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 .
The robbery was in progress ; shots had been fired . J.J. Bell , the post office van driver , took off the handbrake and put the van into first gear . Then he hesitated , for fear of being shot whilst driving away . All of this was happening in the few seconds after the garda car came to rest behind the van . Then the man with the Sten gun opened up .
The memories of the surviving victims of the raid are , understandably , confused and contradictory on some points : Michael Dowd , for instance , thought at first that the man with the Webley was firing a submachine gun . From statements made shortly after the incident and - more reliably - detailed forensic reports , it is possible to work out what happened . The gunman with the Sten fired eight shots , either in one burst , with the gun moving up and to the left , or - more likely - two quick bursts of four bullets .
Four bullets hit the windscreen area of the car , in a cluster , ripping the chrome and rubber strip holding the windscreen . One of these bullets ploughed across the dashboard and went out the driver's door , which was open . Detective Frank Hand was already out of the car , or getting out , his Smith and Wesson .38 revolver in his hand , when the Sten gun began firing . Two more bullets from the Sten hit the windscreen about a foot from the bottom ; a seventh bullet hit the windowframe of the door which Frank Hand had just opened .
This all happened in fractions of a second ; Detective Michael Dowd saw the bullet holes appear in the windscreen , the dashboard being ploughed by a bullet . One of the bullets fragmented and a sliver of metal hit him just above his left eyebrow . He slumped to his right , putting his hands to the wound , the Uzi slipping from his lap ; Detective Frank Hand got off two shots - one hit the post office wall about seven feet from the ground , the other was never found . The eight bullet from the Sten gun hit Frank Hand in the right upper chest , passing through the chest cavity causing a haemmorhage .
Frank Hand spun around and fell face down , facing towards the rear of the garda car ; the haemmorhage led to asphyxia . Someone shouted - " For God's sake stop shooting , there's a man dead ....... "
TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .
Monday , November 10 , 1980 , 8.39pm : Gerry Fitt rose to his feet in the British House of 'Commons' - the North of Ireland was being discussed , briefly . Fitt re-called having successfully pleaded for political status in 1972 , and said - " I bitterly regret having made those representations . " Then he told stories , and the stories were littered with the bodies of people who died in the North over the decade : three British soldiers killed by an IRA landmine . Two British soldiers and seven civilians killed by an IRA bomb on 'Bloody Friday' . Six civilians killed by an IRA bomb in Claudy . A woman twenty yards from his (Fitt's) home , with no legs , because the loyalist bomb went off in a pub as she passed by .
Ten Protestant workmen killed in Armagh , their lunch boxes still in their hands . Three Catholics killed in retaliation . Ten Catholics killed on July 5 by loyalists , and "... a mixture of Catholics and Protestants .. " killed on july 8 and 9 . John Turnley , Miriam Daly , Ronnie Bunting and Joe Little assassinated by loyalists . His friend , Davy Walsh , with no leg , "...never able to live with the fact that his leg was blown off for no known or understandable reason . " No deaths caused by the RUC or the British Army or the UDR were mentioned .
Gerry Fitt could only say with some regret , of Cardinal O Fiach's involvement in the hunger strike , that the Cardinal "...did not avail of an invitation to visit other people on the mattress .. " - the maimed with no arms or legs .
An Irish newspaper had remarked that "... if a person was imprisoned then that should be sufficient retribution , that once in prison a person should be able to do other things . I do not believe that taking away a man's liberty because he has committed a heinous crime is enough . There are certain conditions that must be fulfilled in prison . "
Having said his piece , Gerry Fitt sat down at 9. 18pm .......
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 .
It was the decision to stand Republican prisoners in the Free State general election held in June 1981 that saw the divergence of views within the GAA coming to the front ; several of the hunger-strike candidates were known to have had close links with GAA clubs in their native areas . Kevin Lynch had captained his County under-age team which had won an All-Ireland trophy at Croke Park . His old club in Dungiven have since renamed themselves the 'Kevin Lynch Hurling Club' .
Kieran Doherty , from Andersonstown in West Belfast , was also well-known in GAA circles : yet incredibly , the GAA's management committee directed that the GAA could not get involved in 'party politics' !
The GAA hierarchy now regarded the H-Blocks issue as 'party political ' whereas earlier their statements had called it "...humanitarian .. " . It seemed that as long as the protest was kept north of the border the GAA would show signs of support , but that once brought home to the twenty-six counties , Fianna Fail and Fine Gael influence , worried by the effect of prisoner candidates in marginal constituencies , was enough to secure a change in policy .
The then outgoing President of the GAA , Paddy McFlynn , was now caught wearing two caps : caught between Northern GAA activists and the Fianna Fail element , which had most to lose by the intervention of prisoner candidates in the elections , Paddy McFlynn now pointed out that as the controlling body of the GAA , the management committee did not wish to commit itself further in support of the five demands - but a certain television interview was to cause panic for McFlynn and the management committee .......
(CPT Mark - thank you for your favourable comments ; much appreciated ! Glad you find the blog useful . Thanks again - Sharon.)