Fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jimmy Steele

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Belfast republican, Jimmy Steele.

Steele was born on 8th August 1907 in Artillery Street in the North Queen Street area of Belfast. When his mother, Catherine, died from tuberculosis on 3rd March 1912, Jimmy was just four years old. His younger brother, Dan, was two weeks short of his first birthday. Jimmy, Dan and their three older brothers were mainly brought up by their aunt Mary Ellen in her small shop on the New Lodge Road, rather than by their father, Arthur, a fitter originally from Randalstown (an older sister, Mary Ellen, had died as a baby).

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Jimmy was later to write of hearing politics discussed as a child, of Home Rule, Joe Devlin, John Redmond, the Hibernians, Connolly and Larkin. He also recorded how he remembered hearing someone whistling ‘A Soldiers Song’ and graffiti on a wall in the street after the Easter Rising and of “…the wounded Connolly, idol of the Belfast dockers and mill girls being shot to death as he sat strapped to his chair”.

Arthur remarried in October 1919 to Sarah Scullion, who owned a pub on the New Lodge Road. Even before Catherine had died Arthur already had a reputation of being overly fond of drink (Jimmy was to be a lifelong teetotaller). Arthur’s drinking led his eldest brother, Charlie, to emigrate to New York in April 1920. His brother Arthur emigrated too. Jimmy was attending school in Hardinge Street where he apprenticed as a plasterer. He got involved in gaelic games there and played on the school’s hurling team.

The Steele’s came to the attention of the RIC in July 1920 when a revolver was found during a search of Mary Ellen’s shop. By then Jimmy and his older brother Bill were active in Fianna Eireann’s North Queen Street sluagh and D Company of the IRA’s 2nd Battalion in Belfast (his uncles were also involved in the IRA). Raids and arrests were to become a constant feature of Jimmy’s life. In 1921 the RIC came looking for Bill as his handcart had no light on it. As he wasn’t at home, they arrested Jimmy instead. North Queen Street saw some of the most intense violence of 1920 to 1922. His father’s brother James received serious head wounds in a grenade attack on his home in August 1921 and other relatives, like his uncle Dan and his fathers cousin Patrick Steele, were also injured in the violence.

As a Fianna officer, Jimmy had dual rank and was also attached to B Company of the 1st Battalion of the IRA. He remained active after the split in 1922. He and Bill kept a small arms dump stored on waste ground behind Mary Ellen’s shop which was given away by a tip-off to the RUC in September 1923. At that time Charlie was home from New York and he and Jimmy were arrested as the RUC could not find Bill. While Charlie was quickly released, Jimmy was to spend three weeks in Crumlin Road. When Charlie returned to New York, he and Arthur repeatedly offered to pay for Jimmy and Bill to join them. Jimmy was to be arrested and imprisoned for a while again in 1924, with Mary Donnelly of Cumann na mBan.

By now he was part of an independent unit in the Belfast Battalion that covered north Belfast, under Jack McNally. He avoided the round-up of IRA suspects that coincided with the news of the failure of the Boundary Commission in November 1925, but was detained in January 1926 following the discovery in the postal sorting office of a package of 110 copies of An Phoblacht addressed to him (the paper had been banned the same month). The unionist government struggled to find scope in the Special Powers Act to prosecute him and he escaped with a fine for possession of a banned edition of An Phoblacht that was found in Mary Ellen’s shop.

He was involved in the setting up of Joe McKelvey’s GAA club by members of the Belfast IRA in 1925. Throughout the late 1920s and into the 1930s he was to be an active playing member for the club in both hurling and football, mainly in the half forward line. He won South Antrim junior and senior football championship, league, South Antrim Cup and Madigan Cup medals. He also played in a number of junior and senior hurling finals. The pinnacle of his sporting career was probably 1931 when, as South Antrim champions, McKelveys played in the Antrim Senior Football Championship final against the North Antrim Senior Football champions Cuchullains, from Dunloy, eventually losing a replay 1-4 to 0-3. The next week McKelveys lost the South Antrim Senior Hurling Championship final to O’Connells. He played in all three matches.

In 1927 he and Tony Lavery had been tasked by the Belfast Battalion O/C, Davy Matthews, with rebuilding the Fianna organisation in Belfast. This led to a tripling in size of the Belfast IRA by the early 1930s as individuals progressed from one organisation to the other. This was accompanied by more arrests and detentions. In 1928 he was arrested with posters that were to inform people of an Easter commemoration but again the authorities found that their intended charges were not covered by the Special Powers Act. Arrested yet again with posters that were deemed ‘illegal’ in 1929, the unionist government had its prosecution thrown out of court as it transpired that no prohibited organisations were actually mentioned on the posters. Documents reportedly found on him during one 1929 arrest showed he was then learning Irish and writing poetry.

As sectarian tensions began to simmer in Belfast again in the early 1930s, the Belfast Battalion staff began to fight a running battle with IRA GHQ in Dublin over how to confront the issue. The Battalion staff refused to get visibly involved at an organisational level in the Outdoor Relief strike in October 1932 as it would give the authorities a pretext to put it down violently. Many IRA volunteers were actively involved as individuals, though. As the suppression happened anyway, the Battalion got officially involved in the railway workers strike in January 1933, carrying out bomb and gun attacks at the request of the unions. This wasn’t sufficient to placate those in IRA GHQ who were trying to leverage the Belfast Battalion so that the IRA would more fully engage in political activity. By various means over 1933 and 1934, existing Battalion staff like Davy Matthews, George Nash and Dan Turley were forced or pushed out and Tony Lavery and Jimmy then took over as Battalion O/C and Adjutant.

The IRA had increasingly come in to conflict with the RUC during 1933 and RUC constables were killed during confrontations in January and October 1933. The latter led to widespread arrests of IRA suspects, including Jimmy and he spent several months in prison. He was to take over as Battalion Adjutant on his release in 1934. Protests over the arrests and a huge election rally in support of republican candidates in the November 1933 election saw the IRA candidate run Joe Devlin close in Belfast (the unionist government response was to introduce a non-abstention oath for candidates). During the election campaign the Belfast IRA also began to produce its own occasional newspaper, An Síol to which Jimmy began to contribute (particular from 1935 when it began to appear weekly). He also continued to play for McKelveys although the club was struggling due to the repeated arrests of its players.

The formation of Republican Congress in 1934 took some of the IRA GHQ opponents of the previous Belfast Battalion staff out of the IRA. In Belfast sectarian violence was now leading to occasional deaths and the growing threat of a sustained assault on Catholic districts such as had happened in 1920-22. Drawing on its experience of 1920-22, the IRA tried to replenish its stock of rifles and train its members as preparation for defence of threatened districts, leading to further confrontations with the RUC as it intercepted drilling parties and searched for weapons. Jimmy was arrested again in late 1934, with habeas corpus suspended the unionist government denied it was even holding him as a prisoner. His treatment was bad enough to require medical assistance on his release in January 1935.

Despite increasing street violence, the Belfast Battalion agreed to attend a training camp at Gyles Quay Louth in July 1935. As violence erupted in North Queen Street on the 12th July, Free State forces swooped on the Belfast Battalion’s training camp, confiscating weapons and imprisoning twelve of those present. On the 13th, Jimmy managed to disentangle enough volunteers to return and take over the defence of the North Queen Street district where violence continued until late summer.

In November, Jimmy acted as Director of Elections to Charlie Leddy (who had been imprisoned over Gyles Quay) in West Belfast during the general election. In December, the Belfast battalion ambitiously tried to clear out the two hundred rifles of the OTC armoury in Campbell College. Instead, it was surprised by the RUC and fought a running gun battle in which one volunteer was captured (Jimmy and Tony Lavery had to go to the scene to call off the operation). The aftermath saw a wave of arrests and the Battalion investigated whether there was an informer among the staff.

Jimmy acted as Battalion O/C when Tony Lavery was ordered to a courtmartial for having some of those arrested defended in court (against GHQ orders). On 30th March, he lined out at centre half forward for McKelveys as they won the Biggar Cup final. He was the only remaining player from the team that had played in the 1931 senior county final. Lavery’s court martial in Crown Entry the next month, which was doubling up as a conference of senior IRA commanders in the north, was given away by the same informer and Jimmy and most of the IRA northern leadership were arrested. They were charged with treason felony and given varying sentences in Crumlin Road (Jimmy got five years penal servitude). He had been preparing to marry his childhood sweetheart, Anna Crawford, prior to his arrest. Prior to the sentencing he wrote a poem called ‘A Prayer From My Prison Cell’ that was to be published in the Wolfe Tone Weekly on September 11th 1937. During that summer he also wrote ‘Belfast Graves’ which was to be a popular song among Belfast republicans. Lines from the song are quoted in Brendan Behan’s novel Borstal Boy (Behan later recalled Jimmy staying with his family when visiting Dublin).

The treason felony prisoners demanded they get recognised as political prisoners (there were twenty-three long and short-term republican prisoners in Crumlin Road by August 1936). After several clashes with the prison authorities a hunger and thirst strike began on 18th August, although they began taking water again by the sixth day. By the 1st September only Jimmy remained on hunger strike. Weakened by the initial thirst strike, he became weak on the 3rd and Bill was called into the prison to see him. A supposed deal was brokered by the 5th and Jimmy ended his hunger strike only to restart it on 17th and continue to the end of the month (by now the authorities had at least agreed to deal with a nominated O/C of the republican prisoners). This protest took a long term physical toll on his health as it damaged his lungs.

Jimmy was forced to observe the unfolding of the IRA’s English campaign from inside Crumlin Road, only to be released in May 1940, immediately reporting back for active service (on 1st August he was also to finally marry Anna). Assigned as Director of Training to the Northern Command, he took over as O/C Belfast around September 1940 having been involved in disciplinary proceedings against members of the Belfast Battalion who were believed to have had ‘fascist’ leanings. He also appears to have edited the Belfast edition of War News (the forerunner of Republican News)At the start of December he was arrested in the backyard of Anna’s father’s house on North Queen Street. A revolver and cash found in his coat were used as a pretext to later give him a ten year prison sentence and was he returned to Crumlin Road. The expanding number of republicans in Crumlin Road had saw the internees and sentenced men divided into two battalion structures, with Jimmy as O/C in A Wing. He continued to write poetry and articles that were smuggled out and published anonymously in War NewsAn tÓglach and The Critic. Like the other prisoners, he was confined to Crumlin Road during the blitz when bombs fell around the prison (his cousin James O’Boyle and Mary Donnelly, who had been arrested with him in the 1920s, were both killed during the German bombing in April 1941). The authorities also identified him as having a role in procuring equipment for the escape of five prisoners in June 1941 but they made no attempt to punish him. During 1941 and 1942 relations were strained within the prison when the IRA killed a prison warder in February 1942 and Tom Williams was hung there in September the same year.

The latter was followed, on 15th January 1943, by the escape of Jimmy, Hugh McAteer (the recently arrested IRA Chief of Staff), Ned Maguire (brother of the Belfast IRA O/C) and Pat Donnelly from Armagh. They had accessed the roof space over A wing and broke through the roof, climbed down a rope made of sheets and scaled the outer wall. The unionist government was severely embarrassed at its inability to recapture the escapees. This became even more acute when twenty one prisoners tunnelled out of Derry jail in March (Jimmy was involved in the operation on the outside). In between, Jimmy had taken over as the IRA’s Belfast O/C and Adjutant of Northern Command and also edited Republican News. In April, when Liam Burke was arrested, he took over as Adjutant General of the IRA. At the end of the month, he and McAteer further embarrassed the unionist government by staging a public Easter Rising commemoration in Broadway cinema in Belfast. Within a week the northern government’s Prime Minister, J.M. Andrews, resigned.

The intense searches that followed saw Jimmy re-arrested in Amcomri Street in May and he was returned to Crumlin Road (this time with a further twelve years added to his sentence). His seventeen year old nephew, Arthur, received a ten year sentence the same day. On returning to A wing he immediately joined the blanket protest taking place at the increasing harshness of the prison regime which ended in September. After the blanket protest ended he received a beating in his cell at the hands of prison staff. Although the women in Armagh Jail had shown up the difficulties in mounting a hunger strike in late 1943, the men in Crumlin Road didn’t heed the lessons and began their own hunger strike in February 1944. Starved of publicity and looking increasingly likely to lead to fatalities, the strike was ended by orders of the IRA Chief of Staff on 6th April. Jimmy had spent forty days on hunger strike. Beatings and violence from warders continued to be a feature of prison life until the end of the war in May 1945 and the release of internees in August that year. However, despite the demonstrably political nature of sentencing policy, the unionist government was slow to accept that it had also to release the sentenced prisoners and Jimmy was the last to be released, in September 1950. Earlier that year, he had been stood as the Sinn Féin candidate in West Belfast in the general election but had polled poorly.

After his release he was given work doing deliveries for Hughes Bakery and he and Anna tried to settle into some sort of married life. In April 1951 his father, Arthur, died at the age of 81 (his second wife, Sarah, had died in 1948). He and Anna had their own child, a son called Colm, in 1952. On his release Jimmy had also reported back for duty to the IRA and took over again as O/C Belfast. Much of the Belfast Battalion’s energy and resources were taken up with the publication of a newspaper, Resurgent Ulster (from November 1951), but there were still occasional confrontations with the authorities and periods of detention for Jimmy. Much of the early 1950s was taken up with re-establishing the Belfast IRA as the pre-eminent republican organisation in the city. Jimmy began to be publicly involved with the National Graves Association in Belfast and more openly associated with political activity with Sinn Féin. The Battalion didn’t seem to fully engage with IRA GHQ’s emerging plans for a border campaign though. By the time the campaign started Jimmy had stood down as Belfast O/C in favour of Paddy Doyle (an organiser sent up by GHQ). Doyle’s arrest on the eve of the campaign meant that Belfast never fully participated as subsequent swoops by the RUC detained many active republicans. Jimmy avoided arrest until 1957 but was to be held until 1960, spending much of the time as O/C of the internees and famously rallying them following mass beatings after a failed escape attempt.

By the end of his time in Crumlin Road, his health had begun to suffer and on his release, while he was re-employed by Hughes Bakery, he eventually had to take up work in the Bakery shop rather than carry out deliveries.

In October 1961 tragedy struck when Colm was knocked down and killed in a hit-and-run incident at a pedestrian crossing on the Falls Road. Although the driver was eventually caught, the inquest in December 1961 returned an open verdict on Colm’s death.

On his release from Crumlin Road Jimmy had again reported for duty to the IRA. The Belfast IRA resumed publishing its own newspaper, Tírghrá, in December 1962 and tried to rebuild some sort of capacity under Billy McKee. Over the next couple of years, Jimmy worked closely with National Graves in developing the republican memorials in Milltown which coincided with the Wolfe Tone commemorations of 1963 and then the Easter Rising commemorations in 1966 by which time Jimmy had published Antrim’s Patriot Dead and Belfast and nineteensixteen. In so far as the state organised the 1966 commemorations in Dublin, the IRA largely organised those in Belfast, with Jimmy as President of Directorate of the Commemoration Committees.

As with the Wolfe Tone societies set up earlier in the 1960s, all of these coalesced groups into the organised ‘Republican Clubs’ which the IRA saw as an outlet for political activity. Jimmy continued as President of the Directorate of Republican Clubs. Over the course of the 1960s, the Divis Street riots and UVF attacks in 1966 had become reminiscent of the 1930s with the threat of intensifying violence against Catholic districts. Billy McKee had resigned as Belfast O/C in 1963, to be replaced by Billy McMillen. Throughout the rest of the 1960s the IRA concentrated on political activity with little emphasis on procuring arms or carrying out training. Publication of Tírghrá ceased by 1965 as control centralised in Dublin and considerable disaffection was growing among republicans in Belfast over IRA policy. Jimmy’s continued involvement in the Republicans Clubs into 1967 to some extent validated the policy, but he began to make muted statements criticising the direction the IRA was taking at the Manchester Martyrs centenary events in Manchester in November 1967. He made a nuanced comparison with the ‘New Departure’ initiative of John Devoy in which leading IRB figures pursued a personal initiative to break with abstentionism as policy when it was not official IRB policy. Late the next year, Cathal Goulding, the IRA’s Chief of Staff, pushed through changes to the IRA that expanded membership of the Army Council which would have a majority of Goulding supporters until the next Army Convention when the membership would have to be re-elected.

With unrest growing on the streets of Belfast and the IRA totally unprepared to offer any defence to districts likely to face violent attacks, Jimmy decided to make his criticisms of the IRA leadership public at the reburial of Peter Barnes and James McCormack in July 1969. His words were aimed directly at Goulding: “There comes a time in every generation when men try to re-direct the republican movement along a different road to that upon which our freedom fighters trod… And Connolly’s words on this matter should give us all food for thought when he said, “Unity is a word used by many with ulterior motives, to achieve political ambition, or ultimately, to seek power and control in a united movement.” Therefore in striving for genuine unity we must be careful that such efforts may not lead to that seizure of power and control by the wrong people as defined by Connolly.

Within days, Goulding had Jimmy immediately dismissed from the IRA without courtmartial. Within weeks, the unionist government had interned McMillen and much of the IRA leadership just before the widespread attacks on Catholic districts on 15th August. The parlous state the Belfast IRA had reached was illustrated by Broadway being defended by Jimmy and Joe Cullen, another 1920-22 IRA veteran.

In the immediate aftermath of the August violence, Jimmy and many others immediately returned to service with the IRA. Jimmy chaired a meeting a week later to try and backfill some structure where the IRA had all but disappeared. Districts were visited and organised, parties were dispatched to recover long forgotten arms dumps and distribute them to areas where they would be needed. When McMillen was freed a month later, Jimmy joined a deputation that went to where he was meeting the Belfast Battalion staff with demands on changes that had to be implemented. McMillen agreed to break communications with IRA GHQ until changes were made, including Goulding’s removal. The next day, McMillen resumed communications and the Belfast IRA divided into individuals and units willing to recognise Goulding’s authority and others, like Jimmy, who wanted a new leadership elected.

As the split in the IRA formalised in 1970, Jimmy was reputedly offered the role of Chief of Staff and Adjutant General but turned down both. He did help restart publication of Republican News by the summer of 1970, alongside the likes of Hugh McAteer. McAteer, whose health had been weakened by long years in prison died in June 1970 at the young age of 53. Jimmy gave the oration at his funeral. Rather than take that as a warning that he needed to slow down, Jimmy continued to edit Republican News and be active for long hours every single day. Then on 9th August 1970, Jimmy’s poor health also gave way and he died of heart failure. It was the day after his sixty-third birthday.

Here is a poem he wrote in 1946.

REMINISCING

(A Prison Poem 1946)

The whitewashed cell is cold and bare,

As perished with the chilly air,

I sit and muse on times long past.

To feel the melancholy blast

Of longing, for the day I knew,

When sorrows with me then were few.

The home where all my youth was spent,

Advice and counsel kindly meant

From those dear ones, who felt for me

And sought to guard and keep me free

From every trouble, pain and care,

A wicked world gives as its share.

The pleasant nights of dance and song

Has set me reminiscing long.

To hear the voice of colleen sweet

The rhythm of the dancers feet,

The lilting tune of jig and reel,

That made our aching feet e’er feel.

The urge to dance and be so gay

And all our worries to relay.

The tramp o’er mountain, road and hill,

Or sitting in the quiet still

Of some lone glen; while someone there

Would speak or sing of Ireland fair.

The story of her ancient right.

The struggle ‘gainst usurper’s might;

Her sons who served and fought and died

In her just cause so sanctified,

And thus our hearts with pride, we’d lace

With love for our unconquered race.

The haunting sound of Gaelic tongue,

Enchantingly around us clung;

The hours we spent to win its fame,

And preach our gospel in its name,

The grip of caman in my hand,

Amidst a stalwart hurling band,

To glory in the rugged play,

Enthusiastic in the play.

Whilst in my ears the roars still clung

As eager fans made welkin ring.

The joy and fervour of it all,

E’en yet I feel it in recall.

More poignant thoughts seep through my mind,

And comrades faces there I find,

Who entered through the door of death

With martyred step and patriot breath,

Brave heroes in our country’s fight,

God grant them heaven’s place tonight.

What joy ‘twould give to wander back,

Along that old familiar track;

To greet old friends – old scenes again,

To shelter from the prison rain;

That soaks me with its sombre showers,

And turns the minutes into hours.

I’d intended to have a biography of Jimmy Steele completed for the fiftieth anniversary of his death but obviously this year hasn’t gone to plan. In the meantime – for the next few days anyway – there will be a special offer on the Belfast Battalion book (£10 including postage) which provides the backdrop to much of his life – click here for the special offer.

21 July 1920: what the papers said

So what did the papers say about the outbreak of the Belfast pogroms in 1920? Following Edward Carson’s speech on the Twelfth at Finaghy the annual industrial holiday and taken place and, on the first day back at work, thousands of Catholic workers and socialists were attacked in the shipyards and driven from their jobs. This happened on the 21st July 1920.

In 1920 newspapers did not typically run headlines on their front pages. More often it contained advertising and notices. You had to flick to page 3 or 4 to get your current affairs and news items (some papers ran evening editions that covered events that day) although sport generally appeared on earlier pages as perhaps did an editorial. There was no broadcast media yet in July 1920 as experimental wireless radio broadcasts in Britain had only been started by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraphic Company from Chelmsford in June 1920. Up to July 1920 there had been experimental radio broadcasts and the beginning of commercial radio in the US, Argentina and by Hans Idzerda in the Netherlands. So people got their news from the printed press (morning and evening editions), handbills pasted onto walls and from their friends, colleagues and neighbours.

Here is coverage by four papers (Belfast Newsletter, Belfast Telegraph, Irish Times and Freemans Journal) of events in Belfast as reported on 22 July 1920. You can read the items and see their context (which is often overlooked) alongside what other events are reported and how they were reported.

The start of the Belfast pogroms, July 12th 1920

It will be interesting to see how much airtime is given to one of this year’s most significant centenaries over the next week or two, that of the start of the Belfast pogroms in July 1920.

On July 12th 1920, Edward Carson addressed the assembled Belfast Orangemen at Finaghy telling them that the UVF would ‘take matters into their own hands’. As the Times put it the next day: “Upon Sir Edward Carson lies largely the blame for having sown the dragon’s teeth in Ireland.” Carson’s words were taken as the starting point of the pogrom by Fr John Hassan who documented the subsequent events in Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922 (written under the pseudonym G.B. Kenna). Within days mass workplace expulsions of Belfast Catholics and trade unionists had begun, followed by a succession of pogroms in Belfast and other towns in the north-east. By the end of two years, hundreds had been killed in violence in Belfast, with 20-25% of violent deaths in Ireland up to June 1922 happening in the city. Yet, given the highly contested nature of so much of the history of 1916-1923 in contemporary Ireland, the centenary of the start of the Belfast pogrom will go completely unmarked by official Ireland and be studiously ignored by others.

Carson giving the speech that began the Belfast pogrom at Finaghy on 12th July 1920 (Irish Independent 14th July 1920)

So what did Carson say in 1920? His speech at the 1920 Twelfth platform in Finaghy was reproduced verbatim in the press for a wider audience, so it wasn’t just those present who heard his message. This is how the Belfast Newsletter reported part of it the next day: “But we tell you (the Government) this – that if, having offered you our help – and I have offered it to them over and over again – if, having you our help, you are yourself unable to protect us from the machinations of Sinn Fein, and you won’t take our help; well, then, we tell you we will take the matter into our own hands. (Cheers.) We will re-organise, at all costs, and notwithstanding the consequences, we will re-organise, as we feel bound to do in our own defence, throughout the province the Ulster Volunteers (loud cheers) – who sent you such splendid help to maintain our Empire during the war. But one thing we will not submit to is that we should be left helpless and hopeless in the face of our enemies, and we tell you that, come what will, in the last resort, we will rely upon ourselves, and, under God we will defend ourselves. (Cheers.) Now, I hope that I have made that pretty clear. (Laughter and cheers.) And those are not mere words. I hate words without action.”.

One point would not have been lost on anyone in July 1920 was that what Carson was proposing for Belfast had literally just happened in Derry over the previous weeks. Since 18th June, when the UVF precipitated violent clashes in Derry, twenty people had been killed in the city and many more wounded. Everyone hearing or reading Carson’s speech would have known this and understood the exact implications of what Carson was calling for. This was no mere rhetorical flourish or unfortunate phrasing. As he himself said “I hate to see words without action.”

The subsequent unfolding of events in Belfast in the two years following July 1920 were to see hundreds killed, amounting to as much as 20-25% of all violent fatalities in Ireland during that period. A figure of around 500 is generally given for the total number of fatalities (eg see here) but a comparison of the annual averages of violent deaths in the Reports of the Medical Superintendent Officer for Health for Belfast County Borough before and after 1920-1922 suggest that total may be an under-estimate of the order of 100-150 violent deaths. The latter figure likely captures fatalities where there is a gap of weeks or months between the original incident and the death.

[An underestimate of a similar order of around 20% applies to the pogrom in 1935, see here. It is also worth noting that violent deaths only tell part of a story of increased mortality arising from conflict and that would not be captured in any of those figures – for some discussion of this with regard to recent decades, click here. By the way – you can read Patrick Concannon’s account of the June-July 1920 Derry violence here.]

The day after Carson’s speech the London Times’ scathing report stated that: “If indeed that organisation [the UVF] was revived as a defensive police force for Ulster the most serious consequences would almost certainly ensue. Upon Sir Edward Carson lies largely the blame for having sown the dragon’s teeth in Ireland.” Press reports on the subsequent violence in 1920 and later repeatedly use the term ‘pogrom’ to describe events in Belfast. It is found in many newspapers in Ireland including the likes of the The Irish Times and in British newspapers such as the Westminster Gazette and Daily Herald.

Yet many of the threads of this story have barely been unpicked. For a start, the mechanics of the subsequent violence are largely unexplored. Many writers simply describe the violence in Belfast as ‘sectarian’ as if that, in itself, acts as an explanation. By now, the term ‘sectarian’ has been repeated with such frequency that the key dynamic of the violence being discussed is usually overlooked – pitting proponents of an Irish republic or Home Rule against proponents of keeping Ireland within the British Empire and Act of Union. The repetition also has the effect of removing any context to the violence other than ‘sectarianism’ as if that, in itself, is an explanation.

The use of ‘sectarian’ as meaningless shorthand is worthy of fuller study in its own right as it may be inherited from official information policy strategy from the 1970s onwards as way of removing the immediate context of violent events as a suitable propaganda tool – eg see War on Words: A Northern Ireland Media Reader by Bill Rolston and David Miller. At the same time, the story behind the censorship of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922 in August 1922 shows there is a deep history of deliberately obscuring the events in Belfast being described. In recent decades, historians like Robert Lynch and Alan Parkinson have also been at pains to dismiss the use of the term ‘pogrom’. Lynch (in his 2008 paper in the Journal of British Studies, “The People’s Protectors? The Irish Republican Army and the “Belfast Pogrom,” 1920-1922”) claims, for it to be a pogrom, victims should be mostly women and children. While Parkinson (in The Unholy War) asserts that a pogrom should be state organised.

Ironically, both seem to apply their own definition of ‘pogrom’ rather than using modern accepted definitions such as used by the likes of Werner Bergmann (from mid-2000s) or David Engels. This is summarised as “…a unilateral, non-governmental form of collective violence initiated by the majority population against a largely defenseless ethnic group…”. That collective violence generally manifests as riots and is directed at the minority group collectively rather than targeting specific individuals. There is also an the implication that officials have connived at it, but not directly organised it.  Engel states that although there are no “essential defining characteristics of a pogrom” but that the majority of the incidents “habitually” described as pogroms “…took place in divided societies in which ethnicity or religion (or both) served as significant definers of both social boundaries and social rank, … involved collective violent applications of force by members of what perpetrators believed to be a higher-ranking ethnic or religious group against members of what they considered a lower-ranking or subaltern group, … appliers of the decisive force tended to interpret the behaviour of victims according to stereotypes commonly applied to the groups to which they belonged, … perpetrators expressed some complaint about the victims’ group, …[and] a fundamental lack of confidence on the part of those who purveyed decisive violence in the adequacy of the impersonal rule of law to deliver true justice in the event of a heinous wrong.” For a fuller discussion of Werner Bergmann’s definition of a pogrom see Heitmeyer and Hagan’s survey paper in International Handbook of Violence Research, Volume 1 (2003). David Engels views are reviewed in Dekel-Chen, Gaunt, Meir and Bartal’s Anti-Jewish Violence. Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History.

Anyone familiar with the history of Belfast from 1920 to 1922 can easily map all of those characteristics onto the various episodes of violence (and similarly to later events).

In terms of actually understanding violence, rather than merely describing it, correctly applying the term ‘pogrom’ still only describes the dynamics and mechanisms by which violence is used. It does not explain the political, social or economic purposes of the violence. In an Irish context that is competing visions of from where Ireland should be governed (a point often, perhaps intentionally, obscured by over-use of the term ‘sectarian’). Ironically this modern definition chimes completely with how Fr John Hassan (author of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922) used the term in 1922, but not critics of the term like Lynch or Parkinson. Notably Kieron Glennon includes it in the title of his From Pogrom to Civil War. However, unpacking the use of the term ‘pogrom’ has implications well beyond 12th July 1920 and, to some extent, explains the widespread reluctance to explore the issue in any depth or to accord any real significance to centenary that will occur on 12th July this year.

* Historically (such as in the 1920’s) the Orange Order and unionist press used the term ‘demonstrations’ to describe the events around the Twelfth.

Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom is available from Litter Press (see here).

Hugh McAteer, 1916-1970

Report of Hugh McAteer’s death in Belfast Telegraph 25 June 1970.

Last week saw the fiftieth anniversary of the death of former IRA Chief of Staff, prison escapee, hunger striker (he was one of the first republicans to experience long term confinement in the twentieth century), husband, father and writer Hugh McAteer (on 24 June 1970) at the young age of only 53.

You can read about Hugh in his own words by clicking here.

Republican News, fifty years on…

Fifty years ago this summer a new run of Republican News began to be published by the Publicity Department of the Belfast IRA’s Brigade staff under the editorship of Jimmy Steele. The importance of publicity and communication had long been recognised across the political spectrum in Ireland. The anti-colonial movements, in particular, recognised the need for a platform to disseminate their message free from the bias and censorship required by the various administrations in Dublin and Belfast.

In the past (before 1970), Republican News had been published in various formats in the past, often as Republican War News or, more typically, War News. In the 1942-1945 the title Republican News became more established and was the main publishing outlet of the IRA. Due to security pressures, various local editions were issued from Belfast, Dublin and (periodically) Galway. Judging by surviving issues there was often little direct correspondence between content, editorial line or ideology in the local editions nor was there complete co-ordination between publication dates and issue numbers.

After the arrest and prosecution of Dan Turley Jr in 1945 included charges relating to possession of Republican News, it was to be thirty-six years until Patricia Haddock was prosecuted for possession of bundles of Republican News in 1971.

The early issues of Republican News in 1970 are typically presented as being some sort of anti-communist platform. In A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, mentioned Jimmy Steele and Hugh McAteer as influencing early editorial policy writes that “Anticommunism was to be a recurring obsession of the new IRA. The editorial in the first ediion of Republican News, the Provisionals weekly newspaper….Outling the malign influence of Goulding supporters, RN [Republican News] railed against them in language that would not have been out of place in a speech by Senator Joe McCarthy: “Gradually into Executive posts, in the IRA and Sinn Fein, the Red agents infiltrated…and soon these men became the policy makers. Young men and girls were brainwashed with the teachings and propaganda of the new policy makers and well-trained organizers were sent into different areas to spread the teachings of the Red infiltrators.

Yet, this is largely the only negative reference to left wing politics in the first issues and was not actually the editorial (instead it appeared in an article entitled ‘Republican Policy – Then and Now’. The actual editorial in that same June 1970 issue stated that “The Socialism of James Connolly, the idealism of Patrick Pearse and unrepentant republicanism of Tom Clarke we shall try to inculcate into our people…“. Just to note – the (recurring) discrepancy here is largely down to contemporary perceptions of Soviet policy in the Prague in 1968 or Budapest in the 1950s as distinct from left wing socio-economic platform. The invocation of a left-right split within Irish republicanism (that isn’t supported by actual events in 1969) features in recent revelations about the 1970 arms trials and the role of Fianna Fail and British military intelligence (for more see here).

Hugh McAteer and Jimmy Steele also both died fifty years ago this summer in July and August 1970.

If people are interested, I’ll try and post up further early issues of Republican News (I currently have copies of 1970: Vol 1, No 1 June, No 2 July, No 3 August; No 6 November/December; 1971 no number July – anyone with copies of Vol 1, Nos 4, 5 etc might let me know to treasonfelony@litter.press).

Winston Churchill and other cartoons from 1922

Here’s some cartoons from the Sunday Independent in early 1922. Given the papers recent ethos, their political emphasis is maybe surprising. The cartoons were all apparently drawn by Gordon Brewster. The first three date from the period in February and March 1922, in the immediate aftermath of the Weaver Street bombing. The second three are from the end of May and June 1922. The cartoons mainly feature Winston Churchill and James Craig, both considered at the time to be the architects behind the violent reprisal policies in Ireland. The Bogie Man in the cartoon isn’t actually Gerry Adams but is supposed to represent the prospect of an IRA invasion over the border as a jack-in-the-box pulled out by unionists to scare people.

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IRA incendiary bombs

The metal object in the photo below is a lead mould for an incendiary bomb from the early 1920s. It was recently shown to me in County Wexford where it was found stuck into the wall of a derelict building on a farm that formerly belonged to two brothers, Jack and Peter Redmond. They had been members of J Company in the 3rd Battalion of the North Wexford Brigade of the 3rd Eastern Division of the IRA in 1921 and 1922. I did a quick attempt to get an impression from the mould which gives some idea of what an incendiary bomb produced by the mould would look like (see photo above).

The use of fragmentation grenades, both home made and imported Mills bombs, as well as mines and other explosive devices are one feature of the War for Independence period and later. Unlike the fragmentation grenades, which were designed to shatter and scatter pieces of metal following the explosion of the detonator, the incendiary bombs were shaped charges designed to trigger a fire. One of the early co-ordinated actions of the IRA was to attack government offices housing tax and other records and set them on fire. This occurred during the phase in which brigade and divisional structures were being put in place. In March 1920, the IRA’s Director of Chemicals, James O’Donovan, had issued advice on the manufacture of home made bombs, both fragmentation and incendiary, in the IRA’s in-house journal An tÓglac. O’Donovan himself recorded something of the background to the IRA’s manufacture of munitions for the Bureau of Military History in 1957.

In Wexford the IRA had its own munitions manufacturing unit in Enniscorthy. Ultimately the training that included the bomb mould in the picture probably came from there. A number of incidents in 1920 might have involved the use of bombs manufactured in the mould, including the burning of the RIC Barracks at Kilmuckridge and the Morriscastle Coastguard Station actions in the district adjoining that of J Company which included the Redmonds (you can follow links to various incidents in Wexford here in the Brigade Activity series).

O’Donovan’s account for the Bureau of Military History is reproduced below (you can read the articles in the two March 1920 issues of An tÓglac here).

“In connection with attacks on barracks, etc., which were beginning to develop at this time, our activities were purely directed to the making of incendiary mixtures which gradually evolved to the making of incendiary grenades. I adapted a combination of the Mills type of bomb which we were about to bring out with incendiary materials and primers to produce an incendiary grenade, although the requirements for a fully explosive or a fully incendiary effect are quite different. In the explosive grenade, the object was to have a thick cast-iron wall serrated in such a way in the mould as to reduce by fragmentation to a theoretical 48 fragments upon explosion, each of which would be similar in effect in action to shrapnel; whereas in the case of incendiary work, a soft and easily consumed wall was what was required, preferably itself made of inflammable material, which would be destroyed in the process, and the contents such as to produce intensely high temperatures in the least time. There would, of course, in an incendiary grenade, be no detonator tubes or detonating explosive, but the fuse, which would be ignited exactly in the same manner as the explosive grenade, would touch off an easily inflammable primary mixture which perhaps, even though a second primary or secondary mixture, would work up with rapidly increasing temperature the main body of inflammable material. The first type of such grenade, but in a more imperfect form, had actually been tried out by me in company with Nick Lynch before he had been replaced by Dick McKee. This had a lead wall and contained thermite. as the main mixture; but the first efforts in that direction had not got over the difficulties of graduating the stages from the fuse to the main body of incendiary, with the result that there was a mildly explosive action which had the effect of scattering the main body instead of rapidly igniting it. By constant research on such practical problems, a stage was reached when these difficulties were resolved, and I remember the first official try-out of this product which took place in the basement of 44 Parnell Square in the presence of McKee, Clancy, Sean Russell, Mick Lynch, probably Sean Mooney (then brigade adjutant), and others. This was a memorable occasion, as units were drilling upstairs while we occupied the dark basement. In view of the job being undertaken, the drilling was an important adjunct as it tended to conceal the activity in the basement. A manually ignited fuse was used on this occasion, not11one operated by a hammer and cap mechanism, as the purpose was simply to try out the actual incendiary materials in association with primers and the container. It was, as far as I remember, cigar-lighter fuse, and its progress was, visible in the dark, so that the excitement and tension grew as the flame visibly progressed. During the silence of waiting, the marching and drilling upstairs filled the expectant basement. It was a complete success in every way and McKee was highly excited and congratulated me, shaking both my hands. When we had finished, the upstairs building began to fill with smoke, but by then we, the experimenters, were gone.”

As a footnote – as much as people will focus on the violence of the early 1920s during the various centenaries, it should be noted that violence was very much the exception to the rule of the long history of Irish independence movements. Similarly, parties advocating a constitutional route to Irish independence of various forms had won a majority of seats in Ireland in the British House of Commons since 1874. Even then the eligible electorate in previous elections was hardly representative of the opinion of the population of Ireland. For a start women couldn’t vote until 1918. But on top of that it was so incredibly restricted and narrow and drawn from a extremely limited spectrum of Irish society that there were under 93,000 votes cast in the 1859 election when the population of Ireland was around 5,700,000. Even in 1874 that number had only increased to 225,000 votes cast. Even taking the fiction of the unrepresentative nature of electoral politics in the late nineteenth century, constitutional politics had had the opportunity to deliver Home Rule, in various guises, for almost fifty years before the violence of the early 1920s.

Guess the object Competition

Quick competition.

What is the object in the photographs?

Your only clue is that it is twentieth century in date (it is from Wexford, although that won’t help you much). Material is lead and scale bar (at the bottom) is 10 cm in length.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom or Belfast Battalion from Litter Press, simply share this page on social media with your answer and tag in two other people. You have until Wednesday evening to submit your answer.

New early letters: creating James Connolly

This post continues the short series on James Connolly’s early life and influences with some previously unrecognised writings from the early 1890s.

Conventionally, Connolly biographies have him deserting the British Army in 1889, returning to Scotland and living first in Dundee before then returning to Edinburgh and marrying Lily Reynolds by around 1891. The reason why he was living in Dundee is not clear (no offence to Dundee). Despite the imprecise factual basis for the details of his life before 1893, we can at least date his arrival in Dundee through some private correspondence mentioning current events to Lily in April 1889. We also know, from their marriage records on 30 April 1890, that he was living at 22 West Port, Edinburgh. Typically Connolly’s brother John is said to have already been active in socialist politics when he (James) deserted and that James followed his elder brother’s path into political activism, taking over from him as secretary of the Socialist Democratic Federation in 1893 (this is the general outline often given by biographers).

At this point that narrative appears to be at odds with what can be identified in contemporary newspaper reports. The first clear sight of John Connolly in politics is in 1893 when he was dismissed from his post as a ‘scavenger’ by Edinburgh Council. This followed his involvement in industrial action over working hours. In the subsequent references to it in the press (over May-June 1893), Edinburgh Council report that he had been sacked previously by the head of the Council’s Cleaning Department for some unstated infraction and was re-employed without the head of Department’s knowledge. Seemingly his visibility during the strike brought his re-employment to the head’s attention and he was sacked again. His infraction could, of course, be his socialist activism but John Connolly does not appear to be named as involved in socialist activities in contemporary press reports. A John Connolly was arrested and charged with rioting in Greenock during a railway strike in 1890 but it is unclear if it is the same John Connolly.

The aftermath of that railway strike does give us our first glimpse of James Connolly the political activist, though. At a public meeting of the ward Labour committee in South Bridge in Edinburgh, in February 1891, James Connolly put a resolution to the floor and spoke against his local MP. This seems to be his the earliest public address and writing by him, albeit relatively brief.

This is from The Scotsman, 17 Feb 1891:

Public meeting under auspices of Ward Labour Committee in Labour Hall, South Bridge, Edinburgh to comsidr parliamentary representation. John McKenzie of the Edinburgh Trades Council, was in the chair and noted the poor attendance. James Connolly, carter, moved this resolution:

Resolved that the meeting record its most emphatic conviction that Mr William McEwan, the present member of Parliament for the Central Division of the City of Edinburgh, is no longer, if he ever was, a fit and proper person to represent the working classes of the Division in Parliament ; that it recognise in his letter to the Chairman of the Central Liberal Association a conspicuous absence of any comprehension whatever of what was really involved in the late struggle between the railway companies and their employees ; that the recent railway strike has been productive of at least one unmixed good – viz., the shattering of the superstition that in our present industrial society, based upon monopoly on the one hand, and wage servitude on the other, there is, or ever can be, any true identity of interest between capital and labour ; that recognising this fact, this meeting pledges itself to secure, if possible, the return to Parliament for the Central Division of Edinburgh of a labour candidate at next general election : and that for the candidate it be made an indispensable condition of his candidature that he fully and freely recognises the antagonism of interests between the monopolizers of the means of production and distribution and the wage workers, or, in other words, that he expresses his belief in the existence of the class war.

The report goes on to say that Connolly stated that the resolution expressed the conviction of every honest man in the locality on the matter. Mr John Smith, a mason, seconded the motion. John Leslie, a labourer, also supported the motion and drew attention to how McEwan was also an apologists, if not supporter, for the Plan of Campaign in Ireland which ‘in policy and practice, was illegal.’ The latter point was to highlight McEwan’s inconsistency in opposing industrial action in Scotland on the grounds it was illegal, while supporting ‘illegal’ land agitation in Ireland. This is perhaps a nod towards McEwan trying to build electoral support among Edinburgh’s Irish community. Did Connolly sense the Irish in Edinburgh were being played for their votes? When Connolly himself began to get involved in electoral politics in Edinburgh in 1893-1894 he identifies himself as Irish during hustings, no doubt trying to do the same and elicit support from the Irish community.

It is possible that Connolly’s primary motivation in moving the resolution was that the John Connolly arrested over the railway strike was indeed his brother. This could be the origin of the stories about his brother John getting him into politics. Certainly John Leslie, who also spoke on his resolution, was to be a long time collaborator of Connolly’s and was instrumental in getting him into politics. Leslie was Connolly’s predecessor as secretary of the Social Democratic Federation. Notably the SDF openly derided the Liberal’s (McEwan’s party’s) claim to speak for labour interests.

Leslie may be related to the George Leslie who was involved in the 1872 Lamplighters strike. Like John Connolly, he is hazily sketched out in various biographies and is hinted to have been a Ribbon man. It may be that the ‘John’ that biographers feature in some episodes in Connolly’s life in the mid-1890s is occasionally mixes John Leslie and John Connolly up or blends them together. Certainly he was an active socialist by at least 1889 when he first begins to feature in the press as secretary of the Social Democratic Federation. During protests and clashes with the authorities in Dundee over ‘free speech’ Leslie was asked to come from Edinburgh and being some ‘sinews’ to support the protests. Intriguingly this was at the end of March 1889, just as James Connolly arrived. Was Connolly one of Leslie’s ‘sinews’? Leslie’s action in Dundee appeared to be to calm matters down rather than have an outright confrontation with the authorities.

Connolly’s next identifiable writing appeared as a published letter on 8 August 1891 in the Dundee Weekly News. It was followed by further letters in October. The ideological position he gives aligns fairly neatly on that of the SDF.

The next appeared on 24 October 1891 (Dundee Weekly News).

Sir – the meaning of Socialism is not in the least obscure, and it is only the misrepresentations of our enemies which make it so. Common property is the means of production and distribution – i.e. the land and instrument of labour – is Socialism as accepted by all schools of Socialistic thought. The industries of the country to be held and managed by the workers, and production and distribution of all goods to be arranged to supply the wants of all, instead of, as at present, to make a profit for a few – all classes of labour to be equally rewarded. The labour of the architect requires greater skill, but it is also less protracted and disagreeable, and performed amid pleasanter surroundings than the labour of the hod-carrier, and without the labour of the hod-carrier the most sublime conceptions of the architect would remain mere valueless drawings on paper. A colliery manager is absolutely useless without the labour of the colliers, and the labour of the collier is of little use to dwellers in cities without the coal-heavers, who bring the coal to our doors. All are equally necessary; therefore all should be equally rewarded. – I am, etc, JAMES CONNOLLY

With a further letter on 31 October 1891 (Dundee Weekly News).

Sir – Labour is the source of all wealth. Capital itself is produced by labour, and is useless without labour, and capital in private hands is simply the stored up unpaid labour of the workers kept back by a capitalist fraud. Wages are only a part of the fruits of labour, the remainder is retained by the capitalist in the name of profits, and is utilised by him to create fresh capital and enable him to live in clover off the labour of others. The two cases I have quoted are instances of this general rule, which remain unaltered whether the dividend is 20 or 4 per cent. The fact that capitalists often fail does not alter the amount wrongfully taken from the workers. What one loses another gains. If capitalist A fails it is simply because B, C, D, E and F, his rivals in business, have taken his trade from him, and will therefore receive greater profits, because of the ruin of their rival. The matter is of as little interest to the workers, as a class, as the similar question of how thieves divide their plunder can be supposed to be to the unfortunate victims from whom it was stolen – I am, etc, JAMES CONNOLLY

Collectively, the letters show Connolly’s articulate grasp of socialism and confident voice. As far as we know, Connolly left school very young, but the fluent writer visible in his 1889-1890 letters to Lily Reynolds and these early letters suggests an education and reading well beyond ten years of age. Without his actual military records, we must assume some of that education was while serving in the British Army. His socialistic convictions also seem well developed by 1891, suggesting he was no mere arriviste, calling to mind his capacity to advise Kier Hardie on the Irish socialist scene in 1893. As with Peter McBride and John Connolly, John Leslie is a significant figure to help understand Connolly’s political formation. About which we still know so little!

The camera doesn’t lie?

One well known image from the 1970s is one of a woman, in leather jacket and knee length skirt with an automatic rifle taking aim around the corner of a building. The photo, by Colman Doyle, has had something of a bizarre afterlife. And Doyle himself is oddly reticent and guarded about the details of the circumstances. The photo is claimed to be (variously) taken in Ardoyne, or West Belfast.

Recently a social media account posted a fanciful claim that the woman was an IRA Volunteer gaining revenge for the death of her IRA partner. In 2006, when Doyle’s photographic archive was donated to the National Library, the Evening Herald (18/7/06) claimed that the woman in the photo was wanted for questioning about the disappearance of Jean McConville. However the basis of the Herald’s claim isn’t stated and isn’t helped by it also stating the photograph was taken in Ardoyne when Doyle himself captions it as in West Belfast.

So what is the truth? Well, I’m hoping someone can finally enlighten us. An image from the set was used in a 1974 republican calendar and one was reproduced without caption or credit on the back page of Republican News in February 1974 (23/2/74). Other images from the same calendar appear back in November 1973 suggesting they were taken from before that date. The set of photos of women carrying guns and searching a man have the clear look of being staged. The photographer (Doyle) appears to have taken pictures while standing in the open, exposed to returned fire. This seems unlikely and while Doyle could well have stumbled on PR photos being staged, the scene has the obvious look of a photo opportunity.

Back page Republican News, 23/2/1974

This last point and the strength of the imagery then has much more significance as clearly the intention was to provide a depiction putting female activists in the foreground and background. Now, it may be up to the viewer to decide if this is an idealized image of a female activist conceived and created by men/for men or by or for women. It may also intentionally resonate with international images of radical female activists and chime with a visual language familiar to second wave feminism (personally, I suspect it is inspired by media reporting of German radicals like Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof in 1971-1972). It also is a reminder that there is much to explore behind much of the imagery used by everyone throughout the conflict here.

Other images from the same scene are included below. Can anyone shed any real light on where they were taken and what were the circumstances (check out the end of this post for an update)?

For what it’s worth the style of the masonry – ashlar drawn onto cement render – seems unusual for either Ardoyne or West Belfast, particularly given the style of windows (I think this is how someone might recognise it). And the single bit of graffiti “Brits Out” is barely noted by journalists before the middle of 1974, although that doesn’t mean it wasn’t current (was it popularised by the photo?).

A family member has been in touch to say that the woman holding the rifle was very much active in the IRA and had even attended the unveiling of a mural that reproduced the image some years ago (see photo below). She had been prominent in insisting to then IRA Chief of Staff Sean MacStíofáin that women be allowed to join the IRA rather than Cumann na mBan. She chose the clothes and imagery herself for the images intending it to signal the role female activists could play, although she remember little about the actual photos being taken (the location may have been in Andersonstown).

The image also featured in what is reputed to be a hand-made republican children’s book, A Republican ABC, during the 1970s apparently not widely circulated but now in the Northern Ireland Political Collection (NIPC) held at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The author and illustrator is unknown – the book begins “A is for Armalite that sends them all running”, with the same image of a short-skirted girl taking aim with a gun, her hair falling over her face.

Lastly, the image has been recoloured by @robcross247.

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