THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .
Others lined up that day for the robbery of a post van at Drumree Post Office were Paddy Duffy of Dromiskin , to provide the stolen cars ; Tommy Eccles of Dundalk , who had brought the Mercedes down from Newry and who was to drive it in the robbery ; Joe Gargan of Kentstown , who was to provide Seamus Lynch with a car and help him hide the money ; Noel McCabe , who had been doing odd jobs for Paul Finnegan , who was to drive three robbers to safety ; and Pat McPhillips and Brian McShane , two Provos from Dundalk who were to help unload the money from the post office van into the red Mercedes .
There were also at least two others lined up for the robbery , plus Paul Finnegan : two armed men would wait at Drumree Post Office for the post van to arrive , the others would be involved in getting the money and guns away from the area after the job . That night Paul Finnegan and a number of others assembled in Paddy Duffy's yard at Dromiskin , about six miles south of Dundalk ; Duffy was the Provo who lived in the mobile home and was in charge of providing the cars . He had the Opel Ascona ready , someone else brought the red Mercedes . That was the end of Duffy's participation in the robbery .
Noel MCabe , the alcoholic who had been doing odd jobs for Paul Finnegan , had driven Finnegan out to Paddy Duffy's place that night , where the cars and guns were assembled . Finnegan passed money around - he gave McCabe £30 to make sure the blue Ford Cortina had enough petrol ; he showed McCabe the crossroads where he was to pick up 'the lads' next morning . McCabe then drove Finnegan back to Dundalk , getting home himself at about a quarter to one in the morning . He was uneasy and had trouble getting to sleep . Meanwhile , Tommy Eccles , Pat McPhillips , Brian McShane and some others moved on from Duffy's to some sheds near Dunshaughlin , about three miles from Drumree .
They travelled in the stolen Mercedes and Ascona ; they slept in the sheds that night .
Earlier that day , (FS) Detective Sergeant Patrick Millea of the Central Detective Unit was rostering gardai for Friday's duties . He assigned Detective Garda Francis Hand for Post Office escort duty commencing at 7am the next day .......
TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .
" When the Shankill Butchers were caught and charged , " says Gerry Fitt , " I was over the moon ! Then in walks Paschal O' Hare (SDLP Councillor) and announces that he's defending them . I refused to drink with him ; a Catholic defending Prods that cut Catholic throats . I've heard of ethics but that was just ridiculous . " ('1169...' Comment - not for the SDLP , it was'nt .... !)
The breakdown of ethics in RUC and British Army behaviour was revealed in the Bennet Report in 1979 and the (British) Labour government refused time to discuss it in Westminster ; they were by now a minority government and were holding onto power by means of a deal with Unionist MP's at the 'House of Commons' . If the Unionists abstained from any vote against them , Labour would increase , at Westminster , representation for those from the North , from twelve seats to seventeen . A vote of confidence was called and Gerry Fitt held the balance of power -
- " This will be the unhappiest speech I have ever made in the House , " Fitt began , and he explained that he would abstain from voting for Labour , citing the Bennet Report , the deal with the Unionists and Roy Mason's behaviour in the North of Ireland as his reasons for standing aside while Labour fell : " The Labour Government ," said Fitt , " are not the best government to grapple with the Irish problem (sic - it's a British problem) . I respect the Conservative government of 1970-1974 which tried courageously * to reach a settlement in Northern Ireland . " (sic) (* ... by which Fitt was referring to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement : a failure because , as with the 1998 Stormont Treaty , it contained no date for British withdrawal. Incidentally , that 1973 'Agreement' acknowledged the fact that the Six Counties " ...are part of the geographical entity of Ireland .. " , which is more than Adams and Co. managed to obtain in 1998 !)
After finishing his speech , Gerry Fitt left the Chamber without hearing the vote : " I saw a Tory when I finished speaking , " he said later , " a real bloated Tory . You could have identified him anywhere as a Tory . He was sneering at the Labour government side . If I'd stayed on , I'd have had to vote against anything he was voting for . "
The SDLP , which did not know how Gerry Fitt was going to vote over in Westminster , heaved a sigh of relief ....... ('1169... ' Comment - a political party which styles itself as a 'democratic' entity [Social Democratic Labour Party] and it gives its leader free reign to vote as he [in this case] sees fit on such an important issue ! And this same party continues to dismiss Republicans as "undemocratic ... " ! )
THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS .
" We declare that political status is ours of right and we declare that from Monday 27th October 1980 a hunger-strike by a number of men representing H-Blocks 3 , 4 and 5 will commence . Our widely-recognised resistance has carried us through four years of immense suffering and it shall carry us through to the bitter climax of death , if necessary . "
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .
The above quote announced the decision by Republican blanket-men in the H-Blocks to commence the first of the two major hunger-strikes during 1980 and 1981 . Impassioned messages urging support were smuggled out of Long Kesh from the prisoners - with over 150 of the H-Block men from every Ulster county having connections with GAA clubs it was no surprise that the Association was asked to use its influence at every level to raise the prisoners' five demands . One letter smuggled out put the case in simple terms -
- " We appeal to you in the GAA to act now to avert death in the H-Blocks . We urge you to mobilise to divert the British government from its illogical and wholly insane stance . We hope that our plea will not fall on deaf ears within the GAA . We also hope that the GAA will not allow the barbed wire , the concrete walls and the iron bars of Long Kesh to stifle those cries for justice . "
Individual GAA clubs immediately rallied to the call for support with advertisements being inserted in 'The Irish News' newspaper . The grassroots reaction , in particular from counties like Derry , Tyrone and Antrim , was swift , recognising that the Association was more than simply a sporting body . The occupation of GAA grounds and premises in Crossmaglen and Casement Park , Belfast ; the banning of the carrying of hurling sticks as if they were offensive weapons ; and the day-to-day harassment of GAA members , had all brought a deeper understanding of why the GAA had been formed , and the reality of the consequences of promoting the Association's ideals - those of National freedom and cultural identity - in the bigoted Orange state .
With GAA activists working and co-ordinating support in the North , demonstrations were held at half-time during National League matches , pamphlets were issued to spectators and collections taken up .......