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"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)

IRISH BLOG AWARDS 2017 - ooops! It seems that our entry application was "not completed in time to be considered.." (?) and, as such, we are not now in the running. But we wish all the best to the successful entrants and to the organisers, and we hope all goes well for them on the day!

Monday, June 27, 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 .

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 ....... "


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 .......


" 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 .

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.)