" 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, December 02, 2005

" DON'T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE " .......
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

The prison Governor states that strip-searches are carried out on a " spot-check" basis ; my repeated ordeals denied that as true . The ordeal of being strip-searched continually had a pronounced and adverse effect on many of its victims , both physical and psychological .

I saw girls being physically ill on the morning of their court appearance and I saw others biting back tears upon their return , and heard them stifling their sobs in the 'privacy' of their cells . I saw their anger and their revulsion , and I felt their pain .

Within a few months I was released from Armagh Jail , when the British Crown 'witness' became unwilling to perjure the lives of so many innocent people . Within me I carry the memory of the Armagh women , their joy when we heard that the British government would have to release me : I think of Marie , who felt everyone's troubles of any nature .

I think of Siobhan , five feet of sheer resilience : I think of all the women who maintain their dignity throughout each assault upon their bodies .......

(MORE LATER).



THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

A member of Na Fianna Eireann , John Dempsey , was shot dead by British soldiers in Belfast and a young housewife , Nora McCabe , was fatally wounded by an RUC plastic bullet .

On Friday July 10th , 1981 , as Joe McDonnell was being buried with full military honours , British soldiers and RUC men attacked the mourners and the IRA Firing Party both with plastic and live bullets , coming close to creating another 'Bloody Sunday' . The premature death of Martin Hurson after forty-six days of fast , on July 13th 1981 , further stunned the relatives and supporters of the prisoners .

Six of their comrades had now died , yet the prisoners battled on , with grim and heroic determination ; the British government's last attempt to give the illusion of progress and demoralise the prisoners took place as Kevin Lynch and Kieran Doherty were entering the critical stage of their fasts , and involved the International Red Cross (IRC) . The IRC delegation was given a 'brief' by the British government - this 'brief' was so thin as to be invisible , but the prisoners condemned this new ploy and the IRC people faded away to prepare some vague report on ' Northern Ireland (sic) Prisons ' .

On August 1st 1981 , Kevin Lynch died after seventy-one days of fast . Then , on August 2nd 1981 , Kieran Doherty , TD for Cavan/Monaghan , died after seventy-three days .......

(MORE LATER).



IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......

The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.

Bank Levies , SFWP style :

Glens of Antrim , £229,997 .
On April 26 , 1977 , a Securior van was halted on its way from Limavady to Coleraine by a spiked chain thrown across the road . Twenty-three bags of money were taken from the van by five armed men - this gang was later arrested by an RUC patrol as it was packing the bags of money into meat carcasses in a disused quarry , four miles from the scene of the robbery . Those five men were convicted of the robbery at Belfast City Commission on December 14 , 1977 - four were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and one to four years .

The convicted men were - James Michael Feeney of Seapark , Banbridge : Hugh Murphy of Richmont Gardens , Lurgan : John Paul McGeown of Ridgeway , Craigavon : Andrew Murnin of Drumbeg North , Craigavon : and William Barr of Belmont , Derry . The latter , William Barr , was the manager of Securicor Ulster Ltd , in Derry . Feeney and Murphy admitted to being members of the Official IRA .......

(MORE LATER).







Thursday, December 01, 2005

" DON'T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE " .......
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

As I felt a hand slowly moving down the calves of my leg , my flesh crawled . They were'nt content to jibe at my naked state , they had to 'search' me - a 'skin-search' . It sounds ridiculous , but it's true. I was ordered to turm around , and I managed to totally ignore that command and the following ones . They could strip me , but no way was I going to assist them . They were forced to move behind me and , as I steeled myself , they searched my hair .

Eventually , they could draw out the search no longer - they told me to re-enter the cubicle and dress quickly , but I remained where I was , silently staring at each one of them in turn , wanting them to look at my face . These were women - women who did this to me . I am 5ft 1inch and weigh 6st 9lbs , and it took eight of these prison screws to be present . I slowly returned to the cubicle and started to dress , feeling drained , and I noticed a tremble in my hands . I felt violated , invaded , victimised . And very , very angry .

Within the next 48 hours I was to be strip-searched five times . I wrote numerous letters of complaint to the Board of Visitors , calling into question their empty excuses that strip-searching is necessary on 'security grounds' . Each time I left the prison I was under joint British military/RUC escort , and was taken to the court (two minutes journey away) in a steel-reinforced van , locked into a steel 'pig-sty' within the van and dragged out of it and hustled into the courtroom for a 30 second appearance in the dock , and returned immediately to the prison .

Both before getting into the van and when leaving it back at the jail I was strip-searched , stripped naked twice within twenty minutes , having had no contact at all with the public .......

(MORE LATER).



THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

On June 23rd 1981 , as Joe McDonnell was beginning his fifty-seventh day on hunger-strike , the 'Irish Commission for Justice and Peace' met the British Under-Secretary for Prisons in the North , Michael Alison . At that meeting he told them that he saw no problem in the prisoners wearing their own clothes : from that day to July 8th , when Joe McDonnell died , the British government was to engage in yet another exercise in brinkmanship with the prisoners' lives , letting the Commission meet the hunger-strikers , but not their Officer Commanding , Brendan McFarlane , allowing the Commission members to raise the relatives' hopes only to crush them , as on July 3rd , when Michael Alison renaged on the clothes issue .

All along , Garret Fitzgerald , the Fine Gael Free State 'Taoiseach' , was monitoring the situation , and even met the families of the hunger strikers on July 3rd 1981 , impressing on them that they should get their sons to accept the Commission's statement ; but the British government's 'about-turn' on the clothes issue , followed by their stalling , ensured that the Commission was shown as a 'puppet' in the hands of the British . On July 8th 1981 , Joe McDonnell died after sixty-one days on hunger-strike .

Never at any time had the Republican prisoners stated that the Commission's proposals were acceptable to them yet , in spite of a lengthy and crystal-clear statement by the prisoners , on July 14th 1981 , the Commission , a creation of the Irish 'establishment' , had lent itself willingly to the cynical manoeuvres of the British government : the streets of the Occupied Six Counties echoed once more , for the fifth time in less than ten weeks , with the fracas of bin lids and of angry rioting .......

(MORE LATER).



IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......

The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.

It appears that many of the Official IRA's arms were dumped around 1975 : one of those arms dumps was discovered in Monaghan by the Gardai in September 1980 : among the items found then were six handguns , 10,000 rounds of ammunition , walkie-talkie radios and a quantity of silver coins - left overs from a bank raid . Training manuals and other documents were also found , leading Gardai to conclude that weapons training had been carried out by the Official IRA some short time previously .

Sinn Fein the Workers Party strenuously denies that any of its finance comes from robberies ; in spite of these denials , however , we have identified the following robberies as having been carried out by members of the Official IRA since 1975 . We have been able to identify robberies that amount to only about half a million pounds in all and much of this was recovered afterwards . But we are aware that these represent only the tip of the iceberg - that much more money has been robbed by members of the Official IRA over the last several years . One former member of the OIRA Army Council estimates that the Official IRA robbed a total of about £2 million since the 1972 ceasefire .

We have also been informed that two major robberies were conducted in the run up to the June 1981 general election campaign , one of which took place in Belfast in early 1981 when a bank on the Ormeau Road was raided . The other robbery took place in the South and the takings were very considerable . We are not aware of the precise details of either of these operations and have therefore left them out of this narrative ; however , we wish to point out that there was a major jewellery robbery in McDowells Jewellers in O' Connell Street , Dublin , on April 24 , 1981 , when jewellery valued at £100,000 was taken . We have no evidence that this was stolen by the Official IRA but this is the only robbery of its size undertaken in the run-up to the 1981 election .

Also , as outlined below , the Official IRA was involved in another jewellery robbery in May 1980 and therefore must have the means of disposing of jewellery on the black market .......

(MORE LATER).







Wednesday, November 30, 2005

" DON'T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE " .......
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

I thought of the women waiting for me on the prison wing ; they had gone through this . I thought of the Blanket Men of Long Kesh - they had been forced to remain naked for five years .

I thought of my sister , sixteen years of age , and dreaded this ever happening to her . I thought of my mother's face on the morning of my arrest , trying so hard not to cry , and her shouts of support - " Don't let them break you , love... " and " Be strong..." And I thought of her face that morning in the court - ashen , aged ; prepared to run to Armagh Prison for the next decade , just as she had run to various jails to visit my father and brother .

And I thought of all the women , striving everywhere to achieve their freedom . Aye ! I thought of a lot of things - anything to block out what was happening to me . I was stripped naked to confront me with their 'control' , to enforce on me my own vulnerability , to degrade me . But they were not going to succeed .

I saw my nakedness as an indictment against them - they thought my womenhood would serve to help defeat me . They did not understand that the strength of ideals cannot be stripped from one's mind .......

(MORE LATER).



THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

After two postponements , the Free State government had fixed a date for general elections in that jurisdiction ; it was to be June 11th , 1981 . H-Block activists actively campaigned for nine prisoners , four of them on hunger-strike at that time : Joe McDonnell , Kevin Lynch , Martin Hurson and Kieran Doherty - and five other prisoners , Mairead Farrell , Tony O'Hara , Tom McAllister , Sean McKenna and Paddy Agnew .

Proving all the pundits wrong , the prisoners polled extremely well , and two were elected : Kiernan Doherty for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency , with 15 per cent first preference votes , and Paddy Agnew for Louth with 18 per cent first preference votes . These two seats prevented the Charles Haughey administration from gaining a majority in Leinster House , and a Fine Gael-Labour coalition took over , with Garret Fitzgerald as 'premier' .

However , in spite of the widespread support for the prisoners' demands in the twenty-six counties , in spite of the fact that a sizeable fraction of that support was translated into votes , the pressure was not sufficient to force an intervention by the Fine Gael/Labour administration in favour of the prisoners . Since the beginning of June 1981 , the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace , composed mainly of Catholic clerics , middle-class politicians , academics , lawyers and other 'pillars of the Establishment' , had begun to make noises signifying to the prisoners and the British government that it saw a role for itself in mediating between the two parties .

After a tentative statement on what they saw as necessary prison reforms to resolve the issue , a statement which the British government ignored and which the prisoners studied and answered two weeks later , the Commission started a series of meetings with various political parties , hunger-strikers' relatives , and the National H-Block/Armagh Committee .......

(MORE LATER).



IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......

The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.

The Ardmonagh Gardens eviction :
The Official IRA moved another family into a house in which Seamus Smith and his family were in the process of moving in to : the PIRA had 'secured' the previously empty house for the Smith family . The OIRA made it clear that if any attempt were made to dislodge the second family , those responsible would have to deal with the Official IRA . One of the men taking part was the brother of one of the most prominent members of the 'Republican Clubs' in Belfast .
[End of 'Evictions' section.]
The Official IRA has less than 50 operatives in Belfast : these are organised into Units based around the drinking Clubs in Cyprus Street in the Lower Falls area , in New Lodge Road , in the Markets , in the Short Strand , in Turf Lodge and in Bawnmore . The OIRA Officer Commanding in Belfast until recently was a very prominent figure who has apparently stepped aside , with his place taken by a person who is not significantly less prominent . The Official IRA is known to have members in the Craigavon area . On a national level it is not clear what re-organisation has taken place but it is a certainty that the OIRA Chief of Staff is a member of SFWP ; so too is the OIRA Finance Officer and the OIRA Adjutant General . The Dublin Unit Officer Commanding is also a member of SFWP .

There are about 30 active members on call in the Dublin area ; these are engaged almost exclusively in robberies . Some of these are not members of SFWP or at least deny membership . By all accounts the organisation is well armed , with Russian Kalashnikov AK 47 carbines and sophisticated 357 Magnum revolvers .......

(MORE LATER).







Tuesday, November 29, 2005

" DON'T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE " .......
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

I was arrested under the infamous 'Section 12 of the PTA' and then 'stitched-up' by the British 'Paid Perjurer' System . I maintained my silence , knowing that within the week I would join those women whose very existence denies every atrocity inflicted by their oppressors . I was charged , and taken from the court to Armagh .

I remember a tremendous feeling of unreality about my arrival in Armagh Jail ; detached , I entered the prison , thinking wryly of my next forthcoming encounter with British rule : photographed , weighed , then brought into the 'reception room' where eight screws were present , standing silently , waiting , hoping to see another one 'break' . Then the dreaded words - " RIGHT ! STRIP ! "

I was hustled into a small cubicle and slowly began to undo the buttons of my shirt .... " This can't be happening to me ..it can't...." - but of course it could . Item by item , I removed my clothes , each article taken from me and scrutinised . I knew there was no need to search me - I had been in custody for over a week , I had'nt seen one friendly face or heard one word of kindness since 'leaving' the house : dragged out , shoeless and coatless , by a mixed force of British troops and RUC men .

As I stood there naked , I grasped my ideals to my heart . They were'nt going to succeed . I would NOT break .......

(MORE LATER).



THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

Over forty thousand copies of 'The Writings Of Bobby Sands' and 'The Diary Of Bobby Sands' were sold through the campaign : extracts were quoted in the world press . Sentences appeared on the walls of Belfast and Derry , and the lark has now become the symbol of the jailed freedom fighters . Bobby Sands gave the prisoners a voice .

Francis Hughes died on May 12th 1981 after fifty-nine days on hunger-strike : Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara died on May 21st 1981 after sixty-one days on hunger-strike . huge crowds of mourners attended their funerals , pickets were organised all over Ireland , mock coffins were carried by thousands of protestors to British embassies or consulates all over Europe , in America , Australia , New Zealand ; vigils and pickets were organised in Britain .

On May 23rd 1981 , local elections took place in the Six Counties and , although Sinn Fein did not field any candidates , in Belfast , two IRSP and two 'People's Democracy' candidates , standing on anti-H-Block manifestos , were elected to the city council . Gerry Fitt , who had despicably sided with Margaret Thatcher on the prison issue , lost the seat which he had held for twenty-three years . Paddy Devlin scraped through on the last count .

The 'Irish Independence Party' , which had publicly supported the prisoners demands , gained twenty-one seats , an increase of eleven .......

(MORE LATER).



IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......

The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.

The Official IRA is still very visible in Belfast as the incident in Ardmonagh Gardens on January 29 this year (1982) shows : this incident occurred in the Turf Lodge area of Belfast , when about 20 members of the Official IRA took part in an eviction of a family from a house : the OIRA members carried rifles and short arms openly on the street in broad daylight and they pursued a man in a manner that suggested that they intended to cause him serious injury at least .

The incident started when members of Provisional Sinn Fein (actually probably PIRA members) went around to families living in flats in Ardmonagh Gardens , asking if any of them would like to move into a house which was about to become vacant . A Seamus Smith said that he would like to move his wife and three young children in , and this was agreed . A few days later he started cleaning the vacant house and began some re-decoration , and moved some of the furniture from his flat into the house . A knock came to the door of the house on the evening of Thursday , January 28 1982 and , when he answered it , there were two men standing on the doorstep with their hands inside their coats , suggesting that they were armed .

They said to him - " You had better be out of here tomorrow at six o' clock or you're going to be shot . " They said they were from the Official IRA but he did'nt recognise either of them . Naturally frightened by the visit , he approached the local PIRA and was told later that night that they (the Provos) had been in touch with the Official IRA and that the matter had been sorted out - that he could continue moving into the house . The following evening at around six o' clock (Friday , January 29 , 1982 : the second day of the recent general election campaign) , Seamus Smith left the house to go across the road for his tea to his mother-in-law's home ; immediately after he did so he was informed by a neighbour that armed men had broken into the house . Two Ford vans had driven into Ardmonagh Gardens and about twenty men had got out ; about six of them held rifles and several others were carrying short arms .

These men effectively took over the street , manning corners , standing in the centre of the road and even taking up positions in the fields at the back of the street : three of them dashed into the flats where Seamus Smith and his family had lived and smashed down the front door and then kicked in the sitting-room sliding door . Neither Smith nor any of his family were there , so the men left .......

(MORE LATER).







Monday, November 28, 2005

" DON'T LET THEM BREAK YOU , LOVE " .......
First published in the booklet ' STRIP SEARCHES IN ARMAGH JAIL' , produced , in February 1984 , by 'The London Armagh Group' .

My first arrest set a precedent for the next few years of my life : every time I encountered a British Army foot patrol I was searched . My demands for the search to be carried out by a female British soldier always ended with my arrest . I was forced to leave school after being shot , and was arrested when I left hospital and told not to go to court or ' I'd get it right in the head the next time' . I was at this stage seventeen years of age .

Eventually , a few months ago , the British forces of occupation arrested me at 5.30 in the morning . I was informed that I was being arrested under the infamous 'Section 12 of the PTA' and was taken to Castlereagh Interrogation Centre . There followed seven days of repeated interrogations by Special Branch detectives : I was told I could end my ordeal by 'picking' a charge , making a statement , such as - " At an unspecified time , on an unspecified date , I was in possession [of a weapon] at an unspecified place.." 'Evidence' such as dates , times and places are trivialities in the Special Diplock Courts .

Your guilt is not established at your trial . Mine was established at birth . I was Catholic . Worse , I was a Republican . I refused to make any statements , I refused to speak one word , from my arrest . Four days later I became another victim of the Paid Perjurer System - a man 'identified' me as being a Republican activist ; they told me they knew I was innocent of the charges but that they were delighted at this opportunity to 'stitch me up' .......

(MORE LATER).



THE HEROIC PRISON STRUGGLE .......
1981 was dominated by the grim and heroic struggle of Republican prisoners for political recognition - which they undoubtedly received from millions all over the world , yet which few governments , least of all London or Dublin , would grant them .
From 'AP/RN' , 31st December 1981 .
By Teresa Kelly .

From April 1981 , seven people were killed by plastic bullets - 3 children and 4 adults : none of them taking part in a riot . Several hundreds were injured and required hospital treatment , with injuries mostly to the head or chest , causing in some cases paralysis or blindness .

The beleaguered nationalist people were to experience in a few months the death of ten hunger-strikers , and of many more on the streets of the occupied Six Counties , callous British disregard for their democratic voice , and the closing of ranks of the Irish 'establishment' behind the British government .

Bobby Sands' remains were carried on Thursday 7th May 1981 from his Twinbrook home in Belfast to the Republican Plot in Belfast's Milltown cemetery , flanked by a huge crowd . Estimates ranged from fifty to one-hundred thousand people .

Through his sixty-six days on hunger-strike , Bobby Sands had become a household name , and his literary talent contributed in no little way to making the world understand what kind of people the British were keeping behind bars in the occupied Six Counties .......

(MORE LATER).



IN THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN .......

The aspirations of SINN FEIN THE WORKERS PARTY towards socialist respectability are undermined by the continued military operations of the OFFICIAL IRA and that Party's own ideoligical contortions .
From ' MAGILL' magazine , April 1982 .
By Vincent Browne.

On many building sites 'lump labour' is employed on a contractual basis ; the firms which provide this contracted lump labour are provided with tax exemption forms by the authorities , which means that workers do not pay PAYE (ie 'Pay As You Earn' : income tax stopped at source on a weekly basis) but rather their tax contributions are paid on an annual basis . The scope for abuse is considerable and this is exploited by paramilitary organisations all over the North .

The building sites on which the paramilitaries can conduct these rackets obviously can be only in those areas where they have a measure of control ; thus , for the Official IRA , the building sites where they operate the tax exemption rackets are in the Lower Falls , The Markets , Twinbrook and Bawnmore areas of Belfast . Actually their area of influence has diminished recently with the defection of one of their major racketeers to the IRSP .

When these rackets were working well for the Official IRA it was estimated that they were 'earning' up to £3,000 per week from them . They also got involved in another and more 'exotic' form of racketeering : the 'massage parlour' business . Up to about two years ago they were running three 'massage parlours' in Belfast ; one of these , incredibly , was run in conjunction with the UVF but this was closed down after a disagreement between the two organisations - the UVF and the Official IRA often co-operated in recent years and , reportedly , exchanged information .

Another of those 'parlours' was firebombed by the Provos and a third was closed down by the RUC . One of the candidates for Sinn Fein the Workers Party in the local elections of May last year was convicted of running brothels in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast .......

(MORE LATER).