Political Struggle Past And Present

Tonight The Pensive Quill features an address by Sean Doyle delivered in Wicklow Town on 1st August 2011. It was in honour of the republican hunger strikers Kieran Doherty and Kevin Lynch.

On behalf of the Regional Socialist Republican Unity Committee you are most welcome here today to The East Coast Hunger Strike Commemoration.
Today we believe this is a fitting place to honour our hunger strikers. Here in Wicklow Town at the monument of William “Billy” Byrne of Ballymanus whom with hundreds of comrades led the resistance to British occupation and were eventually captured, tortured and executed. In July 1799 he was sentenced to death and on the 24th September 1799 he was taken from the jail and marched down through the town under escort to be executed at Gallows Hill.

Today we have gathered to pay tribute to our hunger strikers Kevin Lynch aged 25 who died on the 1st August 1981 after 71 days. Also Kieran Doherty TD aged 25 Who died on the 2nd August 1981 after 73 days bringing the number to 8 who had sacrificed their lives in rotation resisting Thatcher’s criminalisation policy and for their 5 demands:

•    The right to wear your own clothes.
•    The right not to do prison work.
•    Free association with other prisoners.
•    Restoration of full remission of sentence lost due to protest.
•    Normal visits, parcel, educational and recreational facilities.
When you reflect on the conditions, brutality and torture they endured from the time of their arrest in Castlereagh and then in the H-Blocks. Thatcher initiated the criminalisation of political prisoners from the 1st of March 1976 with the willing and eager frothing out of the mouth sadistic screws, like dogs with rabies. Thatcher and the prison administration unleashed them and sanctioned the most barbarous and inhuman treatment that they could inflict to try to break their will. Brutality and cruelty relentless beatings, strip searches, mirror searches, sleep deprivation and locked up 23 hours a day. But the political prisoners would not succumb to criminalisation. They found the strength and spirit in their moment in history as their forefathers did resisting British occupation for 800 years.                                                                                                                             

They resolved to fight with every sense of their being with every breath they took until their last. As Connolly said:

we mean to be free and in every enemy of tyranny we recognise a brother wherever be his birthplace. In every enemy of freedom we also recognise our enemy though he were as Irish as our hills. The whole of Ireland for the people of Ireland, their public property to be owned and operated as a national heritage by the labour of free men in a free country. 

These thoughts and those of Lawlor, Mitchell and Tone were like morphine for the pain they had to endure. The blanket protest, the dirty protest, the first hunger strike and the disputed  agreement the British reneged on and the ultimate second hunger strike which culminated in ten young men laying down their lives to assert and re-affirm that the British would not succeed in denying Irish people their right to sovereignty throughout the 32 counties that has been fought and resisted throughout our history.                          

The criminality is their occupation and the means they have used to maintain their presence even to this day. We have The Good Friday Agreement so-called power sharing, Peace With Justice, Parity Of Esteem, Policing With Justice, The PSNI. We have heard it all. Is it a smokescreen and if not why when they closed the H-Blocks did they transfer their barbarous regime consisting of their sadistic screws to continue at will their criminality and torture and denial of basic human rights in Maghaberry Gaol, no doubt with the full support of Justice Minister Ford and those in partnership who elected him?
One prisoner Brendan Lillis is dying from a crippling arthritic disease. Brendan cannot walk. He cannot get up from his bed. He is incapacitated and he’s being left alone to die in a prison cell. We have seen enough of our people die in prison cells and find the manner in which Brendan is being treated as an obscenity. Yet Minister Ford considers him a threat to Northern Ireland security and even refuses to release him on humanitarian grounds. We see you and your administration as a vindictive punitive regime holding a sick dying man hostage to further your vengeance that will no doubt come back in the fullness of time to expose you all. We call for the immediate release of Brendan Lillis to his partner Roisin so he can be cared for and die in dignity.
While there is British interference in Ireland there will always be resistance. It will manifest in many ways. You will not remove what is genetic in the Irish psyche by the stroke of a pen or by force, cruelty, torture and criminality. There will be political prisoners as a consequence of your occupation and resistance will prevail. Your denial of political status and your prison regime with your attempt to create a state of fear is the most potent ingredient in the arsenal of resistance. Your methods have failed throughout our history and they will fail today and tomorrow.


  1. Early today I went to visit a republican museum in Lurgan.
    I went for two reasons, firstly, because my friend told me this museum was an absolute must see and secondly, the museum owner wanted to photograph a letter I have which was written by Tom Williams the night before his execution.
    I always feel a bit sad and more than a bit priviliged when I have the letter on my person. Today was no different, what was different though was holding that piece of history in a room absolutely swamped by history and sacrifice.
    From 1798 until 2011, every inch of that room echoed Sean's words that, far from being over the republican political struggle goes on.

  2. Anthony through the good offices of TPQ could I ask all republicans to stand and give a hearty applause to two sterling members of the north Belfast community the boys I speak of here are Paul O Neill (whos wife Anne was interned) and policing board member Gerard p.c. Riley these stalwarts have taken it upon themselves to remove offensive graffiti around the Victoria Barracks flats this unwanted statement was none other than release Marian Price who as we all know is interned at this 40th anniversary of interment and as we all know we have moved on and we dont want people asking ackward questions do we ! seriously these two ex-prisioners should be fucking ashamed of themselves and I wonder does coiste na n-iarchimí and tar isteach know of or approve of the activities of this pair of eejits,our republican prisioners need more profile and community awarness not less, these men I am sure were glad of that support when they were banged up so why deny it to others even if you disagree with their politics.
    painting out Marian,s name doesnt make her go away ya know.

  3. Nuala,

    I felt something surge through me when you referred to that letter.

  4. Fionnuala
    where's the museum in Lurgan? I'm assuming John O'Dowd wasn't the curator!

  5. Mackers,
    the letter belonged to my father. Tom wrote a short letter to his five co-accused the night before his execution. This letter is the only original one still in existence.

    I am not quite sure about the location as my friend drove us down and I do not know Lurgan.
    However, I'm sure I can find out for you, it was an amazing collection.

  6. Fionnuala
    be interesting to know. SF will be well miffed.

  7. Anthony,

    Thanks for publishing this.


    That museum sounds very interesting. Hopefuly I will get to visit it someday.


  8. Can I asked a stupid Q...Why does everyone talk about British brutality RE H-blocks-Long Kesh<--rightly so...But don't mention the innocent volenteers who got tortured to death by the nuttin' squad????

  9. RNU Action Alert

    A Chairde,

    Tonight @ 12 midnight, RNU and RSF pows will begin a 48 Hunger Strike, the Prisoners haven't taken the decision lightly as some of the Political Prisoners have serious health problems. However, it is the only way they can highlight the current situation in Maghaberry Prison. Most of the RNU and RSF Prisoners have been prevented from legal or family visits since July 1st, 2011. They have also be refused access to phones, mail and exercise! Again the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) demand the immediate implementation of last August's Maghaberry Agreement.


    - Note -

    RNU subscribe to the 1916 Proclamation and 1919 Declaration of Independance and to their realisation of a 32 County Socialist Democratic Irish Republic.

  10. Rory if your traveling to Lurgan to visit the museum,as I intend to do ,you should stretch your vist to include the Eileen Hickey republican museum located in the Conway Mill of the Falls rd Belfast,Nuala get me the address and I,ll bring Marie,Kate ,Eve down to it,

  11. AM,

    Fair play to the RNU and RSF POWs. All locked up Republicans deserve our full support, especially those in that hell hole, Maghaberry goal.


  12. Marty,

    I will be up north next month, so if someone could let me know how to get to the museum before then I will try to get there.

    I will definately be in Derry, not sure after that.


  13. Frankie,
    that is absolutely true and no-one has forgotten about what happened to those innocent volunteers and innocent people least of all Whitey Bradley or Brendan Hughes who spoke about the disgraced Belfast security team and and their senseless and misplaced brutality in their books.
    The Dark was instrumental in getting two of the top men in that organisation dismissed with disgrace, however, once he was off the scene the IRA in Belfast saw fit to allow them back in.
    The whole team was rotten to the core and made all the more rotten by the knowledge that another two senior members were top British agents. I think and I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, that, Whitey actually likened their treatment of the unfortunates that fell into their hands to the victims of the Shankill Butchers.

  14. Nuala,

    A very valuable piece of history.

    I remember Joe Cahill once saying that Tom Williams would have supported the peace process. It was the shameless hijacking of a solid republican for a very non republican project. Tom Williams had more in common with the so called micro-groups of today than he had with the peace process lobby.

    I am waiting on a forgery of Tom’s last letter to emerge, telling us to go down the path of joining the cops and referring to the untimely death of Comrade Murphy. Good job that you have held on to the last letter.


    Was it a specific attempt to suppress the case of Marian or a general clearing up of graffiti? I know both but would be more disappointed with Cruncher if it was a selective targeting of a specific message.


    Nuala has just addressed this. What volunteers have you in mind?

  15. Marty,
    I intend to contact the girls about going back down, as the owner is very interested in the Armagh stuff.
    However, my friend who brought me yesterday will not be available for a week or two and I will have to wait until then for the exact location.

  16. Mackers,
    how could Joe have made such a ridiculous claim? I imagine Tom would have been distinctly out of step with what was unfolding in the ranks mainstream republicanism today. My da spent his entire life promoting all things Irish and republican, he also worked tirelessly on behalf of republican prisoners. I know if he was here today he would still be working for the republican prisoners and I know he could never reconcile to the idea that there is anything remotely republican about Sinn Fein.

    Marty, Larry, Rory,
    I have just been told that republican exhibtion is not open and will not be open for public viewing, I had no idea that this was the case.
    However, as Marty rightly states there is an excellent republican museum here in Belfast and it is open to everyone.

  17. Anthony from what I,m hearing it was free Marian message which was the target of these men,and when pulled I believe it almost came to blows, Marie called into the Tar Isteach office this morning and gave of to P O Neill i.e. Seanna Walsh. Frankie most people in or around the prm will know of someone who befell to the harsh and brutal treatment of the head hunters,the sickening thing is that most were "nutted "not by republicans but by brit agents,the whole sorry saga of the head hunters is a damming indictment of the overall command staff of prm.of which the bearded one was the ultimate decision maker.

  18. Fionnuala
    it must be in SF hands then.

  19. fionnulua,

    I understand, no worries.


  20. The museum at conway mill is 2nd to none. Well worth a visit. Marty+Marie took me there and the exhibits are class. The staff there were great, couldn't have done any more for you.

  21. Frankie,
    can I just say the brutality issue which you brought up earlier and the brutality of prisoners are two very distinct and seperate issue.
    In the very murky world of infomers and dirty tricks there will always be a long shadow cast.
    Undoubtely a lot of people went to their graves under the most horrendous circumstances.
    The brutal regime now operating in Maghaberry prison is merely a continuation of the brutal regimes operation against republicans for decades. This brutality should be challenged by everyone, I actually heard Sean Doyle give a first hand account of the strip searching and beatings taking place in the jail and it was harrowing to listen to.
    There is no justification for what is happening in the gaol and using one type of injustice as a yardstick for another will not serve either cause.

    I have been asked to ask if either Sean or Alec could put up a post to make people aware of up and coming demonstrations or whiteline pickets around this issue, many thanks.

  22. Larry,
    I think that was a bit unfair it is a private collection and is in no way connected to Sinn Fein.

    yes, I heard the story of some of the people from ex-prisoner group painting over a 'Free Marian Price' declaration.
    However, I did not hear Sydney Walsh mentioned, heard another O Neill though!

  23. Nuala,

    of course they can post

  24. Mackers,
    I did not phrase the question properly. Could Alec or Sean let people know via TPQ if there are any pickets or demonstrations.
    I know you have always highlighted this case, I justed did not write the post properly.

  25. Nuala,

    sorry about that. I knew exactly what you meant but was hurrying from one thing to another and rushed my response

  26. Nuala,

    they can put the details of their events up whenever they please.

  27. Nuala Sid Walsh aka P .O.Neill was not involved in the painting over of the free Marian slogan but I believe either or both of the ex -prisioners involved are employed by either Coiste or Tar Isteach and as the bold Sid is a head honcho in Tar Isteach then Marie wanted to make him aware of what exactly his employees are up to and also voice her disgust as an ex-prisioner and a friend of Marian,s the O,Neill you heard was Gerard (policing board member ) O Neill,

  28. Sorry Nuala it is Gerard Riley (policing board member) and Paul O Neill

  29. Marty,
    the O Neill I heard was not Gerard, it was Paul.
    Gerard O Neill is not a member of Tar Isteach and I don't think Walsh is the head honcho unless I am mistaken it is Culbert.

  30. Nuala, Newlodge Kate asks will you give her a call asap.

  31. Painting out prisoner slogans by mainstream republicans is becoming a habit. A similar incident happened recently to a 'Free Colin Duffy' slogan in Derry. The Families and Friends have had many of their posters defaced and removed during the past two years and I doubt it was the work of anti-social elements. Another problem we have encountered is the removal of posters by council workers with twenty-four hours of them appearing; local information seems to spread very quickly indeed.

    Whatever one's views about the unsightly nature of some slogans it ill behoves mainstream republicans to be removing such public manifestations of support for the prisoners. In the H-Block days pro prisoner slogans were to be seen up and down the country.


  32. Alec if it gives you a smile you will be pleased to hear that within 24 hours of removing Free Marian slogans, the slogan has poped up all over the place along the full length of the Falls.I think the boyos will have trouble keeping the lid on this one,,Anthony Marie and I were down with Nuala this evening and she showed us the Tom Williams letter to her dad,I can honestly say I truely moved reading it.

  33. marty,

    many paint brushes make light work.

  34. Nuala,

    ‘how could Joe have made such a ridiculous claim?’

    I think because he ended up embracing a ridiculous position himself. Do you not recall him claiming that the war was won?

    As for your da, he would be spot on in not identifying SF as remotely republican. To say SF is not republican is not a put down but merely an observation although it can be used as a put down. SF in order to be where they are had to abandon republicanism and embrace something that was long opposed to republicanism. We can debate the merits or demerits of their position but to call it republican seems as strange as calling Paisley a Catholic.

  35. Alec,

    ‘Mainstream republicans’ seems such a strange term. People like me tend to regard you and others of like mind as mainstream republicans and the other crowd as akin to the Sticks. I don’t get hooked on terminology but as I said to Nuala earlier, republican seems such an ill fitting term to apply to them. It fits like the term cat does to an Alsatian. I am sure somebody erudite will go back to Darwin and the Origins of Species to claim common descent but even at that the Shinners and republicans are now separate species.

    ‘Whatever one's views about the unsightly nature of some slogans it ill behoves mainstream republicans to be removing such public manifestations of support for the prisoners.’

    True. Have they erased any more artistic works?

  36. Anthony ,one wonders can we expect a kristallnacht sometime soon from psf,you yourself and Tommy Gorman have experienced the leading edge of such behaviour,from people who should know better .

  37. Marty,

    ‘within 24 hours of removing Free Marian slogans, the slogan has popped up all over the place along the full length of the Falls.’

    And to think that these guys were in jail at one time having their names written on walls as a gesture of solidarity from working class people. The power of Orwellian insight always jumps to mind.

    I have no doubt that the letter with Nuala is deeply moving. A tremendous amount of history there.

  38. Orwell got it so right Anthony its f##kin scary.its amazing what a job and a few bob can do to change some ex revolutionaries memories,I would love these people to read that letter from Tom Williams to Nualas father and then tell me they still think they have the right to call themselves republican.

  39. Fionnuala
    was not being rude, was just trying to figure out where the 'museum' was and pondering who may be behind it.

  40. Larry,
    I did not think you were being rude, if anything I felt bad as I had absolutely no idea it was a private venture only.

  41. Mackers,
    Yes I do remember Joe making that claim, it was around the time of the victory parades and victory speeches.
    I remember around that time attending a community based republican meeting chaired by Fra Mc Cann and Dennis Donaldson.
    The meeting had been designed to give ordinary republicans a chance to air their opinions and concerns.
    Choc Carmichael, one of the first so called dissenters got to his feet and asked the people chairing the meeting, 'who actually won the war as there were victory parades on the Falls, Shankill and Whitehall, so who actually got the victory?'
    The response which greeted his question was a tirade of abuse from Donaldson, who accused him of trying to sabotage the meeting and cause upset. Donaldson, then suggested, Choc should go to the Felons Club and pose the question to Adams who had apparently just returned from America.
    After that, the meeting continued in an uneasy vein with people only too aware their comments were being noted by the movement's heavies.
    I think like Choc we all knew we were being conned that evening but unlike him, none of us had the courage to say it.

  42. With every minute it spends in Stormont admisistering British rule, Sinn Feinn becomes less republican and more collaborationist. The Stoop Down Low Party never pretended to be one thing only to become something else. Sinn Fein has morphed into a party which is no longer recognisable as being Republican.


    I have still to come across anyone who put it as succinctly and accurately as yourself: what we see in Stormont are republicans without Republicanism.

  43. Alec,

    one of my earlier points about British state strategy, made back at the end of the 90s, was that it never lost sight of its objective of defeating republicanism. It long sought to do this by excluding both republicans and republicanism. Then it hit on the idea of securing that defeat by including republicans and excluding republicanism. Once stripped of republicanism they were no longer republicans. Brit success all round guaranteed.

  44. Nuala we never went to any of those meeting, just before the surrender announcement we got a visit from Micky Ferguson who gave us a speil about volunteers being burnt out,that the war was going no where ,blah blah blah. we said to him we thought that what the movement was settling for was less than was on the table in the Sunnindale agreement and that Mallon had got it right when he described it as Sunnindale for slow learners, Ferguson turned on his heels and walked out the door never to return,

  45. Marty,

    ‘one wonders can we expect a kristallnacht sometime soon from psf,’

    It can never be ruled out. I doubt if it could be to that extent. Would do harm to their electoral ambitions down here. Something more limited and deniable is more in their style. That is why it has always been important to make their denials seem ridiculous. It limits their room to harm republicans.

    I would not be surprised at big Gerry erasing republican support messages. He is just a New Lodge catholic and republican things would be of a distant concern. Always a decent guy in jail. Cruncher, however, came from a very radical background. I think his father was fairly left wing. I had always great time for him. He was one funny man and could think. I knew he was embracing this type of outcome as far back as 95. I had made a highly critical contribution to a debate in the RDS predicting where it was all going. Most people denied it could ever go there. I had a conversation shortly after it with him and he was critical of the speech, not because it was wrong in its predictions but because it was critical of where we would end up. That’s my recollection of it anyway. He seemed to have worked it out.

  46. Nuala,

    Donaldson had a brass neck. He used to tell journalists that myself and Tommy Gorman were doing the work of the Brits. So I am not surprised that his response to Choc should be as it was. It was all a con from the outset of the peace moves. All the things it was supposed to put an end to – political policing, unionist veto, partition, political prisoners – never came about.


    I always sensed that Micky Ferguson knew it was bollix but by that point was really of the mind of a community worker willing to work within the existing political framework and fight for more community resources. I noticed a serious shift from ideological positions on his part but not so much in the careerist sense of so many others. It was clear to me too at the time of those meetings another Sunningdale was all that was on the cards. Gibney and Hartley would respond that I had no real understanding of politics. They could not come to terms with their own lack of vision.