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 .
In a lane beside Drumree Post Office , behind an iron gate , two armed men were waiting ; they wore blue boiler-suits and black balaclavas . One carried a Sten submachine gun , the other had a Webley revolver , .455 calibre . Just a few feet away , inside the post office , Michael Gilsenan and Mick Boyle , the local postman , were sorting mail .
The post office van pulled into the lay-by at Drumree Post Office ; Donal Brady , the van helper , got out with the money bag - this time he did'nt wait for Detective Frank Hand to join him . He went into the post office . It was 8.03am , give or take a minute . The Garda Fiat car coasted to a stop behind the post van . The gunmen in boiler suits , two of them , began running towards the garda car from the lane beside the post office . The one in front had the Sten gun , the one slightly behind had the Webley .
Detective Garda Michael Dowd , glancing to his left , saw the two gunmen coming at him ; he shouted to Frank Hand : someone else shouted - " GET DOWN , YOU FUCKER ! " The man with the Webley was already firing - there were six bullets in the cylinder , .455 calibre , all old , some defective . The man got off three rounds , two of which hit the rear left door of the garda Fiat . One lodged in the door panel , the other passing through the car , missing both gardai and smashing through the driver's window , beside Frank Hand .
The third shot from the Webley hit the ground behind the post office van . The gunman pulled the trigger again , and once more , those two rounds misfired ; at this stage the gunman with the Sten was moving to his left : he had not yet fired . He was now standing to the front and left of the garda car . While this was happening - inside the post office Gilsenan and Boyle and Brady heard the running feet , the shouting , the shots . Boyle and Brady ran out the back of the post office and hid in a shed . Gilsenan ran forward and slammed the front door of the post office . He locked the door and went upstairs to look out the window .......
TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .
Gerry Fitt manned a polling station for Sinn Fein in 1958 ; he was of the opinion that Sean South was 'a broth of a boy' , though a bit of an 'eejit' , rolling up to the RUC barracks door like that to get shot dead . " I would have worked with anybody that got up and after the Unionists , " said Fitt , explaining his liaison with Sinn Fein . " Sinn Fein then was'nt like it is now , and I agreed to man a polling station for them in the Belfast Corporation elections . A woman came in to personate for the Unionists . I spotted her straight away and challenged her and she stood her ground so I called the police (sic) over to arrest her . 'You can't do that ' , says the Sinn Fein man beside me . 'Why not ?' , says I . ' Because you'll have to testify in court against her and we don't recognise the courts ' , says he . 'Fucks sake , ye bunch of cunts' , says I , and I tore up my agent's card and walked away . " ('1169....' Comment - ... and he spent the rest of his political career "walking away... " )
Twenty two years later , Sinn Fein were'nt even recognising the prisons ; in November 1980 , 'blanket prisoners' went on hunger strike in pursuit of political status ; Gerry Fitt sat in the House of Commons , opposite Margaret Thatcher , on Monday November 10 , 1980 , and listened to speeches about unemployment . 35,900 people had been thrown on the dole in Wales in one year . A computer company had just closed , shedding fifteen hundred workers . The British Steel workforce had been reduced by 826 that week . The Broadcasting Bill for a fourth television channel was discussed , plus plans for Welsh language programmes . At 8pm , the Commons moved onto the issue of the North of Ireland -
- 'Remanded Persons' was up for discussion , and Humphrey Atkins assured the House that the current industrial strike by prison officers in the North , in support of the strike taken by prison officers in England , was not affecting the security situation in Long Kesh : " In the province (sic) we do not have the rapid turnover in and out of prisons that occurs in England and Wales . " Prisoners in the North of Ireland were serving much longer sentences , you see . Some of those prisoners were on hunger strike this two weeks now , but Mr Atkins scarcely discussed that . But Jim Molyneux did ; he spent eleven minutes 'explaining' that "...the IRA hunger-strikers .. " were " beasts . " He urged the British government not even to concede civilian clothing to
them . Molyneux sat down , and Gerry Fitt rose to his feet .......
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 whole question of the role of the GAA in Nationalist affairs was raised , with it becoming blatantly clear that the courage was lacking from top GAA Officials to come out openly , and support with direct action , motions passed at successive GAA congresses which backed the prisoners' demands .
The influence of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members , and the ever-present voice of the Garda Siochana in the GAA , was beginning to cause even more alarm among GAA Headquarters' staff ; the grassroots' support at Northern level was understandable as many clubs had at least one member in Long Kesh , but the gulf in understanding of many Southern GAA personnel was a reflection of how removed from the realities of the Northern situation they had become .
GAA Headquarters kept one careful eye on events in Long Kesh and the other on those middle-class conservatives who wanted the GAA to steer well clear of involvement in the H-Blocks crisis . Statements from the GAA management committee referred to bringing "...the whole sad situation to an end ... in the interests of peace .. " - hardly words calculated to cause Southern politicians to take seriously the degree of GAA concern over the prison situation !
Other statements talked of "...humanitarian concern .. " , while the increased pressure exerted by some GAA members in the South gave rise to terms such as "...condemnation of violence and men of violence .. " being increasingly included in policy statements from the GAA management committee .......