Today in Irish History - April 29th
1916 - Pearse orders surrender of the Easter Rising rebels on this date. Approximately 64 rebels have been killed, 132 crown forces, and 230 civilians. 2,500 people have been wounded; the centre of Dublin has been devastated by the shelling
1957 - Daniel Day-Lewis, best actor Oscar winner for My Left Foot, is born
1970 - Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, both former Irish government ministers, together with two other men James Kelly (Captain), then an Irish Army Intelligence Officer, and John Kelly, a Belfast Republican, were charged in a Dublin court with conspiracy to illegally import arms for use by the Irish Republican Army.
1976 - An off-duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment and a Protestant civilian died as a result of an Irish Republican Army attack near Dungannon, County Tyrone.
1977 - Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), warned in a statement that if the British authorities failed to alter its policies then loyalists might have to consider taking over the administration of Northern Ireland.
1981 - The private secretary of Pope John Paul II held talks with Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, before paying another visit to Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison.
1986 - Seamus McElwaine, IRA is killed
1991 - The ceasefire announced on 17 April 1991 by the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) began at midnight.
1997 - Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) prisoners caused a riot and staged a protest on top of the roofs of blocks H1 and H2 in the Maze Prison. There were protesting at the tighter security rules that were approved on 28 April 1997. The Loyalist prisoners said that the new rules should only apply to Republican prisoners.
2000 - Patrick Neville (31), a civilian from the Republic of Ireland, was found shot dead on a stairway in a block of flats near to his home in Inchicore, Dublin. It was believed that the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was responsible for his killingSources:
Ireland Culture and Customs (http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/02Hist/Home.html
Easter Rising Events: April 26th, 1916
Liberty Hall Shelled
As soon as it was light enough, the Helga moved up the Liffey and moored just opposite the Customs House. At the stroke of eight o'clock it opened up its guns on Liberty Hall. Although the first shell missed, hitting the cast iron loopline bridge the second and subsequent shells destroyed the building. The only occupant, the caretaker, Peter Ennis, ran a gauntlet of machine gun fire to escape. Liberty Hall was NOT , as they thought, a rebel stronghold. It was, in fact, empty. The green flag on top was simply an act of defiance. In the GPO, although the use of artillery must have come as a shock to James Connolly, who, in his one act of naivety over the whole of their plans, thought the British would not respond with artillery that would destroy buildings, he considered it as proof that the British were beaten and had to resort to such desperate measures. It took some twisting of facts though, to make artillery shelling a positive sign.
At Portobello Barracks, Captain Bowen-Colthurst took three prisoners, Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and two journalists, Thomas Dickson, and a Patrick MacIntyre from Scotland, out into the yard and ordered a hastily arranged firing squad to shoot them. The medical report later showed that Skeffington was shot in the back. At first, Colthurst tried to cover things up by saying that the prisoners had tried to escape, but this was quickly proved to be a lie. He was later relieved of command and court-martialled, but a plea of insanity got him 'off the hook.'
At the Mendicity Institute, Sean Heuston and his men were counting bullets while the British raked them with machine guns and tosses grenades at them. They were cut off from their base at the four courts with little hope of help and two badly injured men among them. Reluctantly, Sean Heuston took the decision that would save the lives of his small group, and another small rebel outpost surrendered. Ironically, after the surrender as the group was being lined up and verbally abused by the soldiers, a sniper killed one of them. Whether it was an Irish Volunteer who made a mistake or a British soldier is unclear. If the first, then it was a tragic accident, if the second, one more outrage since firing on men who had surrendered under a flag of truce is quite unacceptable.
The third battallion had the worst day of all. And at the same time the most successful. They were charged with the task of holding the roads into the city from the East. Three outposts facing the strategic Mount Street bridge were very poorly manned by all standards of military practice. Clanwilliam House had just seven young volunteers in it, George Reynolds in command and Patrick Doyle, Richard Murphy, Tom and Jim Walsh and James Doyle and Willie Ronan. 25 Northumberland Road had just two snipers, Michael Malone and James Grace, and the Parochial Hall had four men in it, Paddy Doyle in command and Joe Clarke, Bill Christian and Pat McGrath. For a full day these thirteen men kept the 2,000 strong 178th Midland Division relief draft under Colonel Maconchy and 800 men of the Sherwood Foresters under Colonel Fane pinned down on the bridge, inflicting huge and terrible casualties on them. If there was a comparison with The Alamo in 1916, it was not the Surrender at Moore Street, but the 'battle of Mount Street Bridge.' Of course, they could not hold out forever. But they probably bought the Irish Republic a few more days than it would have had. In Northumberland road, Malone died in a hail of bullets when the soldiers finally blew in the door and rushed the house. The men at the Parochial Hall escaped with their lives but were captured. Meanwhile at Clanwilliam House, they kept going until near sunset, when the soldiers managed to get close enough to set fire to the house with grenades. Against fire and machine-guns and with less than 10 rounds left the rebels fought to the last. Three of them were killed and their bodies incinerated in the burning building as the four last men finally surrendered. Colonel Maconchy led his troops across the bridge on horseback, eye-witness reports saying that he had a look of a victor. But over two hundred and thirty dead and wounded men were a high enough price to pay for such a victory.
The first real battle on Sackville street saw 'Kelly's Fort' the outpost at the corner of Bachelor's Walk in Kelly's Fishing Tackle store reduced to a shell. Machine guns had raked it all day before an 18 pounder based at Trinity College joined in. About 2.30 in the afternoon the building caught fire, but the rebels retreated unhurt back through tunnelled out adjoining buildings to the GPO Headquarters.
The day was one of retreats and setbacks, but at the same time, the rebels proved that, if they had more weapons, more men, things would not have been so hopeless after all. The defence of Mount Street Bridge showed that the taking over of strategic buildings giving advantage over approaching troops worked. The 'what ifs' were never so evident as the Wednesday of Easter Week.
Casualties on Wednesday, April 26th were:-
George Reynolds, Richard Murphy, Patrick Doyle at Clanwilliam House, Michael Malone in 25 Northumberland House and John Costello in the street fighting in the Mount Street Area.
Peadar Macken fell at Boland's Mills.
George Geoghegan near Dublin Castle
Peter Wilson, shot after the surrender of the Mendicity Institute
Richard O'Carroll, shot and wounded in St. Stephen's Green, died on May 5th of his wounds.
Today In Irish History
1840 - Repeal (of Union) Association founded.
1848 - On Abbey Street in Dublin, the tricolor national flag of Ireland is presented to the public for the first time by Thomas Francis Meagher and the Young Ireland Party
1912 - The Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage with the loss of 1,513 souls, many of them Irish; 732 survive
1941 - Free State fire brigades are sent to aid Belfast after Nazi raids cause numerous fires.
1972 - Sean McConville (17), a Catholic man, was shot dead by members of the UDA on the Crumlin Road, Belfast1990
- Gerry Adams, the President of Sinn Féin addressed an Easter Rising commemoration and stated that the 'struggle' in Northern Ireland would continue as long as there was a British presence in Ireland.
1995 - Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), gave a radio interview during which he again ruled out the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons1998
- The Grand Orange Lodge, the ruling body of the Orange Order, decided not to support the Good Friday Agreement. While not rejecting the Agreement outright the members demanded clarification of a number of issues from British Prime Minister, Tony Blair before it would consider changing its position.
2003 - The peace process remains deadlocked as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair continue to press the IRA for more clarity about its intentions
By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981
To election workers for H-Block hungerstriker Bobby Sands, the high poll of 86.8%, recorded on polling day Thursday 9th April in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster by-election, was the first favourable sign indicating at least that the boycott advocated by some executive members of the SDLP had been ignored by the nationalist people.
The next encouraging sign came during the count in Enniskillen on Friday when it could be seen that SDLP strongholds such as Irvinestown in County Fermanagh and Donaghmore in County Tyrone were returning a very low percentage of spoiled votes, again ignoring the advice of the SDLP leadership who just as much as UDR and RUC checkpoints had attempted to sabotage an election victory for Bobby Sands.
Bobby, always a few hundred votes ahead during the count, looked as if he had made it.Confident
From lunchtime onwards, republicans were quietly confident that their interpretation of the count was correct, though many journalists were skeptical (because of republicans inexperience at this game, they said!) and were influenced enough by briefings from born optimist James Cooper, Harry West’s election agent, to report the candidates as neck and neck.
This had the effect of attracting cocky loyalists to Enniskillen Technical College, the venue for the count. However, by about three o’clock they discreetly dispersed and were replaced by a growing crowd of proud nationalists who could taste victory.
An “Enniskillen Youth Against H-Block” banner appeared and the chanting built up to a crescendo until the announcement was made by the returning officer, Alistair Patterson, at 4:25pm. “The result was 30492 votes for Bobby Sands (Anti-H-Block/Armagh political prisoner), 29046 for Harry West (Official Unionist) and 3280 unmarked or spoiled votes.”
The loyalists were totally demoralized, the RUC guards visibly shaken, the media, who almost unanimously predicted the opposite outcome were humbled and the jubilance of the republicans for turning the various establishments on their heads was expressed by veteran republican Kevin Agnew’s opening invective from the steps of the college. “Fellow terrorists”, he triumphantly addressed the crowd, to uproarious applause, each supporter ramming the word terrorist down all the various onlookers’ throats.Amazing
The result was amazing given the many factors against a victory. The high poll and low number of spoiled votes (over half of which were visibly Paisley-inspired anti-West ballot papers) were a clear rejection by the nationalist people of the advice given by the treacherous leadership of the SDLP.
Though Bobby Sands’ campaign was run by a broad based committee, though he ran on an anti H-Block/Armagh political prisoner ticket, the SDLP leadership, sections of the Catholic church, and Official Unionist Party and British parliament, declared that to vote for Bobby Sands was to vote for the IRA. They blackmailed and intimidated the nationalist electorate who nevertheless braved all arguments and threats and made republican hungerstriker Bobby Sands a Westminster MP.
Perhaps the most despicable intervention came from the British Labour opposition spokesperson on the North, Don Concannon
. Speaking from the sanctuary of the British parliament on polling day, he declared that the electorate had a “unique opportunity to denounce the men of violence” and said that a vote for Bobby Sands was a vote of approval for the IRA operations such as the Narrow Water ambush (when 18 British soldiers were killed).
Had a by-election been taking place in Britain, propriety would dictate that on polling day such an electioneering outburst would not be made, let alone be reported by the live media, which is legally obligated to give fair and equal coverage to contestants. (The reporting of such statements places the particular contestant with an immediate advantage over others, who have only a limited time in which to re-influence the voters before the polling booth close.)
Concannon’s stupid outburst, unlike the statement from Fianna Fail Euro-MP Sile de Valera, who on the eve of polling day called for support for Bobby Sands
, was given extensive coverage in the North. Concannon had worked at Stormont as a direct-rule minister from 1976 until May 1979, and during that time was responsible for the administration of the H-Blocks and knew of the brutal beatings taking place. However, he seems to have learnt nothing from his time in Ireland.
One of his last acts in the North was to go to Lisnaskea and visit the late Frank Maguire (whom Bobby Sands succeeded as MP) on the eve on a crucial vote of confidence in the Labour government in April 1979. He pleaded with Maguire to make a rare visit to Westminster and support the crumbling Labour government, Frank Maguire’s price (and the sentiment of Fermanagh South Tyrone) was political status for the men in H-Block and the women in Armagh. But the Labour government would not concede, and so without Maguire’s support it fell and the Tories subsequently came to office.
Concannon’s bungling intervention this time almost certainly confirmed native instincts that their choice of Sands was the correct one.Abusive
British press reactive to the election victory was hysterical and as abusive as that which followed the IRA execution of Lord Mountbatten
and the killing of 18 British soldiers
in August 1979. An editorial in the “Sunday Express” said of the electorate “May God forgive their hypocrisy” and concluded: “Their attendance at Mass this morning is as corrupt as the kiss of Judas.”
The “Sunday Times” was less insulting, and saw the result as a watershed: “the election result finally and publicly puts paid to the notion – wishfully fostered by Protestants in the province and by government spokesmen abroad – that the Provisional IRA enjoys no popular support.”
However to the IRA, the validity of its mandate, which has undoubtedly been enhanced by the election of an IRA Volunteer, rests after the election, as before the election, upon the illegitimacy of partition and the British presence. Undoubtedly, however, internationally the result will be interpreted as a popular mandate for the armed struggle for national liberation.
Following the election victory, Sinn Fein president Ruairi O’Bradaigh pointed out that the people had spoken: “The message from Fermanagh and South Tyrone to all the world is clear: political status for the political prisoners now, before Bobby Sands
and his comrades die.” He slammed the ‘begrudgers’ of the victory, especially Gerry Fitt, who he called upon to resign his Westminster seat.
The political repercussions of the outcome of the election dominated the news media for a full week. SDLP leaders, who 48 hours earlier had warned that a vote for Sands was “a vote for violence”, soon abandoned that tune after 30,492 voters made an IRA Volunteer an MP. It was not, after all, said Austin Currie
‘a vote for violence’!
West, by using quotes from the Pope had waged a “very stupid campaign”, whereas Bobby Sands
’ camp had waged a “very shrewd and unprincipled election campaign”, said the former Stormont MP who once called for a civil disobedience campaign and then, as a cabinet minister in the power-sharing assembly, seized the cattle of poor people in lieu of payment of rent and rates which they had withheld as a part of that disobedience campaign.SDLP
Last Tuesday, SDLP leader John Hume
, still carefully avoiding the SDLP taking up a clear position on the H-Block crisis, urged Bobby Sands to demand facilities of the British administration so that he could take them to the European Commission on Human Rights
for a ruling on the commission’s H-Block report.
Attacking Hume’s smokescreen substitute for hard anti-British criticism, a Sinn Fein spokesperson pointed out: “Last week, Mr. Hume did not run to Europe for a ruling when he advised the electorate to vote against Bobby Sands
. What the people would be really interested to hear is not John Hume’s advice but his attitude towards the British government and its brutal treatment of the political prisoners.”
Discredited West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt
– who had, even before the killing by an unknown gunman of a census collector in Derry two days before polling day, unashamedly attempted to sway the nationalist electorate in favour of Harry West – declared the Sands victory “a mandate for the Provisional IRA”. The Alliance Party said that the Fermanagh and South Tyrone electorate “are to be condemned” and Official Unionist leader, James Molyneaux
, said that the result would be read as “support by the Catholic community for the Provisional IRA.”Loyalist
The Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association said that the vote was a “vote for the IRA”. Attempting to prove this point the terror gang’s leader, Andy Tyrie, said: “If a UDA man had stood in the same election he would have been lucky to get five thousands votes. This IRA man got thirty thousands votes.” The UDA, who for a number of years have been advocating, without success, six-county “independence” (thru a front organization, the New Ulster Political Research Group), while carrying out a sectarian assassination campaign, made the excuse that the election result would drive them away from “politics” and back to paramilitarism, which they have never abandoned anyway. A crisis meeting of UDA commanders was held in Belfast on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of their “independence” front group, though no immediate statement was made.
Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party were undoubtedly pleased at the result, since it allowed them, in the run-up to the local government elections in May, to blame the Official Unionists for not accepting an “agreed” candidate, and at the same time gave them the opportunity to launch the sectarian broadsides at the Catholic people. “Now we know,” said Paisley, addressing a loyalist rally in Glasgow last Saturday, “where the Roman Catholics in Ulster and the so-called moderates stand. More than thirty thousand of them have voted for the IRA commandant in the Maze prison.” (Nevermind that one hundred and eighty thousands unionists in the 1979 European elections voted for a raving bigot with a history of over twenty-five years of anti-Catholic sectarianism behind him!)Crisis
Apart from Sile de Valera’s welcome for the result, there was very little reaction from Free State politicians. Similarly, British politicians were reticent to speak about the repercussions for the continuation of the policy of criminalization. British premier Margaret Thatcher, where interviewed exclusively on ITN “News at Ten” last Monday evening, was extremely evasive even when being questioned by a sympathetic interviewer. She reiterated that there is to be no change in British government policy towards the North despite the election result.
On Tuesday the British cabinet met, and reports after the grisly discussion indicated that ministers were told to prepare for the inevitable prospect of Bobby Sands’ death. The British government again reaffirmed that it had no intention of giving the prisoners their five demands, and afterwards Thatcher conveniently took herself off to India and the Gulf States for an eleven-day tour as the crisis point in Bobby Sands’ life rapidly approached.
Today in Irish History
- The trial of United Irishman, Napper Tandy, begins1922
- Special Powers Act is introduced in Northern Ireland1926
- Mussolini's Irish wife breaks his nose1941
- A Luftwaffe bomb kills 13 people in Belfast. Ultimately, the city is devastated by air raids; 700 people are killed and 400 seriously injured in what becomes known as Belfast's Blitz. The British government appeals to De Valera for help and he authorizes fire brigades from Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda and Dun Laoghaire to give assistance1972
- Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) died in a premature bomb explosion at Bawnmore Park, Greencastle, Belfast.1973
- The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a land-mine attack on a mobile patrol of the British Army and killed 3 soldiers near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.1976 -
Three members of a Protestant family were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when an incendiary bomb caused a fire in the drapery business below the Herron family home.1981
- Joanne Mathers (29), a Protestant civilian who was acting as a census enumerator, was shot dead in the Gobnascale area of Derry, while she was collecting census returns. Republican paramilitaries were responsible for the killing.1984
- John Hermon, then Chief Constable of the RUC, denied there was a 'shoot to kill' policy being operated by security forces in Northern Ireland. He also said there was no cover-up in relation to events surrounding the killing of two INLA members at a vehicle check-point at Mullacreavie, County Armagh, on 12 December 1982. Hermon did admit that two unarmed RUC officers had entered the Republic of Ireland for 'observation purposes' in December 1982.1993 -
Gordon Wilson met with representatives of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to try to persuade them to stop their military campaign. [Gordon Wilson had been injured, and his daughter killed, in the Enniskillen bombing on 8 November 1987]1994 -
Margaret Wright (31), a Protestant civilian, was badly beaten by a group of men, and then finally shot four times in the head, in a Loyalist band-hall in the Donegal Road area of Belfast. [She had been invited to the hall on the evening of 6 April 1994 and was then killed by Loyalists who believed that she was a Catholic. There was strong condemnation of the killing in Protestant areas. Ian Hamiltion (21), a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member, was shot dead by the UVF on 12 April 1994 because they claimed he had admitted killing Wright. William Elliott (32), a member of the Red Hand Commando (RHC), a group associated with the UVF, was also shot dead on 28 September 1995 for his alleged part in the killing of Wright.]1996 - (Easter Sunday)
Republicans held a series of rallies to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), addresses a rally in the Bogside, Derry. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued an Easter statement
which did not mention a renewed ceasefire.1997 -
A Catholic chapel, Mullavilly in County Armagh, was destroyed by arsonists and a Protestant parish hall was also damaged in Dungiven, County Derry.Gary Martin Quinn (33) was charged with four murders dating from 1989 and was also charged with being a member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a covername used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).Sources:CAINWild Geese