Category Archives: Historiography and historical texts

Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle remembered in Wicklow

Neil Plunkett O’Boyle, 1898-1923

by Eamon Heffernan

Wicklow Republicans gathered on Sunday, May 27 to commemorate Commandant Neil Plunkett O’Boyle at Knocknadruce, Valleymount, County Wicklow.*  Cmdt O’Boyle was murdered there by the Free Staters on May 8 1923, as the civil war was coming to a close.

O’Boyle was a Donegal man and was brought up on a small farm near Burtonport. As a teenager he had a keen interest in Irish Republicanism and in the Irish language but initially could not get involved in politics as he helped his mother in looking after his father who was in poor health.

O’Boyle was 19 when his father died and he then needed to work to support his family.  For a short time he worked on the railway but his open support for the republican cause led to harassment by the Royal Irish Constabulary and he was forced to leave Ireland at the age of 21.  He went for Scotland where he worked as a miner.

The stone that was erected at the spot where Cmdt O’Boyle was murdered by Free State forces at Knocknadruce. The fresh flowers were laid there May 27, 2018 by local non-aligned Republicans.

While in Scotland he joined the IRA and began procuring weapons to be sent back to Ireland.  However, he was caught by the Scottish police and in December 1920 sentenced to five years hard labour at Peterhead prison.  He spent long periods there in solitary confinement.

When the ‘treaty of surrender, aka the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, was signed O’Boyle qualified for release.  He was freed in February 1922.  Nevertheless he opposed the Treaty as a betrayal of what had been fought for in the war for independence.

He returned to Read the rest of this entry

Long Kesh documents collection

A substantial body of material produced by prisoners in Long Kesh is now available.  The blurb for the site for these states:

“All these documents were written by republican prisoners in HMP Maze / Long Kesh.  All this material was confiscated by the authorities after the last escape attempt.  They did not get the backup disks which were hidden in a mattress and subsequently smuggled out of the prison in a box of chocolate which was taken out on a visit.  Much of this material was considered lost forever and I have decided to make it available to give an insight into prison life.  Some prisoners were under the illusion that a lot of this stuff was confidential as they saved to floppy disk, once it was inserted into the computers, the prison authorities had access to it.  These documents are made available for information only and the owner does not support any political groupings.”

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B5zInPpmsywNZXFOZllQVVhpcEE&usp=sharing

Connolly talk, Dunedin, Saturday, June 2

James Connolly (1868-1916) was a leading figure in socialist politics in Scotland, Ireland and the United States and a radical trade union leader in the USA and Ireland.  In Dublin, he was one of the key leaders of the new Irish Transport and General Workers Union, through the massive Great Dublin Lockout of August 1913-February 1914.  Later in 1914, Connolly became the leader of the workers’ militia, the Irish Citizen Army, that had been estaboished as a workers’ defence force in the lockout.  Under the leadership of Connolly, Michael Mallin and Constance de Markievicz, the ICA was transformed into a revolutionary army.

He also wrote stirring songs of working class struggle.

In April 1916 the ICA and the republican Irish Volunteers launched an insurrection against British rule and declared an independent Irish Republic.  After a week of fighting the rebels, under heavy British bombardment that was demolishing the centre of Dublin, were forced to surrender.  Connolly and other leaders of the rebellion were tried by British court-martial and sentenced to death by firing squad.  Connolly, who had gangrene as a result of a wound, couldn’t stand and was tied to a chair for his execution.

The Otago Socialist Society is hosting a talk on Connolly, not only to commemorate this great revolutionary working class leader but also to look at the continuing relevance of his ideas.

The speaker is a former activist in Sinn Fein in Dublin and a current member of Clann Eirigi.  He will cover Connolly’s life; his perspectives on the working class and Irish national liberation; and his writings on revolutionary trade unionism.

Speaker: Dr Philip Ferguson

2pm, Saturday, June 2

Seminar Room, Third Floor,

Dunedin Central Public Library (Moray Place)

 

Charlie O’Neill, socialist-republican, 1937-2016

by Mick Healy

Thomas (Charlie) O’Neill was born in Drimnagh in Dublin on 20th December 1937 and was a dyer by trade. His family had fought with the United Irishman and the Fenians. He was a Socialist Republican with a sharp wit who loved classical music, the Irish Times, a glass of wine and, especially, his family. 

As a young man, Charlie joined the Irish Republican Army where, with a large number of Dublin volunteers, he became involved with the breakaway Joe Christle group.  In 1956 they joined forces with Liam Kelly’s organisation Saor Uladh in Co. Tyrone.  Christle and Kelly were annoyed at the lack of action by the IRA, although the IRA leadership were actually putting together plans for Operation Harvest aka “the border campaign”. 

Saor Uladh went on the offensive and attacked the RUC barracks in Roslea, Co. Fermanagh in 1955, custom post telephone exchanges, bridges, B-Special drill halls as well as demolishing lough gates at Newry.  When the IRA began its own campaign in 1956, Saor Uladh was subsumed back into it.

Charlie (on left) with folk musician Luke Kelly (on right) and others

With the failure of Operation Harvest, Charlie moved to Cork.  He worked in a shoe factory there during the early 1960s and eventually bought a cottage in Crosshaven.  He became good friends with many of the University College Cork socialists as well as Jim Lane and Gerry Higgins from Irish Revolutionary Forces. Charlie, Gerry and Jim attended an anti-Vietnam War protest, organised by the Cork Vietnamese Freedom Association, during the berthing of USS Courtyney in Cork harbour in 1967.

At this time Charlie also became good friends with the legendary Tom Barry who had commanded the IRA’s Third West Cork Flying Column during the Irish War of Independence, fought on the anti-Treaty side in the civil war and briefly became IRA chief-of-staff in 1937.

(Left to Right) Lucille Redmond with Republicans Charlie O’Neill, Simon O’Donnell and Bryan McNally.

Upon his return to Dublin, Charlie was associated with the radical National Civil Liberties League.  The NCLL agitated around industrial disputes and tenant and traveller rights.  Later he became involved in the Saor Éire Action Group, a militant Marxist-republican group which included prominent former members of the IRA like Frank Keane and Liam Sutcliffe and Trotskyist activists associated with the Fourth International.

On October 3, 1968, shots were fired in a Read the rest of this entry

Latest ‘History Ireland’ reveals another early 1970s British agent

The latest issue of History Ireland (Vol 26, no 3, May/June 2018) available yesterday (May 1) has some very interesting articles.

One of the most interesting is by Niall Meehan and Margaret Urwin who reveal a new British agent, Alexander Forsey, in relation to three bombings in Dublin in late 1972 and early 1973.

Forsey was handled by John Wyman MI6, who was also the handler of Read the rest of this entry

Richard Behal on escaping Limerick Jail in 1966

Belated congratulations to Richard Behal on his 80th birthday back in March.  An outstanding, principled, left-wing republican.

Below is a recent interview with cde Behal by Michael Healy, part of an ongoing series that Mick has been doing with republican activists, especially older republicans.  This is an invaluable series, especially since this generation is now passing on.

And don’t forget to check out Mick’s Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, here.

 

Saturday night at the May 9-13 Connolly Festival, Dublin

TRES BILLBOARDS FOR THE REPUBLIC: PRESENTED BY FRIENDS OF THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES IRELAND

Saturday, May 12.
7.30pm-11pm, Tickets: €10

A musical, artistic and historic celebration of Ireland’s International Brigaders with Jurama, a film about Charlie Donnelly, the Republican Congress veteran and poet.

We also present One Way or Another, a play on the life of Dinny Cody who was killed at La Rosas 1937, while historian James Durney will give a talk on the life of civil war hero Frank Conroy.

Finishing up the evening with music from the wonderful Sive.

Marx, Engels and the Irish and British revolutions: a note

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s greatest Marxist, James Connolly.

Accordingly, I will be running material by Marx (and Engels) on the subject of Irish freedom and its interconnectedness with the British revolution, as well as material by and about James Connolly.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Connolly’s great co-workers, Constance Markievicz.

This blog already contains a substantial body of her writings and also articles about her.  Most recently, I added her 1923 pamphlet What Irish Republicans Stand For.

Later this year, I will be putting up a substantial piece on her and the Irish revolution, something I began to write well over 20 years ago and put aside unfinished.

I will also continue my (so far rather haphazard) efforts to get up everything I have of Fintan Lalor’s writings and write something substantial on ‘Fintan Lalor and the Irish revolution’.  I had made a load of notes for this last year and then lost them, so I have to start again; very frustrating.

I want to get something substantial up soon on Sean McLoughlin too, a kind of precis of the book by Charlie McGuire, a book I urge folks to go out and buy.

As always, I have a bunch of books – and it’s growing, also as always! – which I want to review.  They go back to stuff published about five years ago now, I have been so lax in getting these reviews done.  Aaaarrrggghhh!

And there are a few old articles from several journals that I want to get up here, but I have to type them up – a very time-consuming task.

Edinburgh Connolly conference, Saturday, June 2

Socialist Workers Network and civil rights: misremembering the past, promoting reformism today

People’s Democracy’s famous Belfast to Derry march, January 1969; the march was attacked by both loyalist and police thugs

The article below is from the Irish revolutionary group Socialist Democracy, the successor current to the original radical student-based group People’s Democracy, which played a key role in the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The Socialist Workers Party, one of the two main Trotskyist organisations in Ireland, has just dissolved as a party organisation.  It is now just a ‘network’ which operates through, and rather bureaucratically controls, the People Before Profit Alliance, an electoralist and non-revolutionary formation. 

On March 24th a meeting under the banner of “Remembering 1968: The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland” was held as part of events organized by the Institute of Irish Studies. A supporter of Socialist Democracy attended under the impression that it was an academic symposium to discuss the origins of the civil rights movement.

It quickly became clear that the appearance of academic neutrality was cast into doubt by the role of Socialist Workers Party/People Before Profit. A PBP councillor, Matt Collins, opened the seminar with an exposition which displayed a common fault of his organization- viewing the past through the prism of the current political line of the organization. We can take it for granted that this is the first bird of spring and that political groups from all sides will shortly be presenting their own misremembering of the civil rights struggle. In fact the first shots have been exchanged in a dispute between Sinn Fein and Bernadette McAliskey about a fictitious role for Sinn Fein in the early struggle.

The SWP’s economism led to Matt portraying the revolutionary left organization People’s Democracy as resembling an early version of the Alliance Party. The presence of students from nationalist and unionist backgrounds seemed more important than their common commitment to the revolutionary overthrow of the Stormont regime.

The speaker could easily have clarified things by discussing with Socialist Democracy, the successor organization of People’s Democracy. However the SWP had closed that door with a “theoretical” document claiming that the success of their electoral opportunism in the North made their organization the inheritors of People’s Democracy.

Eamonn McCann could have, if he wished, corrected some of the misconceptions. However he arrived late and confined himself to anecdotes of the early days. Historian Brian Hanley added some gravitas to the day but was Read the rest of this entry