Wednesday, June 22, 2005

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 .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

Drumree , August 10 , 1984 :

Just before 7am that morning Detective Garda Frank Hand of the Central Detective Unit arrived at his Headquarters at Harcourt Square . The detective with whom he would work that day , Detective Garda Michael Dowd , was already there . Dowd had signed out an attache case which held an Uzi submachine gun ; the two Gardai went out and found the Fiat Mirafiori they would be using that day . Dowd took the Uzi from the case , along with two magazines carrying twenty rounds each ; he put the attach case , containing three more magazines , on the back seat of the Fiat .

He put one magazine into the Uzi and left the other on the floor of the car near his feet . He was also armed with a Walther P.P. semi-automatic pistol ; Frank Hand was armed with a Smith and Wesson .38 Special . Frank Hand was 25 . He joined the Garda force in 1977 and became a detective in 1981 . He was one of seven children of a Roscommon family and , on joining , in 1977 , worked in Dublin - in Donnybrook and Irishtown . In 1981 he became a detective and subsequently worked with the Drug Squad . Early in 1984 he was assigned to the Central Detective Unit .

In July 1984 he married Ban Gharda Breda Hogan ; they had returned from their honeymoon in Venice about a week before Hand set out with Detective Michael Dowd on post office escort duty . They lived in Lucan , County Dublin . Frank Hand was driving . He and Dowd arrived at the GPO at around 7.15am and almost immediately drew in behind a post office van and set off on Route 3 , which begins at Dunboyne , in Meath , just beyond the border with Dublin . That Route then went to a few post offices in Meath , wound back into Dublin , through Blanchardstown , Cabra , Phibsboro , to Berkeley Road , a stone's throw from O' Connell Street .

Route 3 covered nineteen post offices , there were twenty-three mailbags in the van , containing almost a quarter of a million pounds , most of it social welfare money .......


The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

Gerry Fitt was returned for West Belfast , for the last time , in the May 1979 general election which followed . Michael Foot , who had negotiated the deal with the Unionists , paid glowing quoted tribute in Fitt's election literature : Frank Cluskey , leader of the (Free State) Labour Party signed himself "...deeply impressed by your unrelenting opposition to social injustice and sectarianism .. " . Joe Gormley , President of the Mineworkers Union was quoted too , as was Ray Buckton , General Secretary of ASLEF .

The SDLP got the vote out for him ; they did not attempt to get the vote out in Fermanagh-Tyrone , that peculiar seat west of the Bann , where Frank Maguire was returned as a Unity candidate . Austin Currie resigned as chief whip of the SDLP to fight Frank Maguire as 'independent SDLP' and he lost .

In June , John Hume won a northern Euro seat without the help of Gerry Fitt , who went to Dublin to campaign for the (FS) Labour Party . In September the Pope came . In November the SDLP annual conference barely rejected a motion from the mid-Ulster branch calling for talks with the Provos and suppressed motions critical of Gerry Fitt .

Later that November , Humphrey Atkins , with the approval of Margaret Thatcher , published a white paper suggesting yet another Assembly to which " If ... " etc , and everybody being agreed of course ... - but there was to be no mention of an Irish dimension . Still , in Belfast , Gerry Fitt urged acceptance of the paper . But not all in the SDLP agreed with him .......


" 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 . "
No by-line.
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .

Some GAA clubs had taken the decision not to play football and hurling at all during the hunger-strike : in the South Antrim Division the 25 clubs came out and fully supported the five demands , agreeing to cancel fixtures on days of national demonstrations to encourage members to attend .

It was at one of these demonstrations , in Belfast on Sunday 30th November 1980 , that 3,000 GAA members marched up the Falls Road from the Dunville Park to the GAA grounds at Casement Park where the rally was held . Buses had ferried in the GAA supporters from all parts of the North , but the loudest cheer was reserved for the contingent that had travelled all the way from North Tipperary .

On an administrative level , with the example of prominent GAA individuals such as the legendary Kerry footballer Joe Keohane throwing their weight behind the campaign , various County Boards answered their members' concern by issuing statements of support . The Antrim County Executive Committee of the GAA declared -

- " We call on the British government to take immediate steps to afford normal decent standards and humane treatment to the prisoners , to relieve further distress for their relatives .... we confirm our support for the principles embodied in the five demands of the prisoners on hunger-strike . "

Telegrams were sent by clubs in the Antrim area to the (British) 'Northern Ireland Office' , and the British and Free State premiers .......