" A wealth of information..."

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

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



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

Friday, June 24, 2005

THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

In a lane beside Drumree Post Office , behind an iron gate , two armed men were waiting ; they wore blue boiler-suits and black balaclavas . One carried a Sten submachine gun , the other had a Webley revolver , .455 calibre . Just a few feet away , inside the post office , Michael Gilsenan and Mick Boyle , the local postman , were sorting mail .

The post office van pulled into the lay-by at Drumree Post Office ; Donal Brady , the van helper , got out with the money bag - this time he did'nt wait for Detective Frank Hand to join him . He went into the post office . It was 8.03am , give or take a minute . The Garda Fiat car coasted to a stop behind the post van . The gunmen in boiler suits , two of them , began running towards the garda car from the lane beside the post office . The one in front had the Sten gun , the one slightly behind had the Webley .

Detective Garda Michael Dowd , glancing to his left , saw the two gunmen coming at him ; he shouted to Frank Hand : someone else shouted - " GET DOWN , YOU FUCKER ! " The man with the Webley was already firing - there were six bullets in the cylinder , .455 calibre , all old , some defective . The man got off three rounds , two of which hit the rear left door of the garda Fiat . One lodged in the door panel , the other passing through the car , missing both gardai and smashing through the driver's window , beside Frank Hand .

The third shot from the Webley hit the ground behind the post office van . The gunman pulled the trigger again , and once more , those two rounds misfired ; at this stage the gunman with the Sten was moving to his left : he had not yet fired . He was now standing to the front and left of the garda car . While this was happening - inside the post office Gilsenan and Boyle and Brady heard the running feet , the shouting , the shots . Boyle and Brady ran out the back of the post office and hid in a shed . Gilsenan ran forward and slammed the front door of the post office . He locked the door and went upstairs to look out the window .......

(MORE LATER).




TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

Gerry Fitt manned a polling station for Sinn Fein in 1958 ; he was of the opinion that Sean South was 'a broth of a boy' , though a bit of an 'eejit' , rolling up to the RUC barracks door like that to get shot dead . " I would have worked with anybody that got up and after the Unionists , " said Fitt , explaining his liaison with Sinn Fein . " Sinn Fein then was'nt like it is now , and I agreed to man a polling station for them in the Belfast Corporation elections . A woman came in to personate for the Unionists . I spotted her straight away and challenged her and she stood her ground so I called the police (sic) over to arrest her . 'You can't do that ' , says the Sinn Fein man beside me . 'Why not ?' , says I . ' Because you'll have to testify in court against her and we don't recognise the courts ' , says he . 'Fucks sake , ye bunch of cunts' , says I , and I tore up my agent's card and walked away . " ('1169....' Comment - ... and he spent the rest of his political career "walking away... " )

Twenty two years later , Sinn Fein were'nt even recognising the prisons ; in November 1980 , 'blanket prisoners' went on hunger strike in pursuit of political status ; Gerry Fitt sat in the House of Commons , opposite Margaret Thatcher , on Monday November 10 , 1980 , and listened to speeches about unemployment . 35,900 people had been thrown on the dole in Wales in one year . A computer company had just closed , shedding fifteen hundred workers . The British Steel workforce had been reduced by 826 that week . The Broadcasting Bill for a fourth television channel was discussed , plus plans for Welsh language programmes . At 8pm , the Commons moved onto the issue of the North of Ireland -

- 'Remanded Persons' was up for discussion , and Humphrey Atkins assured the House that the current industrial strike by prison officers in the North , in support of the strike taken by prison officers in England , was not affecting the security situation in Long Kesh : " In the province (sic) we do not have the rapid turnover in and out of prisons that occurs in England and Wales . " Prisoners in the North of Ireland were serving much longer sentences , you see . Some of those prisoners were on hunger strike this two weeks now , but Mr Atkins scarcely discussed that . But Jim Molyneux did ; he spent eleven minutes 'explaining' that "...the IRA hunger-strikers .. " were " beasts . " He urged the British government not even to concede civilian clothing to
them . Molyneux sat down , and Gerry Fitt rose to his feet .......

(MORE LATER).




THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS .......
" We declare that political status is ours of right and we declare that from Monday 27th October 1980 a hunger-strike by a number of men representing H-Blocks 3 , 4 and 5 will commence . Our widely-recognised resistance has carried us through four years of immense suffering and it shall carry us through to the bitter climax of death , if necessary . "
No by-line.
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .

The whole question of the role of the GAA in Nationalist affairs was raised , with it becoming blatantly clear that the courage was lacking from top GAA Officials to come out openly , and support with direct action , motions passed at successive GAA congresses which backed the prisoners' demands .

The influence of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members , and the ever-present voice of the Garda Siochana in the GAA , was beginning to cause even more alarm among GAA Headquarters' staff ; the grassroots' support at Northern level was understandable as many clubs had at least one member in Long Kesh , but the gulf in understanding of many Southern GAA personnel was a reflection of how removed from the realities of the Northern situation they had become .

GAA Headquarters kept one careful eye on events in Long Kesh and the other on those middle-class conservatives who wanted the GAA to steer well clear of involvement in the H-Blocks crisis . Statements from the GAA management committee referred to bringing "...the whole sad situation to an end ... in the interests of peace .. " - hardly words calculated to cause Southern politicians to take seriously the degree of GAA concern over the prison situation !

Other statements talked of "...humanitarian concern .. " , while the increased pressure exerted by some GAA members in the South gave rise to terms such as "...condemnation of violence and men of violence .. " being increasingly included in policy statements from the GAA management committee .......

(MORE LATER).







Thursday, June 23, 2005

THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

Ironically , the route which the post office van took on its way to the beginning of its deliveries - through Phibsboro , Cabra , Blanchardstown etc - was the way it would travel on its official route back ; in other words , the van was going to almost the most distant point on the route before beginning to drop off money ! Had it began dropping off mailbags on its way out of the city it would have arrived in Drumree with just a few thousand pounds .

The armed Detectives stayed roughly 100 yards behind the post office van ; routinely , they paid attention to any vehicle coming in sight , assessing it for danger . There was nothing suspicious . At Dunboyne Post Office , the first drop , the garda car stopped behind the van ; Detective Michael Dowd sat where he was , the Uzi on his lap . Detective Frank Hand got out of the car ; the post office helper , Donal Brady , got out of the van with the mailbag . He and Hand went to the door of the post office together , and Hand kicked the bottom of the door and rattled the letterbox . The bag of money was handed over .

Next stop , Batterstown , the same procedure . Detective Hand got out , Dowd stayed in the car . Brady got out of the van and J.J. Bell , the van driver , stayed at the wheel . No problems . Next stop , Drumree . The van now carried £202,900 in cash . It was about 7.50am .

Around that time Tommy Eccles , Pat McPhillips and someone else , a man with an earring , were in the red Mercedes in the shed about three miles from Drumree ; Brian McShane was in the beige Opel Ascona along with some others . They had walkie-talkies . In Kentstown , about fifteen miles from Drumree , Seamus Lynch was up and about . He had to be in the designated field at Rathfeigh to pick up the money and guns ; he needed a car and knew where to get it . He had several times borrowed Joe Gargan's yellow Ford Escort . Gargan also lived in Kentstown .

Noel McCabe had left his home in Dundalk at 7.10am and was now driving his 'borrowed' blue Ford Cortina south-west towards a crossroads somewhere around Dunshaughlin , where he would pick up 'the lads' , as requested by Paul Finnegan .

In a lane beside Drumree Post Office , behind an iron gate , two armed men were waiting .......

(MORE LATER).




TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

The British offered a 'White Paper' dealing with the North of Ireland , in November 1979 ; but it contained no mention of an Irish dimension . Gerry Fitt urged acceptance of the paper in Belfast , saying - " An Irish dimension will always be there while the six counties exist on the island of Ireland ... " . The SDLP rejected the 'Paper' in Dungannon , west of the Bann . Fitt supported their stand and flew back to Westminster from where , one day later , faced with a British government that was fast losing patience with the Irish , he resigned from the SDLP .

Gerry Fitt was a man at the end of his tether . The IRA would'nt listen to the Pope ; the SDLP would'nt listen to him . He had the ear only of the RUC and the British House of Commons . And he had his gun : " I had only had it for protection , " he said , " the IRA never protected anybody . The (British) Army was there to protect people . ('1169... ' Comment - the SDLP position then . And now - ' those sent by our persecuters will protect us ... ' !) At least they (the British Army) had to follow the rules of the Yellow Card . ('1169...' Comment - did the 'Yellow Card' allow the BA to work with the Loyalist paramilitaries , too ... ?) The IRA never used a Yellow Card . "

Paddy Kennedy (SDLP) recalled the very early days : " Gerry could never figure out the Republicans . When he was out fighting World War Two , the IRA killed a policeman (sic) on the Springfield Road . " Tom Williams was hung for that in 1943 . " Gerry Fitt called the Republicans wimps and gimps and hunchies , running round with their coat collars turned up . The trouble was he was very funny about it . He can slander more wittily than anybody you'd know , and be laughing without realising the damage he was causing and the real hurt he was doing to people's feelings . "

For all that , Gerry Fitt manned a polling station for Sinn Fein in 1958 , in the middle of their 1956-1962 armed campaign against the B-Specials and the RUC . It was a comparatively minor campaign though , and few people died.......

(MORE LATER).




THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS .......
" We declare that political status is ours of right and we declare that from Monday 27th October 1980 a hunger-strike by a number of men representing H-Blocks 3 , 4 and 5 will commence . Our widely-recognised resistance has carried us through four years of immense suffering and it shall carry us through to the bitter climax of death , if necessary . "
No by-line.
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .

Organised protests in the North took up again with the commencement of the second hunger-strike in March 1981 , intensifying with the dark news that Bobby Sands was growing weaker .

Every team travelling North from the 26 counties experienced H-Block demonstrations at half-time and were continually made aware of the feelings of Northern GAA members about the dilemma of their fellow Irishmen in Long Kesh . GAA banners were familiar sights on H-Block marches across the six counties and GAA grounds were frequent venues for demonstrations and rallies . The H-Block video film was distributed around many GAA social centres and enthusiastically received .

In August 1981 , a seven-day token fast and vigil was held outside Casement Park in Belfast by South Antrim GAA members ; it was to be expected that the British Army would not allow the picket to go by without harassment , and indeed two plastic bullets were fired into the protestors without warning , but they stood their ground and refused to be intimidated .

Over £2000 was collected at this fast and vigil in an illustration of the unstinting generosity of the people of West Belfast , who simultaneously were being called upon to contribute to a constant stream of other collections to provide the finance necessary for the hunger-strike campaign ; however , concern began to grow among the GAA's conservative hierarchy that the organisation , and particularly its Northern members , were going too far .

These people feared that the support shown for the blanketmen would 'tarnish' the nice respectable image the GAA nurtured , and that full backing for the prisoners' five demands would be interpreted as support for the armed struggle .......

(MORE LATER).







Wednesday, June 22, 2005

THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

Drumree , August 10 , 1984 :

Just before 7am that morning Detective Garda Frank Hand of the Central Detective Unit arrived at his Headquarters at Harcourt Square . The detective with whom he would work that day , Detective Garda Michael Dowd , was already there . Dowd had signed out an attache case which held an Uzi submachine gun ; the two Gardai went out and found the Fiat Mirafiori they would be using that day . Dowd took the Uzi from the case , along with two magazines carrying twenty rounds each ; he put the attach case , containing three more magazines , on the back seat of the Fiat .

He put one magazine into the Uzi and left the other on the floor of the car near his feet . He was also armed with a Walther P.P. semi-automatic pistol ; Frank Hand was armed with a Smith and Wesson .38 Special . Frank Hand was 25 . He joined the Garda force in 1977 and became a detective in 1981 . He was one of seven children of a Roscommon family and , on joining , in 1977 , worked in Dublin - in Donnybrook and Irishtown . In 1981 he became a detective and subsequently worked with the Drug Squad . Early in 1984 he was assigned to the Central Detective Unit .

In July 1984 he married Ban Gharda Breda Hogan ; they had returned from their honeymoon in Venice about a week before Hand set out with Detective Michael Dowd on post office escort duty . They lived in Lucan , County Dublin . Frank Hand was driving . He and Dowd arrived at the GPO at around 7.15am and almost immediately drew in behind a post office van and set off on Route 3 , which begins at Dunboyne , in Meath , just beyond the border with Dublin . That Route then went to a few post offices in Meath , wound back into Dublin , through Blanchardstown , Cabra , Phibsboro , to Berkeley Road , a stone's throw from O' Connell Street .

Route 3 covered nineteen post offices , there were twenty-three mailbags in the van , containing almost a quarter of a million pounds , most of it social welfare money .......

(MORE LATER).




TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

Gerry Fitt was returned for West Belfast , for the last time , in the May 1979 general election which followed . Michael Foot , who had negotiated the deal with the Unionists , paid glowing quoted tribute in Fitt's election literature : Frank Cluskey , leader of the (Free State) Labour Party signed himself "...deeply impressed by your unrelenting opposition to social injustice and sectarianism .. " . Joe Gormley , President of the Mineworkers Union was quoted too , as was Ray Buckton , General Secretary of ASLEF .

The SDLP got the vote out for him ; they did not attempt to get the vote out in Fermanagh-Tyrone , that peculiar seat west of the Bann , where Frank Maguire was returned as a Unity candidate . Austin Currie resigned as chief whip of the SDLP to fight Frank Maguire as 'independent SDLP' and he lost .

In June , John Hume won a northern Euro seat without the help of Gerry Fitt , who went to Dublin to campaign for the (FS) Labour Party . In September the Pope came . In November the SDLP annual conference barely rejected a motion from the mid-Ulster branch calling for talks with the Provos and suppressed motions critical of Gerry Fitt .

Later that November , Humphrey Atkins , with the approval of Margaret Thatcher , published a white paper suggesting yet another Assembly to which " If ... " etc , and everybody being agreed of course ... - but there was to be no mention of an Irish dimension . Still , in Belfast , Gerry Fitt urged acceptance of the paper . But not all in the SDLP agreed with him .......

(MORE LATER).




THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS .......
" We declare that political status is ours of right and we declare that from Monday 27th October 1980 a hunger-strike by a number of men representing H-Blocks 3 , 4 and 5 will commence . Our widely-recognised resistance has carried us through four years of immense suffering and it shall carry us through to the bitter climax of death , if necessary . "
No by-line.
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .

Some GAA clubs had taken the decision not to play football and hurling at all during the hunger-strike : in the South Antrim Division the 25 clubs came out and fully supported the five demands , agreeing to cancel fixtures on days of national demonstrations to encourage members to attend .

It was at one of these demonstrations , in Belfast on Sunday 30th November 1980 , that 3,000 GAA members marched up the Falls Road from the Dunville Park to the GAA grounds at Casement Park where the rally was held . Buses had ferried in the GAA supporters from all parts of the North , but the loudest cheer was reserved for the contingent that had travelled all the way from North Tipperary .

On an administrative level , with the example of prominent GAA individuals such as the legendary Kerry footballer Joe Keohane throwing their weight behind the campaign , various County Boards answered their members' concern by issuing statements of support . The Antrim County Executive Committee of the GAA declared -

- " We call on the British government to take immediate steps to afford normal decent standards and humane treatment to the prisoners , to relieve further distress for their relatives .... we confirm our support for the principles embodied in the five demands of the prisoners on hunger-strike . "

Telegrams were sent by clubs in the Antrim area to the (British) 'Northern Ireland Office' , and the British and Free State premiers .......

(MORE LATER).







Tuesday, June 21, 2005

THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

Others lined up that day for the robbery of a post van at Drumree Post Office were Paddy Duffy of Dromiskin , to provide the stolen cars ; Tommy Eccles of Dundalk , who had brought the Mercedes down from Newry and who was to drive it in the robbery ; Joe Gargan of Kentstown , who was to provide Seamus Lynch with a car and help him hide the money ; Noel McCabe , who had been doing odd jobs for Paul Finnegan , who was to drive three robbers to safety ; and Pat McPhillips and Brian McShane , two Provos from Dundalk who were to help unload the money from the post office van into the red Mercedes .

There were also at least two others lined up for the robbery , plus Paul Finnegan : two armed men would wait at Drumree Post Office for the post van to arrive , the others would be involved in getting the money and guns away from the area after the job . That night Paul Finnegan and a number of others assembled in Paddy Duffy's yard at Dromiskin , about six miles south of Dundalk ; Duffy was the Provo who lived in the mobile home and was in charge of providing the cars . He had the Opel Ascona ready , someone else brought the red Mercedes . That was the end of Duffy's participation in the robbery .

Noel MCabe , the alcoholic who had been doing odd jobs for Paul Finnegan , had driven Finnegan out to Paddy Duffy's place that night , where the cars and guns were assembled . Finnegan passed money around - he gave McCabe £30 to make sure the blue Ford Cortina had enough petrol ; he showed McCabe the crossroads where he was to pick up 'the lads' next morning . McCabe then drove Finnegan back to Dundalk , getting home himself at about a quarter to one in the morning . He was uneasy and had trouble getting to sleep . Meanwhile , Tommy Eccles , Pat McPhillips , Brian McShane and some others moved on from Duffy's to some sheds near Dunshaughlin , about three miles from Drumree .

They travelled in the stolen Mercedes and Ascona ; they slept in the sheds that night .

Earlier that day , (FS) Detective Sergeant Patrick Millea of the Central Detective Unit was rostering gardai for Friday's duties . He assigned Detective Garda Francis Hand for Post Office escort duty commencing at 7am the next day .......

(MORE LATER).




TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

" When the Shankill Butchers were caught and charged , " says Gerry Fitt , " I was over the moon ! Then in walks Paschal O' Hare (SDLP Councillor) and announces that he's defending them . I refused to drink with him ; a Catholic defending Prods that cut Catholic throats . I've heard of ethics but that was just ridiculous . " ('1169...' Comment - not for the SDLP , it was'nt .... !)

The breakdown of ethics in RUC and British Army behaviour was revealed in the Bennet Report in 1979 and the (British) Labour government refused time to discuss it in Westminster ; they were by now a minority government and were holding onto power by means of a deal with Unionist MP's at the 'House of Commons' . If the Unionists abstained from any vote against them , Labour would increase , at Westminster , representation for those from the North , from twelve seats to seventeen . A vote of confidence was called and Gerry Fitt held the balance of power -

- " This will be the unhappiest speech I have ever made in the House , " Fitt began , and he explained that he would abstain from voting for Labour , citing the Bennet Report , the deal with the Unionists and Roy Mason's behaviour in the North of Ireland as his reasons for standing aside while Labour fell : " The Labour Government ," said Fitt , " are not the best government to grapple with the Irish problem (sic - it's a British problem) . I respect the Conservative government of 1970-1974 which tried courageously * to reach a settlement in Northern Ireland . " (sic) (* ... by which Fitt was referring to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement : a failure because , as with the 1998 Stormont Treaty , it contained no date for British withdrawal. Incidentally , that 1973 'Agreement' acknowledged the fact that the Six Counties " ...are part of the geographical entity of Ireland .. " , which is more than Adams and Co. managed to obtain in 1998 !)

After finishing his speech , Gerry Fitt left the Chamber without hearing the vote : " I saw a Tory when I finished speaking , " he said later , " a real bloated Tory . You could have identified him anywhere as a Tory . He was sneering at the Labour government side . If I'd stayed on , I'd have had to vote against anything he was voting for . "

The SDLP , which did not know how Gerry Fitt was going to vote over in Westminster , heaved a sigh of relief ....... ('1169... ' Comment - a political party which styles itself as a 'democratic' entity [Social Democratic Labour Party] and it gives its leader free reign to vote as he [in this case] sees fit on such an important issue ! And this same party continues to dismiss Republicans as "undemocratic ... " ! )

(MORE LATER).




THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS .
" We declare that political status is ours of right and we declare that from Monday 27th October 1980 a hunger-strike by a number of men representing H-Blocks 3 , 4 and 5 will commence . Our widely-recognised resistance has carried us through four years of immense suffering and it shall carry us through to the bitter climax of death , if necessary . "
No by-line.
From 'IRIS' magazine , November 1983 .

The above quote announced the decision by Republican blanket-men in the H-Blocks to commence the first of the two major hunger-strikes during 1980 and 1981 . Impassioned messages urging support were smuggled out of Long Kesh from the prisoners - with over 150 of the H-Block men from every Ulster county having connections with GAA clubs it was no surprise that the Association was asked to use its influence at every level to raise the prisoners' five demands . One letter smuggled out put the case in simple terms -

- " We appeal to you in the GAA to act now to avert death in the H-Blocks . We urge you to mobilise to divert the British government from its illogical and wholly insane stance . We hope that our plea will not fall on deaf ears within the GAA . We also hope that the GAA will not allow the barbed wire , the concrete walls and the iron bars of Long Kesh to stifle those cries for justice . "

Individual GAA clubs immediately rallied to the call for support with advertisements being inserted in 'The Irish News' newspaper . The grassroots reaction , in particular from counties like Derry , Tyrone and Antrim , was swift , recognising that the Association was more than simply a sporting body . The occupation of GAA grounds and premises in Crossmaglen and Casement Park , Belfast ; the banning of the carrying of hurling sticks as if they were offensive weapons ; and the day-to-day harassment of GAA members , had all brought a deeper understanding of why the GAA had been formed , and the reality of the consequences of promoting the Association's ideals - those of National freedom and cultural identity - in the bigoted Orange state .

With GAA activists working and co-ordinating support in the North , demonstrations were held at half-time during National League matches , pamphlets were issued to spectators and collections taken up .......

(MORE LATER).







Monday, June 20, 2005

THE DEATH OF FRANK HAND .......
On February 10 , 1986 , the courts turned down the appeals of three men sentenced to hang . The men now face , on commutation of sentence by the (Free State) government , 40 years in prison without remission , for their involvement in the Drumree robbery and killing .
By GENE KERRIGAN.
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

Noel McCabe kept the bag of IRA guns under his bench for a few weeks ; Paul Finnegan came and took them away . A few days later he was back with a request that Noel McCabe " ...do a wee run . " Someone else had let him down ; and , at the weekend he might want McCabe to do another run up the country "...to collect a few lads and take them back to Dundalk . "

Noel McCabe drove Finnegan about three-quarters of a mile up the Carrickmacross Road that day , to an old farmhouse . There was an old man there and he told Finnegan - " There was a few of your lads here earlier this week . " A Ford Cortina drove into the yard and a transaction followed involving guns ; one man from the Cortina wound coloured tape around a rifle - " I'll know my marking , " he told Finnegan .

That gun was passed on to a man driving yet another car , and then Noel McCabe drove Finnegan back to Dundalk ; on the way , Finnegan told McCabe he wanted him to pick up three blokes the following Friday morning , August 10 , and take them to Dundalk - they would'nt be armed , they'd be clean . On the Thursday night , Finnegan would show him where to pick them up . That Thursday , Paul Finnegan went about organising a number of people for the robbery of a post van at Drumree Post Office , to take place about 8am the following morning .

Drumree is a 'speck on the map' about twenty miles from Dublin , about forty-five miles from Dundalk ; the post office is in a lay-by . It is run by Mary Gilsenan and her son Michael - it is not the obvious place for a large haul .

That Thursday , Paul Finnegan went to Drogheda at noon and met Seamus Lynch , a Provo from Kentstown , which is about fifteen miles from Drumree : Finnegan instructed Lynch to be at a field at Rathfeigh , near Drumree , shortly after 8am the following morning , to collect guns and money and store them . Finnegan and Lynch drove to the field so that Finnegan could show Lynch where to pick up the stuff.......

(MORE LATER).




TO WESTMINSTER AND BACK .......
The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

Gerry Fitt was " ...beginning to regret the decision to set it up (the 'Housing Executive') at all .. " His political base , which he had assiduously tended since first becoming a Councillor , was being cut from under him .

In lesser 'wigwams' , in the cells of Long Kesh , men wrapped only in blankets had spent the years since 1976 signalling with excrement smeared on the walls that life was unbearable : " I remain convinced to this day that some of the men sentenced were absolutely innocent , " says Michael Canavan (SDLP) . " Confessions had been tortured out of them by the RUC in Castlereagh . There was a definate breakdown in the administration of law and order . That only increased the alienation between the Catholic population and them , and reinforced the support for the Provos . I had difficulty in persuading the SDLP that brutality and corruption was going on .

Reluctance to admit that things were so was reinforced by the knowledge that every time you criticised the RUC you were strengthening the hand of the IRA . I issued a detailed statement one morning , criticising the UDR , and a few hours later a UDR man and his young daughter were blown up in their car . I was physically sick all day but I stood over my statement . "

Gerry Fitt , he says , "...always got things just slightly wrong .. " on the issue of law and order , highlighting the activities of the IRA and the loyalists , and never totally appreciating the more covert activities of the (British) 'security forces' . Paddy Kennedy , erstwhile colleague of Fitt , had a meeting with him in Dublin around that time : " Gerry had raised the wrongful imprisonment of Giuseppe Conlon in Westminster and I mentioned to him the framing of an IRA man well known to us both . Fitt replied - ' I know he is innocent of that particular charge , but he's guilty of plenty of other things ... ' . " Gerry Fitt refused to pursue the matter .

The ethics of handling law and order was something that was to puzzle Gerry Fitt always , and came to the fore in an incident involving the 'Shankill Butchers' .......

(MORE LATER).




UPS AND DOWNS FOR RUC's PERJURER STRATEGY .......
SEAN DELANEY looks at recent developments in the use of perjurers in the North .
From ' IRIS ' magazine , November 1983 .

Significantly , in a 'Panorama' programme screened on BBC 1 television on October 24th - after Robert Lean's retraction - Ian Paisley again appeared to resolutely oppose the use of perjurers : more than most politicians , he , arguably , has a great deal to lose from future loyalist perjurers bringing up parts of his past life !

For loyalists , under greater pressure from the judiciary than for a long time , the use of paid perjurers must be causing a further crisis of identity and resulting in a heavy demoralisation . But for nationalists , existing under a constant regime of repression , the situation is clearer-cut and the option a simple one - resistance .

With scores of nationalists and republicans still imprisoned on the 'word' of paid perjurers , there is certainly no room for complacency despite recent retractions and the ever-present hope of more , but there is now a will and an ability to mobilise on the issue in the nationalist community that was not fully there before .

[END of ' UPS AND DOWNS FOR RUC's PERJURER STRATEGY'].
(Tomorrow - 'THE GAA AND THE HUNGER-STRIKERS' : from 1983 ).