" A wealth of information..."

"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)

This blog was listed as one of the 'Finalists' in the '2016 current affairs/politics' category of the Littlewoods Ireland blog awards - but we didn't win the award. But not to worry -thanks to everyone involved for getting us to the final stage of the competition and sure we'll try again the next time!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017



"Because I believe these things I will always stick to them, but I do not want to force any other person to believe as I do. Let everyone be honest with himself and do what he thinks right. It is my duty to tell you what I believe should be done.." - Commandant Neil 'Plunkett' O'Boyle, pictured, left.

Commandant O'Boyle was born on a small farm at Leac Eineach, near Burtonport in County Donegal, in 1898. He grew tall and thin, and was known to keep himself to himself as a teenager, but livened up as he grew older, and continually expressed an interest in the political affairs of the times he was witnessing and had a great interest in the Irish language. But he was not one for trying to impose his own beliefs, whether to do with politics, history, or the Irish language, and was known by now as a Sinn Féiner but couldn't take his interest to the level he would have liked, as he was helping to look after his father, who was in poor health : the man died in 1917, and 'Plunkett', now 19 years of age, needed a secure job to assist the family - he got a position as a guard with the 'Londonderry(sic) and Lough Swilly Railway Company' but was forced to leave that job when he was 21 due to continued harassment from the RIC, a British 'police force' in Ireland, which knew of his Sinn Féin beliefs.

He left Ireland for Scotland and got a job as a miner in the 'New Mains' Colliery, where he joined the IRA's 2nd Battalion Scottish Brigade, B Company. His IRA work included procuring weapons for Army use in Ireland and ensuring that same received safe passage home. At 22 years of age, he was caught by the Scottish police while organising a shipment of arms and was sentenced to five years hard labour in Peterhead Prison and was known to have been singled-out for particularly rough treatment by the prison authorities, including long periods of solitary confinement.

The 'Treaty of Surrender' was signed in late 1921 and 'Plunkett' was one of many who qualified for early release under its terms and conditions (even though he was opposed to that Treaty) and, in 1922, at 24 years of age, he was released and he returned home to Donegal, but was arrested a few months later and placed in detention in Dungloe and then moved to Drumboe. Finally, he was put 'on hold' in Finner Camp until arrangements were made to move him to Dublin. From the moment he was first arrested he was determined to escape : he had intended to jump from the Free Staters lorry that was transporting him to Drumboe but another prisoner beat him to it. In Finner Camp he had started a tunnel but this was discovered, so he and others planned to seize the tug boat on which they were to be taken to meet the ship that was due to transport them to Dublin. When this didn't work, they then planned (unsuccessfully) to try and take control of the ship itself!

When 'Plunkett' and his comrades landed in Dublin, they were taken to Newbridge Barracks where they almost immediately began work on a tunnel, but this plan was soon improved on when one of the men got his hands on a Board of Works map which highlighted the sewerage system and the existing tunnel was then re-directed towards those pipes. They soon reached the buried pipes and in October that year (1922) approximately 160 IRA prisoners effected an escape through the sewerage system and came out the other end in the Kildare section of the River Liffey, from where Neil 'Plunkett' O'Boyle got to Dublin and was placed in command of the Dublin No. 2 Brigade IRA, 3rd Battalion, and was stationed in the Wicklow area : it was now November 1922 and, for the next six months, his IRA unit operated and lived rough in a mountainous area between Tallaght and Glenmalure.

The Ceasefire Order of April 1923 was adhered to by 'Plunkett' and his men but they stayed in hiding, as did many IRA units, until the general situation became clearer - but the Free State Army still hunted them and, indeed, his unit was attacked by the Staters on 8th May 1923. Michelle Boyle, a relative of 'Plunkett', put the following account on the record at the time : " Around 5am Rosie Kelly was out with (----) when she seen Free State soldiers in the vicinity. She told the volunteers. They went into the woods and hid behind a wall. As soon as Free State soldiers came looking, Plunkett and the column opened fire. The Free State soldiers sheltered behind Kelly's house. It wasn't long until another band of Free State soldiers came from Moin a' Bhealaigh and they shot into the woods. They hit their own men but none were hurt seriously. Some volunteers were in Free State soldier's clothes and managed to escape quickly across the hills. The Column was all very tired and was glad to rest that night. At around this time Plunkett was after getting a shipment of arms from Belfast. That night in Kylebeg they had 2 Thompson guns and 7 rifles. The soldiers had Lewis guns and rifles and there were about 80 soldiers. Plunkett was a good leader, he was hot-headed but you couldn't frighten him. He had a sharp mind, knew what time to attack and what time to retreat. And when they were escaping, Wicklow men could guide him to safe houses and over the hills.."

In mid-May 1923, 'Plunkett' and his men were in a safe house in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow when, in the early hours of the morning, they were surrounded by Free State forces under the command of a Belfast man, Felix Mc Corley. IRA man Tom Heavey, who was in the house at the time, explained what transpired : "Plunkett wanted the mother and daughter to be let out of the house. The Staters wouldn't hear of that and threatened to bomb them out. That was a favourite trick, throwing grenades through the window. This put Plunkett in a spot as he couldn't let the women be injured. So he said, 'Let me come out'. Out he came with his hands up and walked slowly towards a stone stile at the right hand corner of the house. When he got there he spoke a few words with this Free State Officer named McCorley, a Belfast man perched on a stone ditch above him. Suddenly McCorley raised his revolver and shot Plunkett in the eye, the bullet passing through his upraised hands. For good measure he shot him again through the head. He just shot him. I saw it all. It was cold blooded murder. The others in the house were rounded up and taken away.." (from Pádraig O' Baoighill's book, 'Óglach na Rosann').

The 94th anniversary of the State execution of Neil 'Plunkett' O'Boyle will be marked in Knocknadruce, County Wicklow, on Sunday next, 28th May 2017, at 3pm : those attending are asked to assemble at the Church in Hollywood at 2.30pm and a bus to the commemoration will be leaving from Dublin city centre at 12.45pm - phone 01-8729747 for details. All genuine republicans welcome!


In Ireland, in 1941, conscription was again being discussed in Westminster ; this time for the partitioned six north-eastern counties of Ireland. It is recorded that, at a meeting between the then 'American Ambassador to Ireland' (sic - the Free State), a Mr. David Gray (who was said to be friendly with the British Ambassador to America, 'Lord' Halifax) and Eamonn de Valera, which took place in January 1941, Gray rounded on de Valera "for capitalising on hatred of Great Britain for political reasons and so must take some responsibility for the existing popular state of mind..", by which he meant the Free State policy of (so-called) 'neutrality' and the then impending strong possibility of conscription by Westminster in the Six Occupied Counties, which de Valera and his State Administration were opposed to.

Grey stated that de Valera "began to talk about his rights. I told him that the only right that he and myself enjoyed was to believe in our religion, and be burned for it if need be. Every other right depended upon force to maintain it, and he was steering a very dangerous course if he thought otherwise.."

Although pro-British in his mindset, Gray recognised the reality of the then existing political situation in Ireland : on the 24th May, 1941 - 76 years ago on this date - he sent a wire-cable (like a 'text message', for our younger readers!) to the American Secretary of State, stating - "Opposition leaders yesterday informed me that conscription without a conscientious objectors escape clause for minority Catholic nationalists will constitute a major irretrievable and probably fatal political blunder at this time and play directly into de Valera's hands with grave possibilities for American interests. They [the opposition leaders] predict draft riots, the escape of draft dodgers to Southern Ireland who will be acclaimed as hero martyrs by three-quarters of the population and the fomenting of trouble by republicans and fifth columnists. The clearest-headed leader predicts that de Valera will seize the opportunity to escape from economic and political realities by proclaiming himself the leader of the oppressed minority and with the blessings of the Cardinal will rouse anti-British feeling and call a Holy War. I think it a very likely prediction. All classes of opinion here unite in condemning the move as calamitous. It appears to be a repetition of the same fatal blunder made during the last war. The weak and failing Ulster [sic] Government is probably seeking to sustain itself by provoking a crisis. Unless Great Britain is prepared from a military point of view to seize the whole country it appears to be madness. So little can be gained and so much lost.

Eighty thousand Irish Volunteers in the British Army will be disaffected, there will be no material number of nationalist conscripts, a government, a popular majority and an army inclined to be friendly to Great Britain rather than to the Axis will become definitely hostile, possibly giving active aid to Germany and most important of all the pro-British opposition will be helpless and the opportunity for dividing the country on the question of the ports will be lost for the duration. The effect on Irish-American opinion at this juncture is not for me to estimate. This is a grave situation."

Shortly afterwards, Churchill wrote -"..the (British) Cabinet is inclined to the view it would be more trouble than it's worth to go through with conscription. No immediate decision will be taken and in the meantime the less made of the affair the better." It took, as usual, the threat of force, or force itself, before the British realised that there would be a consequence to their action. And it still does today.


By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT... (By Cian Sharkhin.)

"The elephants on my foot." The squeaky voice piped up, breaking the spell of the Maenad. 'THWAACK!' The zoo keeper's cane reverberated off the baby elephant's rump, causing him to lumber forward, releasing me. It never even hurt when he was standing on my foot, it was like somebody sitting on my foot, I just couldn't move.I should've felt relieved, I didn't - I felt overwrought.

Just as the 'naughty boys' in the film had caused Dumbo's mummy to go crazy and attack them in defence of little Dumbo, whose ears the naughty boys were pulling whilst teasing the baby elephant. I had betrayed the baby elephant causing the zoo keeper to whack it with his long bamboo stick. I felt awful.

"Oh Christopher, my little pet. Are you alright?" My mother gently cooed into my ear as she dandled me and groomed my curly blond tresses. Gone was the Maenad, transformed back to my mother, her features had softened and the Doris Day light shone forth from her. My mother's face was a case study of divinity, a Madonna.

"Oh don't worry, my pet, why didn't you say? Oh never mind , you were probably frightened, you poor thing..." My mother continued both asking and answering her own questions, leaving me to reflect on my act of 'treachery'. Poor old Dumbo. (End of 'Dumbo the Elephant' : next - 'The Serpent', by Cian Sharkhin ).


"To All Ranks : Comrades - The arms with which we have fought the enemies of our country are to be dumped. The foreign and domestic enemies of the Republic have for the moment prevailed" - 'Dump Arms' order issued by the then newly-appointed IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken (pictured, right), on Thursday, 24th May 1923 : 94 years ago on this date.

"Further sacrifice on your part would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment, with those who have destroyed the Republic. You have saved the nation's honour, preserved the sacred national tradition, and kept open the road of independence" - an echo of the above 'Dump Arms' order to the IRA, issued on the same date [24th May 1923] by Éamon de Valera (pictured, left).

Yet, three years later, that same man actually joined those "who have destroyed the Republic" when, in March 1926, following an extraordinary meeting of the then Sinn Féin organisation, he resigned as leader and, splitting the Movement, brought others with him in forming (on the 23rd March 1926) "a new national movement" - Fianna Fáil. He and the other defectors stated that they had no option except to leave the Movement after their Ard Fheis motion calling for elected Sinn Féin members to be allowed to take their seats in the Free State parliament (Leinster House), if and when the controversial 'Oath of Allegiance' was removed, was defeated in a vote.

'He was born in New York on the 14th of October in 1882 to Catherine Coll (a young Irish immigrant from County Limerick) and Juan Vivion DeValera (an immigrant of Spanish origin). Little is known of his early childhood except that his family moved from America in 1885 to Ireland where the young Éamon studied at Blackrock College in Dublin and was largely reared by his Grandmother. He studied languages and mathematics and was, like Michael Collins, a student of English Rule in Ireland. The early 1900's was a time of the great Gaelic cultural revival in Ireland as literature, drama, sport and the language of the Gaelic nation were all revived. The main spearhead of the revival was The Gaelic League which he joined in 1908. He was greatly influenced by the League and learned the Irish language whilst immersing himself in the Gaelic culture.

The Gaelic League was an obvious recruiting ground for the various revolutionary organisations of the time and it was not long before de Valera became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was second in command to Thomas MacDonagh of the Dublin Brigade during the Easter Rising of 1916. The Rising failed and the seven leaders, MacDonagh and Pearse among them, were executed, along with 9 other rebels. de Valera was also sentenced to death as an organiser of the revolt but was to escape the firing squad because of the confusion surrounding his ancestry (the English authorities did not want to risk the execution of an American citizen)..'
(from here).

New York-born Éamon de Valera died at 92 years of age in Blackrock, Dublin, in 1975, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. His 'Dump Arms' colleague, Frank Aiken, also died in Blackrock, Dublin, eight years after de Valera (1983), aged 85 ; 'From an adolescent farmer to a local Sinn Fein activist and provincial guerrilla leader, and eventually to chief-of-staff of the IRA, Frank Aiken has an early, hidden history. As with so many of his political generation, Aiken's path to politics began amid the violent upheaval of the Irish revolution..' (from here).

On the 20th April 1923, Frank Aiken was elected as Chief of Staff for the IRA and almost had his tenure brought to an end within two days : on the 22nd of that month, Aiken was holed up in a so-called 'safe house' in Castlebellingham in County Louth with the Quinn brothers, Pádraig and Séan. The three men were part of the leadership of the IRA's 'Fourth Northern Division' (Frank Aiken was commander of that unit, Pádraig was the quartermaster general and Séan was adjutant general) and, as such, were high on the Free Staters 'Most Wanted' list. The 'safe house' was surrounded (on the 22nd) by Free State forces and a firefight ensued, during which both Quinn brothers were wounded (Séan died from his wounds, and Pádraig was captured) but, in the melee and confusion of the action, Frank Aiken managed to escape. Three short years later, however, he left Sinn Féin and, working alongside (colluding with, to be more apt) Seán Lemass, Gerry Boland and Countess Markievicz, established a political party - Fianna Fail.

The Republican Movement continued its struggle against the British military and political presence in Ireland and found itself having to do battle, too, with Frank Aiken and his fellow Free Staters who, in their attempts to present the Free State as 'a normal society' rather than that which it was (and, indeed, still is today) - a corrupt and bastardised political entity - tried to control the news of the day : 'Censorship was under the charge of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, Frank Aiken. It was necessary to prevent publication of matter that might undermine the neutrality of the State and to prevent it becoming a clearing house for foreign intelligence, though over the period of the Emergency, the Act started to be used for more party political purposes such as preventing the publication of the numbers of Irish soldiers serving in the United Kingdom armed forces or industrial disputes within the state. In addition, the information made available to Irish people was also carefully controlled...' (from here).

As the Free State 'Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures' (as he was from 1939 to 1945), Frank Aiken could (and did) 'authorise and provide for the censorship, restriction, control, or partial or complete suspension of communication' - in other words, he propagandised for Free Statism on behalf of Westminster and, as such - like his Fianna Fail/Free State colleagues - was seen as a persona non grata by the IRA. Indeed, when his old IRA 'boss', Paddy Rankin, died in 1964, Frank Aiken made the journey from Dublin to Newry to attend the funeral and was told in no uncertain terms when he got there that it was an IRA-organised funeral and his presence might not be appreciated by all concerned. It was recorded at the time that, following that conversation, "..Mr Aiken made a quick retreat up the Dublin Road..".

Free Staters, and the Free State entity itself and the mentality that they and it support and represent, has 'dug in', politically, since de Valera and Aiken, among others, nurtured it into life, and its 'retreat' will not be quick but, for the sake of those of us who respect this country, it has to happen. And the sooner, the better.


At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the 'Magill Annual 2002' (*PIRA).

One of the key tasks facing the IRA officers who 'green-booked' new recruits into the army was to make sure they had the psychological strength necessary to withstand the trauma of killing at close range and, in order to do this, IRA volunteers had to be 100 per cent sure that they were 100 per cent justified in using the gun. There had to be complete moral certitude, but the recent decommissioning 'event' has caused a certain creeping moral ambiguity to seep into the belief system of IRA volunteers. This is no small matter.

The Garda Special Branch approached social scientists in Maynooth in the 1980's with the simple question : "How do we beat the IRA?" The answer was simple - "Destroy their belief system." One of the main casualties for the Republican Movement in entering this process was the belief system that equipped volunteers to sustain their operational effectiveness as much as did the guns. Bobby Sands was imprisoned because he was in possession of a firearm - the core question was the legitimacy and legality of what he was doing with that automatic pistol. To the British administrators of the northern state he was a criminal but, to his comrades, he was a legitimate soldier doing his national duty at a time of national emergency.

The 'event' now slightly opens the door guarding that moral certitude. Doubt may creep into those who spent their youth preoccupied with the guns and their deadly use. This is new terrain for republicans, especially those who remember the 70's and 80's ; cries of 'sell-out' in the direction of the current leadership are arrant nonsense, given the situation they find themselves in. Perhaps accusations of acquiescing in a compulsory purchase order would be more apt. ('1169' comment - and 'purchased' they were, and sold themselves cheap, to boot. The "situation they find themselves in" is one of their own making ie the Adams/McGuinness leadership allowed the political establishment to guide them to a point where to join that political establishment could be 'sold' as the smart/cute/republican thing to do and, unfortunately, the majority of the membership allowed it to happen.) (MORE LATER).


'The first election to a devolved legislature in Northern Ireland (sic) took place on 24 May 1921*. A record-breaking turnout delivered 40 Unionist seats in the Northern Ireland’s new House of Commons, with Sinn Féin in second place. At a time of political uncertainty, when the future status (or even location) of the Border was not yet established, the election was a crucial moment in the construction of Northern Ireland's political infrastructure for the next half-century and more...' (from 'The Irish Times' newspaper, here / *under the terms of the British 1920 'Government of Ireland Act' ie two 'Home Rule Parliaments' for Ireland)

And, today - 96 years later - that institution is still there, still funded by Westminster and, as 'he who pays the piper calls the tune', still doing the bidding of the British political establishment. Irish republicans are abstentionist in relation to the Stormont institution and the Leinster House assembly in Dublin, as both 'parliaments' were put in place by acts of, and to the advantage of, Westminster. Neither 'House' can be of any use in regards to Irish reunification, as both accommodate advocates of the continued partition of this country, regardless of what they may say or put in writing ; as with all career politicians, you have to watch what they do as opposed to what they say.


On the 24th May 1921 - 96 years ago on this date - British Army General 'Sir' Nevil Macready (pictured, left) wrote a memorandum to the British Cabinet in which he stated that a full military victory against the guerrilla forces of the IRA was almost an impossibility ; he suggested the introduction of total martial law, the suppression of all newspapers, the licensing of all public traffic on the roads, identity cards and the suppression of any Irish republican parliament! A proper Gentleman, by all accounts...

However, Macready's political masters in Westminster let it be known that, in their opinion, 'such measures were too extreme' ; in reality, however, there was one over-riding reason why such an order would not be issued to General Macready - Westminster was already voicing its opinion, diplomatically, to as wide an audience as it could get to, that the 'behind-the-scenes' talk about a 'Truce' was the 'answer' to the 'Irish Question' : Westminster was not worried about being too harsh on the Irish - if Macready's demands were met, the British 'spin' would be blown apart and questions would be asked as to why such measures were needed when the issue had been, as Westminster was insinuating, practically settled.

Macready's 'wish list', if implemented, would have led to a fresh wave of American support for the IRA, and the British politicians in Westminster knew it. British 'King' George V, Lloyd George and General Smuts had sent-out 'peace signals' to the IRA and those they perceived to be its political leaders or representatives - among those 'come-hither' advances was this beauty of political hypocrisy, delivered in Belfast on the 22nd June (1921) by British 'King' George V, who was in Belfast to open the new 'Home Rule Parliament' at Stormont - "I speak from a full heart when I pray that my coming to Ireland today may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife among her peoples, whatever their race or creed. In that hope, I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forebearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill." Blaming the Irish for the situation, but willing to forgive us for trying to defend ourselves. The 'king' should have stuck to collecting stamps, and more's the pity he wasn't introduced to his doctor sooner than he was...

However - those 'peace signals' bore fruit - a message from Richard Mulcahy, IRA Chief of Staff was circulated to all active personnel - "In view of the conversations now being entered into by our Government with the Government of Great Britain, and in pursuance of mutual conversations, active operations by our forces will be suspended as from noon, Monday, 11 July..."

Then, in London, on the 6th December that year (1921), the 'Treaty of Surrender' was signed, bringing this cursed Free State into being and succeeding only in 'kicking the can down the road' - to this day, Westminster continues to claim jurisdictional control over part of Ireland, a claim enforced politically and militarily. We have had other 'Treaty's ' since then : 1973 (Sunningdale), 1985 (Hillsborough) and 1998 (Stormont) - and no doubt we will suffer more of them in the future. But until such time as any offered treaty contains a date for British military and political withdrawal from Ireland, it will not 'solve the Irish problem' ; Irish republicans have not endured an 848-years long struggle for freedom only to now say to Westminster, as those in the Free State 'parliament', and system, have said - 'Stay if you want, just treat us better'.



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


The Older Son.

In the barracks a couple of well-placed kicks to the back of the testicles brought forward the information that the younger son had an elder brother whom we will call 'the older son'. The older son was attending Queens University and like his younger brother was coming down with O-Levels and A-Levels etc. Up until then I always equated this with intelligence.

No sooner did the older son cross the door of his house than back came the RUC and the British Army. There were no pleasantries exchanged - the older son was arrested under the same Act as his younger brother. "What's this all about?", asked the older son. "You'll find out", replied an RUC man.

While the younger son was being held by the privates and sergeants of the Kosbies in the cells of the barracks, the older son was being interrogated by RUC detectives as to how the rifle came to be in his home and who brought it there. The older son denied all knowledge of it, and the RUC man then produced it - it was a Lee Enfield 303. The older son's face showed the hint of a grin, which the RUC detective noticed - "Do you think this is funny?", he said. "You must think that I came up the Lagan in a bubble", the older son replied, sarcastically. "What do you mean?", asked the RUC man. "That's not the rifle that was in our house..." "Why, what was it like?", asked the RUC man. "It wasn't as big as that! said the older son, who then spent the next fifteen minutes describing in great detail all the major and minor characteristics of an M1 Carbine.

The younger son went to prison for a rifle he knew nothing about and the older son went to prison for a rifle that officially never existed. O-Levels and A-Levels indeed. (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017



"People who deny their roots, far from escaping the past, are forced to assume the history of another tribe" - Eoghan Harris, as quoted in 'The Phoenix' magazine, 10th May 1996, page 12. And said, apparently, without the slightest hint of irony! Our 74-year-old subject has certainly been around the block, sometimes doubling-back on himself and even meeting himself on the return journey : he has been/is a journalist, a writer of fiction (some would say he does both jobs at the same time...), a theatre director and a politician (gifted a seat in the Free State 'Senate' by a good pal of his..) and has been openly supportive of, so far (!), Official Sinn Féin/the Workers' Party, Fine Gael, the Ulster Unionist Party and Fianna Fáil (while flirting with the State 'Labour Party', too)! But it's early yet...

We have a lot of Eoghan Harris material in our archives and, even on such a spurious attempt at a date link (!) we think it is worth re-posting edited versions of same, if only for future use by, for instance, obit writers...

From a Brenda Power article in 'MAGILL' magazine, November 1997 :

They love : French films, John Waters, the 'Questions And Answers' RTE television programme audience, Gerry Adams on the 'Late Late Show'. Hanging around the IFC in black clothes. Nuala O'Faolain, DCU journalism, Trotskyism, Feminism ("Scratch a trot or a feminist and find a Provo..") and RTE Radio One. They hate : Zionism, Dana, The Daily Telegraph, Camille Paglia, Unionism, Conor Cruise O' Brien ("a touchstone for bad politics.."), Rupert Murdoch, American cinematic classicism and Aristotle. 'They' are 'People With Bad Politics', and Eoghan Harris can spot them at a glance - one small 'tic', one gesture or smart quip and then Eoghan Harris knows, and he reveals it in 'alien-script' uppercase - it's ONE OF THEM! They are typically Dublin middle class professional types who have a series of kneejerk cliched positions on a tight core of political opinion. They are 'sneaking regarders', hush puppy radicals and if they join an organisation it will be a "mosquito group" like the 'International Marxist Group'.

'Their' prejudices are the residue of a collapsed ideology - they may have reservations about Mary McAleese's "appalling record on the liberal agenda" but they won't dare raise it because their 'Crypto-Provo-Trot' sympathies run deeper than their 'liberal feminist conceits'. If, as Eoghan predicts with absolute conviction, the 'People With Bad Politics' (ie alleged 'Provo sympathisers') feel the wrath of the 48 per cent of voters who have imposed a "Secret Fatwa" on Sinn Féin's critical supporters on polling day, McAleese has lost and then - "I deserve credit. I alerted my country to her character and, if she wins, I still deserve credit because she will enter Aras an Uachtarain under a cloud, and she'll fill the place with Shinners singing 'The Men Behind The Wire' and she'll be astonished at the public revulsion to her over the next few months and I choose the term 'tribal timebomb' very carefully because she'll blow up in Bertie's face sooner or later...and if she wins, not on a technicality but because so many people gave her their number one, then I am living in a country I no longer understand.."

Eoghan has a flair for a memorable tag line and an impressive facility for certainty : so Derek Nally is a "slimeball, a blustering bucolic windbag (who) bottled out" of pursuing the strategy that had been tailored and presented to him for free and which, Harris reckons, was technically foolproof but for the fact that it had failed to contemplate the shortcomings of "a big thick Guard". According to Eoghan, Nally was "the best candidate to point up McAleese's bad politics" and he was "going like a train" under the guidance of Harris and his friend John Caden right up to the Trinity College debate when "McAleese eyeballed him like a bright young barrister cross-examining an elderly cop on a car crash and he just lost it..".

In reply to a student's question in Trinity College, Derek Nally accepted Mary McAleese's explanations about the leaked State Department of Foreign Affairs memos and, the following Friday, he claimed on the 'Late Late Show' debate that he had been duped, deceived and manipulated by John Caden and his dark, cloaked, shadowy, sinister puppetmaster Eoghan Harris. Sounding like a newly deprogrammed 'Moonie', Derek Nally portrayed himself as having been briefly possessed in an almost demonic fashion, forced to speak in a voice that was not his and helplessly spewing imprecations that came from not even God knew where! The fact that his extraordinary claims elicited not a titter of scepticism in the studio, least of all from his fellow candidates, and the air of almost awestruck admiration at a brave and lucky escape that attended his tale, prompted several callers to RTE to wonder who, exactly, was this Eoghan Harris and why did he have such acknowledged power?

Harris himself is tetchily dismissive of such concerns - "What's all this dark, shadowy crap? My enemies use these terms like darkness, mental instability, manic depression, to try to harm me and turn me into dark forces. But I'm a narky fucker who'll talk to anybody. I'm completely open about what I do. I always wore my politics on my sleeve ('1169' comment - a multicoloured sleeve, obviously...) and I was totally straightforward about what I was trying to do with Derek Nally, he just didn't have the intelligence to see it. I am a very strong personality, a person of powerful polemical force, but I have enemies in RTE and they refuse to give myself and John Caden a right to reply to this defamation."

That there is widespread fear and loathing for Eoghan Harris within RTE is not in doubt ; scarcely anyone can remain neutral at the mention of his name and, while some remember him as a fearless opponent of Provo sympathies in RTE in the heated years of the late 1970's and early 1980's, many others consider that he and a handful of acolytes wielded unaccountable power within the station for the advancement of their own political ends in those times. They dominated current affairs editorial lines and 'packed' panels and slanted coverage towards their own agenda, setting out to crush anyone who stood in their way ; 'fearsome..mesmerising..intimidating..bombastic' are among the terms used by former colleagues to describe the means by which Eoghan Harris swayed and seduced all round him in those days.

As the major ideologue, pamphleteer and chief adviser to Official Sinn Féin leader Cathal Goulding in the early 1970's, after Harris joined RTE as a producer he first became active within the RTE branch of the Workers' Union of Ireland in the implementation of Sinn Féin The Workers Party strategies of infiltration. One senior RTE producer said of Harris and his Workers Party colleagues : "They were very determined and personally ambitious people, which of course conflicted totally with the dominant ethos in RTE in those days, and so they found it very easy to take over the Workers Union of Ireland. Then Harris brought in John Caden, who was an account's clerk. The NUJ was too lazy and cynical to concern them at the time - the journalists always wanted just more money, but the WUI represented the producers. Harris and those realised that if they controlled the producers then they could control programming and effectively control the television station, and that was what they set out to do."

To this end Eoghan Harris set up a secret branch of 'Sinn Féin the Workers Party', which was called the Ned Stapleton Cumann, within the Workers' Union of Ireland. Although he was never a member of Sinn Féin the Workers' Party himself, Harris recruited members in 'sensitive positions' who could not openly support the party - "We had people in the IDA, for example, who gave us information for our pamphlets : they couldn't be seen to be members and so people like that could vote through the Ned Stapleton Cumann," said Eoghan Harris. Though Mairin de Burca, who was an Ard Comhairle ('Ruling Body') member of Sinn Féin the Workers' Party at the time, says now that she doubts that the Ned Stapleton Cumann ever actually existed within RTE - "Just because Eoghan Harris says he helped set it up doesn't mean that's true, you know," she said. But the group and its activities still remain a part of RTE lore : a producer who was in the station at the time but does not wish to be named stated - "Essentially, he ran a sort of a left-wing freemasonry within RTE at the time. The agenda was to promote the Workers' Party through the programmes, and they set about achieving this in a number of different ways. They (Sinn Féin the Workers Party) had some very powerful friends in RTE and they managed to get friends and relatives and party members into prominent positions, often without jobs having been advertised or any interviews having been held. And their agenda infiltrated every programme, even the books programme! I remember one current affairs team doing a programme on the hunger strikes who were told to "take their line" from Mary McMahon of Sinn Féin the Workers Party and John McMichael, who was then the 'Supreme Commander' of the UDA and was said to have been personally responsible for the deaths of 600 Catholics. So of course the programmes did not reflect the huge support there was for the hunger strikers amongst the Catholic community."

In 1982, 'Magill magazine' reported that the first four 'Today Tonight' RTE television programmes to deal with the issue of the POW position were hostile to the H-Block cause, and that a huge internal row was prompted by the irritation of the programme's then editor, Joe Mulholland, over a subsequent programme which reflected widespread support for the hunger strikers. "And that was when Mary McAleese first fell foul of Eoghan Harris and his people," the RTE producer continues - "McAleese saw reporters being sent up to Belfast to take their line on the hunger strikes from people she knew to be members of the Official IRA. She recognised them because they used to drink in her father's pub on the Lower Falls Road - she took terrible abuse from these people at programme conferences. I remember her being called a Provo to her face, when anyone with a shred of wit could have seen that she detested violence. It just shows how vitriolic those people were, and how long their memories are, that they're still out to get her now."

Eoghan Harris's association with Sinn Féin the Workers Party endured throughout the period when its military wing, the Official IRA, was known to be involved in murder and racketeering. Eamonn McCann said at the time - "It was well known that the Stickies killed Ranger Willie Best, and what I can't understand about Eoghan Harris is that he never took responsibility for the crimes committed by his associates during that period. He calls people 'Hush Puppy Provos' and 'Sneaking Regarders' , and he applies these epithets to people who were never as close to paramilitaries as he knowingly was at that time. There was only one party which said that Stalin was right, which defended the invasion of Hungary and the Berlin Wall and offered abject obeisance to Kim II Sung, and that was the Official Republican Movement. In the light of those mistakes, you might expect Eoghan Harris to be a little more humble in pointing out other people's.. "

Eoghan Harris is incensed to be asked about those contradictions : "If you write anything that links me to Official Sinn Féin I will sue. Seamus Costello once tried to recruit me and Cathal Goulding said - 'Put him writing pamphlets, he can't keep a secret' and he said to me 'Stay out of all that shit'. I'd be useless at clandestine activity, that's what's so crazy about trying to link me with these McAleese leaks, I never thought she was that much of a Shinner, I wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut about it. The fact was that there was a military wing attached to the Workers' Party and I was the political party's chief pamphleteer, which sometimes brought me into the same company, but if I can be smeared by association then so can Pat Rabbitte, so can everyone who was around at the time. I'm an idealogue and a polemecist, it was fuck all to do with me, my job was to educate our membership to give up the gun, to convert them from republicanism to revisionism, to go to the old guard and say - 'Well, where did the guns get us?' And I was very good at finding fighting formulas that didn't require force ; sit-ins and street demos, but no guns - I was a skilled propagandist at covering up our retreat from the gun. I felt the Provos were shading the balance of terror, and I couldn't go around lecturing the Official IRA to lay down their guns while the Provos were shooting politicians like Trevor McNulty.

But I had contempt for the Derry IRA and after they shot John Taylor and Ranger Best I resigned and I didn't return until they called a truce. And, if I was involved back then, why not admit it now? It would give me a whiff of sulphur and might even help me pull birds. There was a very heated atmosphere in RTE at that time and, to us, the work we were doing was important and principled political work. There was a lot of debate going on, but basically it broke down into supporters of the Provos and supporters of the Conor Cruise O'Brien line. There is a retrospective air of manipulation because I was a Workers' Party supporter, but I only pulled strings as far as I could pull them verbally, and each case had to be won by debate. And we were better and brighter than the rest, so we got the best jobs. And if there was a last seat to be filled on a panel debate I'd put on John A. Murphy rather than Tim Pat Coogan, and if it was for a news insert and I wanted someone to interpret a baton charge for me then I wouldn't pick someone who would sound a tribal tone.

If I broke the broadcasting restrictions then I never did it in an underhand way ; I was suspended for six months in 1974 for a programme on the treatment of internees (Conor Cruise O'Brien furiously denounced the programme at a Labour Party conference that year) and I was docked a huge amount of money, there was a point when I'd have lost my house only Gay Byrne and Bunny Carr sent me £50. But I have seen my personnel file in RTE and there's a report in it by Michael Garvey where he says that I just wasn't capable of producing an unbalanced programme."

That is not, however, how another senior RTE figure remembers the era : "Here was the sort of thing he'd do for the Workers Party - if a panel required, say, a Labour member and a Stickie, he'd pick the greatest gobdaw (ie 'half-wit') of a Labour specimen he could find, and put him up against the brightest Workers Party member. Or if there was a report on a issue that was dear to the Workers' Party heart, you'd have trade unionists or community spokesmen on discussing it, without any acknowledgement that they were members of the Workers Party."

In a 'Today Tonight' programme aired on April 22nd, 1982, a Dr. John McManus admitted that there was considerable tax evasion within the medical profession during a debate on the iniquities of the PRSI system. Dr. McManus was not identified as a Workers Party Ard Comhairle (ie 'ruling body') member and a party candidate in that year's general election, nor the line he took acknowledged as the party line. Fergus Finlay recalls "being told no, we don't want a Labour Party spokesman for this programme, we're not having politicians, only trade unionists - and then the trade unionist would turn out to be Des Geraghty." A senior RTE figure stated - "One of the funniest examples of this practice that I can recall was the time that a man called Brian Lynch popped up in the 'Late Late Show' audience attacking the Wolfe Tones, or somebody. It later emerged that, at the very same time, the very same Mr. Lynch was on the HQ staff in Gardiner Place counterfeiting tax books, 'Irish Life' cheque books and five pound notes! In fact I believe the the mugshot that Interpol currently use - they're still hunting Brian Lynch - came off a piece of RTE film."

A 'MAGILL' investigation in 1982 calculated that the cost of running the Sinn Féin The Workers Party organisation was around £3,000 per week at that time while membership fees - the party's declared source of funds - yielded about £500 per week. That report concluded - 'In an interview with 'MAGILL' for this article, Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland stated that the party also earned a lot from the sale of Easter Lilies...' After his departure from both Sinn Féin The Workers Party and, in 1990, from RTE, Eoghan Harris became what Eamonn McCann describes as "a freelance ideologue, a genuine soldier of fortune", and he had his first major success as a 'spin doctor' with Prionsias De Rossa's memorable European Parliament campaign in 1989 : Harris also played a major part in the election of Mary Robinson in 1990, although the extent of his involvement is questioned by others involved at that time.

Fergus Finlay questions Eoghan Harris' involvement in the 1990 election of Mary Robinson - "He (Harris) wrote a very intelligent and rational letter to Mary Robinson outlining strategy, but I'm not convinced that he was the first person to suggest those points." Speaking about Mary Robinson, Eoghan Harris stated - "She did not do the decent thing by me - I said I wanted credit rather than cash for advising her, writing her speeches : I never get paid for that work, by the way, I do it just to keep track on how good a spin doctor I am. But she never gave me the credit."

Eoghan Harris' next target was John Bruton and Fine Gael - a former RTE producer stated : "When I saw him move in on Fine Gael, I wondered if it was because he reckoned the party would be as easy to take over as the old WUI." Though Phil Hogan claimed that Bruton and Harris were "old college friends" , this seems unlikely since they weren't educated in the same college, or even the same city! Harris went to UCC and Bruton went to UCD. Eoghan Harris ceased to be 'flavour of the month' in Fine Gael around April 1991 when he devised the tasteless 'Twink Sketch' for Fine Gael's Ard Fheis, in which the 'comedienne' camped-up the toilet roll 'Ad Lady' and lampooned, amongst others, Una Claffey.

Harris is truly profligate with unsolicited advice to candidates he admires - regardless of which party they belong to. Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) Fianna Fail member Betty Coffey says she got a phone call and a strategy from Eoghan Harris "out of the blue. And it was brilliant advice. I admire him very much." Adi Roche's campaign received some early encouragement from Harris, but he lost interest when reports of her brother's alleged Irish republican sympathies made the headlines. Fergus Finlay stated - "Harris rang and said she'll have to repudiate her brother completely, which she would not do. He couldn't see that her brother's politics were not hers." Harris said - "I wanted her to dump the brother, because it meant she had unfinished business on the National Question. And I believe the Irish people pronounce a secret fatwa on people who are soft on Sinn Féin : it may not show up in the polls, but Mary McAleese is holed below the water line, and it will sink her. I don't hate McAleese - in fact I admired her, she has great courage. I liked that 'in-your-face' Northern thing, she knows politics is a big boys' game played by big boys' rules, not a daisy chain like Adi Roche, she was thrilled to see myself and John Caden getting caught with our fingers in the pie. And she is far and away the sexiest woman in the race. But I never rated her as a reporter, she was a typical whingeing Northern grievance-monger and I consider that she is one of the armchair generals of the Nationalist community, the ones who did well out of positive discrimination but who keep on whinging : if they get to be Vice Chancellor of Queens they want to be Chancellor, then Chief Justice.

Sinn Fein aren't into that kind of shit, any advancement they get is through the polls or the gun - I don't agree or respect that, but at least I understand it! Compare her to somebody like David Irvine in his cheap shirt, coming from a little red brick house, going to a dreary miserable little UDP hall, doing his best to hold the peace. He's my hero."
The admiration is probably mutual : the November 1997 edition of the 'Orange Journal' newsletter compliments Eoghan Harris on his "support for the Unionist cause", and Harris himself is also said to have claimed, to a senior Fianna Fail figure, that he has advised the Orange Order on publicity.

Harris is convinced that "maybe 50 per cent of the people in the Republic (sic) are unhappy with the Hume-Adams agenda that Mary McAleese represents, the blurring of moral boundaries between constitutionalism and the physical force tradition", and goes on to say that those people will dispatch her and her 'Bad Politics Supporters' on polling day. Eamonn McCann says - "Harris cannot accept that you might disagree with him other than in bad faith. He doesn't believe that you could calmly consider his theories and find them a heap of shite. He genuinely believes he is the most fascinating person you have ever met, and that just gets boring."

Harris himself states - "If I am wrong, if I am just some eccentric, why am I being denounced? I know why I don't get a right of reply in RTE - I could name 22 Provos in the radio centre - but could it be they suspect that what I'm saying makes sense? If McAleese wins she'll be a lame duck President, and I don't believe she'll get more than 40 per cent first preference votes*. I believe in the people's 'Secret Fatwa' on Sinn Féin supporters, and if I'm wrong I'll retire*. I really fucking will." (*'1169' comment - she did, but he didn't. But he really fucking should have. And not only from whatever job he's doing now, that is...)


By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

DUMBO THE ELEPHANT... (By Cian Sharkhin.)

"I just can't, Mum..." I could again hear my feeble excuse being offered sacrificially to the Maenad. I averted my eyes, and again they were drawn to the zoo keeper's long bamboo cane which was pre-eminent in my mind. As the Maenad pushed forward and the sea of humanity parted to admit the apocryphal beast, she snatched me with such ferocity that my teeth chattered. There was a stunned silence. She yanked me to her and attempted to walk away with me in tow in one fluid movement.

She was at that instance jarred - she was pulled back, as I held firm. There was an expectant loud gasp from the small crowd as the Maenad s l o w l y turned and fixed me with a chilling glare so primal and petrifying it would have had Medusa cringing in fear. Her look said it all - "YOU DARE DEFY ME!" I stared back up at the Maenad, mesmersed. I felt small, insignificant and terrified. The silence screamed in my ears, but the spell was then shattered by a squeaky little voice that rose up above the deafening silence - "I can't move", I said.

My voice pleaded. It was my voice, but it was very far away and feeble, almost as though it hadn't come from me. The Maenad's merciless eyes kept me fixed, and only her lips twitched, then twisted into a grim unholy grimace, and her eyes, with their feral bloodlust, were unhinging. The corner of one of her eyes began to twitch uncontrollably. She was poised to strike... (MORE LATER).


From 'The Phoenix' magazine, October 1985.

Not the least surprise of the recent Theatre Festival was the emergence into public view of the author of 'Souper Sullivan', one Eoghan Harris, who is better known as a TV producer and less known as a political activist. Harris is so given to secrecy that few people outside the media know of his deep influence within the Workers Party - in fact, more than anyone else, Eoghan Harris has been responsible for the transformation of the Workers Party philosophy from socialist republicanism to a bizarre blend of stalinist unionism.

But strangely, now that the Workers Party is breaking through into electoral politics, it is also shaking itself free from its hard-line mentors. There are new stars rising in the WP, more pliable, more compromising, and more intent on getting their bums onto seats in Leinster House. All of which leaves the moody Eoghan Harris somewhat isolated, somewhat bitter, and with time on his hands to write boring plays.

The son of a well-to-do Cork shop-keeper, Harris was originally an ardent republican ; those who remember him in University College Cork say his early republican persona was almost stage Irish. After a brief flirtation with the right-wing 'Poblacht Chríostúil' ('The Christian Republic') group, Eoghan Harris' 'republicanism' manifested itself in more extrovert ways ; contemporaries recall his habit of strutting around in trenchcoat and black beret and even sporting a green coat, white shirt and gold tie, on one particular Easter week!

Others remember him from the FCA ('An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiuíl'), in which he became a fanatical corporal, forcing his troops on long marches through the night to attain FCA awards for endurance and discipline. More significantly, Eoghan O hEarchu, as he then styled himself, struck up an enduring friendship with historian Professor John A Murphy, and the pupil soon became an intimate of the master : Murphy's pre-eminent role as the sharpest of the revisionist school of Irish historians owes much to his late-night dialectic discourses with Eoghan Harris.

Eoghan Harris met his future wife, Anne O' Sullivan, then a member of the Wolfe Tone Society, at UCC, and she has since emerged from his shadow to become editor of 'Image' magazine and, more recently, an assistant editor of the Sunday Independent 'newspaper' ; politically, she is formed in the image of her husband - her public praise of the Official IRA bombers at Aldershot, who killed five cleaning women and a priest at Aldershot Britsh Army Barracks in 1972, is unlikely to have caused a row in the Harris household and, today, her sexual crusade against the Catholic clergy, coupled with her execration of things republican or rural, mirrors the route her husband has followed since the 1960's.

Ironically, given his now rabid anti-republicanism, Eoghan Harris first attracted attention as a talented young producer in RTE with a series of religious discussion programmes, but it was with 'Feach', where he collaborated with Brendan O hEithir, that he made his best programmes. A competent programme-maker as well as a good publicist - he stage-managed a walk-out by Official Sinn Féin leader Tomas MacGiolla from one programme - Eoghan Harris and Brendan O hEithir brought Irish cultural affairs to the nation's attention in a relevant and lively manner that has not often been repeated since. It was in the 'Feach' team that Eoghan Harris had his first of several celebrated encounters with the equally egotistical Proinsias MacAonghusa - the 'Feach' presenter took umbrage at an unsigned article by Eoghan Harris in an unofficial producers' bulletin which claimed that Proinsias MacAonghusa was angling for promotion to Head of Radio na Gaeltachta : at MacAonghusa's insistence, Harris was removed from 'Feach', fanning a feud that has continued ever since.

During the 1970's, Harris displayed a diabolical talent for embroiling himself in controversy within the Borgia-like court at RTE in Montrose, while managing to survive unscathed himself. During a stint with the 'Seven Days' programme, he came to the angry attention of Conor Cruise O'Brien for his editing of a programme on Northern internees which had Cruise O'Brien openly fulminating about 'subversives in RTE' at the 1974 Labour Party conference. But the scripting of 'The Greening of America', an award-winning programme on US-Irish immigrants, later marked the climax of Harris's career as a TV producer. More and more he diverted his moody energies after that towards shaping the political direction of the Workers Party, or Official Sinn Féin as it was then known.

In late 1972, Official Sinn Féin was at a crossroads : attempts to differentiate itself from the Provos meant that it had to forge a socialist ideology while still competing for republican support that was rapidly shifting towards the Provos. Seamus Costello wanted to adopt a socialist, republican strategy backed by a military campaign : Sean Garland wanted to do likewise minus the armed struggle, as did Eoin O Murchu. Many Official Sinn Féiners wanted to maintain a left alliance with the Communist Party of Ireland and the (Free State) Labour Party Left. Eoghan Harris, however, decided it was necessary to dump Communists, Labour and republicanism and, along with Cathal Goulding, proceeded to purge the party of any taint of 'green' politics : Goulding was the organisational strategist while Harris provided the 'intellectual' muscle. The transformation of the party's politics could best be mirrored by Eoghan Harris's metamorphosis and, in that same year, he wrote an unsigned article in the 'United Irishman' newspaper entitled "What Is Imperialism?", one of the most lucid expositions ever penned of the classic anti-imperialist position in Ireland.

Two years later he wrote a document 'From Civil Rights To Class Politics', which argued that the Sunningdale Agreement had solved the civil-rights question * and that it was now time to polarise Irish workers against Irish capitalism (*'1169' Comment - as far as Irish republicans are concerned, the question regarding British jurisdiction over any part of this isle has nothing to do with "civil rights". It is not, as Republican Sinn Féin has repeatedly stated, a case of saying to Westminster 'stay if you want, just treat us better' However - those that fumble in the greasy till, for Sterling or Euro, would accept a so-called "civil rights" 'solution'. Irish republicans, on the other hand, are aware that such a 'solution' would simply postpone the conflict and curse future generations into dealing with this same issue).

In 1977, Eoghan Harris co-authored 'The Irish Industrial Revolution' in which he argued that Irish under-development was the result, not of British suppression, but of the unwillingness of Irish capitalists to industrialise. The more orthodox marxists of the Communist Party of Ireland tore this thesis to shreds in a pamphlet issued in reply, but it remained the theoretical guideline of the Workers Party until recently. The result of this approach is to identify virtually all things ethnic as 'reactionary' and 'obscurantist' : thus, Harris would see Irish republican ideology, the Catholic Church and rural "backwardness" as the three pillars of reaction in Ireland today. In this scenario, foreign multinational company's are the agency of industrialisation and therefore, ultimately, the creators of a strong industrial working class. That such an ideology should pass itself off as 'marxist' is a reflection on the dearth of a marxist tradition in Ireland rather than a tribute to Eoghan Harris as a 'socialist theoretician' - but the Workers Party loved it, and they embraced him and his 'marxist' policies, hungry as they were for political 'clothes' that would mark them off from the Provos and the Communist Party of Ireland and which would also enable them to replace a jaded (State) Labour Party in the future.

Such feverish activity with great matters of State were beginning to cause problems in RTE : Harris was often away 'ill' or, more recently, on sabbatical leave. Last year (1984) an enraged senior executive attempted to remove Eoghan Harris from the payroll because he was not working on any project. Other less flamboyant programmers resent a man they see as a talented yet dilettante producer who can wander in and out of the station as he pleases! Harris is currently working as a producer on the 'Mailbag' television programme, which hardly exercises his mind to the full but something that has not damaged Harris within RTE has been his close relationship with Muiris Mac Conghail, now Controller of RTE 1 television and aspirant RTE Director General ; Harris and other Workers Party members moved a motion at the FWUI station-branch backing Mac Conghail in his tussle with RTE Authority Chairman Fred O'Donovan earlier this year, but the move backfired when other producers objected to the Director General race being turned into a political football.

In 1980, Harris tried to mobilise RTE producers against the mooted appointment of John Kelleher to Muiris Mac Conghail's slot as Controller of Programmes ; since then, however, Harris's star has waned inside the trade union as members have recoiled from the manipulative methods of Workers Party activists who wield a disproportionate influence inside the RTE complex but he can look back on 20 years in which he has pioneered a new intellectual and political framework for the force of ' moderninism' (or pro-imperialism, depending on your point of view) inside RTE and the Workers Party. But the Workers Party has moved away, politically if not militarily, from its obsessive secrecy - party members now seek open identification as the Workers Party now makes its bid to displace the Labour Party electorally. The methods of Harris were more geared to the infiltration of organisations : the unions, RTE, the Union of Students in Ireland and even the IDA.

Harris is an unusual phenomenon on the Irish political scene : he is an intellectual who is not an academic and a politician who does not seek public office : he is interested in political power but it is a power without responsibility or at least accountability. The 'cloak-and-dagger' days for the Workers Party are almost gone : although Eoghan Harris always took his role as 'Supreme Guru' very seriously, his elitist and bullying ways made him many enemies within the Workers Party : gone now are the days when a half-hour pep-talk from Harris in a smoke-filled back room would swing the party behind his latest point of view - his theories, too, have been somewhat discredited. The 'Telesis Report' and the performance of multinationals inside the Irish economy in recent years have made his booklet 'The Irish Industrial Revolution' a tract which 'the comrades' would rather forget. Many members of the Workers Party also baulk at Eoghan Harris's complete commitment to the 'Two Nations' theory. Personally, poor Eoghan now has to contend with the twin debilities of being middle-aged and middle-rich - despite his favoured proletarian stance, Eoghan Harris and his wife must now enjoy a joint income of around £50,000 per year and the 'strain' of it is beginning to tell : the family is about to move house from an inner-city-but-chic residence off Dublin's South Circular Road to the blatantly burgeois comfort of Monkstown, overlooking Dublin Bay.

Recently, Eoghan Harris has helped out on the planned production of a film based on 'Up In The Park', the boring reminiscences of Liz Shannon, the boring wife of the former boring United States Ambassador to Ireland. And only last week, the Eoghan and Anne team were giving a polite lecture on politics and literature at the Arts Club in Dublin. But as Anne Harris emerges ever more to the forefront of the partnership, Eoghan retreats into the provincial Ireland he loves to loathe - like Noel Browne, he is spending more time in his country retreat, privately fulminating against the body politic and the ignorance of those who vote 'Yahoos' into office. Writing plays - even bad plays - is one antidote for this malaise ; the other is to put his own pet theories and his reputation to the real test that they deserve - on the hustings in an election.


At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the 'Magill Annual 2002' (*PIRA).

The border, of course, remains and looks more permanent now than at any time since 1922 ('1169' comment - ...and Irish republicans would welcome its return, in all its 'glory'). Talk of socialism in the republican movement died out some years ago. The event that de Chastelain (the British ex-soldier who assisted the Provos to surrender) witnessed was a case of putting the symptom before the cause. The need for ordinary people to form an organisation, an army, and equip for military operations, was a clear sign that something in the State of Northern Ireland (sic) was rotten ('1169' comment - nationalists always confuse the issue at hand as being to do with 'civil rights' in what they incorrectly describe as "Northern Ireland" - republicans don't make mistakes like that because they understand the 'bigger picture'). The people with the power in this situation, primarily the British government, have only ever been concerned with eradicating the symptom ('1169' comment - how ironic that the author of those words himself is of the opinion that the problem has to do with 'something being rotten in Northern Ireland...' !). This conflict started with a loyalist mob attacking Catholics ('1169' comment - more 'nationalist-speak' ; this conflict started more than eight centuries ago, even though nationalists will tell you it only started in the late 1960's!), an unarmed IRA and a Labour government that promised much and delivered little different from what British administrators had ever delivered in Ireland.

Some commentators saw the peace process as a British gambit to neuter and neutralise the IRA by splits and disarmament. Their point was simply that Britain cannot address the root causes of the conflict because Britain itself is the root cause ('1169' comment - true, but not in the fact that Westminster does not treat the 'natives' fairly but in the fact that the British are here, in Ireland, at all, politically and militarily). For instance : only within British governance can loyalist violence be explained or sustained. Since Belfast was formed by industrialisation and the Famine (sic), the nationalist ghettos have always approached the matter of their own survival in one of two ways - fight back or leave. North Belfast, in this sense, made a fool of Cathal Goulding's best laid plans for proletarian revolution. (MORE LATER).


From here.

For over 20 years Eoghan Harris was a secret member of the Workers Party. During that time he denied his membership and threatened libel actions against those who asserted otherwise. During that time funds were solicited from the Soviet Union for a media venture involving him which was to be an opponent of the capitalist press. In 1992 the Moscow correspondent of the Irish Times, Seamus Martin, rifled through the archives of the then defunct Soviet Communist Party when he came across two letters from Sean Garland, then general secretary of the Workers Party, to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. One of the letters, dated September 1986, was a plea for financial support and made reference to the "special activities" of the Workers Party, which was presumed to refer to the gangster projects of associates of the Workers Party at the time. It was claimed on behalf of the Workers Party that this letter was a forgery.

But no such claims have been made about the other letter, the one dated July 1986, also signed by Séan Garland. This was a request to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) to meet a young Irish television documentary maker, Gerry Gregg, who had formed his own production company, 'Iskra Productions' (by happy coincidence Iskra was the title of the Bolshevik newsletter of 1917 revolution). The letter referred to a "talented team" which Gregg had assembled, Eoghan Harris and John Caden.

Garland's letter said: "As part of (its) struggle (against the forces of capitalism) some members of the Workers Party had formed Iskra (which) fosters in an environment hostile to a Marxist analysis of many of the problems confronting western society". It said Iskra was a "Marxist film-making enterprise which commands this party's full support. Iskra is potentially a useful propaganda device for the socialist cause, for a small party like ours it promises much by way of building up the intellectual, ideological and financial resources of the party".

Gregg, like Harris and Caden, was a former producer in RTE and, again like them, one of the closet supporters of the Workers Party within RTE. Gregg has been described by Harris as one of his closest friends and Harris has lavishly praised Gregg's documentaries, including a four part series on Des O'Malley, which at the time and subsequently caused RTE much embarrassment because of its obviously agenda-driven slant (O'Malley was permitted to fulminate against Charles Haughey and the threat he posed to the security of the state around the time of the 1970 arms trial, without once being asked why, if Haughey were such a threat, did he – O'Malley – collude with Haughey in attempting to suborn a witness who was to give evidence against Haughey in the arms trial).

That Harris should have been associated with a project seeking funds from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for propaganda purposes in Ireland directed against the capitalist class and the hostile capitalist media may seem incongruous now given his current fulsome endorsements of the capitalist media and the most powerful dominant media mogul in these parts. But, in reality, Harris is a complex of contradictions and inconsistencies, some of which he celebrates as though the absence of any core belief is itself admirable.

Eoghan Harris was a secret member of the Workers Party (previously Official Sinn Féin, then Sinn Féin the Workers Party) from the early 1970's. For most of the period during which he was a secret member he threatened media organisations and journalists (including this journalist) with libel actions if they asserted what was in fact true – ie his membership of the party. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing a secret branch of the party within the Workers Union of Ireland (WUI) membership at RTE and this branch attempted and succeeded in slanting RTE current affairs programmers on radio and television through the judicious placement of its members and associates in key roles. In doing so they gravely damaged the credibility of RTE's current affairs output especially in relation to northern coverage, on which it sought to exclude any voice that it considered sympathetic to Provisional Sinn Féin (not just members of Sinn Féin).

The current President of Ireland (sic), Mary McAleese, worked as a reporter on RTE television's flagship current affairs programme at the time, Today Tonight, and came into conflict with others on the programme who either were secret members of the Workers Party or associates of those. She was accused of being a Provo and ridiculed because of her northern nationalist background. She was personally witness to an extraordinary episode which illustrated the bias that had infected RTE current affairs at the time. It was during the 1981 hunger strike and she along with others on the Today Tonight team went to Belfast to do a programme on the crisis that had evolved. They were precluded from interviewing anyone associated with Sinn Féin and with the UDA but some members of the team wanted to have on a programme a well known loyalist, whose paramilitary allegiance was obscure. However, members of the team became aware that for this person's participation to be secured they had to get the assent of the then leader of the UDA Andy Tyrie. Mary McAleese overheard members of the team telephone to get permission for this person's participation. He took part in the programme, while anyone even remotely supportive of Sinn Féin was excluded. The UDA at the time was engaged in a campaign of murder of innocent Catholics.

For clarity sake it has to be emphasised Eoghan Harris had no part in this programme, neither had Gerry Gregg or John Caden. But such practices were by no means unique in RTE at the time and much of it arose from the manipulative culture generated in large part by the secret infiltration of the Workers Party. Harris had been one of the Workers Party ideologues from the early 1970's along with Eamon Smullen, who had been a member of the British Communist Party previously. Smullen and Harris were authors of a document, 'Industrial Revolution', which focused on building up a revolutionary workers movement, through industrialization, however environmentally damaging. They wanted smelters for instance but also bank nationalisation and centralised economic management. They produced a pamphlet hugely critical of Tony O'Reilly, largely because of his conduct of Atlantic Resources, an oil company, that failed to find any oil of significance but which made millions for some investors and lost millions for others.

Harris remained a member of the Workers Party during the period when it or its associates engaged in several murders both in the South and North, including the murder of a former member of the party, Seamus Costello in 1977. During this time the party or its associates were engaging in a massive counterfeiting operation – the person most centrally involved in that scam was included as an audience of 'workers' discussing industrial issues on RTE television, without having his Workers Party membership identified. There were also countless armed robberies, punishment beatings in the North and widespread racketeering and intimidation in the North and South. Meanwhile the party continued to profess its opposition to violence and to illegality. Neither did this paramilitary organisation, formerly the Official IRA, ever formally decommission its weapons.

Throughout this time the Workers Party also cultivated links not just with the 'Communist Party of the Soviet Union' but with the communist party of North Korea, possibly the most undemocratic and repressive regime in the world. This association was not a secret held by a tightly-knit group of the leadership of the Workers Party, it was widely known at the time. For instance a visit to North Korea by the then President of the Workers Party, Tomas MacGiolla, was given much publicity in part because of the misapprehension of the North Korean authorities of the nature of the Workers Party, which, apparently, it understood to be Provisional Sinn Féin. Of course it was not only Eoghan Harris who studiously turned the blind eye to these goings on but also the likes of Pat Rabbitte, Prionsias de Rossa, Eamon Gilmore and others who are now members of the Labour Party. But at least these did not deny their membership of the party.



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


The Younger Son.

"Open up, security forces here. C'mon, get a move on we'll boot the door in..." ordered the RUC man to the younger son of the house, whom we will call 'the younger son'. The ginger-haired younger son of the house gingerly opened the door and a burly RUC man pushed past him and went into the living room, closely followed by a crowd of Englishmen pretending to be soldiers. Well, they were soldiers but they were only the 'King's Own Scottish Borderers (Kosbies)', so that doesn't really count. "Acting on intelligence, we have reason to believe that there are weapons hidden in this house," said the RUC man. "No there's not," said the younger son, but the RUC man was unimpressed by his impassioned rebuttal. "Well, let's find out then, shall we...?" said the RUC man.

Now the younger son was attending college and had already acquired all sorts of O-Levels and A-Levels and it was the knowledge gained that made his next remark all the more incredible : "Have you got a search warrant," asked the younger son. When the laughter finally abated, the RUC man gripped the younger son by the throat and screamed "WE DON'T NEED NO FUCKING SEARCH WARRANT. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, SOUTH AFRICA..?" and he pushed him unto the sofa. The 'security forces' went to work on the house.

They wrecked all around them and finally one of them appeared at the foot of the stairs with a rifle. The younger son was gob-smacked and said that it was a plant. The RUC man rose to his full height in front of the younger son, put his hand on his shoulder and said to him " I'm arresting you under Section 4, Sub-Section 8, of the we-can-do-whatever-we-want-against-Irish-nationalist-people-act' of 1664. Anything you say or anything we can beat out of you in the barracks will definitely be used against you and anybody else we want to put in prison. If you need a solicitor one will be provided for you but only after we disorientate and kick the crap out of you for the next 48 hours..." (MORE LATER).


'Terence O'Neill came to power as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (sic) in 1963 with a bold plan to 'literally transform the face of Ulster'. For the next six years O'Neill proved himself to be Stormont's most controversial leader. Though born of the gentry, he was determined to break from the past...he stirred up passion and anger...when the civil rights movement took to the streets in 1968, O'Neill's response was prophetic: 'it is a short step from the throwing of paving stones to the laying of tombstones.'Confronted by demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, pressure from London and rebellion in his own party, O'Neill gambled all...when finally he was 'literally blown from office' in April 1969, in the midst of rioting and loyalist bombs, thirty years of violence had begun..' (from here).

And a few words from the man himself, as quoted in an interview he gave to 'The Belfast Telegraph' newspaper on the 10th May 1969 - 48 years ago on this date : "it is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have 18 children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel, he will rear 18 children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church..."

And that, a mere 48 years ago only, was the typical British attitude towards 'the paddys', although, for the most part, it was only usually voiced like that behind closed doors. No wonder we've been trying to put them out for over 800 years now. And we still are, with the help of our '18 children'...


...we won't be posting our usual contribution, and probably won't be in a position to post anything at all until the following Wednesday, the 24th May 2017 ; this coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 13th/14th) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Dublin Executive of Republican Sinn Féin in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the 'autopsy' into same which will take place on Monday evening, 15th, in Dublin, meaning that we will not have the time to post here. But we'll be back, as stated above, on the following Wednesday, 24th May 2017, so please check back with us then!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.