Category Archives: Prisoners – past

Film Review: I Dolours

We asked former H-Block prisoner and blanketman Dixie Elliott for a review of this movie.  Dixie suggested we use something he had written that appeared on The Pensive Quill; so this is it with some slight editing to fit this site.

I Dolours, 2018, directed by Maurice Sweeney; produced by Ed Moloney; 82 mins.

by Dixie Elliott

I Dolours is a film about a committed and brave IRA Volunteer telling her own harrowing story.  What struck me was the haunted eyes of someone who, like her sister Marian, carried out orders without question and who did terrible things in the belief that what they were doing was right.  Who remained seated when asked to go and bomb England while others got up and walked out of the room, unable to do it.  Dolours couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to go as she wanted to take the war to the Brits’ door.

The Brits were waiting on them, she told us, and when asked if she believed there was an informer, she said “yes” without hesitation – in Belfast.

The actor who portrayed Dolours as a young IRA Volunteer is so like the older woman it’s uncanny, especially the eyes.

Dolours spoke about her staunchly Republican parents, her father who had bombed England in his youth, her aunt who lived with them and who had lost both hands and eyes in Read the rest of this entry

Fintan Lalor on Repeal, land ownership, insurrection and saving the Irish masses in the Famine

Lalor argued that only a social revolution could save Ireland from the destruction wrought by the landlords and British state through the Famine

The following article appeared in The Irish Felon, July 1848.  It was titled “To the Irish Confederate and Repeal Clubs”.  The sentences in brackets were Lalor’s introduction to the piece.  In this lengthy feature Lalor criticises the Young Ireland movement for the partial nature of its break with Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Association; argues that the goal of the struggle has to be a social revolution and not simply repeal of the 1801 Act of Union; outlines different forms of insurrection; identifies the landlord class as a garrison class; notes the socio-economic impact of Famine on Irish society; and how a plan of action is needed to fight immediately to save the country from ruin.

I must admit I was sorely tempted to break up the more massive paragraphs!  However, I decided to resist the temptation.  

by James Fintan Lalor

[The paper that follows was written in the last week of January, 1847-just one year and five months ago and was forwarded to one of the leading members of the Confederation for private circulation among the council of that body. I now address it to you just as it was written.]

I see no reason to prevent me mentioning that, in about a month from the date and delivery of my paper, I received a letter from John Mitchel stating that, on perusal and consideration of its contents, he had fully adopted my views, and that he meant to act on them so soon as occasion should fit and serve.                                                                                                                                  – January 25, 1847

My sole wish or attention is to suggest. Any attempt to convert or convince would be useless. Individuals are never converted; they must convert themselves. Men are moved only in masses; and it is easier to convert a million of men than a single man. But neither is the attempt necessary. To you, or any of those whom this paper is intended, the end of the clue-line is enough. You will be able, if you choose, to follow it out yourself. To lead you on, link by link, would be needless and absurd.

To anyone who considers their speeches, resolutions, and proceedings, it will, I think, appear manifest and marked, as it does to me, that the “seceders” have gone into organized action upon mere vague impulse and general feeling; with their objects undefined, their principles unsettled, their course unmarked; without any determinate plan, or, consequently, any fixed purpose – for no purpose can long remain fixed, but must be ever veering and wavering, without a plan to guide, control, and sustain it; and a purpose without a plan to confine and confirm it, is no purpose at all. Such a plan, too, is wanting as a warrant and guarantee to yourselves and to others that your object is feasible and your means adequate ; that you have gauged your enterprise and measured your means; and that the work you call on us to do will not be wasted. There are few worse things, even in the ethics or economy of private life, than labour misdirected; but what should be said of those who would, for want of a full and exact survey and calculation, mislead and exhaust the labour and means and strength of a people? It is not Read the rest of this entry

Bernard Fox letter on the road to armed struggle

The following letter appeared in the October 26 issue of the Belfast-based Irish News.  Bernard Fox spent decades in the Irish Republican Army, including a stint on the Army Council, the IRA’s seven-person central leadership.  He came to oppose the direction the Adams-McGuinness cabal took as they decided to become part of the political establishment across the island.

I commend The Irish News coverage of the emergence of the civil rights association and the events surrounding the Duke Street march 50 years ago. Leona O’Neill’s column (October 9) about her brave father’s involvement and decisions made then were made in response to what he experienced on the ground. However, at that time there were no easy decisions to make.

I was a 17-year-old in 1969 living in the St James’s area off the Falls Road. My interests were sport, the Beatles and girls. I was serving an apprenticeship in an engineering firm where I had many Read the rest of this entry

Some more great stuff on the Irish Republican Marxist History Project

D.R. O’Connor Lysaght reviews Seamus Murphy, Having it Away: an Epic Story of Freedom, Friendship and IRA jailbreak, Bray, Co. Wicklow:  https://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/triumph-and-tragedy-lessons-of-a-republican-prison-escape-by-d-r-oconnor-lysaght/

Video in which veteran republican Richard Behal talks about the Border Campaign and the Republican Movement in the mid-late 1960s:  https://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/operation-harvest-the-republican-movement-in-the-mid-late-1960s/

Republican POWs and the struggle in Maghaberry today

by Nathan Hastings

The following is designed to outline the historical context of Republican Prisoners and their conditions in Maghaberry Jail. This is not aimed at providing a detailed history, but at illuminating the issues which exist in Maghaberry today.

There is a long history of Irish women and men being imprisoned as a result of their opposition to the occupation of Ireland. Through-out this history there has been a recurring theme of Britain and its agents using imprisonment and conditions in the sites of imprisonment to attack and harass those who it has viewed as rebellious or troublesome. This has been carried out as a matter of both direct state policy and the cruelty and resentment of those in control in the sites of captivity.

In response to this there has been the recurring theme of struggle and resistance to oppression amongst those imprisoned through generations. This theme can be seen, for example, in the refusal of members and supporters of the Land League to wear prison clothes, shave or cut their hair whilst imprisoned, opposing the prison uniform. The response to this in the 1880s was an offer of civilian-style clothing.

This is almost identical to Read the rest of this entry

“(T)he clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political”: Connolly on Fintan Lalor

James Fintan Lalor, 1807-1849

The piece below is taken from chapter 14 (“Socialist Teaching of the Young Irelanders: Thinkers and Workers”) of James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History (1910).  I’ve broken up very big paragraphs.

. . . But the palm of honour for the clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political, must be given to James Fintan Lalor, of Tenakill, Queen’s County. Lalor, unfortunately, suffered from a slight physical disability, which incapacitated him from attaining to any leadership other than intellectual, a fact that, in such a time and amidst such a people, was fatal to his immediate influence. Yet in his writings, as we study them to-day, we find principles of action and of society which have within them not only the best plan of campaign suited for the needs of a country seeking its freedom through insurrection against a dominant nation, but also held the seeds of the more perfect social peace of the future.

All his writings at this period are so illuminating that we find it difficult to select from the mass any particular passages which more deserve reproduction than others. But as an indication of the line of argument pursued by this peerless thinker, and as a welcome contrast to the paralysing respect, nay, reverence, for landlordism evidenced by Smith O’Brien and his worshippers, perhaps the following passages will serve. In Read the rest of this entry

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

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

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.