Random Ramblings from a Republican
Friday, February 27, 2004
Gerry Adams and the IRA

"Follow the ideals, not the man"

Yesterday, Bertie Ahern was quoted as saying in reference to Gerry Adams "I always assumed that he was [a member of the IRA], I think I would be surprised if he wasn't." This to me is compelling solely because of the outcry from some Provisional supporters in response to this quote.

The people of the Provisional movement continue to believe the every word of this man. The truth is not confirmed, though it is widely accepted within the nationalist community that Adams was a key Provo in the early 1970s in Belfast.

Statements from prominent Republicans shed light on the truth of the matters of Gerry's involvement within the Provisional IRA. Dolours Price, arrested in 1973 for her involvement in the London bombing campaign along with her sister Marian and Gerry Kelly MLA, has said that at the time of her arrest Adams was her commanding officer.

Séan MacStiofáin claimed that in the meetings with William Whitelaw in 1972, the leadership of the RM decided that the delegation sent to meet the British would be all Provisional IRA members. Gerry Adams was amongst those men. The fact of that situation is that Adams, as a 24 year old young man, had to have been a major player in the Republican Movement to be included in talks of that calibre.

Some credited and researched claims, coming from a former Irish Journalist of the Year, of Adams' involvement in the Provisional IRA go as follows: Adams was commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Belfast Brigade for most of 1971 and early 1972; at the time of Bloody Friday, Gerry was the head of the Belfast Brigade.

In the Easter 1976 issue of Republican News, Adams, writing under his widely known pen name of Brownie, admitted to being an IRA Volunteer. He wrote: "Rightly or wrongly, I am an IRA Volunteer and, rightly or wrongly, I take a course of action as a means to bringing about a situation in which I believe the people of my country will prosper." Adams continues to deny that he wrote the Brownie column that week, but it is doubtful that claim is truthful.

It is likely that between 1977 and 1979 that he was at least for a time the Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA. He was also a long time member of the Army Council, the decision-making body of the RA.

Still, Provisional supporters continue to follow the every word of this man, violating one of the dogmas of Republicanism; "Follow the ideals, not the man." (Seán Keenan). They continue to respect and revere the word of Adams, who has denied his alleged involvement as an IRA member to avoid the negative press and unionist backlash.

I understand the reasons for Gerry Adams' denial and I don't blame him for it; what I don't understand is why those about him believe it blindly. The logic of "he wasn't because he said he wasn't" does not have any credibility with all the evidence pointing in the other direction.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
  * The following is a summary of the events of the Civil War of the 1920s. It is a portion of TA Jackson's Ireland Her Own, published 1947.

Civil War and the Six Counties

Free Staters vs the Republicans

The actual occasion of the Civil War between the Free Staters and the Republicans was the resolve of Rory O'Connor to lead the IRA into the Six Counties for a war of reprisals.

O'Connor had taken possession of the Four Courts in Dublin as his headquarters and had begun to commandeer lorries for his raid upon Belfast. The English Government, alarmed at what might happen, urged the Free State Government to dislodge the "anarchists". Finally Michael Collins, now Commander in Chief of the Free State Army, at 4 am on June 28th, 1922, began the bombardment of the Four Courts with artillery lent by the English Government.

The civil war between the Griffith-Collins led Free State Government forces, and the "illregular" IRA led by De Valera, as President of the Irish Republic, was fought with intense bitterness on both sides; and by men who had become largely dehumanised by the prolonged struggle with the Black and Tans. The Free State Government had the advantage, in that its army consisted mainly of trained ex-servicemen, and they had unlimited supplies of arms and ammunition.

The Republicans suffered the disability of the lack of any real popular support. A tragic aspect of the struggle was the large number of men, distinguished in the Anglo-Irish War, who were killed either in action, by execution, or "trying to escape". Collins, Liam Lynch, Rory O'Connor, Mellows, Cathal Brugha, and Erskine Childers are among this number.

At noon, on April 30th, 1923, the Republican Chief of Staff ordered the cessation of offensive operations. On May 24th, this was followed by and order to Cease Fire, to conceal all arms and ammunition and disperse. There was no formal surrender. But the civil war was at an end. Attempts to revive it which have been made from time to time have found no popular backing; except, occasionally, from the exasperated minority in the Six Counties.

The struggle when transferred by De Valera to the plane of political contest met with much greater success.  
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
  * The following is a summary of the events of the Belfast pogroms of the early 1920s. It is a portion of TA Jackson's Ireland Her Own, published 1947.

The Civil War and the Six Counties

The story of the Belfast pogroms.

The formal cause of the Civil War was the refusal of a majority section of the IRA, led by Rory O'Connor and Liam Mellows, to submit to the authority of the Free State Government. Its real cause was the fact of Partition; and the response of the Six-County Government to the Treaty. When the terms of the Treaty were made public, Orange zealots fastened on the terms of the Boundary Clause to raise a scare. The "inner ring" had private assurances, from their die-hard confederates in England, that all would be well; but it was "good politics" to let the zealots of "No Popery" [sound like someone else?] work up as much excitement as they could.

A law was passed by the Northern Ireland[sic] Parliament imposing severe penalties for possessing fire-arms without a license; and upon membership of an seditious association. A new category of full-time Special Constables was establish and equipped; the number of the "occasional" Specials was increased. Any member of an Orange Lodge, or Unionist Association, could get an arms-license for the asking; no Catholic could get one in any circumstances. Merely applying for one was ground for his arrest and detention "on suspicion".

The ground was prepared for a pogrom by a search of the Catholic quarter of Belfast ostensibly for concealed arms. As a result of previous pogroms the quarter was densely overcrowded. Families were living in sheds, and in shacks improvised in back-gardens, and on every spot of waste ground - as well as in halls and church crypts. When the Specials had satisfied themselves that the quarter was destitute of means of defence, the word was given. "Patriotic" Orange mobs marched in with revolvers, rifles and machine guns and set to work to destroy the entire quarter.

The Catholics fought back as well as they could. A party of young Protestant-Socialists beat off a murderous attack upon a convent (which had been fired) and helped to extinguish the flames. A few IRA men from the surrounding districts fought their way in to take part in the defence. Then the military, however, quelled the riot, temporarily; but as often as the soldiers retired riot broke out again and again! With brazen effrontery Orange apologists blamed the whole trouble upon "Sinn Fein gunmen."

When the riots finally died down, it was estimated that another 9,000 Catholics had been drive from their work, and that number rendered homeless had been increased to 23,000. Altogether between June 21st, 1920 and June 21st 1922, 428 had been killed and 1,766 wounded.

A reprisal, which excited much "horror" in the Tory press, was the shooting - on his own doorstep in London, by two Irish ex-servicemen - of Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and chief Military Adviser to the Government of Northern Ireland. Wilson was generally believed to have instigated the pogroms from the first.

(part 2 of this excerpt tomorrow.) 
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
  *Following the divide and conquer policy of the British government in the form of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, there was great bitterness between those supporting that settlement and those opposing it. The following is the summary of the events that occurred leading up to the Civil War. It is a portion of TA Jackson's Ireland Her Own, published 1947.

Pro and Anti Treaty Civil War

Debate on the Treaty generated intense bitterness; and this found expression in a split which eventuated in a Civil War between the forces of the "Free State" and of the "Republic". Formally, debate centered on the Oath - which casuists and ideologues held to be a violation of the Oath of Fidelity to the Republic already taken by the Dail and the IRA. More concretely, it turned on the issue of Partition which, it was contended, the Treaty conceded in principle - leaving its rectification to problematical chances. A renewal of the pogrom in Belfast point the objection.

These grounds of ideological and political division were reinforced and developed into an absolute split by a sharp conflict of economic interests, centering upon the Land Hunger, which was a by-product of the stoppage of emigration to the USA, the Dominions, and England - a result, first, of war-caused prohibitions, then of post-war unemployment crisis.

As we noted earlier, the Land Purchase Acts presupposed for their ameliorative effect the constant functioning of the emigrant-ship. During the war its place was filled by recruiting. Some 500,000 men from the Twenty-Six Counties served in the British Forces during the war; their demobilisation, in face of the economic situation in England, and in the world generally, precipitated an intense crisis.

In 1919 a land-seizing movement hand sprung up in the west of Ireland. The action of the Dail Eireann land courts, and of the Republican police, in suppressing this movement created an intense resentment which helped to swell resistance to the Treaty, which, for its part, was supported strongly by the more bourgeois elements (including especially the much-hated "ranchers"). The line-up was between the actually or potentially Land Hungry, supported by Republican intellectuals and urban revolutionaries, on one side; and the urban bourgeoisie, the State functionaries, the landowners, and the upper strata of the peasantry on the other. The skilled labour elements - and the Labour Party generally - were paralysed by division.

Involved in the struggle was a conflict which had profound consequences - that between the IRB - which under Devoy's influence was Pro-Treaty - and the majority section of the IRA which was anti-Treaty. The resulting dissipation of the moral authority of the "Fenian" body told heavily on the side of the disintegration and the disillusioned-pessimism in the years that followed.

*(Tomorrow: from the same source "Civil War and the Six Counties") 
Sunday, February 22, 2004
The Horror of the Tans

*The following if an excerpt from the Introduction of Dorothy Macardle's Tragedies of Kerry, 1924. I am using it to supplement my previous entries about the Black and Tans.

The Terror

A war of conquest, such as England's war against Ireland, develops, inevitably, into a campaign of terrorism against the people.

Resistance to foreign invasion and foreign rule will never be limited, in a high-spirited nation, to a paid and uniformed army; young men will cast their bread upon the waters, go "on their keeping" and fight in hunger and cold; old men and old women and young girls will be taking their share. Therefore to break the spirit of the whole people by spreading panic terror amongst them, by making them suffer more than they can endure, must be the conqueror's aim.

The defenders who go out to ambush the armed forces of the oppressor, to wreck his military and governmental institution and to impede his progress thru the country, risk not only death in battle but capture, and torture and murder at their captor's hands.

Screams of agony heard from the prisons , dead bodies of young men found in ditches, are calculated to reduce the people to submission. That the contrary effect is produced is a lesson which empires are slow to learn.

This is the explanation of the little rough wooden crosses, sometimes not bearing even a name, which mark forsaken spots on the Kerry roads. It is the explanation of the Sign of the Cross which people make in passing places not marked yet with wood or stone.

Here, they will tell you, in Ballymacelligot, Maurice Reidy and John Leen were killed on Christmas night. That was in 1921; their murders were the Black and Tans. In Ballybunion young Scanlon was murdered, and Carmody in Ballylongford, and Houlihand in Ballyduff. There were Frank Hoffman of Tralee and Billy McCarthy of Lixnaw and Joseph Taylor of Glencar . . . .

In a field in Gortaglanna there are three crosses bearing the names of Padraic Dalton, Padraic Breathnac and Diarmuid Lyons, three friends who were taken on the road and put to death there in '21 by the Black and Tans.

On the road from Castleisland to Tralee there is a cross by the wayside "Remember Denis Broderick", who died in Defence of Ireland, May 24th, 1921. There is a cross that has no name on it a little further on, it is for Seumus Taylor; his brother's is on the roadside in Glencar. There is one for Jack Gavin a few hundred yards to the left, and there is one bearing eight name and the date March 6, 1923. It stands quite close to those three others, at Ballyseedy Cross.  
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Horror of the Tans

Burning of Cork City - December 11th 1920

A slew of events led up to the fires in Cork's city centre in December of 1920. In the late summer and autumn of that year, the IRA's Cork brigades carried out numerous successful ambushes in the countryside of Ireland. These included the 23rd August ambushes at Kilrush, Co. Clare and Macroom, Co. Cork. This aided in the poorly armed Cork brigades' decision that, for the time being, ambushes were the best means of attack.

These ambushes came to a head on November 28th when seventeen Auxiliaries and three IRA volunteers were killed at Kilmichael. Following this event, on the 11th of December, (the first day of Martial Law in the southern counties of Ireland: Cork, Tipp, Kerry, and Limerick), another ambush took place at Dillion's Cross in which another Auxiliary was killed. The Black and Tans with their Auxiliary comrades had enough of these IRA successes and proceeded to rampage throughout Cork City.

Some time after the ambush a large group of Black and Tans opened fire without warning or provocation near the intersection of King Street (now MacCurtain Street) and Summerhill North. The shooting was completely indiscriminate and frantic. Many believe that these troops were soused beyond the point of acutally aiming. Women and children huddled in doorways or ran for shelter elsewhere. The streets soon became deserted. Some panicked people took up refuge at the railway station, and listened to the rifle and revolver fire that continued for more than twenty minutes.

By this time, a number of homes and businesses had been set on fire by extremely angry and drunken Tan companies. While these raged and spread to adjoining buildings, the Tans continued their terror elsewhere in the city. Fires were lit in Patrick St., in the principal business district of the city. A light but steady wind aided the flames to spread from shop to shop down the row. Shortly after this, City Hall caught fire and this eventually spread to the Cork City Free Library which stood next to the municipal government building.

Members of the Cork Fire Brigade fought the flames bravely, amidst gunfire. As a matter of fact, at least two firemen received bullet wounds while fighting the terrible conflagration of the city centre.

Thousands of people lost their jobs and means of earning as a result of these fires and many lost housing. The estimated damage was in the range of three million pounds. The British-appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood, proclaimed to the House of Commons that Cork City had been burnt by its own citizens. The Crown never paid a single penny for the damage caused by their occupying forces.

This was just one of the better known incidents of the British-sanctioned terror during the War of Independence. These things need to be remembered and repeated. History is important to the future. 
Thursday, February 19, 2004
A Brief Article on the Black & Tans and the Auxillaries

In 1919, the English authorities throughout the British[sic] Isles made and attempt to counteract the growing problem that was Ireland. They advertised across their island for men who were willing to "face a rough and dangerous task." Namely, they got the scum of the earth along with war veterans from the First World War. Some men wished just to prolong their "adventurous" life, while others had no choice because they could find no other employment.

Officially, these men were formed into two off-shoots of the RIC, the Black&Tans and the Auxillaries. They were unleashed on the Irish landscape in March of 1920 and at the height of the Tan War, there were 2400 of the khaki-clad scum scattered across the island. The Tans were technically regarded as a designated force of constables, who mostly came from the slum areas of English cities. Criminal records, usually frowned upon, were held as the expectation for this class of man. Crimes of violence were typical, as men volunteered to avoid long sentences in English prisons. The Auxillaries consisted of "cadets" who were mostly former Army and Navy troops hardened and twisted in the trenches and seas of the World War.

The time period and composition of these two British groups did not differ much from two other infamous and fascist groups. The SA of Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Fasci de Combattimento were founded shortly after the Black and Tans came into being, and were no doubt founded along the same lines after understanding their brutal effectiveness. TA Jackson in the volume of Republican history; Ireland Her Own, says that the Tans were "deliberately, a 'fascist' device - which Mussolini, Hitler and others copied - to conceal the fact that, morally, the English invaders were back where they had been in 1169."

The tactics of the Black and Tans revolted even the English citizenry, safely reading their newspapers across the Irish Sea. Rape, looting, beatings, torture and arson pretty well describe the means by which the scum ravaged the countryside of Ireland. By August of 1920, the British Government actually santioned the burning and destruction of private property at the descretion of Tan company commanders. The IRA rose and struck back with a great ferocity, ambushing the Tans throughout the country roads of Ireland. The response by the paramilitary murderers was to burn out the nearest town to where the ambush occurred.

This only helped to swell the ranks of the IRA, with young men disgusted at the violence of the British police in Ireland. Liam Mellows spearheaded this recruitment upsurge as the Director of Purchases for the IRA, supplying the willing youth with arms.

The Black & Tans as well as their Auxillary counterparts became infamous for shying away from combat with the IRA and instead indiscriminately shooting citizens, including children and women. Their cowardice included incidents such as the 14 dead civilians at Croke Park, the burning of the city centre of Cork, as well as innumerable numbers of shooting incidents involving groups of innocents.

(more specifics tomorrow: Croke Park, sacking of Cork....) 
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
The Countess

Part 2

The Countess had been acquainted with James Connolly since 1911, when she and the Scottish socialist participated in protests against the English King. They again crossed paths during the 1913 lockout, when she opened her home to the protest's leaders.

In late 1915, she joined Connolly's Irish Citizen Army and was given the position of lieutenant. This struck a negative cord with some of the men in the ranks of the ICA; namely Sean O'Casey who ended up quitting in protest.

When the unrest in Dublin finally boiled over into the Easter Rising, Constance fought bravely with the men at St. Stephen's Green with Michael Mallin as her commanding officer. Her exploits in the face of danger are well recorded in the annals of history by first hand witnesses. They held for six testing days thru bitter fighting. The men and women of the ICA refused to surrender the Green until forced after a copy of Pearse's surrender notice, also signed by Connolly was presented to Mallin and the Countess.

Once taken into custody by the British, she was transported to Kilmainham Jail where she was the only female prisoner to be held in solitary confinement. She rightly expected and waited to be executed along with her comrades. And she actually was given a sentence of death but it was later commuted to life in prison, much to the Countess' dismay. The only reason her death sentence wasn't enforced, to quote General Maxwell, was because "of the prisoner's sex."

Released after the General Amnesty in the early winter of 1917, she returned to the revolutionary society of Ireland. Her activities got her arrested once again in 1918 under the Defence of the Realm Act in regards to the bogus "German Plot." She ran for a Westminster seat whilst in an English Jail and actually won! She became the first woman to win a Parliamentary seat.

Released just before the first assembly of the Dail Eireann, she was appointed Minister of Labour. She did not get to participate very often in the proceedings as she was forced to go on the run from the Tans and the Brits. She would be subsequently arrested twice more in the next 3 years and interned for months at a time.

Her internment ended when the Treaty debates began in July of 1921. She spoke out against a treaty which would split Ireland in any way. Vocally against the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, she told Michael Collins directly that it was a traitorous act to legitimise the document.

With the beginning of the Civil War, she again put on her holster and fought hard against the Staters, who were attempting to crush the Republican dream. Constance helped to defend Moran's Hotel in Dublin amidst heavy fire from borrowed British guns operated by her former comrades.

After the conclusion of the Civil War, she ran to keep her seat in the Dail, and was successful. Her politics, however, conflicted with the Free State policies and she was arrested for "suspicious activities." Along with nearly a hundred of her fellow female Republicans, she embarked upon a hungerstrike in October of 1923. It only took a month for the Free State to cave under the pressure of these hard women. They were released in November of 1923.

She joined De Valera's Fianna Fail party in 1926, and stood in the Dail election of 1927. She was elected to the assembly, but suddenly grew ill and had to be hospitalised. She died in Sir Patrick Dunn's Hospital's public wing on 15 July 1927. Her funeral procession to Glasnevin was one of the biggest in Irish history and drew nearly 300,000 people. Eamon De Valera delivered an eloquent and striking eulogy, very worthy of the women it was written about. The Countess lives on in Irish history and needs to be remembered for what she was, a brave and relentless Irishwoman.

Comrades, To Con
The peaceful night that round me flows,
Breaks through your iron prison doors,
Free through the world your spirit goes,
Forbidden hands are clasping yours.
The wind is our confederate
The night has left the doors ajar;
We meet beyond earth's barred gate,
Where all the world's wild rebels are.

-Eva Gore-Booth
Monday, February 16, 2004
The Countess

Constance Gore-Booth was born into an Ascendancy family on Feb. 4, 1868 at Buckingham Gate in London. Her father, Sir Henry Gore-Booth was a philanthropist and a traveler with an estate in Co. Sligo. The Gore-Booths were known as fair and understanding landlords. It was probably being raised in the atmosphere of fairness concerning the welfare of the common man that would shape both Constance and her sister Eva's future as helpers of the people.

During her early life, Constance was exposed to the usual circles of the upper echelon of both Irish and English society. She became interested in the budding literary society in Ireland and was introduced to the young and talented poet, William Butler Yeats.

In 1893, she left Ireland for London, where she attended Slade School to fulfill her ambition as an artist. Five years later, she left London for Paris, where she attended the Julian School. It was here that she met her future husband, Count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, an artist from a wealthy Polish family. At the time of their introduction, the Count was still married, but not long after his wife became ill and died. Constance and Casimir were married in September of 1901.

Before Christmas of 1901, the Countess gave birth to her only child with Casimir. The girl's name was Maeve and she was to be raised by her grandparents at Lissadel. It was only two years after Maeve's birth that Constance and Casimir moved to Dublin. Constance set out to make herself a name as a landscape artist as well as in the city's social scene.

1906 was a year that saw a great revelation in the Countess' life. She and the Count moved into a cottage outside of Dublin; a cottage that was previously inhabited by the poet and nationalistic minded Padraic Colum. The poet left behind stacks of copies of Sinn Fein and the Peasant magazines, which the Countess read with great interest.

These magazines and the thoughts they expressed helped to form the nationalist feelings of the Countess and bring them to the forefront of her life. In 1908, she joined Sinn Fein, founded only three years earlier by Arthur Griffith, as well as Maude Gonne's Inghinidhe na hEireann. She joined her sister Eva in Manchester at the end of that year, to stand for public office on a social reform platform. There was no chance for success, considering the attitude towards women in politics at the time.

1909 saw the founding of Na Fianna Eireann by the Countess. They were a scouting organisation teaching young people military drill and involving them in outdoor activities. Her legacy in that organisation carries on to this day.

By 1911, Constance was a part of the Sinn Fein executive and was deeply involved in the growing labour unrest in Dublin. It was around this time that she was first arrested for her labour protest activities. During the lockout of 1913, she ran a soup kitchen for the union workers as well as actively protesting in support of leaders such as Larkin, Skeffington and Connolly.

By the time the First World War broke out, Casimir had become unsatisfied with married life and left for the Balkans to fight for the Czar in the Imperial Cavalry. The Countess tried not to let this personal heartbreak affect her work; she joined and led anti-war protests in Dublin as thousands of young Irishmen died in the trenches of the Somme and Ypres.

(Continued tomorrow...) 
Friday, February 13, 2004
  Republican Biography Series:

Liam Lynch

Liam Lynch was born in Anglesborough, County Limerick to a family with a patriotic history. His great-grandfather was a member of the United Irishman and fought in 1798 against the Brits. With this influence, Liam grew up with nationalist feelings in his heart. He attended the National School and took an apprenticeship in a hardware business in Fermoy.

He first rose to prominence as the man behind the reorganising of the IRA Volunteers in Cork. After his work was done, he led Cork's No. 2 Brigade against the pillaging Black & Tans who were terrorising the countryside. The most famous attack of his leadership was probably the sacking and capturing of the Araglin Police Barracks as well as separate successful ambushes throughout the country.

In June of 1920, Liam Lynch led a group of men to the River Blackwater where a General and two British Colonels were amusing themselves by fishing. The IRA soldiers seized the officers and in the scuffle, one colonel was wounded. Rather than have a dead British officer on his hands, Lynch allowed the wounded and the healthy colonel as an attendant to leave. This capture was a great propaganda coup for the Volunteers, but it didn't last long; the general escaped five weeks later. Once this capture was seen in perspective with the rest of his short but illustrious career, Lynch's reputation was so great that he was named Divisional Commandant of the IRA South in early 1921.

When the Treaty of Partition was signed in December of 1921, Lynch immediately denounced its legitimacy and refused to recognise its authority. He was named Chief of Staff of the IRA in early 1922 after the formation of the illegal Free State. In July, he led a sizable contingent of men into Limerick city and seized the Adare Barracks along with a considerable chunk of the city itself. A truce was drafted, but the Free State government denounced its legitimacy and sent reinforcements to continuing fighting the IRA. Lynch eventually was forced to withdraw back into the country as he was outnumbered 3 to 1.

In March of 1923, Liam Lynch as COS of the IRA decided that it was time to consider the possible options. He was willing to consider most anything short of surrender. Unrelenting, he never wavered in his will to fight on against the Free State forces, even as it became clear to most that they could not win. But, he did not want to see more of the young men of Ireland, the roots of the nation, slaughtered needlessly.

On the 10th of April, 1923 Liam was leading a small contingent of IRA men thru the Knockmealdown Mts in Co. Tipperary when it became apparent that a pair of Free state columns were approaching in different directions, in order to cut off any retreat. Not wishing to have any important communicae captured by the enemy, Liam began to wrack his brain for any possible way out of his current situation.

Inevitably, the Free State troops closed in on the IRA men's position, pressing them from both sides. Upon sight, they wildly opened fire on Lynch's group. Lynch attempted escape by disappearing into the forest nearby, but as he and his men climbed to reach this wooded area, he was mortally wounded. His IRA comrades tried to carry him up the mountain but it was impossible amidst the gunfire. He finally ordered them to leave him. "Perhaps they'll bandage me when they come up," he said with a sarcastic smile. Knowing that the communicae they carried had to be kept from the Free Staters, his comrades reluctantly obeyed their commandant and left him behind. He was taken prisoner shortly after and died later that night.

This brought the tragedy of the Civil War home for many men on both sides. That bullet, the one that ended Lynch's life, could have very well be fired from the rifle of a man who fought right along side of him only 2 years before. On the 7th of April 1935, on the same spot where he fell, a monument was dedicated in his memory. A 60 foot high tower was erected there, built with volunteer labour consisting of many of Liam's old friends and comrades The tower replaced the simple wooden cross that was there for many years. A crowd estimated at eighteen thousand people gathered to honor a man who had dedicated his life to the cause of total Irish sovereignty. 
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Liam Mellows: Young and Determined

Born in 1895 and raised in Galway and Wexford, Liam Mellows was active in na Fianna Eireann which was founded by Countess Markievicz in 1909. He soon became active with the Irish Volunteers as well, and became familiar with much of the Irish countryside through expeditions and bicycling trips with his fellow Fians. With the great help of Mellows' enthusiasm, the organisation spread quickly to all reaches of the island.

The outdoor activities of the Fians helped them to understand the use of guerilla war and other war tactics, so it seemed apt that the officers of the Fianna helped to train new Volunteers. Liam rose to prominence in the western command of the Volunteers until his arrest under the British "Defence of the Realm Act"; he was then interned in Mountjoy Gaol for over four months. On his release, he went on the run but was again captured and deported to England where he served time in Reading Gaol. He escaped in time to aid in leading the Volunteer forces from the west of Ireland in the 1916 Rising.

After the abortive Rising in the west, Mellows escaped to America where he was arrested upon arrival in New York. He was placed in the Tombs lock-up outside NYC on the charges that he aided in an "Irish-German" conspiracy to sabotage the Allied war effort in the ongoing World War.

Upon his release, he helped to organise the speaking and fund-raising tour of Eamon De Valera during 1919. On his return to Ireland, Mellows was appointed as Director of Supplies and Purchases for the IRA and also took his seat as representative of Meath for the all Ireland Dail Eireann.

Upon the signing of the Treaty of Partition, Mellows was set to lead his men against the Free Staters. He, along with many of his fellow comrades of the Army HQ (Austin Stack, Rory O'Connor, Sean Russell, Oscar Traynor, Seamus O'Donovan) were vehemently against the Treaty and refused to accept its authority.

His views on the matter are expressed well by the following quote: "Men will get into positions, men will hold power, and men who get into positions and hold power will desire to remain undisturbed and will not want to be removed - or will not take a step that will mean removal in case of failure." This quote rings true even today and puts into perspective the current path of Provisional Sinn Fein

The Irregulars[sic] set out to make life in the newly and illegally formed Free State as difficult as possible; this was civil war, fratricide. Mellows, Liam Lynch, and O'Connor were those most prominent in the fights and ambushes of British armed Free State forces.

On June 25th, 1922 he and fellow republicans, Rory O'Connor, Joseph McKelvey and Dick Barrett, among others took over the Dublin Four Courts. In possession of a British gunboat, the Free Staters bombarded the Republicans from the relative safety of the Liffey. Two days later, they were forced to surrender.

A counsel of Free State ministers were assembled, with no real legality, and hurriedly decided on a sentence of death for the four leaders arrested at the Four Courts. Their death sentence was in reprisal for the assassination of Brig. Hales, TD "as a solemn warning to those associated with them who are engaged in the conspiracy of assassination against the representatives of the Irish people." The words of the Free State were a farce and nearly laughable if they weren't under such tragic conditions. More traitorous words would be spewed from the mouths of Cosgrave and Mulcahy on the subject.

While the Republican leadership of the time (Irregulars) adhered to the rules of war, the Free Staters, in a page straight out of the British book, repeatedly violated the rights of prisoners, beginning with (and before) the executions of James Fisher, Richard Twohig, and Peter Cassidy on the 17th of November as well as the death of of Erskine Childers on the 24th.

At a young 27, Liam Mellows was murdered by Free State firing squad in Mountjoy Gaol on December 8, 1922 along with his comrades, McKelvey, O'Connor, and Barrett. He is buried in Castletown, Co. Wexford, on his specific request, because it was here that he spent much of his youth, living with his grandmother.

He is foremost remembered as an Irish hero but secondly as perhaps the most prominent Republican Socialist next to Connolly himself.  
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Another unrepentant Republican: Cathal Brugha

Cathal Brugha was born Charles William St. John Burgess in Dublin on 18 July 1874. Growing up in a relatively well off household, his early life was simple but good. He entered Belvedere College at age 15, but was forced to leave school after a year and get a job when his father's business failed.

Brugha became active in Gaelic League and GAA circles in 1899 and became familiar with prominent Republicans in the nationalist brewing pot of Dublin. Looking for an outlet for his national aspirations, he joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 as lieutenant and established himself as a fair but strict leader as well as an apt soldier.

His first prominent action as an officer in the Volunteers was the gun smuggling operation involving the ship Asgard. Brugha was entrusted as officer commanding the troops receiving the guns off the docks and getting them back safely into Dublin and the surrounding countryside.

As second officer commanding troops at the South Dublin Union, he fought the Brits during the Easter Rising. His commanding officer was the later executed Eamonn Ceannt. The injuries he received during the fighting he would never completely rehabilitate from; he would feel the effects of the fourteen wounds (not an exaggeration) he received for the rest of his life.

Following the General Amnesty of 1917, Cathal focused on building and organising the swelling ranks of the IRA and was extremely efficient in doing so. Elected to the First Dail Eireann in the General Election of 1918 for the constituency of Co. Waterford, he was appointed Minister of Defence.

De Valera was in prison when the election for President of the Republic was carried out in 1919 and he was elected de facto. Brugha was appointed as the Acting President of the Irish Republic until Dev was released from jail. During this time, he was highly active along with Army Commandant Michael Collins in mobilising and effectively training the Army for guerilla war against their enemies.

Brugha was appointed to the winter 1921 Delegation sent to London to meet the Brits. In characteristic fashion, he refused to leave his troops to negotiate with the enemy. He and Austin Stack opted to stay home. It was from this delegation that the so called "Anglo-Irish Treaty" was signed.

Brugha immediately denounced the farcical Treaty saying "If our last bullet had been fired, our last shilling spent & our last man were lying on the ground with his enemies howling round him with the bayonets raised ready to plunge into his body, that man should say - true to the tradition handed down - if they say to him 'Now, will you come into our Empire?' - he should and he would say 'No, I will not.'" He was replaced as Defence Minister in the Dail by Richard Mulcahy for refusing to accept the Treaty.

He continued to lead his troops, but now he led them against his former comrades in arms, the Free State traitors who were using British weaponry against the Irregulars[sic]. Brugha was unrelenting in his quest to secure the 32-County Irish Republic and like so many of his other comrades, he paid with British lead.

Suiting his reputation, Cathal Brugha fought on as others surrendered. He continued the fight to the last, this time in the block of hotels on O'Connell St, acting as the informal headquarters of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. As the remaining leaders, including De Valera, Stack and Traynor, escaped after a diversion by the diminished garrison. Brugha stayed behind with the last 17 men. When their position was overrun, those not dead or wounded surrendered, but Brugha refused.

The Free Staters asked "Where is Cathal Brugha?" and they suddenly caught a glimpse of him in a doorway up ahead. The traitors yelled for him to surrender, but the unrelenting Republican defiantly screamed "NO!" and fired his revolver into the group of troops. He was cut down by the volley of shots that ensued and could fight no longer. He was driven to a hospital, where he would die two days later, July 7th, 1922, just short of his 48th birthday.

Those who met Cathal during that last turbulent week understood his mentality and his mission's end. He vocally expressed his intention of dying, if only to show the hypocrisy and hopelessness of the situation created by signing the Treaty of Partition. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.  
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Austin Stack: A rarely praised but extremely praiseworthy Republican

Austin Stack was born in 1879 in the town of Tralee, Co. Kerry. As a young man, he participated in Kerry GAA sports and events, and got acquainted with the Republican underground in his area. He became active with the Irish Volunteers around his town and his reputation as a determined man spread.

His first arrest came in April 1916, when he, acting as Commandant of the Kerry Brigade, was captured by RIC members with fellow Irish Volunteer and Dublin man Con Collins while planning an attack the Tralee barracks where Roger Casement was being held. Tried in typical British fashion, Stack was sentenced to 20 years.

In 1917, Stack was released under the general amnesty of Republican prisoners. He then became active in the new political arena developing in Ireland. He was elected as Secretary of Sinn Fein, a position he would hold for the next 12 years. Shortly after this, in early 1918, he was again arrested and taken to Crumlin Road Jail where he participated in numerous protests with his comrades. These hunger and thirst strikes would take a toll on Austin's health for the rest of his life.

While he was in prison, Stack stood in the 1918 General Election and won the First Dail seat for Kerry West. This victory began a particular distaste from the British, and shortly after he was transferred to Strangeways prison in Manchester. He spent only a short time there; he escaped in the fall of 1919.

Upon returning to Ireland, he took his seat in the Dail and participated as the Minister of Home Affairs during the 2nd Ministry in the first half of 1920. During this time, he was key in organising the new Irish Republic judicial system, to replace the long injust British courts. Amidst all this, he was also leading IRA men against the Tans.

Stack was re-elected to the 2nd Dail for the jurisdiction of Kerry Limerick West and again took the position of Minister of Home Affairs. He along with Cathal Brugha and DeValera, were nominated to accompany the delegation that would later sign the Treaty of surrender. They all rejected the invitations. He refused to recognise the British Crown as having any hold on Irish self-determination.

He vocally rejected the signing of that Treaty of Partition in December of 1921 and vowed to fight on. He is quoted as saying in front of the whole Dail, "Has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died in the field and in the barrack yard?"

He fought with the so-called Irregulars[sic] (the "dissidents" of those days) against the Free Staters. He was captured and imprisoned by Free State forces during their swoop of arrests in the Spring of 1923.

A mass hungerstrike was decided upon for October and hundreds of Republicans (women included) took part. The result of this strike was as desired. The Free State officials, fearing that their fledging hypocritic statelet would come under fire for allowing people to starve in their prisons, caved in and released the Republican prisoners. The number of Republicans participating in this strike is thought to have numbered around 700. Three men died during or directly after this strike, their names were Dennis Barry, Joseph Lacey and Andrew Sullivan.

Austin would never give up his hope for a 32-County Republic. He continued to fight politically for its recognition. He was elected three more times to the 32 County Dail. Sadly, towards the end of April 1929, Stack's body, riddled by years of hunger striking, finally quit on him and he died after complications from a stomach operation days before.

Austin Stack is revered in Republican circles as a man of no compromise and of flawless integrity. He is buried along with so many of his valiant comrades in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Monday, February 09, 2004
  Busy here at school, apologies for lack of creative material.
Speech of P.H. Pearse over the grave of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, 1915

It has seemed right, before we turn away from this place in which we have laid the mortal remains of O'Donovan Rossa, that one among us should, in the name of all, speak the praise of that valiant man, and endeavour to formulate the thought and the hope that are in us as we stand around his grave. And if there is anything that makes it fitting that I, rather than some other, rather than one of the grey-haired men who were young with him and shared in his labour and in his suffering, should speak here, it is perhaps that I may be taken as speaking on behalf of a new generation that has been re-baptised in the Fenian faith, and that has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the Fenian programme. I propose to you then that, here by the grave of this unrepentant Fenian, we renew our baptismal vows; that, here by the grave of this unconquered and unconquerable man, we ask of God, each one for himself, such unshakable purpose, such high and gallant courage, such unbreakable strength of soul as belonged to O'Donovan Rossa.

Deliberately here we avow ourselves, as he avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only. We of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in today's task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone's definition, it is Mitchel's definition, it is Rossa's definition. Let no man blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and their definition.

We stand at Rossa's grave not in sadness but rather in exaltation of spirit that it has been given to us to come thus into so close a communion with that brave and splendid Gael. Splendid and holy causes are served by men who are themselves splendid and holy. O'Donovan Rossa was splendid in the proud manhood of him, splendid in the heroic grace of him, splendid in the Gaelic strength and clarity and truth of him. And all that splendour and pride and strength was compatible with a humility and a simplicity of devotion to Ireland, to all that was olden and beautiful and Gaelic in Ireland, the holiness and simplicity of patriotism of a Michael O'Clery or of an Eoghan O'Growney. The clear true eyes of this man almost alone in his day visioned Ireland as we of to-day would surely have her: not free merely, but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely, but free as well.

In a closer spiritual communion with him now than ever before or perhaps ever again, in a spiritual communion with those of his day, living and dead, who suffered with him in English prisons, in communion of spirit too with our own dear comrades who suffer in English prisons today, and speaking on their behalf as well as our own, we pledge to Ireland our love, and we pledge to English rule in Ireland our hate. This is a place of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak with all charity and with all restraint; but I hold it a Christian thing, as O'Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression, and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them.

Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation. And the seeds sown by the young men of '65 and '67 are coming to their miraculous ripening to-day. Rulers and Defenders of Realms had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes. Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

Saturday, February 07, 2004
  Once again: This time 23 years ago:

On Friday, February 6th, 1981, the IRA, after promises to hinder British ship movement off the Irish coast, bombed and sank a British coal boat: the Nellie M. The thousand pound merchant vessel was located in Lough Foyle, between the coasts of Co. Derry and Donegal.

A dozen armed IRA Volunteers arrived at the docks in the fishing village of Moville and comandeered a pilot boat. The man in the pilot house was instructed to take seven of the volunteers with tons of explosives out to the coal boat, while the other five kept guard back on the docks.

Once aboard the Nellie M, the IRA instructed the chief engineer of the ship that they were not fooling around. Knowing the situation was serious, the man agreed to cooperate and went down to the crew quarters to inform the sailors of the situation. The captain would later comment on the professionalism and understanding of the Volunteers.

Three Volunteers took to planting bombs while the remaining four kept watch on the crew. Bombs were planted in pre-planned points in the engine room. The crew were then instructed to don lifejackets and board the Nellie M's life boat. The Volunteers attached a rope to the life boat and towed it using the commandeered pilot boat. When they were near shore, the life boat was set loose. Around this time, the explosions on the ship rocked the water.

Fires broke out on the deck of the ship, and they could be seen for miles around up and down the Donegal coast of Lough Foyle. The second blast was set for a few hours later, and went off as planned, finally bring water into the ship. By morning, the back half of the ship was submerged. Left on the boat was a warning that future merchant ships would meet the same fate, though towards the crews there was no malice.

The Nellie M was valued at 3 million pounds while its cargo of coal constituted another million sterling. The outrage amongst Brits and Free Staters was immediate and the suggestion of armed guards on shipments from the "North" to Britain was exactly the effect the IRA hope for. It was another step in breaking the British policy of "normalisation."

Friday, February 06, 2004
This time 23 years ago:

The failure of the shaky agreement reached between POWs in Long Kesh prison and British officials following the 1980 hungerstrike sent the prisoners to decide on the 1981 strike
In response to the destruction, the British prison officials refused the POWs water and blankets. It was not until many prisoners threatened to contact their solicitors concerning the matter that they received water. These refusals were in direct violation of the rules that the British prison officials long cited as the reason for not allowing the Republican POWs to have their five demands.

This series of incidents was followed by a campaign of intensified hatred by the screws towards the POWs. Beatings were handed out without warning for talking and not walking fast enough to suit the Brits orders. This scenario, typical of the British prison system regarding Republicans, only helped to reinforce the upcoming hungerstrike.
Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Birth of a Republican

From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

by Bobby Sands, MP


The H-Blocks became battlefields in which the Republican spirit of resistance met head-on all the inhumanities that Britain could perpetrate. Inevitably the lid of silence on the H-Blocks blew sky high, revealing the atrocities inside.

The battlefield became worse: our cells turning into disease-infested tombs with piles of decaying rubbish, and maggots, fleas and flies becoming rampant. The continual nauseating stench of urine and the stink of our bodies and cells made our surroundings resemble a pig-sty. The screws, keeping up the incessant torture, hosed us down, sprayed us with strong disinfectant, ransacked our cells, forcibly bathed us and tortured us to the brink of insanity. Blood and tears fell upon the battlefield - all of it ours. But we refused to yield.


The republican spirit prevailed and as I sit here in the same conditions and the continuing torture in H-Block 5, I am proud, although physically and wrecked, mentally exhausted, and scarred deep with hatred and anger. I am proud became my comrades and I have met, fought and repelled a monster, and we will continue to do so. We will never allow ourselves to be criminalised, nor our people either. Grief-stricken and oppressed, the men and women of no property have risen.

A risen, people marching, in thousands on the streets in defiance and rage at the imperial oppressor, the mass murderer and torturer. The spirit of Irish freedom is in every single one of them - and I am really people. Last week, I had a visit from my wife, standing by me to end as ever. She barely recognised me in my present condition and in tears she told me of the death of my dead mother - God help her, how she suffered.

I sat in tears as my wife told me how my mother marched in her blanket, along with thousands, for her song and his comrades, and for Ireland's freedom. When the screws came to tell me that I was not getting out on compassionate parole for my mother's funeral, I sat on the floor in the corner of my cell and I thought of her in heaven, shaking her fist in her typical defiance and rage at the merciless oppressors of her country.

I thought, too, of the young ones growing up now in a war-torn situation, and, like my own daughter, without peace, without a future, and under British oppression. Growing up to end up in Crumlin Road Jail, Castlereagh, barbed wire cages, Armagh Prison and Hell-Blocks. Having reflected on my own past I know this well occur unless our country is rid of the perennial oppressor, Britain. And I am ready to go out and destroy those who have made my people suffer so much and so long.

I was only a working class boy from a nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve the liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign independence socialist republic. We, the risen people, shall turn tragedy, into triumph. We shall bear forth a nation! 
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Birth of a Republican

From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

by Bobby Sands, MP


With my wife being four months pregnant, the shock of capture, the seven days of hell in Castlereagh, a quick court appearance and remand, and the return to a cold damp cell, nearly destroyed me. It took every ounce of the revolutionary spirit left in me to stand up to it. Jail, although not new to me, was really bad, worse than the first time. Things had changed enormously since the withdrawal of political status. Both republicans and loyalist prisoners were mixed in the same wing.

The greater part of each day was spent locked up in a cell. The screws, many of whom I knew to be cowering cowards, now went in gangs into the cells of republican prisoners to dish out unmerciful beatings. This was to be the pattern all the way along the road to criminalisation: torture, and more torture, to break our spirit of resistance. I was meant to change from being a revolutionary freedom fighter to a criminal at the stroke of a political pen, reinforced by the inhumanities of the most brutal nature. Already Kieran Nugent and several more republican POWs had begun the blanket protest for the restoration of political status. They refused to wear prison garb or to do prison work.

After many weekly remand court appearances the time finally arrived, eleven months after my arrested, and I was in a Diplock court. In two hours I was swiftly found guilty, and my comrades and I were sentenced to fifteen years. Once again I had refused to recognise the farcical judicial system. As they led us from the courthouse, my mother, defiant as ever, stood up in the gallery and shook the air with a cry of "they'll never break you, boys!" and my wife tear-filled eyes, braved a smile of encouragement towards me.

At least, I thought, she has our child. Now that I was in jail, our daughter would provide her with company and maybe help to ease the loneliness which she knew only too well. The next day I became a blanket man, and there I was, sitting on the cold floor, naked, with only a blanket around me, in an empty room.


The days were long and lonely. The sudden and total deprivation of such basic human necessities as exercise and fresh air, association with other people, my own clothes, and things like newspapers, radio, cigarettes, books and a host of other things, made life very hard. At first, as always, I adapted. But, as time wore on, I came face to face with an old friend, depression, which on many an occasion consumed me and swallowed me into its darkest depths.

From home, only the occasional letter got past the prison censor. Gradually my appearance and physical health began to change drastically. My eyes, glassy, piercing, sunken, and surrounded by pale, yellowish skin, were frightening. I had grown a beard, and like my comrades, I resembled a living corpse. The blinding migraine headaches, which started off slowly, became a daily occurrence, and owing to no exercise I became seized with muscular pains.

In the H-Blocks, beatings, long periods in the punishment cells, starvation diets, and torture, were commonplace. March 20th, 1978, and we completed the full circle of deprivation and suffering. As an attempt to highlight our intolerable plight, we embarked upon a dirt strike, refusing to wash, shower, clean out our cells or empty the filthy chamber pots in our cells.

(More tomorrow.) 
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Birth of a Republican

From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

by Bobby Sands, MP


Every time I turned a corner I was met with the now all-too-familiar sight of homes being wrecked and people being lifted. The city was in uproar. Bombings began to become more regular, as did gun battles, as "the boys", the IRA, hit back at the Brits.

The TV now showed endless gun battles and bombings. The people had risen and were fighting back, and my mother, in her newly found spirit of resistance, hurled encouragement at the TV, shouting "give it to them boys!"

Easter 1971 came, and the name on everyone's lips was "the Provos", the people's army, the backbone of nationalist resistance. I was now past my eighteenth years and I was fed up with rioting. No matter how much I tried, or how many stones I threw I could never beat them- the Brits always came back. . . I had seen too many homes wrecked, fathers and sons arrested, neighbours hurt, friends murdered, and too much gas, shootings, and blood; most of it my own people's.

At eighteen-and-a-half I joined the Provos. My mother wept with pride and fear as I went out to meet and confront the imperial might of an empire with an M1 carbine and enough hate to topple the world. To my surprise, my schoolday friends and neighbours became my comrades in war. I soon became much more aware about the whole national liberation struggle - as I came to regard what I used to term "the Troubles."


Things were not easy for a Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Already I was being harassed, and twice I was lifted, questioned and brutalised, but I survived both of these trials. Then came another hurricane: internment. Many of my comrades disappeared - interned. Many of my innocent neighbours met the same fate. Others weren't so lucky, they were just murdered.

My life now centered around sleepless nights and standbys, dodging the Brits, and calming nerves to go out on operations. But the people stood by us. The people not only opened the doors of their homes to us to lend a hand, but the opened their hearts to us, and I soon learned that without the people we could not survive and I knew that I owed them everything.

1972 came, and I had spent what was to be my last Christmas at home for quite a while. The Brits never let up. No mercy was shown, as was testified by the atrocity of Bloody Sunday in Derry. But we continued to fight back, as did my jailed comrades, who embarked upon a long hunger-strike to gain recognition as political prisoners. Political status was won just before the first, but short-lived, truce of 1972. During this truce the IRA made ready and braced itself for the forthcoming massive Operation Motorman, which came and wet, taking with it the barricades.

The liberation struggle forged ahead, but then came personal disaster - I was captured. It was the autumn of '72. I was charged, and for the first time I faced jail. I was nineteen and a half, but I had no alternative than to face up to tall the hardship that was before me.

Given the stark corruptness of the judicial system, I refused to recognise the court. I ended up sentenced in a barbed wire cage, where I spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war with "special category status". I did not waste my time. I did not allow the rigours of prison life to change my revolutionary determination an inch. I educated and trained myself both in political and military matters, as did my comrades.

In 1976, when I was released, I was not broken. In fact I was more determined in the fight for liberation. I reported back to my local IRA unit and threw myself straight back into the struggle. Quite alot of things had changed. Some parts of the ghettos had completely disappeared, and others were in the process of being removed. The war was still forging ahead, although tactics and strategy had changed.

At first I found it a little bit hard to adjust, but I settled into the run of things and, at the grand old age of twenty-three, I got married. Life wasn't bad, but there were still alot of things that had not changed, such as the presence of the armed British troops on our streets and the oppression of our people.

The liberation struggle was now seven years old, and had braved a second and mistakenly-prolonged ceasefire. The British government was now seeking to Ulsterise the war, which included the attempted criminalisation of the IRA and attempted normalisation of the war situation. The liberation struggle had to be kept going. Thus, six months after my release, disaster fell a second time as I bombed my way back into jail!

(More tomorrow) 
Monday, February 02, 2004
  *I am going to take a break from the chronological history and do a few days of an autobiographical article published in AP/RN 4 April 1981, written by Bobby Sands.

The Birth of a Republican

From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

by Bobby Sands, MP

From my earliest days, I recall my mother speaking of the troubled times that occurred during her childhood. Often she spoke of internment on prison ships, of gun attacks and death, and of early morning raids when one lay listening with pounding heart to the heavy clattering of boots on the cobble-stone streets, and as a new day broke, peeked carefully out of the window to se a neighbour being taken away by the Specials.

Although I never really understood what internment was, or who the Specials were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil. Nor could I understand when my mother spoke of Connolly and the 1916 Rising, and of how he and his comrades fought and were subsequently executed - a date suffered by so many Irish rebels in my mother's stories.

When the television arrived, my mother's stories replaced by what it had to offer. I became more confused as the "baddies" in my mother's tales were always my heroes on the TV. The British Army always for the "the right side" and the police were always the "good guys." Both were to be heroised and imitated in my childhood play.


At school I learned history, but it was always English history and English historical triumphs in Ireland and elsewhere.

I often wondered why I was never taught the history of my own country and when my sister, a year younger than myself, began to learn the Gaelic language at school, I envied her. Occasionally nearing the end of my school days, I received a few scant lessons in Irish history. For this, from the republican-minded teacher who taught me, I was indeed grateful.

I recall my mother also speaking of the "good old days". But of all her marvelous stories I could never remember any good times, and I often thought to myself "thank God I was not a boy in those times", because by then - having left school - life to me seemed enormous and wonderful.

Starting work, although frightening at first, became alright, especially with the reward at the end of the week. Dances and clothes, girls and a few shillings to spend, opened up a whole new world to me. I suppose at that times I would have worked all week, as money seemed to matter more than anything else.


Then came 1968 and my life began to change. Gradually the news changed. Regularly I noticed the Specials, whom I now knew to be the 'B' Specials, attacking and baton-charging the crowds of people who all of a sudden began marching on the streets. From the talk int he house and my mother shaking her fist at the TV set, I knew that they were our people who were receiving end.

My sympathy and feelings really became aroused after watching the scenes at Burntollet. That imprinted itself in my mind like a scar, and for the first time I took a real interest in what was going on.

I became angry.

It was now 1969, and events moved faster as August hit our area like a hurricane. The whole world exploded and my own little world just crumbled around me. The TV did not have to tell the story now, for it was on my own doorstep. Belfast was in flames, but it was our districts, our bumble homes, where were burnt. The Specials came at the head of the RUC and Orange hordes, right into the heart of our streets, burning, looting, shooting and murdering.

There was no-one to save us, except "the boys" as my father called the mean who defended our district with a handful of old guns. As the unfamiliar sound of gunfire was still echoing, there soon appeared alien figures, voices, and faces, in the form of armed British soldiers on our streets. But no longer did I think of them as my childhood "good guys", for their presence alone caused food for thought.

Before I could work out the solution, it was answered for me int he form of early morning raids and I remembered my mother's stories of previous troubled times. For now my heart pounded at the heavy clatter of the soldiers' boots in the early morning stillness and I carefully peeked from behind the drawn curtains to watch the neighbours' doors being kicked in, and the fathers and sons being dragged out by the hair and being flung into the backs of sinister-looking armoured cars.

This was followed by blatant murder: the shooting dead of our people on the streets in cold blood. The curfew came and went, taking more of our people's lives.

(More tomorrow) 
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Ta ar la anois.

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