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!