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Friday, 6 March 2015

6 March 1988: Three IRA Volunteers were shot dead by members of Britain’s SAS regiment in Gibraltar on this day. They were Mairéad Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann. Their deaths had all the hallmarks of politically sanctioned killings by the British State.

Somehow or other MI5 got wind of plans by the IRA to bomb the changing of the guard in Gibraltar that was carried out with some ceremony by members of the British Military. A plan was put in place - Operation Flavius - to intercept this attempt and kill or capture the members of the IRA involved. In the event no attempt was made to capture and all identified members of the team were cut down without warning.

When Savage, McCann and Farrell—known IRA members—travelled to Spain in preparation for the attack, they were tracked at the request of the British government. On the day of the shootings, Savage was seen parking a white Renault in the car park used as the assembly area for the parade; McCann and Farrell were seen crossing the border shortly afterwards.

After a military bomb-disposal officer reported that Savage's car should be treated as a suspected bomb, the police handed over control of the operation to the SAS. As soldiers were moving into position to intercept the trio, Savage split from McCann and Farrell and began running south. Two soldiers pursued Savage while two approached McCann and Farrell; as they did so, the pair were said to make threatening movements, as a result of which the soldiers opened fire, shooting them multiple times. As soldiers caught up with Savage, he was alleged to have turned around to face them while reaching into his jacket; he was also shot multiple times.

All three were subsequently found to be unarmed, and Savage's car was found to contain no explosives; enquiries resulting from keys found on Farrell led authorities to a second car, containing a large quantity of explosives, in a car park in Spain. In all probability their presence in Gibraltar that day was a ‘test run’ and there was no immediate threat to anyone on the Rock that day.

Their deaths created huge controversy as it was hard to mask the fact that they had been killed in cold blood - a charge the British Government denied but without much success. When the bodies of the deceased were returned to Dublin they were met by thousands of well wishers in the pouring rain at Dublin Airport. The Corteges were escorted to the North by large numbers of vehicles and many more turned out to pay homage as the funeral cars made their way to the Border and back to Belfast. Once the Border was crossed their was a different atmosphere as the Crown Forces clamped down on any open expressions of symathy. Further deaths then followed at their funerals that shocked the Nation and indeed abroad in one of the most dramatic and bloody weeks in recent Irish History.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

5/6 March 1867: The Fenian Rising happened on this day. Long planned it turned into a complete fiasco. Thousands of volunteers turned up at various locations in Dublin, Cork, Tipperary, Limerick, and to a lesser extent in Clare, Waterford and Louth. However most were armed with pikes if at all. Very few firearms were available. There was no coherent plan of operations. Attempts were made to take a number of police barracks and engage the Constabulary in action but all ended in failure. An informer, Corydon, betrayed the plans and to add to the insurgents woes a great snow storm made absolutely impossible not only all communications but all movements of men. The Constabulary knew something was afoot but decided to allow events to take their course and then take action. In the Dublin area it is possible that as many as two thousand men assembled with perhaps twice that number in county Cork and a few hundred elsewhere. One of the greatest Irish movements of the century ended apparently in complete failure

While the British Government was caught off guard the Rising was over before they could react. Hundreds of men were rounded up and imprisoned. Some were sentenced to Death all these were commuted and no one was actually executed for their part in this affair. However long terms of imprisonment were handed down and many of the prisoners were subjected to very harsh conditions while in captivity. On top of this the Rising showed that Irish Republicanism was still a potent force and had by no means been crushed by the British.

This event did have important repercussions however as it led to a reorganisation of much of the underground activities of the IRB and the formation in America of Clan na Gael that was determined to prosecute a campaign against British rule notwithstanding recent setbacks. The failure of the 1867 Rising did not mark and end but a new beginning for those who were determined to end British rule over Ireland.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

4 March 1778: Robert Emmet was born in Dublin on this day. He was the youngest son of Dr Robert Emmet and Elizabeth (Mason). His father was a well to do Physician in the City with a house on St Stephens Green and another one down the Country. His elder brother Thomas Addis Emmet was a personal friend of Wolfe Tone who visited the family home on many occasions. He entered Trinity College in 1793 and joined the College Historical Society, a debating society. He became secretary to the United Irish Society in the college, but had abandon his studies in April 1798 when he and a number of students were expelled for their Republican sympathies. In 1799 he travelled to France to escape arrest and to secure support for another Rising in Ireland.

He returned home in late 1802 after the Peace of Amiens and began to lay plans to seize Dublin from the British. Unfortunately his plans were laid open by a premature explosion of his arsenal in July of the following year. He then banked all his hopes on an immediate eruption on 23 July 1803 but his venture quickly fell apart and he want into hiding. A few weeks later he was captured, tried for ‘Treason’ and gave the speech of his Life before the Court that quickly became a sensation and secured his reputation as a Patriot.

My country was my idol. To it I sacrificed every selfish, every endearing sentiment, and for it I now offer up myself … I acted as an Irishman, determined on delivering my country from the yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny and the more galling yoke of a domestic faction, which is its joint partner and perpetrator in the patricide…


He was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. This was duly carried out on 20 September before a large crowd in Thomas Street Dublin. The whereabouts of his body today remains a mystery.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

3 March 1577: The town of Naas, Co Kildare was torched by Rory Og O’More and Cormac MacCormac O’Connor on this day. These two Gaelic Chieftains with a select force of 140 men and boys ran through Naas like the ‘haggs and furies of hell, with flakes of fire fastened on poles’, and burned between 700 & 800 of the thatched houses belonging to the local townsfolk - who were still recovering from celebrating St David’s Day [1 March]. The English Lord Deputy Sydney was furious that Irish ‘rebels’ from the bogs of Laois were able to make such a surprise attack upon one of the chief towns of the Pale, cause such destruction in such a short space of time and then get clean away. He wrote that:

They had not one horseman, nor one shot with theim; they ran through the town, beinge open, like haggs and furies of hell, with flakes of fier fastened on pooles ends, and so fiered the low thatched howsies; and being a great windie night, one howse took fiere of another in a moment; they tarried not half an houre in the town, neither stoode they upon killinge or spoylinge of any.

There was above fyve hundred mennes boddies in the towne manlyke enough in appearance, but neither manfull, nor wakeful as it seamed; for they confesse they were all aslepe in their bedde, after they had filled themselves and surfeyted upon their patrone day; which day is celebrated, for the most part, of the people of this country birthe, with gluttonye and idollatrye as farre as they dare.

But Sydney was a cold and ruthless man. An insult to his authority like this could not be passed over. He was determined to bring in Rory O’More dead or alive. All that year and well into the next he harried his elusive opponent. He killed any of O’More’s soldiers he could engage in battle and also members of the O’More family - including Rory’s wife Margaret (O’Byrne). Finally in June 1578 O’More was killed in a skirmish, his head cut off and brought to the Lord Deputy who had it stuck on a pole on the walls of Dublin Castle.

Rury Oge, the son of Rury Caech, son of Connell O'More, fell by the hand of Brian Oge, son of Brian Mac Gillapatrick. This Rury was the head of the plunderers and insurgents of the men of Ireland in his time; and for a long time after his death no one was desirous to discharge one shot against the soldiers of the Crown.
Annals of the Four Masters


Monday, 2 March 2015

2 March 1914: John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, agreed to temporarily forego the introduction of Home Rule in the Ulster counties on this day. He was forced to adopt this decision in order to placate the growing opposition in the northeast to the imminent introduction of Home Rule for Ireland. Up until this point he had vehemently opposed such a measure. But he now felt that to press for a full implementation throughout Ireland would risk a Civil War and a complete break with the Unionists that would become permanent. He wrote to the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith:

We are ready to give our acquiescence to the solution of the standing out for three years by option of the counties of Ulster as the price of peace.   

However Redmond’s decision was to prove a fatal one. For his obvious weakness on this issue further encouraged the Ulster Unionists to hold out for a permanent division. Redmond’s vacillation also disillusioned many on the Nationalist side that compromise was likely to bring about a positive result for Ireland.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

1 March 1965: Roger Casement's body was re-interred in Glasnevin Cemetery on this day. The Taoiseach Sean Lemass only announced this surprise move some days previously when he stated in Leinster House that:

I am very glad to announce to the Dáil that I have been informed by the British Prime Minister that his Government have recently decided to meet our request for the repatriation of the remains of Roger Casement.

As Deputies are aware, it was Casement's express wish that he should have his final resting place in Ireland, and it has long been the desire of the people of Ireland, shared by successive Irish Governments, that this wish be fulfilled.

A State funeral was immediately organised. Thus on a cold and sleety day Casement’s remains were brought out to Glasnevin for burial. President Eamon De Valera, against Doctors orders, took the stand to deliver a televised address to the Nation. He said that:

It required courage to do what Casement did, and his name would be honoured, not merely here, but by oppressed peoples everywhere, even if he had done nothing for the freedom of our own country.

He spoke that those assembled were privileged to be there and we were glad that Casement was back amongst us and that in future his grave would be a place of pilgrimage.

While this was something of a coup to get the British to release Casement’s body his dying wish was actually that he should be laid to rest in his beloved County Antrim and not in Dublin City. But the British Government had only released his remains on condition that they were re interred in Dublin and not in the North of Ireland. One day perhaps his favourite county in Ireland will indeed become his final resting place...

Friday, 27 February 2015

28 February 1921: Six IRA men were executed in Victoria Barracks, Cork on this day. The men were shot by firing squad. They were Sean Allen, Timothy McCarthy, Thomas O’Brien, Daniel O’Callaghan, John Lyons and Patrick O’Mahony. All bar the first (Sean Allen from Tipperary) had been captured at Dripsey, outside Cork City on 28 January. As they laid in wait to ambush a British convoy the men were surrounded and captured by the 1st Manchester Regiment. A local Loyalist Mrs Lindsay had given their position away. The IRA seized her and James Clarke (her Chauffer) as hostages to hold them against the execution of the men. The local British Commander, General Strickland, [above] was informed by letter of the consequences. The letter he received read:

To General Strickland…

We are holding Mrs Mary Lindsay and her Chauffeur, James Clarke as hostages. They have been convicted of spying and are under sentence of death. If the five of our men taken at Dripsey are executed on Monday morning as announced by your office, the two hostages will be shot.

Irish Republican Army

Strickland and General Macready, the British Commander in Ireland, dismissed the idea that the threat was real. They did not believe that the Cork IRA would push it that far. Both men doubted that the IRA would kill a woman in cold blood and decided that the sentences should be carried out.

On the morning of the executions a large crowd gathered outside and prayed for the souls of the dead men who were executed in batches. That night the Cork IRA launched a number of attacks against British forces at different locations throughout the City. Six British soldiers were killed and four were seriously wounded.

Two other men captured at Dripsey were still detained in military custody: Captain James Barrett and Volunteer Denis Murphy. Barrett died in captivity on 22 March 1921. Murphy stood trial in Victoria Barracks on 9 March, he was found guilty and sentenced to death but this sentence was later commuted to one of 25 years' imprisonment.

Following the trial of Volunteer Denis Murphy the Cork IRA executed Mrs. Lindsay and James Clarke.