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 .
Free State Detective Michael Dowd was still struggling upright in the garda car , his forehead bleeding , when the door was pulled open beside him and a handgun put to his head ; he was grabbed by the arm and thrown out beside the car on his hands and knees . His handgun was pulled from its holster - he was told to lie down . He hesitated . A gun was put to the back of his head - " On your belly . " He was told to put his nose and lips on the ground and not to move . He sank to the ground .
There was a man with a submachine gun at the driver's door of the post van - " Turn off the fucking ignition . " The van driver , J.J. Bell , switched off and pulled out the key . He was told to get out and open the back doors . For some reason he found himself reaching into the glove compartment and taking his cigarettes and lighter . The stolen beige Opel Ascona and the red Mercedes , with Tommy Eccles , Pat McPhillips , Brian McShane and two or three others whose identity is not known , called there by walkie-talkie , arrived at the post office , skidding to a stop .
J.J. Bell had opened the back doors of the van and was now lying face down on the ground ; he still had the keys of the van in his right hand . One of the gunmen kicked the keys from under his hand , put a gun to the back of his head and said - " If you move , son , you are fucking dead . " Bell did'nt move ; in his left hand he still had his smokes and his lighter . The money bags were transferred into the red Mercedes ; the radio was torn out of the garda car . Detective Michael Dowd , gambling that the gunmen would be watching the money , raised his right arm and turned his head so he could see under his armpit .
From the number of legs he saw moving back and forth he thought there were at least eight raiders . They were wearing blue boilersuits and black balaclavas with red stitching around the mouths . He could see one raider holding a pistol that looked like his own . The leader of the gang , giving orders in a Northern accent , several times said - " Shoot him ! Shoot him ! " to the raider standing near Detective Dowd ; Dowd did'nt know how the gunmen would interpret this , whether it was a real order or a method of intimidation . Each second he expected to be shot .......
TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .
Having spoken for 39 minutes in the British House of 'Commons' on his regret at having fought for political status for Irish Republican prisoners in 1972 , Gerry Fitt sat down . The discussion moved on to other issues : the 'Avoidable Destruction of Wildlife Bill ' on which Janet Fookes , member for Plymouth-Drake , rose to speak . She mentioned birds "...dying of starvation induced by lead poisoning of their environment .. " . The House agreed to an extension beyond the 10pm deadline to let her speak fully of this crisis . Then she spoke about moles which , she said , were dying "...painfully , underground , where we cannot see them . Out of sight ought not to mean out of mind .. " ('1169 ... ' Comment - unless , that is , you are an Irish political prisoner .)
On June 10 , 1983 , Gerry Fitt lost his seat to Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein . John Hume , benefitting from the deal which (British) Labour did with the Unionists , won the restructured seat in Foyle and set off himself to be the lone voice in Westminster . The 'Housing Executive' announced that they were pulling down Gerry Fitt's house as part of their 'modernisation programme' ; Fitt said he was moving out his furniture anyway before the Provos came to celebrate their victory - he would consider his future in England , he said , adding that if he took a 'peerage' , he might not be able to contest the following year's European elections .
He also spoke about losing all those " ...Prod votes.. " . But if he does take a 'peerage' - if a seat is offered to him in the British House of 'Lords' and he accepts - the man who sought 'one man one vote' (sic) in the North of Ireland will not be allowed a 'commoner's ' vote ever again . Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus .
[END of ' TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK ' ].
(Tomorrow - ' FIRE AND BRIMSTONE ; THE DUP ').
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 .
Near-panic spread through the GAA Headquarters Staff when one leading GAA member in the North of Ireland appeared on a television interview confirming that every support would continue for the prisoners and that GAA directives to the contrary from the management committee would be completely ignored ! The GAA's involvement in the hunger-strike showed up clearly the basic grassroots' support for the suffering prisoners , but also highlighted the GAA hierarchy's apathy and conservatism .
As a national cultural and sporting body , the GAA has of necessity to embrace many shades of political persuasion , but it also undeniably has an obligation to support its members in Northern jails . With the ending of the hunger-strike , which saved the GAA from further polarisation on the issue , the problems remain of the denial of Gaelic games , language and traditions to the Republican prisoners .
The GAA hierarchy has yet to give voice to these grievances .
[END of 'THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS'].
(Tomorrow - 'THE LONG KESH ESCAPE ' - SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 1983).