Monday, September 19, 2005

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

The British told Dr. Patrick Hillery , the Free State Minister for External Affairs * to 'mind his own business' regarding issues in the Six Counties - so he went to America and then to the United Nations ; his speech to the U.N. was as (Irish) 'Republican' in style and wording ( as that which he delivered in London and America ) similar to which one could hear anywhere reflecting the mood of the times . ( * ' 1169 ... ' Comment - Why was the 'Minister for EXTERNAL Affairs' involved in this issue , anyway .. ? ) .

Meanwhile the IRA was not 'standing idly by ' : IRA Units from the South assembled in the gymnasium under Bily Wright's barbers shop at Parkgate Street , near Dublin's Phoenix Park . Only fully-trained IRA Volunteers were to assemble but everyone turned up for their patriotic chore . The Garda Special Branch watched the goings-on but their orders were not to intervene . In a false fear that the 'real men' would be 'nabbed' , the IRA leadership , who were in control of the nightly 'rabble rousing' meetings outside the Dublin GPO , sent the assembled mobs on a wild goose chase to the border .

Many people woke up the following morning in Dundalk and other points along the border with no train fare home , or a commandeered vehicle in their possession but above all a mighty hangover ! Meanwhile the IRA Units travelled to their destinations on this State's side of the border and waited ...

There were numerous unofficial arrivals at the border including the arrival at Ballinamore of a well-known Republican from County Galway ; he had been expelled some years earlier , with the strong insistence of Ruairi O Bradaigh , because he wanted Sinn Fein to recognise 'the Dail' * ; he went to the Garda Station in Ballinamore and asked where the IRA Headquarters was (!) - the Gardai directed him to John Joe McGirl's pub at the bottom of the town ! It was'nt long before he was committed to Mullingar for alcoholic treatent while his car was use by the IRA ... (* ' 1169 ... ' Comment - you cannot GET IN to (P) Sinn Fein unless you 'recognise the Dail' !) .

This Galway Republican should not be confused with the Mayo Republican , who was driving a flash new car . While it was rumoured that he got the car from Fianna Fail this was not exactly true .......


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 .

The 'Agreement' (Hillsborough Treaty) was not a major subject of conversation on the election canvass , though it did recur ; Seamus Mallon (SDLP) thought the effect was "...subliminal.. " . Mostly the voters wondered aloud if this time the Unionist , unexciting Jim Nicholson , might be beatable and Mallon told the like an incantation at doorstep after doorstep ... "... we're going to do it , we're going to do it .. " . For some reason he rarely met accusations of 'splitting the nationalist vote ' , Sinn Fein's anti-SDLP theme-song in the election . (' 1169 ...' Comment ; at the time that was what the SDLP were doing - almost as if they wanted to spare their Westminsters' masters blushes by attempting to ensure that they would not have to suffer having 'a fenian about the place' . Nowadays , the ony difference between Provisional Sinn Fein and the SDLP are the letters 'D' , 'F' and 'L' !)

To the last couple of days , though , Seamus Mallon worried about Newry's Catholic thousands who did not come out in the local government elections in May 1985 : " Round Markethill , now, my place , Poyntzpass , Tandragee , Hamiltonbawn , where they're very much in the minority , they'll come out and vote to a man (sic) . "

In Armagh , Sinn Fein Councillor Tommy Carroll advanced his candidate's cause as a canvasser simply by being known to have lost one brother , an unarmed IRA man , to a shoot-to-kill RUC squad , while UDR men from the local Drumadd Base face trial for the murder of another . Armagh people asked Seamus Mallon about the UDR and RUC as well ; Mallon was firm - 'they would have to clean up their act' , he said . ( ' 1169...' Comment - ...and that was 'firm' - for a nationalist . A Republican would have called for the disbandment of both groups .)

Mallon had not welcomed an 'Agreement' without being very sure that it could lead to radical changes . It was a beginning . ( ' 1169 ... ' Comment - The Hillsborough Treaty offered only to 'tweak' a corrupt system , not to 'radically' change it . But the SDLP would have been quite happy with a bit of 'tweaking' as indeed , would the Provos be now .) Seamus Mallon beat Official Unionist Party candidate Jim Nicholson by a healthy 2,583 votes ; the Sinn Fein candidate , Jim McAllister , was down over 3,000 votes from his performance in the general election of 1983 .

Jim Nicholson (OUP) improved his vote by over one thousand ; the turnout was virtually the same as in 1983 . From that point on you paid your money and you took your choice ! The votes for the fifteen Unionists , and for SDLP versus Sinn Fein were subjected to swift , non-scientific , highly political analysis and the various parties drew the conclusions they wished to .......


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 .

5. Evacuation Lessons.

John O'Grady did not yet suspect it but he was actually in Carriggtwohill in County Cork , and not in the North of Ireland as he was led to believe . For the second time in a week his living standards were to drop sharply but , compared with what was to follow , the grimy cellar in Gerry Wright's barber shop would seem a very attractive place indeed ...

The first night was'nt too bad ; he spent it in a cottage which was damp with , he noticed , lots of cobwebs in the corner . Early next morning he was taken by Dessie O' Hare out to a shed in the yard . Entrance to the shed was through a two-foot hole in the wall . Tony McNeill and Fergal Toal resumed their guard duties . Each morning they would take their mattresses out through the hole and then travel a couple of hundred yards through gorse undergrowth to a clearing - here they would remain until sundown .

They put blankets over themselves to keep out the cold ; John O'Grady read books supplied by his captors and listened to the radio ; at night they returned to the shed , which was made from bare cement blocks and measured ten feet by eight , with a corrugated iron roof and a mud floor . O'Grady by now was learning to associate the intermittent appearance of gang leader Dessie O'Hare with disruption or trouble . O'Hare returned on the night of October 20 th ; O'Grady was finding him increasingly volatile and aggressive - O'Hare enquired of O'Grady's guard whether he (O'Grady) was getting in and out of the hole in the shed quickly enough , and was told that O'Grady was a bit slow .

Chains were produced and attached to both wrists and ankles ; O'Hare then got a scarf and gagged O'Grady : he started to kick O'Grady in the head , legs , bottom and back . O'Grady put his hands around his head and tried to scream through the gag . Dessie O'Hare was shouting and cursing that he was'nt getting out of the hole quickly enough ; he stopped the beating and said - " When I say go , you are to gather your mattress and get out of the hole . " Once instructed , O'Grady immediately gathered up his mattress and dived for the hole but he was'nt fast enough for O'Hare and received another kicking . He went again , this time more quickly and his improved speed seemed to satisfy O'Hare's evacuation requirements .......