Wednesday, March 22, 2017



"The British Ambassador called to see me at 11am this morning. He told me in strict confidence that he had received a message from the British representative in Belfast, Mr. Ronnie Burroughs , who indicated that he had been informed by Mr. Brian Faulkner that the latter is confident of securing the nomination to be the next Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (sic). Mr. Faulkner expects this to be approved about noon on Tuesday and that he will go to the Governor-General about 3.00pm....Mr. Burroughs said that Mr. Faulkner had assured him categorically that he would be prepared to implement the Downing Street Declaration and that there would be no going back on the policies relating to the B Specials, the RUC and reform. He also indicated that he would not have anyone in his Cabinet who would not support his the course of the discussion which followed the Ambassador and I touched on the doubts held by the minority in the North on the sincerity of Mr. Faulkner in relation to reforms...Mr.Faulkner's earlier right-wing tendencies did not inspire confidence..." (from this Free State document, dated 23rd March 1971, and marked 'Secret'.)

Brian Faulkner was born in Helen's Bay, in County Down, and was elected to Stormont as a Unionist MP for East Down in the 1949 election. He became 'Prime Minister of Northern Ireland' (sic) on the 22nd March 1971 - 46 years ago on this date - and chaired the first ever inter-party meeting held at Stormont. However, nationalists were alienated by internment and Faulkner was ordered to hand over complete security control to London in 1972. He became Chief Executive of the new power-sharing executive in 1974, but resigned as party leader when the UUP rejected the proposed 'all-Ireland council' settlement by a majority of eighty votes. The executive came to an end as a result of a strike by the Ulster Workers Council (UWC), and Faulkner retired from active politics in 1976. He died on the 3rd March 1977 at the age of 56 following a riding accident whilst hunting with the County Down Staghounds near Saintfield, County Down. He had been riding at full gallop along a narrow country road when his horse slipped - he was thrown off and killed instantly.

It was during his 'Premiership' that internment without trial was introduced, under the '1922 Special Powers Act', on Monday, 9th August 1971, because, according to Faulkner - "Every means has been tried to make terrorists amenable to the law. But the terrorist campaign continues at an unacceptable level. And I have had to conclude that the ordinary law cannot deal quickly or comprehensively enough with such viciousness...". The British forces that enforced that 'edict' had a list of 450 people to be rounded-up, but managed to grab only 342 of them, all from the nationalist community, only two of whom were republican activists. No loyalists were 'arrested'. Over the next four days, 24 people were killed in rioting and gun battles across the Six Counties and about 7,000 people had to flee from their homes.

Mr. Faulkner was said to be 'distressed' when it was brought to his attention that he had been referenced in a song which lauded a prison break which took place on the 17th November 1971, when he would have been only beginning to build his political career in Stormont - nine IRA prisoners escaped from Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast (which, between it and Long Kesh, housed more than 700 IRA prisoners at the time) with the use of rope-ladders! The nine were Thomas Kane, Seamus Storey, Bernard Elliman, Danny Mullan, Thomas Fox, Tom Maguire, Peter Rogers, Christy Keenan and Terrence 'Cleaky' Clarke and all of them escaped in two cars which were waiting for them on the near-by Antrim Road :


In Crumlin Road Jail all the prisoners one day

took out a football and started to play,

and while all the warders were watching the ball

nine of the prisoners jumped over the wall!

Over the wall, over the wall,

who would believe they jumped over the wall?

over the wall, over the wall,

It's hard to believe they jumped over the wall!

Now the warders looked on with the greatest surprise

and the sight that they saw brought tears to their eyes,

for one of the teams was not there at all

they all got transferred and jumped over the wall!

Now the governor came down with his face in a twist

and said "Line up those lads while I check out me list,"

but nine of the lads didn't answer at all

and the warder said "Please Sir, they're over the wall."

The 'security forces' were shook to the core

so they barred every window and bolted each door,

but all their precautions were no use at all

for another three prisoners jumped over the wall!

Then the news reached old Stormont, Brian Faulkner turned pale

when he heard that more men had escaped from his jail,

said he - "Now we'll have an enquiry to call, and we'll get Edmund Compton to whitewash the wall."

'Führer Faulkner' began his 'premiership' of an occupied area on this date - 22nd March - 46 years ago.


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.


Oh! Breathe not his name,

let it sleep in the shade

where cold and unhonour'd

his relics are laid!

Sad, silent and dark

be the tears that we shed,

as the night dew that falls

on the grass o'er his head.

But the night dew that falls,

tho' in silence it weeps,

shall brighten with verdure

the grave where he sleeps.

And the tears that we shed,

tho' in secret it rolls,

shall long keep his memory

green in our souls.

(By Thomas Moore - 'Oh breathe not his name')

(Next - 'Young Lady From Wooster', by D O'H.)


"...we have carried out bombings and shootings in Germany over the last two years as well. Last Spring we executed Sir Richard Sykes. He was involved in intelligence gathering against our organisation but he was also a leading propagandist in the same way as Peter Jay* was in America. Sykes was also the man who conducted the investigation into our attack on the British ambassador to Dublin, Ewart Biggs. Richard Sykes was a very important person and what that attack, and others, have shown, is the IRA's capability to operate abroad and against the enemy, not the host country, and gained our struggle attention there..." - the reply given to journalist Ed Maloney by an IRA spokesperson, on being asked why the IRA had killed 'Sir' Richard Sykes (pictured, left), as printed in 'Magill' magazine, September 1980, eighteen months after Sykes had been assassinated. (*More here, re Peter Jay and what the IRA thought of him...)

'The Guardian' newspaper, too, was of the opinion that the man in question (...a 'decorated war hero..') was more than just a run-of-the-mill 'career politician' - 'Sir Richard, who would have been 59 in May, was rated as one of the "high flyers" of the British foreign service, coming up through a series of posts that took him to China, Cuba and embassies that are "listening posts" for the Soviet block. In his last posting before going to The Hague he was one of the six senior officials at the FO (Foreign Office). His division was concerned with defence, arms and security, and it can be presumed he held responsibility for day-to-day links with the intelligence services..'(from here) and the 'Ireland In History' blog had this to say about him : "The Ambassador was a noted security expert and at the time there was much initial speculation in the Netherlands and in Britain that other groups under suspicion at the time (including Palestinians and Iraqis) could have targeted him. He was appointed to the job in June 1977 after a two year posting as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office deputy under-secretary in London. He was an acknowledged expert on security affairs and had been a diplomat in Cuba, Peking and Washington. Ironically he was responsible for an internal report on the safety of British diplomats following the assassination by the IRA in 1976 of the British ambassador to Dublin, Sir Christopher Ewart-Biggs...' (from here.)

The British Government, as expected, put a 'diplomatic spin' on the death of 'Sir' Sykes and those like him - "Today we honour the memory of 18 courageous men and women whose lives tragically were cut short in service to our country and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and we pay tribute to their memory, to their important work and to their undoubted bravery...and I thank you for the contribution that you have made to the service of our country overseas..this ceremony is also a moment to take pride in the Foreign Office and all it is a great honour to lead an organisation that makes such a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the United Kingdom..etc etc.." but Richard Sykes and those like him were the 'Cairo Gang' equivalent of their time and were dealt with as such.


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 campaign, or 'Operation Harvest' as it was known inside the IRA at the time, was an attempt to bring Tom Barry's West Cork war of 1920 to Fermanagh and Tyrone - it was pure republican militarism, and not very good militarism at that. Like most military failures, it failed to look at the technological improvements the enemy had acquired since the last engagement. Attempts to take 'the Tan War' to Tyrone failed.

To adapt Lenin's dictum, a guerrilla army in the wake of military failure is ripe for revisionism. The debate within the republican movement from the order to dump arms in 1962 to the walk-out at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge during the 1970 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis could be reduced to a one-word question - "Guns?" Differing republican attitudes to the guns reflected whether they believed that the party or the army should have primacy. In the early years after independence (sic), attitudes to IRA guns reflected attitudes to Free State guns.

German sociologist Max Weber concluded that, at its core, a state was "the sole claimant to the wielding of legitimate force within a given territory". If you have two claimants, then there will be civil war. The existence of IRA guns since the civil war has signalled that the partition settlement (a 'settlement' under a threat from the British of "immediate and terrible war" if that treaty wasn't accepted!) copper-fastened by borrowed English artillery was not accepted by everyone. The need for IRA guns in Belfast in 1969 meant that Michael Collins's fears for Northern Ireland (sic) had become a deadly reality. The pogrom against the people of the Clonard came at a time when the IRA had obligingly put its weapons verifiably beyond use. They had given them to the Free Wales Army. (MORE LATER).


This piece is in relation to one particular aspect of travelling abroad that was more prevalent in previous times than it would be now (a risk reduced thanks to modern technology, I'd like to believe..)

Myself and my friends have landed in New York many times and, apart from being a wee bit merry jet-lagged (!) we were comfortable in ourselves and in our surroundings and were always met on the ground by our friends, colleagues and comrades, but we could easily picture what it would have been like for our ancestors :

'...on arrival passengers usually made their way to the city to find boarding houses where there was a good chance the remainder of their money would be swindled. The Irish and other immigrants faced numerous abuses such as 'illusive advertisements, crooked contractors, dishonest prospectuses' and 'remittent sharpers' when they arrived in America. The 'Irish Emigrant Society' was founded in 1841 (on the 22nd March that year - 176 years ago on this date) by a group of New York Irish to combat issues such as these.

In December 1848 the Emigrant Society advised emigrants that as soon as their ship came into harbour she would be boarded by an agent of the Society, who would offer them sound and honest advice. But, they warned, the ship would also be boarded by a large number of 'runners' – conmen, who would make it their business to attract them to the boarding houses that employed them. They should be careful not to accept help from them as their ploy was to promise good quality board at low prices, but when they came to leave the house an exorbitant fee would be demanded. They would threaten not to hand over luggage unless this fee was paid and violent scenes might often ensue.

The Society warned that many persons, some of Irish birth, had set up offices in the city where they claimed to be agents for railroad and steamboat enterprises. These crooks sold tickets which purported to entitle the holder to travel to specific destinations but which were worthless. To protect emigrants from such frauds various measure were introduced in New York in 1848 including the construction of reception centres and the licensing of steam boats to take emigrants from the quarantine to the landing piers. Boarding houses were also required to display their prices in English, Dutch, German, Welsh and French. Immigrants who survived the ordeal of the crossing now had to decide where to settle in America...' (from here.)

'...the story of the Irish Emigrant Aid Society founded in 1841 begins in the 1830s when the volume and character of Irish immigration to the United States changed dramatically. We often think of large-scale Irish immigration to America as beginning with the Famine (sic - An Gorta Mór/the Great Hunger') in 1845, but it was already well under way by then, with some 200,000 Irish arriving in New York in the 1830s alone. Before 1830, the majority of Irish immigrants were Protestants from Ulster. More often than not, they arrived with some capital and, equally important, marketable occupational skills. But starting in the 1830s, as the agricultural crisis that would later 'blossom' worsened, more and more of the Irish who arrived in the U.S. in the 1830's and ’40s were poor, unskilled Catholics. Whereas only 28 percent of Irish immigrants arriving in 1826 were unskilled labourers, the number hit 60 percent in the 1830s and kept rising to more than 80 percent by 1850...

One of the most pervasive threats to immigrant well-being addressed (by the Irish Emigrant Society) were the legions of con men and crooks descending upon unsuspecting immigrants. Many of them worked for boarding houses that charged extortionate rates and saddled immigrants with hidden charges. Others offered fraudulent money exchanges or sold bogus tickets for steamers and trains heading west. Worst were the pimps who steered unsuspecting Irish women to brothels. Sadly, as the Society's annual reports state, these men often used their ethnic credentials — a good Irish accent or, better still, the ability to speak Irish — to ensnare their fellow Hibernians. An eyewitness account by an Irish priest in the 1850s explains the typical scenario -

"The moment he landed, his luggage was pounced upon by two runners, one seizing the box of tools, the other confiscating the clothes. The future American citizen assured his obliging friends that he was quite capable of carrying his own luggage, but no, they should relieve him — the stranger, and guest of the Republic — of that trouble. Each was in the interest of a different boarding-house, and each insisted that the young Irishman with the red head should go with him...not being able to oblige both gentlemen, he could oblige only one; and as the tools were more valuable than the clothes, he followed in the path of the gentleman who had secured that portion of the 'plunder'..the two gentlemen wore very pronounced green neckties, and spoke with a richness of accent that denoted special if not conscientious cultivation; and on his (the Irishman's) arrival at the boarding-house, he was cheered with the announcement that its proprietor was from "the ould counthry," and loved every sod of it, God bless it..." (from here.)

I'm sittin' on the stile, Mary,

Where we sat side by side

On a bright May mornin' long ago,

When first you were my bride;

The corn was springin' fresh and green,

And the lark sang loud and high -

And the red was on your lip, Mary,

And the love-light in your eye.

The place is little changed, Mary,

The day is bright as then,

The lark's loud song is in my ear,

And the corn is green again;

But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,

And your breath warm on my cheek,

And I still keep list'ning for the words

You never more will speak...

On a bright May mornin' long ago,

When first you were my bride;

The corn was springin' fresh and green,

And the lark sang loud and high —

And the red was on your lip, Mary,

And the love-light in your eye.

The place is little changed, Mary,

The day is bright as then,

The lark's loud song is in my ear,

And the corn is green again;

But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,

And your breath warm on my cheek,

And I still keep list'ning for the words

You never more will speak...
(from here.)



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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in...)

The British soldier had a sort of sick grin on his face and was shouting all sorts of abuse at us as he started disappearing into the crowds of soldiers. Within about thirty seconds he was gone. "Where did he go?", asked Norman. "I think he's away to join the air force", answered Jack the Giant. "How do you know?", someone asked him. "Because he's only after flying down that road", said Jack. Even the other Brits were laughing. Just as Norman was about to point our next target, all the Brits at the front turned their backs on him and us.

We stood at that gate for about an hour while the Sentenced Prisoners' OC and the screws met to discuss the reason for the confrontation. I have never found out what it was about but that's not important anyway. I was told that we won, so that'll do me. As we stood at the gate facing the Brits the word started filtering through to us in Irish that it was over and that the Brits would be going. "Right lads, we're not waiting any longer, we're going to attack!", shouted the Training Officer. "Right, boys, here we go. Get into the bastards!!" We started pretending to open the gate ; the Brits couldn't believe it. Of course they hadn't been told what we already knew.

The Brit officers were running about screaming at their men, shouting for order in the ranks, and informing them that the issue was settled and that they wouldn't be going into the cages. The Brit soldiers were absolutely fuming with rage. "You lucky bastards", Norman Stanley Bowler shouted at them, "we would have slaughtered the lot of ye..."

Some of the Brits were actually crying with rage because they couldn't get at us - I'm constantly amazed at the things that some people do for money but joining the British Army must be the lowest of the low, ranking only with being an RUC man or a prison screw. (MORE LATER).

GIVE ('cause I'm taking anyway...!)

We won't be here next Wednesday, 29th March 2017, and won't be back on the blog until the following Wednesday, 5th April - I got the chance of a shortish break in Galway and decided to go for it, as myself and the girlfriends are not going to New York this year and we're all feeling sorry for ourselves :- ( so the usual NYC gang are gonna be drownin' our sorrows in the City of Tribes, when really we would all much rather be with the Warriors in that other city but...not to be, not this year, anyway.

This is Galway, the bidding city the forbidding city.

City of thieves or is it scribes or is it tribes?

The jury are coming this July, the word is out they'll rule on the bid, for Capital of Culture twenty twenty give the horse plenty.

We have a great little city here, a pity little city, a shitty little city...

Back on Wednesday, 5th April 2017. See ye then!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.