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 .
Ironically , the route which the post office van took on its way to the beginning of its deliveries - through Phibsboro , Cabra , Blanchardstown etc - was the way it would travel on its official route back ; in other words , the van was going to almost the most distant point on the route before beginning to drop off money ! Had it began dropping off mailbags on its way out of the city it would have arrived in Drumree with just a few thousand pounds .
The armed Detectives stayed roughly 100 yards behind the post office van ; routinely , they paid attention to any vehicle coming in sight , assessing it for danger . There was nothing suspicious . At Dunboyne Post Office , the first drop , the garda car stopped behind the van ; Detective Michael Dowd sat where he was , the Uzi on his lap . Detective Frank Hand got out of the car ; the post office helper , Donal Brady , got out of the van with the mailbag . He and Hand went to the door of the post office together , and Hand kicked the bottom of the door and rattled the letterbox . The bag of money was handed over .
Next stop , Batterstown , the same procedure . Detective Hand got out , Dowd stayed in the car . Brady got out of the van and J.J. Bell , the van driver , stayed at the wheel . No problems . Next stop , Drumree . The van now carried £202,900 in cash . It was about 7.50am .
Around that time Tommy Eccles , Pat McPhillips and someone else , a man with an earring , were in the red Mercedes in the shed about three miles from Drumree ; Brian McShane was in the beige Opel Ascona along with some others . They had walkie-talkies . In Kentstown , about fifteen miles from Drumree , Seamus Lynch was up and about . He had to be in the designated field at Rathfeigh to pick up the money and guns ; he needed a car and knew where to get it . He had several times borrowed Joe Gargan's yellow Ford Escort . Gargan also lived in Kentstown .
Noel McCabe had left his home in Dundalk at 7.10am and was now driving his 'borrowed' blue Ford Cortina south-west towards a crossroads somewhere around Dunshaughlin , where he would pick up 'the lads' , as requested by Paul Finnegan .
In a lane beside Drumree Post Office , behind an iron gate , two armed men were waiting .......
TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .
The British offered a 'White Paper' dealing with the North of Ireland , in November 1979 ; but it contained no mention of an Irish dimension . Gerry Fitt urged acceptance of the paper in Belfast , saying - " An Irish dimension will always be there while the six counties exist on the island of Ireland ... " . The SDLP rejected the 'Paper' in Dungannon , west of the Bann . Fitt supported their stand and flew back to Westminster from where , one day later , faced with a British government that was fast losing patience with the Irish , he resigned from the SDLP .
Gerry Fitt was a man at the end of his tether . The IRA would'nt listen to the Pope ; the SDLP would'nt listen to him . He had the ear only of the RUC and the British House of Commons . And he had his gun : " I had only had it for protection , " he said , " the IRA never protected anybody . The (British) Army was there to protect people . ('1169... ' Comment - the SDLP position then . And now - ' those sent by our persecuters will protect us ... ' !) At least they (the British Army) had to follow the rules of the Yellow Card . ('1169...' Comment - did the 'Yellow Card' allow the BA to work with the Loyalist paramilitaries , too ... ?) The IRA never used a Yellow Card . "
Paddy Kennedy (SDLP) recalled the very early days : " Gerry could never figure out the Republicans . When he was out fighting World War Two , the IRA killed a policeman (sic) on the Springfield Road . " Tom Williams was hung for that in 1943 . " Gerry Fitt called the Republicans wimps and gimps and hunchies , running round with their coat collars turned up . The trouble was he was very funny about it . He can slander more wittily than anybody you'd know , and be laughing without realising the damage he was causing and the real hurt he was doing to people's feelings . "
For all that , Gerry Fitt manned a polling station for Sinn Fein in 1958 , in the middle of their 1956-1962 armed campaign against the B-Specials and the RUC . It was a comparatively minor campaign though , and few people died.......
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 .
Organised protests in the North took up again with the commencement of the second hunger-strike in March 1981 , intensifying with the dark news that Bobby Sands was growing weaker .
Every team travelling North from the 26 counties experienced H-Block demonstrations at half-time and were continually made aware of the feelings of Northern GAA members about the dilemma of their fellow Irishmen in Long Kesh . GAA banners were familiar sights on H-Block marches across the six counties and GAA grounds were frequent venues for demonstrations and rallies . The H-Block video film was distributed around many GAA social centres and enthusiastically received .
In August 1981 , a seven-day token fast and vigil was held outside Casement Park in Belfast by South Antrim GAA members ; it was to be expected that the British Army would not allow the picket to go by without harassment , and indeed two plastic bullets were fired into the protestors without warning , but they stood their ground and refused to be intimidated .
Over £2000 was collected at this fast and vigil in an illustration of the unstinting generosity of the people of West Belfast , who simultaneously were being called upon to contribute to a constant stream of other collections to provide the finance necessary for the hunger-strike campaign ; however , concern began to grow among the GAA's conservative hierarchy that the organisation , and particularly its Northern members , were going too far .
These people feared that the support shown for the blanketmen would 'tarnish' the nice respectable image the GAA nurtured , and that full backing for the prisoners' five demands would be interpreted as support for the armed struggle .......