seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Ballytrain Barracks Attack

An Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit commanded by Ernie O’Malley and Eoin O’Duffy captures a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks at Ballytrain, County Monaghan, on February 14, 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.

After a month of intense IRA activity across the country, the War of Independence continues unabated in February 1920. Becoming more daring in the process, the IRA continues to target the RIC and their barracks. Elsewhere, local issues and tensions also surface, and in some cases, they become embroiled in the struggle for Independence. February 1920 is a month of chaos across the country.

Described by the newspapers of the day as a ‘fierce affray’ the three-hour assault on the RIC barracks at Ballytrain, County Monaghan is a significant engagement for the Monaghan IRA during the War of Independence. Launched at 2:00 AM on a Sunday morning and led by Eoin O’Duffy, later a Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, the attack had been carefully planned.

Located eight miles from Castleblayney, the RIC barracks in Ballytrain is manned by Sergeants Lawson and Graham and four constables, Roddy, Gallagher, Murtagh, and Nelson, all of whom it is said fight against the odds for over three hours. At 5:00 AM, when ‘the leader’ of the IRA party demands the officers surrender it is met by continued firing from the police. O’Duffy then gives the order to plant explosives at the gable wall, which instantly collapses. Four RIC officers are buried in the rubble of the building and are later transferred to Carrickmacross hospital for treatment. About fifty men then rush the building carrying off a quantity of weapons.

A house belonging to a man named Mitchell is raided before the attack, where four members of the family are held hostage throughout the night. The IRA smashes all of the windows in the house allowing them to fire on the barracks. As many as 150 men take part in the raid, which also sees some men taking up position in cattle byres, which had been cleaned out in order to give protection. It is later alleged that O’Duffy had told the RIC men that he was glad no one had been killed in the exchange, saying, “We did not come here to do injury, but only for arms.” It is hardly the welcome Sergeant Graham had expected having only arrived in the barracks three days earlier.

(From: Irish Newspaper Archives, irishnewsarchive.com, February 17, 2020)


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Thomas McMahon Sentenced to Life for Mountbatten’s Assassination

Thomas McMahon, former volunteer in the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and one of the IRA’s most experienced bomb-makers, is sentenced to life in prison on November 23, 1979 for the assassination of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and three others (two children and an elderly lady) at Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

McMahon plants a bomb in Shadow V, a 27-foot fishing boat belonging to Mountbatten at Mullaghmore, near Donegal Bay. Lord Mountbatten and the others are killed on August 27, 1979 when the bomb detonates. The other victims are Doreen Knatchbull, Baroness Brabourne, Mountbatten’s elder daughter’s mother-in-law, his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and 15-year-old crewmember Paul Maxwell.

McMahon is arrested by the Garda, the Republic of Ireland‘s police force, two hours before the bomb detonates at a Garda checkpoint between Longford and Granard on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle.

The IRA claims responsibility for the act in a statement released immediately afterwards. In the statement from the organisation they say, “This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country.”

McMahon is tried for the assassinations in the Republic of Ireland, and convicted by forensic evidence supplied by Dr. James O’Donovan that shows flecks of paint from the boat and traces of nitroglycerine on his clothes. He is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder on November 23, 1979, but is released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Following his release, Toby Harnden in Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh (1999) reports that McMahon is holding a tricolour in the first rank of the IRA colour party at a 1998 IRA meeting in Cullyhanna. However, according to a BBC report, McMahon says that he left the IRA in 1990.

McMahon twice refuses to meet John Maxwell, the father of Paul Maxwell, who seeks him out to explain the reasons for his son’s death. In a May 2011 interview for The Telegraph, Maxwell states that he had “made two approaches to McMahon, the first through a priest, who warned me in advance that he thought there wouldn’t be any positive response. And there wasn’t. I have some reservations about meeting him, obviously – it might work out in such a way that I would regret having made the contact. On the other hand, if we met and I could even begin to understand his motivation. If we could meet on some kind of a human level, a man to man level, it could help me come to terms with it. But that might be very optimistic. McMahon knows the door is open at this end.”

McMahon likewise refuses requests from Nicholas Knatchbull’s twin brother, who lost an eye in the same explosion. The latter, however, has forgiven McMahon and other members of the IRA who committed the act.

McMahon’s wife has stated, “Tommy never talks about Mountbatten, only the boys who died. He does have genuine remorse. Oh God yes.”

McMahon lives with his wife Rose in Lisanisk, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. He has two grown sons. He helps with Martin McGuinness‘s presidential campaign in 2011, erecting posters for McGuinness around Carrickmacross.


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Birth of Ardal O’Hanlon, Comedian & Actor

ardal-o-hanlonArdal O’Hanlon, comedian and actor, is born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan on October 8, 1965. He plays Father Dougal McGuire in Father Ted, George Sunday/Thermoman in My Hero, and DI Jack Mooney in Death in Paradise.

O’Hanlon is the son of politician and doctor Rory O’Hanlon and Teresa Ward. The episode of Who Do You Think You Are? which airs on October 6, 2008 reveals that his paternal grandfather, Michael O’Hanlon, was a medical student at University College Dublin (UCD) who joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence and was a member of Michael Collins‘s squad which assassinated British secret service agents on the morning of Bloody Sunday. Details of his grandfather’s activities survive in UCD Archives, as well as Blackrock College. It also transpires that, on his mother’s side, he is a close relative of Peter Fenelon Collier.

O’Hanlon is schooled in Blackrock College in Dublin and graduates in 1987 from the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin (now Dublin City University) with a degree in Communications Studies.

Together with Kevin Gildea and Barry Murphy, O’Hanlon founds the International Comedy Cellar, upstairs in the International Bar on Dublin’s South Wicklow Street. Dublin has no comedy scene at the time. As a stand up, he wins the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in 1994. For a time he is the presenter of The Stand Up Show.

O’Hanlon is spotted by Graham Linehan, who casts him as Father Dougal McGuire in Father Ted (1995–98). In 1995 he receives the Top TV Comedy Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards for this role. In 1995, he appears as Father Dougal in a Channel 4 ident and during Comic Relief on BBC One. This is followed by the award-winning short comedy film Flying Saucer Rock’n’Roll.

O’Hanlon moves into straight acting alongside Emma Fielding and Beth Goddard in the ITV comedy-drama Big Bad World, which airs for two series in summer 1999 and winter 2001. He also plays a minor role in The Butcher Boy and appears in an episode of the original Whose Line is it Anyway?.

In 2000, O’Hanlon stars in the comedy series My Hero, in which he plays a very naive superhero from the planet Ultron. His character juggles world-saving heroics with life in suburbia. He stays in the role until the first episode of series 6 in July 2006 where he is replaced by James Dreyfus during the same episode.

O’Hanlon also provides the voice of the lead character in the three Christmas television cartoon specials of Robbie the Reindeer. He appears in the 2005 BBC One sitcom Blessed, written by Ben Elton. Towards the end of 2005, he plays an eccentric Scottish character, Coconut Tam, in the family-based film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby. Although more commonly on television, he also appears on radio. In 2015 he appears as incompetent angel Smallbone in the sitcom The Best Laid Plans, also on BBC Radio 4.

In 2006, O’Hanlon writes and presesed an RTÉ television series called Leagues Apart, which sees him investigate the biggest and most passionate football rivalries in a number of European countries. He follows this with another RTÉ show, So You Want To Be Taoiseach? in 2007. It is a political series where he gives tongue-in-cheek advice on how to go about becoming Taoiseach of Ireland.

O’Hanlon appears in the Doctor Who episode “Gridlock“, broadcast on April 14, 2007, in which he plays a cat-like creature named Thomas Kincade Brannigan. He appears in Series 3 of the TV show Skins, playing Naomi Campbell’s Politics teacher named Kieran. He then goes on to form a relationship with Naomi’s mother, played by Olivia Colman. He plays the lead role in Irish comedy television programme Val Falvey, TD on RTÉ One.

In February 2011, O’Hanlon returns to the Gate Theatre, Dublin starring in the Irish premiere of Christopher Hampton‘s translation of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, alongside Maura Tierney. In 2011, he appears in the comedy panel show Argumental.

O’Hanlon has written a novel, The Talk of the Town, which is published in 1998. The novel is about a teenage boy, Patrick Scully, and his friends.

In February 2015 O’Hanlon officially launches the 2015 Sky Cat Laughs Comedy Festival which takes place in Kilkenny from May 28–June 1. In 2015 he plays the role of Peter the Milkman in the Sky One sitcom After Hours.

On February 2, 2017, it is announced O’Hanlon will play the lead role in the BBC crime drama Death in Paradise taking the role of DI Jack Mooney following Kris Marshall‘s departure the same day.