Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Following the recent publication of O'Malley's third book 'Raids And Rallies', on the Tan War years 1920-1921 , Frances-Mary Blake , who edited the book and his earlier works , writes an appreciation of the man who wrote 'On Another Man's Wound' and 'The Singing Flame'.
From 'IRIS' magazine , July 1983.

When the truce of July 1921 took effect between the Irish Republican Army and British Crown Forces , a young IRA leader wrote to a fellow Republican Officer - " What do you think of the Peace Move ? There seems to be something in it whatever it is . Perhaps Dev would accept a Republic with the exclusion of Ulster . We are very much worried as we don't know what way the game is going . The number of real Republicans , even in the IRA is small - that is , of men who will see the Republic through to the bitter end. " That young IRA leader's name was Ernie O'Malley and he had been so active in the war that , in recognition of his energy , organising ability and outstanding personal courage , he was appointed Officer Commanding of the 2nd Southern , the second-largest IRA Division in the country .

Early in 1921 , RIC reports from Dublin Castle had named O' Malley as " ...a notorious rebel..". Late in 1922 , the Free State's military command would claim that " The capture of Ernie O' Malley should mean the complete breakdown of their ('Irregular' ie Irish Republican Army) organisation in the North Eastern area ." Ernie O' Malley was acknowledged by all to be an Irish Republican par excellence.

If it is now again fashionable in some circles to denigrate 1916 and all the Easter Rising ever sought , then by contrast the Civil War that followed the 1916-1921 fighting has been tacitly ignored . And yet the year 1922 was a watershed for Ireland . During that crucial year Ernie O' Malley had a prominent part in what he called , in a letter he sent to a Dublin newspaper while hunted and on the run in August 1922 , "...a just and holy Cause : namely , the defence of the Republic to which we have sworn to be faithful.." Ernest Bernard O'Malley, Soldier of Oglaigh na hEireann , was much more than 'just' a soldier.......

BALLYMUN INTERVIEW : "Ballymun is just like any other working-class area in Dublin , or even in Belfast , I suppose . It's just that Ballymun isn't houses , it's flats..."
From 'IRIS' magazine , July/August 1982.

Aged in their twenties , with four young children , 'Pat' and 'Mary' have been living in their three-bedroom flat for about four years , and hope to move although they expect to have to wait at least two years . Even then they will have no choice where - Tallaght or Blanchardstown : " You need too many points for the other areas." They have asked that we not use their real names .

On the heating system in the block of flats that they live in , they said - " The hot water goes off when the heating breaks down . And it's always breaking down . The shortcoming of the system was that they didn't give each flat a controller to regulate the heat . It just comes up through the floor , if it's on everyone gets it . It's even too warm here in the winter ."

The lifts that are supposed to serve each floor are another source of grief- " They've hired a private maintenance company to fix the lifts , instead of replacing them . It probably wouldn't be in their interests that the lifts keep working , you know ? It'd put them out of a job . " Speaking about jobs and work , 'Pat' says - " If you go for a job and give a Ballymun address it's hard - this area has a bad name . You can't even get car insurance , it's a 'high risk' area . If you go for a hire purchase scheme to pay for something and give a Ballymun address you won't get the deal . And then there's shopping - there's only one supermarket and they charge what they like. " The kids from the area have their own problems , too.......

Between December 1983 and May 1987 , over 25 republican or nationalist funerals were systematically attacked by the RUC as a matter of deliberate British policy . The objective was to drive mourners off the streets so that later Britain could claim dwindling support for republicanism as 'evidenced' by the small numbers attending IRA funerals . As Jane Plunkett reports , the opposite happened . More and more people came out to defend the remains of republican dead , the RUC were exposed as being as brutal and sectarian as ever , and these two factors , combined with damaging international news coverage , eventually forced the British government to reverse its policy of attacking republican funerals .
From 'IRIS' magazine , October 1987.

The RUC didn't like the fact that republicans had let it be known that they , too , were capable of disrupting funerals , if need be . So when at the end of April 1987 , the (P)IRA shot dead the UVF second-in-command William 'Frenchie' Marchant, whom the (P)IRA named as "directly involved" in the killing of Larry Marley , the RUC could not afford an embarrassing repeat of the Bingham funeral , when they were seen to stand back and just observe as UVF leader John Bingham was buried with full paramilitary trappings . The RUC pressurised the UVF into giving up the customary military funeral and William Marchant was buried privately . Even so , there was no RUC 'show of strength' , no riot gear , no attempt to stop mourners forming-up behind the Ulster-flag draped coffin .

On May 6th , 1987 , as (P)IRA Volunteer Finbarr McKenna was being buried , British 'Direct Ruler' Tom King made a well-publicised call for the "whole community" to support the RUC whose aim was , he claimed , to offer "...a just and impartial service to the community.." . That same day , acting under orders from Tom King and others , the RUC were batoning and firing lethal plastic bullets at unarmed civilian mourners at Finbarr McKenna's funeral . Tom King's remarks stand as a text-book example of Britain's real contempt for the opinions of ordinary nationalists .

The 1985 Hillsborough Treaty (the 'London-Dublin Agreement') and its promises of 'better times for Northern nationalist' was propaganda aimed essentially at a narrow sector of the Nationalist middle-class , and at public opinion outside the Occupied Six Counties . Tom King was not the only cynic - as the 'Irish establishment' broke its long silence over RUC attacks on funerals , the SDLP's Joe Hendron predicted out of the blue that the Free State government would "...intercede.." on behalf of Northern nationalists - using the Hillsborough Treaty , of course ! And of course a general election was almost upon us and Joe Hendron was one of the SDLP's candidates.......