seamus dubhghaill

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


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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.


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IRA Army Council Declares War on England

Irish Republican Army (IRA) Army Council and Republican survivors of the Second Dáil declare war on England on January 15, 1939.

On January 12, 1939, the Army Council sends an ultimatum, signed by Patrick Fleming, to British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. The communiqué duly informs the British government of “The Government of the Irish Republic” intention to go to “war.” Excerpt from the ultimatum:

“I have the honour to inform you that the Government of the Irish Republic, having as its first duty towards its people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order here, demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland. The occupation of our territory by troops of another nation and the persistent subvention here of activities directly against the expressed national will and in the interests of a foreign power, prevent the expansion and development of our institution in consonance with our social needs and purposes, and must cease.”

“The Government of the Irish Republic believe that a period of four days is sufficient notice for your Government to signify its intentions in the matter of the military evacuation and for the issue of your Declaration of Abdication in respect of our country. Our Government reserves the right of appropriate action without further notice if upon the expiration of this period of grace, these conditions remain unfulfilled.”

~ General Headquarters, Dublin, January 12th, 1939, to His Excellency the Rt. Hon. Viscount Halifax, C.G.B.

On Sunday, January 15, with no reply from the British Government, a proclamation is posted in public places throughout Ireland announcing the IRA’s declaration of war on Britain. This proclamation is written by Joseph McGarrity, leader of Clan na Gael in the United States, and is signed by six members of the Army Council: Stephen Hayes, Patrick Fleming, Peadar O’Flaherty, George Oliver Plunkett, Larry Grogan and Seán Russell. The seventh Army Council member, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, refuses to sign as he believes the IRA is not ready to begin the campaign.

This proclamation also calls upon Irishmen both at home and “in Exile” to give their utmost support to compel the withdrawal of the British from the island of Ireland so that a free Irish Republic can be established. As the campaign begins in Britain the same proclamation appears posted around Irish communities in British cities. The proclamation references the December 17, 1938 statement by the group naming itself the “Executive Council of Dáil Éireann, Government of the Republic” and reads:

“On the twenty-third day of April in the year 1916 in the City of Dublin, seven men, who were representative in spirit and outlook and purpose of the Irish Nation that had never yielded to nor accepted the British conquest, set their humble and almost unknown names to the foregoing document that has passed into history, making the names of the seven signatories immortal. These signatures were sealed with the blood of the immortal seven, and of many others who followed them into one of the most gallant fights in the history of the world; and the Irish Nation rose from shame to honour, from humiliation to pride, from slavery to freedom….”

“Unfortunately, because men were foolish enough to treat with an armed enemy within their gates, the English won the peace. Weakness and treachery caused a resumption of the war and the old English tactics of ‘divide and conquer’ were exploited to the fullest extent. Partition was introduced, the country divided into two parts with two separate Parliaments subject to and controlled by the British Government. The armed forces of England still occupy six of our counties in the North and reserve the right ‘in time of war or strained relations’ to reoccupy the ports which they have just evacuated in the southern part of Ireland. Ireland is still tied, as she has been for centuries past, to take part in England’s wars. In the Six Counties, a large number of Republican soldiers are held prisoners by England. Further weakness on the part of some of our people, broken faith and make-believe, have postponed the enthronement of the living Republic, but the proclamation of Easter Week and the declaration of independence stand and must stand for ever. No man, no matter how far he has fallen away from his national faith, has dared to repudiate them. They constitute the rallying centre for the unbought manhood of Ireland in the fight that must be made to make them effective and to redeem the nation’s self-respect that was abandoned by a section of our people in 1923.”

“The time has come to make that fight. There is no need to redeclare the Republic of Ireland, now or in the future. There is no need to reaffirm the declaration of Irish independence. But the hour has come for the supreme effort to make both effective. So in the name of the unconquered dead and the faithful living, we pledge ourselves to that task. We call upon England to withdraw her armed forces, her civilian officials and institutions, and representatives of all kinds from every part of Ireland as an essential preliminary to arrangements for peace and friendship between the two countries; and we call upon the people of all Ireland, at home and in exile, to assist us in the effort we, are about to make, in God’s name, to compel that evacuation and to enthrone the Republic of Ireland.”

Significantly, there is an IRA bomb incident in or around a major British city almost every other day in the first nine months of 1939. During the campaign there are 300 explosions, 10 deaths and 96 injuries.

(From: “IRA Army Council Declare War on England and the Sabotage Campaign (S-Plan) Begins a Day Later,” Stair na hÉireann, https://stairnaheireann.net | Pictured: The aftermath of an IRA bike bomb in Coventry on August 25, 1939)


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Gorbachev Samples Pint of Guinness During Ireland Visit

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev samples a pint of Guinness with Lord Mayor of Dublin Michael Mulcahy in the famous Doheny & Nesbitt pub in Baggot Street, Dublin, on Tuesday, January 8, 2002.

Gorbachev arrives in Dublin earlier in the day for a two-day visit to the Republic of Ireland. He attends a series of events in Dublin where he meets the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, and is granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin.

Gorbachev, the man who led Russia through the most difficult days of his country’s shift to democracy, is also conferred with an honorary degree. On his arrival he goes to Trinity College Dublin to receive the honour before launching the new European Russian Trust. He later dines as a guest of the Irish Government in Dublin Castle.

On the following day, Gorbachev is accompanied by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy during a visit to see members of the city’s Russian community at the Hugh Lane Gallery. He also chats with local shop owners and residents during an informal tour of The Liberties area. After addressing the Institute of European Affairs and lunching with President McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin, the president’s official residence and principal workplace, he is granted freedom of the Irish capital at a special ceremony.

Following his visit with President McAleese, Gorbachev jokes with Mulcahy that he fully intends to exercise his right to graze sheep in the city. Mulcahy says, “This visit will help to cement relations between us, as well as doing appropriate honour to a genuinely great man whose place in history is already secure.”

Gorbachev formally announced his resignation as Soviet President and Commander-in-Chief on December 25, 1991. The following day, the Soviet of the Republics, the upper house of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, formally voted the Soviet Union out of existence. The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist at midnight on December 31, 1991. As of that date, all Soviet institutions that had not been taken over by Russia ceased to function.

(Pictured: Mikhail Gorbachev samples a pint of Guinness watched by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy, in Doheny & Nesbitt’s pub in Merrion Row. Picture by Donal Doherty)


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Death of IRA Volunteer Fergal O’Hanlon

Fergal O’Hanlon (Irish: Feargal Ó hAnnluain), a volunteer in the Pearse Column of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is killed on January 1, 1957, while taking part in an attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) barracks.

Born into a staunchly republican family on February 2, 1936, in Ballybay, County Monaghan, O’Hanlon is a draughtsman employed by Monaghan County Council. He is a Gaelic footballer and a keen Irish language activist. A devout Catholic, he considers becoming a priest and spends one year at the seminary in St. Macartan’s. He joins the IRA in 1956.

At the age of 20, O’Hanlon is killed on January 1, 1957, along with Seán South while taking part in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh, during the border campaign. Several other IRA members are wounded in the botched attack. The IRA flees the scene in a dumper truck. They abandon it near the border. They leave South and O’Hanlon, both then unconscious, in a cow byre, and crossed into the Republic of Ireland on foot for help for their comrades. The wounded IRA men are treated as “car crash victims” by sympathetic staff in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin.

The events and personalities are sympathetically recalled in Dominic Behan‘s ballad “The Patriot Game.” O’Hanlon is mentioned in the song “Seán South of Garryowen” (“Brave Hanlon by his side”).

O’Hanlon’s mother remains firmly committed to the IRA and is hurt by the suggestion that there was an alternative to IRA activity or that her son was anything other than an Irish hero.

A marble monument now stands at the spot where South and O’Hanlon lost their lives. An annual lecture has been held in memory of O’Hanlon since 1982, and approximately 500 people attended a 50th commemoration of the men’s deaths in January 2007 in Limerick.

In 1971, a monument is unveiled to O’Hanlon in his hometown on a hill overlooking the Clones Road on which he had made his last journey home. A Gaelic football team is founded in Monaghan in 2003 and called the Fergal O’Hanlons.

O’Hanlon’s brother, Eighneachán Ó hAnnluain, is elected a Sinn Féin abstentionist TD in the 1957 Irish general election to Dáil Éireann. His sister, Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha, is a Sinn Féin Councillor on Monaghan Urban Council.


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Death of Tom Aherne, Irish Footballer & Hurler

Thomas Aherne, Irish footballer and hurler also referred to as Bud Aherne, dies on December 30, 1999. He plays football for Belfast Celtic F.C. and Luton Town F.C. and is a dual internationalist, playing for both Ireland teams – the IFA XI and the FAI XI. In 1949 he is a member of the FAI XI that defeats England 2–0 at Goodison Park, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home. As a hurler he also plays one game for Limerick.

Aherne is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on January 26, 1919. As a youth, he initially emerges as a prominent hurler with Treaty Sarsfields and also plays one game for Limerick. However he subsequently decides to concentrate on football and begins his senior career with Limerick United where his teammates include Davy Walsh. During World War II, he serves in the Irish Army and is stationed at Crosshaven. His impressive performances in the League of Ireland attract attention and in 1946 he is signed by Belfast Celtic.

While at Belfast Celtic, Aherne plays alongside Jackie Vernon, Billy McMillan, Robin Lawler and Johnny Campbell and helps them win the Irish Cup in 1947 and an Irish League title in 1948. He is also at Celtic during the infamous Boxing Day riot which breaks out during a game against local rivals Linfield F.C. In March 1949, he leaves Celtic and signs for Luton Town. However, in May 1949, he temporarily rejoins Celtic for their final tour before the club disbands. Together with McMillan, Campbell, Lawlor, guest player Mick O’Flanagan and manager Elisha Scott, he goes on the Celtic tour of North America. The highlight of the 10-game tour comes on May 29 when Celtic beats the reigning British champions, Scotland, 2–0.

Aherne signed for Luton Town for a fee of £6,000 and makes his English Football League debut on March 19 in a 2–1 away defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Despite the fact he is over 30 when he joins Luton, he quickly establishes himself as a regular. He plays competitive football into his late thirties and is ever-present during the 1954–55 season when Luton wins promotion to Division One. After playing 288 games for Luton, including 267 in the league, he retires after a hairline fracture of the ankle ends his career. Even then he continues to play for a local league team, Luton Celtic, into his forties.

When Aherne begins his international career in 1946 there are in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations. Both associations, the Belfast-based Irish Football Association and the Dublin-based Football Association of Ireland, claim jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland and select players from the whole island. As a result, several notable Irish players from this era, including Aherne play for both teams.

Between 1946 and 1953 Aherne makes 16 appearances for the FAI XI. He makes his FAI debut in June 1946 during an Iberian tour, playing in both the 3–1 defeat to Portugal on June 16 and then helping the FAI XI gain a surprise 1–0 victory against Spain on June 23. He remains a regular in the FAI XI throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s and is featured prominently in the qualifying rounds for the 1950 FIFA World Cup. He is also a member of the FAI XI team that defeats England 2–0 at Goodison Park, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.

On November 16, 1953, during a 1–1 draw with France, Aherne briefly becomes involved in controversy. Although only a friendly, the game quickly becomes heated and at one point, with Aherne chasing Raymond Kopa down the tunnel after play had been stopped for a foul. Kopa allegedly runs for his life after upsetting Aherne once too often. The FAI selectors are not impressed and Aherne is told a repeat will end his international career. As it turns out, he makes only one more appearance for the FAI XI. That comes on October 4, 1953, in 5–3 defeat against France during a qualifier for the 1954 FIFA World Cup.

Between 1946 and 1950, Aherne also makes six appearances for the IFA XI. These include two Victory Internationals played in early 1946. On February 2 at Windsor Park, he makes his debut for the IFA XI in a 3–2 defeat to Scotland. Then on May 4 he helps the IFA XI defeat Wales 1–0 at Ninian Park. On September 28, 1946, he also plays for the IFA XI in a heavy defeat to England. The highlight of his career with the IFA XI comes on October 4, 1947 when he helps them gain a 2–0 win against Scotland.

Ahern makes his last appearance for the IFA XI in a 0–0 draw with Wales on March 8, 1950. As well as being part of the 1950 British Home Championship, the game also doubles up as a qualifier for the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Aherne, together with Con Martin, Reg Ryan and Davy Walsh, is one of four players from the Republic, included in the IFA XI that day and as a result he plays for two different associations in the same FIFA World Cup tournament. This situation eventually leads to intervention by FIFA and as a result Aherne becomes one of the last four Republic-born players to play for the IFA XI.

After retiring as a player Aherne settles in Luton where he coaches the Luton Town youth team, works in the local car industry and runs a very successful licensed premises. He also continues to visit Limerick regularly and remains healthy and active until he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the mid-1990s. He dies on December 30, 1999 at the age of 80 and is survived by his wife, Eileen, two sons, Pat and Brian, and three daughters, Maura, Trisha and Catherine.


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Founding of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA, Irish: Arm Saoirse Náisiúnta na hÉireann), an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group, is founded at the Spa Hotel in Lucan, Dublin, on December 10, 1974, during the 30-year period of conflict known as “the Troubles.” The group seeks to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a socialist republic encompassing all of Ireland. With membership estimated at 80–100 at their peak, it is the paramilitary wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), which is founded the same day. The IRSP’s foundation is made public but the INLA’s is kept a secret until the group can operate effectively.

The INLA is founded by former members of the Official Irish Republican Army who oppose that group’s ceasefire. It is initially known as the “People’s Liberation Army” or “People’s Republican Army.” The INLA wages a paramilitary campaign against the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Northern Ireland. It is also active to a lesser extent in the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Continental Europe. High-profile attacks carried out by the INLA include the Droppin Well bombing (1982), the Shankill Road killings (1994) and the assassinations of Airey Neave (1979) and Billy Wright (1997). However, the INLA is smaller and less active than the main republican paramilitary group, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). It is also weakened by feuds and internal tensions. Members of the group use the covernames People’s Liberation Army, People’s Republican Army, and Catholic Reaction Force for attacks its volunteers carry out but for which the INLA does not want to claim responsibility. The INLA becomes a proscribed group in the United Kingdom on July 3, 1979, under the 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act.

After a 24-year armed campaign, the INLA declares a ceasefire on August 22, 1998. In August 1999, it states that “There is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign.” On October 11, 2009, speaking at the graveside of its founder Seamus Costello in Bray, the INLA formally announces an end to its armed campaign, stating the current political framework allows for the pursuit of its goals through peaceful, democratic means and begins decommissioning its weapons.

The IRSP supports a “No First Strike” policy, that is allowing people to see the perceived failure of the Northern Ireland peace process for themselves without military actions.

The INLA is a proscribed organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000 and an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland.

(Pictured: INLA logo consisting of the Starry Plough and the Flag of Ireland with a red star and a fist holding an AK-47-derivative rifle)


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Birth of Seamus Twomey, Two Time Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA

Seamus Twomey (Irish: Séamus Ó Tuama), Irish republican activist, militant, and twice chief of staff of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, is born on November 5, 1919 on Marchioness Street in Belfast.

Twomey lives at 6 Sevastopol Street in the Falls district. Known as “Thumper” owing to his short temper and habit of banging his fist on tables, he receives little education and is a bookmaker‘s “runner.” His father is a volunteer in the 1920s. In Belfast he lives comfortably with his wife, Rosie, whom he marries in 1946. Together they have sons and daughters.

Twomey begins his involvement with the Irish Republican Army in the 1930s and is interned in Northern Ireland during the 1940s on the prison ship HMS Al Rawdah and later in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast. Rosie, his wife, is also held prisoner at the women prison, Armagh Jail, in Northern Ireland. He opposes the left-wing shift of Cathal Goulding in the 1960s, and in 1968, helps set up the breakaway Andersonstown Republican Club, later the Roddy McCorley Society.

In 1969, Twomey is prominent in the establishment of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. By 1972, he is Officer Commanding (OC) of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade when it launches its bomb campaign of the city, including Bloody Friday when nine people are killed. During the 1970s, the leadership of the Belfast Brigade of the IRA is largely in the hands of Twomey and Ivor Bell.

In March 1973, Twomey is first appointed IRA Chief of Staff after the arrest of Joe Cahill. He remains in this position until his arrest in October 1973 by the Garda Síochána. Three weeks later, on October 31, 1973, the IRA organises the helicopter escape of Twomey and his fellow IRA members J. B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon, when an active service unit hijacks and forces the pilot at gunpoint to land the helicopter in the training yard of Mountjoy Prison. After his escape, he returns to his membership of IRA Army Council.

By June/July 1974, Twomey is IRA Chief of Staff for a second time. He takes part in the Feakle talks between the IRA and Protestant clergymen in December 1974. In the IRA truce which follows in 1975, he is largely unsupportive and wants to fight on in what he sees as “one big push to finish it once and for all.”

IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan claims that on January 5, 1976, Twomey and Brian Keenan give the go-ahead for the sectarian Kingsmill massacre, when ten unarmed Ulster Protestant workmen are executed by the Provisional IRA in retaliation for a rash of loyalist killings of Catholics in the area. It is Keenan’s view, O’Callaghan claims, that “The only way to knock the nonsense out of the Prods is to be ten times more savage.”

Twomey is dedicated to paramilitarism as a means of incorporating Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. In an interview with French television on July 11, 1977, he declares that although the IRA had waged a campaign for seven years at that point, it can fight on for another 70 against the British state in Northern Ireland and in England. He supports the bombing of wealthy civilian targets, which he justifies on class lines. On October 29, 1977, for example, a no-warning bomb at an Italian restaurant in Mayfair kills one diner and wounds 17 others. Three more people are killed in similar blasts in Chelsea and Mayfair the following month. He says, “By hitting Mayfair restaurants, we were hitting the type of person that could bring pressure to bear on the British government.”

In December 1977, Twomey is captured in Sandycove, Dublin, by the Garda Síochána, who had been tipped off by Belgian police about a concealed arms shipment, to be delivered to a bogus company with an address in the area. They swoop on a house in Martello Terrace to discover Twomey outside in his car, wearing his trademark dark glasses. After a high-speed pursuit, he is recaptured in the centre of Dublin. The Gardaí later find documents in his possession outlining proposals for the structural reorganisation of the IRA according to the cell system. His arrest ends his tenure as IRA chief of staff. In the 1986 split over abstentionism, Twomey sides with the Gerry Adams leadership and remains with the Provisionals.

After a long illness from a heart condition, Twomey dies in Dublin on September 12, 1989. He is buried in the family plot in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast. His funeral is attended by about 2,000 people.


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The Mountjoy Prison Helicopter Escape

The Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape occurs on October 31, 1973 when three Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers escape from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin aboard a hijacked Alouette II helicopter, which briefly lands in the prison’s exercise yard. The escape makes headlines around the world and is an embarrassment to the Irish coalition government of the time, led by Fine Gael‘s Liam Cosgrave, which is criticised by opposition party Fianna Fáil. A manhunt involving twenty thousand members of the Irish Defence Forces and Garda Síochána is launched for the escapees, one of whom, Seamus Twomey, is not recaptured until December 1977. The Wolfe Tones write a song celebrating the escape called “The Helicopter Song,” which tops the Irish Singles Chart.

Following the outbreak of the Troubles in the late 1960s, the Provisional IRA conducts an armed campaign that seeks to create a united Ireland by ending Northern Ireland‘s status as part of the United Kingdom. As a result of increasing levels of violence in Northern Ireland, internment without trial is introduced there in August 1971, and in the Republic of Ireland the coalition government led by Fine Gael’s Liam Cosgrave is attempting to curb IRA activity. Fine Gael had come to power on a law and order ticket, with a policy of “getting tough on crime.” Suspected IRA members are arrested and accused of IRA membership by a superintendent in the Garda Síochána, a crime under the Offences against the State Acts. They are tried at the juryless Special Criminal Court in Dublin, where the traditional IRA policy of not recognising the court results in a fait accompli as no defence is offered and IRA membership carries a minimum mandatory one-year sentence, resulting in internment in all but name. In September 1973 IRA Chief of Staff Seamus Twomey appears at the Special Criminal Court charged with IRA membership, and states, “I refuse to recognise this British-orientated quisling court.” He is found guilty and receives a five-year sentence. By October 1973 the IRA’s command structure is seriously curbed, with Twomey and other senior republicans J. B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon all being held in Mountjoy Prison.

The IRA immediately begins making plans to break Twomey, O’Hagan and Mallon out of the prison. The first attempt involves explosives that had been smuggled into the prison, which are to be used to blow a hole in a door which will give the prisoners access to the exercise yard. From there, they are to scale a rope ladder thrown over the exterior wall by members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade who are to have a getaway car waiting to complete the escape. The plans when the prisoners cannot gain access to the exercise yard and the rope ladder is spotted, so the IRA begins making new escape plans. The idea of using a helicopter in an escape had been discussed before in a plot to break Gerry Adams out of Long Kesh internment camp but had been ruled out because of faster and more sophisticated British Army helicopters being stationed at a nearby base. The IRA’s GHQ staff approves the plan to break out Twomey, O’Hagan and Mallon, and arrangements are made to obtain a helicopter. A man with an American accent calling himself Mr. Leonard approaches the manager of Irish Helicopters at Dublin Airport, with a view to hiring a helicopter for an aerial photographic shoot in County Laois. After being shown the company’s fleet of helicopters, Leonard arranges to hire a five-seater Alouette II for October 31.

Leonard arrives at Irish Helicopters on October 31 and is introduced to the pilot of the helicopter, Captain Thompson Boyes. Boyes is instructed to fly to a field in Stradbally, in order to pick up Leonard’s photographic equipment. After landing Boyes sees two armed, masked men approaching the helicopter from nearby trees. He is held at gunpoint and told he will not be harmed if he follows instructions. Leonard leaves with one gunman, while the other gunman climbs aboard the helicopter armed with a pistol and an ArmaLite rifle. Boyes is instructed to fly towards Dublin following the path of railway lines and the Royal Canal, and is ordered not to register his flight path with Air Traffic Control. As the helicopter approaches Dublin, Boyes is informed of the escape plan and is instructed to land in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Prison.

In the prison’s exercise yard, the prisoners are watching a football match. Shortly after 3:35 p.m. the helicopter swings in to land in the prison yard, with Kevin Mallon directing the pilot using semaphore. A prison officer on duty initially takes no action as he believes the helicopter contains the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan. After prisoners surround the eight prison officers in the yard, fights break out as the officers realise an escape attempt is in progress. As other prisoners restrain the officers, Twomey, Mallon and O’Hagan board the helicopter. As the helicopter takes off, in the confusion one officer shouts, “Close the gates, close the fucking gates.” The helicopter flies north and lands at a disused racecourse in the Baldoyle area of Dublin, where the escapees are met by members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. Boyes is released unharmed, and the escapees are transferred to a taxi that had been hijacked earlier and are transported to safe houses.

The escape makes headlines around the world and is an embarrassment for Cosgrave’s government, which is criticised for “incompetence in security matters” by opposition party Fianna Fáil. An emergency debate on security is held in Dáil Éireann on November 1.

The IRA releases a statement on the escape, which reads, “Three republican prisoners were rescued by a special unit from Mountjoy Prison on Wednesday. The operation was a complete success and the men are now safe, despite a massive hunt by Free State forces.” Shortly after the escape Twomey gives an exclusive interview to German magazine Der Spiegel, where the reporter says people throughout Europe are joking about the incident as “the escape of the century.” Irish rebel band the Wolfe Tones writes a song celebrating the escape called “The Helicopter Song,” which is immediately banned by the government yet still tops the Irish Singles Chart after selling twelve thousand copies in a single week.

The escape results in all IRA prisoners being held at Mountjoy Prison and Curragh Camp being transferred to the maximum security Portlaoise Prison. In order to prevent any further escapes the perimeter of the prison is guarded by members of the Irish Army, and wires are erected over the prison yard to prevent any future helicopter escape. Cosgrave states there will be “no hiding place” for the escapees, and a manhunt involving twenty thousand members of the Irish Defence Forces and Garda Síochána ensues.

Mallon is recaptured at a Gaelic Athletic Association dance in a hotel near Portlaoise on December 10, 1973, and imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison. He escapes from there in a mass break-out on August 18, 1974, when nineteen prisoners escape after overpowering guards and using gelignite to blast through the gates. He is recaptured in Foxrock in January 1975 and returned to Portlaoise Prison. O’Hagan is recaptured in Dublin in early 1975, and also imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison. After the end of his original twelve-month sentence, he is immediately arrested and sentenced to a further two years imprisonment for escaping. Twomey evades recapture until December 2, 1977, when he is spotted sitting in a car in Sandycove by members of the Garda’s Special Branch who are investigating an arms shipment after a tip-off from police in Belgium. He drives away after spotting the officers, before being recaptured in the centre of Dublin after a high-speed car chase. He is also imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison until his release in 1982.

In 2021, Brendan Hughes publishes an autobiography Up Like a Bird, an account of the planning and organisation of the escape, co-authored with Doug Dalby.


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Ireland National Football Team Becomes First to Defeat England at Home

The Republic of Ireland national football team defeats the England national football team 2-0 in a friendly international at Goodison Park, Liverpool, the home of Everton F.C., on September 21, 1949. As a result, Ireland becomes the first foreign team to beat England at home. In 1953, the Hungarian team known as the Mighty Magyars defeats England 6–3, to become the second team to do so.

During the 1940s, there are in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations — the Northern Ireland-based Irish Football Association (IFA) and the Republic of Ireland-based Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Both organisations claim jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and select players from the whole island. As a result, several notable Irish players from this era play for both teams. The IFA XI had played England regularly since 1882, and claim their first victory, by a score of 3–0, on English soil at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, on February 14, 1914, but this is only the second time England and the FAI XI have met. Despite this, several members of the FAI XI had played against England several times before while representing the IFA XI. Striker Davy Walsh had previously scored three times against England.

The FAI XI plays England for the first time at Dalymount Park on September 30, 1946. A team, featuring Johnny Carey, Con Martin and Billy Walsh, are narrowly defeated 1–0 when Tom Finney scores the winner in the 82nd minute. Two days earlier, on September 28, Carey and Tom Aherne had been included in the IFA XI that had been heavily defeated 7–2 by the same England side. The next time the IFA XI play England, on November 5, 1947, their team includes six players — Carey, Martin, Billy Walsh, Peter Farrell, Davy Walsh and Tommy Eglington — who had previously played for the FAI XI. Davy Walsh scores the opening goal in a 2–2 draw at Goodison Park. Carey, Martin, Farrell and Walsh also play for the IFA XI in their 6–2 defeat by England at Windsor Park on October 10, 1948. Davy Walsh also scores both goals that day.

The September 21, 1949 match is used by both teams as part of their preparations for forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. Despite the absence of both Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, England fields a strong team, including Billy Wright, Neil Franklin, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney. Ireland’s team includes just seven First Division players, but these include Johnny Carey who is voted FWA Footballer of the Year in 1949. Another two Irish players, Tom Aherne and Tommy Moroney, like Finney, play in the English Football League Second Division. The remaining two Irish players, goalkeeper Tommy Godwin and Tommy O’Connor both play for Shamrock Rovers F.C. in the League of Ireland.

The early pattern of the game sees England launch wave after wave of attacks. However Tommy Godwin is in inspired form and Con Martin, Tom Aherne and Johnny Carey prove too difficult for England to get past. Carey is also effective in keeping Tom Finney quiet, while wing-halves Billy Walsh and Tommy Moroney gradually take the sting out of the English front line. Ireland takes the lead in the 33rd minute when Peter Desmond, after collecting a pass from Tommy O’Connor, bursts into the England penalty area and is brought down. Con Martin then converts the subsequent penalty kick. During the second half the wave of England attacks continues. Peter Harris hits the bar and Jesse Pye also goes close. However Peter Farrell, playing at his club Everton’s home ground, makes victory certain in the 85th minute. O’Connor slips the ball to Farrell and as the English goalkeeper Bert Williams advances, Farrell lofts the ball into the net.

(Pictured: The Irish team which beat England 2-0 at Goodison Park in 1949. Back Row (L to R): Con Martin, Tommy Aherne, Tommy Godwin, Tommy Moroney and Willie Walsh. Seated (L to R): Peter Corr, Tommy O’Connor, Johnny Carey, Peter Desmond, Peter Farrell and Davy Walsh.)


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Gerry Adams Announces Re-election Bid as Sinn Féin President

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams announces on September 5, 2017, he will seek re-election as the party president in November and then outline his own future intentions as the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) prepares to complete a generational shift in its leadership.

Adams, Sinn Féin leader for over thirty years, will seek re-election to the one-year post at the party’s annual conference and set out his future plans at that time. “I will be allowing my name to go forward for the position of Uachtaran Shinn Féin (President of Sinn Féin),” Adams says in a speech at a meeting of the party’s lawmakers. “And if elected I will be setting out our priorities and in particular our planned process of generational change, including my own future intentions.”

“We have no ambition to be part of the system. Our ambition is to change it. That means we must be in government – North and South,” Adams says.

Reviled by many as the face of the IRA during its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, Adams reinvented himself as a peacemaker in the troubled region and then as a populist opposition lawmaker in the Irish Republic. Around 3,600 people were killed during Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” three decades of sectarian bloodshed between pro-British Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists seeking a united Ireland that was ended by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Whenever Adams decides to step down, he will almost certainly hand over to a successor with no direct involvement in the decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, say political analysts, making Sinn Féin a more palatable coalition partner in the Irish Republic where it has never been in power. Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who has been at the forefront of a new breed of Sinn Féin politicians transforming the left-wing party’s image, is the clear favorite to take over. Michelle O’Neill, another Sinn Féin lawmaker in her 40s, succeeded Martin McGuinness as leader in Northern Ireland shortly before the former IRA commander’s death in March 2017.

With McGuinness, Adams turned Sinn Féin into the dominant nationalist party in Northern Ireland and the third largest party south of the border. Adams said the previous month that he intended to lead the party into the next parliamentary election in the Irish republic where suspicion of Sinn Féin’s role in the Northern Ireland troubles still runs deep among the main political parties.

The far larger ruling Fine Gael and main opposition Fianna Fáil, a more natural ally, have ruled out governing with Sinn Féin but analysts say a change of leader could soften that stance. The next election is expected in the next 12 months.

(From: “Sinn Féin’s Adams to outline succession plan in November” by Padraic Halpin | Photo: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaks at an event in Gormanstown, Ireland, September 5, 2017, REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)