FREE STATE SHELLING OF THE FOUR COURTS COMMEMORATED IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

A crowd gathered in Dublin today to commemorate the Free State opening fire on the Four Courts on 28th August 1922, an event that began what is usually called “the Civil War” which lasted until 1923 (with State assassinations until 1924). The UK supplied the cannons and shells used by the Free State’s “National Army” along with munitions, including small arms and ammunition, armoured cars, army lorries and even coastal naval vessels. The conflict has also been called a “counterrevolution” and “the UK’s proxy war” with more Republicans executed by the new Irish State1 in that conflict than had been by the British State over the whole 1916-1921 period.

Section of NGA march outside Croppies’ Acre (Photo sourced: Internet)

One hundred years ago this month, the IRA under the command of Rory O’Connor occupied and fortified the Four Courts complex, last occupied as a fighting post during the 1916 Rising. The Anglo-Irish Treaty partitioning the country and giving the Free State the status of a Dominion country had been narrowly accepted by the delegates to the First Dáil, the Irish Parliament previously banned by the UK State. However by far the majority of the military part of the Irish resistance – the IRA, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna, along with the remnants of the Irish Citizen Army – were opposed to the Treaty. The occupation of the Four Courts was seen by the Free State government as a challenge to its authority and by the British Government as a threat of anti-colonial struggle being renewed. Both parties were hostile to any radical republican, socialist or socialist-republican program.

Free State Army attacking the Republican garrison of the Four Courts with artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire. (Photo sourced: Internet)

On 28th June the Free State opened fire from British cannon on the Four Courts from Bridge Street on the south side of the river and the Civil War – or Counterrevolution – had begun. By the time the Republicans conceded defeat (and some assassinations continued even after it officially ended) perhaps around 1,300 had been killed. From January 1922 to April 1924, according to the Republican Roll of Honour, 426 anti-Treaty Volunteers had been killed, some 25 of these died fighting British and Northern Irish forces. Most anti-Treaty dead were IRA Volunteers, but some were Na Fianna members and four were women of Cumann na mBan2.

Poster commemorating one of the Republicans killed by the Free State (Photo: D.Breatnach)
One of the commemorative posters attached to lampposts (Photo: D.Breatnach)

On the Free State side just under 800 died, of whom 488 fell in enemy action, others due to accidents or illness, while seven were executed having deserted to the Republican side. “To this total should be added a small number of police, including four from the Civic Guard (later renamed Garda Síochána), four from the Criminal Investigation Department and two from the Citizens’ Defence Force, who were killed from 1922-19243.”

The NGA rally, the MC (Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of the crowd at the rally outside the Four Courts (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Dorney remarks on omissions in the Last Post record and concludes: “Even allowing for this, though, the total of anti-Treaty IRA dead in the Civil War is not likely to be much more than about 500, of whom 81 died before Free State firing squads and more than 100 were summarily executed in reprisals.”

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many Irish Republicans also emigrated to avoid repression or because they were being denied employment.

The Irish State today is a direct descendant, legally and in other ways, of the Free State of 1922 and all periods since.

Senior Garda officer taking notes while speakers are addressing the crowd (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The commemorative event in Dublin today was organised by the National Graves Association (Cumann Uaigheanna na Laochra Gael), an organisation which since its founding in 1926 has been maintaining the graves of Irish patriots, arranging for the installation of gravestones, plaques and monuments and also organising commemorative events.

Before marching to the Four Courts, participants formed up in groups in the road outside Croppies’ Acre, a public park over a mass grave of victims of the English state’s repression of the United Irishmen and their supporters in 1798, now across the road from the Collins Barracks National Museum. They were led by a lone piper and colour party, followed by people in double ranks flying Starry Plough flags and carrying banners of history and conservation groups, along with some other flags, including that of Cumann na mBan.

Section of the lineup waiting to start, outside Croppies’ Acre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At the rally outside the Liffeyside of the Four Courts, the organisers had an MC with number of speakers to read out the 1922 Proclamation, the lyrics of The Soldiers of Twenty-Two4 and Tim Horgan to give a keynote oration. At least one floral wreath was laid in honour of those who fought there and a number of posters attached to lampposts commemorated the three Volunteers who were fatally wounded there: Thomas Wall, Joe Considine and Sean Cusack.

Reading the lyrics of Soldiers of Twenty-Two (Photo sourced: D.Breatnach)

It is almost certainly the case that it is the NGA which has erected the majority of patriotic struggle commemorative plaques around the country, with most of the remainder being organised by local authorities, local history groups and old comrades’ associations – a very small proportion being the work of the State. As stated on its website, the objectives of the Association have always been: to restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead from every generation; to commemorate those who died in the cause of Irish freedom; to compile a record of such graves and memorials.

The NGA’s general alignment is unequivocal: “Only a 32 County Irish Republic represents the true aspiration of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.5

Reading the 1922 Proclamation (Photo: D.Breatnach)

One might assume that every participant at the event today was of a definite political bent, yet not a single party or political organisation banner was to be seen on the march or at the rally. This is because participants were asked in advance not to bring any banners or placards of political organisational allegiance. As the Chairperson of the rally informed the audience, the NGA is not affiliated to any political party or organisation and furthermore does not accept contributions from any such nor from the State – in order to continue to guarantee the NGA’s independence. In fact, members of its governing body are not even permitted to belong to a political party. A senior Garda officer however, of least at Inspector rank, took down details in his notebook as the rally was addressed by speakers.

Main speaker, Tim Horgan (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Patriots of the United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Land League, na Fianna Éireann, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, IRA, Official and Provisional IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army etc have all been commemorated by the NGA. According to Wikipedia, since its founding, the NGA has erected, or accepted into its care, over 500 monuments and memorials throughout Ireland.

One of the participants takes a rest
Banner of one of the groups attending (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Some of those in attendance (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A number of other Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemorative and discussion events will be taking place at least during this year, two of which will take place next week (see photos of leaflet).

The Gardaí remained at the scene as people dispersed. Passing by again shortly afterwards, we found the floral wreath had been removed.

End.

Lowering of the flags in honour of the martyrs (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Civil War/ Counterrevolution commemoration (image: photograph of flyer)

Forthcoming talk (image: photograph of flyer)

FOOTNOTES

1Official executions are usually listed as 81 or 83, these having been subjected to some kind of military judicial process (but without any jury). However, apart from IRA fighters killed in battle, a number of captured combatants were murdered (such as those of the Ballyseedy Massacre on March 7th 1923) while known activists were assassinated by Garda-Army squads operating from Oriel House. Often, the murdered had been tortured first.

2 The Republican Roll of Honour, The Last Post.

3 https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/what-was-the-real-death-toll-of-the-irish-civil-war-1.4858308

4https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKOSCuLtlAY for a rendition of this song. It author seems unknown.

5From Wikipedia entry

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation

http://www.nga.ie/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Graves_Association

Ballyseedy Massacre: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/stories-of-the-revolution-ballyseedy-and-the-civil-war-s-worst-atrocity-1.2462070

Varadkar admitted those killed without trial had been murdered: https://www.thejournal.ie/free-state-executions-4387452-Dec2018/

Death toll: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/what-was-the-real-death-toll-of-the-irish-civil-war-1.4858308

PICKET PROTESTS ONGOING INTERNMENT WITHOUT TRIAL AND EXTRADITION OF IRISH REPUBLICANS

The Dublin Committee of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland held a picket yesterday to highlight the ongoing internment without trial of Irish Republicans and to protest the recent extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania, a country to which he has never been. The picket was held in Temple Bar, a tourist quarter of the Dublin’s south city centre.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)
(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

Afterwards, the AIGI issued the following report (reposted with kind permission): “Tourists, Irish shoppers and young people socialising in Dublin city centre were interested to see the banners and placards against internment in Ireland, along with a banner against extradition of Irish Republicans. They also noted the various placards of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and the flags of Palestine and the Basque Country, in addition to the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, representing three of the many nations holding political prisoners.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

Supporters distributed up to 200 leaflets and had a number of engagements with people wanting to know more. People were surprised and angry to learn that internment under another name continues in Ireland on both sides of the British Border.

A portable PA machine played resistance music and an AIGI speech from a previous public event which attracted some interest.

(Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

The AIGI’s Facebook page lists approximately 60 political prisoners held in Ireland, mostly in Portlaoise Prison in the Irish state and Maghaberry Jail in the British colony in the north-east of the country. All of those were convicted in special no-jury courts created for the purpose of sentencing political prisoners — i.e nearly always exclusively Irish Republicans. Frequently some charged and facing trial in those special courts are denied bail and are held in custody until their trial comes up, two or three years later and if then chance to be found ‘not guilty’, they will still have spent that time in jail. When granted bail on the other hand it is always under restrictive conditions that prevent them continuing their political activity: e.g night curfew, wearing an electronic tag, banned from attending political activities, etc.

Liam Campbell, an Irish Republican from Dundalk, Co. Louth, was extradited to Lithuania last week to face charges relating to trying to obtain arms in that country. Campbell says that he has never been in that country, which Lithuania and the Irish State both seem to accept yet, after a legal battle of almost 12 years up to the Irish Supreme Court, the Irish Republican was extradited. According to unconfirmed reports Campbell has been granted bail in Lithuania but under what conditions is currently unknown.

The group campaigning against what it sees as ongoing “internment by different names” developed from the campaign to free Marian Price around six years ago and, apart from monthly pickets, has also organised conferences and concerts and representatives have travelled to Belfast, Cork, Derry, Newry and Glasgow. The group has sent messages of solidarity to a Basque liberation group which was read out at the latter’s public event and also to the Mumia Al Jamal and Leonard Peltier campaigns in the USA, Munir Farooghi campaign in England (for which AIGI spoke at public meetings in Ireland), to prisoners in Turkey, Palestine and Latin America. Its street pickets, though legal, have frequently been subject to police harassment on both sides of the British Border — in the Irish state nearly exclusively by the plain-clothes political police, the Special Branch.

The picket yesterday in Temple Bar, view southward towards the Liffey River. (Photo source: Anti-Internment Group of Ireland)

The AIGI report concluded: The Anti-Internment Group of Ireland is a democratic group independent of any political party or organisation that holds monthly awareness-raising pickets, as well as a few special public events every year. It is organised by a democratic committee composed of people who attend our pickets and who would like to become involved in running the group.

NÍ NEART GO CUR LE CHÉILE. AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.

End.

Contact link for the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/Anti-Internment-Group-Of-Ireland-581232915354743/

DEATH OF A RETIRED WARRIOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 12 mins.)

In mid-April (2022) Gardaí, the police force of the Irish State, broke down the door of Mick Plunkett’s home. They would not have been able to claim he resisted their entry or arrest (the usual explanation for injuries on the detained individual) – he was already dead. To be fair to them, this time they were forcing entry in response to concerns from people that Plunkett had not been seen and wasn’t answering calls. Still, Mick Plunkett’s door had been forced by police a number of times before – by the Special Branch, at least once by the Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ and another time by the special ‘anti-terrorist’ Paris police.

Mick was born into a working class family of ten siblings in Dún Laoghaire, in Kelly’s Avenue in the small area of council houses built for rent to the seaward side of the town’s main road (without however overlooking the sea itself, a view reserved for the big houses and hotels, later somewhat ruined by the DART wires and towers). Dún Laoghaire1, long-imagined as a area in which only the affluent or at least comfortably-off lived, nevertheless contained such council (formerly ‘Corporation”) houses in the nearby bottom of York Road, also Cross Avenue, Glasthule, Carriglee Gardens, Monkstown Farm and Sallynoggin areas.

As many of that era, especially among manual workers, Mick’s father died relatively young which left his widow Lilly to care for ten children with all siblings able to work and find employment contributing to the care of the rest.

Mick followed his father Oliver into a skilled manual worker trade, trained and qualified as a gas fitter-plumber and, by reputation, a good one; later he would often carry out repair jobs for neighbours free of charge or in exchange for fish caught nearby or by trawlers that docked in the harbour. “We saw and ate fish that many other people never saw,” said one of his sisters at his funeral reception in the evening.

Amidst the student and youth upsurge of the 1960s around the world, of which Ireland was also a part, many Irish youth of the time became rapidly politicised. The Vietnam War, Black struggles in the USA and South Africa, Civil Rights in the British colony, lack of sufficient housing in the Irish state (just as today!) were issues that engaged lively interest and which to people like Plunkett, called for solidarity and, in Ireland, direct action. At his funeral, Niall Leonach2, formerly of the IRSP, related how Plunkett, at the age of 17, had resisted the neglect of the young apprentices by his union and won improvements by organising a sit-in at the union’s office.

April 1991 article Evening Mail on conditions in the Glasthule Housing Estate (Source image: CATU)

HOUSING AND HISTORY

The Dublin and Bray Housing Action Committees were campaigning for an end to slums and affordable rental housing around the city and Dún Laoghaire soon had its own Housing Action Committee too. Nial Leonach, former comrade of Plunkett’s told the mourners at Mount Jerome that a large public housing building program was initiated as a result of this campaigning, a program that not only replaced derelict inner city tenements but created large new housing areas such as that in Ballybrack in south county Dublin.

The Housing Action campaigns not only squatted homeless families, they also fought evictions, held marches and public meetings. And in at least one case, became involved in a struggle for historical building conservation.

A Dún Laoghaire IRSP public agitation and information post pictured in the IRSP’S Newspaper (Source image: CATU).

The Dún Laoghaire group joined with conservationists wishing to save Frescati House, a large derelict building on acreage of the property planned by Roches Stores to demolish and convert into a shopping centre. The original building dated from 1739 but had been purchased by the largest landowning family in Ireland at the time, the Fitzgeralds and had wings added and the grounds planted with exotic shrubs. The house had been the childhood residence and favoured retreat of Edward Fitzgerald3, a much-loved leader of the first Irish Republican revolutionary movement, the United Irishmen, as late as 1797, the year before their Rising.

The figures heading the campaign were not only conservationists but fairly conservative too (Desmond Fitzgerald, son of a father of the same name who was Minister in a number of Fine Gael governments, was its chairperson). But it was of course the activist supporters of the DHAC who occupied the building in protest at plans for demolition and were subjected to a baton-wielding police attack to evict them.4

Niall Leonach told the crowd in the Mount Jerome chapel that the criminal charges against the arrested were serious but that as a result of Plunkett’s stratagem of issuing a subpoena for Liam Cosgrave5 to appear as witness for their defence, for the politician had been part of the conservation campaign, the more serious charges were dropped and, on the lesser ones, the penalties were lower-scale fines.

Much of DHAC soon became the Markievicz Cumann of Sinn Féin6, then a very socialist Irish Republican party, particularly in Dublin. The Civil Rights campaign in the British colony of the Six Counties became a focus for activity and Leonach told his audience that Plunkett had been particularly affected by the colonial police killing of a child by indiscriminate fire from machine-guns at a nationalist housing estate, the Divis Flats.

In 1969 the IRA, the military wing of Sinn Féin, was caught unprepared and largely unarmed to face the pogroms in the British colony, which was one of the reasons for the 1970 split in the party, out of which emerged the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin.

Plunkett and others in the Markievicz Cumann, the three Breatnach brothers for example7, viewing the Provos as socially conservative, remained in what was now known as “Official Sinn Féin” but tried to change their party’s direction. Failing in that, they split, along with others such as the charismatic Séamus Costello8 and formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.

It seems clear that the ruling elite of the Irish State viewed the IRSP and the associated INLA as a threat and decided to go beyond the standard and regular harassment, intimidation and petty and medium arrests9 with which they had been treating all Irish Republicans and some socialist activists.

FRAMED IN DUBLIN AND IN PARIS

On 31st March 1976 the Cork-Dublin mail train was stopped near Sallins, Co. Kildare and around £200,00010 was netted by armed men. The State decided to believe, at least officially that the operation had been carried out by the INLA and armed police raided the homes of 40 members of the IRSP and their families. The Gardaí beat up their victims and obtained “confessions” from a number of them – however, some who gave self-incriminating statements could not have been present and their prosecutions were dropped.11 Eventually, a trial in the political Special Criminal Court proceeded against Plunkett and another three IRSP members: Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally.

Poster supporting the four framed and on trial for the Sallins Mail Train Robbery, depicting Mick Plunkett on far right of images. (Source image: Internet)

After many abuses of the legal system and the longest judicial procedure in the State, three of the four were convicted on the basis of their tortured “confessions” which they had denied. Forensic “evidence” was provided against the only one who had refused to sign a “confession” – an alleged lock of Plunkett’s hair12 was claimed to have been found at the scene of the robbery; that was insufficient and Plunkett was finally discharged. The others were released after years of campaigning13 and were paid a financial compensation but an official enquiry into the arrests, trials and convictions was never held and currently a campaign for such is underway.14.

Mick Plunkett remained politically active but after his arrest in the vicinity of an armed training camp was charged with “membership” and scheduled to appear before the Special Criminal Court. Plunkett, knowing the chances of acquittal in “the Special” were next to nil, decamped to France.

In Paris he and Mary Reid, a poet-activist and also formerly of the IRSP, shared accommodation. In the summer of 1982, their door was kicked down by armed police of the new special “anti-terrorist” French unit. Both were arrested, along with another Irishman Stephen King and charged with possession of automatic weapons and explosives. This followed the bombing of a delicatessen in the Jewish quarter of the city which was later revealed to have had police complicity.

Plunkett, Reid and King were accused of being part of an Irish-Palestinian cell, a figment of the special unit’s imagination. All three denied the charges and the accusation and the existence of such a cell, insisting that if any weapons and explosives had been found in their accommodation, it had been planted there by the police. Niall Leonach commented to the mourners in Mount Jerome that Plunkett had gone from being involved in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the Irish state to being accused in the greatest miscarriage of justice in the French State’s modern history.

Fortunately for the Irish accused, the special police unit was in serious conflict with the main police force and that helped bring to public view the fact that the armaments had, indeed, been planted on the accused by the “anti-terrorist” police unit. All three were released after nine months in jail and Mary Reid’s nine-year-old son Cathal had been taken into care. The whole case was by then such as to convince the Irish state authorities to refrain from severely embarrassing their French counterparts by requesting Plunkett’s extradition to face his charges in the Special Criminal Court.

FRANCE – OCTOBER 05: Michael Plunkett, Mary Reid, Stephen King in Vincennes, France on October 05th , 1983. (Photo by Eric BOUVET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images). Note poster of the Sallins Trial behind them.

Working in London at the time, I read the news about the arrests of Irish political activists in Paris and was shocked to see names I recognised. I remembered the last time I had seen Mick; I had been back in Dún Laoghaire on holiday and with four of my brothers we set off in Mick’s brother Jimmy’s rowing boat from a pier, Mick himself in it too. We had fishing rods and lines and began to fish as we cleared the harbour. Hours later as the sun dropped to the west, we turned back with our varied catch. Once inside the harbour it was quite dark and a large ship entering the harbour appeared to be bearing down on us and we couldn’t find our flashlight. The incident provided more excitement than we had wished for but seemed to give extra taste to the pints in the local pub afterwards.

Mick found happiness for a time with Tracy out of which union came their daughter Natacha. After the Good Friday Agreement Mick felt safe to returned to Ireland but Tracy remained in Paris with their daughter, Natascha visiting him and his extended family by arrangement on occasion. Plunkett seemed to have retired from political activity and had also withdrawn from social contact with many of his former contacts. His health deteriorated significantly but nevertheless his death came as something of a shock to many.

Mick Plunkett’s coffin at the funeral parlour, officiated by his daughter Natacha. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Many came to pay their respects at the funeral parlour where his coffin lay and to watch the wonderful collection of photos collected by his ex-partner, Tracy. His daughter Natacha was there to receive condolences and to offer shots of Irish whisky over the coffin (where tobacco roll-ups were also placed irreverently on the crucifix attached to the woodwork – Mick was reportedly an atheist). Natacha was also at the cremation service in Mount Jerome cemetery with her mother Tracy, where Plunkett’s coffin was covered in the blue version of the Starry Plough flag15 before being removed from the hearse, carried by relations and with the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, in uniform and white gloves, providing a small ceremonial guard of honour.

Mick’s nephew Karl chaired the event and in turn called Jennifer Holland to give a short talk on Mick and his times followed by Niall Leonach, former General Secretary of the IRSP and close comrade of Plunkett’s, for a longer oration on Mick’s background and activism.

Karl provided many personal anecdotes from his association with his uncle and from within family stories, many of them amusing and some hilarious. He did not however avoid the political and recounted that many of them were kept unaware of the reasons for Mick’s absence and his apparent inability to travel back to Ireland even to visit. It was by going through some papers in his mother’s room that he came across the IRSP pamphlet on the Sallins case and was shocked; confronting his mother, the story began to be told.16

Recollecting the family’s trip to Paris to present two children for baptism in Notre Dame Cathedral which Mick attended, Karl spoke about their warm reception there and being touur-guided around by Plunkett, who had acquainted himself with much of the city’s history. One wonders whether that included the “Wall of the Communards” where in 1871, revolutionaries of the Paris Commune were summarily executed by French firing squads under the command of Marshall Patrice McMahon, descendant of Irish “Wild Geese” refugees from Williamite-controlled Ireland. Plunkett would hardly have been unaware of that history and its irony for the Irish.

The hearse carrying Mick Plunkett’s coffin arrives at Mt. Jerome cemetery, escorted by guard of honour supplied by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee (the photo is from their FB page).

SOCIAL, SONG AND FLAG

Later that evening in a large reserved section of the Rochestown Lodge Hotel (formerly the Victor Hotel) just above the large Sallynoggin housing estate, mourners and celebrants gathered to eat, drink and talk. Some had not seen one another for decades. Among the many reminiscences of the social and music scene in Dún Laoghaire in the later decades of the last century, including the remark that “our harbour is a marina now”, one of Mick’s sisters spoke of raids by the Special Branch on their family home, where children would be ordered or pulled out of bed and the mattresses and beds tipped over, allegedly searching for weapons.

Strangely perhaps, there was no performance of musicians or singers or even sing-alongs at the event, though the traditional song The Parting Glass was sung to Plunkett’s daughter Natacha and a small unexpecting audience on the covered patio outside. Later inside, by which time some had left and following a query about a ceramic badge of the Starry Plough worn by one those remaining, a whole length of the original green-and-gold version of the flag was unfurled, causing much interest and queues forming asking to be photographed behind it. And a little later, a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? to much applause.

Securing the Starry Plough flag to the coffin on the shoulders of relatives of Mick Plunkett, about to be carried into Mt. Jerome’s chapel for a non-religious remembrance event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

This was fitting for as the mourners had been reminded in Mount Jerome, Connolly17 had been a great inspiration to Mick Plunkett’s political activism and to the IRSP too. But not only that, for a building in Dublin city centre, formerly a hostel but empty for many years and very recently occupied by socialist Republicans in Dublin had been named Connolly House and had that very day witnessed a rally held outside it to resist a threatened Garda operation to evict the occupants.

It seemed to me that something other than the remembrance of a retired fighter alone had happened at the Plunkett memorial events, something more than the appropriate marker of a past and finished period in Irish history, as had been suggested by Holland in her oration. It seemed to me that the history of struggle in Ireland for national self-determination and social justice had to an extent been re-invoked, that it appeared to some extent as the ghost of struggles past but also as the gaining substance of struggles present and, in particular, yet to come. I think Mick would have been pleased and, in any case, in defiance of the declarations of Fukuyama and such idealogues, history is nowhere near finished or dead. As some have commented, it is not even past.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A harbour town seven miles south of Dublin city centre, in Dublin County but administered by DL-Rathdown Council for some years now.

2Which I heard pronounced as “Lennox”.

3He is more usually referred to as “Lord Edward Fitzgerald” which, apart from being somewhat historically inaccurate, does him a service. He was a republican, renounced his title and his sister Lucy said of him some years after his death in prison that “He was a paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.”

4The Wikipedia entry on Frescati House and the campaign makes no mention at all of this sit-in, Garda attack or the subsequent court cases, of which there is ample documentary evidence. Hopefully someone will undertake its appropriate updating.

5Liam Cosgrave was a Fine Gael politician, son of the Leader of the Irish parliamentary Opposition from 1965 to 19873 and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1973 to 1977, W.T Cosgrave.

6The Sinn Féin party has gone through many metamorpheses, from being a reformist dual-monarchy party, to revolutionary republican to constitutionalist. Constance Markievicz was a socialist Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising as an officer in the Irish Citizen Army – the name of a socialist revolutionary woman chosen for the cumann (‘association’, a branch of the SF party at the time) indicated an inclination towards revolution, feminism and socialism.

7Osgur, Caoilte and Oisín.

8Séamus Costello (b. 1939) was murdered by the Official IRA in Dublin on 5th October 1977.

9An example of the medium-seriousness was the charge of “membership of an illegal organisation” under the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, introduced in 1972 which required only the unsupported word of a Garda officer at rank of superintendent or above for conviction and a virtually automatic jail sentence of one to two years.

10€237,389.81 –without taking into account inflation — for today’s value

11Notably John Fitzpatrick, who years later publicly challenged the State to charge him with the offence to which he had “confessed” – there was no response.

12If it had been Plunkett’s hair, it had to have been planted by the Heavy Gang, since Mick had been nowhere near that scene and, in fact, the robbery had been carried out by the Provisional IRA. In addition, without the later development of DNA testing, all a sample of hair could tell, apart from its natural colour, was the blood-type of its owner.

13Some of those involved at the time, whether as victims or as campaigners, were present at some of the funeral events too, including Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Caoilte and Peetera Schilders-Bhreatnach.

14https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

15The flag with a design in the shape of the constellation known as Ursa Mayor was of the Irish Citizen Army, formed to defend the workers during the strike and 8-month lockout of 1913 and later fought in the 1916 Rising. Originally the design was of the constellation in white or silver overlaid by the depiction of a plough in gold, with sword as the plough-share and all on a green background. A later version was the plain blue one with Ursa Mayor outlined in white stars. That version was the one in use by the short-lived Republican Congress of the 1930s and was for many years later, probably up to the end of the century, the main one displayed and therefore familiar to Republicans and socialists (even for years flown by the Irish Labour Party) but has now been largely supplanted by the original green version.

16This is not at all an unusual experience in Ireland and, whether by desire to protect the young, pain of reminiscence or even disapproval, much of our history has been concealed from generations for a time or even completely lost.

17James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, song-writer and one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, was tried by British military court for his leading role in the Rising and executed by firing squad.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

https://rip.ie/death-notice/michael-mick-plunkett-glasthule-dublin/494040

Edward Fitzgerald a republican: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/praise-the-lord-and-pass-the-egalitarianism-1.1534895

Frescati House (with the curious omission at the time of access of the DHAC sit-in, police attack and subsequent trials): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frescati_House

Call for enquiry into the Sallins case: https://sallinsinquirynow.ie/

Civil and human rights criticism of the Special Criminal Court: https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

Mary Read & Paris frame-up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Reid_(activist)
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/socialist-republican-and-poet-with-a-big-heart-1.349096
https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0325/1126344-1982-irish-republicans-france-mitterrand-vincennes/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallins_Train_robbery
Sallins frame-up: https://www.rsvplive.ie/news/irish-news/1976-sallins-robbery-saw-nicky-25971809
https://www.thewhistleblower.ie/booking
https://extra.ie/2022/01/17/news/irish-news/hunger-striker-nicky-kelly

UP LIKE A BIRD – a review

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

He planned the spectacular helicopter escape from Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail and, a year later, planned another escape from there, blasting their way out with smuggled-in explosives. Before he began planning escapes, he operated early in his IRA career as commander of an armed robbery unit, ‘fund-raising’ for the Movement. But when he began robbing banks for himself and his family, the Movement sent assassins to kill him. Up Like a Bird is the story of that man, Brendan Hughes, nowhere near as celebrated as his other IRA namesake but certainly deserving of much more fame than he has received to date.

Brendan Hughes with his book outside Mountjoy Jail (Image sourced: Phoenix Magazine)

Douglas Dalby’s handling of Hughes’ reminiscences, told in Hughes’ voice, is masterly. The book reads like a thriller, hard to put down; we are driven to turn the next page to see what will happen – even when, through history, we know the eventual outcome. We know, for example, that the helicopter escape was carried out and yet, as readers, we tense as Hughes does his investigations, tense tighter as he identifies the components of the plan, moan with frustration at a delay or last-minute hitch, hold our breaths as the action takes place.

The helicopter escape was carried out on 31st October 1973 and from the prison exercise yard three high-level IRA officers were flown to freedom: Chief of Staff Séamus Twomey and senior Volunteers JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon. The following year, on 18th August 1974, 19 prisoners escaped, blasting their way through a gate with a small amount of smuggled gelignite. Not only had Hughes planned that operation – he himself was leading the escapers.

INSIGHTS

Apart from the excitement in reading, the book gives us an insight into the world of IRA volunteers active in Dublin and surrounding areas in the 1970s – the ‘safe-houses’ and network of active supporters, the ‘fund-raising’, stolen getaway cars, false identification documents, high-level awareness of the hunted, carrying concealed weapons, the even better-armed police ….

The Mountjoy helicopter escape revealed something even more important and enduring – the cultural bedrock within the Irish state, the sharp division between the elite and the mass. Although the majority of politicians had voted in 1972 for repressive legislation against Republicans and special no-jury courts to sentence them, a song celebrating the escape reached No.1 in the Irish singles disc charts, selling 12,000 copies in the first week despite being banned by the national broadcaster, RTÉ! Composed by Sean McGinley from Castlefin, Co. Donegal and performed by the folk and ‘rebel song’ band The Wolfe Tones1, Up and Away (the Helicopter Song) became the most-played and most-purchased disc for four weeks until nudged out by Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody. It is tempting to think that if the escape had taken place a longer period before the approach of the festive season, that the recording might have remained at the top of the charts for months on end. The counterposing of the anger and embarrassment in elite circles, reflected in ranting of politicians, Garda sweeps and raids and media outrage on the one hand, with the delight and empathy at the lower levels revealed much of the tensions in Irish society and the opposing sympathies of different social classes.

The single that sold 12,000 copies in its first week, containing a jocular song celebrating the helicopter escape. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hughes was a maverick, revelling in the description and though for much of his career that was of value to the Provos, there came a time when it ceased to be so. A guerrilla army must have discipline, of course but it also needs volunteers who can quickly assess a situation and seize the initiative, without referring back to the command structure. The balance between both requirements must be very hard to strike — for individuals as well as for the organisation.

When he and other such activists fell out with their leaderships or “went solo”, they were shunned or worse. In Hughes’ final spell in Mountjoy jail, he was on the “non-aligned” wing of the jail, a Republican prisoner but not under Republican leadership control.

ISOLATION

Hughes says that assassins were sent to kill him – he stayed low and carried a loaded .44 Magnum. The leadership of the Republican movement does not always shoot or beat up its dissidents – more usually, it seeks to isolate them. Friends, neighbours, former comrades and even relatives will be advised to shun those no longer welcome, they and their families.

The family feeling, the communal solidarity in the movement becomes its opposite when the leadership brands its pariahs.

Cover of the book (Image credit: Siopa Gaeilge)

Hughes feels he was betrayed to the political police, the Special Branch of the Irish State. But what he says he felt the worst was the treatment of his family while he was in jail. No space on a Republican prison visitor communal transport was made available to his wife and children and cars containing former friends and acquaintances would pass them at the side of the road, even in the rain.

It seems Hughes finds that unforgivable — and no wonder.

As a postscript, Hughes surprisingly declares his support for the Good Friday Agreement, the pacification process. He had been a man of action and, as he said himself, not one for thinking through ideology or politics. But it doesn’t take any great grasp of ideology or politics to see that today it’s more or less business as before in a partitioned Ireland occupied by a foreign power.

End.

UP LIKE A BIRD, Hughes, Brendan; Dalby, Douglas (2022)

FOOTNOTES

1Named after Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of Irish republican revolutionary organisation the United Irishmen, died in prison in 1798.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Helicopter_Song

SUBJECTED TO A MEDIA DISINFORMATION ONSLAUGHT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 12 mins.)

Yes, indeed, we have been. Let us look back over the campaign of misinformation about conflict in Ireland for it has much to teach us about the mass media, about human credulity. We don’t need to go back over 800 years – just to the recent the 30-Year War.

In 1968 a civil rights campaign1 took off in the British Six-County colony in Ireland to include a number of marches and sit-ins, which was regularly met with violence from Loyalist2 mobs and the State. As part of the campaign, in 1969 a march from Belfast to Dublin was organised under the slogan “Civil Rights – North and South”. One of that march’s stops was in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where the marchers sat at a crossroads and were instantly attacked by the armed British colonial police (then the RUC3, now the PSNI).

Some of the marchers had come from Britain to support the campaign and after being attacked in Lurgan, they bought an English newspaper to see whether the incident had been reported. An occurrence in the town had been reported alright but not what had occurred – the report told their readers that a fight between Catholics and Protestants had been broken up by the RUC, keeping the two sides apart. “There wasn’t a Protestant in sight,” commented a marcher angrily, “except those in RUC uniform …. or unless he was one of us4.”

Later that year, in August, the RUC killed four civilians, including a child, in the Divis Flats area of Belfast by firing at the area with a machine-gun mounted on an armoured car. Their claim they were returning fire from the area was widely refuted by local people but repeated in the media. The incident was not investigated until decades later when the claims of family and local witnesses were vindicated in an Ombudsman’s report.

The representation of the RUC as a force for peace between two groups in a sectarian conflict was to be a repeated media disinformation line through the ongoing conflict, as the struggle became an armed one — although to a large degree the honest broker ‘peacemaker’ cloak shifted from the colonial police on to the British Army.

British troops were sent in to the colony (by a Labour Government, in case we had illusions) in August 1969 and were initially greeted by many people in the ‘nationalist’5 community as saviours, sent to keep the sectarian RUC and Loyalist mobs (often enough amounting to the same thing) away from them. Most politicians and the media represented them as peace-keepers. For most nationalists the illusions did not last long as the Army turned their guns on them.

Although no British soldier had been killed in the Six Counties by the IRA as yet6, on 3rd July 1970 the British Army invaded the staunchly nationalist area of the Lower Falls and forced their way into homes, saying they were searching for arms. Local youths mobilised and attacked the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs7. The soldiers responded by pumping CS gas into the area and soon gun-battles between the IRA and the British Army broke out.

After four hours of continuous clashes, the British commander sealed off the area, which comprised 3,000 homes, and imposed a curfew which would last for 36 hours. Thousands of British troops moved into the curfew zone and carried out house-to-house searches for weapons, while coming under intermittent attack from the IRA and rioters. The searches caused much destruction, and a large amount of CS gas was fired into the area. Many residents complained of suffering abuse at the hands of the soldiers. On 5 July, the curfew was brought to an end when thousands of women and children from Anderstonstown8 marched into the curfew zone with food and other supplies for the locals.

During the operation, four civilians were killed by the British Army, at least 78 people were wounded and 337 were arrested. Eighteen soldiers were also wounded. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were (allegedly – DB) captured. The British Army admitted afterwards that some of its soldiers had been involved in looting.’9

Mural on the Falls Road depicting Andersonstown women breaking the British cordon, Falls Curfew, 1970 (Source photo: Wikipedia)
Cutting of unknown newspaper report displaying misrepresentation of the struggle, despite being friendly towards the women who broke the British Army siege of the Falls Road, July 1970.
(Source photo: Step Back Ireland)

At the time, most of the media reported the clashes as unruly elements irrationally attacking the Army who were there to protect them and were only doing their job. However, the opinion of the nationalist community, though ignored by the media had undergone a huge shift and the first serving British soldier (of many to follow) was killed by the IRA the following year.10

Later in 1970, during riots in Derry, the Army shot two men from the nationalist area, Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie, claiming afterwards that they were armed, a claim local people denied. There was no investigation by the authorities, obliging the constitutionalist SDLP11 to withdraw from the colony’s parliament in protest.

On 4th December 1971, an explosion in the Catholic-owned McGurk’s Bar in Belfast killed 15 people and injured 16. Due to the bar’s ownership and location, the most logical attribution would be to Loyalists or British forces. It would be hard to pin it on the IRA – unless it could be said to have been an accidental explosion of an IRA bomb during storage or transportation. That was what the “security forces” came up with, which of course was repeated by the media. An alternative media theory was that in some manner it was a result of a feud between the Official and Provisional IRA. In order to construct that theory, the denials of the IRA had to be discounted12, despite the organisations’ track record of taking public responsibility for its actions.

The explosion had occurred in the pub’s doorway, which would have thrown doubt on the “IRA bomb in transit” story but somehow, the RUC’s forensic examination did not determine that. But even worse, the evidence of an eyewitness had to be dismissed.

On 6 December, however, the RUC took a witness statement from an 8-year-old boy. He said that a car had stopped outside the pub with four men inside and “a wee Union Jack stuck in the back window”. He said one left a package in the Great George’s Street doorway and ran back to the car, which sped off just moments before the package exploded. A man and a woman backed up his story, although they did not witness as much as the boy.13

In March 1976 the RUC received intelligence that linked UVF member Robert Campbell and four others to the McGurk’s bombing. Campbell was arrested on 27 July 1977 and held at Castlereagh RUC base. He was interviewed seven times during 27 and 28 July. He admitted his part in the bombing but refused to name the others. Campbell’s story matches that given by the young boy witness.’14

On 29 July 1977, Campbell was charged with the 15 murders and 17 attempted murders and in September 1978 pleaded guilty to all charges (he also had a separate conviction for the murder of a Protestant delivery driver in 1976). He eventually served fifteen years in prison, being released on 9th September 1993.15

Local people searching in the rubble of McGurk’s Bar after the bombing by Loyalists killing 15 but which was blamed on the Republican armed organisations. (Photo credit: AP)

Despite the 1978 convictions and even Campbell’s confessions, the “own goal bomb” theory of responsibility lingered and relatives sought for years to have the case properly investigated, some also alleging that the RUC had colluded in helping the killers get away out of the area and in the false atrributions later, possibly even with the intention of setting the two IRA organisations at one another’s throats.

In what has become a depressingly familiar story, the relatives campaigned on in the face of police inaction and media disinterest for years, during which many of the directly-affected died through natural causes, to receive partial vindication at last in an Ombudsman’s report which laid the blame squarely on a Loyalist gang and castigated the RUC for a biased and inadequate investigation. The report was published in February 2011– it had taken the campaigners only 40 years16.

The introduction of internment without trial in August 1971 was, according to the media, a necessary measure to deal with political violence from all sides. Not one Loyalist was arrested that year, or the next and it was not until 1973 that a single Loyalist had been interned, the total by December 1975, when the measure was ended, having been 107 against 1,874 from the Nationalist community.17

The Paratroop Regiment, British Army shocktroops, were sent into the colony that year too18. Between 9th and 11th August in the Belfast area of Ballymurphy, the Paratroopers caused the deaths of 10 men and a woman and wounded many19. The Paratroopers claimed they had been shot at and were returning fire and that all their targets had been “terrorists”20. The media repeated these lies and, if reporters interviewed wounded and other witnesses, their accounts were not published. There was no investigation and, as with the deaths of many victims of RUC and British Army, there was no inquest concluded until decades later (2021 for these victims21).

The nationalist community called a demonstration in Derry for 30th January the following year to protest the massacres and against the introduction of internment. The Paratroopers were there again and they and other British Army soldiers shot down unarmed demonstrators, causing the deaths of 14 and injuring at least another 15. The Army claimed they had been returning fire from Irish Republicans and had shot only gunmen and bombers and on the whole, the media parroted their claims.

The British put their top judge, Lord Chief Justice Widgery, to hold an inquiry and in April that year his verdict upheld the Army’s version and also blamed the organisers of the march. The media of course promoted that verdict too. It was not until the extraordinarilyy long and hugely expensive Bloody Sunday Inquiry set up 1998 22 produced the Saville Report in 2010 that the British officially (and then of course also the media) accepted what all of Derry and much of Ireland already knew, that the Paras had opened fire in a non-threatening situation and selectively targeted and killed unarmed civilians23.

British soldiers shot another five unarmed people dead in the Springhill area of Belfast on July 9th, yet again as in Ballymurphy the previous year, including a priest administering the last rites but this time their tally was also an thirteen-year-old girl24. The original ‘official’ account of the shootings— that those shot were ‘gunmen’ — was almost immediately discredited, and was changed shortly after; the claim then became that those murdered were simply caught in the crossfire. Again the media covered the Army story without investigation or challenge.

In 1988 on Sunday 6th March British SAS soldiers shot dead three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar. When it was revealed that the three had been unarmed, firstly the media claimed that they had been about to trigger an explosion but some time later the British found the explosives in a car in a Spanish carpark across the border without any electronic link to the dead volunteers. When the British claimed that the Volunteers had made threatening moves, eyewitnessed testified that not only had they been unarmed when shot but had been extra-judicially executed as they lay on the ground with their hands up in surrender position. One of the eye-witnesses was Gibraltar resident Carmen Proetta, who then became a target for British media slurs, even going to the extent of suggesting that she was a sex-worker.

On Monday 7 March all eleven British national daily newspapers reported the story that a bomb had been found. Many gave detailed information about the size (mostly 500 pounds), purpose and type of the bomb as well as how it was defused. The Daily Mail suggested that the bomb might have a ‘video timing device’, while Today and the Independent mentioned ‘remote control’. The Daily Mirror told us that ‘a controlIed explosion failed to set off the bomb’ whilst the Daily Mail added ‘RAF disposal men defused it later’.25

On 28 April 1988, almost two months after the Gibraltar shootings, the ITV television channel defied British Government pressure and threats of legal action to broadcast “Death on the Rock” an episode of its current affairs series This Week, produced by Thames Television, based on investigations of three journalists and many interviews. This led to a ferocious media attack on the documentary, its programers and the IBA, the governing watchdog authority.

Documentary program maker Roger Bolton’s account of his hounding by government and media about an accurate documentary of the 1988 SAS murders of three unarmed IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar. (Image sourced: Internet).

Over the following weeks, newspapers repeatedly printed stories about the documentary’s witnesses, in particular Carmen Proetta, who gave an account of seeing McCann and Farrell shot without warning by soldiers who arrived in a Gibraltar Police car. Proetta subsequently sued several newspapers for libel and won substantial damages. The Sunday Times conducted its own investigation and reported that “Death on the Rock” had misrepresented the views of its witnesses; those involved later complained to other newspapers that The Sunday Times had distorted their comments.’26

A great number of situations arose during the 30 Years War in the British colony that were either unreported or misrepresented by the mass media, including “confessions” obtained through torture, RUC and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, Army shooting of unarmed civilians, extra-judicial executions of Republican Volunteers and blackmailing individuals for information or to carry out agent-provocateur actions.

WITHIN THE IRISH STATE

In 1969 the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown was blown up by Loyalists27 and between 1971 and 1974 there was a series of bombings in Dublin by Loyalists and British Intelligence. The bombing campaign began by aiming at symbolic structures and went on to target civilians which cost the lives of 36 civilians (and a full-term unborn child) and injured around 490, presumably to pressurise the Irish Government into increased repression of Republican paramilitaries.

In January 1971 the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery was damaged (not repaired finally until 2019, 47 years later)28, presumably as an attack on a prominent Irish Catholic29 icon. But in February 1971 the Wolfe Tone30 monument in Stephen’s Green was also blown up, like the blowing up of the grave, an attack on Irish Republicanism and its rebellious Protestant origins31. Bombings now aimed at civilians in Dublin followed and between 26 November 1972 and 20 January 1973, there were four paramilitary bombings in the centre of Dublin, claiming the lives of three public transport workers and injuring 185.

The first suspicion of responsibility for those bombings should naturally have fallen on the Loyalists and perhaps, by extension, on a British intelligence agency. It didn’t though; in the media and political circles, it was projected on to the IRA.

That could not have made logical sense, since such explosions could only have harmed the IRA among the Irish population. However there was another specific reason why it made even less sense, (if possible): in 1972 Leinster House32 was about to debate repressive legislation that would set up special no-jury courts to convict Republicans with the word of a police officer (at the rank of Superintendent or above) sufficient to convict of “membership of an illegal organisation”, with an automatic two-year jail sentence. The proposed legislation was being put forward by Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were mustering to vote against it and if they did, the new legislation would fall.

Scene of 1973 bombing in Sackville Place, Dublin city centre. The bombing the previous year was irrationally blamed on the IRA and the panic was used to collapse the opposition to proposed undemocratic repressive legislation, which was passed and is with us to this day. (Photo sourced: Stair na hÉireann Facebook page)

In the midst of the horror about the bombing, the opposition crumbled and the bill went through, against protests of many human and civil rights agencies33; it became law, has sent many people to jail on dubious ‘evidence’ and is in force to this day.

The illogical focus on the IRA as the source of the 1972 and ‘73 bombings and the consequent failure to investigate them and follow up on the likely perpetrators had a horrific result in 1974: three bombs in Dublin city centre and one in Monaghan town centre killed 34 and injured around 30034, the highest number of people killed in any one day during the 30 Years War (often conveniently forgotten by the media, as for example in this report https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/army-knew-mcgurks-bar-bomb-was-placed-in-doorway-solicitor-says-35516460.html.)

Not only that, but the failure to energetically investigate the 1974 bombing meant that some of the Loyalist perpetrators were free to murder many civilians in the following years – some of the bombers were members of the infamous Glennane Gang, a Loyalist-RUC-British Intelligence group of killers responsible for up to 120 murders of civilians35.

WITHIN BRITAIN

The events in Ireland were of course being felt by the Irish diaspora in England too. Marches, pickets and public meetings protesting the RUC’s repression of marches for civil rights were held in many British cities, as they were against sending the British Army into the Six Counties, introduction of internment without trial and shooting protesters dead. Some groups on the British Left were also attending these events and occasionally organising their own. Irish solidarity was becoming a major issue for anti-imperialist solidarity in Britain and abroad, in addition to being in a sense a major domestic issue in Britain too.

The IRA began to extend Britain’s war to their homeland in a bombing campaign in 1971, at first targeting property. However, in 1974 bombs in two pubs in Birmingham killed 21 people which was difficult to understand but according to an alleged perpetrator, the warning intended by the bombers was frustrated through out-of-order public telephone boxes. The Guildford and Woolwich bombs, aimed at pubs frequented by British soldiers, killed five soldiers and two civilians overall and injured 101 people.

The horror and outrage resulting from that carnage gave the British State the environment in which they could launch a wholesale clampdown on the Irish diaspora. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the Westminster Parliament in 1974, specifically targeting the Irish community. The Act empowered the police to raid homes, to hold suspects without access to a solicitor for up to five days and longer on special application and to summarily deport Irish people from Britain – even to their own colony. It also empowered the police to stop and question Irish people without warrant or having to show cause and thousands were stopped and questioned at ports and airports as they travelled from Ireland to Britain or vice versa, sometimes missing their flights or boat as a result. People were questioned on the street too and on Irish solidarity demonstrations.

In that atmosphere, of which the media was the main facilitator in British society, it was fairly easy for the State to frame nearly a score of innocent people on bombing charges and to sentence them to many years in jail on the flimsiest of “evidence”, later to refuse their right to appeal, later still, granting that right but denying the justice of their cases.

Judith Ward was arrested in February 1974, sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in October 1974 and her conviction overturned in May 1992.

The Birmingham Six were arrested in November 1974, sentenced to jail for life in August 1975, their convictions finally overturned in March 1991.

The Guildford Four were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1975, their convictions finally overturned in October 1989.

Giuseppe Conlon and the Maguire Six were arrested in December 1974, sentenced to 4, 51, 12 and 14 years in 1976, their convictions overturned in 1991. By that time Vincent and Patrick had already served their sentences and Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, had died in jail.

1Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

The innocent Birmingham Six at their appearance in court after being beaten up by prison warders as they arrived at the jail falsely charged with the bombings in Birmingham. The mass media played a major role in their being found guilty and in frustrating campaigns to free them which only succeeded 17 years later. (Image sourced: Internet)

The UK media in particular played a huge part in setting the atmosphere in which these unjust convictions could take place and in making the struggle of the innocent for justice difficult. Even after their acquittal, some of the media insinuated that they had been guilty and had got free through some kind of legal loopholes.

Could the media have known differently? Yes, certainly, not one of the cases would stand up to reasonable inspection. The Guildford Four were hippies living in a squat, the Birmingham Six were escorting the body of a deceased IRA man to Ireland when the bombs exploded, the Maguires were a Tory-voting woman with teenage children, Giuseppe was only in London to help his son after the latter’s arrest and Judith Ward was mentally ill, homeless and penniless37. Their ‘confessions’, obtained through torture and intimidation38, were admitted as evidence against them, although they all retracted them and declared how they had been obtained. The forensic evidence was faulty and besides recording a false positive and even though the defence team had a forensic expert to refute it during their trial, the Prosecution’s expert was the one accepted.

The February 1977 confession by an IRA unit to the Woolwich and Guildford bombing after their capture in the Balcome Street siege was not accepted, although they were able to give details of the bombing. So tortured and retracted ‘confessions’ were acceptable whereas one voluntarily given was not.

Apart from the logical doubts that should have arisen in even a light examination of the cases, the media also had access to detailed refutation of the case against the Birmingham Six. Although much has been made recently of the investigation of the case by Chris Mullin, the publication of his book Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings (1985), the research for which went into the earlier 1984 ITV World in Action documentary, a detailed challenge to the convictions had been published much earlier. Only two years after the arrest of the Birmingham Six, Fathers Murray and Faul had published The Birmingham Framework39, which they had sent to British politicians and media agents. In 1982 the Irish in Britain Representation Group40 also publicly called for the freeing of the framed prisoners and continued to do so for every year thereafter. Other organisations such as the Troops Out Movement41 called for their release also and trade union branches began to support such calls.

Exposure of the case against the Birmingham Six published by Frs. Murray and Faul as early as one year after the convictions of the innocent men. (Source image: Internet)

It suited the State that the British public think the prisoners guilty and the British media played their part in that purpose. In a way, it also suited the State if the Irish community knew the prisoners were innocent since, if even the innocent could be jailed so easily, how could any Irish person be safe except by keeping his or her head down low? Irish solidarity activities declined in occurrence and in numbers attending. With few exceptions, the Irish community in Britain was cowed from 1974 until the Hunger Strikes of 1981 brought them out on the streets again, the terror broken by the spirit of solidarity and outrage.

WHY?

The above examples are only a selection of situations in Ireland during the period under discussion about which we and the world were misinformed or censored. Throughout the 30 Years’ War so many accusations against the British armed forces, including their armed colonial police, have been ignored or recorded disbelievingly by the media – in particular the British section but within the Irish state also – and repeated by media services abroad, to be picked up by other media …. and so on, and on. And likewise with accusations against British intelligence services and their domestic police force.

Why then are the current claims of the Ukrainian government published through the mass media being accepted without question on every count? Why is everything the Russian government says discounted or ignored without checking? Why are we not concerned at banning of alternative media and censorship of commentators who are not repeating the party line? Why are we not outraged at the agreed delivery of Julian Assange by the UK to the USA on charges of “spying” because he exposed their lies and murderous activities in Iraq and Afghanistan? Given our own experience over 30 years of the UK media’s dismal record of reporting on the conflict in Ireland – and its equally dismal repetition in the western media – why are we now believing without critical examination the western media reporting on the war in the Ukraine?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The civil rights campaign in the Six Counties was in pursuance of equal rights for the Catholic minority with the Protestant majority there, in the electoral franchise, in housing and employment, along with the repeal of the repressive Special Powers Act.

2‘Loyalists’ is a term describing militants – always of Protestant community background – in various organisations — who insist on remaining within the UK. The first armed actions in the 30 Years War were by Loyalists.

3Although the Royal Ulster Constabulary was created in 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, it was in effect a continuation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British occupation’s gendarmerie (nation-wide semi-military police force, such as exists in Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, etc) in existence throughout all of Ireland since 1822. Although the personnel of the RIC had been mostly Catholic in background (usually with Protestant senior officers), the RUC was determinedly Protestant from the start, both in its full-time and part-time membership. However, a minority of the civil rights campaigners were also from Protestant backgrounds.

4As part of the control structures in the Six Counties, the authorities had recruited only non-Catholics into the colonial police force, which helped unionist politicians and media represent an attack on the police as a sectarian attack. Though a few Catholics have been recruited since the 1990s and Sinn Féin has been supporting recruitment drives in nationalist areas, the PSNI personnel remain overwhelmingly of Protestant background.

5A convenient term used to describe the large minority community, mostly of Catholic background, mostly of the original population but with some earlier intermarriage into the majority community, which is of mostly colonist/ settler origin.

6Ironically, the first serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties was killed by indescriminate firing by the RUC into the nationalist area of Divis Flats in Belfast. Trooper Hugh McCabe of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars was home on leave, staying with his family when the RUC opened fire with machine-gun on the nationalist area (this was one of the incidents that led to the barricading of “no go” areas excluding the RUC and later also the British Army). Three others were also killed by RUC bullets, including a nine-year-old boy. It took over 50 years for the families to get an acknowledgement and apology after an Ombudsman’s report. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

7People had learned to make those in defence against RUC and Loyalist attacks during the earlier Civil Rights period.

8A large Belfast nationalist area separated from the Falls area by unionist areas and the city centre.

9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

10https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

11The Social and Democratic Labour Party, advocating reform through legal and constitutional methods.

12Two days after the explosion, on December 6th, both the Official and Provisional IRAs issued statements condemning the bombing and denying any involvement. Local people also denied any association between the pub and either of the armed organisations.

13Quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk%27s_Bar_bombing, accessed on 11 April 2022.

14Ibid.

15Campbell was the only person ever to have been charged for the atrocity.

16https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221

17https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

18Despite some time searching online I have not come across the exact date they were there by May 1971 and it may be that they had been sent there as part of plan that included the introduction of internment without trial later that year.

19http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/

20The fact that one fatal victim was a mother of eight children and another, a local priest, should have alerted media to the fact that the Paras were likely lying and local people likely telling the truth.

21https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

22Likely initiated as as a payoff to the Provisionals for buying into the Peace/ Pacification Process, the other being the early release on licence of their members in jail, the inquiry lasted twelve years and cost £195 million.

23No senior Army officer or senior politician of the time has even been charged for those murders. One lower-ranking soldier was eventually charged but in July 2021, the Public Prosecution Service decided it would no longer prosecute him either.

24https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

25https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

26https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Flavius#Aftermath

27https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

28https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/o-connell-tower-in-glasnevin-reopens-47-years-after-bomb-blast-1.3460774

29Daniel O’Connell, a constitutional Irish nationalist politician and Catholic, campaigned for the repeal of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in which he was largely successful in 1869 and unsuccessfully for repeal of the Act of Union, which had transferred the internal legislation of Ireland through its Parliament to Westminster instead in 1801.

30Theobald ‘Wolfe’ Tone was an Anglican campaigner for reform of anti-Catholic legislation (only Anglicans could be elected to the Irish Parliament) who became a revolutionary Irish Republican when those attempts failed. He was a founder of the revolutionary republican United Irishmen organisation. He was captured by the British after surrender of the French naval ship on which he was travelling on 12th October 1978. Although an officer in the Army of France he was tried for treason and sentenced to be executed; on 19th September 1798 he died in prison of wounds, apparently self-inflicted to deny the State his public execution.

31https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/wolfe-tone-statue and https://www.irishphotoarchive.ie/image/I000063xdWJKXewQ

32The parliament of the Irish State.

33For the most recent statements by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties on the no-jury Special Criminal Courts, see https://www.iccl.ie/2021/iccl-special-criminal-court-a-fundamental-denial-of-constitutional-rights-to-a-fair-trial/ and https://www.iccl.ie/2022/international-call-for-end-to-special-criminal-court/

34https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

35https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

36Patrick Maguire was only 14 at the time and Vincent only 17.

37https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

38In the case of at least one of the Guildford Four, while she was in a psycho-tropic drug episode.

39The Birmingham Framework — Six Innocent Men Framed for the Birmingham Bombings, by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976), https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

40The IBRG was formed late in 1981 as an independent community organisation, among the issues it took up were those of anti-Irish racism, access to resources for the community, an end to strip-searching of prisoners, freedom for the framed prisoners and British withdrawal from Ireland.

41The Troops Out Movement was founded in 1973 as a broad organisation to mobilise the British public for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland; with branches in many parts of Britain, it organised marches, pickets, public meetings and published pamphlets. The relevant Wikipedia incorrectly claims it was “an Irish Republican organisation” — though it naturally did contain Irish Republicans, it also contained British revolutionary left and social-democratic elements. Though maintaining its independence for decades, it did towards the end of the 1990s become closely linked to Provisional Sinn Féin.

SOURCES

The Battle of the Falls/ Falls Curfew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falls_Curfew

The RUC killed the first serving British soldier along with three civilians in 1969: https://belfastmedia.com/trooper-mccabe-1969-truth-still-hidden
and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/ruc-erred-at-troubles-dawn-by-firing-on-flats-from-armoured-cars#:~:text=Patrick%20Rooney%2C%20nine%2C%20Hugh%20McCabe,the%20Divis%20and%20Ardoyne%20areas.

Internment without trial: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius#:~:text=It%20involved%20the%20mass%20arrest,Ireland%20against%20the%20British%20state.

Ballymurphy Massacre: http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/
and https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/ten-shot-dead-in-ballymurphy-massacre-entirely-innocent-coroner-finds-1.4561691

Bloody Sunday Massacre Derry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)#Murder_investigation

Springhill Massacre:

https://belfastmedia.com/springhill-westrock-massacre

The first acknowledged serving British soldier killed in the Six Counties, 1971: https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2021/02/16/news/new-details-about-death-of-first-british-soldier-killed-by-pira-revealed-by-former-commanding-officer-2222034/

40 years after McGurk’s Bar bombing: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-irish-ira-report-idUKTRE71K2U520110221
50 years after: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/fifty-years-on-and-grief-of-the-mcgurk-s-bar-massacre-still-resonates-1.4746143

Gibraltar murder of three IRA Volunteers: https://www.academia.edu/3176252/The_Media_on_the_Rock_The_Media_and_the_Gibraltar_Killings

In the Irish State
Wolfe Tone grave Bodenstown blown up by Loyalists:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0332489319881245n

Dublin bombings 1972 & 1973: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_and_1973_Dublin_bombings

Dublin and Monaghan Bombing 1974: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

Review of Lethal Allies (2013) by Anne Cadwaller: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/lethal-allies-british-collusion-in-ireland-a-shameful-part-of-our-troubled-history-1.1578119

In Britain:
The Birmingham Framework by Frs. Murray and Faul: https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/other/1974/faul76.htm

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guildford_Four_and_Maguire_Seven

Judith Ward: https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/

ANTI-INTERNMENT MESSAGE GOES OUT UNDETERRED BY POLITICAL POLICE SURVEILLANCE

(Reading time: 1 minute)

Clive Sulish

On 9th April, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held another of its regular awareness-rising events in the city, this time on on the northside, at the junction of the busy shopping Henry Street and Liffey Street.

Section of the anti-internment picket in Dublin last week (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Supporters lined up with the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland banner and placards. In addition to the Starry Plough of the Irish working class, the Palestinian and the Basque flags were flown in symbols of solidarity and also as a demonstration that political prisoners are held in many countries around the world.

Going on for 200 of the AIGI’s leaflets were distributed, explaining that Irish Republicans continue to be held in custody without trial through the practice of refusal of bail and through revocation of licence. This practice by administrations on both sides of the British Border are anti-democratic suppression of the right to hold political opinions and to organise in their furtherance.

Plainclothes political policeman (in blue top, far left of photo) stood a little distance away facing the picketers but they were not intimidated (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Recordings of relevant songs were played on a portable PA, such as The Roll of Honour, Viva la Quinze Brigada and Something Inside So Strong. Throughout the period of the event, two Special Branch (plainclothes political police) kept up an obvious surveillance which however did not deter the picketers.

The Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland is an independent broad and democratic committee, endeavouring to hold regular awareness-raising events and all democratic people are welcome to attend its public events, always advertised in advance on its Facebook page.

(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

Basque Solidarity for Corsican Patriot Murdered in French Jail

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE RALLIES ORGANISED BY JARDUN IN RESPONSE TO THE MURDER OF CORSICAN POLITICAL PRISONER YVAN COLONNA (Se encuentra la versión anterior en castellano/español al fondo)

Yvan Colonna was from a young age a member of the Corsican liberation movement. After being forced to remain in hiding for four years, he was arrested in 2003, accused of participating in an action carried out by an anonymous group. The accusation was based on statements of several of the movement’s members detained at the police station, who later rejected the statements but Yvan was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Posters demanding justice for Yvan Colonna after his arrest (Photo sourced: Internet)

Colonna was left in a very serious coma after the beating by a jihadist prisoner in Arles prison. On Monday of this week, Yvan passed away after three weeks in hospital. During that time there were riots denouncing the role of the French state in Yvan’s murder.

Yvan was murdereded by the penitentiary policy of dispersal and the conditions of the prison. We in the JARDUN Coordination charge that the beating and death received by Yvan was a direct consequence of the penitentiary policy of the French State. Likewise, we want to underline the need to create an organisation in support of the freedom of political prisoners and the fight against oppression and exploitation.

It should not be forgotten that in Corsica, the struggle for independence has been ongoing for decades with the aim of overcoming the political-economic system imposed by the French State and fighting for a popular and democratic government that would act in favour of the Corsican people. The struggle of the Corsicans is the struggle against French imperialism, against the oppression of the local working people and against the exploitation they suffer.

In Euskal Herria (the Basque Country – Trans.) we are well aware of the repression and oppression by oppressive states and we are witnesses to the massacres committed so many times by the French State. Because we cannot forget the imperialist attitude of the French State in Algiers and other colonies, becoming, together with the United States, the main promoters of contemporary torture.

Solidarity picket in Gastheiz/ Vitoria, southern Basque Country, on Friday 25th (Photo: Jardun Koordinadora)

All of this shows us nothing less than the need for the organisation of the working class. It is evident that both the imperialist power and the oppressive States exercise a monopoly on violence to defend their economic interests and, in every nation, those who pay are always the working class.

It is time to denounce the fraud of social peace, it is time to denounce the warlike attitude of NATO, in Donbass, the Sahara, Palestine, today they are waging endless wars in defence of the interests of imperialism and its servants — and in view of this, it is time to awaken internationalist solidarity!

For this reason, we in JARDUN proclaim that it is time to turn to revolutionary organisation for all working people! Because only the organised people can offer real help and, as far as we are concerned, only the Basque working people can obstruct the participation of the Spanish and French States, organizing themselves in Euskal Herria to face the enemy, working for a political system in favour of the Basque working people.

We are clear that struggle is the only way and we will loudly proclaim that we have to confront the enemy, exploitation and class oppression. That is why we encourage you to join the organisation, because it is time to fight, it is essential to resist!

AGUR ETA OHORE YVAN! (Farewell with Honour Yvan!)

GORA KORSIKAKO HERRI LANGILEAREN BORROKA! (Long live the struggle of the Corsican working people!)

GORA EUSKAL HERRIA ASKATUTA! (Long live a free Basque Country!).

end.

Solidarity picket in Donosti/San Sebastian, southern Basque Country, on 26th March (Photo: Jardun Koordinadora)

Lectura lanzada en las concentraciones organizadas por JARDUN ante el asesinato de Yvan Colonna

Yvan Colonna era miembro del movimiento de liberación corso, en el que militó desde joven. Tras ser obligada a permanecer 4 años en la clandestinidad, fue detenida en 2003 acusada de participar en una acción llevada a cabo por un grupo anónimo. La acusación se fundamenta en la declaración de varios de los miembros detenidos en la comisaría, que posteriormente rechazaron la declaración, pero Yvan fue condenado a cadena perpetua.

Colonna quedó en coma muy grave tras la paliza de un preso yihadista en la cárcel de Arlés. El lunes de esta semana, Yvan falleció cuando llevaba 3 semanas hospitalizado. Con el objetivo de denunciar el papel del Estado francés en el asesinato de Yvan desde que ingresó en hospital, durante ese tiempo  ha habido disturbios.

Yvan fue asesinado por la política penitenciaria por la dispersión vivida y las condiciones de la prisión. Desde la  coordinadora JARDUN  denunciamos que la paliza y la muerte recibida por Yvan ha sido consecuencia directa de la política penitenciaria del estado francés. Asimismo, queremos subrayar la necesidad de articular una organización a favor de la libertad de los presos políticos y de la lucha contra la opresión y la explotación.

No hay que olvidar que en Córcega, la lucha por la independencia se ha dado durante décadas con el objetivo de superar el sistema político económico impuesto por el Estado francés y luchar por un gobierno popular y democrático que actuara en favor del pueblo corso. La lucha de los corsos es la lucha contra el imperialismo francés, la opresión del pueblo obrero local y la lucha contra la explotación que sufren.

En Euskal Herria conocemos bien la represión y la opresión de los estados opresores y somos testigos de las masacres cometidas tantas veces por el Estado francés. Porque no podemos olvidar la actitud imperialista del Estado francés en Argel y otras colonias, llegando a ser, junto con los Estados Unidos, los principales impulsores de la tortura contemporánea.

Todo ello no nos demuestra más que la necesidad de la organización de la clase trabajadora.. Es evidente que tanto la potencia imperialista como los Estados opresores ejercen el monopolio de la violencia para defender sus intereses económicos, y en todo pueblo, su pagador, es siempre la clase obrera.

Es hora de denunciar el fraude de la paz social, es tiempo de denunciar la actitud guerrera de la OTAN, Donbass, el Sáhara, Palestina, hoy en día están dando un sinfín de guerras en defensa de los intereses del imperialismo y de sus siervos, ¡y ante eso es tiempo de despertar la solidaridad internacionalista!

Para ello, desde JARDUN proclamamos que es hora de volcarse en la organización revolucionaria para todo pueblo obrero!! ¡Porque sólo el pueblo organizado puede ofrecer una verdadera ayuda, y en lo que a nosotros se refiere, sólo el pueblo trabajador vasco puede interrumpir la participación de los Estados Español y Francés, organizándose en Euskal Herria para hacer frente al enemigo, trabajando por un sistema político a favor del pueblo trabajador vasco.

Nosotros tenemos claro que la lucha es el único camino y proclamaremos en voz alta que tenemos que enfrentar al enemigo, a la explotación y la opresión de clase. Por eso os animamos a uniros a la organización, porque es tiempo de lucha, ¡es imprescindible resistir!

AGUR ETA OHORE YVAN!

GORA KORSIKAKO HERRI LANGILEAREN BORROKA!

GORA EUSKA HERRIA ASKATUTA!

POLITICAL POLICE QUESTION AND FILM PEOPLE AT ANTI-INTERNMENT PICKET IN DUBLIN

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Clive Sulish

The Dublin Anti-Internment Committee held a well-attended picket on Saturday (5th March) against the continuing practice of interning Irish Republicans without trial and also in support of human rights for political prisoners. At one point the picket was subjected to the unwelcome attention of the Irish political police.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

The event was in furtherance of the Committee’s advertised intention to hold monthly public events to highlight the deprivation of civil rights from Irish Republicans — on both sides of the British border — through the operation of special legislation and in particular of the no-jury political courts (Special Criminal Courts in the Irish state and Diplock Court in the British colony). The Committee has admitted that it does not always succeed in holding a public event every month and in fact its most recent public appearance was during the December festive season, in solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, when it was supported by a number of organisations and independent activists.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

WHY THESE PUBLIC EVENTS?

The Dublin Committee holds these public events because it believes that most people are unaware of the abuse of civil rights in Ireland, the civil right to belong to an organisation that criticises the State and seeks profound change. The reaction of people receiving a leaflet at their public events would seem to bear this out.

(Photo: C.Sulish)

Choosing a couple of extracts from their current leaflet: ‘At various times in Ireland’s history, people have been rounded up and jailed without bothering with a trial – people whom the government found troublesome and wished removed. Today the same process carries on although they don’t call it “internment” now – other names such as “due process”, “remanded in custody” are used ….”

‘Even when Republican activists are granted bail, it is on outrageous conditions such as not being permitted to reside in their own home, having to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag, not being permitted to attend meetings and demonstrations …..’

The leaflet text makes the point that one doesn’t have to agree with the politics of Irish Republicans to see that these injustices are profoundly undemocratic abuses of civil rights — and “are ultimately a danger to all oppositional movements, whether Republican or not”. One aspect of their protest was against the denial of open family visits to Republican prisoners in the jails of the British colony in the north-east of Ireland — a violation of human rights.

The surprise in learning the facts is not confined to Irish people because often it is expressed by tourists or migrants, even if they have encountered such practices in their own countries of origin.

INTERNATIONALIST DIMENSION

An example of the interest from abroad on Saturday was of a Basque man and, separately, of two young Basque women, reacting warmly to seeing the Basque flag among the picketers. The Dublin Committee objects not only to the incarceration of Irish Republicans but also of people seeking freedom in many other parts of the world, for which reason the Palestinian and Basque flags are frequently flown on their pickets, next to the revolutionary Irish workers’ flag of the Starry Plough.

A person who expressed support for the right to campaign without state repression was, interestingly, from Barcelona. However he did not wish for Catalan independence, wanting instead a unitary but democratic Spanish state – a position held by some communists and the main socia-democratic parties there. Although his position did not concur with that of the picketers, who tend to support the struggles for self-determination, the conversation was conducted without hostility.

Not so with another individual, who approached some picketers to argue for their support for the Ukrainian state in the current armed conflict there, a question that has deeply divided the Irish Left and Republican movements. He went further and announced his support for the Azov Battalion, an East European fascist organisation integrated into the Ukrainian state’s military, at which point the tolerance of the picketers for his intervention ended and he was urged to depart.

Starry Plough flags next to Palestinian and Basque Ikurrina flags at the picket in Temple Bar. (Photo: C.Sulish)

POLITICAL POLICE INTIMIDATION

Another temporary presence unwelcome to the picketers was of three members of the Irish State’s political police. These are members of what used to be called the Special Branch but are now officially called the Special Detective Unit, formerly C3 and successor to the CID when the Irish State was created. This type of political police force is modelled on the Irish Special Branch of Scotland Yard, the HQ of the British police, founded to spy on the influence and activities of the “Fenians” (i.e the Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the cities of Victorian-era Britain. However, in Dublin under British occupation, their parallel force was the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, known as “G-men”; it was they who identified many Republican and other prisoners of the British military after the 1916 Rising, ensuring death sentences for many (though most commuted to life imprisonment) and jail sentence for many others. During the War of Independence (1919-1921 they were identified as the intelligence service of the British occupation and many were selectively assassinated by the IRA of the time.

The Garda “Branch” (as they are known colloquially) of the Irish State have a long history of harassment of and spying on Irish Republicans, sometimes associated with violence and often with perjury in court. Their unsupported observations through the mouth of a Garda officer at the rank of Superintendent has been enough “evidence”, in the no-jury Special Criminal Court, to send many Irish Republicans to jail on a charge of “membership of an illegal organisation.”

Two picketers confront the plainclothes political police officer harassing a young leafletter on Saturday (Photo: C.Sulish)

One of these gentlemen on Saturday approached the youngest supporter of the picket, who was distributing leaflets to passers-by, identified himself as a Gárda officer in plain-clothes and demanded the young activist’s name. His accosting of the leafletter attracted the attention of others on the picket and two went quickly to support the subject of State harassment. The Branchman demanded no further information and sone moved away. However, when he had reached about half-way along the picketters, he stopped and began filming them.

At that point one of the picketers began to call out to passers-by, many of whom were tourists, that this man was a member of the secret political police, who was filming and attempting to intimidate people on a legal political protest, that this is the kind of ‘democracy’ that exists in the Irish state, etc, etc. Shortly thereafter, the Branchman departed, along with another two of his colleagues that had been observed further down towards Temple Bar.

A picketer loudly denounces the political policeman’s filming of the picketers. (Photo: C.Sulish)

According to picket participants this intervention of the political police represented an escalation of their attentions in recent times, though not in the least unusual in the past, when every picketer might have their name (and even their address) demanded and jotted down.

A spokesperson of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee stated that it is independent of any political party or organisation and that it welcomes the participation at its public events of democratic individuals, whether independent activists or members of organisations and had distributed many of its leaflets. It regrets that a number of political activists — who should have an interest, even if only in self-preservation – in defending the democratic rights to organise and to protest, decline to support their events.

(Photo: C.Sulish)
(Photo: C.Sulish)
Picketers and leafletters (Photo: C.Sulish)

End.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Anti-Internment Group of Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743

Azov Battallion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Battalion

BRITISH SUPREME COURT VINDICATES TORTURED “HOODED MEN” – CRITICISES POLICE CHIEF

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time up to ‘Background’: 4 mins.)

A group of Irish people were jubilant in London’s Little George Street on 15th December. The location was that of the UK’s Supreme Court and it was unusual for Irish people to be happy at a judgement of a British court. But the judges inside had quashed an appeal by the Police Service of Northern Ireland1 against a judgement of the High Court in Belfast, that the colonial police force had been wrong not to investigate the claims of fourteen men of being tortured in the British colony in 19712.

Bernadette Devlin (now McAlliskey) addressing an anti-internment rally in Derry in August 1971 (Photo cred: Popperfoto, Getty Images)

The claims related to what happened during the introduction of internment without trial in the occupied Six Counties in August 1971. What many internees experienced ranged from brutal treatment to torture: “Many of those arrested reported that they and their families were assaulted, verbally abused and threatened by the soldiers. There were claims of soldiers smashing their way into houses without warning and firing rubber baton rounds through doors and windows. Many of those arrested also reported being ill-treated during their three-day detention at the holding centres. They complained of being beaten, verbally abused, threatened, harassed by dogs, denied sleep, and starved. Some reported being forced to run a gauntlet of baton-wielding soldiers, being forced to run an ‘obstacle course’, having their heads forcefully shaved, being kept naked, being burnt with cigarettes, having a sack placed over their heads for long periods, having a rope kept around their necks, having the barrel of a gun pressed against their heads, being dragged by the hair, being trailed behind armoured vehicles while barefoot, and being tied to armoured trucks as a human shield” (for the soldiers against attack by the IRA). (Wikipedia)

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Some were hooded, beaten and, having been told they were hundreds of feet in the air, were then thrown from a helicopter — but were actually only a few feet from the ground. In addition, they were subjected to disorientating “white noise”, forced to remain in stress positions for long periods and deprived of food, water and sleep. Fourteen men who endured this for seven days became known as the “Hooded Men” and have been campaigning for over 50 years to have the British State admit that in its Irish colony, it had tortured them. Interestingly, some of those techniques have also been complained of more recently – by prisoners of the British military in Iraq3 — and this despite a statement by the UK’s Attorney General in 1977 that the techniques would not be used by them again.4

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Unusually, the Irish State5 took the case of the Fourteen to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and in 1976 obtained a judgement that “the five interrogation techniques” were torture.

The British State appealed the ECHR judgement and in 1978 won a judgement that although the treatment of the Hooded Men amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” and breached Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights it nevertheless fell short of torture6.

When documentation came to light proving that British Government Ministers had approved the treatment, the Irish State appealed the revised judgement of the ECHR but in 2018 was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the legal team of the Hooded Men pursued their case through the legal system of the UK’s Irish colony. In October 2014 the PSNI formally decided not to investigate the allegations, following which in 2015 judicial review proceedings against the PSNI, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Department of Justice were initiated by Francis McGuigan, one of the ‘Hooded Men’. A co-appellant was Mary McKenna, the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the Hooded Men, who died in 1975, never having fully recovered from his mistreatment. The proceedings followed the discovery of additional documentary materials relevant to the mistreatment of the men, which were featured in a 2014 RTÉ Documentary, The Torture Files.7

Following this Documentary, the Chief Constable stated that the PSNI would assess “any allegation or emerging evidence of criminal behaviour, from whatever quarter” concerning the ill-treatment of the Hooded Men “with a view to substantiating such an allegation and identifying sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and bring people to court’”. However in October 2014 the PSNI took the decision not to investigate. In late 2017, the High Court ruled that the failure by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate the allegations of torture was unlawful.

Some of the Hooded Men in London for the Supreme Court judgement. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Instead of accepting the judgement however the PSNI sought to appeal the High Court decision but in September 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that the decision should stand. One would have to contrast the determination of the colonial police in the courts to their appalling record in investigating collusion between their own force and Loyalist murder gangs, for the PSNI then appealed to the UK Supreme Court. In November 2019 the UK Supreme Court upheld the decision of the colony’s Court of Appeal and the PSNI appealed that judgement too. The decision last week in London marks the end of the legal options of the colonial gendarmerie.

The very month the decision not to investigate the allegations of the Hooded Men was taken by the colonial police force, October 2014, Drew Harris had been appointed Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI.

IMPLICATIONS OF JUDGEMENT

The implications of the High Court judgement for Britain and its colonial administration are that once again they have been shown to have deployed barbarous methods in their repression of resistance by the nationalist minority in the colony and that they have exceeded or ignored even their own laws.

As has been the case throughout the recent 30 Years’ War, with the system lying and trying to cover up the reality of its actions, then delaying by all available means, the judgement comes too late for a number of the victims, as only nine of the 14 are still alive.

Nevertheless, the judgement adds to a number of other judgements and admissions over the years, such as those surrounding the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry in 1972 and the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971. On 13 December this year, the British Ministry of Defence and PSNI agreed to a £1.5m out-of-court settlement to compensate victims of the Miami Showband Massacre over suspected state collusion with loyalist terrorists.

Three members of the band died from explosions and bullets after they were forced to get out of their bus at a fake police checkpoint on their return to Dublin from the Six Counties. Stephen Travers, who was injured in the attack, said he was convinced he would have won his civil action to prove that there was collaboration between the State and terrorists but that the Government’s decision to “dispense with justice rather than to dispense justice” had motivated the out-of court settlement.

Had the UK’s Supreme Court rejected the Hooded Men’s case, the latter would have been free to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights – not that they had been tortured but that the police should have investigated their claims that they were. And, based on a similar case by the manager of a Basque newspaper against the Spanish State8, they would probably have won their case with damages awarded against the UK.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court decision puts the onus of investigating the accusations of the Hooded Men on to the PSNI, the very organisation deeply implicated in the treatment of the victims, the organisation which declined to investigate them previously and which justified its decision through the courts in the Six Counties and then in the Supreme Court of the UK.

But not only the British state and its colony are put into the dock by the Supreme Court judgement – Drew Harris, formerly Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI is currently in charge of the police force of the Irish State, where he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Gardaí in September 2018 on a yearly salary of €250,000.

Drew Harris (Left) as Garda Commissioner with his former boss, George Hamilton, Chief Constable of the colonial police, the PSNI, on the occasion they both received an honour from the British Monarch. (Photo sourced: Internet)

APPENDIX — BACKGROUND

Creation of “Northern Ireland”:

The statelet of “Northern Ireland”9 was created in 1922 after Ireland was partitioned by the British Government at the end of 1921. Ireland had been invaded from Britain in 1169 and gradually entirely occupied and colonised by the invaders, albeit with its own semi-autonomous parliament which had been abolished in 1801, after the United Irish uprisings of 179810. Subsequently Members of Parliament elected in Ireland were required to attend the Westminster Parliament.

Following the rise of Irish nationalist sentiment after the suppression of the 1916 Rising, the 1918 UK General Election returned a huge majority of MPs in Ireland sworn to establish an independent Irish Republic. These formed their own parliament in Dublin, at first ignored but then later banned by the British. The guerrilla War of Independence of 1919-1921 convinced the British rulers to offer Ireland autonomy as a “Dominion” within the British system and under the Crown. However, at the same time, the British conceded to the demand of the unionist minority in Ireland to secede from the new Irish state and to remain a colony of Britain and in the UK. The Irish Free State was set up in December 1921 on 26 counties and the Northern Ireland statelet of six counties in January 192211.

From the outset the colonial statelet had been marked by the religious sectarianism of its local rulers, Presbyterians and Anglicans by religion and of unionist ideology, against a very large nationalist minority of mostly Catholics, representing the majority in Ireland as a whole. A raft of special powers empowered the statelet in repression of the nationalist minority; the colonial gendarmerie, abolished in the Irish state, continued in existence, with a part-time wing and even unofficial Loyalist militia in support and de facto anti-nationalist discrimination existed in every sphere: law, housing allocation, education.

In 1968 a campaign for civil rights for the nationalist minority began, to be met by truncheons, water-cannon, tear gas and bullets which however, merely drove parts of the minority into open insurrection. The colonial gendarmerie (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), even with the active support of the part-time B-Specials and Loyalist paramilitaries, was unable to suppress the uprising primarily in Derry but also in West Belfast and in August 1969 the British Government sent in the British Army to take control.

Initially the soldiers were represented to the nationalist population as being present to protect them from the sectarian colonial police and from the Loyalists but it soon became clear that their primary focus was to repress the risen nationalist population and the IRA began to take action against them.

Introduction of Internment Without Trial:

The Prime Minister of the “Northern Ireland” statelet, Brian Faulkner, recommended to his colonial masters that internment without trial be introduced against the nationalist population; this was agreed and “Operation Demetrius” began on 9th August and continuing over the 10th 1971 with British Army raids into nationalist areas, forcing their way into homes and dragging their captives away to be interrogated by RUC Special Branch, after which they were jailed. In the initial sweep the occupation forces arrested 342 men, sparking four days of violence in which 20 civilians, two IRA members and two British soldiers were killed and 7,000 people fled their homes. All of those interned were from the nationalist community.

Poster by the Anti-Internment League of Ireland – the internees in the photo are handcuffed together. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The detentions without charge continued until December 1975 and by that time 1,981 people had been interned, of which 1,874 were from the nationalist community. Only 107 were Loyalists and none of those had been interned until February 1973. Resistance to internment continued after the initial sweep and from 9th to 11th August, British Paratroopers caused the death of 11 unarmed people in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast. In January the following year the Paras and other units attacked people marching against internment in Derry, killing 14 and injuring 12.

Internment was protested in the rest of Ireland and in other countries, including Britain. The Men Behind the Wire, an anti-internment song composed in 1971 by Paddy McGuigan and recorded by the Barleycorn group in Belfast, was pressed into disc in Dublin and shot to the top of the Irish charts, greatly exceeding in numbers of sales any record previously released in Ireland.

Excerpt:

Through the little streets of Belfast,
In the dark of early mo
rn,
British soldiers came marauding
Wrecking little homes with scorn.

Heedless of the crying children,
Dragging fathers from their beds;
Beating sons while helpless mothers
Watched the blood flow from their heads.

Armoured cars and tanks and guns
Came to take away our sons
But every man will stand behind
The Men Behind the Wire.

Poster by People”s Democracy, believed in 1970, prior to introduction of internment. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Brian Faulkner, unionist Prime Minister of the statelet, who had asked the British to introduce internment, was hated by a great many people. When he died in March 1977 following an accident during a stag hunt, thrown by his horse Cannonball, an English communist composed a short song he named “Cannonball”.

Excerpt:

Lord Faulkner was a hunter of men and of deer

And both have good reason to laugh and to cheer

At the death of a tyrant whose interests were clear

Those of imperialism that have cost Ireland dear.

Cannonball, Cannonball has many a friend,

From the top of old Ireland right down to its end,

Where the brave people struggle

In one resolute bid

To throw off their oppressors —

Just as Cannonball did!

End.

FOOTNOTES

  1. The colonial gendarmerie formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

2 (see “Background” section).

3. The Court’s ruling that the five techniques did not amount to torture was later cited by the United States and Israel to justify their own interrogation methods, which included the five techniques. British agents also taught the five techniques to the forces of Brazil’s military dictatorship. During the Iraq War, the illegal use of the five techniques by British soldiers contributed to the death of at least one detainee, Baha Mousa.

4 “The Government of the United Kingdom have considered the question of the use of the ‘five techniques’ with very great care and with particular regard to Article 3 (art. 3) of the Convention. They now give this unqualified undertaking, that the ‘five techniques’ will not in any circumstances be reintroduced as an aid to interrogation.”

5 Unusually, because during the three decades of ill-treatment by a foreign power of people who were, according to the Irish Constitution its citizens, only in one other case did the Irish State bring a complaint against the UK to an international arena.

6 I admit that I fail completely to understand the distinction.

7. Rita O’Reilly, the journalist who led that program, also commented extremely well on the UK Supreme Court decision and the whole case on Prime Time on RTÉ this week (see Links).

8. Martxelo Otamendi, along with others detained, was tortured by his Guardia Civil captors when the Basque newspaper of which he was manager was closed by the Spanish State, alleging that it had been cooperating with terrorists. He was freed eventually and even later in 2010 the Spanish Supreme Court admitted that there had been no evidence against him or the newspaper – but neither admitted the torture nor ordered his allegations be investigated. Otamendi filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 and in 2014 the ECHR found the Spanish State guilty of not having investigated Otamendi’s allegation of being tortured and awarded him €24,000 in damages and expenses from the Spanish state.

9. A misnomer since the British colony is not the northernmost part of Ireland, which is in County Donegal, inside the Irish state. “Ulster”, a name given by the Unionists to the statelet and frequently repeated in the British media, is also a misnomer since the Province of Ulster contains nine counties, six of which are in the colonial statelet but three of which are within the Irish state.

10. There were many uprisings prior to 1798, which was the first Republican one and there were many of that kind afterwards too.

11. Shortly after that the Free State, supplied with weapons and transport by the British, attacked the Republicans, who had been demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This precipitated a Civil War in which the Republicans were defeated.

USEFUL LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

Unusually excellent (for RTÉ) report by Rita O’Reilly: https://www.rte.ie/news/primetime/2021/1217/1267343-uk-supreme-court-decision-on-hooded-men/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/hooded-men-uk-court-finds-psni-decision-not-to-investigate-case-unlawful-1.4755885

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Demetrius

POLITICAL PRISONERS’ SOLIDARITY PICKET IN DUBLIN

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

Amidst festive season lights, passing Santa Clauses on horse-drawn carriages and hungry people being fed by volunteers in the Dublin city centre, Irish Republicans and Socialists gathered to send a public message of solidarity to political prisoners in Ireland and elsewhere.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

The event is an annual one organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland, an independent non-aligned group raising awareness that internment without trial continues in Ireland, through revoking of licence of ex-prisoners and through refusal of bail in the no-jury courts both sides of the British Border. The Dublin committee of the AIGI holds monthly public awareness-raising pickets in the city centre.

The annual picket on Thursday early evening was supported by activists of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association and of the Anti-Imperialist Action organisation, along with some independents and took place in front of the iconic GPO building, on Dublin’s main street.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

The picketers and passers-by were addressed by a representative of the Anti-Internment Group outlining the participants’ presence to send solidarity greeting to political prisoners in Ireland and around the world. The speaker drew particular attention to three prisoners: Leonard Peltier, Native American, 45 years in jail and Black American Mumia Al Jamaal, 40 years in prison, both framed by police in the USA. Also highlighted was the case of Ali Osman Kose, 37 years in jail, 21 of which he has spent in solitary confinement. The speaker informed the audience that those three political prisoners, apart from their very long years of incarceration, have multiple health issues and should be released, he said on humanitarian grounds alone. “But no ….. they want them to die in jail”, he said.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

Going on to speak about political prisoners in Ireland, the speaker said that they and hostages had existed almost from the moment Ireland had been invaded by its neighbour and from the defeated United Irishmen up to the Fenians, had included not only dungeons and prison cells but also penal colonies on the other side of the world, after which they had been confined in special prisons and concentrations camps.

The creation of the Irish State on a partitioned Irish country a century ago this month had not brought freedom nor an end to the struggle, the speaker said and pointed out that the Irish State had executed 80 Irish Republicans during the years of the Civil War, which was more than the British had done during the War of Independence preceding it.

Photo: Rebel Breeze

“Whether we are religious or not ….. in our culture at this time of year we expect to be with our families, our partner, children and friends,” the AIGI representative said but pointed out that this opportunity is not available to the prisoners, which makes this a particularly difficult time of year for them, which is why the Group and others hold this event every year.

The speaker then called a young boy forward “to send a message to the prisoners from this younger generation who hopefully will see a free and united Ireland with social justice and equality. The young boy stepped forward and through the PA, asked all at this time of year to think of the Republican prisoners.

Photo: AIGI

The Starry Plough, the Palestinian flag and the Basque Ikurrina were flown by participants and among the banners of the IRPWA and Dublin Committee of the AIGI there was also one displaying the Carlos Latuff graphic of Palestinian and Irish Republican prisoner solidarity. The centrepiece in the picket line was the word Saoirse (‘freedom’ in Irish) picked out by lights on a dark background. Appropriate music was also played during the picket from a PA system, except while being addressed by the speaker.

The event concluded with thanks to all the attendance and the singing the first verse and chorus of the battle-song Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers’ Song in Irish, which is also the National Anthem).

It is understood that seasonal greeting cards have also been sent by AIGI to political prisoners in prisons in the Irish state and in the colonial statelet.

End.

Photo: Rebel Breeze
Signing Christmas cards for the prisoners. (Photo: AIGI)
Photo: Rebel Breeze

Further information:

https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743