JORDAN’S MICHAEL COLLINS FILM CRITICISED

Rebel Breeze introduction to critical videos:

This is an interesting criticism of the Michael Collins historical biopic 1996. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film begins with the end of the Irish 1916 Rising, has the longest part focused on the War of Independence (1919-1921) and ends not long after the start of the Civil War (1922-1923). The film starred Liam Neeson as Michael Collins and included others such as Aidan Quinn playing Harry Boland, Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera, Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan, Gerald Mc Sorley as Cathal Brugha and Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin.

The video from Foras Teamhrach presents its criticism using clips from the film while commenting and also comparative clips from other films, which is a useful way of presenting a challenging view. Unfortunately neither the name of the author of the commentary nor of the commentator (possibly the one and same) appeared on the Youtube link, only the company name and the comments function was disabled (perhaps understandably).

Most of the points are well made but there are some omissions which might usefully be added to the criticism.

The GPO surrender scene

The video criticism points out that showing only the GPO makes the Rising look much smaller than it actually was; despite the countermanding order which reduced the forces in Dublin by perhaps as much as two-thirds, the Rising was fought by four major garrisons on the southern and three on the northern side of the Liffey, with other smaller outposts and individual actions. However, the narrator says nothing regarding the historical inaccuracy of portraying the surrender as occurring at the GPO.

In fact, the GPO had been abandoned on the Friday and the Surrender took place on the Saturday, following a decision made in the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street and around 350 insurgents there were the first to surrender following the order. This matters not just from a point of historical accuracy but because there is a struggle (now approaching two decades) to save this area from property speculators and State and Dublin Council Planning Department collusion.

Portrayal of De Valera

One does not have to be a supporter of De Valera’s philosophy and actions to rapidly come to the conclusion that his portrayal in Jordan’s film is so inaccurate as to seem to be someone else. Every person who took up arms in 1916 to fight the British Empire showed courage and those who continued to actively oppose the British occupation during the intense years of the War of Independence showed even more courage in doing so.

Collins, of a much more ebulient character than De Valera, according to witnesses, was more inclined to exhibitions of temper and shouting than was De Valera, whose manner was generally in accordance with his studious appearance – contrary to his behaviour in the Treaty discussion scene of the film. As to another aspect, when we review the record of his actions in preparation for the Rising through to the War of Independence and on through the Civil War and the early years under the Free State, De Valera cannot reasonably be accused of lacking courage. The shivering wreck as which he is portrayed during the Civil War in Jordan’s film runs counter to the historical record.

There is testimony from one or two participants that at a period during his command of Boland’s Mill, De Valera had something of a breakdown. This, if it occurred, could have been as a result of fear or instead of lack of sleep, or of being overwhelmed by responsibility or a number of causes and if this alleged episode is what inspired Jordan’s depiction it was certainly unfair to use it to characterise De Valera at other times. There are many criticisms that can fairly be thrown at De Valera but lack of courage is not one of them.

Portrayal of Cathal Brugha

And likewise with the portrayal of Cathal Brugha. Some of Brugha’s military and political history may help in evaluating the portrayal of this man in Jordan’s film.

One of fourteen children empoverished by the death of their Protestant father, Brugha joined the Gaelic League in 1899 and quickly became fluent, soon changing his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He and Kathleen Kingston, also an Irish language enthusiast, married in 1912 and had six children. Brugha joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1913, the year they were formed, he became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers and led a group of Volunteers to land the arms smuggled into Howth by the Asgard in 1914.

In the Easter Rising of 1916 Brugha was second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Rising. Overlooked in the evacuation on Thursday of Easter Week and, being badly wounded, he was unable to leave. Bleeding from 25 wounds (some of which had penetrated arteries) he continued to fire upon the enemy and when Eamonn Ceannt led a group to investigate who was still firing he discovered Brugha singing “God Save Ireland” surrounded by his own blood and with his pistol still in his hands.

Brugha was not expected to survive which may have saved him from the execution parties and he was discharged from hospital in August 1916 as “incurable”. However he recovered in 1917 though left suffering pain and with a permanent limp and preferred to cycle than walk.

Already in 1917 from his hospital bed, Brugha began to seek out Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army people who were willing to join the new armed resistance group and it seems that he, more than any other, should receive the main credit for the initial formation of that which became the IRA.

Brugha was so respected in the movement that he was elected speaker of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on 21 January 1919 and it was he who read out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratified ‘the establishment of the Irish Republic’. He was also appointed temporary President, a position in which he remained until de Valera tok his place.

Far from being a bloodthirsty zealot as he is portrayed in the film, Brugha reduced Collins’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ assassination list considerably since in his opinion, there was insufficient evidence against a number of people named on the list. Then again, at the outbreak of the Civil War, a reluctant Brugha only joined the fighting on the Republican (Anti-Treaty) side in order to relieve the pressure on the Four Courts garrison. Cathal Brugha led a detachment in occupying a number of buildings in O’Connell Street and later, having got his men safely away or surrendered, was shot and mortally wounded in debated circumstances by Free State troops (which were under the overall command of Collins).

Brugha had, according to some opinions, alienated a section of waverers at the Dáil debates on the Treaty, by a personal attack on Collins and the way his persona had been elevated (a common problem, the deification of leaders). This was no doubt a tactical mistake but there had been ongoing conflict between both men for some time. Although both had been members, Brugha had left the IRB after 1916 in the belief that their conflict with the Volunteer leadership had damaged the Rising. Collins’ rank in the organisation was supreme in Ireland and it seems that Collins used this at times to circumvent or undermine decisions of the Dáil, where Brugha outranked Collins and which the former believed to be the repository of democratic decision-making.

Collins as a guerrilla war leader

All Collins’ many talents and contributions to the War of Independence aside, his representation in the film as not only directing the whole armed struggle but also as teaching rural people how to wage a guerrilla war is a complete distortion of history that could only be undertaken by a propagandist for Collins.

It was Brugha who began to pull the scattered elements of the armed struggle together and laid the foundations for what became the IRA. It was Robinson, Breen, Tracey and Hogan who began the armed resistance of the War of Independence in Tipperary on 21 January 1919 in which two paramilitary policemen were killed. And they did so without permission from GHQ in Dublin.

As to rural guerrilla tactics, these were such as had been used for centuries or developed in the struggle and were certainly not taught by Dublin. What was taught by instructors sent by Dublin was weapon use and maintenance and personnel disposition for ambushes, moving in extended order through countryside and securing a line of retreat. One of the chief instructors in this kind of instruction was Ernie O’Malley and, in West Cork, the young Tom Barry used his British Army experience and other learning to do the same. The order to create Flying Columns might have come from Dublin but had been advocated already by fighters in Cork, Kerry and Tipperary and it was they and others who developed them in the field.

Collins’ special contribution was in organising intelligence, counter-intelligence and the assassination squad (which turned out to be a double-edged sword) and also, to an extent, supply of weapons. His contribution was notable but it did not lie in initial organising of guerrilla war, much less in rural guerrilla instruction.

The role of women in the struggle

Women are underrepresented in this narrative, as is usual in Irish history and Republican and nationalist narrative. Where women are shown, apart from the brief appearance of Markievicz at the non-existent GPO surrender (when instead she was at the College of Surgeons!), they are objects of romance (Kittie Kiernan) or auxilliaries working for Collins’ intelligence department.

There was a great opportunity lost there to show the women in action during the Rising in the many roles they undertook, including firing weapons, or in keeping the flame lit after the Rising and in particular in commemorating the Rising a year later, organising demonstrations, pickets, and funerals.

The Croke Park Bloody Sunday massacre scene

The film shows the ‘Tans or Auxies shooting down people with machine-gun on the GAA ground. As far as we have been able to establish it was the RIC who did it, although of course the other two were auxilliary forces of the RIC. Thankfully they did not fire with a machine-gun (the Army had one outside the grounds and an armoured car, it seems but did not open fire) or the carnage would have been a lot worse. When one examines the casualty list of those shot, just like more modern British massacres in Derry and Belfast, it is clear that the shooting was mostly disciplined, i.e hitting males of military age. Showing that kind of scenario would in the last analysis not only be more historically accurate but also more telling of the intent and cold-bloodedness.

And what of the three tortured and murdered in the Castle that day, Peadar Clancy, Dick McKee and Conor Clune? Yes, we know, one can’t show everything.

Go raibh maith agat to the individual who sent the video links to this blog.

LINKS:

The critique video, Parts 1 & 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zor3VvE9vD8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbGWEZehuFI

Another view, not quite so critical: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/michael-collins-review-nowhere-near-as-historically-inaccurate-as-we-once-supposed-1.2576150

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PLAIN-CLOTHES POLICE OFFICER SHOT DOWN IN DUBLIN STREET

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

He’s up there if you want him …. on the footpath.”

On 14th April 1920, a man in plainclothes was shot by another, also in plain clothes, in Camden Street, Portobello, on the south side of the city and not far from the centre. A passing motorist rushed the gunshot victim to the nearby Meath Hospital but he died there.

The victim was Det. Constable Harry Kells of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a man of 41 years of age who lived in No. 7 Pleasant Street, i.e very close to where he was shot. He was married without children.

Funeral party of DMP colleagues of Det. Constable Kells, with the coffin holding his remains.
(Source: irishconstabulary.com)

Many reports say that Kells was a member of the DMP “G” Division, which were known as “the political police” (apparently both within the DMP and outside). However, “McRIC” in the irishconstabulary forum states that this is inaccurate and that the man, although recently promoted to plain clothes work, was rather in “B” Division and investigating a number of burglaries in the city.

From a number of investigations carried out it seems that this question may never be resolved but it is highly likely that Kells was at least in the process of being transferred to “G” Division. However, the reason for his killing is almost certainly much more specific. It seems that Kells had been reviewing identity parades in Mountjoy Jail in attempts to find the killers of British intelligence agent Alan Bell, who had been assassinated on the 27th March. While engaged in this work, he had been identified by Peadar Clancy1, Vice-Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, who sent a note about him to Michael Collins, who put the execution order on Kells.

It is worth noting that Republican prisoners in Mountjopy had also been taking part in a hunger-strike at that time in protest at removal of political status while detained without trial. Ironically, 90 prisoners were released on the very day Kells was killed.

Peadar Clancy, who got the word out to Collins about Kells working Identification parades in Mountjoy Jail, Dublin. (Image source: Wikpedia)

 

THE LARGEST RAID EVER CARRIED OUT BY BRITISH TROOPS IN DUBLIN

“Aul Decency”, posting on Dublin Forum.ie on 31st March 2012, drawing on April reports in the Irish Times and New York Times, says that the incident “was the cause of the largest raid ever carried out by British Troops in Dublin.”

According to “Aul Decency”: “Two of those sought in connection with Kells’ killing were Sinn Féin members Michael and William Kavanagh who lived at 5 Pleasant St., who had previously been “fingered” by Kells, and it was thought they would seek refuge among friends in the neighbourhood. The troops swarmed over Camden St from Cuffe street and into Portobello and the homes of the local Jews2. Over 100 people were arrested that day but Kells’ killer was not among them.”

Portobello area map today,  Camden Street is a longish one right between the D8 and D2 legends.   Pleasant St. is off Camden St. to the left, near the top of the image. (Source: Internet)

 

This “fingering” had in fact been carried out after the 1916 Rising when Kells reported that the brothers had been seeing changing into Volunteer uniforms in the house, information which had resulted in at least one of the brothers ending up in Frongoch concentration camp that year and losing his job.

It is enough perhaps to know that Kells was killed by Republicans and the probable reason but we can go a bit further, drawing on The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer (quoted in irishconstabulary.com) where Paddy Daly of the Squad is quoted about the operation to kill the police officer:

On our way we picked up Hugo MacNeill, a nephew of Eoin MacNeill3 the initial President of the Irish Volunteers. He was not a member of the Squad but he asked to come along.

We divided up into patrols of two4, MacNeill was with Joe Leonard. ODaly said he heard a couple of shots, and saw MacNeill sauntering down Pleasant St. as if nothing had happened.

What was the shooting about? O’Daly asked.

Kells is up there if you want him, MacNeill replied.

Where?O’Daly asked.

On the footpath‘, replied MacNeill.

Det. Constable was the third police officer to be killed in Dublin so far in 1920 in a war between the British occupation forces and the IRA, in which not only police officers but intelligence agents and British soldiers on one side were killed and, on the other, Volunteers, active Republicans, sympathisers and uninvolved civilians. Of course the war was going on in many other parts of Ireland but it is often forgotten that among those areas subject to martial-type law were Dublin County and City, where had been the HQ of the British occupation since 1171: Dublin Castle.

 

SOURCES:

 

http://www.dublinforum.net/forum/showthread.php?t=2110&page=3

http://irishconstabulary.com/topic/1477#.WO6mGEvb-_s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Irish_War_of_Independence

http://www.irishmedals.org/r-i-c-d-m-p-k-i-a-.html

1Peadar Clancy was one of two Volunteers and one civilian who were tortured by RIC Auxiliaries in Dublin Castle and killed on November 21, 1920 (Bloody Sunday).

2Portobello had a Jewish quarter at that time. Some of the residents are reputed to have been active in the resistance movement and a number had been on strike or locked out in 1913.

3He who had on Easter Saturday 1916 issued the cancellation order for the Rising.

4According to testimonies by Squad members, working in two groups of two was standard procedure. Typically each pair would take one side of the road. Once the assassination was carried out, the two who had not done the killing would cover the escape of the two who had.

SHOOT-OUT IN DUBLIN ON MARCH 14 LEAVES SEVEN DEAD

SHOOT-OUT IN DUBLIN ON MARCH 14 LEAVES SEVEN DEAD1

By John Dorney

(Re-published from The Irish Story, History webpage http://www.theirishstory.com/2015/01/26/the-pearse-street-ambush-dublin-march-14-1921/#.WN6_Ukvb-_s by kind permission of John Dorney)

Dublin awoke on the morning to March 14th 1921 to the news that six IRA Volunteers, captured in an ambush at Drumcondra two months before, had been hanged.

The gates of Mountjoy Gaol were opened at 8:25 am and news of the executions was read out to the distraught relatives of the dead. As many as 40,000 people had gathered outside and many mournfully said the rosary for the executed men.

On the morning of March 14 1921 six IRA Volunteers were hanged in Mountjoy Gaol.

Crowds of protesters outside Mountjoy Jail being held back by British troops and a tank (image from Dorney’s article)

The labour movement called a half-day general strike in the city in protest at the hangings. The clandestine Republican Government declared a day of national mourning. All public transport came to a halt and republican activists made sure the strike was observed. IRA officer Frank Henderson recalled:

Patrick Sweeney, Vice Commandant of the 2nd Battalion, and other members of the Battalion paraded the Battalion area during the hours of public mourning to ensure that shops were closed. With the exception of one or two public houses which had to be cleared, the order to cease work was loyally obeyed by the citizens.”

By evening, the streets cleared rapidly as the British-imposed curfew came into effect at 9pm each night. The city must have been a fearful place, patrolled by regular British troops and the much-feared paramilitary police, or Auxiliaries, as people scurried home and awaited IRA retaliation for the hangings. This was not long in coming.

Pearse Street, or Great Brunswick Street as it then was, nestles just south of the river Liffey, running from Ringsend, an old fishing port, to the city centre. Number 144 housed the company headquarters of the Dublin IRA’s 3rd Battalion at St Andrews Catholic Hall. It had been used for this purpose since before insurrection of 1916.

On the evening of March 14, their captain Peadar O’Meara sent them out to attack police or military targets. As many as 34 IRA men prowled the area, armed with the standard urban guerrilla arms of easily-hidden handguns and grenades. One young Volunteer, Sean Dolan threw a grenade at a police station on nearby Merrion Square, which bounced back before it could explode, blowing off his own leg.

Auxiliaries on a raid c.1920 (image sourced on Internet)

It was about 8 o’clock. The curfew was approaching. A company of Auxiliaries, based in Dublin Castle was sent to the area to investigate the explosion. It consisted of one Rolls Royce armoured car and two tenders (trucks) holding about 16 men. Apparently the Auxiliaries had some inside information as they made straight for the local IRA headquarters at 144 Pearse Street. One later testified in court that – “I had been notified there were a certain number of gunmen there”.

But the IRA were also waiting. As soon as the Auxiliaries approached the building, fire was opened on them from three sides.

What the newspapers described as ‘hail of fire’ tore into the Auxiliaries’ vehicles. Five of the eight Auxiliaries in the first tender were hit in the opening fusillade. Two of them were fatally injured, including the driver (an Irishman named O’Farrell) and an Auxiliary named L. Beard.

But the IRA fighters were seriously outgunned. The Rolls Royce armoured car was impervious to small arms fire (except its tyres, which were shot out) but mounted a Vickers heavy machine gun, which sprayed the surrounding houses with bullets. The unwounded Auxiliaries also clambered out of their tenders and returned fire at the gun flashes from street corners and rooftops.

Civilian passersby flung themselves to the ground to avoid the bullets but four were hit, by which side it was impossible to tell. The British military court of inquiry into the incident found that the civilians had been killed by persons unknown; if by the IRA then they were ‘murdered’, if hit by Auxiliaries the shootings were ‘accidental’ — which, aside from demonstrating the court’s bias, shows us that no one was sure who had killed them.

Firing lasted for just five minutes but in that time seven people (including the two Auxiliaries) were killed or fatally wounded and at least six more wounded. A young man, Bernard O’Hanlon aged just 18, originally from Dundalk, lay sprawled, dead, outside number 145, his ‘bull-dog’ revolver under him which had five chambers, two of which contained expended rounds and three live rounds – indicating he had got off just two shots before being cut down.

Another IRA Volunteer, Leo Fitzgerald was also killed outright. Two more guerrillas were wounded, one in the hip and one in the back. They, along with Sean Dolan who had been wounded by his own grenade were spirited away by sympathetic Fire Brigade members and members of Cumann na mBan and treated in the nearby Mercer’s hospital.

Three civilians lay dead on the street. One, Thomas Asquith was a 68 year-old caretaker, another, David Kelly was a prominent Sinn Fein member and head of the Sinn Fein bank. His brother, Thomas Kelly was a veteran Sinn politician and since 1918 a Member of Parliament. The third, Stephen Clarke, aged 22, was an ex-soldier and may have been the one who had tipped off the Auxiliaries about the whereabouts of the IRA meeting house. An internal IRA report noted that he was ‘under observation… as he was a tout for the enemy’.

Location of the plaque on house near to Library in Pearse St. (formerly Gt. Brunswick St.) commemorating the fight. The plaque is in the 3 o’clock position on the photo. (photo D.Breatnach this year)

In five minutes of intense gunfire, seven people were mortally wounded; two IRA Volunteers, two Auxiliaries and three civilians.

Two IRA men were captured as they fled the scene, one, Thomas Traynor a 40 year-old veteran of the Easter Rising, was carrying an automatic pistol but claimed to have had no part in the ambush itself. He had, he maintained, simply been asked to bring in the weapon to 144 Great Brunswick Street. The other was Joseph Donnelly a youth of just 17.

As most of the IRA fighters got away through houses, over walls and into backstreets, the Auxiliaries ransacked St Andrew’s Catholic Hall at number 144, but found little of value. Regular British Army troops quickly arrived from nearby Beggars Bush barracks and cordoned off the area, but no further arrests were made. Desultory sniping carried on in the city for several hours into the night.

The plaque closer.
(Photo sourced Internet)

Footnotes

1The title is our own, i.e of Rebel Breeze blog

SPANISH STATE TO REIMPOSE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ON THE SOUTHERN BASQUE PEOPLE?

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

The Basque Country is one of the few places in the world where popular opposition successfully prevented the completion of a nuclear power plant; the opposition consisted of both popular mobilisations and armed action. But is the Spanish state now about to reimpose a nuclear program on the Basques?

 

In the 1960s, the Spanish state began a program of nuclear plant construction in the territory under its dominion. This was an era of great enthusiasm among states and industrialists for nuclear power and generally there was little popular opposition – most of the nuclear opposition at the time being focused on use of nuclear (and earlier, atomic) weapons and nuclear-powered military vessels.

Broad popular opposition to nuclear power itself began to build in particular after the accident at the nuclear reactor at Three-Mile Island (Pennsylvania, USA, 1979) and a catalogue of smaller nuclear reactor accidents (such as those at Sellafield, Wales, for example).

The lobby in favour of nuclear power tends to emphasize the ‘cleaness’ of the fuel (i.e. as opposed to ‘acid rain’ carbon dioxide and other pollution from coal-burning and oil-burning stations, and oil tanker disasters), relative ‘cheapness’ to produce (as opposed to oil, gas and coal) and possibly inexhaustible power (as opposed to fossil fuels). The lobby against nuclear power quotes environmental damage from accidents with potentially greater consequences and points out that the ‘cheapness’ is created by ignoring the costs of safe disposal of nuclear waste material which, if taken into account, would make it much more expensive.

Of course there are powerful interests in favour of nuclear power programs, including military, industrial energy production and construction industry. Employment opportunities in work-poor areas often build local support for construction of such plants also but in some areas it is precisely the local community that opposes the construction and that was the case in the southern Basque Country (the four provinces in Spanish-controlled territory).

Nuclear reactors tend to be built away from especially large population centres; if one accepts the necessity of such plants this policy makes sense but exposes people in areas far from the national decision-making centres to the pro-nuclear policy and its consequences, actual and potential. The later stages of the Spanish nuclear program included building three reactors in the Basque Country and one had already been built in the first phase at Garoňa, in the nearby Spanish province of Burgos.

LEMOIZ: A HISTORY OF STRUGGLE AGAINST NUCLEAR REACTORS IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY

The first site of the Basque-location phase of construction was at the small harbour of Lemoiz (Lemoniz in Spanish), situated in a picturesque part of Bizkaia (Biscay) province and attracted opposition from a coalition of interests: militant Basque left-nationalists, anti-nuclear and environmental campaigners.

lemoiz-from-distance

Lemoiz nuclear reactor site seen from a distance (photo source Internet)

Popular demonstrations began in the 1970s while the site was under construction with people traveling to the site to protest, also holding protests elsewhere and there were even some incidents of sabotage inside the facility, which was guarded by a Guardia Civil (Spanish Francoist paramilitary police force) post. This took place during the life of the Franco regime (he died in 1975) and also after his death during the repression of the “Transición” process which was not completed until 1982. Festivals and marches were also organised elsewhere in the Basque Country against the project.

The first armed attack by ETA was carried out 18 December 1977 with an attack on the Guardia Civil post at the site, during which David Álverez Peña, one of the ETA group’s members was injured, causing his death a month later. ETA later succeeded in planting a bomb in the reactor of the station which exploded on 17 March 1978, causing the death of two employees (Andrés Guerra and Alberto Negro), and wounding another two. Substantial damage was caused to the structure in the explosion, delaying construction.

Lemoiz nuclear reactor site seen from a distance (photo source Internet)

Scene one hour after killing of Gladys del Estal in Tudela, Nafarroa in 1983, her body still lying on the ground (photo source Internet)

On an International Day of Action Against Nuclear Power, 3rd June 1979, a police bullet resulted in the death of an anti-nuclear activist during a demonstration in Tudela, a town in the Basque province of Nafarroa; her name was Gladys del Estal and she was from Donostia/ San Sebastian in Gipuzkoa province. Demonstrations against the facility were now a weekly event.

Honor ceremony at a commemoration for Gladys Estal, shot by police at an anti-nuclear demonstration in Tudela, Nafarroa province.

Traditional honor dance being performed by two Basque women at a ceremony commemorating Gladys Estal, shot by police at an anti-nuclear demonstration in Tudela, Nafarroa province. (photo source Internet)

ETA struck again on 13 June of that year with another bomb placed inside the site, on this occasion in the turbine area which, when it detonated, caused the death of another employee, Ángel Baños.

The deaths of employees in explosions might not have been intentional but on 29th January 1981 ETA kidnapped the chief engineer of the power station, José María Ryan, from Bilbao. The armed organisation issued an ultimatum to demolish the facility or to face the death of their hostage. Despite a demonstration organised against this threat, ETA killed engineer when the company did not back down.

The company replaced Ryan with Ángel Pascual as chief project engineer and ETA assassinated him on the 5th May 1982. Work at the site ground to a halt and Iberduero, the company developing the site temporarily halted work, calling on the Basque Government to commit itself to supporting the project.

Mass demonstration at Lemoiz against the nuclear reactor (photo source Internet)

Mass demonstration 1979 at Lemoiz against the nuclear reactor (photo source Internet)

The Government of the Autonomous Basque region in which the site was located was in the hands of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) which, although completely opposed to ETA and by no means socialist, feared to go publicly against popular opinion opposed to the nuclear project. In 1983 the company officially stopped work, at which time both reactors were almost ready to go into production.

The deadlock was broken by the PSOE (Spanish unionist social-democratic party) winning the general election in 1984 on an anti-nuclear power policy and their government declared a moratorium on the building of all nuclear reactors throughout the state.

SPANISH STATE RETURNING TO A NUCLEAR -BUILDING PROGRAM?

The Spanish state currently has seven nuclear reactors generating a fifth of its electricity and its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1968.

After the horrific nuclear reactor disaster of Chernobyl (USSR 1986), people probably assumed that no further nuclear reactors would ever be built in the Spanish state. But the PSOE, the main establishment political party that formerly forced the nuclear moratorium shows signs of beginning to waver on the issue and even the nuclear reactor disaster at Fukishima (Japan 2011) does not appear to have deterred them. The PP, the right-wing Spanish unionist party, has always been in favour of nuclear reactors so that now a ruling class consensus favourable to more reactors seems to be forming (or formed).

lemoiz-skull-directions

(Source: Internet)

Last month, according to press reports in the Basque Country, José Ramón Torralbo, president of Nuclenor, the operator of the Garoña plant, stated that a “two-year-long” “comprehensive” evaluation of the nuclear power plant found no reason that the reactor could not be restarted “with some modifications”, although consideration of the request to reopen the plant is not complete and asked that deliberations of the CSN (Nuclear Safety Council) “should not be interfered with”.

Around the same time it was reported that the reopening of the Lemoiz plant was being considered also.

The decision on reopening is not to be based on questions of feasibility in the short term alone but on the decision of the Spanish Government with regard to its energy policy in general and with regard to nuclear power in particular. The President of Nuclenor indicated when speaking about the Garoña plant that a commitment to operate for 40 years only would rule out feasibility and that they would be looking for a 60-year minimum commitment and preferably for 90 years – presumably this would apply also to the Lemoiz plant.

Referring to environmental and other opposition to nuclear power generation, the president of the Forum of the Spanish Nuclear Industry, Antonio Cornadó, claimed it an “error” to “mix ideological with technological considerations”, stating that has “negative consequences” for the state energy model and for the economy, since the sector generates an important contribution to GDP and taxes.

Cornadó put this figure at €2,781 million contribution of the nuclear industry to Spanish GDP, the equivalent of 30% of the textile and footwear industry and said that “environmental taxes are becoming fashionable and seem set to increase”, stating that of every 100 euros of business, 25 go to the payment of taxes which contributes 781 million euros in taxes overall.

In addition Cornadó raised the fear of “irreversible risk …. of failing to meet climate change targets” and that “Spain is not ready to tackle the massive dismantling of all its nuclear power plants, which would be a very difficult and very expensive technological plan.”

A new uranium mining project is also commencing.

SPANISH STATE READY TO REOPEN LEMOIZ DESPITE ITS HISTORY?

With regard to Lemoiz and plans for any further nuclear reactors in the Basque Country, the factors to consider of course are much than financial viability, given the history of the plant. The Spanish state and indeed the ‘Autonomous’ Basque Government may feel that the current political situation favours a return to the nuclear program in the Basque Country or at least is less favourable to the forces that oppose it.  This is despite the leading PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) official in Araba province declaring his opposition to it.

Some Basque trade union sources have claimed that Iberduero, the company owning the Lemoiz plant, have communicated to them that it has no plans to reopen Lemoiz but it is not clear whether these statements are merely trying to calm fears or possibly even enlist trade union support for employment at the plant.

2016-06-11, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Garoñaren aurkako manifestazioa Araba Garoñarik Gabe plataformak zentral nuklearra berriz ireki ez dadin eskatzeko 11-06-2016, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Manifestación de Araba Sin Garoña para pedir que no se reabra la central.

Demonstration in Gastheiz/ Vitoria, Araba province last June calling for closure of Garona plant (photo source: Gara)

The leadership of the Abertzale (pro-Basque independence) Left has chosen to abandon the armed struggle (ETA has been on “permanent ceasefire” since 2011) and, under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi, to pursue a national independence program electorally in alliance with social democratic parties, which has seen a fall in street opposition activities also. The opposition to the Abertzale Left’s approach within the broad movement is growing but currently weak and, to an extent, divided.  It is difficult to see how the movement’s current mainstream approach can hope to prevent a vigorous return to a Spanish State nuclear program throughout the territory it controls, including the southern four provinces of the Basque Country. 

On the other hand, the Spanish ruling class finds itself politically divided and with neither of its main political parties able to form a government, with increasing talk of both of them, the PP and the PSOE, coming to an agreement for a national coalition government. That may bring the Spanish ruling class further problems in the future as the possibility of democratic alternative choices become more remote and are seen to be so. The discontent of broad sections of society within the Spanish state in recent years has been expressed in monster demonstrations, strikes, some movements and in elections, in which oppositional but mainly radical social-democratic parties across the state have made gains, sometimes huge ones. At the moment, the revolutionary opposition movement(s) in all parts of the state is weak and divided but this may change as the situation develops.

 

End.

 

English-language video (but sketchy and difficult to understand at times): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0oANKygvaA

INTERNET SOURCES

http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-o-s/spain.aspx

http://www.naiz.eus/hemeroteca/gara (various editions with reports concerning the Garoña plant)

SIXTEEN MURDERS IN ONE AREA OVER LESS THAN 24 HOURS

Diarmuid Breatnach

On a sunny but somewhat cool day on the 30th April, despite being on the cusp of the first day of Summer, a plaque was unveiled in North King Street. It was at last a memorial, a kind of formal recognition of a series of murders that took place in the locality 100 years ago. So many murders, in fact, that they have collectively become known as the “North King Street Massacre.”

In the closing days of the 1916 Rising the British army exacted brutal revenge on the civilian population of North King Street. Between 28th and 29th April sixteen civilian men and boys were brutally murdered by members of the South Staffordshire regiment of the British army.

The bodies of many of the victims were secretly buried in yards and cellars and personal items of the victims were stolen. Not one British soldier or officer was ever held to account for this atrocity.

The revenge on the civilian population of that small area of Dublin was for the spirited and well-planned defence of the area by Volunteers under Commandant Edward Daly, whose district HQ was the Four Courts. 60 Volunteers fought off repeated attacks by a force overall in their area of over 800 British soldiers — outnumbered 40 to 3 and, furthermore, without a single machine gun, of which the British had several (and better, faster firing rifles).  A video on the battle by Marcus Howard can be found here, with interviews with Darren Kelly and Derek Molyneux, authors of When the Clock Struck in 1916 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kuy5u6BnjQo

Lone piper leading march from Stoneybatter along North Brunswick Street

Lone piper leading march from Stoneybatter along North Brunswick Street

THE MASSACRE

An account and contemporary statements on the murders may be found here http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/bitstream/10599/11507/5/Fragment1916.pdf from which the following has been extracted:

‘These 15 unoffending citizens were murdered by the military under circumstances which mark the crime as a cold-blooded and calculated atrocity hardly equalled in the blackest annals of warfare. None of the victims had any connection whatever with the insurrection, and indeed some of them may have been entirely opposed to it. One of the- murdered men, immediately before being shot, pointed to a pictorial representation of the Royal Standard which hung over his bed as a proof of non-complicity with the Insurgents, but no mercy was shown him.

‘The doomed men were torn from the bosom of their family, and despite all exposulation and explanation regarding their views, or identity, and despite the tears and entreaties of their terror-stricken relatives and women-folk, were led away to be slaughtered. In some instances requests were made that the military should at least make enquiries at the neighbouring police stations or obtain information from some of the prominent citizens to whom they were known. But all appeals were fruitless, they all shared a common fate at the hands of their cruel captors.

‘The young son of poor Hickey — a lad of scarcely 15 years — was at the last moment heard pleading pathetically for his father’s life. Both father and son were butchered together.

‘The wife of one of the murdered men carried a baby a few weeks old in her arms; the wife of another gave birth to a child but a few weeks after her husband’s murder. Both saw their husbands led away to death without even a moment’s respite to snatch a last farewell to those they loved. The houses in which they were taken were never at any time occupied by the Volunteers and no traces of arms or ammunition were found on the premises.

‘None of the murders was done during a sudden attack of assault, or in the heat of passion. In some cases several hours elapsed, allowing ample time for consultation with the officers in command before the doomed men were slaughtered. The officers seem in all cases to have overseen or directed the “ military operations.’ It would be difficult to find a parallel to these atrocious crimes.

‘At the inquest on Patrick Bealan and James Healy, Lieut.-Col. Taylor did not appear but sent a statement to’ the Coroner in the course of which he said :

“ No persons were attacked by the troops other than those who were assisting the rebels, and found with arms in their possession.”

General Maxwell afterwards made the sufficiently candid and luminous statement in the “ Daily Mail ” respecting the conduct of the troops under his command:

“. . . . Possibly some unfortunate incidents, which we should regret now, mav have occurred . . . . it is even possible that under the horrors of this attack some of them ‘ saw red ’, that is the inevitable consequences of a rebellion of this kind. It was allowed to come into being among these people and could not be suppressed by velvet glove methods, where troops were so desperately opposed and attacked. Some, at any rate, of the allegations are certainly false, and are probably made in order to establish a claim for compensation from the Government.”

Past and Future

Past and Future

Section of crowd at North King Street at unveiling of plaque event

Section of crowd at North King Street at unveiling of plaque event

‘Repeated attempts were made to have a public enquiry into the facts of these military murders, but were opposed by the British Government.’

Sixteen civilians had been murdered in cold blood in one of the principal cities of the British Empire by soldiers of that very Empire.  No official investigation ever took place, no soldier or officer was ever charged.

NO MEMORIAL FOR NINETY-NINE YEARS

It is perhaps understandable that no memorial was put up to mark the massacre while the British remained in occupation of the city – it would have been taken down by the authorities. But after the 26-County State was set up in 1921, it is less easy to understand. These victims were innocent civilians and not partisan to either side during the Civil War or the years of anti-Republican repression that followed. Not even the allegedly ‘Republican’ governments of Fianna Fáil provided a permanent marker to commemorate the massacre.

But for some years, Terry Crosbie, a local history enthusiast, has been campaigning to get a memorial erected to remember the massacre and its victims. Slowly, over the years, his campaign attracted support and finally came to fruition this year, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and of the massacre too. Terry had in mind a boulder with a plaque on it but found that difficult to advance and, faced with a plaque being at last permitted and the wish to see the massacre being marked in its centenary, was pleased to see the erection of the plaque 100 years after those hours of terror for the area.

Historians and Reenactors by the plaque

Historians and Reenactors by the plaque

Terry Lyons (foreground), moving spirit behind the commemoration, in private conversation after the event

Terry Lyons (foreground), moving spirit behind the commemoration, in private conversation after the event

A PLAQUE AT LAST

The parade for the march to the site assembled at 2.00pm outside Kavanagh’s Pub on Aughrim Street in Stoneybatter and not long afterwards departed in a short parade, led by a piper, to North King Street where the plaque was unveiled

Dr. Mary Muldowney of the Smithfield and Stoneybatter People’s History Project presided at the short ceremony. However, the amplification seemed poor and most people failed to hear what was being said. A number of “We can’t hear!” calls resulted in slightly better volume but still not enough for most to hear. A song that had been specifically written about the massacre was played but the same difficulty prevailed.Leacht

The plaque was unveiled to loud applause and wreaths and single lillies were placed before it by people related to the massacre victims.

The attendance was a healthy one in numbers as may be seen from the photos but also attracted a great cross-section of the political spectrum: older Stickies and Provos, some Left Labour, independent socialists and Republicans, housing activists, Save Moore Street activists, anti-Water Tax campaigners mixed with historians and local people who had no political organisational or campaign affiliation to speak of.

It was good to see a permanent memorial at last to the murder in cold blood of 16 civilians by an Army that has been responsible for countless atrocities around the world, including a number during the 30 Years War in the Six Counties; at least one of their units is accused in bronze here for what they did over a period of less than 24 hours one hundred years ago.

End.

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.

 

end

THE BLOODIEST BATTLE OF THE EASTER RISING

D. Breatnach

99 YEARS AGO ON 26th APRIL, THE BLOODIEST BATTLE OF THE EASTER RISING WAS FOUGHT IN A DUBLIN SUBURB

At a little past 6am on 26th April 1916, the SS Tynwald and SS Patriotic, two British troop-ships, had berthed in Dun Laoghaire harbour. The harbour and town had been renamed Kingstown by Unionist elements when King George IV came to visit the new port under construction in 1821. Although the town returned to its former name in 1920, it was known as “Kingstown” by most people in 1916, whatever their allegiance.

The troopships had been requested by General Maxwell, who had been given the responsibility for suppression of the Easter Rising, which was now in its third day. Several British thousand troops from the 59th Midland division began to disembark on a bright sunny morning. Hundreds of civilians went down to see them despite the early hour. Many in that town, especially around the seafront and some of the big houses, would have been sympathetic to the British – but by no means all and no doubt some eyes were noting the arrivals in order to report to the insurgents.

Around 9am, disembarkation completed, the soldiers were formed up and inspected, equipment checked and the Sherwood Foresters set off marching towards Dublin city centre, seven miles away, to be followed by Nottingham and Derby regiments around 10.30hrs. Their forces appear to have split up, with two Battalions marching to the city along the coast road and another two heading inland.

To reach the city centre from Dun Laoghaire, the most direct route is to proceed northward along the coast to Mount Merrion. Once there, the coast road goes through the railway level crossing to the right and continues along the seafront, into Ringsend and then along what is now Pearse Street to Trinity College. The British officers did not lead their men in that direction, perhaps because they had received intelligence of the Boland’s Mill strongpoint along their route. There would be no going past that without first taking it, which might prove a lengthy and difficult battle.

But one could avoid that by not turning right at Mount Merrion and instead continuing on what has become the main road, through Ballsbridge and Northumberland Road, across the Grand Union Canal at Mount Street Bridge, past the fashionable Merrion Square and into Nasseau Street and the city centre. That seemed the obvious choice, not just because of the Jacob’s garrison but also because at Mount Street Bridge was located Beggars’ Bush Barracks, one of the many such of the British Army in Dublin city.

Northumberland Road looking southwards. The Irish insurgents first saw the British troops coming up this road.

Northumberland Road looking southwards. The Irish insurgents first saw the British troops coming up this road.  The Parochial Hall and Schoolhouse are to the left but out of the photo.  The canal is behind the photographer.  (Photo D.Breatnach)

Before the British troops arrived in the area, a female courier, probably Cumann na mBan, had brought news of the troops landed in Dún Laoghaire and that they were heading towards them to the insurgents waiting in the Mount Street Bridge area.

At around noon a burst of fire hit the forward sections of the British troops marching in from Dun Laoghaire. When fired upon, in order to find effective cover, it is important to know from where the firing is coming but the soldiers were unsure. No. 25 Northumberland Road, a house at the junction with Haddington Road, seemed to some to be the source of the firing but by how many was unknown.

Screams from wounded men filled the air in the quiet suburban upper-middle class and largely Loyalist residential street.

Soldiers began to maneouver to outflank No.25 Northumberland Road and a detachment reached Baggot Street Bridge, further west, which was apparently undefended. From there it is a straight road into Stephens Green and the southside city centre. The rest of the soldiers were not led by their officers in that direction, a decision which was to cost them dearly. Instead, shortly after being fired upon, at least two British platoons attacked 25 Northumberland Road but were driven back in disarray by fire from the building’s upper floors; yet as they turned they were also shot down in droves.

Perhaps under cover of that assault, at around 1pm some of the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters got past the corner house and made their way on to Percy Place, which runs along the south side of the canal between Mount Street and Baggot Street bridges. Now they came under fire from in front and from their left. They huddled for cover along the Canal.

The fire from the left of the British at this point was coming at long distance from the towers of Jacob’s Factory in Bishop Street, one of the insurgent strongpoints. A defensive line with insufficient mobilised insurgent numbers to hold it for very long stretched from Jacob’s down to the railway connecting Dublin and Dun Laoghaire and to Boland’s Mill beside it, overlooking the south bank of the Liffey. Roughly in the middle of this chain or defensive line were the Irish Volunteers in the Mount Street Bridge area, an outpost of the Boland’s Mill garrison.  The total strength of the insurgent force defending that area had been 17 Volunteers but two had been sent home, being thought too young.   

New Clanwilliam House, Mount Street, north side of the Royal Cana. Looking eastward.

New Clanwilliam House, Mount Street, north side of the Royal Canal, looking eastward. The Bridge and Canal are to the right but out of shot. (Photo D.Breatnach)

The Schoolhouse, Northumberland Road, today (a snack-cafe nowadays). The Bridge is to the right; the British troops were advancing along the road from the right.

The Schoolhouse, Northumberland Road, today (a snack-cafe nowadays). The Bridge is to the right; the British troops were advancing along the road from the right.

Incredible as it seemed to the British when they learned of it later, there were only two Volunteers in No.25 Northumberland Road: 27 year-old Volunteer Lieutenant Michael Malone, a carpenter by trade, and Section Commander James Grace. In the Schoolhouse on the right-hand side just before the Bridge, there were two Volunteers. Next to that building was the Parochial Hall, held by four men: P.J. Doyle in command, Joe Clarke, William Christian and J. McGrath. Clanwilliam House, across the canal on the right-hand corner with the junction with Mount Street Lower, was occupied by seven Volunteers; the frontal fire hitting the British was coming from there.

The British were scattered around gardens and behind the granite steps leading up the to front doors of the elegant houses in the street. Their officers called them out and they launched an attack on the Schoolhouse in Northumberland Road. As they charged up the road they came under fire from across the Canal from Clanwilliam House; about a dozen reached the Schoolhouse but they left many bodies behind. And they were still coming under fire from across the Canal too.

The officers now attempted to outflank Mount Street Bridge and Northumberland Road by advancing along Shelbourne Road to the east but were stopped as they came under fire from Volunteers along the railway line and from positions in and around Horan’s Shop nearby.

The column advancing from Dun Laoghaire had set up a temporary HQ in Ballsbridge Town Hall. Incredibly, the officers there, receiving regular dispatches reporting their troops being slaughtered around Mount Street Bridge and, presumably, knowing that other troops had found Baggot Street Bridge undefended, continued to press for an advance across the killing field.

But at least the officers on the battlefield for the time being seem to have had enough of death-or-glory charges, which were bringing plenty of death and no glory. The soldiers are now crawling along the road but whenever any are visible, which is often, they are being fired at. Clanwilliam House is wreathed in smoke.

Mauser Model 71 small

The Mauser Mark 71

The weapon the Volunteers were using was almost certainly the Mauser Model 71, the weapon of most Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army during the Rising; 1,500 had been been delivered in two landings in July 1914, first at Howth, north Dublin and then at Kilcoole, Wicklow. It had been the first cartridge rifle adopted by the Prussian Army in 1872 which by 1914 had gone on to another more advanced model, presumably the reason that the rifle was being sold cheaply. The Model 71 fired a larger bullet than the British Army standard-issue Lee Enfield .303 but did not have a magazine, each cartridge having to be ejected and anew one inserted before firing again; its rate of fire was only four or five rounds a minute. The Lee Enfield took a ten-bullet magazine and the British Army were trained to fire fifteen rounds a minute. Despite this, the occupants in Clanwillian House and in No.25 in particular were able to lay down a tremendous rate of fire. Their guns grew so hot they burned to the touch and they had to cool them with wet rags. Down below, British officers blew their whistles and soldiers carried out more charges, only to be cut down by the Volunteers’ rifle fire.

During the late afternoon, a nurse ran on to the road and began treating the wounded British soldiers. The Volunteers agreed to a ceasefire as doctors and nurses from Sir Patrick Dunne’s hospital nearby went into Northumberland Road. But after a while the British attempted to use the ceasefire to advance their positions and the Volunteers ended it. Those wounded still to be tended lay where they were. This had been very different situation to what was to be seen in other areas of Dublin during the Rising, when British troops refused to allow wounded to be taken out unless the insurgents surrendered and when they accused Nurse Elizabeth Farrell of being a spy and tore her Red Cross bibfront off her.

The British got a machine gun up to the bell-tower of the church on Haddington Road so that they could fire over the roofs of the houses at Clanwilliam House, the bullets knocking chips off the outer walls and zipping through windows. They were also being backed by rifle snipers.

British soldiers recommenced attacking No.25, now with hand grenades as well as rifle fire. Finally they got close enough to blow the door in with explosives but incredibly were fired upon from inside as they tried to gain entry, injuring a number of them. They hurled grenades in and after they exploded, dashed in again. Coming down the stairs to meet them was Volunteer Lieutenant Michael Malone, his pipe in his mouth and was shot dead.

Section Commander James Grace had been downstairs using a cooker as cover from bullets and shrapnel and such was the bomb damage to the room that the British assumed anyone in there had to be dead. There was still plenty of fighting to do – they had not even crossed the Canal yet.

If they believed that two men alone had held out against repeated assaults for four hours and had inflicted such damage upon them, they must have been very fearful leaving No.25. But perhaps they thought there had been others who must have escaped in the last minutes. James Grace did escape to get out of the area after lying low for some hours; however he was arrested some days later.

With No.25 taken, the Sherwood Foresters are soon able to take the Parochial Hall but they find it empty. The garrison of four Volunteers had run out of rifle ammunition and evacuated into Percy Place, where British troops, who were now all around the area, captured them.

An officer takes Volunteer Joe Clarke‘s loaded pistol off him, puts him with his back to a door and fires at him. Missing Joe, the bullet goes through the door to where a doctor is attending to injured British soldiers. He storms out in rage, berating the officer and Joe Clarke’s life is saved (he continued active in the IRA and in Republican politics nearly until his death in 1976 at the age of 94).

British soldiers are occupying nearby houses for cover and for firing positions and they are also crouched behind the low wall along Percy Place. They are still being hit. Now, they attack the Schoolhouse from its front, running across enfilading fire from Clanwilliam House to their left as they attack and from other positions to their front. When they enter, they find the Schoolhouse unoccupied by any Volunteer, alive or dead. However, their storm of bullets during the attack has riddled the bodies of its caretaker and his wife.

The cost to the British has been enormous but they have at last taken the southern side of the Canal around Mount Street Bridge. Across it, waiting for them, is Clanwilliam House. And to the east, their right-hand side, snipers at Boland’s Mill and nearby positions are also firing at them.

Now the officers order forward their reserves who had been sheltering in St Mary’s Road. The soldiers charge for the Bridge, answering to their discipline and their officers as they and many like them will do across the WWI battlefields of Europe, Greece, Turkey and Russia for another three years. It is partly against this slaughter that James Connolly led the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army out this week. One of the ICA’s detachments is not far away, under the command of Michael Malin and Constance Markievicz, in the College of Surgeons on the side of Stephens Green and they have already taken casualties.

Despite the covering fire from the Vickers Machine Gun firing incendiary bullets from St Mary’s Church, this charge too is driven back, their casualties adding to the pile of khaki-clad bodies and wounded on Northumberland Road, the Canal banks and the Bridge.

Around 8pm, the British are finally across Mount Street Bridge. An officer was in the charge, one of their few unwounded, and is at Clanwilliam House’s outer walls. Firing continues from the windows of this last insurgent bastion and from the east, a hail of Mauser death is still hitting the Bridge and the northern side of the Canal.

The British are now close enough to throw grenades but one, thrown by a British NCO, bounced back from a second floor window and exploded next to his head, killing him. The British begin to make their way into the now-burning Clanwilliam House but are forced to retreat by the flames, leaving the fire to consume the bodies of the presumed dead Volunteers inside. They will not know now how many there were. In fact, there were only seven Volunteers, three are dead and the remaining four have escaped out the back.

Clanwilliam House after the Rising

Clanwilliam House after the Rising

The four survivors of the Clanwilliam House garrison.

The four survivors of the Clanwilliam House garrison.

Ninety-nine years ago in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge, despite having only single-shot rifles and some pistols, the  Volunteers held off two British Battalions, numbering approximately1,600 between them, for five hours. Approximately 234 men (including 18 officers) of the British Army had become casualties at the hands of fifteen insurgents.

Mount Street Battle Monument on the south side of the Bridge. (Photo D.Breatnach)

Mount Street Battle Monument on the Bridge

Mount St Bridge Gaeilge pla

Part of the memorial on the south side of the canal. (Photo D.Breatnach)

End

Sources:

Article in http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/an-easter-rising-timeline-wednesday-april-26th-1916-1.2188089 drawing on When The Clock Struck in 1916 – Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molyneux and Darren Kelly, Collins Press, at €17.99.

Remembering the Past – the battle of Mount Street Bridge, by Aengus O Snodaigh, article in http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/6137

Article on the “Howth rifle” in http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-mauser-model-71-rifle/