Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ernie O'Malley, pictured during his arrest in Dublin Castle in 1921 . He was using the alias 'Bernard Stewart' .

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.

Ernie O' Malley was very active in attacks on British Army barracks , ambushes , raids and always in organisation and leadership crucial for the building of a people's army . He fought the Auxiliaries, an elite group of ex-BA officers attached to the RIC - a sort of 1920 SAS . He admitted that the RIC had "...the guts to stick it out.." but insisted "...we can't admire Irishmen who fight for foreigners against us..". His books are still useful handbooks for contemporary guerrillas .

Britain was not immune then , either : Cathal Brugha was ready to wipe out the British Cabinet if Conscription was enforced in Ireland . English warehouses and docks went up in flames in a series of contemporary reprisals .

A significant section of ' On Another Man's Wound' concerns his eventual capture by British forces in Inistioge , County Kilkenny on 9th December 1920 (a notebook found on him had the names of all the members of the 7th Battalion IRA (Callan) of the West Kilkenny brigade - many of whom were subsequently arrested) and the torture and imprisonment he underwent at the hands of the British Army , including his interrogation ordeal in Dublin Castle, the 'Castlereagh of the Tan War' . Threatened with hanging for an action he did not commit , in the midst of brutal questioning , Ernie O' Malley replied - " With us hanging is no disgrace." It is a revealing line , and one which puzzled his British torturers , who never will understand the mentality , motivation and moral strength of their opponents.......

AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF THE RUC . RUC brutality , torture , murder and lies were brushed aside as the unionist establishment congratulated itself for the continuing existence of a paramilitary force which had maintained and safe-guarded its rule in the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland.......
From 'IRIS' magazine , July/August 1982.

Both the 'Specials' and the RUC proceeded to wage a terror campaign against the nationalist people , indulging in widespread pogroms : reports of atrocities were common place between 1922 and 1925 and the 'Murder Gang' (a 1920's version of the 'Shankill Butchers') was composed of ex-British soldiers , UVF men and RUC/'B' Specials , and typical of their atrocities was the McMahon Murders on March 24th 1922 (which was organised and carried-out by RUC Detectives and District Inspectors J.W. Nixon and Harrison) in which all the male members of the McMahon family and a man employed by them were killed .

In another incident around this time , two elderly sisters were killed when 'B' Specials threw a hand-grenade into the bedroom of their Thompson Street home in east Belfast's isolated nationalist ghetto of Short Strand . Perhaps the most sadistic killings took place in Tyrone in 1924 - four IRA Volunteers were captured by a large platoon of 'B' Specials and shot on the spot . Their genitals were cut off and placed in their mouths and obscenities about the Pope were written on the road with blood from their entrails . At the inquest , the 'B' Specials' Commander defended their actions by stating that his men "...had seen action in Palestine.." . No action was taken against the perpetrators.

In the intervening years , the RUC came to reinforce its position as the institutional guardian of Orange sectarian privilege in the Occupied Six Counties , periodically (as in 1932 during the 'Outdoor Relief' strikes ) repressing nationalists by extreme brutal force . Its importance in that institutional repression can be gauged by the fact that the RUC , through its advice and intelligence reports , were instrumental in operating the internment of nationalist opponents of the state , not just in 1971 but in every decade since the foundation of the state in 1920. The late 1960's saw this repressive role emphasised again , as RUC thugs continued to 'keep the peace' with their batons.......

British Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Dewar of the Royal Green Jackets has served in Cyprus , Borneo and Malaya , as well as in the Occupied Six Irish Counties . He has written three previous books - 'Internal Security Weapons And Equipment Of The World' and 'Brushfire Wars' . The extracts reproduced here are from 'The British Army In Northern Ireland' , which was published by 'Arms and Armour Press' in 1985 . The underlined comments in this article are ours . This article reflects the operational thinking of a British military commander , more so than his political or ideological outlook.
From 'IRIS' magazine , October 1987.

Late in the afternoon of August 27th , 1979 , a convoy of three British Army vehicles was travelling from Ballykinler Barracks , County Down (where one-time Barracks Commander Frank Percy Crozier used rally his troops by shouting at them - "You must lose your gentle selves .You must steel your hearts and minds and be callous of life and death. That is war." ) to Newry with men of Second Para on board. At 4.30pm they approached a trailer loaded with hay and straw bales parked in a lay-by at a place called Narrow Water, where Carlingford Lough is only a couple of hundred yards wide and where it separates Ulster from the 26-County State . As the end-of-convoy four-ton British Army truck passed the trailer there was a large explosion - an estimated 500lb of explosives had been placed in milk churns which had been hidden in the hay and straw bales and detonated by men in the 26-County State using a remote-control device .

A nearby British Army patrol in the town of Warrenpoint reported the explosion and , even as they were doing so , their remaining colleagues at the scene of the explosion were , in wild panic , spraying the surrounding area with gunfire , hitting a young English tourist who died from his injuries . Two BA Land Rovers from Second Para , on patrol in Warrenpoint , sped to the scene and , at Bessbrook in County Armagh the 1st Battalion of the 'Queen's Own Highlanders' put an airborne reaction force on standby , but it was held back until its Commanding Officer had evaluated the situation for himself . This Battalion of 'The Queen's Own' had started a 20-month residential tour only the previous month : BA Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair , with his radio-operator , Lance-Corporal Victor McLeod , landed in a Gazelle helicopter in a field behind a lodge with gates leading to a larger house .

Behind the gates and the associated wall , the surviving paratroopers had taken cover and were returning fire at the IRA Volunteers across the Lough . Doctors had also landed in a Wessex helicopter and were tending the wounded . It was 4.59pm when Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair ran over to talk to the Para Officer in Command , Major Furseman , and the Wessex with wounded in it commenced its take off . At that moment a 1,000lb device , placed in the lodge gates , exploded and killed twelve men including Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair , and seriously wounded two others . So close was Blair to the explosion that his remains were never found . The Wessex helicopter was damaged but not irreparably . In all , eighteen British soldiers , mostly Paras , were killed at Warrenpoint . It was the worst single incident - for the British forces in Ireland - up to that point in time.......
(PLEASE NOTE : we will be taking a break for a week or so in early May.)