"IT IS MY DUTY TO TELL YOU WHAT I BELIEVE SHOULD BE DONE.."
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!
ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 76 YEARS AGO : "DRAFT RIOTS" AS WESTMINSTER ANGLES FOR CONSCRIPTION IN IRELAND.
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.
PROSE AND CONS.
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 ).
ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 94 YEARS AGO : IRA ORDERED TO 'DUMP ARMS'.
"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.
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.
RICOCHETS OF HISTORY...
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).
(1) ON THIS DATE (24TH MAY) 96 YEARS AGO : FIRST ELECTION TO A PARTITIONIST ASSEMBLY HELD IN IRELAND.
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.
(2) ON THIS DATE (MAY 24TH) 96 YEARS AGO : "ALMOST AN IMPOSSIBILITY" TO DEFEAT THE IRA - BRITISH ARMY GENERAL.
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'.
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
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.