I’ll just leave this here…
You can read Carson’s original quote (from 14th December 1921) here.
I’ll just leave this here…
You can read Carson’s original quote (from 14th December 1921) here.
Concern over army Inquiry: Shot man’s family worried
The veil of secrecy which has surround an enquiry claimed to have been carried out by the British Army and R.U.C. into the case of the 27-year-old mentally retarded man shot dead by British soldiers near Benburb, Co. Tyrone, on June 15 last, is causing serious concern to the relatives of the dead man and the public representatives.
The man, John Patrick Cunningham, was shot in a field near his home at Carrickaness by soldiers who were patrolling the area at the time. Following the shooting the army issued conflicting statements regarding the death. In their first statement they said he had been shot when he emerged from bushes and appeared to be carrying a gun. Some hours later this statement was contradicted by one that said he had refused to halt and ran off across the field. Local people, however, rejected the army’s explanation for the killing, and pointed out that Mr. Cunningham was well known to the particular army unit, who have been operating in the area for some time, and were aware that he was mentally retarded and was afraid of soldiers.
This fear stemmed from tho fact that some months prior to his death, Mr. Cunningham had been,badly beaten up by soldiers near his home, and was only saved from further ill-treatment by a local doctor who accidentally arrived on the scene and took Mr. Cunningham away from the soldiers. Following the shooting, troops threw a cordon around the field, and refused to allow anyone to approach the body for almost three hours. It was only when Fr. Dermot McNeice, Prior of the Servite Priory in Benburb, arrived at the scene and insisted on going to the body that positive identification was made.
On the day of the shooting Mr. Seamus Mallon, the S.D.L.P. member for the area, visited the scene and called for an immediate public inquiry into the shooting. Although his request was refused, the army promised that an inquiry would be held and the facts made known. Since then, both the R.U.C and the army have remained silent ‘regarding the outcome of the investigation. The army stated that the matter was one for the police, and the police in turn said the army was responsible.
Last night, Mr. Mallon who is also chairman of the S.D.L.P. Parliamentary Party, called for an immediate announcement of a date for an inquest into Mr Cunningham’s death.
He said it was over three months since the shooting and neither he, nor the relatives of the dead man, were prepared to wait for up to two years for the inquest – which was the length of time that had elapsed before the authorities held inquests into deaths resulting from similar incidents.
Mr. Mallon also demanded that the authorities clarify immediately what type of inquiry had been held; who was holding the inquiry, and what the findings of the promised inquiry had been. He further stated that if the inquiry was found not to have been carried out in an impartial manner, then the confidence and faith of members of the public in the law would be further diminished. Mr. Mallon also said that another factor which demanded that the inquest he held without further delay was the fact that the regiment involved is due to leave Armagh in September after completing their tour of duty in the North. He concluded by saying that the police had a duty to ensure that all those involved in the shooting were available for cross examination by a solicitor when the inquest was held.
The following is the editorial in the Belfast Newsletter on 4th May 1916, entitled ‘Reflections on the Rebellion’. It gives an insight into the immediate response to the Easter Rising. What stands out is the obsession with particular aspects of the Easter Rising. This can be seen in the criticism of the British governments administration in Ireland and what the Newsletter portrays as its weakness, or maybe more accurately, lack of ruthlessness when dealing with Ireland. This also seems to include an obsession with Larkin and the left wing aspects of the Rising, which combined with Irish republicanism, the Newsletter descries as “No more poisonous growth in the body politic of a country could be imagined than this combination of Syndicalism and Revolution.“
Reflections on the Rebellion
Yesterday morning three of the rebel leaders who had signed the proclamation of the Irish Republic were shot, haying been duly tried by field general court-martial and sentenced to death. The men who have thus fitly paid the penalty of their crimes were P. H. Pearse, T. MacDonagh, and T. J. Clarke. Three others whose names are not given were sentenced to three years’ penal servitude. If this trio were among the signatories to the rebel proclamation; there will be a very general opinion, in Ireland at any rate, that they have been too leniently dealt with. We presume that James Connolly, who shared with Pearse the leadership of the rising, being seriously wounded, has not yet been brought to trial in consequence of his physical condition. We have no desire to seek a ruthless vengeance on the rank and file of the Sinn Fein rebels. Speaking of them in the mass, we regard them as the product, in a very large measure, of the slack, feeble government which has cursed our country ever since Mr. Augustine Birrell became head of the Irish Administration. It has been said that every country gets the government it deserves. That is not true of Ireland. What Ireland has deserved, what its needs have required, has been steady, strong, even-handed, resolute rule. Every one of these essentials, have been denied the country from the day Mr Birrell first entered Dublin Castle to the day he left it, for good we are glad to say. For the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons yesterday, announced his resignation.
The Sinn Fein movement was admittedly a seditious movement. Its leaders never concealed its principles and its aims; they blazoned this to the world. Its appeal to Irishmen was based on revolution; it scorned constitutional methods; it preached not only disloyalty, but bitter hatred and hostility to Great Britain; it stood for the establishment by force of an Irish Republic. That was all included in the Sinn Fein programme.
Before the advent of James Larkin to Dublin four years ago. Larkin preached anarchical Socialism that is, Syndicalism. Ireland, on the whole, is not good ground for the propagation of Syndicalism. But in Dublin, owing to what Mr. Birrell would doubtless term the tolerance of his Administration, Larkin found in the Sinn Fein movement an instrument ready to his hand. In the seedbed of disloyalty and revolution which the Sinn Fein leaders had spread unchecked throughout Dublin and district, Larkinism struck root and grew like a weed in a super-cultivated soil. From Dublin it spread and nourished wherever Sinn Fein had gathered two or three Nationalists together.
No more poisonous growth in the body politic of a country could be imagined than this combination of Syndicalism and Revolution. Mark how the Irish Government under the rule of Mr. Birrell dealt with it. In 1913 Larkin paralysed and held up by pure organised terrorism the whole of the commercial life of Dublin and for many miles round the capital. He even attempted to impose it upon Belfast through the railways and the shipping. He carried it across the Channel to Liverpool; even as far as Birmingham he created grave Syndicalist trouble in the transit service of the country. How did Mr. Birrell deal with this viper? He and Lord Aberdeen actually bent the Irish Administration to him.
We say it deliberately, the sorrowful state of Dublin to-day is but the inevitable outcome of the continuance of the policy of truckling to treason and revolution which the Irish Government, under Mr Birrell and Lord Aberdeen, pursued in the days of James Larkin’s ascendancy in the Irish capital. When the war broke out one might have thought that even Mr. Birrell would have been shaken out of his foolish tolerance of open treason-mongering by the stern necessities of the nation. Not a bit of it. The truth is he had gone so far in dalliance with it that political expediency now forbade him coming to grips with it, lest it should turn and rend him. It was the fear of this that kept Ireland from being included in the Registration Act; it was the same fear that excluded Ireland from the Military Service Act. Mr. Birrell and Mr. John Redmond found themselves under a common necessity imposed by the very strength of the Revolutionary movement, which the former by his feeble rule had nurtured, of continuing thus to truckle to it. And all the time for the past twelve months at least the Chief Secretary must have known that it was ripening to rebellion, for it was common knowledge that it was even eating into the vitals of the Government service.
Just think of the revelation about the General Post Office made to an American journalist by one of the women clerks; of armed rebels being in the building from daybreak on Easter Monday, and of munitions and money having been stored in the basements and vaults for weeks before in preparation for the rebellion. Openly and flagrantly, for a year at least, the propaganda against recruiting for the Army and recruiting for the rebellion was allowed to go on on the platform and in the revolutionary press, to all intents without check, and that, of course, only gave it increased strength. The very heart of Dublin, which is now a desolation, was actually allowed to be used for a training ground for mimic revolution operations.
As we look back through the smoke of that desolation to all this course of administrative ineptitude, what impresses us most is not its feebleness and its folly, though they are rank, but its cowardice. There is no other word that fitly describes Mr. Augustine Birrell’s Chief Secretaryship.
On Easter Sunday, 25th April 1943, the IRA’s Chief of Staff and Adjutant-General led a public Easter commemoration at the Broadway cinema in Belfast. The resonances with 1916 were obvious: visible armed resistance in wartime, in a district saturated with armoured cars and the heavily armed British forces. The previous year’s commemoration had also triggered a calamitous sequence of events that had expended much of the IRA’s remaining capacity and saw Tom Williams hung in Crumlin Road prison. In the circumstances, there was significant pressure on the remaining IRA leadership to give some hope to their supporters and imprisoned comrades.
The 1943 commemoration also intentionally signalled a formal shift in the IRA’s centre from Dublin to Belfast, and in focusing on ending partition rather than challenging the legitimacy of government from Leinster House (a continuous ambition of the Belfast IRA since the 1930s and arguably a continuing complication in republican strategy). Similarly, the venue, built on the site of the Willow Bank huts from where the Belfast Volunteers had mobilised in 1916 also suggested a heavily coded challenge to the various competing groups in Belfast such as the Pre-Truce IRA organisation claiming primacy as the authentic inheritors of the Republic declared in 1916 (ownership of the Easter Rising commemorations were to see similar political battles in the 1950s when formal parades were permitted). Few enough may have understood the reference to 1916 and the ‘Old’ IRA association, although those that did were the intended audience. Symbolically, Easter 1943 marks the formal shift in the emphasis of IRA strategy to the north.
The IRA Chief of Staff, Hugh McAteer, writing in 1951 in the Sunday Independent, clearly saw the parallels between 1916 and 1943. By mid-April 1943, he writes that he was acknowledging internally that the possibility of the IRA succeeding was out of the question for the moment. Recognising the propaganda value of his own escape in January that year and the mass Derry escape in March, the IRA leadership realised that the pattern of their work was clear. Their immediate object was now to ‘preserve the spirit of the movement’ and that was to guide how they would plan and execute their next actions.
In 1943 then, the commemoration was to be particularly significant. The leadership of Hugh McAteer and Jimmy Steele (who had taken over as Adjutant-General on Liam Burke’s capture earlier that April) developed the idea of staging a public Easter Rising commemoration. Harry White (in his biography, Harry, written with Uinseann MacEoin) recounts how the idea evolved from a throwaway suggestion from two young IRA Volunteers to an operation involving sixteen Volunteers taking over the Broadway cinema to stage a commemoration. According to Harry White, it was Joe Doyle and Dan Diffin who came up with the idea of using armed volunteers to take over either a cinema or a dance hall and then staging a public Easter commemoration. The idea was dismissed as impractical on security grounds.
In reality, McAteer and Steele were very enthusiastic about the idea and only dismissed it to Doyle and Diffin as they wanted to maintain as much secrecy as possible. Initially, according to White, the plan had been to simply flash up a slide on screen that said “Join The IRA”, but the concept expanded until it became a full dress commemoration. White had been staying at the house of a projectionist in the Broadway Cinema on the Falls Road, Willie Mohan, whose brother Jerry was an internée. Mohan’s uncle, Frank, was also the manager of the cinema. Typically, the projection box was kept locked, but normally the projectionist went for a smoke between films which gave the IRA a short window in which to go and take control of it.
The plan that developed was relatively simple but was loaded with symbolism. The parallels of a public reading of the 1916 proclamation in 1943 in Belfast during a general world war and the reading of the original proclamation in Dublin in 1916, during an earlier war, were no doubt clear. McAteer and Steele had huge sums on their heads following their escape in January 1943 and a public appearance and obvious support would signal the loyalty of their supporters to the unionist government (i.e. that they weren’t going to be paid to betray their leaders).
The RUC were expecting some form of commemoration to take place over the Easter weekend. According to the Irish News, they had turned the Falls Road into an armed camp with hundreds of uniformed and plain clothes police, with armoured cars, whippet cars, patrol cars and cage cars patrolling the district. Still, sixteen armed IRA volunteers accompanied McAteer and Steele to Broadway cinema where they staged the commemoration. Three volunteers went into the projector box and handed over a slide which was flashed up on screen.
Jimmy Steele, in full dress uniform, appeared on stage and was introduced by McAteer. Steele read the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, then McAteer read a statement from Army Council on IRA policy, the resonances with 1916 are clear. While the “cause had not yet triumphed” he told them, “Ireland is being held within the Empire by sheer force and by force alone can she free herself. Now with Britain engaged in a struggle for her very existence, we are presented with a glorious opportunity.” McAteer finished to applause (according to Fr Kevin McMullan, who was only seven at the time but had by chance been at that screening of Don Bosco, the response was positive and enthusiastic). McAteer then called for two minutes’ silence to commemorate those who had died for Ireland.
In Dublin, The Irish Times even reported that no commemoration took place. In Belfast, though, The Irish News enthusiastically reported on proceedings which were recounted in news bulletins as far away as Germany. The northern government’s Prime Minister, J.M. Andrews, who was already under pressure and perceived as a moderate, resigned on the Friday after Easter.
A British Army spokesman admitted in Belfast yesterday that there were arms in Protestant areas, both in the city and throughout Northern Ireland, but he couldn’t explain why arms searches had not been conducted recently in these areas. Brigadier Marston Tickell, of the General Staff, was speaking at a press briefing at Tyrone House in Belfast. Questioned about the circumstances of Bernard Watt’s death on the Crumlin Road on Friday night, he was at a loss to explain the conflicting accounts made by army spokesmen of the circumstances of the killing. However, he was certain that despite practically the unanimous opinion in the Ardoyne area to the contrary, Watt was either throwing a petrol bomb, a gelignite bomb or firing a gun.
DeniedOn the death of Jim Saunders in Louisa St., on Friday night, the Brigadier categorically denied that there was any possibility that he was shot by Protestant gunmen and said that the Army had no information at all of shooting from a Protestant street in that area around that time. Brig. Tickell said: ‘The I.R.A. is having increasing difficulty in getting mobs on to the street, and it was obviously hoping that by increased activity it would get soldiers to respond indiscriminately so that innocent people would be hurt.” He added this of course would turn people against the Army, ‘but he believed that the silent majority in Catholic areas was on the side of the army. He said that there was no change of Army tactics, that it had always been the policy to use minimum force: “But if soldiers are attacked with lethal weapons, we will respond in kind but with deliberate aim and not with indiscriminate shooting.” Referring to IRI [sic] claims that its action was purely of a defensive nature, he inquired: “Why are they throwing lethal weapons on main roads at civilian vehicles and civilian property and why are they firing first, when in some cases no specific military action had been taken?”
Speaking about “the new weapon” which Lord Carrington, the British Defence Secretary, had referred to in a recent visit to Northern Ireland, Brig. Tickell said that the Army was constantly developing new weapons for riot control and over the last 18 months, these had been given a very high priority. “There are a number of possible new developments or refinements of new techniques in the pipeline, but we do not expect that any single weapon will solve the problem of riot control.” He said that he was entirely Ignorant of any inter-I.RA. feud or of any involvement of extreme Protestant organisations in the recent troubles. Furthermore, he was entirely at a loss to explain the Army report of the Dungannon incident on Saturday nigh, which stated that two U.D.R. rifles had been discharged accidentally when a scuffle broke out between U.D.R. men and the crowd. He agreed that this was impossible as U.D.R. rifles are not normally or should not be loaded. However, he said that all the evidence of the U.D.R. activity of Saturday night could not tarnish the non-sectarian image of that organisation.
A FiascoThe press briefing was from the Army’s point of view a fiasco. Time and again, reporters broke into loud guffaws as the Brigadier made totally incredible answers to many of the [this section ends abruptly in the original newspaper report].He revealed the British Army’s ignorance of the complexities of the IRA set-up and the possibility of extremist Protestant intervention in the recent troubles. His failure to explain conflicting Army reports of recent incidents further added to the air of incredulity in which the meeting took place. He claimed privilege when closely questioned on the circumstances of the death of Bernard Watt — he said that the matter was sub-judice. But he was prepared to be quite specific about the details of Jim Saunders’ death, which he later conceded was also sub-judice.When queried on his sources of information and the degree of popular support for “the IRA subversive”, he remained mute, and then agreed that perhaps, the reason that there were smaller crowds on the streets was due more to fear of the Army than to support of them.
And then, from Aidan Hennigan in London:
Children in North Riots, Lurid British Papers
Whether lurid headlines in many British dailies yesterday alleging deliberate involvement of children in the Northern Ireland riots are sensational for sensation’s sake or whether they were deliberately inspired by judicious army briefing or teach-ins is a question which must exercise the mind at the moment. In the British House of Commons yesterday, Mr. Robin Chichester-Clark (Unionist, Derry), brother of the Stormont Premier, said: “Groups of I.R.A. men are now known to be paying sums between 15s. and £3 to small children to go out and pelt soldiers with missiles and shelter behind them in doorways, even with automatic weapons.” The suggestion was denied, however, by Mr. Ian Gilmour, Defence Under-Secretary, Army, who said: “I am not aware of any economic connection between the I.R.A. and small children. Small children have been involved in disturbances over the last few days. “We are well aware there are extremists fomenting these disturbances.”New Approach
Virtually every British newspaper carried stories about the children yesterday. “Children of hate”, is how the Daily Mail described them. The Daily Mirror carried the banner headline on its front page: “Horror of the child terrorists”, while its newest rival, the Sun, also headlined the story: “Front-line kids”. What may not be at Issue is that children have been arrested and have been found in the riot areas but it is a different matter obviously to say that, and I quote the Sun newspaper: ” I.R.A. terror leaders in Belfast are sending new shock troops to war—their own children”, is quite another matter.These reports, apparently emanating from police sources in Belfast, are to be taken in conjunction with what is positively a new approach to the whole Northern Ireland situation by the British press.
Changed pictureOnly a year ago these same papers were pointing to the root cause of the disturbance, notably the need for reforms, and justifying the demonstrations by civil rights’ members and the Catholic minority. Today the picture is changed and the lean is on the Catholics. Equally one has to take into consideration the changed climate of opinion in the British Government, who are now taking a much harder line, or to put it more succinctly, who are being pressurised in to taking a harder line. With a relatively small majority in the House of Commons, the traditional support which the Unionists afford the Conservative Party becomes extremely important, especially as the Government is now very bard-pressed on its industrial policies. More recently there has been a certain restiveness among these very Unionists about the way the Government are handling the Northern Ireland situation. It was being made plain that Mr. Heath and his colleagues, especially Mr. Maudling and Lord Carrington, were playing too passive a role in Northern Ireland. The implication was that the British troops were not active enough in searching out what has been described as “extremists”. It was notable that the “extremists” in this case were meant to be on the Catholic side. Certainly the tougher measures now being taken by the British troops must be symptomatic of this hardening political climate. Obviously the last thing Mr. Heath and his colleagues want at the moment Is the downfall of Major Chichester-Clark. It would be only a short step, it is argued, until the British Government were forced to introduce direct rule.
ImplicationThe implication of such a decision with its direct responsibility is all too clear to the Tories. The line the papers are taking about the involvement of children is understandable in Fleet Street terms. It is intended to make gripping reading but, for any Government who might wish to justify tough action by its troops and justify its own political decision, the same headlines might be seen as a Godsend.
And finally, the report from the Scarman Tribunal:
Ex-Special says evidence was not fixed
A member of the former Tynan platoon of the B Specials denied at the Scarman Tribunal in Armagh yesterday that the evidence given by platoon members about shooting at Cathedral Road on August 14, 1969—when John Gallagher, 31-year-old father of three was shot dead—was “an agreed version.” Mr. Justice Scarman told Special Constable Joseph Gray “you can take it from me that every member of the platoon to give evidence to the tribunal so far has told us that he fired into the air. Was that an agreed version? “Witness—Not to my knowledge.” Mr. Justice Scarman put it to Mr. Gray that it might have been a B Special bullet which struck Gallagher? But witness replied: “I couldn’t say.” Further questioned, Mr. Gray said that he couldn’t say who shot Gallagher. He admitted that he had never been trained to fire a rifle into the air.
He told Mr. Turlough O’Donnell, Q.C., for Gallagher’s next of kin, that he had been issued with two rounds of ammunition to replace the two he had fired at a drill session about a fortnight later. “The instructor asked every man what replacements he required to make up for what had been fired in Armagh,” witness added. A former Co. Armagh adjutant in the Ulster Special Constabulary told the tribunal that no police officer had ever approached him or asked to see documents relating to the Tynan platoon, and, that at no time did anyone suggest to him that these documents should be retained for an enquiry. Mr. James Moore, an ex-Instructor in the Irish Guards, said that with the disbandment of the U.S.C., instructions had been issued from headquarters that all documents except those which had historic value should be destroyed. Mr. Moore said that no specific instructions were given with regard to personal property cards. He did not know what happened to them but heard they had been destroyed.
On the 11th April, 1944, the Irish Independent reported from Belfast:
BELFAST YOUTH SHOT DEAD
A Belfast youth, John Doyle (16) of Britton’s Drive. Whiterock Rd, Belfast, died in hospital from a bullet wound in the head. He was found wounded in his home. It is believed that he was examining a revolver when it went off. Other members of the family were absent at the time.
The police, it was announced, found in the house six Mills bombs and 130 rounds of ammunition in a wall cavity. A search was being made last night for an acquaintance of Doyle, who is alleged to have been in the house at the time of the shooting.
According to Antrim’s Patriot Dead, Doyle was a member of Na Fianna Éireann and his sluagh had been receiving a lecture on arms when the gun accidentally discharged. The day he was killed was his sixteenth birthday. His father, James, was arrested and charged with possession of the arms found in the house.
The previous year, Sean’s older brother Liam had been arrested with a party of Na Fianna which had been training with revolvers in Murphy’s clay pits off the Springfield Road on the night of Thursday 20th May (roughly opposite New Barnsley police station). More than a dozen Fian were in attendance and, for training, they had drawn four revolvers and ammunition from a dump. Fian from the Falls, Ardoyne, North Queen Street and Carrickhill were present.
Then an RUC unit arrived, later claiming that they had been summoned after a man had been seen signalling and acting suspiciously near the clay pit. According to RUC Sergeant Anderson, the RUC tried to surprise the Fianna but were spotted and the Fianna attempted to escape. Anderson then opened fire with a shotgun wounding Joseph Doyle and James Mooney and the Fianna had to take cover, returning fire with the revolvers they had been using for training. After a protracted exchange of gunfire, the Fianna surrendered, with Liam Doyle, Arthur Steele, James Mooney and Joseph Doyle taking responsibility for possession of the four revolvers and ammunition.
By the time the RUC had brought charges in the Police Court on Saturday, twenty-one youths had been arrested, aged between sixteen and twenty. Nine were eventually discharged by the court on 10th June, while two juveniles were given forty shilling fines (one of them, apparently, was Sean Doyle). Dan Liddy, Sam McCotter and Hugh English each got three months each with hard labour, while Dessie Brady and Robert O’Neill each got two months. The four charged with possession of the revolvers were tried and sentenced in August. Joseph Doyle and Arthur Steele each were sentenced to twelve years and twelve strokes of the whip, while James Mooney received ten years and twelve strokes of the whip. All three had been arrested in possession of revolvers that had been fired. Liam Doyle received ten years but was spared the cat (as whipping was called) since his revolver had not been fired. He had been involved in the strip strike and other protests in A wing in Crumlin Road in 1943. He was not allowed to attend Sean’s funeral.
The day after Sean’s death, his father James Doyle, was charged with possession of the weapons found hidden in a wall cavity in the house including seven Mills’ bomb cases, a bayonet and scabbard, one hundred and thirty rounds of rifle ammunition, thirty-one rounds of assorted ammunition, and a pair of revolver hand grips. He was remanded on bail until the 25th April, then again until the 9th May when the charges were finally dropped.
James had been interned on the prison ship, Al Rawdah, in 1940 and had only been released after contracting tuberculosis on the prison ship. He died, aged 46, on 9th July 1945.*
*Thanks to his grand-daughter, Sally Campbell, for this information.
Part of the IRA’s own report into what happened next is summarised by a map captured in May 1943 (now in the public records office). Since the streetscape has almost changed beyond recognition, I’ve added a map of the area, as it was in the 1940s, below. The captured diagram shows the positions taken up by the unit O/C, Tom Williams, and the other volunteers, Dixie Cordner, Jimmy Perry, Joe Cahill and John Oliver. Williams and Cordner were on the footpath behind the last air raid shelter before the junction between Kashmir Road and Clonard Gardens, Cahill and Perry between the last two shelters and Oliver between the second and third shelters. After firing shots they were to head back into Cawnpore Street where a sixth IRA volunteer, Pat Simpson, was waiting for them, then dump their arms and disperse. The arms would be concealed and returned to IRA arms dumps by Cumann na mBan. You can get an idea of the size of the air raid shelters in the photo below (you can also check them out in the film Odd Man Out).What happened next is relatively well documented. The IRA unit fired shots over a passing armoured car, from which the RUC dismounted and then attempted to pursue the IRA unit into Cawnpore Street. In this case, the RUC men involved, including Patrick Murphy, had been involved in previous armed confrontations with IRA units and had attempted to storm houses at gun point in pursuit of IRA volunteers. By mid-1942, though, the IRA’s Chief of Staff, Eoin McNamee, had decreed that armed IRA volunteers who were at risk of arrest, were to use force if they had a chance of escape. So on 5th April, 1942, the C Company unit followed current IRA policy and exchanged fire with the RUC in Cawnpore Street and Murphy was killed, and, Williams wounded. Having been convinced by the authorities that his wounds were fatal, Williams took responsibility for Murphy’s death in the hope that it would shield the rest of his unit from retribution. Instead, when he had recovered, he was hung as a reprisal in September 1942 (even though he had clearly not fired the shots that killed Murphy), while the others barely escaped execution. You can read one account of their reprieve here in the Connolly Association’s paper, Irish Freedom, from September 1942.
And in case anyone is labouring under the mistaken impression that deliberate delays and obfuscations are a recent tactic of the authorities when attempting to resolve ‘legacy issues’: it was to be 58 years after his execution before Tom Williams was handed over to his family and friends and was able to receive a proper burial.
You can read more about Tom Williams and the events surrounding his execution in Jim McVeigh’s book or at some of the links below.
You can also watch a great documentary at the link below (if it is still available).