John Crawley ⚑ Patrick O’Callaghan from Crossmaglen, County Armagh, was one of the finest and most inspirational IRA volunteers I have ever met. 
Patrick O'Callaghan
17th January 1954 – 19th January 2021

He was laid to rest on the 20th of January, 2021, in a quiet ceremony in St. Patrick’s churchyard not far from the grave of his close friend and comrade Brendan Burns, who had been killed in action with Brendan Moley in February 1988. 

There were two aspects to the subdued nature of Patrick’s funeral - a patriot who deserved to be buried with the highest of honours. One was the unforeseen and insurmountable restrictions placed by Covid; the other was the deafening silence by former comrades for whom loyalty to the Provisional movement trumps any allegiance to the Irish Republic.

Patrick was beginning a potentially lucrative career as a carpenter in Greystones, Co. Wicklow when he downed tools in 1972 and returned home to pick up the Armalite. He rapidly gained a reputation as a courageous guerrilla fighter who led from the front. Patrick played a prominent role in many IRA operations throughout the campaign ranging from devastating attacks on enemy personnel and installations to helping, with others, to provide the wherewithal and logistical backup for prison escapes North and South. He and his brother Sean significantly assisted the IRA Engineering Department in developing a wide array of improvised mortars, rockets, and explosives. 

Patrick completely immersed himself in resistance activities. His contribution covered the entire spectrum of IRA military operations. He was with Volunteer Seamus Harvey when Seamus was shot dead by undercover British soldiers in January 1977. The death of his close friend hardened his resolve to pursue the struggle until full and final victory. Patrick named his only son after his fallen comrade.

Patrick was eventually appointed Operations Officer for Northern Command. As a result, he became well-known and respected outside his home area of South Armagh. He gained a well-deserved reputation as a highly motivated republican soldier who was not afraid to go toe to toe with the enemy and had scant patience with those less determined to do so. Patrick was in it to win it.

After many years of unstinting service to the republican struggle, Patrick felt honour bound to take a leave of absence from the Provos (where he remained until his death) when he discovered activities that reflected badly on the movement. I do not know the specifics but Patrick was demoralised by what he perceived as personal agendas taking precedence over the struggle for Irish freedom. He challenged this and waited in vain for something to be done about it but to his despair it was never addressed.

Patrick also grasped the constitutional cul-de-sac the Brits were luring us into. Many, myself included, who eventually left the Provos have experienced the slander, the whispering campaigns, and the self-serving lies accompanying such a decision. I have rarely heard the level of sheer invective in any attempt to tarnish the good name of an IRA volunteer as I heard directed against Patrick O’Callaghan. Some of the more vicious whisperers I knew to be consummate bluffers who couldn’t have tied Patrick’s bootlaces.

Patrick didn’t share in the delusion that Irish republican objectives would be advanced through British legislation or that a so-called united Ireland rooted in British/Irish identity politics could morph into the republic he fought for. A republic that broke the connection with England and forged a joint civic identity across the sectarian divide. His reputation as a fearless resistance fighter, his vast experience, and his network of contacts made him a potentially dangerous adversary in the eyes of those who understood their career paths lay in defecting from the Republic, not defending it. 

The best way to undermine a message is to discredit the messenger. They went all out to damage the reputation of Patrick O’Callaghan in order to sabotage anything he had to say about the movement’s overall co-option to the age-old British strategy of reconciling Irish nationalism to British sovereignty and other issues that concerned him.

This slander gained no traction with anyone who knew Patrick personally or valued his contribution to the struggle, recognised his sincerity, and respected the sacrifices he made in pursuit of republican objectives in the face of the most intense British reaction, particularly in South Armagh.

Patrick now lies in the churchyard in Crossmaglen. His headstone, at his request, carries no hint he was ever an IRA volunteer or played any role in the struggle for Irish freedom. He felt so betrayed by the Provos he wanted no reminder he was ever a part of them. That was Patrick’s decision, but I must admit to feeling saddened there is no monument or memorial to honour him at some other location. Hopefully, that omission will be rectified in the future.

Patrick O’Callaghan was an IRA volunteer of exceptionally high calibre. His actions reflected all that was best in the Fenian tradition. His memory will remain forever in the hearts of his family and comrades. His courage and conviction, his loyalty to his friends, and his devotion to achieving the full freedom of his country should be acknowledged and never be forgotten.

John Crawley is a former IRA volunteer and author of The Yank.

Patrick O'Callaghan

John Crawley ⚑ Patrick O’Callaghan from Crossmaglen, County Armagh, was one of the finest and most inspirational IRA volunteers I have ever met. 
Patrick O'Callaghan
17th January 1954 – 19th January 2021

He was laid to rest on the 20th of January, 2021, in a quiet ceremony in St. Patrick’s churchyard not far from the grave of his close friend and comrade Brendan Burns, who had been killed in action with Brendan Moley in February 1988. 

There were two aspects to the subdued nature of Patrick’s funeral - a patriot who deserved to be buried with the highest of honours. One was the unforeseen and insurmountable restrictions placed by Covid; the other was the deafening silence by former comrades for whom loyalty to the Provisional movement trumps any allegiance to the Irish Republic.

Patrick was beginning a potentially lucrative career as a carpenter in Greystones, Co. Wicklow when he downed tools in 1972 and returned home to pick up the Armalite. He rapidly gained a reputation as a courageous guerrilla fighter who led from the front. Patrick played a prominent role in many IRA operations throughout the campaign ranging from devastating attacks on enemy personnel and installations to helping, with others, to provide the wherewithal and logistical backup for prison escapes North and South. He and his brother Sean significantly assisted the IRA Engineering Department in developing a wide array of improvised mortars, rockets, and explosives. 

Patrick completely immersed himself in resistance activities. His contribution covered the entire spectrum of IRA military operations. He was with Volunteer Seamus Harvey when Seamus was shot dead by undercover British soldiers in January 1977. The death of his close friend hardened his resolve to pursue the struggle until full and final victory. Patrick named his only son after his fallen comrade.

Patrick was eventually appointed Operations Officer for Northern Command. As a result, he became well-known and respected outside his home area of South Armagh. He gained a well-deserved reputation as a highly motivated republican soldier who was not afraid to go toe to toe with the enemy and had scant patience with those less determined to do so. Patrick was in it to win it.

After many years of unstinting service to the republican struggle, Patrick felt honour bound to take a leave of absence from the Provos (where he remained until his death) when he discovered activities that reflected badly on the movement. I do not know the specifics but Patrick was demoralised by what he perceived as personal agendas taking precedence over the struggle for Irish freedom. He challenged this and waited in vain for something to be done about it but to his despair it was never addressed.

Patrick also grasped the constitutional cul-de-sac the Brits were luring us into. Many, myself included, who eventually left the Provos have experienced the slander, the whispering campaigns, and the self-serving lies accompanying such a decision. I have rarely heard the level of sheer invective in any attempt to tarnish the good name of an IRA volunteer as I heard directed against Patrick O’Callaghan. Some of the more vicious whisperers I knew to be consummate bluffers who couldn’t have tied Patrick’s bootlaces.

Patrick didn’t share in the delusion that Irish republican objectives would be advanced through British legislation or that a so-called united Ireland rooted in British/Irish identity politics could morph into the republic he fought for. A republic that broke the connection with England and forged a joint civic identity across the sectarian divide. His reputation as a fearless resistance fighter, his vast experience, and his network of contacts made him a potentially dangerous adversary in the eyes of those who understood their career paths lay in defecting from the Republic, not defending it. 

The best way to undermine a message is to discredit the messenger. They went all out to damage the reputation of Patrick O’Callaghan in order to sabotage anything he had to say about the movement’s overall co-option to the age-old British strategy of reconciling Irish nationalism to British sovereignty and other issues that concerned him.

This slander gained no traction with anyone who knew Patrick personally or valued his contribution to the struggle, recognised his sincerity, and respected the sacrifices he made in pursuit of republican objectives in the face of the most intense British reaction, particularly in South Armagh.

Patrick now lies in the churchyard in Crossmaglen. His headstone, at his request, carries no hint he was ever an IRA volunteer or played any role in the struggle for Irish freedom. He felt so betrayed by the Provos he wanted no reminder he was ever a part of them. That was Patrick’s decision, but I must admit to feeling saddened there is no monument or memorial to honour him at some other location. Hopefully, that omission will be rectified in the future.

Patrick O’Callaghan was an IRA volunteer of exceptionally high calibre. His actions reflected all that was best in the Fenian tradition. His memory will remain forever in the hearts of his family and comrades. His courage and conviction, his loyalty to his friends, and his devotion to achieving the full freedom of his country should be acknowledged and never be forgotten.

John Crawley is a former IRA volunteer and author of The Yank.

3 comments:

  1. Great honest and sincere tribute to Patrick O'Callaghan. Thoroughly agree, there should be a memorial erected somewhere to acknowledge his huge contribution to the struggle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly I woukd say there's many true bred staunch Republicans who are Airbrushed out of the way to make way for the ARMCHAIR Generals who never took up A Gun to serve their country Patrick O Callaghan deserves a Monument put up in his Honour many things that happened in the Provos was wrong they seem to honour those who spent time in Prison And forgot the Men and WomenVolunteers who kept the War going at any Cost when other Volunteers were sitting safely in
      Northern Prisons Portlaoise Prisons in the South.

      Delete
  2. How Patrick was airbrushed out of history is worthy of a piece in itself. In my view his activism merits a book. I think it is fair to say that Patrick was an Easter Sunday republican and not a Good Friday nationalist.
    A memorial for sure.

    ReplyDelete