Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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

At the end of the trouble in Belfast , which threatened a major pogrom , the IRA Chief of Staff has issued a press release over his name saying that Active Service Units of his organisation were involved in defence activities in the North . During that period also the 'old brigade' arrived on the scene ; these were 'old' Republicans who had dropped out or resigned over the years because of the IRA's leftward drift and in some cases they dropped out due to lack of interest or laziness .

The atmosphere in the South was fully in favour of aiding 'the minority in the North' with guns - 'Give us guns , bags of guns' was the popular demand . At one rally demanding guns in Dundalk , a Catholic priest was reported to have fired three shots into the air from the platform and everyone cheered . It gained just a few inches in an inside page of the national dailies . But that was the mentality .

The 'old brigade's ' re-appearance on the scene produced some hero-leaders ; people like Daithi O Conaill , a distant relation of Ruairi O Bradaigh , rejoined . He was a hero from the 1956-1962 IRA border campaign , having being wounded in battle - a Corkman living in Donegal , O Conaill became the principal IRA man in the key county of Donegal . This was an appointment that Cathal Goulding would live to regret .

There were similar appointments in different parts of the country ; the IRA Chief of Staff had spent most of the 1956-1962 campaign in a British prison and therefore did not realise that the left wing politics he was pushing would not be taken on board by Daithi O Conaill and others returning to the fold . But it was better to have someone active in an area than to refuse their offer of help . Or so it appeared at the time .......


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 .

To date , Unionist Councillors feel they have been carrying the main burden and the policy of endless adjournments have worried many . This month they must strike a rate or be exposed to individual surcharges or replaced by British-imposed commissions .

The small revolts of the old Stormont 'fire eater' Captain Robert Mitchell in Coleraine and of Belfast Official Unionist Councillor Billy Corry may not be omens but they are certainly straws in the wind .

No one , it seems , especially the Unionist leaders , knows where their strategy is headed . After a period of stagnation , we live in stirring times ...

(Tomorrow - 'NA FIANNA EIREANN' : from 1981.)

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 .

When John O'Grady was writing his own ransom note , Eddie Hogan was worried that the light from the car would attract attention , even though the windows were covered with blankets . The note warned Dr. Austin Darragh not to contact the police , and instructed that a courier be sent to the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk where a call would come through for a 'Pat Murray' ; the courier was to take the call which would give further instructions .

John O'Grady was then taken from the car and led to a freight container where he was bedded down for the night . Tony McNeill and Fergal Toal resumed guard duties ; Dessie O'Hare and Eddie Hogan left them to it .

October 26 was a Bank Holiday . Dessie O'Hare was in great form , saying that he was soon to be a millionaire - it was also his birthday . Unknown to him , however , the gardai were about to get their first break in their investigation : Garda Gerard O'Donoghue succeeded in doing what every member of the force from raw recruit to the Garda Commissioner himself wanted to do - he located the kidnappers . O'Donoghue was on plain clothes duty ; the gardai in Midleton had been informed of suspicious activity around a container just outside Midleton , in Ballymascinley .

Attempts to contact the local Garda patrol car failed due to radio interference , so Garda O'Donoghue went out with two of his colleagues in one of their own cars.......