
Victory to the protesting prisoners in Maghaberry.
ALAN LUNDY, P.O.W
ROE 4, MAGHABERRY”
With such brutality and inhumanity inside the British-run prisons of the North of Ireland is it any wonder that it manifests itself outside as well? Throughout the last 150 years Irish political prisoners in British custody and the conditions they endure have been one of the dynamos driving revolutionary Republicanism in Ireland (and beyond). Today we see that same dynamic in effect once again.
A few weeks ago I linked to a review by the historian John M. Regan on the new publication “Terror in Ireland 1916-1923”, a collection of essays on various aspects of the Irish Revolution edited by David Fitzpatrick, where he expressed some concern at a number of inaccuracies or misinterpretations contained in the book. This has now been taken up by the writer and lecturer Niall Meehan in an article for the online Reviews In History, where he meticulously analysis the new work and finds some of it severely wanting. Meehan also questions the tone of much of the publication, some of which he regards as being decidedly hostile to any form of “violence” emanating from Irish combatants in the conflict while exhibiting a peculiarly indifferent or neutral attitude towards the “violence” of the British, be they state or state-backed combatants.
“Terror in Ireland, 1916–23 is the fifth Trinity College Dublin History Workshop publication. Edited by Professor David Fitzpatrick, who also contributes a chapter, this well-presented volume publishes research from 14 undergraduate and postgraduate students, doctoral researchers and established historians.
The book examines British and Irish violence (mainly the latter) from the 1916 Easter Rising through the Civil War. The terms ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’ are loosely, often selectively, applied. According to Fitzpatrick, ‘Terrorists are those who perpetuate any form of terror; Terrorism implies a sustained and systematic attempt to generate terror’ (p. 5). This conceptualisation is not so much taut as tautological. It is difficult to envisage military or quasi-military activity that does not induce terror among combatants and an affected civilian population. Brian Hanley’s compelling first chapter exposes the problems in Fitzpatrick’s construct. Hanley notes that even under current US State Department categorisations, IRA attacks on Bloody Sunday (21 November 1920) and at Kilmichael (28 November 1920) cannot be defined as terrorist (p. 11). Nevertheless, two chapters are devoted to Bloody Sunday and one to Kilmichael.
Throughout the collection republican forces are often ‘Irish terrorists’ or simply ‘the terrorists’. Their British opponents are not similarly identified, suggesting that the words have a pejorative rather than descriptive function. Drawing upon the work of the late Peter Hart (who died in 2010 at the age of 46), whose analysis ‘called into question the morality and sincerity of the republican movement’, the editor asserts that republicans set out ‘to threaten and marginalize “deviants” within the community that the terrorists claim to represent’ (p. 6). Their suspicions were ‘based on categorical assumptions’ (p. 4). As the volume is dedicated to Hart’s memory, Fitzpatrick is intent on defending his reputation from ‘outraged readers’ for whom ‘the integrity of the revolutionaries from 1916–21 was an article of faith’ (pp. 4, 6). The ‘article of faith’ formulation is carefully chosen.”
A significant part of “Terror in Ireland 1916-1923” is dedicated to defending the latterly discredited research and writing of the controversial Anglo-Canadian academic Peter Hart, whose works have become central to the ideology of a hardline rump of Neo-Unionist and Pro-British apologist writers and journalists in Ireland. Niall Meehan effectively demolishes the scant evidence clung on to by Hart’s supporters in his review of the chapter “Kilmichael Revisited: Tom Barry and the “False Surrender”” by Eve Morrison where she examines and restates the allegations made by Hart in his 1998 ideologue publication “The IRA and its Enemies, Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-23”.
Interestingly Morrison now finds herself at the centre of an academic storm with accusations being made against her by John Young, the son of Edward Young, an eyewitness participant in the Kilmichael Ambush, named in her essay. In an interview with the Irish edition of the Sunday Times newspaper (28th August, 2012) Young accuses Morrison of misrepresenting a phone conversation with him while researching the evidence given by Peter Hart in his original 1998 book and that her claims (made in Fitzpatrick’s new collection and online in a response piece for Reviews In History) are inaccurate. He has demanded a retraction or opportunity to correct the claims with an affidavit of his own to Reviews In History, so far without success.
It would seem that the curse of Peter Hart has stuck the academic world once again.