seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

IRA Kidnaps & Holds Hostage 42 Prominent Loyalist Activists

On February 7, 1922, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland kidnaps and holds hostage forty-two prominent loyalist activists in Fermanagh and Tyrone in response to the January 14 arrest of the Monaghan county football team, who were traveling to play Derry in the final of the Ulster Championship game.

A party of eighteen armed B-Specials, a part-time auxiliary police force which is almost 100% Protestant, when traveling by train to Enniskillen, are stopped at Clones railway station in County Monaghan by an IRA group. The B-Specials react immediately by shooting Commander Fitzpatrick. His colleagues retaliate by fatally shooting four Specials and arresting the survivors. Trouble in the North is at a boiling point and in the three days after the Clones incident thirty people are murdered in Belfast.

Intense negotiations between Secretary of State for the Colonies Winston Churchill and Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State Michael Collins helps to secure the release of the Monaghan footballers and the Fermanagh and Tyrone loyalists, but for some time the British suspend the evacuation of troops from Ireland. Following the incident, Churchill, who is leading the UK effort on the transfer of power following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, writes to his wife Clementine in what might be termed an understatement, “Ireland is sure to bring us every form of difficulty and embarrassment.”

Collins and James Craig, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, have further discussions in Dublin in early February 1922 but the meeting breaks down over the question of the boundary revision. Craig informs reporters that he has the assurance of the British Government that the Boundary Commission will make only slight changes. He complains that the maps which Collins had produced led him to the assumption that Collins had already been promised almost half of Northern Ireland. Craig agrees to minor changes but if North and South fail to agree, there will be no change at all. Collins issues a statement which refuses to admit any ambiguity and says that majorities must rule.

The British and the Provisional Government finally agreed that an Irish Free State Agreement Bill will legalise the Treaty and the transfer of power to the Provisional Government and will authorise the election of a Provisional Parliament to enact the Free State Constitution. Final ratification of the Treaty is deferred until the British confirm the Free State Constitution. Only then will Northern Ireland be allowed to exclude itself formally from the Free State.

(From: “OTD in 1922 – The IRA Kidnaps More Than Forty Loyalists Activists and ‘B’ Specials,” Stair na hÉireann | History of Ireland, https://stairnaheireann.net | Picture: Colour image of the IRA patrolling Grafton Street, Dublin, during the Irish Civil War in 1922, 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour)


1 Comment

The Mahon’s Hotel Bombing

A Continuity Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb explodes at Mahon’s Hotel in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on February 6, 2000, less than 24 hours before the Ulster Unionist Party’s Ken McGuinness is due to visit. The Continuity IRA is the only republican organisation which has not called a ceasefire.

The bombing follows repeated warnings from senior police officers on both sides of the Northern Ireland border that republican dissidents continue to pose a threat. Both the Continuity IRA and Real IRA have been recruiting and rearming in preparation for a campaign to wreck the Northern Ireland peace process.

The splinter republican organisation is behind a bomb attack on the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen in July 1996. The attack follows a week-long marching stand-off at Drumcree.

In September 1997, it places at bomb in Markethill, in County Armagh, just 24 hours after Sinn Féin joins the political negotiations which lead to the Good Friday Agreement.

In January 1998, a Continuity IRA bomb wrecks a club in County Fermanagh. The explosion coincides with a series of loyalist attacks, which follow the murder of the Portadown Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright.

The latest explosion in Irvinestown comes in a week when the new political institutions are facing suspension because of the stalemate over paramilitary arms decommissioning. This attack by the Continuity IRA looks deliberately timed to add to the peace process’s troubles.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Stephen Grimason says the bomb will not help the current situation. “We are hearing an argument reinforced from unionists that if these things are left lying around then people will use them,” he says. “So the anti-agreement unionists will be using this as a weapon. But I would have thought it will harden the attitudes of the Ulster Unionist Council and the Ulster Unionist executive, meeting tonight on the issue of weapons,” he adds.

Grimason adds that unionists in general will want to hear about the forensics of the bomb and if there was a Semtex booster charge used. “They will use that as another means of saying that this is all the IRA,” he says. But he adds that there will be those who will see this as a move against Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams because it removes the room for manoeuvre that he has.

BBC Northern Ireland chief security correspondent Brian Rowan says the bomb contained one to two kilos of high explosive, but that the security forces had not yet revealed what type it is. He says the bomb had the appearance of the Continuity IRA which in “times of trouble made more trouble.” He adds, “They would see this as a reminder that they are still out there and as a reminder to other republicans that there is an alternative to the mainstream IRA, and to the peace process strategy. It is about damaging a process that this organisation very much opposes, a process in which they believe republicans principles have been sold out.”

Rowan says security sources believe in some areas the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and the more mainstream Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) co-operate in attacks. INLA prisoners have been released under the Good Friday Agreement early prisoner release scheme, following the INLA’s ceasefire declaration.

“In the Fermanagh area security forces believe the Continuity IRA is operating alone and there is a pattern of activity over a period of years. There is nothing to suggest it was any other group.” He says there is nothing coming from republicans or security sources at this time to suggest that the IRA has any intention of actual decommissioning in the “immediate period ahead.”

(From: “Bombing follows dissident pattern,” BBC News, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk, February 7, 2000 | Photo: RUC forensic experts examine the scene of the bomb attack at Mahons Hotel in Irvinestown, Northern Ireland, Associated Press)


Leave a comment

Death of Irish Writer Amanda McKittrick Ros

Anna Margaret Ross (née McKittrick), Irish writer known by her pen name Amanda McKittrick Ros, dies on February 2, 1939, at Larne, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She publishes her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, at her own expense in 1897. She writes poetry and a number of novels. Her works are not read widely, and her eccentric, over-written, “purple” circumlocutory writing is alleged by some critics to be some of the worst prose and poetry ever written.

Ros is born in Drumaness, County Down, on December 8, 1860, the fourth child of Eliza Black and Edward Amlave McKittrick, Principal of Drumaness High School. She is christened Anna Margaret at Third Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church on January 27, 1861. In the 1880s she attends Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, is appointed Monitor at Millbrook National School, Larne, County Antrim, finishes her training at Marlborough and then becomes a qualified teacher at the same school.

During Ros’s first visit to Larne, she meets Andrew Ross, a widower of 35, who is station master there. She marries him at Joymount Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, on August 30, 1887.

Ros writes under the pen name Amanda McKittrick Ros, possibly in an attempt to suggest a connection to the noble de Ros family of County Down. She is strongly influenced by the novelist Marie Corelli. She writes, “My chief object of writing is and always has been, to write if possible in a strain all my own. This I find is why my writings are so much sought after.” She imagines “the million and one who thirst for aught that drops from my pen,” and predicts that she will “be talked about at the end of a thousand years.”

Ros’s “admirers” include Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, C. S. Lewis and Mark Twain. The publication of her novel Irene Iddesleigh is financed by her husband in 1897 as a gift to her on their tenth wedding anniversary. Twain considers the novel “one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time.” A reader sends a copy of the novel to humorist Barry Pain, who in an 1898 review calls it “a thing that happens once in a million years,” and sarcastically terms it “the book of the century.” He reports that he is initially entertained, but soon “shrank before it in tears and terror.” Ros retorts in her preface to Delina Delaney by branding Pain a “clay crab of corruption,” suggesting that he is so hostile only because he is secretly in love with her. But Ros claims to make enough money from her second novel, Delina Delaney, to build a house, which she names Iddesleigh.

In Ros’s last novel, Helen Huddleson, all the characters are named after various fruits: Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, Madame Pear. Of Pear, Ros writes, “she had a swell staff of sweet-faced helpers swathed in stratagem, whose members and garments glowed with the lust of the loose, sparkled with the tears of the tortured, shone with the sunlight of bribery, dangled with the diamonds of distrust, slashed with sapphires of scandals…”

Ros believes that her critics lack sufficient intellect to appreciate her talent and is convinced that they conspire against her for revealing the corruption of society’s ruling classes, thereby disturbing “the bowels of millions.”

Andrew Ross dies in 1917, and Ros marries Thomas Rodgers, a County Down farmer, in 1922.

Ros dies at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on February 2, 1939, under the name Hannah Margaret Rodgers.

Belfast Public Libraries have a large collection of manuscripts, typescripts and first editions of Ros’s work. Manuscript copies include Irene Iddesleigh, Sir Benjamin Bunn and Six Months in Hell. Typescript versions of all the above are held together with Rector Rose, St. Scandal Bags and The Murdered Heiress among others. The collection of first editions covers all her major works including volumes of her poetry, Fumes of Formation and Poems of Puncture, together with lesser-known pieces such as Kaiser Bill and Donald Dudley: The Bastard Critic. The collection includes hundreds of letters addressed to Ros, many with her own comments in the margins. Also included are typed copies of her letters to newspapers, correspondence with her admiring publisher T. S. Mercer, an album of newspaper cuttings and photographs, and a script for a BBC broadcast from July 1943.

A few enthusiasts have kept Ros’s legend alive. A biography, O Rare Amanda!, is published in 1954. A collection of her most memorable passages is published in 1988 under the title Thine in Storm and Calm. In 2007 her life and works are fêted at a Belfast literary festival.

Denis Johnston, the Irish playwright, writes a radio play entitled Amanda McKittrick Ros which is broadcast on BBC Home Service radio on July 27, 1943 and subsequently. The play is published in The Dramatic Works of Denis Johnston vol. 3. He acquires a collection of papers from Ros including the unfinished typescript of Helen Huddleson. These can now be seen as part of the Denis Johnston collection in the library of the Ulster University at Coleraine, Northern Ireland.


2 Comments

March Commemorating the 26th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

On February 1, 1998, up to 40,000 people march from the nationalist Creggan estate to the Bogside area of Derry to commemorate the 26th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to remember the 14 people who died after paratroopers opened fire during disturbances 26 years earlier. Organisers say it is one of the biggest Bloody Sunday marches to date.

Jean Heggarty, whose brother Kevin was among those killed on January 31, 1972, pays tribute to the families’ quest for truth. “The families have never doubted the truth would survive. Due to their determination 26 years later, Tony Blair stated in the House of Commons that he would establish the truth,” she says.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed, says, “The families have had a long struggle but what Tony Blair has said has really surprised us. I think we are in a more jovial mood after that announcement.”

The Sinn Féin chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, calls for prosecutions to result from the new Bloody Sunday inquiry. He says those commanding the paratroopers on the day should be called to account for their actions.

McGuinness includes in his remarks General Sir Robert Ford, who was Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland at the time of the killings. “I think the role of General Ford in particular is going to come under the microscope,” he says. “If people such as General Ford are found to be complicit in the killings then I think they should be subjected to proceedings in the courts. The implications of all that are enormous for the British establishment.”

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, General Ford told the BBC that his men had returned only three shots after having between 10 and 20 rounds fired at them.

(From: “Special Report: Remembering Bloody Sunday,” BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk, February 1, 1998 | Pictured: In driving rain, relatives lay wreaths at the Bloody Sunday memorial)


Leave a comment

Birth of Paul “Dingus” Magee, Volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army

Paul “Dingus” Magee, a former volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, on January 30, 1948.

Magee joins the Belfast Brigade of the IRA and receives a five-year sentence in 1971 for possession of firearms. He is imprisoned in Long Kesh, where he holds the position of camp adjutant. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he is part of a four-man active service unit, along with Joe Doherty and Angelo Fusco, nicknamed the “M60 gang” due to their use of an M60 general-purpose machine gun. On April 9, 1980, the unit lures the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) into an ambush on Stewartstown Road, killing Constable Stephen Magill and wounding two others. On May 2 the unit is planning another attack and has taken over a house on Antrim Road, when an eight-man patrol from the British Army‘s Special Air Service (SAS) arrives in plain clothes, after being alerted by the RUC. A car carrying three SAS members goes to the rear of the house, and another car carrying five SAS members arrives at the front of the house. As the SAS members at the front of the house exit the car the IRA unit opens fire with the M60 machine gun from an upstairs window, hitting Captain Herbert Westmacott in the head and shoulder. Westmacott is killed instantly and is the highest-ranking member of the SAS killed in Northern Ireland. The remaining SAS members at the front of the house, armed with Colt Commando automatic rifles, submachine guns and Browning pistols, return fire but are forced to withdraw. Magee is apprehended by the SAS members at the rear of the house while attempting to prepare the IRA unit’s escape in a transit van, while the other three IRA members remain inside the house. More members of the security forces are deployed to the scene, and after a brief siege the remaining members of the IRA unit surrender.

The trial of Magee and the other members of the M60 gang begins in early May 1981, with them facing charges including three counts of murder. On June 10 Magee and seven other prisoners, including Joe Doherty, Angelo Fusco and the other member of the IRA unit, take a prison officer hostage at gunpoint in Crumlin Road Jail. After locking the officer in a cell, the eight take other officers and visiting solicitors hostage, also locking them in cells after taking their clothing. Two of the eight wear officer’s uniforms while a third wears clothing taken from a solicitor, and the group moves toward the first of three gates separating them from the outside world. They take the officer on duty at the gate hostage at gunpoint and force him to open the inner gate. An officer at the second gate recognises one of the prisoners and runs into an office and presses an alarm button, and the prisoners run through the second gate towards the outer gate. An officer at the outer gate tries to prevent the escape but is attacked by the prisoners, who escape onto Crumlin Road. As the prisoners are moving toward the car park where two cars are waiting, an unmarked RUC car pulls up across the street outside Crumlin Road Courthouse. The RUC officers open fire, and the prisoners return fire before escaping in the waiting cars. Two days after the escape, Magee is convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum recommended term of thirty years.

Magee escapes across the border into the Republic of Ireland. Eleven days after the escape he appears in public at the Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown Graveyard, County Kildare, where troops from the Irish Army and the Garda‘s Special Branch attempt to arrest him but fail after the crowd throws missiles and lay down in the road blocking access. He is arrested in January 1982 along with Angelo Fusco and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for the escape under extra-jurisdictional legislation. Shortly before his release from prison in 1989, he is served with an extradition warrant, and he starts a legal battle to avoid being returned to Northern Ireland. In October 1991, the Supreme Court of Ireland in Dublin orders his return to Northern Ireland to serve his sentence for the murder of Captain Westmacott, but Magee jumps bail and a warrant is issued for his arrest.

Magee flees to England, where he is part of an IRA active service unit. On June 7, 1992, Magee and another IRA member, Michael O’Brien, are traveling in a car on the A64 road between York and Tadcaster, when they are stopped by the police. Magee and O’Brien are questioned by the unarmed police officers, who become suspicious and call for back-up. Magee shoots Special Constable Glenn Goodman, who dies later in hospital, and then shoots the other officer, PC Kelly, four times. Kelly escapes death when a fifth bullet ricochets off the radio he is holding to his ear, and the IRA members drive away. Another police car begins to follow the pair, and comes under fire near Burton Salmon. The lives of the officers in the car are in danger, but Magee and O’Brien flee the scene after a member of the public arrives. A manhunt is launched, and hundreds of police officers, many of them armed, search woods and farmland. Magee and O’Brien evade capture for four days by hiding in a culvert, before they are both arrested in separate police operations in the town of Pontefract.

On March 31, 1993, Magee is found guilty of the murder of Special Constable Goodman and the attempted murder of three other police officers and sentenced to life imprisonment. O’Brien is found guilty of attempted murder and receives an eighteen-year sentence. On September 9, 1994, Magee and five other prisoners, including Danny McNamee, escape from HM Prison Whitemoor. The prisoners, in possession of two guns that had been smuggled into the prison, scale the prison walls using knotted sheets. A guard is shot and wounded during the escape, and the prisoners are captured after being chased across fields by guards and the police. In 1996 Magee stages a dirty protest in HM Prison Belmarsh, in protest at glass screens separating prisoners from their relatives during visits. He has refused to accept visits from his wife and five children for two years, prompting Sinn Féin to accuse the British government of maintaining “a worsening regime that is damaging physically and psychologically.”

In January 1997, Magee and the other five escapees from Whitemoor are on trial on charges relating to the escape for a second time, as four months earlier the first trial had been stopped because of prejudicial publicity. Lawyers for the defendants successfully argued that an article in the Evening Standard prejudiced the trial as it contained photographs of Magee and two other defendants and described them as “terrorists,” as an order had been made at the start of the trial preventing any reference to the background and previous convictions of the defendants. Despite the judge saying the evidence against the defendants was “very strong”, he dismisses the case stating, “What I have done is the only thing I can do in the circumstances. The law for these defendants is the same law for everyone else. They are entitled to that, whatever they have done.”

On May 5, 1998, Magee is repatriated to the Republic of Ireland to serve the remainder of his sentence in Portlaoise Prison, along with Liam Quinn and the members of the Balcombe Street Gang. He is released from prison in late 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and returns to live with his family in Tralee, County Kerry. On March 8, 2000, he is arrested on the outstanding Supreme Court extradition warrant from 1991 and remanded to Mountjoy Prison. The following day he is granted bail at the High Court in Dublin, after launching a legal challenge to his extradition. In November 2000 the Irish government informs the High Court that it is no longer seeking to return him to Northern Ireland. This follows a statement from Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Mandelson saying that “it is clearly anomalous to pursue the extradition of people who appear to qualify for early release under the Good Friday Agreement scheme, and who would, on making a successful application to the Sentence Review Commissioners, have little if any of their original prison sentence to serve.” In December 2000 Magee and three other IRA members, including two other members of the M60 gang, are granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy which allows them to return to Northern Ireland without fear of prosecution.


Leave a comment

The Murder of IRA Volunteer Eamon Collins

Eamon Collins, member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is beaten and stabbed to death by an unidentified assailant(s) in the early morning hours of January 27, 1999, in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland.

Collins is born in 1954 in Camlough, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, the son of Brian Collins, a farmer, livestock trader, and cattle smuggler, and Kathleen Collins (née Cumiskey). His extended family has no history of political involvement, though his upbringing is fervently Catholic and nationalist. He leaves secondary school at age 16 and briefly works as a clerk in the Ministry of Defence in London. He returns home for family reasons and resumes his education in 1971 through a scholarship to St. Colman’s College, Newry, County Down. In 1973 he goes to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to study law.

Collins develops ultra-leftist political beliefs in his late teens and supports the Northern Ireland civil rights movement but retains reservations about the use of violence. He is further radicalised by being beaten up by soldiers searching his family’s farm at Easter 1974 and by the downfall of the power sharing executive. He loses interest in his studies, leaves QUB in 1976 without completing his degree, and drifts for two years, joining an anarchist collective in Belfast. He comes back into contact with the republican movement through the blanket protest by Long Kesh inmates; he had known hunger striker Raymond McCreesh as a teenager. In 1978 he joins the customs service in Newry and begins to pass information to the IRA, which he joins in 1979. He is central to IRA recruitment and intelligence in Newry and south Down. Without firing a shot himself he facilitates at least five murders, including that of a customs colleague.

In 1982 Collins marries and the couple has four children. By 1984 he has developed doubts about his activities. He antagonises the Belfast leadership, which is moving towards political engagement and away from the all-out revolutionary violence that he favours, and while he admires the hardline South Armagh IRA for its military professionalism, he regards its members as political primitives. On February 28, 1985, he is arrested after an IRA mortar attack in which nine Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members are killed. He breaks down after six days of interrogation and is recruited as a “supergrass,” but retracts his evidence a fortnight later and is held on remand on the basis of his confessions.

In January–February 1987 Collins is tried for murder but acquitted after the judge rules his statements inadmissible. He completes an Open University degree while awaiting trial. After his release he is ostracised and is interrogated by the IRA, which in July 1987 orders him to leave Northern Ireland. He engages in youth work in Dublin from 1987 to 1990, taking a diploma in community work at Maynooth. His wife and children remain in Newry and he visits them regularly in defiance of the expulsion order. In 1990 he returns to live in Newry and teaches at the Ulster People’s College in Belfast. From 1992–94 he is a community worker in Edinburgh. His wife and children continue to live on the Barcroft Park estate in Newry.

In 1994 Collins returns permanently to Northern Ireland after securing a job at a youth club in Armagh. In April 1995 he describes his career in a television documentary, admitting the murders for which he had been tried. In 1997 he publishes a memoir, Killing Rage, a powerful account of life as a paramilitary, although it is not entirely reliable. After the 1995 documentary he experiences verbal and physical harassment. This intensifies after May 1998 when he testifies for The Sunday Times in a libel action by Thomas Murphy, whom the paper accuses of being a leading IRA member. Four months after Murphy loses the case, the family farmhouse in Camlough, which Collins is renovating, is burned down. After the Omagh bombing he publishes several articles denouncing the Real IRA, several of whose activists he had recruited into the IRA from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in the early 1980s. Graffiti regularly appears outside his home in Newry denouncing him as a British agent.

Early in the morning of January 27, 1999, Collins paints out the latest graffiti, and is walking his dogs near the Barcroft Park Estate in Newry along a quiet stretch of country lane at Doran’s Hill, just within sight of Sliabh gCuircin (Camlough Mountain). His body also bears marks of having been struck by a car moving at speed. The subsequent police investigation and Coroner’s Inquest comments upon the extremity of weaponed violence to Collins’ head and face used during the attack.

Rumoured reasons behind the murder are that Collins had returned to Northern Ireland in breach of the IRA’s banning order, and further he had detailed IRA activities and publicly criticized in the media a multiplicity of Irish Republican paramilitary splinter groups that had appeared after the Provisional IRA’s 1994 ceasefire, and that he had testified in court against Murphy. Gerry Adams states the murder was “regrettable,” but adds that Collins had “many enemies in many places.”

After a traditional Irish wake, with a closed coffin necessitated due to the damage to his face, and a funeral service at St. Catherine’s Dominican Church in Newry, Collins’ body is buried at the city’s Monkshill Cemetery, not far from the grave of Albert White, a Catholic former Royal Ulster Constabulary Inspector, whose assassination he helped to organise in 1982.

In January 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) releases a statement that a re-examination of the evidence from the scene of the 1999 murder had revealed new DNA material of a potential perpetrator’s presence, and makes a public appeal for information, detailing the involvement of a specific car model, a white coloured Hyundai Pony, and a compass pommel that had broken off a hunting knife during the attack and had been left behind at the scene. In February 2014 detectives from the Serious Crime Branch arrest a 59-year-old man at an address in Newry in relation to the murder, but he is subsequently released without charge. In September 2014 the police arrest three men, aged 56, 55 and 42, in County Armagh in relation to inquiries into the murder, all of whom are subsequently released without charges after questioning. In January 2019 the police release a statement regarding the murder that one of the assailants had been seriously injured by an accidentally sustained knife wound during the attack, and had left traces of his own blood at the scene, and that recent scientific advances in DNA evidence had increased the possibility of his identification. In May 2019, three men aged 60 to 62 are arrested and questioned, but then released unconditionally.


Leave a comment

The Founding of Clann Éireann

Clann Éireann (English: “Family of Ireland”), also known as the People’s Party, a minor republican political party in the Irish Free State, is founded on January 25, 1926 as a result of a split from the ruling Cumann na nGaedheal party, to protest against the Irish Boundary Commission report, which permanently demarcates the border between the Free State and Northern Ireland. Clann Éireann is the leading representative of constitutional republicanism in Dáil Éireann until the success of Fianna Fáil at the June 1927 Irish general election.

The party chairman is Professor William Magennis, Teachta Dála (TD) for the National University of Ireland. The secretaries include Pádraic Ó Máille, TD for Galway. Other prominent members of the party include Maurice George Moore, who at the time is a member of the senate, and Christopher Byrne, who is a sitting TD for Wicklow and was one of those who had resigned from Cumann na nGaedheal over the Boundary issue.

The party demands for Ireland “one and indivisible as of right the full status of a sovereign State. We aim at restoring the unity of her territory and the union of all her people under one central supreme government.” The party advocates the abolition of the Oath of Allegiance to the British King. It also calls for lower taxes and less legislation. In policies like trade protectionism and the abolition of the Oath of Allegiance, it agrees with the agenda of Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera. An attempt to lure de Valera and his followers into the party fail. After de Valera creates the Fianna Fáil party in March 1926, Clann Éireann grows closer to that group.

The party attracts little support, and it fails to win any seats in Dáil Éireann at the June 1927 general election. Its seven candidates only attract a few thousand first-preference votes. Seven of them are last in their constituencies and forfeit their deposits. On August 28, 1927, the party issues a statement supporting Fianna Fáil, and ceases political activity.

(Pictured: (L to R) Pádraic Ó Máille, William Magennis, Maurice George Moore who are amongst the most prominent members of the party)


Leave a comment

Birth of Charlie Kerins, Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army

Charlie Kerins, a physical force Irish Republican and Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in Caherina, Tralee, County Kerry, on January 23, 1918. He is one of six IRA men who are executed by the Irish State between September 1940 and December 1944.

Kerins attends Balloonagh Mercy Convent School and then the CBS, Edward Street. At the age of 13, he wins a Kerry County Council scholarship and completes his secondary education at the Green Christian Brothers and the Jeffers Institute. In 1930, he passes the Intermediate Certificate with honours and the matriculation examination to the National University of Ireland (NUI). He later does a commercial course and takes up employment in a radio business in Tralee.

In 1940, Kerins is sworn into the IRA and is appointed to the GHQ staff in May 1942. At the time, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera is determined to preserve Irish neutrality during World War II. Therefore, the IRA’s bombing campaign in England, its attacks against targets in Northern Ireland, and its ties to the intelligence services of Nazi Germany are regarded as severe threats to Ireland’s national security. IRA men who are captured by the Gardaí are interned for the duration of the war by the Irish Army in the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.

On the morning of September 9, 1942, Garda Detective Sergeant Denis O’Brien is leaving his home in Ballyboden, Dublin. He is between his front gate and his car when he is cut down with Thompson submachine guns. O’Brien, an Anti-Treaty veteran of the Irish Civil War, had enlisted in the Garda Síochána in 1933. He is one of the most effective Detectives of the Special Branch division, which has its headquarters at Dublin Castle. The shooting greatly increases public feeling against the IRA, particularly as the murder is carried out in full view of his wife.

Following the arrest of Hugh McAteer in October 1942, Kerins is named Chief of Staff of the IRA. Despite a massive manhunt by Gardaí, he remains at large for two years. He stays at a County Waterford home for two weeks while he is on the run, having given his name as Pat Carney. He is captured several months after he leaves the home.

Kerins had previously left papers and guns hidden at Kathleen Farrell’s house in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines. He telephones the house, as he intends to retrieve them. However, Farrell’s telephone had been tapped by the Gardaí. On June 15, 1944, he is arrested in an early morning raid. He is sleeping when the Gardaí enter his bedroom and does not have an opportunity to reach the Thompson submachine gun which is hidden under his bed.

At a trial before the Special Criminal Court in Collins Barracks, Dublin, Kerins is formally charged on October 2, 1944, for the “shooting at Rathfarnham of Detective Dinny O’Brien.” At the end of his trial, the president of the Military Court delays sentence until later in the day to allow Kerins, if he wishes, to make an application whereby he might avoid a capital sentence. When the court resumes, he says, “You could have adjourned it for six years as far as I am concerned, as my attitude towards this Court will always be the same.” He thus deprives himself of the right to give evidence, to face cross-examination, or to call witnesses.

Despite legal moves initiated by Seán MacBride, public protests, and parliamentary intervention by TDs from Clann na Talmhan, Labour, and Independent Oliver J. Flanagan in Leinster House, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera refuses to issue a reprieve. On December 1, 1944, in Mountjoy Prison, Kerins is hanged by British chief executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who is employed by the Irish Government for such occasions.

Kerins is the last IRA member to be executed in the Republic of Ireland. He is buried in the prison yard. In September 1948, his remains are exhumed and released to his family. He is buried in the Republican plot at Rath Cemetery, Tralee, County Kerry.


Leave a comment

Death of Aengus Fanning, Journalist & Editor of the Sunday Independent

Aengus Fanning, Irish journalist and editor of the Sunday Independent from 1984 until his death, dies on January 17, 2012, following a battle with lung cancer. He is also a former editor of farming for the Irish Independent. He is listed at number 31 on a list of “most influential people” in Irish society compiled for Village magazine.

Fanning is born on April 22, 1944, in the family home at Cloonbeg Terrace, Tralee, County Kerry, the fourth child among five sons and one daughter of Arnold (‘Paddy’) Fanning, a teacher, and his wife Clara (née Connell). Originally from Rostrevor, County Down, his mother is born a Presbyterian and converts to Catholicism to marry his father, though neither is religious. His father is a noted organiser of local theatrical productions, having written a one-act play, Vigil, which is staged in the Abbey Theatre in 1929.

Fanning has a keen interest in sport, having represented Kerry in Gaelic football in his youth. He is also passionate about cricket. He also plays the clarinet, and is a jazz fan. He is a graduate of University College Cork (UCC).

In May 1964 Fanning is hired as a reporter by his uncle, James Fanning, the owner of the Midland Tribune in Birr, County Offaly, and pursues an unglamorous beat covering court sittings, local authority meetings and GAA matches. Needing a better salary to start a family, he joins Independent Newspapers (IN) in Dublin as a general reporter in May 1969, and soon after marries Mary O’Brien from Streamstown, County Offaly. They settle in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, and have three sons.

Fanning covers the Northern Ireland troubles during 1969–70, before reporting increasingly on farming matters, becoming the IN group’s agricultural correspondent in 1973, as Ireland’s European Economic Community (EEC) accession sparks a farming boom. He is made head of news analysis at the Irish Independent in 1982, improving the op-ed page and using it to advocate more market-driven economic policies.

Fanning is appointed editor of the mid-to-upmarket Sunday Independent in 1984 from. Under his leadership, the newspaper adopts what Irish newspaper historian John Horgan calls a “new emphasis on pungent opinion columns, gossip and fashion” which results in the paper overtaking its main rival, The Sunday Press. For a time, his deputy editor is journalist Anne Harris.

In a 1993 interview with Ivor Kenny in the book Talking to Ourselves, Fanning describes himself as a classical liberal who is opposed to both Ulster loyalist and Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorism. He also expresses a strong advocacy of the free market, arguing that the goal of a good newspaper is to be as commercially successful as possible:

“If three or four papers out of 15 are successful and the others are not, they might say they’re not driven by the market, they have some higher vocation: to serve the public interest or some pompous stuff like that. That’s how they feel good about themselves. Fair enough, if that’s how they want to explain the world. It’s a grand excuse for relative failure… I think we live or die by the market, it will always win through.”

Fanning recruits a number of noted writers to contribute to the newspaper, including historians Conor Cruise O’Brien and Ronan Fanning, journalists Shane Ross and Gene Kerrigan, poet Anthony Cronin and novelist Colm Tóibín. However, his editorship is not without controversy. The columns published by Eamon Dunphy and Terry Keane draw criticism. Michael Foley notes some Irish commentators criticised Fanning’s Sunday Independent, claiming the newspaper was publishing “a mix of sleaze and prurience.”

Fanning also defends the controversial Mary Ellen Synon, who calls the Paralympics games “perverse.” One of the more bizarre incidents occurs in 2001 when he is involved in a fisticuffs with a colleague at the newspaper – operations editor Campbell Spray.

Diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2011, Fanning spends his last months undergoing treatment in St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, dying there on January 17, 2012, at the age of 69. His remains are cremated at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Anne Harris, Fanning’s second wife, succeeds him as editor and lasts three years. As well as pioneering changes in the domestic print media’s role, Fanning’s Sunday Independent led Irish society’s turn towards free market hedonism, catching the public mood better than its more conventionally liberal rivals by rendering this cultural transformation in an exuberant, somewhat parodied form, and without regard for lingering post-Catholic inhibitions.


Leave a comment

Birth of George Henry Perrott Buchanan, Poet, Novelist & Journalist

George Henry Perrott Buchanan, poet, novelist, and journalist is born on January 9, 1904, in Kilwaughter, County Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland.

Buchanan is the second child and younger of two sons and one daughter of the Rev. Charles Henry Leslie Buchanan (1863–1939) and Florence Buchanan (née Moore). He is educated at Larne Grammar School in Larne, County Antrim, Campbell College, Belfast, and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). He works for the Northern Whig (1921) and is a founder member of the Northern Drama League, Belfast (1923). After moving to London, he joins The Daily Graphic, becomes a reviewer (1928–40) for The Times Literary Supplement, sub-editor (1930–35) of The Times, and columnist and drama critic (1935–38) for the News Chronicle.

During World War II, Buchanan serves as an operations officer in RAF Coastal Command (1940–45). His service includes a period in Sierra Leone, operational liaison with Free France in French Equatorial Africa, and night attacks on U-boats in the Bay of Biscay. After the war, he lives in Limavady, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, for nearly ten years, which he later describes as a period of regeneration. During this time, he broadcasts for BBC Radio and becomes chairman of the NI town and country development committee (1949–53) and a member (from 1954) of the executive council of the European Society of Culture (Venice), and later president of its London centre.

A versatile writer with wide-ranging concerns, Buchanan publishes his first journal, Passage Through the Present, in 1932. It is followed by six novels, including A London Story (1935) and Naked Reason (1971). His plays include A Trip to the Castle (1960) and War Song (1965). The Politics of Culture (1977) is one of several collections of essays, and Green Seacoast (1959) and Morning Papers (1965) are autobiographical. His writing has been noted for its integrity and for the diversity of its ideas. Recurrent themes are the importance of common experience, living sensitively in the present, and the impoverishment of urban life. He believes in the power of ideas and the creative nature of journalism in the modern world. Despite his prosaic style, he writes poetry from his teenage years. It “was always the base from which everything else was motivated. . . [it] affected, and perhaps energised, everything I did. Its pressure led me to special attitudes in journalism, in the theatre, in the novel.” He publishes his first collection, Bodily Responses, in 1958. Other collections include Annotations (1970) and Inside Traffic (1976). In order to bring the variety of his work to a wider audience, Frank Ormsby devotes a supplement in the Honest Ulsterman (1978) to Buchanan, whom he believes is almost forgotten in Ireland and has been unjustly neglected.

Buchanan lives at 18A Courtnell Street, London W2. He marries four times, first to Winifred Mary Corn (1938-45), secondly to Noel Pulleyne Ritter (1949-51), thirdly to the Hon. Janet Hampden Margesson (1952-68), with whom he had two daughters, and fourthly to Sandra Gail McCloy (1974-89). He dies on June 28, 1989, in Richmond, London, and is cremated at Mortlake Crematorium, Richmond.

(From: “Buchanan, George Henry Perrott” by Helen Andrews, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009 | Pictured: George Henry Perrott Buchanan by Howard Coster, 10 x 8 inch film negative, 1935, transferred from Central Office of Information, 1974)