You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2013.

Associated Press
Washington Post
16 June 2013

More pictures onsite

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — When President Obama comes to Belfast, he’s expected to praise a country at peace and call for walls that separate Irish Catholics and British Protestants to come tumbling down.

Barely a 10-minute walk from where the U.S. leader is speaking Monday, those walls have kept growing in size and number throughout two decades of slow-blooming peace. Residents today on both sides of so-called “peace lines” — barricades of brick, steel and barbed wire that divide neighborhoods, roads and even one Belfast playground — insist the physical divisions must stay to keep violence at bay.

Belfast’s first peace lines took shape in the opening salvos of Northern Ireland’s conflict in 1969, when impoverished parts of the city suffered an explosion of sectarian mayhem and most Catholics living in chiefly Protestant areas were forced to flee. The British Army, deployed as peacekeepers, erected the first makeshift barricades and naively predicted the barriers would be taken down in months.

Instead, the soldiers’ role supporting the mostly Protestant police soon inspired the rise of a ruthless new outlawed group, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, committed to forcing Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into the Republic of Ireland.

For all the unlikely triumphs of Northern Ireland diplomacy since the U.S.-brokered 1998 Good Friday peace deal — a Catholic-Protestant government, troop withdrawals, police reform, and disarmament of the IRA and outlawed Protestant groups responsible for most of the 3,700 death toll — tearing down Belfast’s nearly 100 “peace lines” still seems too dangerous a step to take.

“I’d love to see that wall taken down and I could say hi to my neighbors, but it isn’t going to happen. There’d be cold-blooded murder and I’d have to move out,” said Donna Turley, 48, smoking a cigarette at her patio table in the Short Strand, the sole Irish Catholic enclave in otherwise Protestant east Belfast.

Right behind Turley’s backyard refuge towers a 50-foot (15-meter) wall. It starts as brick, transitions into fences of corrugated iron, and is topped by more steel mesh fence. Each layer marks the history of communal riots like the growth rings of a tree. Higher still, two batteries of rotating police surveillance cameras monitor Turley and her Catholic neighbors, as well as the Protestant strangers living, audibly but invisibly, on the far side.

“It’s terrible looking. But I wouldn’t feel safe if it wasn’t there. I couldn’t imagine that wall being torn down. Nobody here can,” said Tammy Currie, 21, who is Turley’s nearest Protestant neighbor, standing in her own small cement patio backed by the wall. Her 3-year-old son jumps on a trampoline that a few months ago had to be cleared of shattered beer bottles thrown from the other side.

Both families rent state-subsidized homes provided by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which is responsible for making their homes as safe as possible from the risk of further rioting. That means both have triple-layered Perspex windows that are foggy-looking and unbreakable, and metal-tiled roofs that can’t be set on fire.

It was a lesson hard learned. The Protestants of Cluan Place and the Catholics of Clandeboye Drive used to be able to look, from upper floors, into each other’s back yards until 2002, when militants on both sides sought to drive each other out with homemade grenades, Molotov cocktails and even acid-filled bottles. An IRA gunman shot five Protestants, none fatally, while standing atop what was then only a brick wall. Most homes in the area were burned, abandoned and rebuilt, and British Army engineers doubled the height of the wall in 2003. Nobody’s been shot there since, even though both sides continue to host illegal paramilitary groups billing themselves as community defenders.

This stretch of wall connects with other security lines that date back to the early days of the modern Northern Ireland conflict in 1970, when IRA men in Short Strand shot to death three Protestants allegedly involved in attacking the district’s lone Catholic church. To make it less of an eyesore, Belfast City Council has funded imaginative art works all along that stretch, but it still leaves Short Strand looking a bit like Fort Apache.

Last month, the Catholic and Protestant leaders of Northern Ireland’s unity government announced a bold but detail-free plan to dismantle all peace lines by 2023. British Prime Minister David Cameron formally backed the goal Friday. Obama is expected to do the same Monday.

The politician working closest to the Cluan-Clandeboye wall, Michael Copeland, says both G-8 leaders are out of touch.

“Removing the walls would be a catastrophic decision,” said Copeland, a former British soldier and a Protestant member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who keeps his office just around the corner from Cluan Place.

“The biggest walls to be addressed are in the minds of the people. And what people in here remember is being shot at, being bombed, having their street burned,” Copeland said while sitting on a Cluan Place bench outside one resident’s home. He knows everyone living in all 23 homes on the Protestant side and, in fact, helped get many of them get their housing assignment.

“The walls will come down when the people who live in the shadow of these walls, and look to those walls for a sense of security, can feel secure without them. Memories will have to fade. It will take another generation at least,” he said.

The two sides mark their cultural divide in ways petty and profound. Each morning, two sets of children depart in different directions, wearing different uniforms, as Catholics head for their own church-run schools, the Protestants for state-run ones. At night, the two sides usually order fast-food deliveries from their own areas, fearful that someone from “the other side” might spit in their food. They use separate taxi companies and favor different newspapers.

Short Strand’s community association has erected house numbers bearing each family’s name in Gaelic, the little-used native tongue of Ireland that is loathed by most Protestants.

Reflecting their anxiety that the faster-growing Catholic community wants to push them out, the Protestants of Cluan Place have painted the gable end of one house with a mural featuring a massive Union Jack and a list of attacks on their street since 2002. “Still loyalist, always British, no surrender,” it says.

The house opposite Currie’s, belonging to an aunt, has a dog strutting about sporting a Union Jack collar, and Ulster loyalist music blaring loudly enough from a stereo to carry to Catholic ears beyond the wall.

Across the divide, 56-year-old Maggie McDowell cocks an ear at the sectarian tune. “Och, him again,” she said, identifying her Protestant neighbor not by a name or face she’s never known, but by his musical taste. Unlike most living on both sides of this wall, she was here for the 2002 rioting — and credits the wall’s extension with ensuring no repeat.

She and her husband, James, keep a collection of the most interesting objects that have crashed into their house or back garden, including one smooth stone used as a doorstop. He points out holes in their home’s brick wall marking strikes from past violence. Golf balls, a favored weapon for both sides, she collects by the bucket to give every so often to her golf-enthusiast brother.

When asked if she’d like the wall to come down, Maggie McDowell said, “It’s a terrible thing to say, but I wish they could make it higher.”

Grandson and other clan members to travel to Wexford to commemorate event

Noel Whelan
Irish Times
15 June 2013
**Video and text of speech below

John F Kennedy poses with relatives in Dunganstown, Co Wexford, on his visit to Ireland in 1963.

Mary Robinson once said that the smell of fresh paint would be one of the abiding memories of her presidency. Local communities always seemed to have redecorated whatever centre or school she was visiting just before the presidential party arrived.

The smell of fresh paint, the dust of freshly laid pavements and the colours of newly planted flower beds were prominent in New Ross this week as the local authorities and shop owners busily readied the quayside for the arrival of American political royalty next weekend. The Kennedy clan are coming to town.

Four miles out the road at Dunganstown the scene was also one of dust and fresh paint as the Office of Public Works put the finishing touches to the new visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead. Curator and Kennedy cousin Patrick Grennan and heritage interpretive designer Jack Harrison have assembled a fascinating exhibition of photographs, observations and memorabilia capturing the extraordinary journey that is the Kennedy story.

The visitor centre will be officially opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Caroline Kennedy next Saturday afternoon. Later that evening they will also light an eternal flame to emigrants beside the Dunbrody famine ship at New Ross. It’s all part of a series of Kennedy homecoming events as three dozen American-based Kennedys join with their local cousins, the townspeople and thousands of expected visitors to mark the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s visit as president in 1963.

Dramatic works

Among the dramatic works which the town council has undertaken at the quayside in New Ross has been the erection of a statute in bronze by Ann Meldon Hugh replicating a US presidential podium at the spot where John F Kennedy spoke. Having checked the online footage of the speech and even the minutes of the relevant town council meeting from 1963 the town manager, Eamonn Hore, was able to pinpoint to within a metre the precise spot as appropriate location for the podium statute. The bronze podium has already become an attraction in its own right. On recent bright summer evenings one could see people standing behind it and having their presidential speech-making pose captured on smartphone cameras.

The full text of John F Kennedy’s speech in 1963 has been engraved on the podium top. The most striking thing about the speech is how short it was: it runs to just over 300 words. It lasted just three minutes. A press copy of the New Ross remarks preserved in the Kennedy Library in Boston shows four closely typed paragraphs which take up about two-thirds of a single A4 page. Footage of the speech in the library, and widely available online, suggests that the president’s jokes on the day were ad-libbed, but of course they were included in the advance text published to the press.


Video: John F. Kennedy in New Ross and Wexford, Ireland, June 27th 1963.


In these 300 words Kennedy managed to acknowledge and introduce the significant members of his travelling party, including his sisters Eunice and Jean. He joked about how if his great-grandfather had not left he might have been working in the local Albatros factory across the river or in John V Kelly’s local pub across the road.

Return journey

He also however made, in a subtle way, some significant points about the consequences and opportunity flowing from the Irish history of emigration. Speaking at the spot where his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy had boarded the famine ship, the Dunbrody, in 1848 to begin his journey to America, Kennedy spoke of how it had taken 115 years and 6,000 miles for him to make the return journey. The point obvious to his audience of course was that while Patrick Kennedy in 1848 left as a peasant farmer John F Kennedy had come back in 1963 as president.

Notwithstanding the fact that the speech was short, Kennedy’s carefully chosen words and the manner of the delivery meant none of those who waited for hours to hear him felt they had been short-changed. On the contrary, several in New Ross this week described the moment as the highlight of their childhood. It is an eloquent illustration of how something memorable yet effective can be better said in a short rather than a long speech. That which is concise is more likely to be profound.

Over the course of next Thursday in Dublin and next Friday and Saturday in New Ross and in Dunganstown there will be many words spoken as national and local personalities and politicians seek to capture the relevance of John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963. Those of us involved in putting some of the events together will be hoping to impose something approaching a 300-word limit on the speakers, at least as a general rule.

We will of course be happy to grant some leeway to members of the Kennedy family, who all seem to have inherited the gift of memorable speech-making.

On New Ross quayside next Saturday JFK’s grandson will speak from almost the same spot as Kennedy spoke from in 1963 to honour his great-grandfather. In many ways these are likely to be among the most poignant remarks of the weekend. In terms of memorable Kennedy speeches, in New Ross at least, the torch will pass on once more to another generation.


1963 Press Release
For immediate release
Office of The White House Press Secretary
(Dublin, Ireland)
June 27, 1963

The White House

Remarks of The President

At New Ross Quay

New Ross, Ireland

Mr. Mayor, I first of all would like to introduce two members of my family who came here with us: My sister Eunice Shriver, and to introduce another of my sisters, Jean Smith. I would like to have you meet American Ambassador McClosky, who is with us, and I would like to have you meet the head of the American labor movement, whose mother and father were born in Ireland, George Meany, who is travelling with us. And then I would like to have you meet the only man with us who doesn’t have a drop of Irish blood, but who is dying to, the head of the protocol of the United States, Angier Biddle Duke.

See, Angie, how nice it is, just to be Irish?

I am glad to be here. It took 115 years to make this trip and 6’000 miles, and three generations. But I am proud to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome you have given to all of us. When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great granchildren have valued that inheritance.

If he hadn’t left, I would be working over at the Albatross Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly. In any case, we are happy to be back here.

About 50 years ago, an Irishman from New Ross traveled down to Washington with his family, and in order to tell his neighbors how well he was doing, he had his picture taken in front of the White House and said, “This is our summer home. Come and see us.” Well, it is our home also in the Winter, and I hope you will come and see us.

Thank you.

By Conor Macauley
14 June 2013

**Please see The Antrim Coast Road for a beautiful pictorial tour.

Creating it was daunting and expensive but the Antrim Coast Road has become one of the iconic drives in Europe – Image from

It was, by the standards of the day, a crazy plan – to open the inaccessible Glens of Antrim by blasting a road along miles of towering sea cliffs.

But it was the 1830s and the Victorians were full of confidence.

A Scottish engineer William Bald, had the vision and the money was secured to build a road that would become one of the most iconic coastal drives in Europe.

It would remain largely unchanged for more than 100 years.
Huge obstacle

Before it, people relied on muddy tracks that rose and fell over the steep-sided glens. In winter the area was cut off.

The 12 miles of sea to Scotland was a much easier trading route. It was there that goods were sold and marriages made.

Bald’s road, planned as a `Grand Military Way` and built when the United Irishmen rebellion of 1798 was still fresh in the memory, would change all that.

The Antrim Coast Road, or A2 to give it its functional title, runs from Larne to the Giant’s Causeway taking in a series of seaside villages that nestle by the shore where the glens slope to the sea.

It hugs the rocky headlands of Glenarm and Garron Point. They presented a huge obstacle to William Bald, and still give problems today.

The most scenic 25 mile section stretches from the Black Arch at Larne to the Red Arch at Cushendall, a road once likened to a “snake tied by its tail which curves and loops its way along the rocky coastline.”

Tackled with gusto

But in 10 years, Bald, assisted by hundreds of workers from the glens blasted his way along the coast, blowing hundreds of tonnes of rock onto the shore where labourers fashioned a road lapped by the sea.

The project, he wrote in 1834, had two particular difficulties.

“One the necessity of conducting the road under a very considerable extent of rock, and the other, its passage along portions of very steep hills of moving clay bank.”

“William tackled this with gusto, but it was a big challenge,” he told A Radio Ulster documentary, The Beauty and the Beast.

“The original estimate for the road was £25,000 and the commissioners were more than a little upset when it turned out to be almost 50% over budget, it actually cost £37,000.

“The road was started in 1832 and finished in 1842 and it’s even more remarkable when you think it was done without any mechanical equipment. It was all manual labour.”

Storm damage

And both the sea cliffs and the unstable clay banks, or slow landslides Bald encountered still need constant monitoring and maintenance. Today that’s done under the direction of Clive Robinson of the Roads Service.

“I look upon the road as a beauty and a beast. There’s the undoubted beauty of it, the beast is the work we have to do with it.”

“There are a number of issues and they all relates to the varying geology around the coast road. It relates to rock faces where you’ve rock falls and landslides.

“You also have sea defence problems with storm damage to the sea walls, so quite a range of problems based on geology and what nature is throwing at the coast road.”

At Garron Point a project has been completed to protect drivers from the risk posed by the road. It was closed for months as a huge net was thrown over the sea cliffs to stop rock falls.

It’s one of the narrowest points along the route where the limestone and basalt face tower for 100 metres above the nervous driver.

It’s the last of work at the site where £600,000 has been spent in the past three years.

If Bald’s road was ambitious when he started it in 1832, it’s a route that would never be built today says David Orr.

“One of the conundrums of this road is that if we were trying to build it today I don’t think it would be allowed.

“This is an area of outstanding natural beauty. I think it would be a difficult and expensive road to improve to any great extent and I just wonder if the charm of it might be taken away by any major development.”

The Beauty and the Beast will be broadcast on Sunday 16 June at 13:30 BST

**According to the BBC, this the first time a civic service has been held to mark the June 1973 bombings, and no permanent memorial exists to mark the bombings, nor any list of names.

The scene in the aftermath of the Provisional IRA bomb that exploded in Railway Road, Coleraine on June 12, 1973. The explosion killed six civilians.

Coleraine Times
11 June 2013

ONE of the darkest days in Coleraine’s history – the IRA bombing of Railway Road forty years ago – will be commemorated by a service in the town centre on Wednesday afternoon.

Six people were killed, all pensioners and 33 others were injured, including some schoolchildren in the devastating car bomb attack of June 12, 1973.

A Coleraine Borough Council commemoration will take place from 2:50pm at Coleraine Town Hall and the adjacent War Memorial.

A short service will be led by the Mayor’s Padre, followed by a wreath laying and a minute’s silence. The public are welcome to attend to pay their respects, council said.

UUP councillor, Willie McCandless recalls the events vividly: “The infamy of that day has remained with me over the past 40 years and I remember the victims every year. I was 20 years of age when the bombing occurred and was employed in Ballantyne Sportswear Coleraine. When the news came through to us in the factory it was incorrectly communicated that the bomb had exploded at the Railway Station.

“I immediately rushed there as my father had been due to complete some building repair work. I remember dodging a police officer to get through and was relieved to find out that the information was inaccurate and that my father had been transferred to work at Ballymoney station that day.”

Speaking of Wednesday’s commemoration, councillor McCandless added: “I hope that people from all sections of the community will join with us in remembering those lives which were so needlessly and tragically taken and that we can all work together to ensure that our children and grandchildren never have to face these dark days again.”

Former Ambulance Service worker, councillor David Barbour, recalled feeling the ground heaving beneath his feet as he stood beside his vehicle at Chapel Square.

He said: “It was my duty to collect nursing staff and take them to the scene to see what could be done as well as collecting people suffering major injuries and transporting them to the Accident/Emergency Centre. The scene was of people lying in several places, rising smoke, black dust, and damaged buildings.

“The activity at the hospital was hectic as medical, nursing and technical staff selected patients for appropriate treatment. I wondered for some time how staff would cope with such a major incident. They actually did well in the face of such a challenge and health service staff in town as visitors volunteered their services if required.”

Former Limavady mayor, Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, brother of notorious IRA man Dominic McGlinchey was convicted of planting the bomb and served 18 years in prison.

The first bomb exploded outside a wine shop around 3pm on Railway Road, while a second device detonated five minutes later at Hanover Place, adding to the panic and confusion in the area. At the time the IRA had sent a warning for the second bomb but said it had mistakenly given the wrong location for the first.

The six pensioners who died in the atrocity – Elizabeth Craigmile (76), Robert Scott (72), Dinah Campbell (72), Francis Campbell (70), Nan Davis (60), and Elizabeth Palmer (60) – were all Protestant.

the bombings brought about a violent backlash from loyalist paramilitaries, who swiftly retaliated by unleashing a series of sectarian killings on the Catholic community culminating in the double killing of Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews on June 26 that year.

In his book Years of Darkness: The Troubles Remembered, academic Gordon Gillespie described the attacks as “a forgotten massacre” of The Troubles

Internal files on case of Derry boy who was blinded and received out-of-court settlement are unearthed in National Archives

Owen Bowcott
10 June 2013

Richard Moore was struck in the face with a rubber bullet and lost his sight at age 10. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

The Ministry of Defence knew that rubber bullets used during the Troubles caused serious injuries and could be lethal but concealed the information from victims, according to documents uncovered in the National Archives.

Files relating to compensation being sought by lawyers for Richard Moore, who was blinded in Derry in 1972, reveal that the army was aware at the time that tests at Porton Down defence laboratories had demonstrated the projectiles caused serious injuries and were potentially fatal.

The Ministry of Defence always categorised rubber bullets as non-lethal despite the fact that three youths were killed using the projectiles during 1972 and 1973. The youngest, Francis Rowntree, was aged 11.

The internal MoD papers on Moore’s case were unearthed in the National Archives by researchers from the Pat Finucane Centre in Northern Ireland, who are systematically working their way through the records.

Moore, then aged 10, was running home from school on 4 May 1972. Army reports said there had been rioting near a joint army-police post above the city’s Bogside. A sentry, supposedly under a barrage of stones, fired at close range without bouncing his shot off the ground. Moore, running past, was struck in the face and lost his sight instantly.

A confidential memorandum from 1977 highlights the political embarrassment posed by Moore’s compensation-seeking lawyers when they asked to see relevant documents. “Our legal advisers … had earlier thought we would not need to disclose … details of the tests on the weapon done at Porton before it was introduced [in 1971],” the MoD notes record.

“The papers will [show] that the tests were carried out in a shorter time than was ideal because the army needed a riot-control weapon quickly, that the ministry was aware that it could be lethal, that it could and did cause serious injuries, but that these penalties were accepted in order to give the army a riot control weapon of lower lethality …”

Other MoD documents refer to the “paucity of research into the effects of rubber bullets” and question whether the revelations would be “so damaging to MoD interests that … the case should settled at almost any cost?”

One of the papers sought was a “summary of research on various sizes of rubber bullets from the scientific adviser to the [General Office Commanding] Northern Ireland, dated December 1970”.

The ministry, it was said, “would not like to see [them] become public property”, in particular some of the comments that would “provide a field-day for the more malicious sectors of the press”.

Threatened with being forced to release the documents, the MoD agreed an out-of-court settlement with Moore’s lawyers. One official recorded: “It was of some comfort that one of our senior counsel, not one of those handling our case, commented that £68,000 was a ‘rock bottom price’ for this case.”

Paul O’Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre, said: “What is apparent from these documents is that grown, educated men conspired to ensure that a 10-year-old boy, who was blinded, was prevented from seeing information that he had a right to view.

“[Rubber bullets] were always described as non-lethal technologies. In the light of this information, rubber bullets should never have been introduced.”

Moore, now 51, a musician and married with two children, runs a charity, Children in Crossfire, which helps young people trying to escape violence and poverty in Africa. He has since made friends with the soldier who fired the rubber bullet.

“I was running along and had just passed the British army lookout post,” he recalled. “It hit me on the bridge of the nose. I’m totally reconciled to my situation now and not looking for anything.

“But there should be transparency and honesty. The army knew rubber bullets were lethal yet always denied it at the time. Other people were blinded or killed by rubber bullets. The government shouldn’t have held back crucial information from their families.”

Rubber bullets were replaced by plastic baton rounds in 1974. A further 14 deaths followed in Northern Ireland, the last in 1989. Scientists at Porton Down later tested them on pigs to assess the damage. The latest version are still in police armouries: senior officers in London considered using plastic baton rounds to disperse rioters in 2011.

**In 2009, Ó Brádaigh made headlines…after he would not condemn the murder by the Continuity IRA of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, County Armagh. (BBC)

IRA chief of staff and president of Sinn Féin

‘The armed stuggle and sitting in parliament are mutually exclusive,’ said Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.

Ann McHardy
The Guardian
5 June 2013

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who has died aged 81, was an IRA army council member, the founding president of Provisional Sinn Féin in 1971 and an IRA army council member. He led the Provos until 1983, through the most violent years of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, until he split with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness over the peace process. In 1955, Ó Brádaigh had led the biggest IRA arms raid ever on an army depot in Britain, but from 1979 he was involved in a power struggle with the two northerners and was finally ousted when Adams replaced him as Sinn Féin president and McGuinness became its chief negotiator.

Ó Brádaigh regarded himself as keeping alive pure Republicanism, inherited from the IRA of 1916. He remained committed to the 1921 constitutional policy of refusing to take part in democratic politics until Ireland was reunited. He believed bitterly that Adams’s and McGuinness’s policy of using “the armalite and the ballot box” would perpetuate partition and keep “the occupied six counties”, as he termed Northern Ireland, inside the UK. In 1986 Ó Brádaigh said: “The armed struggle and sitting in parliament are mutually exclusive.”

He regarded the IRA ceasefire of 1996, the Good Friday agreement of 1998, the decommissioning of IRA weapons in 2006 and McGuinness becoming deputy first minister in a power-sharing government in Belfast in 2007, with the Rev Ian Paisley as first minister, as total betrayal.

After the 1983 split with the Provos, Ó Brádaigh formed the Continuity IRA and Republican Sinn Féin, which had the odd distinction in 2004 of being the only Irish organisations on President George W Bush’s list of banned foreign terrorist organisations in the US, even though they were not active, while another splinter organisation, the Real IRA, perpetrator of the 1998 Omagh bombing, was.

Ó Brádaigh had been instrumental in founding the Provos after a disagreement in 1971 with his one-time close IRA associate Cathal Goulding over moves by Goulding to participate in Irish politics and take seats in the Dáil. Sinn Féin had previously fought elections on an abstentionist ticket and Ó Brádaigh had won a seat in 1957.

For Ó Brádaigh, born Peter Roger (hence “Rory”) Casement Brady into a middle-class Republican family in Longford, Ireland, the commiment was personal loyalty. His father, Matt Brady, who died when he was 10, was an IRA man who suffered badly from injuries inflicted in 1919 by the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Ó Brádaigh was educated at St Mel’s College, Longford, and University College Dublin, and graduated in commerce and with an Irish language-teaching certificate. He became a teacher at Roscommon vocational school, resigning during periods in prison. He joined Sinn Féin at university, and the IRA in 1951. In 1955, he led a 10-member IRA group in an arms raid on Hazebrouck Barracks, near Arborfield, Berkshire, which successfully netted ammunition and weapons, including 55 Sten guns. However, many of the weapons were recovered when the first of the two vans taking them to a hideout in London was stopped for speeding. Ó Brádaigh, in the second van, stored his haul and returned to Ireland but an address in the first van led the police to the store.

In 1956, in the IRA’s Northern Ireland border campaign, codenamed Operation Harvest, Ó Brádaigh was part of the planning group and second in command of the western attack. A police barracks at Derrylin, County Fermanagh, was hit and an RUC constable, John Scally, killed. Ó Brádaigh and others were arrested the next day across the border in Cavan and imprisoned for failing to account for their movements. Shortly after his release, Ó Brádaigh was interned at the Curragh military prison. In September 1958 he and Daithi Ó Conaill escaped by cutting through a wire fence, and Ó Brádaigh became the first Dáil member on the run.

As IRA chief of staff, he penned the ceasefire standing the organisation down and bringing a formal end to the border campaign. In 1968, when protestant gangs began firebombing Catholic streets in retaliation against civil rights concessions by the Unionist government, only six IRA guns could be found to defend the burning homes. The bitter slogan painted on walls in Catholic areas was “IRA … I Ran Away”. Ó Brádaigh, working with Sean MacStiofain and Seamus Twomey, began recruiting a new IRA and seeking money and weapons.

The Dublin leadership found willing northern recruits in young men like such as Adams, then 20 and active organising street fighting in Belfast, and McGuinness, 19, similarly active in Derry.

As president of Sinn Féin, Ó Brádaigh was responsible for the Sinn Féin policy, Éire Nua, new Ireland, which proposed a federal Ireland reunited in four provinces, one of them Ulster. He did shift Sinn Féin in 1979 to allow recognition of the Irish special court in Green Street, Dublin, because so many activists were being tried there on charges of IRA membership, himself included, and being convicted with no evidence, on the grounds that their refusal to recognise the court was deemed proof of guilt. But he would not move on parliamentary abstentionism.

A sensitive and courteous man, an Irish traditional music enthusiast, Ó Brádaigh was not immune to the horror of bloodshed. I was standing nearby at a Sinn Féin annual conference in the Mansion House in Dublin in 1978 as he took a message saying that two IRA bombers, whose wives were delegates, had blown themselves up in Belfast the previous night. He had to tell the wives. He went white and broke into a sweat. I interviewed him later and he said that he felt in middle age that he now understood that pain was real for all affected, even British soldiers. That realisation did not change his commitment to “the armed struggle”.

As president of Sinn Féin after 1971, Ó Brádaigh was involved in negotiations with the Irish and British governments, something both governments denied, and in international publicity and IRA fundraising campaigns. In 1974 he took part in the Feakle ceasefire talks with protestant church leaders and in 1976 met the Ulster Loyalist co-ordinating committee at their request, to discuss whether their policy of an independent six-county Northern Ireland could fit with the nine-county old Irish kingdom of Ulster in Éire Nua.

In 1974, he testified before the US Senate committee on foreign relations about the treatment of IRA suspects in Northern Ireland. The same year, the State Department revoked his multiple entry visa to the US. In 1975, FBI documents described him as a “national security threat” and a “dedicated revolutionary undeterred by threat or personal risk”, but recorded that the visa ban was requested by the British Foreign Office, supported by the Dublin government. Ó Brádaigh also carried a British passport in the name Peter Brady, legally obtained through British-Irish citizenship agreements, which he claimed he used to continue to enter the US.

In 2005, Ó Brádaigh, a keen historian, donated a set of papers of the National University of Ireland. They included notes that he had taken during secret meetings in 1975-76 with British agents which confirmed that Britain did consider withdrawal from Ireland.

Latterly Ó Brádaigh was seen in Ireland as almost a comic figure, as modern Republicanism followed Adams and McGuinness into constitutional politics, but he continued to have influence, particularly abroad, often being interviewed in the US by video link.

He and his wife, Patsy, had six children.

• Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (Peter Roger Casement Brady), IRA leader and politician, born 2 October 1932; died 5 June 2013

By Mark Rainey
News Letter
5 June 2013

Normandy veteran Bill McConnell from Belfast is making an emotional return to the D-Day beaches and battlefields this week

A Belfast man who forged a birth certificate to fight in World War Two is making an emotional journey to commemorate the D-Day landings.

Bill McConnell was only 17 and living in Ballyclare when he volunteered for service with the Royal Ulster Rifles.

The ageing veteran, now 88, first travelled to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the landings and is one of the few still able to make the journey.

He was saddened to discover in 1994 that no permanent memorial to his fallen comrades was ever erected and decided to raise the funds to establish one.

Thanks to Bill’s efforts, a lasting tribute now stands at the Lougueval and Swords beaches in honour of the 6th Airborne Division with which he went on to serve with distinction.

Having signed up in 1941, he eventually joined a glider assault squadron ahead of Operation Overlord and crash landed on D-Day (June 6, 1944) around 35 miles behind enemy lines – directly in the firing line of a crack SS Panzer unit.

His detachment suffered heavy casualties but managed to hold the Panzer unit’s advance and eventually forced its withdrawal.

Since his 1994 visit, Bill has become a regular visitor to the beaches and battlefields where so many of his generation made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We were the only regiment in the British Army who sent two battalions in on D-Day and I thought it was a great shame that there was nothing to remember those who sacrificed their lives,” he said.

Bill’s war had been relatively uneventful until D-Day but he faced almost constant danger until the war’s end.

March 1945 was particularly perilous for Bill’s unit and the young corporal suffered shrapnel wounds during the Rhine landings in western Germany.

“Ninety per cent of our gliders were shot down. We had been told there would be no resistance, but the Germans were using anti-aircraft guns and we were in plywood gliders with cellophane windows and nothing to protect us.

“It was terrifying. There was awful confusion inside the glider… we lost 66 men in 10 minutes.”

Bill added: “Each time I go to Normandy I go to as many graveyards as I can. When I stand at a grave of someone I knew I can see their face as I remember it. In my mind they have not grown old.”

Bill is making this week’s trip with the help of a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme.

• The scheme pledges funding for veterans, spouses, widows and carers from either side of the Irish border wishing to mark official commemorations. Further information is available at or by calling 0845 00 00 121.

By Margaret Davis
Irish News
23 May 2013

Devastation: Horses lie dead in the road (Image:

A 61-YEAR-OLD Donegal man appeared in court yesterday charged with the murder of four British soldiers in the IRA Hyde Park bombing of 1982.

John Anthony Downey, who is thought to be originally from Co Cavan, was at Westminster Magistrates Court to face four counts of murder and an explosives charge.

He is accused of being responsible for a nail bomb left in a car in South Carriage Drive, west London.

The bomb killed four members of the Royal Household Cavalry as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Mr Downey, a member of Sinn Fein and a so-called on the run (OTR), was arrested at Gatwick Airport on Sunday.

British police had wanted to question him about the attack for decades.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly yesterday called for his immediate release.

During the short hearing, Mr Downey spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

He is charged with murdering Roy John Bright, Dennis Richard Anthony Daly, Simon Andrew Tipper and Geoffrey Vernon Young.

Seven horses were also killed and several police officers and civilians injured in the blast.

A second explosion in a Re-gent’s Park bandstand on the same day killed seven British army bandsmen.

Mr Downey will appear at the Old Bailey tomorrow.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, anyone convicted of a paramilitary offence that took place before April 15 1998 can request to be transferred to a prison in Northern Ireland and then apply to be released after serving two years in custody.

Mr Kelly said yesterday that Mr Downey was a “long-time supporter of the peace process” and the decision to charge him was “vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful”.

“Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Kelly said.

“As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British government committed to resolving the position of OTRs.

“John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British police force.

“Despite travelling to England on many occasions, now, six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.”

Unionist politicians hit out at Mr Kelly’s comments.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Danny Kinahan, who was victim Anthony Daly’s best man and attended his funeral, said everyone “must be subject to the rule of law”.

“It may be politically inconvenient or embarrassing for Sinn Fein when certain individuals are arrested and/or charged with offences but that does not mean that justice should be prevented from being done,” he said.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said all crimes, no matter when they were committed, must be investigated.

“There can be no mitigation for claims that someone is ‘a supporter of the peace process’, ‘a good republican’ or any other phrase which Sinn Fein may care to use,” he said.

In 1987 electrician Gilbert ‘Danny’ McNamee, of Crossma-glen in Co Armagh, was jailed for 25 years for making the Hyde Park bomb.

He served 12 years before being freed under the Good Friday Agreement and in 1998 his conviction was quashed at the High Court.

Although his conviction was deemed unsafe, the three judges found it did not follow he was innocent of the crime.

News Letter
4 June 2013

Dr Adrian Johnston chairman of the International Fund for Ireland at a Peace wall interface on Springfield Road, Belfast.

Government plans to tear down all of Northern Ireland’s peace walls within 10 years are ambitious, according to an organisation that has worked with interface communities for the past year.

The International Fund for Ireland which has been running a peace walls programme for 12 months said it would not have put a deadline on re-building confidence and addressing security issues.

“Interface walls can only be removed when the time is right and that time will be determined by the communities themselves,” said Dr Adrian Johnston chairman of the International Fund for Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s peace lines are a mixture of traditional walls, fences and gates. They have been built in areas of sectarian tension in Belfast, Derry and Portadown, as well as through the playground of a primary school in north Belfast.

Some tower up to 18ft high (5.5 metres) and may be miles long through areas of dense housing. They were intended to be temporary and protect people from violence during the 30-year conflict but remain 15 years after the Good Friday Agreement which ended the Troubles.

Peace walls have increased in number and scale since the 1994 ceasefires with an estimated 80 currently in existence.

Dr Johnston said a number of communities had requested assistance to positively transform their areas but deep seated problems still need to be addressed.

“The International Fund for Ireland can bring communities to the point where they feel it is safe to remove the peace walls. There are elements of security there – the Department of Justice, the PSNI and the communities have to make that decision themselves. Therefore the International Fund for Ireland would not put a timeline on how long it should be before interface walls come down.

“I think it is ambitious and you do have to have ambitions. One of the things we have to look at is challenging communities to progress. But, change has to be managed very sensitively,” he added.

The International Fund for Ireland was established in 1986 to promote economic and social advance, encourage dialogue and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists.

The peace walls project has been included as part of its new three-year strategy to tackle segregation and promote reconciliation and integration in interface areas.

The overall cost of division in 2001 cost Northern Ireland around £1 billion including the provision of segregated social housing and single identity schools.

The strategy also includes a peace impact programme to help “hard to reach areas” suffering from high levels of economic and social deprivation where there are low levels of engagement with statutory agencies and where the peace process has not delivered.

Dr Johnston said: “As peace building has evolved, so too have the challenges and much work is still needed to address prevailing sectarian tensions.

“The community transformation strategy recognises the new reality on the ground and looks to support communities that are still affected by the threat of violence. It is particularly focused on addressing the root causes of sectarianism and, in some cases, is making the first effort to tackle very difficult and sensitive issues.

“The credibility, flexibility and widespread acceptance of the Fund means it is able to access all communities and constituencies including those viewed as being beyond the reach of governmental interventions. This strategy looks to make the most of our unique position and enable more communities to engage in peace building and development activities. It is an important and necessary response to the new challenges at community level.”

Last month the First and Deputy First Ministers unveiled their Shared Future Strategy which includes the target of bringing down all of Northern Ireland’s peace walls by 2023.

Another project is to establish a ‘’united youth programme’’ in which 10,000 people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training would be given a one-year placement with a stipend.

An all-party group with an independent chairman is to be established to deal with contentious issues like flags.

Law will bar those found guilty of serious offences taking up high-paid Spad posts

Stormont Parliament Buildings. (Photo by Peter Rainey)

Belfast Telegraph
04 June 2013

The Stormont Assembly has voted in favour of a bill which will bar those found guilty of serious offences from taking up high-paid ‘Special Adviser’ posts.

The Bill was passed this evening by 56 votes to 28.

A majority of MLAs voted for the contentious proposal to become law following a lengthy and often fractious debate at Parliament Buildings.

The SDLP, which had found itself holding the balance of power inside the chamber, ultimately resisted vociferous calls from Sinn Fein and some victims of the Troubles to trigger an Assembly mechanism that would have stymied the legislative change.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the emotive issue, other victims of the conflict also travelled to Stormont to urge politicians to back the legislation.

The Private Member’s Bill was tabled by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister in the wake of Sinn Fein’s appointment of former IRA prisoner Mary McArdle as adviser to its Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin three years ago.

Ms McArdle was convicted for her role in the IRA murder of judge’s daughter Mary Travers in Belfast in 1984.

Her hiring was met with outrage by Miss Travers’ sister Ann, who campaigned vocally in support of Mr Allister’s proposal.

While Sinn Fein has since moved Ms McArdle to another political role with the party at Stormont, one of the advisers to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is set to lose his job as a result of the Bill’s passage.

Paul Kavanagh, from Derry, served 14 years for killing three people in an IRA bombing campaign in England in 1981.

Addressing the Assembly during the debate, Mr Allister said he would like the legislation to be known as “Ann’s law” in tribute to Ms Travers’ campaigning.

“This House – this community – owes a tremendous debt to that lady, who spoke with such compelling candour, honesty and persistence on behalf of all innocent victims,” he said.

The TUV leader insisted the law would ensure no one would have to experience what she did when Ms McArdle was hired.

“Never again, never again will such re-traumatising of a victim’s family be permitted,” he said.

“This Bill, first and foremost, is about righting that wrong and about saying that never again should it happen to anyone else.”

Sinn Fein strongly opposed the legislation – which will bar anyone sentenced to more than five years in prison from becoming a ministerial special adviser (Spad) – insisting that one of the fundamental tenets of the Good Friday peace agreement was an acknowledgement that ex-prisoners have a role to play in shaping the future of the region.

In a marathon two-hour speech, which drew allegations of filibustering from across the chamber, Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay branded the Bill “discriminatory”.

Claiming the proposal had set victims against ex-prisoners at a time when integration should be the priority, he accused Mr Allister of trying to set back the peace process.

“That is the aim and raison d’etre of the sponsor of the Bill,” he said. “It is to set back the peace process and to set back the Assembly.”

He said the Bill would implement “old-style unionist discrimination”.

“It is wrong,” he said. “It is unjust. It is against human rights. It is against equality. It is against the Good Friday Agreement. It is just scoring political points.”

SDLP members faced intense pressure over their position on the issue in the run-up to the vote.

The numerical make-up of the Assembly left the party effectively holding the fate of the legislation in its hands.

Its decision last week not to join Sinn Fein in signing a so-called petition of concern, having originally indicated it probably would sign, paved the way for the Bill to become law.

A petition would have required the Bill to gain the support of a majority of nationalists and unionists inside the Assembly, rather than prevailing in a straight majority vote.

But with 30 signatures required to reach the threshold for a successful petition, Sinn Fein’s 29 MLAs were unable to trigger the mechanism.

With the SDLP facing down late pressure to sign the petition, and instead following through with its pledge to abstain in the vote, the Bill passed 56 to 28 with the backing of unionist members.

Explaining the SDLP’s stance, MLA Dominic Bradley said his party made its decision with the rights of victims in mind.

He said “flaws” in the Bill meant the only approach the party could take was to abstain.

“We think that it is flawed but in a situation where victims are being so sadly neglected for political reasons, the lesser evil in this case is to abstain and I believe that is an honourable position and indeed it is an ethical position,” he said.

“I would like to think that this House could go further than the debate on this Bill to deliver an equal, ethical plan for dealing with our past and for the sake of victims and for the sake of the future I hope that we do that.”

As the debate got under way inside the chamber, outside victims had spoken in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings to urge the SDLP to either hold firm or perform a late U-turn.

Campaigners for families bereaved as a result of state actions said they felt let down by the SDLP.

Some of them challenged SDLP MLA for Foyle Colm Eastwood directly as he walked to the Assembly chamber.

John Loughran, whose uncle was shot dead by the British Army in Belfast in 1973, said the Bill was “divisive”.

He added: “We believe as families that the legislation is flawed, we feel in some ways we have been misled by the SDLP and in many respects we also feel betrayed.

“What we now see is a piece of flawed legislation that is contrary to the needs of putting victims first.”

But later Serena Hamilton, whose off-duty soldier father David Graham was shot dead by the IRA in Co Tyrone in 1977, expressed her support for the Bill.

“They should not have high-powered jobs,” she said of former paramilitary prisoners.

“Our loved ones are not here to have high-powered jobs – £80,000 to £90,000 a year they are getting paid for these jobs.

“My father is lying six foot under and has been for 36 years, and we have lost out in every aspect of life. They have got a high-powered job, they are being glorified and they are being rewarded for what they have done.

“That should never be the case, no matter what – whether it is a terrorist, paedophile, rapist, anything – if you commit a crime, you should serve the time.”

After the vote, Ann Travers expressed her satisfaction.

“I am so pleased that I have done everything I have done,” she said.

“I loved my sister Mary who was beautiful, gifted, talented – didn’t deserve to die the way that she did, but certainly didn’t deserve to have her memory stamped on.”

**From 2011 on the 90th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty signing. Please see link below to access the full document.

Susan Daley
6 Dec 2011

An excerpt from the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 which has just been published for the first time online in full, exactly 90 years after it was signed. (Image: National Archivs of Ireland)

ITS YELLOWING PAPER is still marked ‘Secret’ but the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed between an Irish contingent and the British government on this day 90 years ago is now available to view – in full – by the public.

The signing of the Treaty by a delegation including Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s delegation led in part to the Civil War in Ireland but was also a step on the road to full independence for the Republic of Ireland.

On the day in which Ireland labours under a new Budget of austerity and a loss of financial sovereignty, the National Archives of Ireland has published in full and for the first time online, the full 1921 Treaty document. While it set up the “Irish Free State”, it also asked members of the Irish parliament to swear to be “faithful to H.M. King George V”.

And most controversially of all, it outlined in articles 11, 12 and 14 how Northern Ireland would remain geographically and politically separate from the South.

See the whole document here on the >>National Archives website.

**Although I am disenchanted with posting daily news due to the incessant repetition of ingrained venality and stupidity exhibited in many of the stories, there are some things I am interested in archiving, so I will attempt to collect them here once again since I now have the time. I will try to keep my personal opinions to myself, but if you look at what I post, you can pretty much figure out how I feel. I may also stray from a completely Irish venue, but since we all live on the same planet (at least I think we do), that should be of little concern.

–Here is an important story from last month.

The Dublin government has announced an amnesty for the soldiers it dismissed and blacklisted … for fighting Hitler’s Third Reich, writes Richard Doherty

Great injustice: Many irish soldiers fought for the Allies as they were bombarded by the Nazis but on the orders of De valera they were labelled deserters

Richard Doherty
Belfast Telegraph
08 May 2013

In 1945, the Irish government issued a blacklist of men who were not to be given government, or local government, jobs. The list – running to 133 pages – included more than 5,000 names from almost every county.

These were men of the Irish Defence Forces who, in the language of the civil service, had been ‘dismissed for desertion in time of national emergency pursuant to the terms of Emergency Powers (No 362) Order 1945, or of section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act 1946’.

What most had done was to absent themselves from their posts as Irish servicemen and travel to Northern Ireland, or Britain, to sign on for the UK forces. In military-legal terms, they were deserters; but they deserted to fight, rather than to avoid fighting, the common perception of desertion.

Significantly, the legislation under which the men were dismissed was not enacted until the war in Europe was over. In fact, many of those ‘dismissed’ were dead, having been killed in action, or died of wounds while serving with UK forces.

The introduction of that legislation by Eamon de Valera’s government was a surprise to some, who believed that an amnesty was to be introduced for deserters.

That was certainly so in the case of 20-year-old Patrick Kehoe, who was arrested in Dundalk in June 1945 and tried by court martial at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

Kehoe had been told by his mother that there was to be an amnesty and so felt safe in crossing the border to visit her. He had deserted in 1943 and joined the RAF in order to strike back at Hitler and Germany for the suffering of his English relatives in Luftwaffe raids on Britain.

As a flight sergeant in Bomber Command, he took part in 22 operations before being shot down and taken prisoner on March 13, 1945.

Patrick Kehoe was liberated in May 1945, as was Patrick Shannon, who had deserted the Defence Forces in 1941, joined the British Army and served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before being captured near Florence in 1944. He was also arrested in Dundalk on his way to visit his dying mother.

Both were found guilty of desertion, ordered to serve 156 days detention and were discharged dishonourably from the Defence Forces. The detention period was commuted immediately.

Interestingly, both men were defended by a Captain Cowan, who told the court that desertion was leaving one’s post in time of danger, whereas they had left places of safety for danger.

Cowan added that: “In many countries [they] would be considered a hero that deserves honour and reward.”

As far as the court martials were concerned, they deserved neither honour nor reward. The same applied to all whom the Irish authorities could arrest and even those they could not, including men who had lost their lives. The blacklist shows that most were dismissed on August 8, 1945, but some were not punished until 1946.

Although the blacklist could not affect men from Northern Ireland, it had a serious effect on those from what is now the Republic.

Not only were government jobs closed to them and pensions denied, but they had to bear the stigma of being branded traitors.

And that stigma was not confined to the men themselves. Their families also had to bear it. Children were taunted and wives cold-shouldered.

Small wonder that many left Ireland to seek work and, in some cases, new homes across the water.

But the contribution those men made by enlisting in the British forces was greater than any they might have made as Irish servicemen.

Sean Drumm, who deserted from the Air Corps in 1943, became an air gunner in Bomber Command and survived 32 missions. The longest lasted 11 hours and 35 minutes against a target in eastern Europe.

Sean trained as an air gunner at Bishop’s Court in Co Down, and his Lancaster was engaged by nightfighters on six occasions and by anti-aircraft fire on many more.

Moreover, at the end of a long mission at 18,000-20,000 feet on a cold winter’s night, “you were like the Hunchback of Notre Dame; it took you a couple of hours to straighten up”.

Of his experiences, he said: “To describe it is almost impossible today. “It was like Armageddon. At night, the sky would be lit by massed searchlights and bursting shells, the ground a mass of flashes from falling bomb.”

Pardons for Sean Drumm, Patrick Kehoe and Patrick Shannon and all the other men whose names are included in that ignoble blacklist may be too late for them. Today, there are few survivors of their number to rejoice. But their families will surely welcome this act of the Irish government, announced by Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter. At long last, their native country is showing them the respect they were long ago given by another government and state (and let’s not forget that Ireland was then a Commonwealth country).

Perhaps the warming of relations between Dublin and London, as well as the work of many individuals over recent decades, has finally brought about this act to reverse a great injustice.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile


June 2013
« Feb   Jul »

A note about Archives

For March-Sept. 2007 click here:

March - Sept 2007

All other months and years are below.

'So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin lá eigin. Sealadaigh abú.' --Bobby Sands