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Okay, So Who Were The South Dublin Professionals Helping The IRA In 1974?

Kieran Conway’s account of his life in the IRA – ‘Southside Provisional’ – hit the streets today and having read it before it went to the book stores, I guess I have a bit of jump on all you poor schmucks who have to make your way to the local Eason’s, Waterstones, Amazon website or wherever to get your copy.

So, I don’t want to spoil it for any of you either by revealing too much of its contents (what’s really interesting about the book, by the way, is a) the engrossing detail about life as an IRA activist, b) the evident pride he has in taking part in a struggle that most of us would have shrunk from – he would do it again, he writes, but for the way it ended – and c) the fascinating pen portraits of some of the IRA’s leading figures, characters that decades of conventional media coverage have turned into cardboard cut-outs).

Anyway, to amuse my legions of readers here’s a little guessing game arising from his appointment in late 1974 as the IRA’s Director of Intelligence by Seamus Twomey, who took over as Chief of Staff from Eamonn Doherty, easily the least known of all IRA leaders:

Among the intelligence contacts I was given was a man I will call ‘the Banker’ with whom both Dave O’Connell and Eamonn Doherty used to stay. The Banker, in turn, introduced me to a circle of well-placed people in and around the south Dublin area where I had grown up, most of who were as clean as whistles. They included journalists, stockbrokers, lawyers and other professionals, a number of whom became quite famous in the course of their careers. It was a fantastic human infrastructure which I was never able to properly exploit and we ended up simply using many of their houses for meetings and to billet visiting volunteers.

And this from a section on the IRA inquest into the disastrous Birmingham bombs of November 1974 which killed 21 people:

The then England O/C and adjutant had made it home and were debriefed by O’Connell and another member of the leadership at the home of a well-known journalist in south Dublin, to where I had been brought as well for different reasons. I met both men and, though I took no part in the actual debrief, I was later told by Dave that the early indications were that the casualties were the result of yet another failure in the warning system, a succession of phone boxes from which the warning might have been relayed having proved to be inoperable.

So here’s the question: who were these South Dublin professionals who helped the IRA out back in the day? A bonus prize for anyone who can name the “well-known” journalist or journalists. Answers on a postcard to: The Stepford Wives Trust, c/o The GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland.

First prize: Breakfast with Mary Lou McDonald;

Second prize: Breakfast & lunch with Mary Lou McDonald;

Third prize: Breakfast, lunch & dinner with Mary Lou McDonald;

Bonus prize: A nice bedtime cup of hot chocolate with MLMcD to round off a perfect day!

How Liberal Neocons Like Samantha Power Sent Libya To Hell In A Hand-basket!

That awful woman, Samantha Power was on the Jon Stewart show last week and my heart bled for the comedian host. Interviewing Power was a bit like interrogating a plank of wood, except a plank of wood would have interesting splinters, knots and nails sticking out.

Power, who has risen to become Obama’s ambassador at the United Nations, is known as a liberal interventionist. That is diplo-speak for someone who is a neocon but wants to make it in the Democratic Party, where neocon is still a dirty word associated with Bush, Cheney and the invasion of Iraq.

Conventional neocons want to invade other countries to advance American interests, or those of their allies like Israel, and make no bones or pretence about it, whereas liberal interventionists want to do the same but dress their motives up in sham humanitarian clothes.

So it was that in the Spring of 2011, Power became one of the loudest voices in the Obama White House for the proxy invasion of Libya, arguing that the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi was threatening to slaughter the citizens of Benghazi because of their support for regime change, qua the Arab Spring. Without intervention by the West there would be a bloodbath, she and others shrieked.

In fact, as one well sourced study discovered, the threat was enormously exaggerated; there never was a chance of a bloodbath and the citizens of Benghazi agitating for Gaddafi’s removal turned out to be jihadis who had returned from places like Afghanistan where they had been trying to kill American infidels.

Fast forward nearly four years and the jihadis are almost running the place, turning what had once been a pleasant, prosperous country run by a man who, in his late middle age, had actually prostrated himself to the US & Europe, abandoning his old anti-imperialist ways to become one of the West’s most reliable if rather pathetic allies (who for instance obligingly tortured Al Qaeda suspects for the CIA) into a horror show.

The latest development is that the nice people from ISIS have arrived on the shores of Libya and have set up shop not far from Benghazi where they have begun happily chopping off the heads of anyone who says boo to them.

For some reason Samantha Power hasn’t got much to say about Libya these days. And Jon Stewart had the good grace not to ask, not even: “How did that Libyan thing work out for you, Sammi?”

The truth is that ISIS in Syria and Iraq was created by American and Israeli neocons, i.e. Bush, Cheney and Netanyahu (with lots of help from T Blair) while ISIS in Libya was created by Barrack Obama and Samantha Power (with a little help from David Cameron). Neocons all, no matter what they call themselves.

Here is a depressing update about ISIS in Libya:

‘Southside Provisional’ – A Former IRA Leader Tells His Story

CoverKieran Conway is that most unlikely of IRA activists. Reared in affluent Killiney and educated at prestigious Blackrock College, he was the epitome of a Dublin Four, middle-class anglophile, headed for a career in the law and a conventional, comfortable life amid the detached splendour and manicured lawns of Southside Dublin.

If his life had worked out as his parents hoped, the most exciting event of his life each year would have been the Ireland v. England rugby international at Lansdowne Road.

Except in 1970, his life took a completely different course. The late 1960′s were the years that radical, left-wing student politics swept across Europe and the US and it was no different in Dublin, especially at UCD where Conway was briefly a student.

In the US and elsewhere in Europe it was the Vietnam war which was the catalyst but in Ireland the North was a fiery spark and Kieran Conway’s life was changed. And so in 1970 he decided that he wanted to join the IRA, any IRA. Rebuffed by both the Officials and Provisionals in Ireland he learned that it was easier to join up in England and so he set off for London and by that backdoor route began one of the most unusual and intriguing stories of life in the Provisional IRA.

Conway had two spells in the IRA, from 1970 to 1975 and from 1981 to 1993, when finally, disillusioned with the direction the IRA was taking, he drifted away, the cord not so much cut as frayed away. His career in the Provos took him to the IRA’s GHQ Staff as Director of Intelligence via a spell on active service in Derry at a time when Martin McGuinness was a rising military star, and some jail time in Long Kesh, imprisoned on an arms charge.

Kieran Conway finally made it to the law, was briefly a barrister and now runs a solicitor’s practice in Dublin. A couple of years ago he sat down to write the story of his life as an IRA activist. (Disclosure: I was happy on a couple of occasions to give him some advice.)

The result, ‘Southside Provisional – From Freedom Fighter to the Four Courts’, will be published next Wednesday, Nov 19th by Orpen Press and his book deserves to take its place among the better first-hand accounts by an IRA activist in this or past campaigns.

It is certainly head and shoulders above the few experiental expositions of the Provisional IRA that have seen daylight thus far. One or two of those accounts are notable for their dishonesty whereas what shines out from Kieran Conway’s story is a refreshing and much needed candour that reveals but not recklessly so.

Time will tell whether Kieran Conway’ decision to tell his story has a wider impact, persuading others to follow his example. One thing is for sure: up to now activists’ accounts have been characterised by dissembling, obfuscation, sleight of hand, too much hiding of the truth. Those who would like to change that do not have time on their side.

It is time to write the true story of the IRA; otherwise the lies will survive to prevail. Kieran Conway has made a valuable start.

‘The Good Old IRA’

Funny the tricks memory can play on people.

In a post yesterday dealing with Gerry Adams’ recent claim that the IRA had ‘disappeared’ an estimated 200 alleged informers during the Anglo-Irish war, and that the modern IRA had thus behaved no differently or more barbarously than the heroic founders of the Irish state, I made reference to a pamphlet called ‘The Good Old IRA’ which had been written by Danny Morrison.


A reader then wrote in to correct me, saying that it wasn’t Morrison who wrote the pamphlet but ‘Mick Timoney’ the late editor of An Phoblacht-Republican News, the republican weekly. When I posted the correction another reader wrote to say, no, I was wrong, it was Morrison who wrote the pamphlet, but  it had been inspired by a famous editorial written by AP-RN editor, Mick Timothy, not Timoney, which was also reprinted in ‘The Good Old IRA’ pamphlet.

So a bit of checking was clearly called for and courtesy of the political archive compiled by the people at Cedar Lounge Revolution, this morning I was able to track down a copy of ‘The Good Old IRA’ and sure enough it was published by the Sinn Fein Publicity Department in 1985, then headed by one D. Morrison, and it reproduced the Mick Timothy editorial which had given rise to the pamphlet.

An introduction to the pamphlet carried no byline but there is no doubt in my mind that it had been penned by Danny Morrison. How do I know? Well, no-one else would write a sentence like this and then show his face in public:

“Even if these operations are shocking revelations to those who have a romantic notion of the past then the risk of their disillusionment is worth the price of finally exposing the hypocrisy of those in the establishment who rest self-righteously on the rewards of those who in yesteryear’s freedom struggle made the supreme sacrifice.”.


The other interesting snippet derived from the pamphlet is that Gerry Adams clearly borrowed heavily from Mick Timothy’s editorial both for his blog post on the old IRA and his speech in New York at a fund-raising dinner last week.

Anyway here is the pamphlet which makes interesting reading, Danny Morrison’s murderous assault on the English language notwithstanding.

The IRA Disappeared Of The 1920′s: Gerry Adams vs. Niall Meehan

“The IRA of that period disappeared scores of alleged informers – men and women. It is claimed this number may be as high as 200.

“Following the conflict, there was no attempt to recover the remains – unlike republicans of this generation who have helped secure the return of 10 of the 15 who were secretly buried in the 1970s.”

The two sentences above are the takeaway from Gerry Adams’ latest post on his blog Leargas, entitled ‘The Good Old IRA’. In what a report on the Ulster Television website describes as a critique of political opponents in the South, Adams slates Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour opponents of Sinn Fein for their hypocrisy in condemning the IRA of the recent Troubles while lauding ‘the good old IRA’ of the 1920′s and leaders like Michael Collins.

Much of what the Sinn Fein president writes is indisputable and well worth repeating (in fact I remember Danny Morrison writing a pamphlet back in the 1980′s with the same title as Gerry Adams’ latest blog post): the old IRA, like its modern counterpart, did operate ‘kangaroo courts’, did execute informers, did import weapons from America, did rob banks and post offices and did levy taxes on civilians. In these important respects there was no difference in what Adams correctly calls “the brutality and violence” of the two groups. The founders of the Irish state had as much blood on their hands as the leaders of the Provisional IRA.

IRA members in West Cork, circa 1921

IRA members in West Cork, circa 1921

What he has to say about the old IRA ‘disappearing’ alleged informers is, however, a different matter. The historical evidence to support his assertion is, to say the least, strongly disputed. The only remotely reliable instance of any IRA victims being disappeared was in west Cork following the July 1921 Truce when, allegedly, unauthorised (by the national IRA leadership that is) killings and disappearances of suspected Anglo-Irish (i.e. Protestant) informers took place in circumstances which suggested old scores were being settled (although even this much is a matter of controversy and disagreement).

The allegation that the IRA of the 1920′s engaged in the same disappearing policy as its modern counterparts, that is a national policy endorsed by the IRA’s GHQ as opposed to unofficial and localised instances and implemented during the conflict not after it had ended, is a very new one. It was put forward as recently as March last year by Trinity College Dublin history professor Eunan O’Halpin in a two-part television documentary broadcast by TV3.

O’Halpin claimed that 200 alleged informers were killed and disappeared by the IRA of the Anglo-Irish war period and since Gerry Adams also cites the number ’200′ as an estimate of those hidden away in secret graves during the 1920′s, it is reasonable to assume that the Sinn Fein leader is relying on O’Halpin for his evidence.

If so, then that creates a very interesting and, for Sinn Fein, delicate situation for Eunan O’Halpin’s thesis was comprehensively – perhaps brutally would be the better word – demolished by Niall Meehan, Faculty Head of Media and Journalism at Griffith College, Dublin.

Niall Meehan

Niall Meehan

Except Niall Meehan is not just an academic. He is a devoted and enthusiastic Sinn Fein supporter who some believe specialises in….how shall I put this?…..delicate, back room work on behalf of the party. Whatever the truth about that it would be no exaggeration to say that the Griffith College lecturer is nonetheless an important cog in the Sinn Fein machine.

None of this subtracts from his masterly, lengthy critique of O’Halpin’s thesis which can be summarised in a short, pithy sentence: it doesn’t pass the smell test.

But it does put Meehan in an awkward position vis-a-vis his leader who desperately needs to establish that what the modern IRA started to do in the summer of 1972 when Joe Lynskey was driven down to Monaghan town to meet his maker in an anonymous hole in the ground was no different from the behaviour of the founders of the modern Irish state.

And it raises an intriguing question: will Niall Meehan now withdraw his critique of O’Halpin in deference to his leader, or will he stand over it?

Anyway here is Niall Meehan’s take on Eunan O’Halpin. Readers can make up their own minds:

CORRECTION: I am reliably informed that it was the late Mick Timoney, editor of An Phoblacht at the time, who wrote the pamphlet ‘The Good Old IRA’ and not Danny Morrison.

Spot The Difference?


JIm Molyneaux, former leader of the Ulster Unionists, a man who had a mouth, a British government wag once observed, like a duck's arse.....

JIm Molyneaux, former leader of the Ulster Unionists, one of the dourest, least exciting figures in Irish politics and a man who had a mouth, a British government wag once observed, like a duck’s arse…..

Mitch McConnell, putative new Senate majority leader and the second most powerful man in the world following the mid-term elections. Also has a mouth like a duck's arse.....

Mitch McConnell, putative new Senate majority leader and the second most powerful man in the world following this week’s mid-term elections in the US. Also dour, unexciting and characterless – and has a mouth like a duck’s arse…..

Conclusion: unexciting, insipid and uninteresting men who have mouths like a duck’s arse do well in politics……

Mairia Cahill’s Rapist ‘Abused Two Girls Aged 13 and 14′ – Serious Questions Raised About Barra McGrory’s Prosecution Service

Serious questions have been raised about the functioning of the North’s prosecution service following the collapse of criminal proceedings brought on behalf of two West Belfast women who were allegedly sexually abused when they were young teenagers by Marty Morris, the IRA member at the centre of the Mairia Cahill abuse scandal.

The women were aged thirteen and fourteen at the time the alleged abuse began.

The two women, who at this stage do not want their names revealed, claim that Morris had subjected them to sexual abuse over a three year period between 1997 and 2000. They complained formally to the PSNI in early 2011, Morris was returned for trial in July 2011 but proceedings were delayed repeatedly and then indefinitely adjourned by the North’s prosecution service to facilitate Morris’ trial on IRA membership charges.

Like Mairia Cahill’s case, the PSNI and prosecution service decided that before the two women’s criminal complaint concerning sexual abuse could be dealt with Morris should face the IRA charge. The collapse of that case persuaded Mairia Cahill to withdraw from the abuse case against Morris while in the case of the two West Belfast women, they withdrew after an unsatisfactory meeting with the prosecution service.

The women’s lawyers, Joe Mulholland Solicitors, said in a statement issued last week:

We failed to comprehend the paramountcy the PPS gave to the membership case as opposed to the case involving the alleged sexual abuse of children, which far exceeds the test for prosecution and was prepared and ready for trial.

In December 2012 the lawyers asked for a meeting with the prosecution service:

…..following representations sent from our office to Barry McGrory QC highlighting our grave concerns, the PPS agreed to meet with our clients. We attended this meeting with the PSNI Investigating Officer, Prosecution Directing Officer, Prosecution Counsel and the Deputy Director of the PPS. There was a frank exchange of views. The PPS directing officer accepted that ‘they could have dealt with the case better’ and their junior barrister conceded that ‘the best way forward would be to have the abuse case dealt with first’. Our clients’ again stressed to the PPS that their statements were furnished solely with the view of prosecuting their abuser and they would have absolutely no involvement in any other emanating proceedings.

Unfortunately no progress was made and therefore our clients’ reluctantly withdrew their statements against their perpetrator; however felt it appropriate in the circumstances. They had lost all faith and trust in the criminal justice system and believed they were being exploited, merely for political point scoring. The impact of the horrendous abuse(d) our clients’ sustained continues daily. The sensationalism of this case continues to re-trauma our clients who want to move on with their lives in privacy. They have asked that their privacy and the privacy of their family be respected.

A number of questions leap out from the exchange between the women’s lawyers and the prosecution service: if the prosecution lawyers involved in this case had reservations about the way it was being handled who then decided to give precedence to the IRA membership charge against Morris, given that its collapse was the trigger that ended the sexual abuse trials? Was there political interference in the decision-making process? And what role did Barra McGrory, appointed Director of the Public Prosecution Service in 2011, play in the affair?

So far Mr McGrory’s previous role as Gerry Adams’ lawyer has so far not figured in the scandal but that position may not be sustainable the deeper the prosecution service gets embroiled in this affair.