Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.
First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.
ARLENE. By Jason Flynn.
Every day that you're away
seems like a year to me
I tell myself it's not for long
and you'll soon be back with me.
I know it must be hard for you
but I had to let you know
it seems this separation
has made my love just grow.
Let's try and both be positive
as long as we're both strong
we'll one day be together again
just where we both belong.
IRISH POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ENGLAND....
From 'IRIS' magazine, July/August 1982.
HM Prison, Welford Road, Leicester, LE2 7AJ - Eddie Butler (338637), Brian Keenan (B26380), Brendan Dowd (758662).
In addition, there are fourteen prisoners who are not connected with the Republican Movement in any way, but who are campaigned for by the Sinn Féin POW department because their imprisonment has come about, incidentally, because of the political situation in the north of Ireland. They are - Anne Maguire, Carole Richardson and Judith Ward (all Durham Jail) ; Patrick Armstrong and Patrick Maguire (Wakefield) ; Gerard Conlon (Parkhurst) ; Paul Hill, Seán Smyth, Billy Power and Richard McIlkenny (all Wormwood Scrubs) ; Hugh Callaghan, John Walker, Gerard Hunter and Paddy Hill (all Long Lartin). (MORE LATER.)
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
INTRODUCTION : Unfortunately, a number of the comrades in these stories are now dead and gone. They are men who affected and touched me personally. Their passing is a huge loss to that fraternal spirit they helped to create within all of us as Irish republican POW's. It is impossible for me to think of them without a smile on my face.
The time I spent in prison was an incredible learning experience for me. I found out about comradeship, spirit, friendship and, most importantly, I found out about the thing that put me in prison in the first place. Like lots of men and women before and after me, I went to prison to be free.
These are a collection of personal memories of mine about some of the people I met and situations that we found ourselves in while POW's in Long Kesh - with one short trip to the Crumlin Road Gaol. These are just a few of the incidents I can remember well enough to write about with a deal of accuracy and, hopefully, a certain amount of humour.
Most of the faces are still vivid in my mind's eye but some of the names while still with me keep appearing on other comrades' shoulders, so as much as possible I'm trying not to mention any names even though old comrades are constantly asking 'write one about me.' My response is 'write one of your own.' I met men in Long Kesh that they should make films about never mind write short stories about. I look forward to reading their stories.
Once again I am grateful for the support of my colleagues in 'Tús Nua' : Jackie, Maire, Danny, Tuso and the Swinger. I would also like to thank all my workmates in the Upper Springfield Development Trust for their encouragement and support. Joe Sheehy of Glandore Publishers, Theresa, Grainne, Danny, Jake, Orla, Roisin McBride, Tommy Gorman Jnr , 'Cormac' and Danny Devenney for their support, patience and optimism. (MORE LATER.)
MISINTERPRETATION? NO: ATTEMPTED MISDIRECTION.
An example of that cooperation (and there are countless such examples in the print and other media) can be seen in the pic, above left, from the Dublin southside edition of a freesheet newspaper called 'Dublin Voice (incorporating 'Dublin Informer')', the front page headline of which implores its readers to 'Get out and vote! Casting your ballot will honour memory of 1916' which is augmented on page 11 with an article entitled 'Why voting is the best way to remember 1916'.
The front page article states (and claims) '...as we look back and commemorate the actions of the brave men and women who fought and many of whom lost their lives for our freedom, we cannot deny our civic duty to cast our ballot this February...voting in the election is by far the most important and appropriate tribute one can give to those involved in the Easter Rising...(the Rising) gave us the gift of democracy...as citizens of Ireland we have the ability to have our say when it comes to how the State is run ('1169' comment - a poor attempt by a rookie writer to pronounce this State as 'Ireland') ...(your vote) could change this nation...(we can change) our country and history for the better...use (your vote) to help shape this nation..'
The article on page 11 states (and claims) '...the heroes of 1916 are looking down on the politicians, looking to see what kind of vision the 'Class of 2016' have for the future of their nation...with the next Dail being assembly number 32 symbolism abounds ('1169' comment - the next Leinster House assembly will be the 30th such body, not 'the 32nd Dáil Éireann') ...we are at a critical point in the history of our nation...we are a first world nation...we have a responsibility as a nation to play our part in world affairs...go with your instinct about who seems most genuine, most honest.The martyrs of 1916 would ask no more of you than this.'
What a completely shameless attempt at misdirection and/or a politically and historically misinformed collection of ink stains on paper those two pieces are. So bad are they, indeed, that I find it hard to believe they were worded in such a sloppy way by mistake. Only a political sleeveen or a politically ignorant person would try and present this corrupt State as the product of that which the men and women of 1916 fought to establish, and to be so brazen in pretending and/or attempting to convince others that such a link exists is beyond contempt. Any Irish person that has no desire - in his/her head or heart - to be British will correctly tell you that the men and women of 1916 fought for a free country, not a Free State.
ON FRIDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2016, VOTE FOR NOBODY. YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED...
The Leinster House institution is not only a corrupt and corporate body, it has set itself up in such a manner that it could not but be anything else. Irish republicans have known from the outset that it is not a 'stepping stone' to anything better but is a 'staging post' for those who desire simply to feather their own nest while giving the impression that they are there to offer service to the community. We are not advocating that you abstain altogether from voting (as that will be interpreted by the powers that be as proof that you were just 'too lazy' to claim your ballot paper) rather we are suggesting that you claim same and use it to register a protest against the political system in this rotten State - spoil it on purpose. Vote NOTA on Friday 26th February 2016 and make sure your objection is known (see '500,000 reasons' here)!
'WATER' WASTE OF TIME AND PAPER!
Less total payments since last bill - €0.00
Add total charges for this bill - €65.54.
TOTAL DUE - €260.00. To be paid by 26/2/2016'.
I received the above 'bill' on Thursday 18th February 2016, and a paragraph on the back of it, entitled 'Unregistered Charge', informed me that 'This charge of €260 per year is applied to all customers (sic - I never signed up to be a 'customer' of that company) who have not registered with Irish Water'.
Myself, family and friends (and other RSF supporters and/or members) were among about 80,000 people who took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday 20th February 2016 in protest against this double tax and the other financial anti-austerity measures that have been imposed by Leinster House politicians on the working class and the unemployed in this State. The only way that the 'Irish Water' company and its parent company in Kildare Street will make me pay twice for any one service is to do what they done on me in relation to their 'property tax' - stop it out of my wages without my permission: 'If, within 14 days from the date of this letter, you have not paid in full or picked a payment option, or confirmed that a payment is not due, I hereby serve notice that I will issue an instruction to (EMPLOYERS NAME HERE) to deduct €200 in equal instalments from payments to you...' That seems to be their intention but it will be the only way they will get that double-tax from me.
BREXIT? IRELAND FIRST, PLEASE.
I don't always agree with what Max Keiser has to say (and/or, sometimes, the manner in which he says it) and I can't even say that much for Boris Johnson, but the above Twitter quote is different - in that, apart from the 'NI' description, I can't find fault with it. Except, perhaps, it's only words whereas, after 847 years, we deserve more than Mr. Johnson and his colleagues in Westminster can ever give us and, after all, Boris often says more than he means to and, when verbally backtracking on his latest gaffe, has been known to make an even bigger one - "I think the risks that people see of terrorism are incredibly important but we are very confident we have got the right people on it and the risks have been minimised..." - no, they haven't, Boris, at least not for us Irish, as we continue to face a daily risk of terrorism, courtesy of you and your type in Westminster, and will continue to do so until you actually act on your 'overstay' tweet, above.
Boris Johnson says he supports Britain leaving the EU and this includes leaving Northern Ireland: "We have overstayed our welcome in NI."— Max Keiser (@maxkeiser) February 21, 2016
But to take such action is not, apparently, your 'duty' - "It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs. But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. These are the people who put bread on the tables of families who – if the rich didn't invest in supercars and employ eau de cologne-dabbers – might otherwise find themselves without a breadwinner..."
And how many Irish republican families over more than eight centuries has your 'empire' left without breadwinners, Boris? Tweet that...
Thanks for reading, Sharon.