Wednesday, September 21, 2005

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

With the 'doomsday situation' apparently around the corner the IRA was another influential decision-maker but with their record of destructive involvement in the South , and their left-wing politics , not to mention their constant attacks on Fianna Fail , TACA , and indeed their regular picketing of the homes of several government ministers including the homes of Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland , under different guises , clearly meant that they would be hostile (to the Free State Administration) .

To cap it all the traditional Fianna Fail support body , the 'Nationalist Party' was all but dead since the Stormont Elections ; with the military situation opening up , the IRA was certainly a threatening presence in the North of Ireland . In any case the (FS) Government decided that money would have to be provided to deal with distress and it was essential that it should be spent in a way which would win friends and influence people for the Fianna Fail Government .

Eventually £100,000 from (FS) exchequer funds was agreed and a special sub-committee of the State Cabinet was appointed to deal with the whole Northern 'problem' ; elected to that sub-comittee were Padraig Faulkner , Joe Brennan , Neil Blaney - their constituencies were on the border - and Charles J. Haughey , who was (FS) Minister for Finance and had strong Northern connections , his father having come South to join the Free State Army in the 1920's .

The objectives of that 'Northern sub-committee' were outlined by Charles Haughey at the 'Arms Trial' .......


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 .

1983 was Sinn Fein's highest point when they topped the 100,000 votes mark - a year later that total vote dropped to 93,000 . 1985's local government elections brought them back up again over the 100,000 ; to the great though unpublicised relief of Dr. Garret Fitzgerald (Fine Gael) , then pressing his , and John Hume's , case with Margaret Thatcher that Nationalist alienation must be checked and reversed or Sinn Fein and the IRA would inexorably make headway at the expense of constitutional Nationalists .

To get the perspective straight - over recent years the respective shares of the Nationalist vote have been -

1982 : SDLP 65 % to SF 35 % ;
1983 : SDLP 57.4 % to SF 42.6 % ;
1985 : SDLP 60.3 % to SF 39.7 % ;
1986 : SDLP 64.6 % to SF 35.4 % .

Jim Nicholson , a unionist , in defeat , maintained that Sinn Fein and the SDLP had indeed worked a pact in Newry-Armagh to get him out ; Jim McAllister's compassionate hug for the grey-faced Seamus Mallon in mid-count probably finally convinced Nicholson that he was right . The President of (P) Sinn Fein , Gerry Adams , meanwhile commented that some Sinn Fein voters stayed at home and some backed the strongest horse . As the results came in Adams made an interesting study , batting percentages around like the smoothest commentator and insisting the SDLP gain was no surprise and would not last beyond people's disillusionment with the Anglo-Irish Agreement as an instrument of real change . ( ' 1169.... ' Comment - ...that same charge can now be made against the 1998 Stormont Treaty/'GFA' . )

Those who have been wondering all along whether the Provos' involvement in politics will change the Provos more than the politics must have watched Adams' performance with a special interest ; he was least convincing on Sinn Fein's reasons for fighting an election they called "...a so-called referendum.. " and which they originally suggested Nationalists should boycott .......


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 .

At the time of his arrest (late 1979) , Dessie O'Hare was credited by the RUC , without substantiation , with involvement in over twenty killings : he had not yet reached twenty-one years of age .

O'Hare could not adjust to jail ; there were several naive escape attempts right up to within months of his release , costing him remission . He was frequently beaten up by prison warders and had few friends in jail . Eddie Hogan had been sentenced to eight years in 1981 for his involvement in an armed robbery ; Fergal Toal was sentenced in 1984 for his part in an attempted armed robbery in Dundalk . The three , along with Jimmy McDaid , who was serving a sentence for the manslaughter of a British soldier , formed one of the many 'cliques' in prison .

Dessie O'Hare was released from jail in October 1986 and Fergal Toal shortly afterwards . The INLA was in disarray ; initially O'Hare approached a member of the new 'Army Council' faction and proposed that the list of legitimate targets should be widened to include people like Bishop Cathal Daly - who had made a number of statements critical of republicans - and Peter Sutherland , who had been (FS) Attorney General when the (FS) Supreme Court reversed its policy of not extraditing people suspected of involvement in offences while on 'active service' .

The man to whom Dessie O'Hare proposed this was appalled , gave him £500 and told him he would be in touch .......