‘Internment’ by John McGuffin (1973)

Chapter 4

WHEN discussing internment in the Twenty-six Counties it is often difficult to know where to draw the lines. The Civil War, from mid 1922 to mid 1923 (the 'dump arms' order, signed by Frank Aiken, came on 24 May 1923) was a period of intense bitterness. It left a legacy of hatred that resulted in friend shooting friend and old comrade interning old comrade. The new Provisional Government (Free State from 6 December 1922) in Dublin repressed Republicans with savage ferocity. Intent on negotiation with the predominant economic interests in the South – the Protestant ascendancy – the Government had to convince them of its 'respectability'. Consequently there was a desire to 'out English the English' when it came to 'law and order'.
     On 17 June 1920, during the Anglo-Irish War, Colonel G. B. Smyth, Divisional RIC Commissioner for Munster, had made a soon-to-be-notorious speech to members of the force, in the presence of General H. H. Tudor, head of the RIC, in Listowel, County Kerry;

You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent people may he shot but that can not be helped and you're bound to get the right parties sometimes. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man. Hunger strikers will be allowed to die in jail, the more the merrier. Some of them have died already[1] and a damn bad job they were not all allowed to die. As a matter of fact some of them have been dealt with in a manner their friends will never hear about.

Coming on top of murders and other atrocities by the RIC and their latest colleagues, the Black-and-Tans (the first of whom had arrived in the country at the end of March 1920), this was too much for the vast majority of the Irish people,[2] including many members of the RIC who resigned. Yet within three years the Free State Government was putting Smyth's words into practice.
     The Treaty had been ratified, 64-57, by the Dail on 7 January 1922. Arthur Griffith, already near to death, led the first administration, but the constitutional opponents of the Treaty, who included such leading figures as de Valera, Cathal Brugha, Erskine Childers, Austin Stack and Robert Barton (who had signed the Treaty) had left the Dail in protest. By February there was virtually a state of Civil War, with the IRA following Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows and Liam Lynch. Revolution, albeit confused, was in the air. Bank raids for money to buy arms(a raid on the Bank of Ireland in 1922 got £50,000) became of frequent occurrence. Rural soviets were set up, tenants expropriated big landlords and burnt out many of the big country mansions. The left wing of the Republican movement had to be crushed if Griffiths and his successor, Cosgrave, were to get the support of big business and the Church. Moreover, the people were war weary. Draconian measures were easy to enforce.
     The war 'officially' started with the seizure of the Four Courts in Dublin on 15 April 1922. On 28 June, with artillery borrowed from the British, the Provisional Government bombarded the Four Courts. The bombardment lasted from Wednesday morning until Friday. IRA volunteers and most of the Four Courts executive were forced to surrender. Elsewhere in Dublin one man who wouldn't surrender was Cathal Brugha. Pistols blazing, he emerged on his own, from the Hammam Hotel ruins, and was shot down. He died two days later. Within the next year about 700 people died in the Civil War, which, in financial terms, has been reckoned to have cost some £2Om.[3]
     The Government executed 82 men[4] before the war was over. These included Erskine Childers, judicially murdered on 24 November 1923 for possessing a small pistol given him by Michael Collins. "Even in England," Dorothy MacArdle was to write, "jurists held this to be a judicial murder." But the Government had already made its position clear. As early as July 1922 Judge Crowley made an order for the release of George Oliver Plunkett from Mountjoy, holding that his arrest, after the storming of the Four Courts, was illegal. Crowley also ordered the arrest of Colin O'Murchadha, the prison governor, and Richard Mulcahy, Minister of Defence. The Provisional Government then abolished the Supreme Court and its judges. Next month Judge Crowley was arrested and jailed, despite the resignation of George Gavan Duffy, Minister of Home Affairs and a signatory of the Treaty.
     In September 1922 the new President of the Executive Council, William Cosgrave (Griffith had died on 12 August, ten days before Collins had fallen at Beal na Blath, Co. Cork) told Gavan Duffy that "belligerent rights will not be accorded to the anti-Treaty IRA. We are not going to treat rebels as POW's." On 3 October 1922 military courts were set up, a decision backed up by the RC Church hierarchy, who also in October, in a joint Pastoral described the Republicans as being guilty of "A system of murder and assassination of the National Forces." Military courts were effective, from the Government's point of view, and executions became common – the most notorious being the reprisals in which Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett, all captured in the Four Courts at the end of June, were taken out of their cells in Mountjoy and shot on 8 December 1922. These brutal murders of men who had been prisoners for more than five months and who could have had nothing to do with the shooting to death of Deputy Sean Hales and the wounding of Deputy Padraic O'Malley on 7 December – both of whom had voted for 'the Murder Bill'[5] – were later boasted about by ministers O'Higgins and Mulcahy who said in the Dail that "the pride we have is deep in our hearts, pride that we are shouldering responsibilities that are very heavy and great."
     By the time of the cease fire there were about 12,000 Republican prisoners. The jails were grossly over-crowded.[6] The Curragh camp was bursting at its seams, with many prisoners in very bad health. Since a state of Civil War had existed, the Government had not bothered too much about the legality of internment. Republicans were just rounded up. By 1 July 1923, as many as 11,316 were behind bars or barbed wire. Most of them were not charged, but were lodged in local jails – the more prominent in Mountjoy. Soon this 'irregularity' was to be rectified. In the North the Special Powers Act had become law on 7 April, in time to see the introduction of internment on 23 May 1922. But in the Twenty-six Counties, people were not officially interned, though for all the difference it made to them they might as well have been. Consequently, there were repeated attempts to get habeas corpus writs served. During June 1923 these applications were turned down on the rather spurious grounds that "the IRA did not state that a state of war had ceased to exist." On 26 July the Dail rushed through the Public Safety Act, granting the Government comprehensive emergency powers, including internment which came into effect on 1 August, timely from a Government point of view. (On 31 July the Court of Appeals had ordered the release of Mrs. Connolly O'Brien). Internment was now a 'legalized' fact.
     Internment under the aegis of Irishmen was no improvement upon internment under the English. New camps were established at the Curragh, Co. Kildare: 'Tintown No.1' which was built to accommodate 600 men, and 'Tintown 2' which held almost 2,000 men. The military governor of the camp was Commandant Billy Byrne. Most of the men in Tintown 1 were from Mayo, Limerick, Kerry and Dublin. Peadar O'Donnell was made O/C by the prisoners. Accommodation was better than what most of them had been accustomed to in Mountjoy or Spike Island, but still bad.
     The men lived in huts with serrated concrete floors. They eventually were allowed to cook their own food and organize themselves in a variety of activities. Education classes, inevitably, were amongst the first of the activities. The only legitimate way out of the camp was to sign a declaration forswearing republicanism forever, and a few did this to join the new civic guards. Anyone who signed out, for whatever reason, was automatically barred from the IRA and dismissed with ignominy if already a member.
     Nonetheless, despite the conditions, very few did sign out. Life in the camps was monotonous, at times brutal, and always unpleasant. Sanitation was, at best, primitive. What was especially galling to most men was that in many cases their former comrades were now their jailers. All activity in the camp centred around escapes. Under the British the old Rath camp at the Curragh, which housed 1,300 men, had been described as "positively escape-proof". That myth had been exploded on 8 September 1921 when about 50 men tunnelled their way out, to the chagrin of the British GHQ.[7]
     Commandant Byrne was determined that there would be no repetition. The outer perimeter fences were strengthened. More powerful searchlights were used and there were regular inspections for tunnels. Peadar O'Donnell was not discouraged. In his memoir The Gates Flew Open[8] he recounts how he first attempted to get a tunnel started under the hospital hut. This 'was thwarted by the moral scruples of Dr. Ferran, a prisoner who felt that it would be unethical to have part of the hospital used as an escape tunnel. O'Donnell himself had declared he would be quite prepared to see it started under the altar in the prison chapel.
     The tunnel was sunk in the floor of O'Donnell's hut eventually, and this meant that 116 men were in on the 'secret'. They went through nine inches of concrete, just beside the door, and fashioned a trapdoor for the opening out of concrete chips and soap. To prevent the trap-door from being walked upon they generally just left a tin mug or a stool on it. The 'works committee' were fanatical about physical fitness and every morning prisoners were up out of bed early for PT, a hazard for those who had been up all night tunnelling. The tunnel had to be driven without supports, and so was low and arched, with electric light run off the hut by concealed wiring. Frequent inspections failed to discover it, even after a cave-in which had O'Donnell trapped briefly.
     O'Donnell was not to see the eventual escape as he had been transferred to Mountjoy and then to Finner camp where he was kept as a hostage in case of reprisals for the shooting in Donegal of Enright, Larkin, Daly and O'Sullivan by the Government. Subsequently, 73 men escaped through the tunnel, the all-time record for the Curragh.
     In Mountjoy, conditions for internees were appalling, but resistance was fierce. Internees frequently knocked holes in the walls so that they could pass right along a tier, from cell to cell, without going out on the landing. Barricades were often erected to prevent warders entering and searching – a necessary precaution since guns were, on occasion, smuggled in and used in escape attempts. D wing, where many of the internees were, faced the North Circular Road where crowds would gather nightly to wave flags, sing songs of encouragement and shout messages. The internees responded by quarrying out the window frames so that they could lean right out of the windows and shout back.
     The Governor, Diarmuid O'Hegarty, later Secretary of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, demanded that these goings-on should cease. The internees refused. O'Hegarty threatened that the troops would open fire on anyone leaning out of the windows. This news was relayed to the crowds which then swelled in numbers. When the internees refused, the soldiers opened fire on the windows at 3 p.m. on 14 July 1922, and George Plunket and a volunteer called Kane were wounded. Then a volley was poured into the cells and more prisoners were hit by ricochets.
     Amazingly, no one died. Peadar O'Donnell, who was there, blandly remarks: "One often marvels at the ways of bullets and how they can avoid doing serious injury."[9]
     The non-co-operative internees of D wing were moved to C wing further away from the perimeter wall. There they decided that in order to ensure 'association' amongst themselves, the doors of the cells should be sprung. This was an old trick of the political prisoners, and was accomplished by jamming a book – generally the cell Bible – between the door and the case, close to the hinge, and then slamming the door. The resultant damage meant that the door could not be locked unless new hinges were fitted, a time-consuming task for the authorities, who contented themselves with placing sentries at the end of the wing, with orders to shoot anyone who appeared on the landing after 11 p.m. Numerous shots were fired but no hits were recorded.
     The four wings of the prison were filled and the internees established their own central administration, situated in C wing. Communication with the other wings was established when the internees manufactured a key to the large padlocks on the trap-doors which led to the roof space. This overhead route proved safe and lasted the duration. In addition, a few walls were knocked down where necessary. In this way the entire jail was organized. Classes and games were organized with deadly seriousness. A prison journal, The Book of Cells, appeared, written by Liam Mellows. Communication with the outside world was easy. Messages were smuggled in and out by tried-and-true methods, many of which are still in use in the Crumlin Road today. In addition to the 'legitimate' content of food parcels, alcohol was quite common. Moreover, the administrative chaos was such that the prison authorities did not know quite how many prisoners they actually had. For several months two men were hidden from the daily count, which was designed to facilitate future escape attempts.
     For, despite Deputy Governor Paudeen O'Keefe's boast that "Nothing escapes here but the gas" (which was frequently cut off as a punitive measure, anyway), escape bids were of regular occurrence. The A wing tunnel was the most promising. There was a shorter distance to go, there was plenty of storage space for the earth under the floor, and digging was easy. But rigorous searches unearthed it after a few months, and the C wing tunnel of Rory O'Connor and Tom MacMahon (both experienced engineers) which went from the floor of a ground-floor cell, was also soon discovered. An attempted tunnel into the jail from 28 Innisfallen Parade was discovered also.
     There were other ways of getting out, however. Tom Barry, dressed in a stolen Free State Army uniform and armed with a forged pass, slipped through the wire during a football game and got to the outside gate. Unfortunately for him, he went to the wrong gate, was recognized, caught and later transferred to the internment camp at Gormanston.[10] However, on his arrival there, Barry walked through the front gate, headed right across the camp and through the wire before the startled sentries could do a thing. He got away safely.
     Another attempted escape ended more tragically. It was an ambitious plan. Guns and uniforms were smuggled in and a home-made mine was constructed by Tom MacMahon to blow up the front gates if the guards refused to open them. Everything was set for 10 October 1923. Dick Barrett, shot with Mellows, McKelvey and O'Connor on 8 December, was the leader. But the soldiers spotted the attempt and opened fire. Peadar Breslin was killed and another man was wounded.
     Andy Cooney accepted responsibility for the escape bid, but surprisingly at the time, no reprisals were undertaken.
     Arbour Hill was, perhaps, the worst billet for internees. There, brutality was commonplace. Many prisoners had to endure semi-hangings and mock crucifixions by being tied up by the hands, their toes just touching the floor until they fainted, whereupon water was thrown over them and they were strung up again. Hosings were a frequent punishment.
     Arbour Hill is a military detention barracks in Dublin, and, in addition to the internees, it then housed soldiers found guilty of indiscipline and infractions of army rules. It was feared and hated by most internees and was regarded as much worse than 'the Joy' or the Curragh. Most prisoners were there for some additional punishment, and many were in solitary confinement. The collective spirit of resistance which prevailed elsewhere was generally absent.
     Other internees were lodged in Kilmainham (now a public museum) in Dublin, Maryborough (Portlaoise) and camps at Newbridge, Gormanston, Finner, Harepark (Curragh), and in jails in Dundalk, Cork, Kilkenny and the North Dublin Union (women).
     On the outside, the campaign to get the prisoners released was led by the indefatigable Maud Gonne McBride. Pickets, Parades, meetings, protests, fund-raising activities took all her time and that of her numerous helpers.
     The Church had acted despicably from a Republican point of view, with the October Pastoral, and not much was expected from it. Within the camps the clergy, with a few honourable exceptions, were regarded by the men as mere tools of the commandants. Anti-clericalism outside even saw an occupation of the Archbishop's palace in Dublin by protesting Republicans in December 1923.
     In conjunction with the protests outside and a rising groundswell of resentment at Cumannn an Gaedheal's intransigence over the prisoners, hunger strikes started.[11] On 12 August 1923 Oglaigh na h-Eireann GHQ had sent in word to all IRA prisoners that decisions about hunger strikes were to be left up to the elected O/Cs in the jails and camps. This instruction came from Frank Aiken, who was none too enthusiastic about hunger strike as a tactic. But feelings were running high amongst the internees. In October, Mountjoy voted to go on strike, 425 men, including ten TDs, being involved. Kilmainham followed suit and then the Curragh and Newbridge joined in. By 23 October the Republican Bulletin was claiming 8,000 men on strike. This was far too many. Mass hunger strikes, as history has shown, can rarely be as effective as a few dedicated individuals on strike. Within three weeks there were massive defections as men, many of whom had entered into the strikes too lightly, caved in.
     Peadar O'Donnell[12] has written a moving account of this particular strike, which lasted 41 days. The hard core of strikers, who by late November numbered about 200, were moved, on stretchers, from jail to jail, camp to camp, to break up their solidarity.[13] Following the horrifying death of Tom Ashe from forcible feeding by the British on 25 September 1917, this tactic hadn't been repeated, but the Government, despite mounting public agitation, was prepared to let men die. On 18 November even Cardinal Logue expressed the hope that internees would be released before Christmas. Two days later came the first death. Commandant Denis Barry died in Newbridge camp. On 22 November Captain Andrew Sullivan died in Mountjoy. Next day the strike was called off, after Tom Derrig, Frank Gallagher and the leader, Michael Kilroy, had checked with the other jails and camps.
     One positive result of the strike was that the women political prisoners (in March 1923 there had been 300) were released, but otherwise the aftermath was sullen bitterness, and the Government stepped in, hoping to spread further dissension among the ranks by releasing Volunteers who would sign a form accepting the Free State.[14] When most refused, the rule was changed to make it easier, and during the winter of 1923-1924 most of the camps were emptied. But by 2 April 1924 there were still 1,600 internees. By 21 May the total had fallen to 616. Escapes continued. Peadar O'Donnell, in March 1924, two days before the abortive army mutiny, literally walked out of Harepark camp on the Curragh, in disguise.
     Republicans then threatened to disrupt the forthcoming Tailteann Games, and a further 407 were released.[15] On 16 July de Valera was let out. By then all the leaders of the IRA had either escaped, been released or had died. Some, like Austin Stack, who had undergone a 41-day hunger strike, emerged completely broken in health (Stack died in 1929). The remaining 209 were let out in small batches in 1924.
With the army mutiny crushed and the IRA disorganized, the Government was feeling fairly confident, but legislation to permit internment remained on the Statute Book. Indeed, more repressive laws had been added. O'Higgins' Public Safety Bill of 1923 allowed flogging for arson or armed robbery, whether political or not. "If flogging is retrograde, the offence is retrograde," he said.[16] On 16 January 1924 the Public Safety Act was re-enacted until 31 January 1925, giving the Government the power to suspend habeas corpus. This Act was replaced the next year by a Treasonable Offences Act (known to the public generally as 'the Murder Bill') which gave the death penalty for "Levying war against the State". It passed through the Dail only because of the abstention of the Sinn Fein TDs.
Vengeance dies hard in Ireland. On 10 July 1927 Kevin O'Higgins, Minister for Justice and External Affairs, was shot while walking to Mass near his home in Blackrock, Dublin. No one was ever arrested for the murder, but the motive was not hard to find. To 11,000 internees and their dependants he typified the repression they had undergone. While it is true to say that some of his colleagues had tended to use him as a scapegoat for the more repugnant decisions they felt they had been forced to take (certainly, Mulcahy and Blythe were equally responsible), it is quite true to say that few mourned his death, despite Terence de Vere White's apologia on him.[17] Few could forget his cruel words on the murdered Childers, nor that he justified in the Dail the murder of Rory O'Connor, his best man and the man due to be the godfather of his child.
     The Government reacted swiftly to the shooting of O'Higgins. In addition to arresting 12 known IRA men – who had no connection with the murder[18] – they rushed three bills through the Dail on 20 July 1927. The Public Safety Bill became law on 11 August. It was a clear infringement on the civil rights of the individual and of the right of trial by jury, but the Government was even more concerned with the other bills which were designed to get de Valera's new Fianna Fail TDs into the Dail, by declaring that any election candidate on nomination must swear to take the oath.
     Sure enough, after jesuitical quibbles, de Valera and his party entered the Dail, only to lose the September 1927 General Election.[19]
     Despite the continuing sporadic IRA campaign, internment was not re-introduced. The authorities resorted to what was known as the cat-and-mouse tactic. Suspects were picked up by the gardai, held for up to a week and then released, only to be picked up the next month – or even at the garda station door in some cases. This 'mini internment' was successfully challenged in the circuit court in March 1930, however, when Patrick McKee, Charles O'Neill, John Sugrue and Donal O'Donoghue succeeded in getting damages ranging from £40 to £100. Further suits were successful, and the Government increasingly resorted to trumped-up minor charges to detain opponents. These, however, were felt by the gardai authorities to be not draconian enough. Moreover, convictions in front of a jury were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, due not only to sympathy for the accused but, in many cases, because of intimidation by the IRA. The new Chief of Police (Garda Siochana), Eoin O'Duffy, was constantly pressing for additional powers and he got them. On 14 October, the day the Dail reassembled from its summer recess, Article 2A (a Public Safety Bill) was inserted into the Constitution; three days later it became law. Twelve Republican groups, from the IRA to the Irish Working Farmers' Committee, to the Workers Research Board were proscribed; only Sinn Fein escaped. An Phoblacht and Workers Voice were banned. The number of men in prison began to rise. In November, military tribunals began to sit. Sentences were harsh. George Gilmore got five years for 'possession of arms' – a wooden pistol whittled in prison and used in an unsuccessful attempt to bluff his way out. Most prisoners ended up in Arbour Hill where they campaigned to get political treatment. When a military tribunal could sentence one to jail for speaking or writing against the Government, who needed internment? Lulled into a false sense of security, Cumann na nGaedheal called an election. They were too complacent. They lost, 72-57. De Valera was in power.
     In 1931 de Valera had described Cosgrave's Public Safety Act as "the most abominable piece of legislation this House was ever asked to pass". By 1934 he had introduced a similar Act himself. When challenged by the Labour Leader, William Norton, his reply was feeble. "Such extreme powers could not be entrusted to the previous regime who would misuse them," he said.
     Yet his new Government started in the right way as far as Republicans were concerned. Frank Aiken was the new Minister of Defence. His first act was to go to Arbour Hill military prison where those sentenced by military tribunal were held. There he conversed with his old comrade George Gilmore. Next day 20 prisoners sentenced by the hated military tribunals were released. Within weeks the remaining 77 were out.[20]
     By 18 March the Fianna Fail Government had suspended the operation of Article 2A; military tribunals were dissolved, special powers and detention suspended, the ban on twelve groups was lifted. Enquiries even found against the gardai on a few occasions in those heady months. In April the CID was reduced in strength and the unpopular Col. Neligan was "sent on compulsory leave of absence". True, the take-over of power had been a testing moment. Many TDs had come to the Dail armed, fearing a coup.[21] Ernest Blythe recounts seeing a 'venerable old gentleman' attempting to assemble a sub-machine gun in a telephone kiosk in the Dail itself. But despite this, for the first few years things seemed in de Valera's control.
     It was not to last. Out of office after ten years, Cumann na nGaedheal moved even further to the right. Ex-Police Chief General O'Duffy[22] appeared as the head of the Fascist Blueshirts, which had arisen out of the Army Comrades Association, a Cumann na nGaedheal front. De Valera had started the 'Economic War' with England on 1 July 1932 and, with Cosgrave's party in disarray, he felt he had a chance for an increased majority. The election was called for 24 January 1933, and he got what he wanted; a gain of five seats, while Cumann na nGaedheal lost nine. Yet, with 77 seats out of 153, he was still virtually dependent upon getting support from some Independent and Labour TDs. The IRA had reluctantly agreed to work for Fianna Fail "against the Cosgrave gang"; not, be it noted, specifically pro-Fianna Fail.
     At Navan on 10 January de Valera had said: "No section of the community will be allowed to arm. All arms shall be completely at the disposal of the majority of the elected representatives of the people." Like many ex-revolutionaries turned respectable politician, de Valera was to be sorely embarrassed by his former friends.
     The violence between the Blue Shirts and IRA continued, and prosecutions rose. On 8 September 1933 Cumann na nGaedheal united with the Centre Party to become Fine Gael: increasingly, the Blue Shirts were their strong-arm men.[23] Red scares were actively encouraged by the Church. It was a time of feverish activity and increasing violence. Rumours of an attempted coup by the Blueshirts and some of the army were rife, but their bluff was called in August 1933 when the Government banned O'Duffy's 'Grand Parade' through Dublin. To do this they re-enacted Article 2A. O'Duffy had lost face, and although violence between Blueshirts and the IRA continued for several years, the Blueshirts were already, did they but know it, consigned to the dustbin of history.
     At first the military tribunals dealt more heavily with the Blueshirts than with the IRA. In 1934, 102 IRA men were convicted as compared with 349 Blueshirts, but soon the balance was to change. 1935, 112 IRA men to 74 Blue-shirts; 1936, 129-0; 1937, 12-0. The Blueshirts were finished then. All that remained was their Spanish Civil War fiasco.[24] The IRA itself was in disarray with a split between left and right. The Republican Congress group, led by O'Donnell and Gilmore, had left or been expelled. On 3 March 1935, in a Lenten Pastoral the Church again forbade the faithful to belong to the IRA. De Valera had now more backing. The IRA's involvement in industrial trades disputes he regarded as the last straw.
     The Government had used soldiers to scab on the Dublin tram and bus workers strike. The IRA supported the Strikers. On 26 March, following the wounding of two gardai in Grafton Street by two phantom cyclists, the Government swooped. 43 IRA and Republican Congress men were rounded up. The military tribunal handed out more sentences. By 20 April 104 were in jail.
     The difference between being sentenced by military tribunal and being interned was a narrow one. There was no appeal, no jury, and no real chance to defend oneself before the tribunal. True, a specific charge was levelled, but generally it was "belonging to an illegal organization" – which had been perfectly legal the month before[25] or "refusing to answer questions" – which carried a mandatory six months. An alternative charge was "possession of documents", always an easy touch for at least six months. Arbour Hill was the prison most commonly used. From 1932 to 1935 conditions were not too bad. Regulars such as Gilmore, O'Donnell, Twomey and Killeen tended almost to regard it as an old familiar hotel. But by 1936 all that had been changed. Solitary confinement and the 'Quiet System', whereby prisoners were not allowed to communicate with each other, were the order of the day, although a Cabinet Committee was set up on 15 December 1936 to make 'recommendations' concerning the release of prisoners sentenced by military tribunals. But specific internment was soon to raise its head again.
     The futile 'English campaign' got off to a bang on Monday 16 January 1939 with seven major explosions – two in London, three in Manchester and one each in Birmingham and Alnwick. This followed the 'Declaration of War' upon England signed by Russell, Hayes, O'Flaherty, Grogan, Plunkett and Fleming. An ultimatum which had been greeted by derision.
     Internment had been introduced in Northern Ireland on 22 December 1938, following "discovery of a conspiracy, etc" and 34 men had been interned in Crumlin. Russell and his colleagues rather naïvely believed that if the bombing campaign were confined to England, nothing would be done by the Fianna Fail Government. Their illusions were soon to be shattered. On 14 June the new Offences Against the State Act set up military tribunals.[26] On 22 August the composition of the Special Military Court was announced: Colonels Bennett and McKenna, and Majors Joyce, Whelan and Tuite. On 8 September 1939 Gerry Boland became Minister of Justice. Boland had a Republican family background. His brother Harry had been in Dartmoor and Lewes jails and was an IRA commandant and a Dail deputy. He was shot by Free Staters early in the Civil War. Gerry himself had also been interned in Frongoch after the 1916 rising. He did not let any of this influence him: he had more Republicans shot! He was to prove every bit as flexible as Kevin O'Higgins.
     It was obvious to all that internment was on the cards and that those sentenced by military tribunals would be interned upon completion of their sentences. Strenuous attempts were made to prevent this. On 23 October a gelignite bomb went off at the outer wall of Mountjoy, in an effort to rescue Paddy McGrath, Willie McGuinness, Laurence Grogan and Peadar O'Flaherty. It failed. Action was taken in the courts also, with more success. On 1 December MacBride got Justice Gavan Duffy to agree that Seamus Burke of Mayo was held illegally in Arbour Hill. Duffy ruled that point 6 of the Offences Against the State Act was invalid. As a result, 53 men were released next day.
     The Government, and particularly Boland, were not amused. On 5 January the Emergency Powers (Amendment) Act 1940 was' rushed through the Dail and passed 82-9. The Offences Against the State Act had allowed for review of sentences. The new Bill did not. Constitutionally, it was decided that it could not be challenged since it was "passed pursuant to the resolution relating to the Second World War" (although the Twenty-six Counties were neutral and remained neutral). This legal manoeuvring aroused qualms among many, including the President of the Republic, Douglas Hyde who, for the first time since the new constitution came into force, convened a meeting of the Council of State. The Bill was referred to the Supreme Court but was declared valid on 9 February.
     This was a period of great hunger strikes. De Valera and his Ministers were in a particularly vulnerable position. They had seen their old comrades, MacSwiney and Ashe, die on hunger strike and had denounced the 'murderous British' for permitting it. Many of them had been on hunger strike themselves. In Ireland it was a powerful and emotive weapon. One IRA internee, Charles McCarthy from Cork had won his release with a hunger strike from 16 September to 12 October 1939. Con Lehane had gone on hunger and thirst strike the same day and been released. On 31 October the Government claimed that "As arrest and detention in accordance with the powers conferred by Parliament are the only means available for the maintenance of Public Order and Security, they cannot permit the State authorities to be deprived of these means through the policy of hunger strike. The prisoners on hunger strike will, accordingly, not be released."[27] This was mere bluff, however, and Daly, McCarthy and Lynch, whose hunger strike provoked the action, were released almost at once. Patrick McGrath was also released and a nolle prosequi entered in his case on 7 December. Things looked bad for the Government. When questioned in the Dail as to whether people on hunger strike could be held, Boland replied: "I certainly hope so." On being pushed to give a 'yes' or 'no' answer, he conceded: "As regards the question of vacillation and letting out the hunger strikers, I do not want to run away from that either. I admit that, on the surface, it looks bad. It looks like weakness and it may be very hard to justify making a statement and going back on it."[28]
     Conditions in Arbour Hill, "the coldest prison in Europe", and Mountjoy were by now appalling – as was the food. Political treatment was denied the men and in an attempt to wring some concessions from authorities the six-man prisoners' committee went on hunger strike: McNeela, D'Arcy, MacCurtain, Traynor, T. Grogan and J. Plunkett. When the warders tried to separate them and take McNeela and D'Arcy away, a riot broke out which the warders put down with savage ferocity. Many prisoners were badly beaten. Although the press was heavily censored and the public knew little of what was happening to internees in the jails, news did leak out and public concern grew. But Boland, by now, did not intend to give in. To back down would be to admit defeat. And so, on 16 April, after a hunger strike of 50 days, Tony D'Arcy died in St. Bricin's Hospital to which he had been moved on 27 March. John McNeela lasted a further three days before he, too, died. D'Arcy had been serving three months for "refusing to answer questions," and knew he would be interned upon release. McNeela had been sentenced to two years for having a pirate radio transmitter. As they died, the Government announced that IRA men would receive political treatment. The strike was called off for the survivors. In order to obtain decent treatment two men had had to die. The fight was by no means won yet. Traynor and Plunkett were interned, but Grogan got 14 years for involvement in the Magazine Fort raid,[29] while MacCurtain, son of the Lord Mayor of Cork who was murdered by the RIC at the instigation of the British on 20 March 1920, was sentenced to death, only to be reprieved at the last minute. On 16 August 1940 the Emergency Powers (Amendment) Act was further altered, and the right to appeal from findings of the military tribunal was deleted. Within a month two men, Harte and McGrath, had been convicted and summarily executed.
     De Valera defended internment several times during the war. "Conditions were good," he claimed. Press censorship forbade any contradiction. Small wonder that many people fell into the trap of believing that the Curragh was a glorified holiday camp. "The internees were deprived of nothing but their liberty." As Sean Edmonds retorts, "You might as well say a man who had been held up and stripped in mid-winter had been deprived of nothing but his clothes." In fact, huts were damp, cold and draughty. The men had no privacy and were crammed 60 to a hut. Dysentery was common, lice endemic. The total number interned varied, but in all about 800 men were resident in the 'Curragh Holiday Camp'.[30] Constant herding and harassment led to friction and faction. The Curragh, during the war, was perhaps the unhappiest internment camp in Irish history. Schisms and splits were of frequent occurrence. The Hayes affair exacerbated these and the bitterness grew. Eddie Keenan, then a young man of 22, recalls being very disillusioned by all the bickering and faction fighting. Neil Gould Verschoyle, who had studied in Moscow and married a Russian girl, was the leader of the communist faction, and was blamed by many for factionalism, but it is only fair to say that the Grogan 'faction', the Tadgh Lynch 'faction' and the Pearse Kelly 'faction' were all equally sectarian. This disillusioned many, who signed out. The war was going on, there was no real agitation for their release, and dependants were financially very hard hit.
     Activities did go on, however. Gould, before he was transferred on the insistence of Cardinal MacRory who believed he was subverting the "good Catholic youth" (he was, in some cases), held Russian classes. The late Mairtin O'Cadhain taught Irish, and Jim O'Donovan held German classes There was the inevitable camp paper. This one was called Barbed Wire.
     The worst incident occurred on 14 December 1940. Grogan, the new O/C, decided upon a protest over the reduction of the butter ration, already miniscule. As a result, a hut was burnt down by the internees. Unfortunately, the fire spread to another hut from which an escape tunnel was being dug.[31] Consequently it was discovered. All prisoners were locked up by the armed guards, without food, from Saturday evening until Monday morning. Suspected ring leaders like Grogan were made to run the gauntlet to the Glasshouse and were savagely beaten before being put in solitary confinement for ten weeks. On the Monday morning the prisoners were let out – and marched up to the hut for breakfast as usual. The guards seemed to panic and, as the prisoners drew near, opened fire. Barney Casey, a noted Irish dancer, was shot in the back and died two hours later. Martin Staunton, Bob Flanagan, Art Moynihan and Walter Mitchell were wounded. At the inquest on Casey, Sean MacBride, on behalf of the dead man's family, was allowed to ask only one question: "Why was Barney Casey shot in the back?" Whereupon the inquest was adjourned. This kind of tampering with the law came naturally to Boland, as the George Plant case was to prove (See Chapter 14 – On political prisoners).
     Considering the abominable conditions – heating, for example, was provided by small turf stoves, and the walls and window frames of the huts were so poor that water seeped in constantly – it is remarkable that so many have 'happy memories' of the Curragh. Eddie Keenan of Belfast, amongst others, felt that "it was a privilege to be there in the company of such men as Brendan Behan – who on one occasion rolled nude in the snow at Christmas time for a bet." "I learnt a lot," Keenan says, "and became more tolerant. Before being in the Curragh I thought communists had horns on their heads." Nonetheless, he recollects that at times things were so bad that the men scrabbled for bones.
     This was in strict contrast to the conditions meted to the aliens and 'spies' interned during the war. Republicans were particularly bitter that whereas their guards had orders to shoot to kill any would-be escapers, the guards of the German prisoners were told to fire only warning shots over their heads. Moreove; German prisoners had it easy compared to Irish Republicans. The ten spies – probably the most incompetent spies in the history of German espionage –[32] were housed first in Mountjoy and then in Athlone and Sligo. They didn't have to live in cells, could move freely about the building, received good food, were allowed money and alcohol and were able to obtain extra provisions, even though a war was in progress.
     In all, about 200 German military personnel, of whom 164 were naval ratings, were interned in a special camp – the Curragh. All were shipped back to Germany in July and August of 1945. The Irish could hear German songs coming from the camp next door and knew that the Germans were allowed alcohol.
     The spies were released in September 1945 and most of them elected to stay in Ireland. Eight were briefly re-arrested on 12 April 1947 and taken to Mountjoy; one, Dr. Goertz, committed suicide. Guenther Schuetz was the only spy who managed to escape during internment. He got away on 28 February 1942, but was recaptured at Caitlin Brugha's house on 30 April of the same year.
     From the point of view of the Governments, both north and south of the border, internment was a success during World War Two. There was virtually no campaign to release the prisoners. It was not until December 1945 that a Republican Prisoners Release Association was formed in Dublin. In April 1946 it issued a constitution claiming that it "had no connection with any political party and its appeal is directed to all freedom-loving men and women who believe in the right of Ireland to be free from foreign aggression in any form." Prominent IRA men and ex-IRA men like Twomey and Killeen were on the committee, but its main task was to agitate for the release of political prisoners in Portlaoise, where, unbeknownst to the public, men had gone naked for four and a half years in solitary, fighting to get political treatment. For by then the internees in the Curragh had been released, some in late 1943, but the majority in November 1944. The last men were let out in June 1945. It is important to stress that internment had 'worked'! The IRA were exhausted financially. Art McMillen estimated that it cost some £150,000 to keep the dependants' fund going during internment in the South, which stretched the movement's resources to the utmost. Most ex-internees spoken to, estimate that between 80% and 90% of internees dropped out of the movement upon release. Only principle kept many from signing out. The men from the North were also particularly bitter about being interned in the South, which they instinctively had felt was 'safe. What is remarkable is that so many did indeed stick by their principles. But four years without visits is a long time. Willie John McCorry, who was interned from 1940-1945, was to have been married the week he was arrested. (To him, a Northerner, it was particularly galling that the tricolour was flying over the camp). He was one of the luckier men whose fiancées had waited for them, and he is now married with five children, still a Republican, and back in Long Kesh. But many saw their girl friends and, in some cases, their wives leave them. After the initial euphoria on release, many became sullen and disillusioned. It took nearly ten years for the movement to reorganize itself.
     In 1939 the IRA, under Sean Russell, felt that if their bombing campaign was confined to England they could work with impunity in the South of Ireland. The hundreds of internees experienced the error of this view, but few seemed to have learned the lesson.
     The 1956-1962 border campaign was planned well in advance. Raids at Felstead (Essex OTC school) in July 1953, Gough barracks, Armagh, in June 1954, and Arborfield on 11 August 1954, had gained guns and kudos, as well as life sentences for Donal Murphy, James Murphy and Joe Doyle,[33] and eight years for Cathal Goulding, Sean MacStiophan and Manus Canning. By December 1955 the IRA felt it could act. In many ways they were more sophisticated than before, but the old naïveté persisted. In a directive from Oglaigh na h-Eireann to all O/Cs, dated 12 December, GHQ stated;

In view of recent pronouncements by the leader of the Twenty-six County Government and his reminder to the press of the fact that certain Acts, passed by the Leinster House regime in 1939, are still in force, it is not reasonable [sic] to assume that coercive measures against the army are under consideration by the Twenty-six County authorities.[34]

The campaign got under way on 11 December 1956 with a series of explosions. Eleven days later internment was introduced in the North and 30 men were lifted; the figures rose to 256 (about 400 were detained at first). After signings-out, 167 remained in for the duration. On 1 January 1957, in the abortive Brookeborough barracks raid, Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon were killed, only to become immortalized in the Republican songbook. All 12 survivors of the raid who got back over the border got six months under the Offences Against the State Act for refusing to answer questions, but massive turnouts at the funerals of South and O'Hanlon convinced many Republicans in the South that the Taoiseach, Costello, would not move against them. Nonetheless, on 8 and 12 January swoops netted virtually the entire IRA council and GHQ staff, including MacCurtain, Magan, Grogan and Russell, who all ended up in the Bridewell and later in Mountjoy with three six month sentences. The number of prisoners rose to 53, but MacBride and his party, Clan na Poblachta, forced Costello to call an election. Fianna Fail won with 78 seats. Republicans were jubilant. De Valera and Fianna Fail had condemned the arrest of the Republican prisoners, and surely they would release them as they had done in 1932.
     Sinn Fein polled 65,640 votes and had O'Bradaigh, J.J. Rice, J.J. McGirl (in Mountjoy at the time) and Fergal O'Hanlon's brother elected. Now they could even claim some sort of mandate from the people.
     The elation was to be short lived. Some prisoners were released. But on 4 July 1957 an RUC man, Cecil Gregg, was killed at Forkhill. Colonel W.W.B. Topping the North's Minister of Home Affairs, demanded internment in the Twenty-six Counties. The Dail had adjourned for its summer recess that day, but within the next two days 63 Republicans were arrested. Most had made no attempt to go underground, believing that quiescence in the Twenty-six Counties would guarantee immunity. They had no concept of the economic and diplomatic pressures which could be put upon the Southern Government and, despite their abhorrence for politicians and party politics, they had failed to realise how easily TD's or MP's can shelve their principles.
     On 8 July the Government of the South announced that Part 2 of the Offences Against the State Act was in operation. Internment was on again. Those Fianna Fail TD's (especially in North Tipperary) who had publicly supported resolutions calling on Costello to release all Republican prisoners had to keep quiet or resign. There were no resignations. Moreover, 36 Republicans still in Mountjoy were trapped. On their release, they would go straight to the Curragh camp. On 20 July, 24 tried to escape with a large scaling ladder, but were spotted. All were soon in the Curragh camp.
     Conditions this time were better, but certainly not as pleasant as T.P. Coogan paints them in The IRA. The Irish Red Cross, headed by Mrs. Tom Barry, inspected the camp and found it 'excellent'. She, however, did not have to live there. Numbers were fewer – four huts with 40 men in each hut,[35] but the huts were still damp and dirty and the timbers were rotting. The camp authorities claimed that red tape was responsible for delays in obtaining new planks, and it was a year before the rotting timbers were replaced. The camp was surrounded by five sets of barbed-wire fencing and there was a trench, six feet deep and eight feet wide, which was booby-trapped with flares. Watch towers were manned by armed guards who also patrolled the perimeter and were equipped with ammonia grenades. Despite these precautions there were escapes. Three prisoners, Conlon, O'Toole, Kelly, climbed through the showers' window, an obvious weak spot in the defence, and made off but were recaptured a few days later. This provoked intense speculation in the camp. Official IRA policy was 'no escapes, it's too risky', but many internees were unwilling to accept the rule. On 27 September 1958, Rory O'Bradaigh and Dave O'Connell (then 18 and now a leading Provisional), escaped through the wire during a football match and, after hiding under a camouflage grass blanket, made their escape. This was an 'official' escape, made with the blessing of the O/C MacCurtain. But to the men in the Charlie Murphy group, brooding in their hut, which was known as 'Little Rock', it was not ambitious enough. Accordingly, after hearing from Sean MacBride that the International Court at Strasbourg would be unlikely to find against the Government, Murphy decided to go ahead with a mass break attempt. The military guards were accustomed to frequent alarm drills often caused by sheep springing the trip wires. They were, therefore, somewhat lethargic. On the face of it, the attempt was madness, but, on 2 December, 26 men armed with wire cutters rushed the wire in broad daylight. The guards were so astonished that the men were through the first fence before warning shots were fired. The men ignored them and ran on past the guards. Brian Boylan was shot and wounded, but the rest cleared the second and third fences. At the ditch ammonia grenades were hurled at them, flares went off and prisoners reeled about in a haze of gas while bullets flew. The guards did, however, fire high – the only man who did not was disarmed by a prison officer. Despite the wire and gas 16 men got through and only two were recaptured. A week-long police and army hunt was in vain because the local people hid most of the escapees.
     Surprisingly, there were no reprisals in the camp and life continued as boring as ever for most of the prisoners, the oldest of whom, Padraig O'Ceallaigh of Mayo, was 68; the youngest, 17-year-old Michael Kelly of Galway.
     The huts were open at 7.00 a.m., and recreation included football and darts as well as handicrafts; the usual plethora of crosses and handkerchiefs was produced. Frank McGlade, who had experienced internment in Derry, Crumlin, and on the Al Rawdah, was in the Curragh during 1958-1959 (he had been on the run since 1956) and described it as his 'favourite'. He liked the open countryside, but found it ironic that the tricolour flew and the huts were named after men like Pearse, McDonagh and Brugha.
     This time the campaign to release the internees was more active. It was costing the Prisoners Dependants Fund £400 a month to keep up the payments, inadequate though they were, and money was scarce. The imaginative suggestion of internee Frank Driver that a wife of an internee with ten children should take them to the palace of the late Most Reverend Dr. John C. McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, and deposit them there for safekeeping until her husband was released, was not put into operation. Nor was his scheme for a band of women relatives to march on the camp armed with wire cutters and cut their way in. More practical steps were taken. Sean MacBride took up the case of Gerry Lawless. Lawless and eight others had been interned in July 1957 but were given a separate hut to themselves because they were ostracized by the rest of the camp. Eight were released upon signing an undertaking, but Lawless, who was not in the IRA, having sided with Joe Christle in the split, refused to do so. After the appeal to the High Court failed, MacBride took the case to the Human Rights Commission at Strasbourg, where it was entered in November 1957 and ruled admissible on 30 August 1958.[36] On advice of his lawyers, Lawless signed out on 10 December 1958. It was not until 1 July 1961 that the verdict was eventually given, long after the last internee was released. It went against Lawless (as Unionists such as Brian McRoberts were to gleefully point out whenever internment was challenged) but mainly on technicalities. It did establish that the 'undertaking' given by internees who sign out has no legal status since it was not included in the Offences Against the State Act. Even more importantly, the court ruled that it was for them to judge whether a state of emergency existed in the country in question and that in future they need not merely accept the assurances of whatever government chose to opt out of the provisions against detention without charge or trial – as Greece was to discover in 1970.
     The IRA border campaign of 1956-1962 was an almost unmitigated disaster. The IRA could claim that about 200 militants had taken on 5,000 TA men, 3,000 RUC men, 12,000 B men, 1,500 specially trained commandos plus a large number of security guards – close on 30,000 men. There had been, in the five-year campaign, 300 major incidents. And several hundred minor ones. Six members of the RUC had been killed, 19 wounded. Eleven B specials and two soldiers had been wounded also. Several million pounds of damage had been caused – the overtime bill for the police alone was £10m. But in the last analysis the campaign was an abysmal failure. Two IRA men had been killed in action by the police and five had accidentally blown themselves up. The people had not rallied, as anticipated, behind the IRA. The Six Counties had not been 'won back'. The Unionist Government had, indeed, been strengthened. "If the IRA had not existed, they would have been invented," as many a Unionist politician said to his friends. And so the campaign petered out. By 15 March 1959 the last internee in the South had been released. The North was not to follow suit until April 1961. A forthcoming visit of the Irish President, Sean T. O'Kelly, to the USA probably had something to do with the Southern Government's decision, but by then it was clear that the campaign was sputtering out. Moreover, there were always the military courts to sentence recalcitrants. Accordingly the Curragh was closed.
     Political commentators until recently assured the Southern Irish people that they had seen the last of internment. Their hopes were a little too sanguine. On 5 December 1970 the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, announced to the nation in a speech remarkably similar to the Unionist Government's of December 1938;

The Garda authorities have informed me that reliable information has come into their possession to the effect that a secret armed conspiracy exists in the country to kidnap one or more prominent persons. Connected with this conspiracy are plans to carry out armed bank robberies which the police believe may well involve murders or attempted murders. The Government view with deep gravity [sic] the situation arising from this information which has been carefully checked. They have given the fullest consideration to the problems that this gives rise to and they have decided that, unless they become satisfied that this threat is removed, they will bring into operation, without further notice, Part 2 of the Offences Against the State Act (1940) which provides for internment. The Government have given instruction that places of detention be prepared immediately and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe is now being informed of the Government's proposals as those proposals will involve derogation from certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Political commentators saw this as an obvious kite being flown, and few, if any, believed in the mysterious information about kidnappings. The Association of Irish Jurists on the next day, Human Rights Day, as it happened, strongly condemned the Taoiseach's statement and declared that internment was totally foreign to the rule of law. But in Beffast the PM, Chichester Clark, welcomed the statement as justifying internment in the North. Well-known Unionist right wingers such as William Craig, the Orange Rev. Martyn Smith and the Rev. Ian Paisley jumped on the bandwagon and acclaimed internment.[37]
     In 1971 there was speculation that Faulkner and Lynch had agreed that if the former would intern extreme 'Loyalists' as well as Republicans and Socialists the latter would reciprocate with internment in the South. In the event nothing came of the move and Lynch hypocritically issued a statement to the effect that "the introduction of internment without trial in the North is deplorable evidence of the political poverty of the policies which have been pursued there for some time." Since then Lynch has followed the iniquitous Forcible Entry Bill with the Prisons Bill, Special Courts, the expansion of the Special Branch, the Amendment of the Offences Against the State Act and the sacking of the RTE Authority. Clearly Brian Faulkner has no monopoly in bankruptcy. (See Chapter 16).

It was a time of trouble-executions,
Death, searches, nightly firing, balked escapes –
And I sat silent while my cellmate figured
Ruy Lopez' Gambit from the 'Praxis'. Silence
Best fitted our mood: we seldom spoke.
'I have a thought,' he said, tilting his stool.
'We prisoners are so many pieces taken,
Swept from the chessboard, only used again
When a new game is started.' 'There's that hope,'
I said, 'the hope of being used again.
Some day of strength, when ploughs are out in March,
The dogs of Fionn will slip their iron chains
And, heedless of torn wounds and failing wind,
Will run the old grey wolf to death at last'.
He smiled, 'I like your image. My fat kings,
And painted Queens, and purple-cassocked Bishops
Are tame, indeed, beside your angry dogs!'

– Written by Joseph Campbell, interned in the Curragh, 1923-24.

Footnotes Chapter 4:

  1. Tomas Ashe and Terence MacSwiney.
  2. Smyth was shot dead by IRA men about a month later, 18 July 1920, in the Cork County Club.
  3. TIM PAT COOGAN, TheIRA, London (Praeger), 1970.
  4. The figure was usually given as 77, which was to achieve a mystical symbolism when Fianna Fail won 77 seats in the general election of January 1933. In fact, 82 Republicans were executed by the Free Staters during the Civil War, the last two in Ennis on 2 May 1923. See Eamon de Valera by the Earl of Longford and Thomas P. O'Neill, Dublin (Gill&Macmillan), 1970.
  5. The entire Hales family signed a letter bitterly denouncing the reprisal.
  6. There was even an attempt to 'borrow' St. Helena or the Seychelles from the British in the autumn of 1922. See The Secret Army by J. Bowyer Bell, London (Anthony Blond), 1970, p.40.
  7. Sworn to be Free, several writers, Tralee (Anvil Books), 1971, p. 160. Also the fastest-made tunnel ever: 19 days.
  8. PEADAR O'DONNELL, The Gates Flew Open, London (Jonathan Cape), 1932; paperback, Cork (The Mercier Press), 1965.
  9. In addition to those wounded by guards, some internees were killed; for instance, P at Mulrennan, shot in Athlone military barracks on 6 October 1922.
10. There were over 500 internees in Gormanston. On 2 September 500 arrived there, having first been ferried from Limerick to Dublin on board the SS Arvonia.
11. The policy of wrecking a jail - by such dedicated jail-wreckers as Padraic Fleming in Portlaoise, 1918-1919 (see chapter on political prisoners)- had been discontinued.
12. PEADAR O'DONNELL, The Gates Flew Open, pp.86-101.
13. A policy they regretted when hungerstrikers Mickey Price, Sean MacBride, and Daithi O'Donoghue escaped from the ambulance taking them from Mountjoy to Kilmainham in October 1923.
14. One of the most amusing stories about 'signing out' concerned Christy Ferguson. As a good-Republican he refused to sign out, but was ordered to do so by the IRA who wanted him as an Intelligence Officer. He then signed and arrived home, to the horror of his mother. She wouldn't speak to him. For four days she served him his meals without saying a word. At last, an IRA officer took pity on her and whispered that he had signed out under orders. She was deliriously happy and ran out to tell the neighbours: "It's all right, he's an Intelligence Officer!" Two weeks later he was interned again.
15. Figures quoted by J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army, London (Anthony Blond), 1970, p.47.
16. Dail Reports, Vol.3, 1966.
17. TERENCE DE VERE WHITE, Kevin O'Higgins, London (Methuen), 1948; paperback, Tralee (Anvil Books), 1966.
18. The IRA denied responsibility and it is generally accepted that the assassination was the work of a few individuals acting on their own.
19. Cumann na nGaedheal 62, Fianna Fail 57.
20. MAURICE MANNING, The Blueshirts, Dublin (Gill & Macmillan), 1970. Bowyer Bell is inaccurate here. Aiken was Minister for Defence. The unpopular James Geoghegan was temporary Minister for Justice. Also, only 20 were released next day, including George and Charles Gilmore, Frank Ryan and Sean Hogan.
21. See T. D. Williams, in The Years of the Great Test, ed. Frank McManus, Cork (The Mercier Press), 1967, p.30.
22. O'Duffy was dismissed as Commissioner of the Garda Siochana on 22 February 1933. No reason was given.
23. Maurice Manning in The Blueshirts fails to convince one of Fine Gael's innocence in this matter.
24. 700 went to Spain for six months. Six were killed and four died of disease. They killed more of their allies than of their enemy. After six months 654 voted to go home, nine to remain (82 returned the next week). By 22 June 1937 they were all back home.
25. Under Article 2A the IRA was declared illegal (18 June 1936).
26. It also censored the press. It became illegal to use the letters IRA even in a news item unless referred to as the 'Old IRA'. P.J. Rutledge was Minister for Justice. A news report in The Irish Press, Dublin, told of someone shouting "The ... (an illegal organisation) are outside" (a Catholic hall in Armagh)!
27. Quoted by Tim Pat Coogan in The IRA, p. 184.
28. ibid, p.186.
29. On 23 December 1939, 1,084,000 rounds of ammunition, the bulk of the Irish army's reserve supply, was stolen in a raid on the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and taken away in 13 lorries. It was a brilliant raid but insufficient dumps bad been prepared for such a huge haul, and nine-tenths of the ammunition was recovered within a week.
30. Figures vary enormously. ENNO STEPHAN in Spies in Ireland, London (Macdonald), 1963, quotes the IRA as claiming 2,500 interned. Tim Pat Coogan in The IRA says 500. The best estimate seems to be 800, given by SEAN EDMONDS in The Gun, The Law and The Irish People, Tralee (Anvil), 1971 - and taken from the personal recollections of internees.
31. In all, six huts and a lot of bedding were destroyed. The tunnel was also finished. Six men got ten years each for burning the huts.
32. See Spies in Ireland by Enno Stephan.
33. In fact, Seamus Murphy escaped in 1959; Donal Murphy was released in 1962, and Joe Doyle in 1963.
34. Quoted by J. Bowyer Bell in The Secret Army, p.287.
35. 131 was the final number. 210 were at one time or another interned during the period.
36. See Registry of the Court Council of Europe, 'Lawless Case'. Publications of the European Council of Human Rights.
37. Paisley subsequently did a volte face when it became clear that some of his men might be subject to internment. Also he had come under the influence of astute lawyer-politician, Desmond Boal.

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