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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
April 18, 2006
Malachy McAllister Gets an Ally
McAllister - In U.S. after fleeing U.K. (AP Photo)
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News About Ireland & The Irish
NY 04/18/06 'Terror' Migrant Gets Ally
BB 04/18/06 Hain To Report On Devolution Plan
IN 04/18/06 Sr Apprentice Boy Signals Talks With Nationalists Possible
BB 04/18/06 Junior Lodges Will Hold Parades
IN 04/18/06 Adair Link To Fatal Shooting By Police
BT 04/18/06 Villagers Shocked By Shooting Of 'A Quiet Young Man'
IN 04/18/06 Stabbing Sectarian Says SF
SF 04/18/06 Coming Months Will Be Critical For The Peace Process
SF 04/18/06 Challenge Now Is To Undo Damage Caused By Partition
MN 04/18/06 Murray Praises Rossport Five At 1916 Commemoration
IN 04/18/06 Beginning Of The End For British Imperialism
MN 04/18/06 Opin: Heart Of The Matter
IN 04/18/06 Opin: Hamilton Case Raises Disturbing Questions
BN 04/18/06 Hanafin Announces Plans To Improve Teaching Of Irish
BT 04/18/06 San Francisco Earthquake: America's Greatest Disaster
IN 04/18/06 ‘Sackville Street Enveloped In Smoke & Guns Rattling Away’
'Terror' Migrant Gets Ally
By Marsha Kranes
April 18, 2006 -- Long Island Rep. Peter King has joined
Donald Trump's federal-judge sister in urging top federal
officials to block the deportation of a former Irish
nationalist convicted in a "terrorist" attack on a British
In an emotional opinion handed down last week, federal
appeals Judge Maryanne Trump Barry decried the strict anti-
terrorism laws passed after 9/11 that forced her to join
two fellow jurists in upholding the government's right to
deport Malachy McAllister and his two teenage children.
She implored U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to
intervene and let the family remain in the U.S. They live
in Wallington, N.J.
"I refuse to believe that 'Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free' is now an
empty entreaty. But if it is, it's a shame," Trump Barry
wrote in her opinion.
"I cannot find a way to keep the McAllisters in this
country, and I have surely tried," she said.
"We cannot be the country we should be if, because of the
tragic events of Sept. 11th, we knee-jerk remove decent men
and women merely because they may have erred at one point
in their lives."
King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,
cited Trump Barry's plea in a letter urging Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to grant the family
The Long Island Republican noted that McAllister has lived
here more than 10 years and "has proved himself to be
absolutely no threat to this country."
He added that McAllister, 48, and his kids "fear that their
lives will be in danger if they are returned to Northern
McAllister's lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, said that he's "quietly
hopeful that something can be worked out with Chertoff."
The only other option, he said, is a long shot - getting a
private bill through Congress granting the McAllisters
McAllister was arrested in 1981 in Belfast for serving as a
lookout during an Irish National Liberation Army attack on
a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer.
Convicted of "conspiring to murder," he was sentenced to
seven years, but was released after three years for good
In 1988, after his home was sprayed with gunfire by pro-
British loyalists, he fled to Canada with his family. When
Canada denied them asylum in 1996, they moved to the United
Hain To Report On Devolution Plan
The secretary of state is due to report to the House of
Commons on the government's initiative to restore
devolution to Northern Ireland.
Peter Hain is expected to make a statement on Monday.
It follows the government's decision to recall the assembly
on 15 May and impose a deadline of 24 November for electing
a power-sharing executive.
Legislation to enable the move to go ahead is expected to
be published on Thursday.
On 6 April, prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
travelled to Northern Ireland to unveil their blueprint for
They confirmed the assembly would be recalled on 15 May
with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive.
If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to
try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that
attempt fails, salaries will stop.
The British and Irish governments would then work on
partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday
Mr Ahern has acknowledged the difficulties facing himself
and Mr Blair were compounded by the murder of ex-Sinn Fein
official and former British spy Denis Donaldson in County
Donegal two days earlier.
Despite denials of involvement in the murder, the
Democratic Unionist Party is blaming the IRA and that has
pushed the prospect of power-sharing even further away.
Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October
2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring.
Mr Donaldson was one of three men later acquitted of
charges linked to those allegations.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/18 06:11:17 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Senior Apprentice Boy Signals Talks With Nationalists Possible
By Barry McCaffrey
There was a potential breakthrough in the parades issue
last night after a senior Apprentice Boy signalled the
loyal orders could enter into talks with nationalist
residents in coming weeks.
The potential breakthrough came after a controversial
flashpoint parade in north Belfast passed off without
Up to 50 Apprentice Boys and one band paraded past
nationalist houses on the Crumlin Road shortly before 10am
A group of 50 nationalist re-sidents held a silent protest.
There was a low key security force presence with only four
police land rovers and 18 officers monitoring the parade.
Parades Commission chairman, Roger Poole, praised
Apprentice Boys and nationalist residents for their
There was a short stand-off after police attempted to stop
40 loyalist protesters from accompanying Apprentice Boys
along the route.
Apprentice Boys spokes-man Tommy Cheevers prais-ed both
sides’ behaviour during yesterday’s parade.
“We were delighted with the way things passed off
peacefully,” he said.
“There was a minor hiccup when police tried to stop
supporters from accompanying us, claiming it was against
the Parades Commission determination.
“The Parades Commission made no reference to supporters so
as far as we are concerned these people
had every right to accompany us.”
Suggesting that talks with nationalist residents could take
place in coming weeks Mr Cheevers said: “I would like to
see the day when Apprentice Boys, nationalist residents and
police can all sit down and discuss parades.
“This is not about nationalists supporting the PSNI, it is
about community safety.
“There are a few things to sort out, including Sinn Fein
clarifying the position that the Ardoyne residents group
talks for nationalists but once that is cleared up I think
we can go in to talks quite quickly.”
The proposed talks are understood to be under the auspices
of the loyalist North & West Belfast Parades and Cultural
Forum and would include negotiations on all loyal order
parades along the Crumlin Road.
Ardoyne Dialogue Group spokesman Joe Marley welcomed any
talks between nationalists and the loyal orders.
“Our position has always been that the parades issue can
only be resolved through real and meaningful dialogue,” he
“We welcome any talks that will lead to an acceptable
solution to contentious par-ades along the Crumlin Road.
“We welcome the fact that the parade passed off without
“We do have concerns however that loyalists were allowed to
accompany App-rentice Boys along the entire length of the
Crumlin Road and that crowds were allowed to gather outside
“This parade and all the other contentious parades can only
be resolved through dialogue so the quicker we can get to
that position the better it will be for everyone.”
Junior Lodges Will Hold Parades
Junior Orange lodges are to hold their annual parades in
Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
Thousands of people attended Apprentice Boys parades across
Northern Ireland on Monday which were monitored by the
Roger Poole of the commission said he is hopeful they have
set the tone for the season.
"We had some good parades yesterday and I hope today all
the parades will go off well," Mr Poole said.
"If these parades go off well then that encourages people
to get into dialogue with one another and that's the way to
resolve these parades."
The largest of Monday's parades was in Ballymena, County
Antrim in which as many as 5,000 people took part.
In Belfast, there was low-key security as feeder parades
passed through contentious areas without incident.
At Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, about 100 nationalists
held a protest. Mr Poole, was present to monitor the
The government-appointed Parades Commission was set up in
1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades
should be restricted.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/04/18 06:45:54 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Adair Link To Fatal Shooting By Police
By Barry McCaffrey
A man shot dead by pol-ice while he was driving a stolen
car had previously been jailed for threatening to shoot a
Steven Colwell (23) was also a close friend of loyalist
leader Johnny Adair’s son and, although from a Protestant
background, re-ceived the Last Rites because he was wearing
a Celtic football top.
He was fatally wounded after police opened fire on the
stolen BMW in Ballynahinch, Co Down, on Sunday morning.
In February 2001 Colwell was jailed for three years after
he and a friend threatened to shoot a policeman while
helping a third man to escape from police custody at a
Colwell and an accomplice, Ron-ald Allen, were jailed after
the incident at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast where
an associate, William Paul, had been taken by police after
claiming to have taken drugs.
Paul had been under arrest at the time on suspicion of
stealing a bottle of vodka.
A gun was pointed at a police constable who was ordered to
let Paul go or be shot.
Colwell was arrested soon afterwards while Paul and Allen
were picked up 10 days later.
Originally from Battenberg Street in the Shankill area of
west Belfast, Colwell, then aged 18, pleaded guilty to
aiding and abetting the escape, assaulting police and
possessing a firearm.
In August 2001 he went on the run from Hydebank Young
Offenders Centre after being released on home leave.
It is understood he had been living in Cullybackey, Co
Antrim, after being the victim of so-called punishment
beatings from both the UVF and UDA.
The car he was driving on Sunday is understood to have been
stolen from a Co Down car dealership early that morning.
Catholic priest Canon Gerry McCrory was called to give the
Last Rites after Colwell was mistaken for a Catholic
because of his Celtic jersey.
The tradition of young loyalists from the Shankill wearing
Celtic tops is believed to have originated with Johnny
Adair, who wore Celtic jerseys while travelling through
nationalist areas to plan attacks on Catholics.
It is understood that the dead man and Adair’s son were
A relative of Adair’s was in the car at the time of the
Speaking from England last night Adair said: “I felt sorry
for the young guy because he had a lot of problems. His
parents were both dead and he had got into a lot of trouble
with the paramilitaries.
“I have been told they had sto-len a car and were being
chased by police.
“They didn’t know the police had opened up on the car until
Steven got out of the car shouting he’d been shot.
“It is a tragic loss of life.”
Villagers Shocked By Shooting Of 'A Quiet Young Man'
By Debra Douglas
18 April 2006
The young man shot dead by police at a Co Down checkpoint
was last night described as a "quiet man who kept himself
Steven Craig Colwell (23), from Main Street, Cullybackey,
Co Antrim, was killed by police on Easter Sunday in
Officers opened fire after attempting to stop the stolen
silver BMW which Colwell is understood to have been
Last night, neighbours in the village where the alleged car
thief lived were coming to terms with the news of his
One said: "It has been the talk of the place, no-one can
believe it has happened, it's just terrible.
"He was a quiet man who kept himself to himself but he
seemed like a nice enough fella."
Another added: "He hadn't been living here for too long,
only a couple of months, so no-one really knew him that
well but I think we're all shocked by what has happened to
It is thought Mr Colwell moved to the area from the
Glencairn estate in Belfast where his parents and other
family members still live.
Relatives were last night said to be devastated by his
death and residents were also reeling from the news.
One said: "I couldn't believe it when I heard it was him. I
didn't know him personally but I know of the family and I'm
sure they're in bits."
As his family came to terms with the news, the police
officer who fired the fatal shot was last night understood
to be traumatised by the incident.
Jim Wells, DUP MLA for South Down, said that while the
officer had not been suspended, he was not currently on
The MLA said: "The officer is extremely traumatised by the
"He is not at work - but he has not been suspended."
But Eddie McGrady, the SDLP MP for the area, said immediate
action needed to be taken.
"Obviously a full inquiry is required immediately and the
officers involved should be relieved of their duties
pending clarification of the incident and the code of
conduct pertaining to use of lethal weapons," he said.
However, criticising demands for suspensions, Mr Wells said
people should not rush to make judgment until the full
facts of what happened were established.
"We have to stand by our police and support them in very
difficult circumstances," he said.
Meanwhile, the three men and two women who were travelling
in the car with Mr Colwell when the fatal shot was fired
were yesterday interviewed by members of a 15-strong Police
Ombudsman's investigating team.
They had been arrested by police at the scene but were
bailed earlier yesterday.
An ombudsman's office spokesman said it would be several
months before a report on their investigation would be
passed to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.
Although Sir Hugh has come under pressure from some
nationalist politicians to suspend the officers involved,
the police said no such action would be taken before the
report was received.
The ombudsman's office has also appealed for any witnesses
to the incident to contact them.
Stabbing Sectarian Says SF
By Maeve Connolly
LOYALISTS have been blamed for the suspected sectarian
stabbing of a young Catholic man in Ballymena, Co Antrim,
at the weekend.
Sinn Fein claimed that a group of young loyalists attacked
the 20-year-old in the Tower Centre at around 3pm on
The victim, who is from Ballymena, is understood to have
suffered a punctured lung and liver.
He was still receiving treatment in Antrim Area Hospital
A police spokesman last night said a sectarian motive was
one line of enquiry. He appealed for any witnesses to come
Ballymena Sinn Fein councillor Monica Digney said she had
been contacted by several people who saw members of the
gang responsible for the attack taking part in yesterday’s
Apprentice Boys parade in the town.
Sinn Fein has claimed loyalists are intent on raising
tension in the town ahead of the marching season.
DUP councillor Deirdre Nelson condemned the attack and said
she wished the victim and his family well.
“I am absolutely astounded. I can’t believe it happened in
broad daylight,” she said.
“The knife culture is something that should concern us
Ms Nelson would not be drawn on the alleged sectarian
nature of the incident, however.
“I’m not prepared to make a knee-jerk reaction as Sinn Fein
has,” she said.
“I would be deeply disappointed if it was a sectarian
de Brún - Coming Months Will Be Critical For The Peace Process
Published: 17 April, 2006
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre deBrún today delivered the Presidents
Lecture at the Hobart and William Smith University in New
York. The theme of the lecture was 'Building Peace in
Ireland and the EU'.During the course of a wide ranging
speech Ms deBrún said that the peace process was entering a
critical number of months and that the DUP now faced a big
decision - to share power with nationalists and republicans
on the basis of equality for the first time.
She also warned the two governments that 'history will not
be kind to any government that puts party political
considerations above the peace process, whether it is the
coalition government of Bertie Ahern in Dublin or the one
led by Tony Blair in London.'
Please find the full text of the speech below
Building Peace in Ireland and in the EU
Bairbre de Brún MEP
Sinn Féin was founded in 1905, one hundred years ago last
year. We celebrated the centenary of our party through
lectures, concerts and debates throughout Ireland.
This year, 2006, we mark two other important historical
dates.It is the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of
1916 when Irish men and women challenged the right of the
British Empire to rule Ireland and declared a Republic
through the Easter Proclamation.
It is also the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger strike
in which ten young men died so that Irish republicanism
would not be labeled a criminal conspiracy.
The Easter Rising of 1916 brought together for the first
time the main movements of the period in Ireland:-
The national movement
The movement for women's rights
The labour movement
The 1916 Proclamation reflects this. It is a unique
document because of the social values it espoused at that
time and for the resonance it still holds today. It
guaranteed religious and civil liberty and rejected the
sectarianism which, in the words of the proclamation, was
'carefully fostered' and which had 'divided a minority from
the majority'. It upheld women's rights at a time when
women did not have a vote. It envisioned an Ireland based
on equality and justice and spoke of 'cherishing all the
children of the nation equally'.
Although limited independence was won, and a now
flourishing Irish state was established in the southern
part of the island, the principles set out in the 1916
Proclamation have yet to be put fully into effect in
We do not have independence and unity for the whole island
nor do we have equality and justice. Of course the vision
of the Proclamation has to be interpreted for our own time.
The men and women of 1916 declared the Republic but the
task of making their vision real has been carried on by
following generations, including our own.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1981, ten young men died on
hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh prison.They were
at the forefront of a struggle against British attempts to
portray republican prisoners, and therefore the republican
struggle, as criminal.
Their refusal to accept the criminal tag led to prolonged
campaigning inside and outside the jail, and to the last
resort of hunger strike.Just as 1916 had been a catalyst
that led to the measure of independence won and the
establishment of an Irish state, so the 1981 Hunger strike
was a further catalyst in the long and torturous road
towards freedom, justice and peace in Ireland.
Across the island of Ireland and all around the world,
people responded to the prisoners demands for recognition
as political prisoners. Here in America, there was a huge
reaction to the hunger strikers‚ deaths, with marches,
rallies and a strong lobby of the British government.
Several of the hunger strikers were elected in general
elections, north and south.
Towards a Lasting Peace
These two events, which are celebrated in Ireland this
year, were watersheds in Irish history. They inspire the
generation that are actively building peace, and
transforming the prospects for future generations of Irish
men and women. Sinn Féin is playing a leading part in that.
The negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in
1998 sought a way to tackle the many and varied issues
facing us as a society and to build a bridge out of
conflict towards a better future for all.
Today Sinn Féin is the third largest political party in
Ireland. We are the largest pro-Good Friday Agreement party
in the north of Ireland. We are contending for government
in both legislatures on the island, and we have
representation on every elected body that affects the lives
of Irish people, from the local to the regional and the
Sinn Féin is committed to promoting gender equality, within
our party and across society more generally.We are
simultaneously the oldest political party in Ireland and
the youngest, having been founded before any other and
having the most youthful membership.
We have increased our vote and our share of the vote in
every election in the past decade.We are a party on the
move and are wielding greater influence in the shaping the
future of our country.
Reviving the Peace Process
For more than ten years Irish republicans have played a
leading role in the peace process. The peace process is in
many ways the reworking of the relationships between
unionism and the rest of the people of this island, and
between all of us and the British government.
British policy in Ireland has historically been the
catalyst for conflict and division in our country. From our
point of view, British government policy ultimately needs
to be about ending British jurisdiction on this island.
But building peace is not only about constitutional change.
It is also about developing a fair and equal society,
changing social, economic and political structures,
building good relations and developing a culture that is
respectful of human rights and the dignity of all.
Time and time again risks have been taken to advance the
agenda for change. In July 2005 the IRA took the
unprecedented stop of formally ending its armed campaign.
This was a massive development.
It dealt conclusively with many of the genuine concerns
raised by unionists and opened up a huge opportunity to
create a new era in Irish politics.In recent months we have
seen the peace process continue to stagnate, as the
unionist political parties, often with the active support
of the British ort is vital for the Irish peace process.
From the very early stages of this process, such as
President Clinton‚s granting of a visa for our party
president Gerry Adams in 1994, through to the continued
interest of the present Bush administration, international
interest and support have given the process momentum,
particularly at times when forces opposed to progress at
home have tried to slow that momentum down.
Today the situation is no different.
The Irish diaspora in this and other countries and all
other people who want to see peace in Ireland have a
positive role to play in encouraging your own politicians
and governments to press for political movement.
The Good Friday Agreement is the template. It is the
compromise between all sides to the conflict. It has clear
democratic legitimacy and support. On that basis the only
option for us all is to ensure its full implementation.
As a member of the European Parliament I and my colleague
Mary Lou McDonald MEP are actively working to ensure
European governments and EU institutions play an active
role in breaking the political deadlock in the Irish peace
International pressure is crucial if those forces opposed
to peace and reconciliation in Ireland are to be convinced
that the only way forward is through dialogue, power-
sharing, equality and building a new Ireland together.
Europe & the Wider World
Of course our problems and difficulties in Ireland pale in
comparison to many of the conflicts and crises in the wider
world. Again as a member of the European parliament I am
very conscious of this.
Sinn Féin is not just concerned about the future of our own
country. We have a similarly progressive agenda for Europe
and the wider world.
Sinn Féin has a policy of critical but constructive
engagement with the European Union. This means we decide to
support or oppose the many and complex developments in the
EU each on their own merits. We have supported EU and other
Europe-wide measures that promote and enhance human rights,
equality, the environment and the all-Ireland agenda -
measures which are an example of the EU at its best,
promoting a guarantee of a basic level of rights protection
in all member states.
But Sinn Féin has also never been afraid to stand up
against EU measures damaging to Irish interests or to the
vision we have of where Europe should stand in relation to
the wider world.
We want to build a Europe of Equals - a true partnership of
equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic
development in Europe and beyond. We want an EU that
promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament
and the just resolution of conflicts under the leadership
of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations.
Ultimately, we want a future United Ireland to take an
active, leading role in such a reformed EU.
The European Union of today is a very unequal place;
extreme wealth and poverty sit side by side. Millions of
Euros are spent every year in the pursuit of a regional
military army, whilst many member states, including our
own, renege on their promise to increase overseas
development aid spending to some of the world‚s poorest
nations.Sinn Féin is about challenging all of this.
We are not anti-European, but we do want to see a different
type of EU. We take the same approach to politics in
Brussels and Strasbourg as we do in Ireland - this means
building a true democracy, where both political and
economic power is distributed as widely as possible - an
Ireland and a Europe based on equality, justice, rights and
However, we also recognised that as one of the wealthiest
regions of the world, the European Union has a
responsibility to redress the global imbalance of power and
economic well being, which in many respects is part of the
legacy of European colonisation and industrialisation. We
want to promote a global justice agenda that includes
arguing strongly for the democratisation of the United
Nations; the immediate cancellation of developing world
debt; the fulfilment of Millennium Development Goals; and
playing a central part in tackling the ever growing
challenge of HIV/AIDS.
As a party and as individuals we know first hand the
reality of conflict.Our own focus on conflict resolution
and peace building in Ireland has led us to be increasingly
concerned at the way in which EU foreign and security
policy is being framed. Rather than focusing on the causes
of global conflict and instability, the dominant EU
discourse is feeding the cycles of conflict by developing a
security and military response, and wasting billions of
euros of European taxpayers‚ money in return. In turn this
security focus is influencing other areas of policy such as
migration and trade policy.
Sinn Féin wants to see a demilitarised, nuclear free EU,
which is actively addressing global inequality and disease,
promoting disarmament and conflict resolution.
Women in Politics
As a woman I am very conscious of the way in which
mainstream politics actively discourages and blocks many
young women from playing an active part in public life.
It is my own personal view that a society is only truly
democratic when such barriers have been removed, and
participation in public life is a real opportunity open to
all. Recently I participated in a debate on this question
in the European Parliament and voted for the establishment
of a European Institute for Gender Equality to address the
fundamental societal inequalities between women and men.
Often data collected on gender is not comparable between
one EU member state and another and where the broad range
of EU policies is concerned no data on the gender impact is
available at all. The establishment of this institute would
ensure that data is properly analysed so that promoting and
achieving gender equality becomes a part of all EU policies
in the future. Whilst the principle of equality has been
established in Ireland and throughout the EU, the practice
has not yet lived up to this.
I welcome the decision to establish the European Institute
for Gender Equality by next year at the latest.
At an event which I hosted in Brussels last month, the
Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics at Queens
University Belfast presented the findings of research into
the issue of gender inequality in a range of countries in
Central and Eastern Europe. This highlighted that once a
pattern of under representation has been established, the
same pattern will keep repeating itself, unless concrete
steps are taken to break the cycle.
Just as we are trying to break the cycle of inequality and
disadvantage in the North of Ireland caused by
discrimination on the basis of religious and political
belief, we recognise that an Ireland of Equals in A Europe
of Equals ˆ on which I stood for election in 2004 ˆ
requires gender equality in all its aspects.
Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 hunger strike, was elected to
the British parliament during the hunger strike and
tragically died on May 5th of that year. He continues to
inspire Irish republicans across the world today.
He once said: 'Our revenge will be the laughter of our
children and the liberation of us all'
We, who live in much better times, have every reason to be
equally determined and positive.Sinn Féin wants to build a
peaceful, democratic and egalitarian Ireland. We want
Ireland to play its role in promoting these objectives in
Europe and across the broader world. As Bobby Sands said,
everyone has a part to play.ENDS
Challenge Now Is To Undo Damage Caused By Partition
Published: 18 April, 2006
Speaking at the annual Easter Tuesday commemoration at the
Roddy McCorley monument in Toomebridge, Sinn Féin MP for
Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew urged the Irish
government to set about the task of undoing the damage
caused by partition.
Ms Gildernew said:
"On Sunday I was part of the first State commemoration of
the 1916 Rising to take place for many years. This was a
good thing. Over 100,000 people were on the streets of
Dublin rededicating themselves to the principles and legacy
of 1916 and the Proclamation.
"If 1916 teaches us anything, it is that British
involvement in Irish affairs is wrong, it us undemocratic
and its legacy continues to impact negatively on all
citizens on this island.
"Over the next decade those politicians from other parties
who attended the weekend events in Dublin will have ample
opportunity to demonstrate whether they are genuinely
committed to the ideals of 1916.
"The preparation for the centenary of the Rising must begin
now. And I am not talking about organising a parade. I am
talking about pro-actively pursuing the United Ireland
agenda. I am talking about in a systematic way undoing the
damage caused by partition. I am talking about building the
of society demanded by the men and women of 1916. To do
anything else is a betrayal of 1916.
"Sinn Féin will play our part. We never stopped honouring
the men and women of 1916 or trying to make their vision of
an independent, sovereign state a reality. People are now
going to be able to judge others for their contribution to
the achievement of republican goals in the time ahead."
Murray Praises Rossport Five At 1916 Commemoration
SINN FÉIN’S Mayo candidate for the general election, Cllr
Gerry Murray and Mayo native and MLA for South Down,
Catriona Ruane were the keynote speakers at the 1916
commemoration at the Fr Manus Sweeney monument in Achill.
The event, which was organised by Achill Sinn Féin, saw the
gathering march behind the Pollagh pipe band from
Dookinella church to the Fr Sweeney monument, and was
attended by residents from the Garvaghy Road and also
Micheal Ó Seighin, of the Rossport Five.
Cllr Murray told the gathering that the present Government
had abandoned the core principles and values of 1916. He
said that the treatment of the Rossport Five and the
exploitation of the country’s natural resources by
multinationals were a prime example of this.
He voiced his support for the Rossport Five and their
battle with Shell and claimed that their struggle was on a
par with Michael Davitt’s fight for land reform.
“It is a timely backdrop that this year falls on the 100th
anniversary of the death of Michael Davitt. Michael Davitt
said that the land of Ireland belonged to the people of
Ireland. Well, the resources of Ireland also belongs to the
people of Ireland,” said Cllr Murray.
Catriona Ruane, MLA for South Down, also voiced her support
for the Rossport Five and claimed that while Micahel Davitt
fought the landlords, the modern equivalent to the
landlords was the multinationals.
She said that Sinn Féin was the party of the future and
called on the Sinn Féin members in Mayo to work tirelessly
and campaign through all weathers to secure Cllr Murray’s
election to the Dáil.
“The mood in Sinn Féin is that it is a party on the move.
Sinn Féin is a party of change and the party of the future.
Supporting the Rossport Five shows our commitment to
creating an Ireland of equals.”
During the commemoration, the Proclamation was read aloud,
as was the roll of honour of all the Mayo people who died
in the War of Independence. Wreaths were laid at the
monument to honour the 1916 Rising, as well of the 1798
Rebellion and to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of theH-
block hunger strikers.
Beginning Of The End For British Imperialism
By Staff Reporter
I was 11 when I first heard about the Easter Rising. My
older cousin took me to the 50th anniversary celebrations
on Belfast’s Falls Road.
I was never on the Falls Road before. What greeted my
youthful eyes was thousands of people marching with equally
large numbers on the footpath, clapping the marchers.
There was a carnival atmosphere, tricolour bunting across
the streets, children like myself mingling with older
people smiling, street vendors selling their wares, music
from bands, a cacophony of mixed sounds.
I did not know the significance of the occasion but it was
In my late teens it was fashionable to wear a James
Connolly badge on your lapel. We all did.
As teenagers we did not know of Connolly’s significance. In
1970 a group of us carried a tricolour over the Albert
Bridge, returning from Belfast’s Easter Rising
commemoration. Two RUC men at the corner of the Short
Strand tried to take the flag from us.
Their action sparked off a three-hour riot. Few of us knew
the significance of the tricolour.
That Easter I saw for the first time a Starry Plough flag
draped from a man’s house in Young’s Row, in the Short
Also that year a bus load of us visited Kilmainham Jail in
We were told about the 1916 Rising on the tour of the jail
but in a young head few details remained.
I learned more about the rising when I was interned without
trial as a teenager in the early seventies.
While there I met men who knew people who had taken part in
the rising. I was fascinated by the oral history and
military details of the rising.
We whiled away the time walking round the yard talking
about planning a similar rising in Belfast with the city
hall being our GPO.
Dreams of youthful revolutionaries!
My mind opened up to the politics of the rising when I
organised a library for the men in Cage 4 to borrow books
from. I collected all the political books strewn about the
cage, made a small book shelf and began lending the books.
My pride and joy were James Connolly’s writings. Of
particular interest was his Labour in Irish History and The
Reconquest of Ireland.
Internees debated the politics of Connolly the socialist
and Pearse the cultural nationalist.
We drew off their writings.
Connolly and Pearse embodied the ideals of the recently
revived IRA as it politically expressed itself among the
internees of Long Kesh.
These were fledgling times. The IRA’s campaign was just a
few years old. Sinn Fein, as a strong, well-organised
political party, would not emerge for another 10 years.
The prisons provided the space for inexperienced and young
republicans to learn the history of their country, the
struggle for independence and, in particular, the history
of the 1916 Rising.
The rising was an important reference point.
It was the well-spring of many political ideas which have
been carried forward by republicans to this day.
Inside the heads of those who entered Dublin’s GPO were
many strands of revolutionary thought.
These are reflected in the Proclamation which Pearse read
out on the steps of the GPO on Easter Monday.
It is worth taking 10 minutes to read this important
document because many radical ideas even by today’s
political standards are reflected in it. It mentions the
people owning Ireland, of a society cherishing all the
children of the nation equally, of guaranteeing religious
and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to
all citizens, of voting rights for women and men.
The Ireland of today is a different country to the one
which necessitated the Easter Rising. It is different to
the one I lived in as an internee and learned about the
Ninety years ago a small number of Irishmen and women went
onto the streets to challenge British rule.
Their courage marked the beginning of the end for the
British empire and inspired freedom movements across the
But their work remains unfinished. That is why the Easter
Rising is still relevant in today’s Ireland.
Opin: Heart Of The Matter
Lost in history
With the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising
just passed, it is timely to ask what significance it holds
By Edwin McGreal
IT is arguably the most prominent aspect of Irish history.
And we have all grown up with an in-depth knowledge of the
circumstances of the Easter Rising and its consequences.
In national school we were regaled by the story of seven
men dying for the greater good. The names of Pearse,
Plunkett, Connolly, Clarke, Ceannt, McDonagh and McDermott
were ingrained in our memories.
So too was the notion that while their Rising ultimately
proved futile and while it seemed to come out of almost
nowhere at the time, it would quickly become hugely
significant and spark the first real drive for Irish
These were seven men with whom history has sided. Politics
decreed that people who survived the Rising, such as
DeValera and Collins, became almost divisive figures
because of what happened in the aftermath. But the seven
men who faced the death penalty for their actions on Easter
Monday, 1916 have gone into the history books as the
ultimate martyrs in our land.
Last week marked the ninetieth anniversary of their
efforts, but close to a century on, how does the Easter
Rising fit into the consciousness of 21st century Ireland?
Last weekend there were only a handful of commemoration
ceremonies in Mayo to mark the occasion. Achill has long
been a bastion of Republicanism and on Sunday they held an
Easter Commemoration attended by Castlebar-born Sinn Féin
MLA member Catriona Ruane which doubled as a 25th
Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes.
Television coverage of the anniversary amounted to a
moribund two hours coverage on RTÉ 1 of the Military Parade
in Dublin on Sunday morning followed by a highlights
package of the same event later that night. Very
imaginative. RTÉ 2 showed a re-run of ‘The Ghost of Roger
Casement’ on Monday night but it is safe to say that the
national broadcaster didn’t feel the need to think outside
the box for the occasion.
But did anyone notice? Is remembrance of the Easter Rising
something modern Ireland gets in a tizzy over or are we
just content to tip our hat at it for a moment and continue
with our modern life?
In Castlebar on Sunday last Mayo Sinn Féin held their
annual Easter Rising Commemoration. Usually held in
Kilkelly, it was switched to the county town in the hope
that the significance of 90 years since its passing would
attract larger numbers.
Castlebar Town Councillor Noel Campbell (Sinn Féin) admits
that the passing of time will reduce the significance of
the Rising, but questions the manner of the commemoration.
“The fiftieth anniversary of the Rising in 1966 was a huge
occasion in the country and it is natural I suppose that
further anniversaries won’t be thought of as significantly
by people. All the direct connections to 1916 are
practically gone now while there is a vast difference in
the make-up of the Irish population now. There has been a
large influx of immigrants recently and they obviously have
no notion about the Rising, and obviously they can’t be
blamed for that,” offers Campbell.
However the biggest gripe Noel Campbell has with this
ninetieth anniversary commemoration is not the size of the
event but rather the precise nature of it.
Sunday saw the Government celebrate the ninetieth
anniversary with a military celebration in Dublin, the
first official commemoration in some time. However,
Campbell feels that by focusing on the actual Rising
itself, rather than the principles that went hand in hand
with it, a glorious opportunity is being lost.
“By celebrating the military element of the Rising, which
the government did last Sunday, I think we are taking away
from what the Rising was really about. It was not purely a
military campaign. Sure, that was the element which
manifested itself on the Easter Monday but there was so
much more to it than that.
“If you read the actual 1916 Proclamation it really was a
progressive document for the time. There were references in
it to men and women being treated equally and all people
being treated equally which was way ahead of its time. The
Proclamation was very republican and very socialist. That a
document with such foresight was created in that time is
what we should be celebrating,” added Campbell.
The principles laid out in the Proclamation of 1916 went on
to shape much of the thinking of the first Daíl in 1919.
Noel Campbell feels that to live out the Proclamation is
the best way to celebrate and remember the Easter Rising.
“If we really want to celebrate the Easter Rising we should
start living by what the Proclamation says, not just
celebrate it solely any time an anniversary comes along.”
The next milestone will be the hugely significant 100th
anniversary of the Easter Rising in 2016. Will that be a
date to remember? Time will be the best judge but if the
indifference to the ninetieth anniversary is anything to go
by, then it would be fair to say that for most people it
will just be another day.
Opin: Hamilton Case Raises Disturbing Questions
By Susan McKay
There is no way that Trevor Hamilton should have been free
to abduct and murder Attracta Harron in 2003.
This 19-year-old man had demonstrated in the most brutal
way that he hated women. He was categorised by the
authorities as extremely dangerous, showed all the signs of
being a psychopath, and had already proved resistant to
therapy. Yet he was released from prison after serving just
three and a half years of a seven-year sentence for a
particularly violent rape. The young woman who survived
that attack said last week she had been convinced he was
going to kill her and believed he would go on to kill.
She also revealed that she had not been told of his release
from prison just four months before he murdered the 65-
year-old retired librarian, who was walking home from Mass
on a December Sunday morning.
The case has chilling echoes of that of Robert Howard, in
jail for the murder of a teenage girl in England. Howard,
who also preyed on women in Co Tyrone, was controversially
acquitted of the murder of Arlene Arkinson in 1994 after
the Public Prosecution Service failed to use “similar fact
evidence” which would have shown a terrifying record of
sexual violence against women. Such evidence was used in
Hamilton’s trial, along with compelling forensic evidence.
Like Howard, Hamilton showed his violent nature early. At
primary school he hit a teacher with a chair. As a young
teenager he would lie in wait along the roadside near his
home on the outskirts of Sion Mills. When women drivers
came along he would jump out and flash at them. On one
occasion he tried to drag a woman out of her car. In 1999,
aged 16, he was given two years’ probation for indecent
exposure and ordered to attend a therapy programme.
Within months, in February 2000, he offered a lift to the
young woman who was waiting for an early afternoon bus in
He attacked her and threatened to kill her. He took her to
a caravan, stripped her and raped her in every imaginable
way. He made her swear on her child’s life that she would
not report him but she bravely did. He denied it and only
changed his plea to guilty (and not for all the offences)
on the eve of the trial in 2001.
Mr Justice Foote said that because of his youth he needed
help as well as punishment and sent him to a young
offenders centre for four years, followed by three years’
A probation officer told the court that while Hamilton had
agreed to take part in a sex offenders’ programme his
failure or inability to accept responsibility for what he
had done would “greatly undermine the impact” of such a
The leniency of the sentence was appealed and it was
increased to seven years followed by one year’s probation.
He was ordered to take part in a sex offender treatment
Last week, a spokesman for the Sex Offender Strategic
Management Committee claimed that after his release in 2003
Hamilton was considered likely to seriously harm other
people and that he was “probably” visited more often than
any other sex offender.
Micheal Harron, a son of the murdered woman, pointed out
last week that Hamilton was free to cruise the roads
targeting his next victim.
He was free to abduct, murder and bury her. Hamilton was
always “very gently treated” by the authorities, her son
said. The family wants a public inquiry.
The trial judge spoke of Hamilton’s “appalling cruelty”
last week and told him he presented “a grave danger to any
woman in this community” and he might never be released.
The Howard case showed the authorities in a bad light and
caused major embarrassment – this case raises equally
Why did the system fail?
Why was Hamilton put on a sex offenders’ programme when it
was considered unlikely to work?
Was the programme even suitable for a psychopathic
If he was the most highly-supervised, has the level of
supervision over other rapists at large been reassessed?
The human rights of rapists must not be regarded as more
important than the rights of women to be safe.
We need to know this – does anything work to deter men like
Hamilton, who seem to hate women with a fixed and violent
passion, other than putting them in prison and keeping them
Hanafin Announces Plans To Improve Teaching Of Irish
18/04/2006 - 10:52:03
Education Minister Mary Hanafin has announced plans to
improve the teaching of Irish in schools around the
Ms Hanafin told the annual conference of the Irish National
Teachers Organisation today that a team of 30 language
experts would be appointed to help teachers improve their
She also said a number of summer camps would be established
to encourage children aged between 10 and 13 to take part
in fun activities through Irish.
The INTO has welcomed the move.
"For quite a number of years, we have been demanding extra
resources for the actual teaching of the spoken language to
take the emphasis away from reading and writing," spokesman
Denis Bohane said.
"Teachers will welcome any assistance they are given to
improve their skills."
San Francisco Earthquake: America's Greatest Disaster
By Andrew Gumbel
18 April 2006
A hundred years ago today, the San Francisco earthquake
laid waste to much of the city. But the commemoration will
be tinged with the fear that it could happen again.
One might have expected this morning to be a sombre one in
the city of San Francisco, marking as it does exactly 100
years since the greatest disaster ever to befall an
American metropolis - the great earthquake and fire of
A combination of natural calamity and human incompetence
laid waste to an area six times larger than that destroyed
by the Great Fire of London in 1666 - 4.7 square miles, or
more than 500 city blocks.
Just about everything in downtown San Francisco, from the
Mission to the newly constructed City Hall, from the
quayside now known as the Embarcadero to North Beach and
Telegraph Hill, was left a smouldering wreck. The impact
was worse than General Sherman's torching of Atlanta during
the Civil War, worse than the British sacking of Washington
in 1812, way worse even than the al-Qa'ida attacks on the
World Trade CentrE in New York in 2001. Imagine one-fifth
of Manhattan in flames, and you are nearer to the mark. But
most chillingly, it could all so easily happen again, and
on a far vaster scale of human loss.
The death toll in 1906 was restricted to a few thousand,
largely thanks to the time of day that it struck (5.13am)
and the few hours' lag between the first tremor, and the
howling ravages of the firestorms. A new quake of similar
magnitude (7.7 to 7.8 on the Richter scale) along either
the San Andreas or the Hayward faults could easily kill
28,000 people in what is now a much more crowded, more
precariously built San Francisco Bay Area. And that,
according to computer-model analysts, is only a
Yet the centenary has more of an air of celebration than
sober remembrance. Tens of thousands of San Franciscans are
expected to jam into the downtown traffic island next to
Lotta's Fountain, a memorial to a Gold Rush-era
entertainer, which became the rallying point in 1906 for
survivors looking for loved ones.
In a city with a heightened sense of its own theatricality,
the crowds might today be regaled by anything from Tony
Bennett singing "I left my heart in San Francisco" to the
buxom ladies of the long-running city revue, Beach Blanket
Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's action hero governor,
has been invited to address the crowd, and there are even
murmurs about President George Bush setting foot in San
Francisco for the first time since becoming President.
Elsewhere, restaurants will be offering $19.06 lunch menus
featuring at least elements of the famous breakfast menu
served on the fateful morning by the St Francis Hotel -
scrambled eggs, stewed rhubarb, oatmeal, biscuits and
bacon. The city's famed chefs have come up with an "On
Shaky Ground" menu and, in one waterside eatery, a "Fault
Line Cake" with a facsimile of the cracking earth drawn in
buttercream across the top.
There have been drink-naming contests and earthquake-themed
art and photography shows. At the Exploratorium, a popular
interactive science museum aimed at kids, last week saw a
one-day-only showing of a model of San Francisco made
entirely of jelly.
Not everyone, admittedly, has joined in this spirit of
levity. "I'm telling people this is not a Broadway
musical," the organiser of the Lotta's Fountain get-
together said a few days ago, in an effort to keep lounge
crooners and vaudeville performers well away. The city's
Mayor, Gavin Newsom, got into trouble for trying to arrange
a Carlos Santana concert.
Overall, though, the happy-go-lucky attitude to the
centenary is entirely in keeping with the way San Francisco
has regarded its greatest calamity from the very beginning
- a mixture of denial, historical indifference, can-do
entrepreneurial spirit, and a determination to focus on the
optimism of the present and the future, not the darker
resonances of the past. In the early years of the 20th
century, San Francisco raced to rebuild, or "upbuild" as
the city fathers preferred to term it, and come back bigger
and better than before.
By 1908, the last of the refugee camps and tent cities that
had been established on park land to house the city's
200,000 homeless - half the pre-quake population - had been
closed. By 1915, the city was ready to host the Panama
Pacific Exposition in a vast rococo folly of a building,
the Palace of Fine Arts, which was itself constructed on
newly reclaimed land, made up of the rubble from nine years
The city somehow managed to gloss over or forget the extent
of the damage it had suffered. The official death toll was
never pegged at more than a few hundred - it has been the
tireless work of subsequent historians that has put the
figure, more accurately, between 3,000 and 5,000. Some
effort was made to suggest that the fires were
significantly more damaging than the earthquake itself, or
even that there had been no earthquake at all. This was
partly for insurance reasons - fires were covered, acts of
God were not. But it also helped maintain the extraordinary
"westward-ho" sales pitch that California was performing on
the rest of the country.
Post-disaster outbreaks of typhoid, smallpox and plague
were barely reported in the newspapers of the time. The
grievous mistakes of the city's political class - notably,
the disastrous decision to try to create firebreaks with
dynamite explosions, which only spread the fire further -
were not dwelled on, nor did anybody make a serious attempt
to learn from them for future preparedness.
The appalling treatment of the city's Chinese and Japanese
minorities, the declaration of martial law, the order to
shoot suspected looters on sight - these things, too, have
been allowed to lapse in the popular memory.
According to Philip Fradkin, perhaps the foremost historian
of the 1906 earthquake, this historical forgetfulness bodes
ill for the next Big One, which geologists say is more
likely than not to hit San Francisco sometime in the next
two decades. "1906 has never been properly commemorated in
any permanent manner, the impulse being to substitute myth
for reality and to forget," Fradkin wrote in his remarkable
recent book The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906.
"San Francisco was the city that nearly destroyed itself,
and is poised to do so again for most of the same reasons."
Just like today's city, the San Francisco of 1906 was
keenly aware of the risk of natural disaster, but chose
largely to ignore it. Fires had broken out regularly from
the time of the Gold Rush, and earthquakes were familiar -
one measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck in 1868. Yet
the city was built mainly of wood, along a meandering
street plan that made escape, or access by firefighters,
exceedingly difficult. That European feel remains part of
San Francisco's charm, but still gives conniptions to
government disaster planners.
On the fateful morning 100 years ago, the San Andreas fault
shuddered just south of the city, generating two separate
pulses. Instantly, many of the more precarious structures
across the city were pulled to pieces. The quake even
ripped into the newly completed Palace Hotel, which sold
itself, much like the Titanic, as a luxury wonder
impervious to the forces of nature.
Enrico Caruso, the celebrated Italian tenor who had sung
Carmen at the opera house the night before, appeared in the
street outside the hotel in a fur coat and jewellery, with
a towel around his neck. He pronounced San Francisco an
"'ell of a place" and vowed never to return.
The first fire broke out when an overturned stove set a
Chinese laundry alight on the south side of the principal
tram lines along Market Street. Firefighters rushed to the
scene but realised to their horror that the underground
water pipes had burst, reducing pressure in the nearby
hydrants to just a dribble. Within hours, dozens of fires
were raging uncontrollably, an inferno that melted
buildings and human bodies on a scale only reproduced since
in the firebombing of German cities at the tail-end of the
Second World War.
An army garrison stationed in San Francisco took it upon
itself to restore order, and instantly took aim at the
poor, particularly the inhabitants of Chinatown. A
committee of panicked city fathers, taking their cue from
the military, issued a directive in the mayor's name
ordering solders to shoot to kill anyone suspected of
It was not just San Francisco that was affected. Santa
Rosa, 80 miles to the north, was obliterated. The newly
built campus of Stanford University, 50 miles to the south,
The fires raged for three days, at the end of which 28,000
buildings, three-quarters of the city, were burned to the
ground. The calamity moved the rest of the country like no
other before it. This was truly the birth of disaster
relief, with shipments of food, clothing, tents and other
essentials flooding in from all parts of the United States.
It was also an opportunity for a reinvention of the city.
Business interests moved against the unionists who had
previously held sway in city politics.
There were repeated, unsuccessful attempts to expel the
Chinese community from the city centre out to Hunter's
Point. The Chinese responded by building the pagoda-motif
street decorations still familiar to tourists today, and
thus made themselves integral to the city's identity.
Idealistic architects dreamed of a more rational city, with
broad boulevards and hilltop landmarks. Their ideas, much
like Sir Christopher Wren's in London 240 years earlier,
were discarded largely because of the manic pace of
reconstruction. Instead, the area west of Van Ness Avenue,
known as the Western Addition, developed spontaneously as a
hub of theatres and bars. Fillmore Street later became an
essential address in the history of jazz and rock.
Historians like Fradkin see multiple parallels between San
Francisco's experience a century ago and a modern disaster
like Hurricane Katrina. Like San Francisco in 1906, New
Orleans was a raucous melting pot of a city with a thriving
port, a corruption-tinged political culture, big pockets of
poverty affecting minority groups, and a blind spot to its
Last year's hurricane also brought out a militaristic
streak in the government, at both state and federal level,
a desire to crack down on "looters" (motivated in both
cases, Fradkin argues, by fear of widespread political
insurrection amid the chaos), and fears that big business
will win the fight to redefine the reconstructed city. It
is already becoming apparent that New Orleans won't
properly heed its disaster prevention needs as it rebuilds.
"Based on what occurred in northern California one hundred
years ago," Fradkin writes, "New Orleans ... will
eventually emerge bigger, brighter and more vulnerable to
such catastrophes in future." And so the cycle of natural
disasters, big and small, seems destined to continue.
‘Blood Covering The Footway, Sackville Street Enveloped In Smoke And Guns Rattling Away’
The Easter Rising
By Dr Eamon Phoenix
Dr Eamon Phoenix reveals the contents
of a recently discovered ‘diary’ of the 1916 rising,
written by a Belfast unionist trapped in Dublin as the
dramatic events unfolded
ONE of the most sensational eyewitness accounts of the 1916
Easter Rising has surfaced in Belfast after being forgotten
for more than half a century in a bank deposit box.
The 49-page document, written in long-hand on hotel
notepaper, describes the thrilling experiences of Jim
Mitchell, a 38-year-old primary school teacher from The
Mount in east Belfast.
Mitchell had arrived in Dublin with his younger brother
John on Easter Saturday. His objective – ironic in view of
the IRB’s plans for a rising – was to enlist in the British
After taking in a show at the Theatre Royale and an evening
socialising at the officers’ mess in a local barracks, the
Belfast man accepted the King’s shilling.
“Result – I became soldier of the King on Easter Sunday,”
On Easter Monday the Belfast brothers joined the middle
class exodus from the capital to races at Fairyhouse. While
there, however, they heard rumours about “trouble with the
Sinn Feiners in the city”.
Mitchell was due to report to his regiment on Thursday,
April 27 but was to find himself marooned in the Gresham
Hotel in Sackville Street for the duration of the
It was there that he penned his graphic account of his
dramatic experiences in the form of a letter to his sister
It was not until that evening that he realised the
seriousness of the situation.
A Belfast acquaintance at the Gresham reported how he had
been stopped in St Stephen’s Green by armed ‘Sinn Feiners’
who seized his hired motor car. Anxious to assess the
situation for himself, Mitchell slipped out into the street
to discover “some ghastly sights”.
His diary records: “Two horses lay dead opposite the Hamman
Hotel, their soldier riders having been shot dead... Human
blood covered the footway.”
The soldiers he referred to were members of a company of
elderly reservists who were fired on by insurgents as they
returned from manoeuvres in the Dublin mountains. The
Belfast soldier noted that “all police and military were
confined to barracks and the mob had complete possession of
the principal thoroughfares”.
He witnessed large-scale looting in Sackville Street by men
and women whose hands were covered in blood from the
That night an eerie silence descended on the city centre
where “every building was barricaded and loop-holed by the
Sinn Feiners but all was peaceful within”.
Life continued more or less normally in the Gresham with
the dining room and bars kept busy by the “nerve-shattered
At 8am on Wednesday April 26 Mitchell was awakened by “a
terrific rattling and roaring” nearby. This was caused by
the British bombardment of Liberty Hall, James Connolly’s
headquarters and, in Mitchell’s view, “the headquarters of
all the disaffection”. (Connolly’s anti-war and socialist
republican views were well known.)
Peering into Sackville Street, the Belfast man noticed
three dead bodies at Parnell’s Statue while he could hear
the “phit-phit of bullets singing in the air”.
Later on, the hotel’s doors and windows were barricaded,
prompting him to write: “We are practically prisoners in
A few minutes later he heard a roaring noise and found
“Sackville Street enveloped in bluish smoke and guns
rattling away... A boat of some kind is at O’Connell Bridge
and is evidently the cause of the loud reverberations.”
This was the shelling of rebel strongholds by the British
gun-boat the Helga.
Yet, as Mitchell records, the rebel headquarters remained
“The GPO was still solidly square and flying on top of the
portico was the flag of the Irish Republic,” he wrote.
As a raw British recruit, Mitchell could not help musing
that he “had got a damned fine reception into the army”,
adding: “When and how I reach the barracks is wrapped in
On the Thursday of Easter Week he received a phone call
from a British officer reporting serious fighting close to
Later that day Mitchell saw a man shot dead in Sackville
Street while inside the hotel food supplies were running
low and electricity cut off.
While playing solo he heard a shell explode opposite his
hotel. As the smoke cleared he witnessed an extraordinary
scene: “The door of the Blind Institute opened and a man
emerged with a Union Jack wrapped around him.”
The figure ran pluckily towards a British 18-pounder field
gun in the middle of the street. To Mitchell’s amazement
the man “had a consultation with the gunners” and was
allowed to return to the institute, which suffered no
At 4pm on Saturday, following Pearse’s surrender, Mitchell
witnessed the surrender of 500 ‘Sinn Feiners’ who
decommissioned their rifles outside the hotel.
By Monday morning – a week after the outbreak – Jim
Mitchell rose to find the streets crowded with sight-seers
and patrolled by Lancers.
Walking towards St Stephen’s Green he was astounded by the
devastation and “the trenches which had been dug out by the
Sinn Feiners” in the Green itself.
Dublin was now under martial law but on Thursday the
Belfast man obtained passes for himself and his two
companions to return home from the military governor,
Miraculously they managed to retrieve their car and return
to a peaceful Belfast. His fascinating memoir ends: “All
our experiences seem now to be those of a dream.
“Everything that had passed within the past 12 days has the
impression of unreality...”
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