Friday, September 16, 2005

By Breasal O Caollai .
First published in ' New Hibernia ' Magazine , December 1986/January 1987 .

Fianna Fail's contacts in the Six Counties were in tatters due to the demise of the 'Nationalist Party' and there was serious concern that the IRA might take the initiative . The (Free State) Army and Gardai were instructed to concentrate their intelligence work on both sides of the border .

(FS) Taoiseach Jack Lynch went on television and announced - " The Stormont Government is evidently no longer in control of the situation ....the Government of Ireland (sic) has requested the British Government to apply to the United Nations for urgent despatch of a peace-keeping force to the Six Counties ....many injured do not wish to be treated in Six County hospitals , so Irish Army (sic) authorities have been instructed to establish field hospitals in Donegal and other points on the border ... " .

The Republican tone of Jack Lynch's words such as "...Six County hospitals .. " illustrates the strong Republican stance of his Government* . But other things were happening behind the scenes which were not announced . ( * ' 1169 ... Comment - ...those words 'illustrated' no such thing ; what they did illustrate was that Jack Lynch was more than capable of 'playing' to his own party , amongst others . )

The British Army intervened and * defended the nationalist areas in Derry but on the night of August 14th trouble with a capital 'T' broke out in Belfast . ( * ' 1169 ... ' Comment - ...the British Army moved in , under pressure from the worlds media , to force the loyalists back out of the neighbourhoods in which the Nationalists lived . It was propagated as "defence" by Westminster . ) Ten people died that night , hundreds of houses burned to the ground and refugees in their thousands swept South . Northern nationalist leaders appeared at the nightly public meetings at the GPO in Dublin and everyone was openly demanding arms and money .

Dr. Patrick Hillery , then (FS) Minister for External Affairs in the Dublin Government , flew to London where he was told to mind his own business before flying off to America and the UN where he was to raise the matter at the Security Council .......


Seamus Mallon , at 50 , has finally made it to Westminster , but the Anglo-Irish Agreement is still a difficult gamble .
Fionnuala O'Connor reports on the North after the elections .
First published in 'MAGILL' magazine , February 1986 .

When Seamus Mallon (SDLP) began crusading on the UDR the general verdict inside his party was that he was electioneering - not that anyone blamed him . At 50 , with several episodes of heart trouble behind him and generally patchy health , this was his fourth and surely last try at Westminster .

He has suffered more than most Northern politicians for his political persistence - apparently doomed to watch at galling close-hand John Hume jetting off to 'hobnob' with other international statesmen forever , while he stayed home doing constituency work on the kitchen table with his wife Gertrude nursing to keep the family .

Out of expediency and principle and sentiment combined , the SDLP gave the Newry-Armagh by-election their all ; John Hume 'lent' Mallon the young Mark Durkan from his Derry office , and turned up along the border and in cynical Newry to boost him - though he did manage a trip to the U.S. to pick up another honorary degree in between - and party workers weighed in from all over the North .

Local canvassers slogged the hardline estates in Newry and Armagh alike ; the candidate slogged along with them in the sleet and rain , through Derrybeg and Barcroft , big ex-footballer's frame deep in the collapsed driver's seat of a bashed old car bumping up and down the lanes of Derrynoose and Darkley . He met enough cautious welcome to make him start to hope , though he did'nt always say so .......


The Gardai had in their possession a clue which could have led them to the O'Grady kidnappers and their captive some ten days earlier .
A card found in a rucksack after the Midleton shoot-out led them directly to the gang once they checked it out - but this was ten days later , by which time John O 'Grady had lost two of his fingers .
First published in 'MAGILL' Magazine , May 1988 .
By Michael O'Higgins .

John O'Grady succeeded in having a brief conversation with Tony McNeill about his Republican beliefs and getting the British soldiers out of the North of Ireland ; McNeill told him he wanted to see a Socialist State in Ireand and every other country that was not already communist . O'Grady was allowed read the newspapers and was given his son's walkman radio to listen to ; he tuned in to pirate radio station NRG 103 FM .

On Thursday October 15 Dessie O'Hare and Eddie Hogan returned ; the kidnap was by now public knowledge . O'Hare then asked O'Grady for the names of other people whom they could contact to make a ransom demand ; O'Grady suggested a relative , an 'Auntie Bettie' , and Hilary Prentice , a solicitor who worked in the firm of Matheson Ormsby and Prentice : Hilary Prentice was a patient of O'Grady's . O'Hare asked O'Grady for details which would show his bona fides when he contacted them to demand the ransom .

John O'Grady provided details which were written down by Eddie Hogan ; the two then departed . The following morning O'Grady was supplied with a basin of hot water and allowed to wash ; he was also given the three morning newspapers which were full of news of the kidnap . Toal and McNeill also read the papers but did'nt pass any comment on them . O'Grady was given two books , ' Murder in The Vicarage' by Agatha Christie and an adventure thriller by Wilbur Smith called ' The Power of The Sword' . He passed the day reading and listening to the radio . Overhead he could hear movement in the barber's shop as Gerry Wright tended to his customers .

On the following Saturday , October 17 , Dessie O'Hare returned alone . John O'Grady was to be moved to a new location - on the journey the gang were in high spirits . They joked about the "...poor old 'Border Fox' being blamed for everyrthing .. " . They stopped after about an hour and O'Hare went to a takeaway to get fish and chips and curries and ate it in the car . O'Hare joked to O'Grady that he would take him for a drink except he might be recognised . They drove on . O'Hare suddenly ordered everyone in the car to get down and shouted " Brits !" and fired two shots out the window . John O'Grady now presumed he was in the North - they had driven for three to four hours in all .......