TWO GUNFIGHTS IN THE CITY IN THREE DAYS – MASSIVE POLICE AND ARMY HUNT — A NUMBER OF BRITISH FORCES AND ONE GUERRILLA DEAD

Diarmuid Breatnach

GUNFIGHTS IN DUBLIN SUBURB — TWO OFFICERS KILLED – POLICE HUNT GUNMEN”

Those words above might have been the headline of the national media in Ireland on a Monday 95 years ago. On the Tuesday a headline might have declared INTENSE POLICE HUNT — DRUMCONDRA MURDERERS STILL AT LARGE! to be followed on Thursday by SHOOTOUT YESTERDAY IN DUBLIN CITY CENTRE – FOUR DEAD!

The events to which those headlines might have referred occurred on 13th, 14th and 15th October 1920 and they involved two men, Seán Treacy and Dan Breen. They were events of amazing initiative, determination and courage – and also of tragedy. They took place in Dublin city centre and in a location roughly a mile away. And they were shortly to lead to further amazing deeds of determination and courage – and even greater tragedies.

Dan Breen and Sean Treacy were both Tipperary men and members of the newly-created Irish Republican Army unit in their home county. Already they had participated in the event that touched off the War of Independence in January 1919, the Solohodbeg Ambush. Their unit, under Séamus Robinson, had acted without any order from their Dublin Headquarters on the day the First Dáil met in the Mansion House in Dublin and their action was disapproved of by at least some of the TDs, including some in the newly-reorganised Sinn Féin political party. The attack in which Treacy and Breen participated killed two members of the colonial Royal Irish Constabulary, captured arms and an amount of gelignite.

Dan Breen had been sworn into the secret organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, in 1912 at the age of eighteen. In 1914, he joined the Irish Volunteers but due to Mac Neill’s cancellation order and resulting confusion, like most of the Volunteers, took no part in the fighting of 1916. He made up for that omission afterwards.

Sean Treacy, whom Breen admired tremendously and who, according to Breen himself had a much wider and more defined political ideology. He left school at the age of 14 and joined the IRB at the age of 16, in 1911. He was also a member of Connradh na Gaeilge. Arrested in the roundups after the 1916 Rising, he spent two years interned without trial. As soon as he was released in 1918, Treacy was made vice-commander of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Volunteers which, in 1919, became the IRA and he was eager to start the war to rid Ireland of British colonialism.

Sean Tracey

Sean Tracey (Photo from Internet)

Daniel Breen wanted poster

(Photo from Internet)

Treacy and Breen had eventful times in Tipperary and nearby counties as they escalated their war against the British colonial occupation, attacking RIC barracks and carrying out ambushes. Among their most dangerous and famous events was the daring IRA rescue at Knockalong of Sean Hogan from the train in which he was being carried as a prisoner under armed escort on 13th May 1919, in which a fierce hand-to-hand struggle took place and both Treacy and Breen were seriously wounded.

Towards the end of that year, on 19th December in Dublin, Breen and Treacy were in action with Sean Hogan in an attempt on the life of General Sir John French, the British King’s representative and chief of HM Armed Forces in Ireland. The operation was led by Paddy Daly (of “Collins’ Squad” notoriety and later infamous for his part in the Civil War) and consisted of ten Volunteers, to which Martin Savage was added the previous night due to his own earnest request. Through misinformation the waiting Volunteers barely missed French as he headed in convoy towards his Residence (now the US Ambassador’s) in Phoenix Park and in the shootout that followed with the other convoy vehicles Breen was wounded in the leg and Volunteer Martin Savage in the neck, dying in Breen’s arms (Martin Savage is remembered in the song Ashtown Road by Dominic Behan).

At least a number of Sinn Féin TDs and activists were incensed by this action, including Charlotte Despard, who also happened to be John French’s sister. There was more than family relations involved – many in Sinn Féin were ambivalent about armed struggle and although both were banned later in 1919, neither the party nor the Dáil declared war on the British until a few months before the Truce in 1921.

After the Knockalong rescue, things had got a bit hot for Treacy and Breen in Tipperary and Collins invited them up to Dublin, where they were expected to merge more easily in the busy city centre.

They returned to Tipperary in the summer of 1920, where they continued to be active in the war, until Collins invited them up to the city again, partly for their own safety and partly to help him out in Dublin in the work of his “Apostles”, the “Squad”, especially in assassinations of British Intelligence agents, troublesome police and informers.

 

CIS — BRITISH INTELLIGENCE IN IRELAND REORGANISED

However, British Intelligence in Ireland had already been re-organised. The RIC’s intelligence and its personnel were by this time considered unreliable by British Army Intelligence and many in the force had also resigned or become disaffected. “By the spring of 1920 the political police of both the Crimes Special Branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and G-Division (Special Branch) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) had been effectively neutralised by IRA counter-intelligence operatives working for Michael Collins. The British thoroughly reorganised their administration at Dublin Castle, including the appointment of Army Colonel Ormonde de l’Epee Winter as Chief of a new Combined Intelligence Service (CIS) for Ireland. Working closely with Sir Basil Thomson, Director of Civil Intelligence in the Home Office, with Colonel Hill Dillon, Chief of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, and with the local British Secret Service Head of Station Count Sevigné at Dublin Castle, Ormonde Winter began to import dozens of professional Secret Service agents from all parts of the British Empire into Ireland to track down IRA operatives and Sinn Féin leaders.” (Wikipedia).

Ormonde developed or introduced lots of intelligence-gathering procedures and “black propapaganda” in Ireland.  After the war he joined the British fascisti for a while and in 1940 fought for the Finns in the Winter War against the Red Army.

Ormond L'Epee Winter, head of CIS in Ireland. (Photo from Internet)

Ormond L’Epee Winter, head of CIS in Ireland

As part of the reorganisation under CIS, a number of Royal Irish Constabulary officers had been posted to Dublin from country areas where the IRA were active and Breen and Treacy were noted coming into Dublin or soon after their arrival and were placed under surveillance.

On the evening of 13th October 1920, Breen and Treacy had been to see a film in Dublin with the Fleming sisters, who told them that they were sure that Breen and Treacy were being followed. Neither of the men believed this to be true and before the start of the nightly curfew, headed out towards their safe house, “Fernside”, at the corner of Home Farm Road (then St. Mary’s Road) and Upper Drumcondra Road, which belonged to a Professor Carolan, who lived there and taught in the nearby St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.
(“Fernside” is no longer the name of that house but is now the name of another house further along Upper Drumcondra Road).

The house called "Fernside" today which is not the original but is a little further up the road

The house called “Fernside” today which is not the original but is a little further up the road (Photo DB)

Original Fernside (large house with gardens front and back at corner of Home Farm Rd.). (Photo from Internet)

Original Fernside (large house with gardens front and back at corner of Home Farm Rd.). (Photo from Internet)

BRITISH EARLY MORNING RAID

By this time, the Fernside address was known to British Intelligence. Around 1.00 or 2.00am, a party of DMP and British Army knocked on the door and when Professor Carolan answered, they entered, began to question him and a number began to make their way up the stairs. Both Treacy and Breen had slept in most of their clothes and with their guns ready. Instead of barricading themselves inside their room or escaping through the window, they charged down the stairs, firing as they went at the intruders, who fled. Breen and Treacy then went back upstairs and jumped from a first floor window. They seem to have been different windows, for Breen went through a glass house or conservatory and received a number of glass cuts, while Treacy suffered only a very slight injury of some sort, whether by glass or some such or by bullet, is not clear. Or possibly Breen jumped first and left little glass remaining to cut Treacy.

In the back garden of the house, Breen later recounted firing at the heads of either police or British soldiers he saw over the fence and saw some fall; in return fire he was seriously injured but managed to get out of the garden and work his way across the road down to the wall of the nearby St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (still there today). Although short of stature and badly injured, he scaled the wall and making his way across the College grounds, he came out on the other side, by the Tolka and then went up the road to Phibsboro, where he knocked on doors. A man who opened the door to him got him a doctor, who then had him smuggled into the private patients’ part of the Mater Miserecordiae Hospital (known to Dubliners as “the Mater”), at the corner of Eccles Street and Dorset Street, under an assumed name in the care of the nuns. Another version has him going to Finglas before being smuggled to the Mater.

We know little of Treacy’s escape except that he too got away, only slightly hurt, to a house in Inchicore. Professon Carolan was shot during the event, probably by the enraged British who might have thought he had somehow signaled Breen and Treacy and died days later.

The Occupation forces admitted to only two of their dead, both officers in the British Army, although a contemporary Irish Times report mentioned three. But Joe Connolly, a member and later Chief of the Dublin Fire Brigade, which then as today operates ambulance services in Dublin, spoke of twelve bodies having been collected for delivery to the British Military Hospital in Arbour Hill.

The forces of the colonial Occupation were in a frenzy searching for both Treacy and Breen around the city and the Dublin IRA organised protection for them both.

ANOTHER SHOOTOUT

Word reached Michael Collins that the Occupation forces were going to organise a formal funereal procession to take the dead British officers’ bodies to the quays for their journey home to Britain and that top officers of the Occupation’s army and police would be in attendance. Collins planned to shoot a number of them and assembled a group for the operation and notified the meeting place.

However, Collins cancelled the operation (and meeting) when he learned that the high-ranking British officers would not be attending the dead officers’ send-off to England. Treacy arrived late at the meeting place, a draper’s shop called “Republican Outfitters” (!) owned by the Boland family, at 94 Talbot Street, as did another man and both learned of the cancellation (according to one account; according to another he delayed leaving after the others had left). However, the British were closing in on Talbot Street with the intention of capturing Treacy, it seems. As Treacy came out into the street, an agent approached him with gun drawn and Treacy saw the British vehicles coming down the street from O’Connell (then Sackville) Street. He drew his Parabellum firearm and shot two agents but the machine-gunner caught Treacy in a burst as he was trying to mount his bicycle as people dived for cover and several were injured.

Republican Outfitters, 94 Talbot Street. This may also be a photo taken after the shooting. (Photo from Internet)

Republican Outfitters, 94 Talbot Street. This may also be a photo taken after the shooting.

Sean Treacy died from the machine-gun bullets in that street, along with two civilians, a John Currigan, a tobacconist from Eden Quay and “a messenger boy named Carroll”, according to a press report at the time. A policeman on point duty was shot in the arm, which had to be amputated. Another boy, 15-year old apprentice photographer John J. Hogan, out practicing with his employer’s camera, followed the action and took the famous photo of Treacy lying dead in the street.

Talbot St death

Sean Treacy lying dead in Talbot Street, very soon after he had been shot. (Photo from Internet).

It seems the Chief of the CIS himself, Ormand Winter, had attended the operation or had followed it up and was shocked at the outcome – an agent dead and another wounded and Treacy dead, along with two innocent bystanders, one only a boy. He told a press reporter it had been “a tragedy”.

It had long been believed that Treacy shot two agents dead but although Liutenant Gilbert Price was definitely dead, another, Colour-Sergeant Frank Christian, later received compensation of £1,250 (a substantial amount in those days) for injury received during the event, according to press reports. Christian claimed to have been off duty and just passing at the time but this was more than likely said to preserve his cover and also to increase the amount of compensation. http://www.cairogang.com/incidents/treacy-talbot/treacy-talbot.html

Some of the IRA and their supporters were still in the area when the British Army arrived in Talbot Street and one, Dick McKee, barely made it away on a bicycle. He would not be so lucky another time which was fast approaching.

I once or twice heard some speculation that Treacy had been betrayed from within the IRA and even that Collins wanted him killed but these kinds of rumours often arise and no evidence has ever been provided to substantiate the speculation. It is indeed curious that Treacy had miraculously escaped on the 13th and had been recruited for a dangerous operation to take place two days later, then to be shot at the scene of a cancelled meeting but such things happen. It would take remarkable prescience on Collins’ part to have anticipated the course of the War of Independence in 1920 so as to have removed one of the most effective fighters that would help bring the struggle to truce, negotiation and a Treaty. The simplest explanation and the one that fits the best is that Treacy had been marked and followed and that after their debacle at Fernside, the colonial military authorities in Dublin had decided to take him prisoner there in Talbot Street if they could and, if not, kill him.

Treacy was buried in his native county at Kilfeakle, a funeral attended by thousands of mourners and a heavy concentration of RIC, holding rifles with fixed bayonets. Breen remarked that though not intended in that way, it was an appropriate mark of respect for the fallen guerrilla fighter.

MORE SHOOTINGS …. AND A MASSACRE

The police and army raids in Drumcondra and in Talbot Street, the first from which two tough and experienced IRA men had been lucky to escape and the second which had resulted in the death of one of them and nearly netted a few others, must have rung very loud alarm bells for IRA leaders and ordinary Volunteers. Apparently it convinced Collins that some very thorough offensive action was needed to remove or reduce the threat.

In the early morning of Sunday 21 November 1920, Collins’ ‘Squad’ and teams mobilised by the Dublin IRA Brigade, went out to assassinate 35 men believed to be members of the British Intelligence network in the City. Collins had originally drawn up a list of 50 but Cathal Brugha, acting as Minister of Defence, had reduced the list on the basis that there was insufficient evidence against fifteen of them.

Most of the shootings by the IRA that morning took place in the southern suburbs of the city – Baggot, Upper Pembroke and Lower Mount streets, Fitzwilliam Square, Morehampton Road and Earlsfort Terrace. There were also shootings in the Gresham Hotel and on O’Connell Street. Some agents were, luckily for them, not in when the IRA came calling and some operations were bungled. A passing Auxilliary patrol (they were brought into Ireland in July 1920) got involved in one location and, in the subsequent fight, two of them were killed and one IRA man wounded and captured. But by midday, the British Army and colonial administration were counting their fatal losses, a total of:

10 Intelligence officers (one RIC and 9 Military)

1 military prosecutor

1 civilian informer

2 Auxiliaries

1 Army Veterinary officer (apparently a case of mistaken identity)

In addition, some more officers had been wounded, albeit not fatally.

Just as the operations organised by British Intelligence in the previous month had raised the alarm for the IRA, the response of the latter did the same in turn for the British military and political administration in Ireland. Henceforth, intelligence personnel would be accommodated in Dublin Castle or in barracks. But if the Intelligence establishment was rattled, the Auxilliaries and loyal RIC and DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police) were incensed.

That afternoon, a Gaelic football game was scheduled to take place in Croke Park, the national stadium of the Gaelic Athletic Association, between Tipperary and Dublin teams. The IRA had considered advising the GAA to cancel the match but there were fears that — apart from alerting British Intelligence that something was planned — it might implicate the GAA in the planned operation that morning. In any case, the match went ahead with an estimated attendance of 5,000, unaware that a convoy of British Army troops was driving along Clonliffe Road from the Drumcondra Road end, while a convoy of DMP and Auxiliaries approached the Park from the south or Canal end.

At 3.25pm, ten minutes after the start of the match, the police burst into the ground, firing. Despite their claims later there is no evidence they received any return fire but nevertheless their own commander admitted they kept shooting for about a minute-and-a-half. They fired at spectators and players, some firing from the pitch while others fired from the Canal Bridge at those who tried to escape by climbing over the wall at the Canal end. The soldiers on Clonliffe Road fired machine gun bullets over the heads of the fleeing crowd in an unsuccessful effort to turn them back.

According to the commander of the operation, Major Mills, the police had fired 114 rifle rounds (revolver rounds were not counted) and the Army had fired 50 rounds in the street. The casualties were 9 people shot dead, five dying of wounds and two trampled to death in the panic. Two of the dead were boys aged 10 and 11. Michael Hogan, a player was dead and another player, Egan, wounded but survived. Dozens more were wounded by bullets or injured in the panic. Unlike the Croke Park scene in Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins film (1996), it appears that the British Army shot no-one that day – that was all the work of the police.

The Castle issued a cover story in a statement that IRA men from outside Dublin had used the football game as a cover for getting into the city and, after the assassinations they had carried out, had gone to the game.  When the police arrived to search fans for weapons, according to the statement, these men had fired on the police, who had been obliged to return fire. The most credulous would have found that story difficult to believe since not a single policeman had even been injured and even the loyalist Irish Times poured scorn on their story.

MURDER IN THE CASTLE

One of the planners of the earlier IRA operation was already in custody before the events of that day. Dick McKee, commander of the Dublin Brigade and another IRA man, Peadar Clancy, had been arrested by Crown Forces in the early hours of that Sunday morning. They were being interrogated in Dublin Castle.

Also being interrogated was Conor Clune, who had been arrested by the Auxilliaries in a raid on Saturday evening of Vaughan’s Hotel in Parnell Square, on the corner of Granby Lane.  Clune was no IRA man but an language enthusiast who had come up to Dublin that day with his employer, Edward McLysaght, on business for the Raheen cooperative.  Clune had gone on to meet Piaras Béaslaí, a member of the First Dáil (Irish Parliament set up in defiance of Westminster by the majority of Members of the British Parliament elected in Ireland).  Béaslaí and some IRA men using Vaughan’s that evening were alerted by a hotel porter to the suspicious behaviour of a visitor, apparently a spy, and departed before the arrival of the “Auxies”, who arrested Clune on suspicion.  Leading the interrogation team was Ormond Winters.

Later that awful day, McKee, Clancy and Clune were reported “shot while trying to escape”. Their captors said that, because there was no room in the cells, they had been placed in a guardroom and were killed while grabbing arms to shoot their captors and to make a getaway. To bolster the Castle’s story, they produced a number of photographs: one shows three civilians sitting apparently in conversation in a room, where a number of Auxiliaries and British Army are also shown relaxed, some eating a meal and another reading. Untended weapons are in view; another photograph shows a blur of men “trying to escape”. In none of the photos are the faces of any of the three prisoners clearly shown.

Family of the dead Irishmen said they had been tortured and then shot and few believed the Castle’s story (although apparently some historians today give it credence). It is said Collins wanted their bodies displayed to show bayonet wounds but was persuaded not to, however one of Collins’s Castle informers, Nelligan, was later adamant that they had not been bayoneted. All sides agree that the bodies did show extensive bruising. In any case, McKee and Clancy died without giving their captors any of the long list of names they carried in their heads, while Clune of course had none to give.

Conor Clune’s body was recovered by Mac Lysaght, who had it medically examined, revealing that he had been shot 13 times in the chest. The Army doctor who examined the bodies prior to their release said that Clancy had been hit with up to five bullets, which caused eight wounds, while Dick McKee had three wounds caused by two bullets.

Unfortunately for the Castle, Conor Clune was a nephew of Patrick Clune, Archbishop of Perth, Australia which caused the authorities some embarrassment.

View further back of plaque to the three murdered by the British Occupation forces on Bloody Sunday 1920

View further back of plaque to the three murdered by the British Occupation forces on Bloody Sunday 1920 (City Hall on the right). (Photo DB)

Closer view of plaque (Photo DB)

Closer view of plaque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A plaque commemorating the men (albeit listing Clune as a “Volunteer”) was placed by the National Graves Association on the wall of Dublin Castle near the eastern side of City Hall and every year a small commemoration ceremony takes place there.

There was a sequel to the deaths of the three, although it did not take place until the following year. An ex-British Army soldier, James “Shankers” Ryan, had betrayed McKee. On February 5, 1921, as Ryan was enjoying a pint in Hyne’s pub in Gloucester Place and studying the horse racing page of the newspaper, an IRA squad led by Bill Stapleton walked into Hynes’ pub in Gloucester Place and shot him dead.

 

REMEMBRANCE IN SONG AND STORY

A plaque was erected in Talbot Street, Dublin, by the voluntary non-party organisation, the National Graves Association, on the front facade of No. 94, the building outside of which Treacy was killed. The anniversary of his death is marked each year at a commemoration ceremony in Kilfeacle. Also at noon on the morning of All-Ireland Senior Hurling Finals in which the Tipperary GAA team participates, a ceremony of remembrance is held at the spot in Talbot Street where he died, organised “by people from West Tipperary and Dublin people of Tipperary extraction. The most recent such ceremony was held at midday on Sunday, 7 September 2014 and attracted a large attendance, most of whom were en route to Croke Park.” (Wikipedia).

Sean Treacy Plaque Talbot Street. (Photo from Internet)

Sean Treacy Plaque Talbot Street

It is worthy of note that every single one of those commemorations and memorial plaques is organised by voluntary bodies rather than by the State.

A number of songs about Sean Treacy are in existence: Sean Treacy by Dominic Behan and Tipperary So Far Away (author disputed: by Patsy O’Halloran OR Paddy Walsh/ Pádraig Breatnach/ Paddy Dwyer, with — if about Treacy — some obviously inaccurate versions by the Clancy Brothers and Wolfe Tones). Strangely neither Treacy nor Breen is mentioned in The Station of Knockalong, about the May 13th 1920 rescue of Sean Hogan from his captors on a train, after a fierce hand-to-hand struggle in which both Treacy and Breen were seriously wounded. The Galtee Mountain Boy is said to be also about Treacy but some of the lyrics make this unlikely and a contributor to Mudcat (a folk song website) claimed that song is about Paddy Davern, who was sentenced to die by both the British and the Irish Free State but escaped them both.

Strangely too, no song comes to light about the Drumcondra shoot-out. I have heard a few lines quoted, “He shot them in pairs coming down the stairs”, allegedly from a song about Sean Treacy by Dominic Behan. However, my searches have failed to turn up the source of those wonderful lines. If the song existed and was about Treacy, it could have referred to his death in Talbot Street but even more likely to the battle at Fernside.

Dan Breen is mentioned in a number of songs but none of which I am aware directly about him.  Breen was very saddened at the death of his close comrade-in-arms and recovered slowly from his wounds, having been shot four times, twice in the lungs. He was smuggled out of Dublin while still recovering from his injuries and very weak, returning to active service later. In June 1921, Breen married Brigid Malone of the Dublin Cumann na mBan, who had helped nurse him while recovering from his wounds. The long Truce of 1921 followed in July which, according to his autobiography My Fight for Irish Freedom (1921 and many reprints since), Breen frowned upon, commenting that IRA discipline grew slack and information on identities of fighters and their locations would have come much more easily to Crown forces.

Dan Breen dissented from the Treaty of 1921 and took up arms on the Republican side, was captured and interned, went on hunger strike and was released. Breen was an anti-Treaty TD for Tipperary from 1923 for Sinn Féin, the TDs of which refused to take their seats in the “Partitionist” Fourth Dáil. When the Fianna Fáil party was created in a split away from Sinn Féin in 1926 with the intention of their representatives entering the Dáil if elected, Breen joined and was the first anti-Treaty TD to take his seat in the Dáil in 1927.

When he later failed to be reelected he went to the USA, which was under alcohol Prohibition at the time and there he ran a speakeasy. (He would probably have known Joe Kennedy, grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, who was a prominent gangster in that epoch). Returning to Ireland in 1932, Breen regained his Fianna Fáil seat. He died in 1969 and the attendance at his funeral was estimated at 10,000.

 

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FENIANS, SCHOOLBOY STRIKE, LOCKOUT EVICTIONS, SPANISH CIVIL WAR – ALL ON EAST WALL WALKING HISTORY TOUR, WITH MUSIC & SONG AS WELL

Introduction with some very little additional text by Diarmuid Breatnach


Main text from East Wall History Group

Among the many events packed into History Week by the East Wall History Group was a walking history tour of the area on Sunday 27th September. Over a score of people took part in “East Wall and the Irish Revolution” to hear Joe Mooney, a long-time community activist, outline the relevant events of history at various points along the way, covering

Paul OBrien Merchants Road Mural playing

Paul O’Brien performing his 1913 Lockout song in front of mural marking the eviction of 62 families from Merchant’s Road in December 1913 by the Merchant’s Company.  (Photo: EWHG) 

local connections with the Fenians, docks and migrants, the Lockout, 1916 Rising and the Spanish Civil War. Appropriate songs and music accompanied the tour, Paul O’Brien performing compositions of his own at some of those points and Diarmuid Breatnach singing verses from Viva La Quinze Brigada at another.

Joe Mooney, the tour guide

Joe Mooney, the tour guide.  Photo: D.B

The East Wall History Group has been in existence for a number of year; they may be contacted through https://www.facebook.com/eastwallhistory and http://eastwallforall.ie/?tag=east-wall-history-group and it would not be a bad idea to get on their mailing list. The following account has been shamelessly looted from their FB page:

We set out from St Joseph’s School, originally opened in 1895. The first Principal of the Boys’ school was J.F. Homan, who served as a St. John’s Ambulance Brigade volunteer during the Rising and also during the Civil war. A number of former pupils from the school were involved in the revolutionary events of the time (the following decades) and of course in 1911 a schoolboys’ union was declared and a short strike ensued (complete with pickets!). Their demands included a shorter day and free school-books.

Part of crowd at the starting point

Part of crowd at the starting point.  (Photo: DB)

Our first stop was Merchants Road, where during the 1913 Lockout 62 families (almost the entire population of the street) were evicted by their employer the Merchants Warehousing Company (their yard was Merchant’s Yard on East Wall Road, just before the T-junction by the Port Authority. At the fantastic mural (erected by the community) Paul paid tribute to the families and the workers struggle with his song “Lockout 1913“. Amongst the evicted families were the Courtneys from number 1 – their son Bernard was a ‘Wharf’ school pupil and fought with the Jacobs garrison in 1916, before succumbing to TB in 1917.

Joe Mooney pointing out Jack Nalty's house

Joe Mooney pointing out Jack Nalty’s house.

Jack Nalty's house

Jack Nalty’s house.

Joe & Crowd from above

(Photo: DB)

Next we visited the East Road, where Diarmuid set the tone with a stirring rendition of the Christy Moore song “Viva la Quinze Brigada(explaining that Christy incorrectly called it “Quinta” but had since corrected it – as the lyrics in English make clear, it was the FIFTEENTH Brigade). Gathered opposite the family home of Jack Nalty, we heard the story of another former ‘Wharf ‘ school-boy who became an active Republican and Socialist, eventually losing his life fighting Fascism in Spain in 1938. Jack (who was also a champion runner) was amongst the last of the International volunteers to die, while his friend and comrade Dinny Coady was amongst the first. Many of Dinny Coadys relatives still live locally, and we plan to commemorate them properly in the future.

Jack Nalty in uniform of the 15th International Brigade

Jack Nalty in uniform of the 15th International Brigade. (Photo: Internet)

 

Next was a quick stop at the junction of Bargy and Forth Roads, which along with Shelmalier, Killane and Boolavogue were the names given to streets of Corporation houses erected here in the 1930’s and ’40s. They are of course synonymous with places in Wexford in the 1798 Rebellion.

At the rear of the former Cahill printers premises we learned how an innovative glassmaking factory (Fort Crystal Works) once stood there, perhaps the first industry in the area, but by the early 1800’s lay in ruins. As reported in newspapers as far away as New York, in 1848 a hundred men gathered here and spent an entire day in musketry practice, even setting up a dummy of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Queen’s representative) to practice on. These were members of the Young Ireland movement, preparing for rebellion.

Joe speaking at the 'Scotch Block'

Joe speaking at the ‘Scotch Block’ — some of the crowd are out of shot, as is Paul O’Brien, who is just getting ready to play.  (Photo: DB)

On Church Road we remembered former resident Edward Dorin, a Sergeant in the IRA who was part of the operation to burn the Custom House during the War of Independence. Another former ‘Wharf’ school pupil (he started there the same year as Jack Nalty), he was shot dead alongside a young volunteer from Ballybough when they engaged a lorryload of Auxillaries at Beresford place (just by Liberty Hall). (They were covering the attacking party). There had been a suggestion in the 1950’s to rename Custom House Quay as Dorins Quay .

A short stop at the “Scotch Block”, Fairfield Avenue, where Paul played two songs recalling Glasgow immigrants to the area and also Edinburghborn James Connolly. An incident in 1918 when Union Jackwaving residents from these buildings attempted to disrupt a Sinn Féin election rally also got a mention.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing Viva La Quinze Brigada opposite house.

Diarmuid Breatnach singing “Viva La Quinze Brigada” opposite Jack Nalty’s house. (Photo: EWHG)

As we passed Hawthorn Terrace its most famous resident Sean O’Casey was briefly discussed, as was his former neighbour Willy Halpin, the diminutive Citizen Army man most famous for almost escaping capture at City Hall by climbing up a chimney.

As we passed Russell Avenue a dishonorable mention was given to those who attempted to raise a 5,000 strong Fascist militia from an address here in the late 1950’s. Thankfully they failed miserably, as did the Italian fascist sympathiser resident of Caladon road who was banned from the U.S.A. during World War Two and eventually arrested by the Irish state and handed over to British authorities via the Six Counties.

At Malachi Place the actionpacked tale of Fenian leader John Flood was recounted. He lived here in the 1860’s as he worked on plans to stage a rebellion against British Rule. After an audacious attempt to seize weapons from Chester Castle was betrayed, he was eventually arrested following a boat chase on the Liffey and deported to Australia on the last convict ship to sail there. A memorial stands above his grave, unveiled there in 1911, two years after his death. This story could be a movie script!

We finished off the day at the base of Johnny Cullens Hill at the block of houses formerly named Irvine Crescent (now incorporated into Church Road). It was here the Scott family lived and in 1916 their 8yearold son was shot from the gun boat Helga. He lingered on for months after his wounding before finally dying, making him the last of the child casualties of 1916. The same year his father died in an accident in the Port, leaving his mother to raise five children on her own while coping with this double tragedy.

Their nextdoor neighbours were the Lennon family. On Bloody Sunday 1913 Patrick Lennon was one of those injured in the baton charge on O’Connell Street. Bloodied but unbowed, he worked alongside Sean O’Casey to raise funds for the relief of strikers families, a project which eventually led to the establishment of the famous soup kitchen at Liberty Hall.

And finally on to Bloody Sunday 1920. Everybody knows the story of how the Squad under Michael Collins (and the Dublin Brigade of the IRA) targeted British Intelligence agents in the City but not many know of the East Wall operation. A house on Church Road was targeted but the agent had left the evening before and was in Cork when the IRA group arrived. The exact location is unknown but we suspect it was within this block here as many of the houses were sub-divided at that time.”

A coincidence in Merchant's Road, opposite the mural (note the date)

A coincidence in Merchant’s Road, opposite the mural (note the date).  (Photo: EWHG)

Even if they didn’t get to tell half the stories of East Wall and the Irish Revolution, it was an enjoyable and informative walking tour … and the weather was beautiful – and there’s always next year!

 

End

DEVELOPING A MULTI-PERSONALITY CONDITION BY READING

Diarmuid Breatnach

Reading a novel brings on something like the development of a multi-personality disorder without – usually – the harmful and long-term effects of the pathology.

The novel requires the readers to identify with the main character or characters to the extent to which we lose, to some extent, the posture of the observer and almost become a participant. And this is even more so in the case of the thriller-type novel. We can become anxious, frightened, angry, disgusted, elated, tearful, satisfied, sexually aroused – and the novel writer will aim at giving rise to at least a number of those emotions and in some cases, all of them.

No doubt this experience is greater or lesser depending on the individual – perhaps to the extent of his or her suggestibility but also certainly depending on the political, social and cultural values of the reader. And of course, the skill and knowledge of the writer in presenting the character, story and scenes.

Yet, for all the effect of identification with the main character, we retain an awareness that we are not that person, whoever it may be in different novels. We know that we are not the fugitive (hopefully!) wrongly accused of a murder, the undercover police officer penetrating a drugs gang, the soldier in a war, the lover being cheated upon, the ordinary employee in a mundane job suddenly thrust into a conspiracy, the witness to a murder, the participant in a past historical event.

We know we are not, yet feelings appropriate to the circumstances of the story’s character are aroused within us. This is what I mean by development of a multiple personality – albeit a temporary one. We can become the person in the story while retaining the person we are and an awareness of which of the personalities is acting in the physical world.

And this is not like dreaming, even when one retains a consciousness that one is dreaming. Dreams do not need characters, places or sequences that we perceive as logical when awake and in fact usually flatly contradict waking logic in at least some features. But presenting that kind of illogicality in a novel would soon have us throwing the book down in disgust. “Suspending disbelief” is possible up to a degree, as in reading about a compassionate head of a state intelligence agency, for example, or a CEO of a multinational company with a social conscience, on in other kinds of fantasy involving magic. But put too many of those illogicalities together, mix up locations and characters, and we would quickly part company with the book.

Our dreams are of course projections of our personal psyches and events and settings in the dream, with consciousness more or less suspended, are judged consistent with another reality. But the novel is a creation of someone else and of course may well — inevitably does, some would say – contain elements or products of the pysche of the author. Be that so, and even be our psyche engaged in the story, our consciousness demands a certain rationality for it to be acceptable.

The degree to which it is possible to “adopt” the personality of the principal character in a novel was brought home to me fairly recently – and with something of a shock. I had just finished reading Far From You by Tess Sharpe, one of the random choices I often make in the Fiction section of the public library. I judge this first novel by Sharpe to be well-written and effectively constructed as a thriller. Usually the genders of author and main character coincide and this book was no exception. Her character, Sophie, was female and also bisexual but none of that prevented me identifying with her while reading the story.

Very soon afterwards, I began to read Faithful Place by Tana French, in this case a female author writing about a main character who is male – an undercover cop. The story is set in working-class Dublin and so I found many cultural and geographical references with which to feel at ease; the story is interesting, the narrative engaging and at times very funny. However, something kept feeling wrong about it – and it wasn’t that the main character is a cop. Nor was it that I was conscious of the author as being female while the character is male. It took me some pages to identify the problem: the character is male while I was still partially stuck in the female persona of Sophie, the main character in the book I had previously read. I needed to change the gender of that other personality in me, as the reader, back to male, so that I could feel ‘in synch’ with the male character in French’s story.

End

DUBLIN YOUTH 777 DAYS IN EGYPTIAN PRISON

Diarmuid Breatnach

777 Days & Photos Ibrahim

With the Spire in the background, supporters calling for the release of Ibrahim Halawa display placards in Dublin’s main street. (Photo: Ian O Kelly)

People clustered around the Spire structure in Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Friday 2nd October, many of them displaying a placard with the digits “777”, sometimes nothing else. But some also held an enlarged photo taken of a Dublin youth of Arab extraction, Ibrahim Halawa. Members of his family and community were there too with a banner, as were a relatively small number of supporters, including some Left and Republicans.

Colm O Gorman & Two Sisters

Colm O’Gorman, CEO Amnesty Ireland, with two of Ibrahim Halawa’s family in O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street. The columns of the iconic GPO are on the right as a Dublin Tour bus passes. (Photo: Ian O Kelly)

Colm O’Gorman, CEO of Amnesty Ireland gave interviews to media personnel present and so did Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP and of course some members of Ibrahim’s family. Curiously, no leaflets were handed out to explain to passers-by what the rally was about. Nor were there speeches to inform even those gathered there about the background to the case or progress or what people could do to help further.

DAIC Political Prisoners banner Ian

Dublin Anti-Internment Committee activists support the picket, photographed here with members of the Halawa family. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Ibrahim Halawa was 17 years of age and on holiday in Egypt nearly two and half years ago when arrested, apparently for participating in a demonstration banned by the Egyptian regime. He may have been a conscious participant or may merely have been swept up in it in passing. But now he faces a possible death sentence if found guilty. Another 420 are also charged, some of them with murder or attempted murder during an attack on a police station on the same day. Ibrahim was arrested with his three sisters but they were granted bail and permitted to return to Ireland after three months.

Friends and relatives were hopeful that the trial would proceed as scheduled at the weekend but on the day some of the defendants were said to be seriously ill and the state declined, despite Defence counsel requests, to proceed without all defendants being present. Defence counsel have now also submitted a motion for all to be released, since they have served two years without the State bringing them to trial – this motion is under consideration by the court at present.

Spire lineup photos CBoylan

Supporters of Ibrahim Halawa with placards in front of Dublin’s Spire, with Lynn Boylan furthest left in picture.  (Photo: Ian O Kelly)

The reason for serious illness among prisoners may well be conditions in the jail (which are believed to be atrocious and were described as “trying” by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs’ representative after an earlier visit to Halawa in jail), coupled with punishment beatings which, according to one of Ibrahim’s sisters as reported by a human rights campaigning website, the Dublin youth has also received.

The Department has taken up the Dubliner’s case with the Egyptian authorities and it is almost certainly its intervention that has gained Halawa’s transfer to a better cell. Three Al-Jazeera journalists were sharing that facility after conviction in Egyptian court but all those have now been released and left Egypt. Others, including former President Hosni Mubarak and members of his family have also been released.

Charlie Flanagan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated that he was “disappointed and concerned” at the adjournment, which is diplomatic language for “really pissed off”. He claimed that his department is doing all that they can. Perhaps they are – but is the Government as a whole? Would the threat of expulsion of a few Egyptian diplomats not gain the release of Ibrahim Halawa? Or perhaps the threat of a tourist embargo?

The relatively small numbers at the Dublin rally were probably due to it being called for 3pm on a Friday afternoon, i.e within office working hours. But there may be more to it than that – this case has not been generally pushed in Left and Republican political circles, nor indeed in the liberal human rights sector. Very recently some of Ibrahim’s Dublin Arab community held a protest at the GPO against the Egyptian regime getting ready to streamline its trial and death sentence procedures in order to facilitate the hanging of more political dissidents. It was notable that every single one of those on the protest was Arab in appearance. The word ‘on the street’ is that Ibrahim and members of his family belong to a religiously fundamentalist group. Whether true or not, this does not of course diminish his human rights one iota – but unfortunately it may diminish the enthusiasm of some on the Left to support him.

Amnesty International Ireland was the body that organised the rally. Their website said that they were calling “again” for the release of Ibrahim but it seems that this is the first time they have organised a rally for him in nearly two and a half years.

Some of Ibrahim's relatives and others of their community in protest at Egypt's streamlining of conviction and execution processes some weeks earlier outside the GPO.

Some of Ibrahim’s relatives and others of their community in protest at Egypt’s streamlining of conviction and execution processes some weeks earlier outside the GPO. (Photo: D. Breatnach)

Executions Egypt image

Poster of the Stop Egypt Executions campaign

Generally the states in the West support the current Egyptian regime and the USA very much so. In turn, the Egyptian regime is very pro-Western and its armed forces very dependent on the USA, its main arms supplier. This friendship towards or dependency on the USA has been demonstrated in a number of way over the years and one of the most significant has been its policy towards Gaza.

The besieged Palestinian enclave, which has been called “the biggest concentration camp in the world”, has two land border exits, one of which is controlled by Egypt and the other by Israel. But Egypt has for years, under different governments, been restricting what and how much can go through its Rafah Crossing, more or less in line with Israeli prohibitions or restrictions, which include forbidding cement much in demand to repair the huge damage of Israel’s bombardment to housing, hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, reservoir, sewage treatment facility ….. and fuel for heating, electricity generation ….  The resourceful Palestinians dug tunnels under the border wire to circumvent Egyptian restrictions but the Egyptian regime has demolished these in the past and recently flooded them.

It is important for the Irish Left and all democratic people to show solidarity with Ibrahim and his family. It should not be ok for the Egyptian government to behave in the way it does and we should protect those that we are able to protect from them. That ability is strongest in cases where the citizenship of the victim is Irish. The Government needs to up the pressure on the Egyptian authorities and we need to up the pressure on our Government to achieve that. Those republicans, socialists and democrats who are tempted to pick and choose the recipients of their solidarity would do well to reflect on the oft-quoted words of Pastor Martin Niemoller.

Emd