Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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

A Mayo Republican was rumoured to have got his flash new car from Fianna Fail ; this was not exactly true . In fact he got the car from a Fianna Fail man involved in car sales . Yet the Republican was virtually penniless . Eventually the IRA established that their member had set up the motor dealer to find him in a 'compromising' position with a woman - the Republican's wife !

Ballinamore in County Leitrim was typical of the reaction by Gardai to the unusual events those days ; two Gardai stood in the centre of the town watching the comings and goings and constantly looking in the direction of John Joe McGirl's pub - their orders were to watch but under no circumstances to intervene . Those orders had come from the (FS) Government .

The IRA had orders not to shoot any garda even if it meant arrest . No one participating really believed that this public relation-orientated order would be upheld if the situation arose . Meanwhile the real (sic) Irish [ie Free State] Army were preparing for action in case the British Government gave their permission * for their participation north of the border . ( * ' 1169... ' Comment - Free Staters waiting for 'permission' from a foreign administration before they dare travel on to what is Irish soil ... !) .

The (FS) Minister for Defence , Jim Gibbons (FF) , authorised a recruiting campaign to bring the (FS) Army up to full strength ; enter the 'Mighty Rangers' of television fame . However the real problem confronting the Dublin Government was how to effectively influence the decisions being taken in Nationalist areas throughout the North - they pinpointed the 'Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association' as one influential body . The rapidly-growing local Defence Committees presented another area of power in the North .......


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 .

On BBC Television the face of psychologist Dr. Sidney Elliott was a sight to behold as 'Northern Ireland' Office Minister Nicholas Scott , Tom King's deputy , followed other commentators in throwing around percentages . It should be noted , said Minister Scott , what a small fraction of the total electorate of the Unionist vote represented . He did not subject the SDLP vote to the same test , happily comparing it to the Sinn Fein result as per centages of the Nationalist electorate in the four marginal constituencies they contested , and drawing the conclusion that Sinn Fein supporters had begun to be detached by the Anglo-Irish Agreement .

Dr. Elliott had no chance to comment while British Minister Scott remained on the air , but as soon as he left managed to point out that Margaret Thatcher's government took office with the support of only 30 per cent of the electorate and that Scott himself enjoyed the support of only 25 per cent of the electorate and to judge his own 'large vote' by the same harsh test !

After that initial silly season , no one is drawing too many lessons from the oddest of 'Northern Ireland's many elections ; but , for the record , it should be noted that the Unionist vote in the fifteen constituencies actually exceeded their performance in 1983 , in fact cannot be matched except by the figures for the anti-Sunningdale election of 1974 and even then only by combining the votes of the hardline 'United Ulster (sic) Council' and the moderate 'Faulknerites' .

The SDLP increased their vote in the four seats fought and there was a swing of around six per cent to them from Sinn Fein , compared to the 1983 figures .......


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 .

Before leaving the shed , Dessie O'Hare used the polaroid camera and took a photograph of John O'Grady in chains with a gun to his head ; O'Grady noticed that O'Hare was wearing his Longines gold watch and that his Cross pen , bearing the logo of the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology was sticking out of his pocket . The next day was spent in the clearing - it was raining . On the instructions of O'Hare the chains were still attached to O'Grady's wrists and ankles .

There were nuggets of comfort ; the 'Gay Byrne Radio Show' had broadcast a message saying that his mother who had been ill had recovered and that his wife and family were well , and that he was not to worry . That afternoon Tony McNeill , clad in a balaclava , played a couple of games of chess with O'Grady . McNeill was the only one of the gang he could establish any kind of rapport with . McNeill assured O'Grady that he would see to it that he would not be shot .


John O'Grady by now realised he was in the company of dangerous and desperate men . The newspapers had been full of profiles of Dessie O'Hare , detailing his most notorious deeds . O'Hare was born in Keady , County Armagh , in 1958 ; he joined the Provisional IRA at the age of sixteen and quickjly acquired a reputation as a fearless , ruthless but also reckless operator . He led a charmed life ; in June 1979 he was on an IRA operation with Paddy McIlvenna - from a cattle truck they fired on an RUC Station : their retreat brought them past the house of a prison officer who was mowing the lawn . He had a shotgun handy and he opened up on the cattle truck . By the time they crossed the border McIlvenna was dead and O'Hare injured ...

Five months later , O'Hare was involved in a car chase with the gardai ; the car crashed and O'Hare's passenger , Tony McClelland , was killed . O'Hare was charged with possession of a shotgun and sentenced to nine years in Portlaoise Prison .......