Sentence overturned for man carrying INLA flag

IRSP member Sean Carlin (left) with his solicitor Michael Brentnall

AN IRSP activist who was convicted for carrying a flag during a Falls Road Easter commemoration has had his sentence overturned.

In December last year, West Belfast man Sean Carlin was given a four-month suspended sentence for carrying a historical replica of an INLA Belfast Battalion flag during the commemoration in 2017.

The parade had been themed to honour local members who had lost their lives during attacks on the organisation following a 1987 split.

However, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Sean was subsequently arrested and convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000 for carrying the flag in circumstances that state authorities deemed to arouse suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.

This week, Sean revealed that his suspended sentence had been quashed with a £100 fine issued in its stead following a court appeal against the earlier ruling.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Sean said: “From the start of this I was of the opinion that no matter what the outcome of the case was that I was going to be fighting it.

If I was convicted, and eventually was convicted, then the benchmark was set and would have big repercussions for republicans right across the board.

The point we made was that this was a commemorative event. It was advertised as a commemorative event so we were trying to unravel the agenda of the PPS and the cops.

“We’ve been of the opinion that, this is all because we didn’t buy into the Fresh Start Agreement,” he added.

“The IRSP has been getting hounded since then. This flag issue was just another significant push in relation to criminalising the IRSP.

On a personal level, I couldn’t accept carrying a flag to commemorate your dead being a criminal offence – it’s unheard of.”

Sean’s solicitor, Michael Brentnall, said that while the case has “set the benchmark” in terms of sentencing, the legislation surrounding the conviction stands to be challenged.

“I think it’s significant, particularly the judges remarks at the end, who stated that no person in Ireland should go to jail for carrying a flag in Ireland. That’s significant in itself and it has set the benchmark for how these matters be dealt with. We’re now seeking senior council’s opinion on whether there is a point of law that can be taken to the court of appeal on the basis of the conviction alone rather than just the sentence.”

He continued: “Each case is facts specific, but in Sean’s case it was said during proceedings that every case of somebody carrying a similar flag to a commemoration could be criminalised.

Sean was the only person this had been enforced against – there’s an issue with that in itself, but then Sean’s barrister made the point that this was a clear breach of freedom of expression and the sanction was entirely excessive in relation to the context of what had happened.”

He added: “Another point that we still have to explore is that the legislation is very vague. The legislation says that you can be a supporter or a member of a proscribed organisation. If this is a means of circumventing membership charges and having somebody landed with a charge then that’s a different fight.

With many thanks to the: Andersontown News and Michael Jackson for the original story







Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) state the RUC/PSNI are intimidating families

IRSP activist Michael Kelly being searched by the RUC/PSNI earlier this month

AN IRSP member who says he is followed by the PSNI daily has accused police of attempting to “intimidate” party activists.

Lower Falls man Michael Kelly was one of a number of IRSP members who were searched by the PSNI as they arrived for a meeting at Costello House earlier this month.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Mr Kelly reiterated his parties claims that PSNI are involved in “political policing”, and accused police of harassing party members and their families.
“I have been getting stalked – it’s every day,” he said.

“There are days when it’s worse than others, but there are comrades who get it far worse than myself.
“We have a member in St James’ and the cops have a patrol outside his house every morning when he is going to work and bringing kids to school. When he comes back there will be another jeep sitting there or another car sitting there, sometimes marked sometimes unmarked.

“This week he was going to get his child from a school event and they stopped him. He pleaded his case that he was running late to pick up his kids and the PSNI boot-boys told him he would stay as long as they ‘saw fit’.

“A few weeks ago, I went to pick my son up and I was pulled over and the man said ‘are you in a hurry, Mr Kelly?’ I said I had to pick up my son and told him to get on with whatever he was doing. Again they said ‘you’ll be here as long as we want’. I was there for about ten minutes and I was late to pick up my son.

“It’s not just political activists who experience what this brings, it’s also our families – our kids and our partners. Our partners are being intimidated. Two years ago I was approached by MI5 on the Grosvenor and they followed my partner as she was bringing my daughter to crèche.

“The try to intimidate our family members when we’re not there. It’s clear that the ‘reformed’ police service, as they are called by those who work alongside them, are only accommodating to those who tow the line of the establishment. Those who stand in opposition to the British police force in Ireland are fair game, and that also extends to our families.”

He continued: “It’s no coincidence that this attempt at criminalising the republican socialist movement, it is starting to rise again when our party is starting to grow and we are doing fantastic work in Belfast.

“It will fail today as it has done over the 45 years of the existence of our party. It will continue to be rejected by those on the ground who we work on behalf of.”

The Andersonstown News has contacted the PSNI over the IRSP’s claims and is awaiting a response.

With many thanks to: The Andersontown News and Michael Jackson for the original story

Man found guilty of carrying INLA flag at Easter

Sean Carlin, right, with Gerry Foster, IRSP

IN what is believed to be the first case of its kind, a Belfast court has found a man guilty of carrying a flag during an Easter Sunday parade on the Falls Road.

Last Friday, West Belfast man Sean Carlin appeared in Laganside court and was sentenced under the ‘Terrorism Act 2000’ and in particular with carrying an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, charges he intends to appeal.

In 2017 during a traditional Easter Sunday commemoration on the Falls Road, a historical replica flag, based on a flag used by the Belfast Brigade of the Irish National Liberation Army during the 1980s, was unfurled by IRSP member Sean who then carried it during the party’s procession to Milltown cemetery.

The parade in question had been themed to honour in particular members of the Belfast Brigade INLA who had lost their lives when the IRSP came under attack after a split in the organisation in 1987.

While the replica Belfast Brigade INLA flag was clearly being carried in recognition of the sacrifice made by fallen members of that organisation, it was revealed in court that undercover police had observed Sean Carlin and earmarked him for arrest. He was later arrested from his home.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News Sean said: “Around six months after that particular parade I was arrested, I later received a summons to say I was being charged.

“I was up in court maybe three times before it went to contest. There were three cops who gave evidence against me, two undercover cops said they observed me on the day.

“We never questioned their evidence, we didn’t say it wasn’t me, we were arguing the context in which the flag was being carried, but they had a different view.”

Last Friday Sean was sentenced to four months suspended over two years.

“How do I know if I’m breaking that suspended sentence. I mean if I wear a badge or if I go to a parade am I breaking my sentence, it’s so vague and completely open for interpretation.”

A spokesperson for the IRSP said: “Every Easter in Belfast, tens of thousands of Irish republicans and socialists from all organisations march in Belfast’s Falls Road towards Milltown cemetery to attend the graves of Ireland’s patriot dead, many carrying the flags of military organisations who took part in the various campaigns against British rule in Ireland over the years.

“The IRSP are supporting Sean Carlin’s appeal against this blatantly targeted oppression of a republican socialist and the potential all out criminalisation of Ireland’s right to commemorate its patriot dead.

“We are seeking to gain the support of all commemorative organisations in Ireland and would deeply appreciate the support of all comrades in raising awareness of an example of gross political oppression and cultural censorship.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Media Group and Brónach Ní Thuama 






Please follow and like us:



Twitter Feeds
Gerard P Mulhern
Gerard P Mulhern@puntersgGetting closer, a near 13/1 double……47 minutes ago20 December 2018
Gerard P Mulhern
Gerard P Mulhern@puntersgRT @mwadvocate: Racing in Down Royal all set for 2019.… @puntersg @SPGBETTING @BBCSPORTNI @BelfastLive @goQradio @ir…2 hours ago20 December 2018
Gerard P Mulhern
Gerard P Mulhern@puntersgRT @squinteratn: The clock’s finally gone. Great pic by our Mark Jones hours ago20 December 2018
Squinter@squinteratnRT @MarkJDeane: @squinteratn @BBCTalkback Funny that, I enjoy it immeasurably more with the dark undertones now.2 hours ago20 December 2018
Squinter@squinteratnRT @paulhayes55: Long tail tit having its breakfast @Avibase @OldeEire @OldDublinTown @LoverandomIeigh @BirdWatchingMag @Best_Birbs #Nature…2 hours ago20 December 2018
Squinter@squinteratnRT @alanferrier: A UK media guide to parliamentary language. “Go back to Skye” : perfectly acceptable. “Piece of shit” : no problem whatsoe…2 hours ago20 December 2018
Paddy Tierney
Paddy Tierney@PaddyTierney21RT @puntersg: @mickconlan11 aims for the #Perfect10 on Saturday night. Great preview in this week’s @ATownNews by @DavidMohan99 #Perfect1…4 hours ago20 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewDon’t forget Christmas Family notices for next week need to be in before 12 noon tomorrow @cmcparland91 @puntersg @NBNThomas4 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsPic of the day, Thursday, December 20… via @ATownNews4 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsFrampton ready for War as he bids to silence the doubters… via @ATownNews4 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsMan found guilty of carrying INLA flag at Easter… via @ATownNews4 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsRT @puntersg: @mickconlan11 aims for the #Perfect10 on Saturday night. Great preview in this week’s @ATownNews by @DavidMohan99 #Perfect1…4 hours ago20 December 2018
David Mohan
David Mohan@DavidMohan99Frampton ready for War as he bids to silence the doubters:…5 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsRT @bronachtwomey: My last week working for the @ATownNews after 20 years! 🤭😲🤭😲🤭😲 hours ago20 December 2018
Andersonstown News
Andersonstown News@ATownNewsRT @lasallebelfast: Tks to the @ATownNews for quality coverage of our recent @DanskeBank_UK @ulsterschools Oisin McGrath Shield success. ht…5 hours ago20 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91RT @puntersg: This week’s #FrontPage of the @ATownNews Hitting Front Doors and Local Shops after 5 tonight. #FamilyChristmasBlessings #L…22 hours ago19 December 2018
Anthony Neeson
Anthony Neeson@NeekyatnRT @puntersg: This week’s #FrontPage of the @ATownNews Hitting Front Doors and Local Shops after 5 tonight. #FamilyChristmasBlessings #L…22 hours ago19 December 2018
Paddy Tierney
Paddy Tierney@PaddyTierney21RT @puntersg: This week’s #FrontPage of the @ATownNews Hitting Front Doors and Local Shops after 5 tonight. #FamilyChristmasBlessings #L…23 hours ago19 December 2018
David Mohan
David Mohan@DavidMohan99RT @puntersg: This week’s #FrontPage of the @ATownNews Hitting Front Doors and Local Shops after 5 tonight. #FamilyChristmasBlessings #L…23 hours ago19 December 2018
Anthony Neeson
Anthony Neeson@NeekyatnRT @ErvineLinda: Discussing setting up Irish-medium integrated naíscoil & bunscoil in east Belfast. A wealth of experience around the table…1 day ago19 December 2018
Anthony Neeson
Anthony Neeson@NeekyatnRT @MalMccann: The sunset is better from the @BelfastHills 10 mins from Falls Road @FailteFeirste @sastawear @VisitBelfast @jmallon16 @barr…1 day ago19 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91RT @ManUtd: Join us in welcoming Ole back to #MUFC! day ago19 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91Welcome back Ole ❤⚽ #MUFC…1 day ago19 December 2018
Paddy Tierney
Paddy Tierney@PaddyTierney21As reported in the @ATownNews earlier this month, Corrigan Park is set for a major redevelopment, including a seate……1 day ago19 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91RT @paddypower: Man Utd board meeting: “Why should we appoint Solksjaer? Didn’t he get sacked from Cardiff? Has he done anything since?”…2 days ago18 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91RT @paddypower: We’ve had one customer that backed Howard Webb for next Man Utd manager. €1 at 425/1. So we’re paying you out. Enjoy!2 days ago18 December 2018
Conor McParland
Conor McParland@cmcparland91RT @Malachians: I don’t care who the manager is, I just want to enjoy watching Utd again.2 days ago18 December 2018
David Mohan
David Mohan@DavidMohan99Your Daily Belfast, Tuesday December 18:…2 days ago18 December 2018
David Mohan
David Mohan@DavidMohan99RT @puntersg: Breaking News from Old Trafford #WengerIn @squinteratn @PaddyTierney21 @cmcparland91 @DavidMohan99 @mjjacko91…2 days ago18 December 2018
David Mohan
David Mohan@DavidMohan99Your Daily Belfast, Monday December 17:…3 days ago17 December 2018
Evan Short
Evan Short@evansmsSad to see Sean Garland has died. One of the most fascinating men I ever interviewed (the day after he was told he……5 days ago15 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewWATCH: Christmas time at @hazelwoodni as the choir performs some festive songs for visitors from Lansdowne Nursing……6 days ago14 December 2018
Anthony Neeson
Anthony Neeson@NeekyatnRT @ColmDore: A point well made by @davidmcw , citing the expression “skin in the game” to point out that parties which seek Presidential v…7 days ago13 December 2018
Anthony Neeson
Anthony Neeson@NeekyatnRT @FeileBelfast: Intense interest from the audience at tonight’s David McWilliams in Conversation with William Crawley discussion at St Ma…7 days ago13 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewThis week’s paper is on sale now! #FrontPage #LocalNewsThatMatters #CommunityPlatform #CommunitySport days ago13 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewDon’t forget your Family Notices/Christmas blessings for next week’s papers @ATownNews @puntersg @newbelfast……1 week ago13 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewSurprise your loved ones abroad with a Christmas or New Year greeting in our sister paper @newbelfast @ATownNews……1 week ago13 December 2018
North Belfast News
North Belfast News@NorthBelfastNewRT @NBAPAdvice: I have a request folks I need empty boxes for hampers about 200 of them, so if anyone has any please let me know and we wil…1 week ago12 December 2018
Evan Short
Evan Short@evansmsRT @CrossanBrendan: St Enda’s Glengormley – a club that never took a backward step via @irishnewssport…3 weeks ago02 December 2018
Evan Short
Evan Short@evansmsRT @DeptAHG: This discovery is 1 of 11 logboats found in the River Boyne. This is the first found to date to the Neolithic period – a sampl…4 weeks ago24 November 2018
BMGsport@BMG_sportReturn of the ‘Mac Attack’… via @ATownNews1 month ago15 November 2018
BMGsport@BMG_sportConlan ready for his Italian job on Vegas debut… months ago18 October 2018
BMGsport@BMG_sportTennyson has the tools to make it a Boston JT party… months ago18 October 2018
BMGsport@BMG_sportRT @AllyMcKenzie91: The Sideline Films promo for @JamesT931 v @TevinFarmer22 on October 20th. Ireland’s next world champion 👊🏻 https://t.c…2 months ago08 October 2018
BMGsport@BMG_sportRT @RossaGACBelfast: @boyler67 months ago28 September 2018

Hastings Gift Cards

Ipad App
Oisins Eye
FacebookFacebookTwitterVisit Us
Belfast Media Group © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

The British government can revoke Article 50 anytime they choose

The European Court of Justice issued a decision saying that Article 50 can be revoked by the UK. That means that at any time before the UK officially leave the EU in March, the British Government could simply decide to stay permanently.

With many thanks to the: Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) for the original posting.

‘Any Taig Will Do’. Courts Call Bullshit On Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

Tarlach MacDhónaill is scathing of a PSNI scam in West Belfast.

RUC/PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton was once literally a ‘Bobby’, patrolling the Lower Falls area of West Belfast and getting to know, no doubt, all the main names of the ‘underground’ world in that district.

In all likelihood then, the well-groomed PSNI golden boy knew full well, that none of those arrested in his old stomping ground on September 30th, (one of whom was charged with possession of a large amount of Cocaine) had any connection to the Irish National Liberation Army.

Yet Bobby Singleton now leads the PSNI’s ‘Paramilitary Crime Task Force’ which has been granted £25 Million over the period of five years as part of the Fresh Start Agreement, such figures demand results or at least the perception of results.

In a bizarre sequence of events on Tuesday last, charges against three Belfast men of ‘Conspiracy to rob a Boojum burrito bar’ were shot out of the sky by a Judge at first hearing due to the absence of that most basic Judicial requirement called evidence. One of the three was then remanded on a separate charge of possessing Cocaine with intent to supply. £140 000 worth of Cocaine.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party then released a statement in which they stated their belief that the PSNI had concocted a ‘sham charge’ against all three men and in so doing had dragged “two unconnected individuals into the dock, alongside a person separately charged with possession of Cocaine”, all in an attempt to create the impression of a collective conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in West Belfast.

In a PSNI press statement released on the morning of the arrests, Singleton had claimed that his force had been involved in an operation ‘focused on the criminal activities of the Belfast INLA.’ It succeeded in creating banner headlines and no doubt gave large sections of the public the general impression that the Belfast INLA was somehow and somewhere involved in the supply of Class A drugs.

Such an allegation would have had an obvious negative impact on the IRSP in West Belfast. Some weeks earlier their activists had made the front page of the local Andersonstown News for smashing a Cocaine supply operation in the same Divis area in which the latest Drug find in question had occurred.

Within that article, concerned parents of several local youths (victims of a predatory West Belfast drugs ring) claimed to have turned to the IRSP for help as they had (in their own words) ‘absolutely no faith’ in the PSNI.

The IRSP clearly believe now that Bobby Singleton has attempted to smear Republican Socialism in the Divis area by wrongly implicating the INLA in the very activity that the party were claiming to successfully oppose in the absence of local support for the PSNI – Drug dealing.

Their theory holds (at the very least) as much credence as the conspiracy charges which Singleton unsuccessfully tried to put before Judge Fiona Bagnall during his now doomed operation. The pressure which his ‘Paramilitary Crime Task Force’ no doubt comes under to be seen ‘balance the books’ following months of high-profile actions against Loyalist paramilitaries, gives further weight to IRSP suggestions that in the absence of genuine Republican ‘Paramilitary Crime’, Bobby Singleton has instead taken an ‘Any Taig will do’ attitude towards the latest wave of arrests and raids on their members houses and offices. Indeed, what better Taigs to raise headlines with than suspected supporters of the INLA?

It was highly unusual, indeed unheard of for any Judge to summarily dismiss allegations of the PSNI in a remand hearing allegedly involving Anti-Good Friday Republican ‘Paramilitaries’. It may indeed be the first case of its kind since 1998.

Yet the PSNI, until now, have relied upon both a compliant judiciary and a compliant press to create and promote narratives that they wish to be accepted in the public eye, the IRSP’s rebuffing of Bobby Singleton’s grandiose claims is unlikely to attract any mainstream press interest whatsoever and the IRSP will no doubt suffer negative public perceptions as a result.

Bobby Singleton is aware of this uneven power dynamic. He (and MI5 who command the Police service of which he is a part) is also aware of the growing support which a rejuvenated IRSP are gaining in communities such as Divis and the Lower Falls, the product of a wave of local, national and international political activities which the party has recently undertaken in what can be described as a ‘Peace Process’ of their own liking.

This is not the first time that the ‘Paramilitary Crime Task Force’ has used such broad stroke tactics against the Republican Socialist Movement. During the past year in both Derry and Belfast, targets of seemingly Bona Fide Policing operations have been arrested and had their homes searched simultaneously to members of the IRSP, with following far stretched press releases enough to brand the operations in questions “Investigations into the Criminal activities of the INLA”.

A modus operandi is being firmly established as are twin aims, the undermining of a political movement which the state has hated since its inception and (Just as importantly for Bobby Singleton) the public perception of a crack down on Irish Republicans, as opposed to ‘just Loyalists’.

Had the individual arrested for possession of Class A drugs been charged and remanded alone, it would have been viewed publicly as just another drug arrest in West Belfast. Yet a few more Catholics in the back of police cars, along with the right type of press briefings, were all that were needed to make this a political publicity coup for the ‘Paramilitary Crime Task Force’.

All the usual pieces of the Jigsaw were in place for Bobby Singleton in this instance. Wth the headline already floated by the Press, all that was required was the rubber stamping of a Judge and the appearance of an INLA criminal clampdown would be complete. In most cases the PSNI can rely on such rubber stamps without question.

Unfortunately for Bobby Singleton, it appears that a feisty female Belfast Judge had other ideas and put the requirement for evidence before the prominence of one department’s financial and political agenda.

Bullshit was called on the political antics of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, and now inevitable questions around abuses of power, abuse of public funds, possible sectarianism and blatant lies told to the West Belfast community, will increasingly come to the fore.

➽Tarlach MacDhónaill is an activist with the North Belfast IRSP.

With many thanks to the: Anthony McIntyre and The Pensive Quill for the original posting.




Timeline of Events (38)

May 5th 1976


There has been no shortage of articles and documentaries chronicling the various escapes from prisons by Republican prisoners, however, there has been little written about the INLA escape from Cage 5 in 1976, which ranks as the very first mass escape from Long Kesh prison camp. The first mass escape from Long Kesh in 1976, occurred on the 5th of May, a date that ironically doubly ties it to Irish Republican penal history, as by grim coincidence Bobby Sands died on Hunger Strike some 5 years later, in 1981. The Irish Republican Socialist POW’s who successfully made that first mass escape from the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp were:

1.Seamus O’Kane,
2.Cahir O’Doherty,
3.John-Eddy McNicholl,
4.Harry Flynn,
5.Gerry Clancy,
6.Hen Doherty,
7.Jake McManus,
8.Joe Kelly
9.Gerard Steenson.

The Red Moles

The Republican Socialist prison-breakers chose tunnelling as their means of escape and brought new meaning to the term ‘Red Moles! ‘ An even more remarkable fact, about the 1976 Republican Socialist mass escape, was that the Irish Republican Socialist Movement had only been formed 2 years earlier, at the IRSM’s inaugural convention at the Spa hotel, Lucan, near Dublin. Unlike the Provisionals, who have made a cottage industry and travelling roadshow, based around the second mass escape from Long Kesh in 1983, Republican Socialists have been relatively reticent about their successful jail-breaking methodology. In contrast to others, they have been quietly modest about being the sole authors of the very first spectacular mass escape from Long Kesh.

The Cages Of Long Kesh

The Long Kesh prison of 1976 was very different from the prison of the H-Blocks era, which the general public would be more familiar with. Following a Hunger Strike by Billy McKee, by the time of the first mass escape, the British Government had given de jure POW status to Republican and Loyalist prisoners and the prison regime was reminiscent of a World War 2 camp for captured combatants, which conjures up images of the regime seen in the Hollywood movie, The Great Escape. The similarities did not end there, as like any other era in Irish Republican penal history, the POWs spent much of their time devising ways to go under, over and indeed through the perimeter fence. Like the POW camps depicted in movies, the Republican prisoners were allowed to, more or less, control their own time, with the command structures of the various organisations being officially and legally recognised by their ‘opposites’ within the prison guards and indeed by the state itself.

Cage 5

There were in fact 10 Red Moles who emerged at the end of the Cage 5 tunnel, but the tenth escapee, Dessie Grew, injured his leg at the final wall-scaling stage of the escape and had to return via the subterranean passage to his Nissan hut. The Republican Socialist escapees had to morph into Communist Kangaroos to successfully clear all the rolls of barbed-wire, chain-link fences and the formidable perimeter wall, despite it being bathed in the glare of searchlights every few seconds! Unfortunately, two of the Irp escapees were captured some 10 miles away, later the following day by the British Army and RUC. The remaining seven Republican Socialist prisoners made good their escape, by a variety of ingenious methods.

SAS Death-Squads Was Deployed To Murder The IRSP/INLA Escapees! Authorised By The British Government.

As an interesting postscript to the Great Irp Escape from Long Kesh, several SAS death-squads were dispatched to track down and kill the Republican Socialist escapees. Their deployment had allegedly been authorised at cabinet level by the British government of the time and the death-squads were armed with a variety of irregular weapons, including pump action shotguns and Ingram Sub-machine pistols. Their use of ‘unconventional’ weaponry added weight to the widely held belief that, if the SAS had made good on their heinous manhunt, the escapees would have been murdered in cold blood, MRF-styl. One of the SAS death-squads, travelling in an unmarked van, were stopped at a joint Gardai-Free State Army checkpoint, 2 days later on the 7th of May. In contrast to the immediate imprisonment Republicans routinely received at the hands of the Gardai, the 8 man SAS death-squad were quickly flown back to their lairs.

Comrade Willie Gallagher from Strabane gives an account of his part played in digging the tunnel for the lads to escape.

“The tunnel in Cage 5 resembled nothing like what you would see in the movies and was indeed quite narrow in parts which required literally for us to wriggle through in parts. Looking back now it was quite dangerous and on a number of occasions we had a number of cave-ins when various degrees of parts of the ceiling of the tunnel collapsed and a number of times diggers had to be pulled out by the feet. The majority of us who dug the tunnel were all fairly young and had no sense of danger. I had just turned 18 at that time and in the interview I done I described that escape as an amazing experience and one of the best experiences I ever had whilst in prison.

The previous May five Irps from Cage 14 escaped from Town Hall Street when appearing for a remand hearing. There were at least two other near successful attempts from Cage 14 that same year and towards the end of ’75 we were moved to Cage 6 and then to Cage 5 by the screws in an attempt to frustrate escapes. I’m sure some of us, who took part in the escape, have different recollections. For example in the interview I done I said I thought the tunnel took three weeks, four at most to dig whereas Micky Smith thought it took six weeks. Even though I covered this in the visual/audio interview I’ll give some of my memories on this event which has been practically air-brushed out of republican history.

The tunnel in Cage 5 actually began in my pad/cell/cubicle as it was the second last pad from the end of the hut which was nearest the fence which surrounded our Cage. Each living hut was divided in two with a narrow corridor in the middle of the hut. This was partitioned off into what we called pads, others called them cells or cubicles. They were in effect wooden cells with a curtain covering the entrance of each pad. The hut were Nissan huts made up of sheeting of corrugated paper-thin metal. At the entrance of each hut was a boiler and a small ring like cooker for making toast and cooking. At the other end was a TV and small toilet.

I can recall Frank Gallagher from Beechmount who was the OC of the Cage convening a meeting of those selected to take part in the escape. Some prisoners were moved out of our hut and others who were selected moved in. Escape plans were nothing unusual for the Irps but this one had a greater sense of excitement as it was the first tunnel plan as this Cage was closer to the perimeter wall than the other Cages we were previously in. Materials such chisels and the ingredients for making a small concrete block were smuggled in. Light bulbs were stolen from the hospital quarters which was in a different place in the camp. Blow heaters which were in the huts were converted into pumps for putting oxygen down the tunnel though this was used in the latter stages. Cooking utensils and food trays were converted into digging equipment. Much of this was done by Cahir O‘Doherty from the Bone who was one of the eldest prisoners in the Cage. I think he was only 40 then though he looked about 70 to us at the time. Cahir was a genius in improvising and played a crucial role in the escape.

We got into action immediately after the next big search with the first part of the operation being the entrance of the tunnel which would be located under my bed. Four floor tiles were removed intact which measured, give or take a few inches, 18 square inches. This area was chiseled out and was, I think, maybe 8 inches deep. During this loud music was played from record players playing LPs which wasn’t unusual with look outs were placed strategically throughout the Cage to spot any unusual activity from the screws. The screws were not allowed into the Cage except at night time, 9pm, to do the head counts and lock us in the huts and in the morning to unlock and do head counts. The only other times they were allowed in was during big searches and what they called tunnel searches. Tunnel searches consisted of two screws being accompanied by a member of the Cage staff who would do a bit of tapping on floors with hammers listening for an echo which would indicate a tunnel. I’m not sure how long this took to complete but it wasn’t long. If I had have brought you into my pad and said there’s a tunnel in here, there’s no way you’d pinpoint it. The entrance was visually perfect and was a work of art. Basically you flipped a corner of the tile, pulled it back and there was a handle made of rope like material imbedded into a constructed concrete block and it was just a matter of lifting the whole lot up intact. It literally fitted like a glove.

We dug about 6 foot down and headed towards the perimeter wall. We divided up into teams and worked almost 24/7 in the digging. We would stop an hour before lock up/head-count at night and an hour before unlock/head-count in the morning. Each team throughout the day and night got breaks for food and sleep with smaller breaks for cups of tea and a smoke. As the tunnel progressed a stick with a white hankie would be poked up through the ceiling of the tunnel to gauge the distance and direction of the tunnel itself. We normally went down the tunnel wearing just football shorts as it was quite warm despite the wetness and flooding at times from rain falls. A number of photographs were taken but I never ever seen any of them and the camera may well have been taken by one of the escapees.

The ceiling and sides of the tunnel was shored up at various points which we thought were weak with bits of wood and sheets from the wooden pads. It was a patch work job and lengthy parts of the tunnel had no protection at all with nothing shoring up the walls and ceiling. There were a number of cave-ins of various degrees some freaky enough with a few being dragged out by the feet from underneath a pile of soil. The gases from the soil had a sickly impact as well as giving ones headaches and this became more intense as the tunnel progressed so this restricted the time each of us would be digging at the face of the tunnel. Some parts were very narrow which only required one person digging at the face with other parts wider allowing two to dig. We used improvised trowels for digging, the food trays for putting the soil in which would be relayed back up the tunnel by prisoners strategically placed along the length of the tunnel where a team at the entrance would bag the soil and hide the bags between the corrugated sheets of the hut itself. The amount of soil was unbelievable and eventually every hut was filled with soil between those corrugated sheets. In the last days of the tunnel there was no more room for the soil and we had no other choice but store the bags inside clothes lockers which meant a search would uncover them.

We were both lucky and unlucky during this period. For example I can recall the floors not being properly dried after a clean up in the morning which would be hugely suspicious. Also I recall a mucky handprint on a mug beside the boiler at the entrance of the hut which would have given the tunnel away if spotted by the screws. We never got the usual bed linen change which I think was every three weeks. Many of the bed sheets were used for bagging the soil and so many could not have been accounted for. We also got at least one tunnel search during that period but again luck was on our side.

The original plan was to empty the whole Cage of those doing or facing big sentences but our luck had run out. The night before the escape there was a heavy rain fall which caused quite a bit of flooding in the tunnel. The next day however was like a summer day and a few of us were out the back taking a break. Some of the other lads actually took some mattresses out doing some sun-bathing. I can’t remember who spotted a small hole appearing in the yard directly above the tunnel which caused great concern. The talk was the tunnel was fucked, it had fallen short of it’s objective, was flooded and at the point of collapse from the yard. Some bright spark, whose name I can’t recall, had the idea of putting one of the mattresses over the hole and hoping for the best. The hole wasn’t too big but was very noticeable and would have definitely been discovered. It was the practice of the screws to walk around the yard just before the night time head-count and lock up. Up until that point we thought we needed at least another week maybe longer to complete the tunnel but the hole in the yard had changed those plans. It had to be that night or else it was fucked. The screws that night just walked around the mattress barely looking at it and then the head count was completed and we were locked up for the night. I’m not sure exactly what time the batch of 11 prisoners went at, 11pm perhaps midnight. Bags of clothes were prepared as you couldn’t get through the tunnel without getting soaked due to flooding which was quite deep in parts and also money was distributed. Lookouts were strategically placed keeping an eye out for Brits patrolling the perimeter and watching the two Brit watch towers. We were all very conscience of the mass escape attempt from, I think, Cage 4, by PIRA at the end of ’74 which resulted in Hugh Cooney being shot dead. The tunnel fell short of reaching the perimeter but I can’t recall how far. We watched the first escapee pop his head up and crawl towards the wall. Grappling hooks were made from the tubular framework of the chairs and ropes from sheets. Dessie Grew fell from the wall on the inside of the perimeter badly hurting himself and another prisoner, whose name I can’t recall either, brought him back through the tunnel which was caving in in parts.

We waited up all night watching and listening for any indications of the escape being rumbled but nothing untoward happened. Next morning the screws had came in for their usual unlock and head-count and no doubt were curious as they pulled each curtain back seeing prisoners fully clothed with big smiles. You could hear the odd snigger and when they got to my pad, which I obviously wasn’t in, they would have seen a pile of soil and a hole in the floor. There was a scream of “fuck” and I think a shout of “escape” which was drowned out by the running of feet and all us laughing and cheering.

Two of the lads were caught the following night, Cahir O’Doherty and Gerard Steenson. I think all of us were shattered for Cahir in particular as he put his heart and soul into escape plus he was the brains behind the improvised tools, lighting and supplying oxygen into the tunnel.

About half an hour later the Cage was full of screws like a big black blanket of the cunts. They took us out one at a time, each of us refusing to give our names hoping to frustrate them getting the identities of the escapees for as long as possible. Each of us had to walk down to the canteen between a gauntlet of screws who were hissing and the usual remarks of scumbag etc. We were locked in the canteen for I think two days whilst they done a search and sealed the tunnel with all our possessions threw down it and sealed with concrete.”

Willie Gallagher
Irish Republican Socialist Movement.

With many thanks to the: History of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement for the original posting.


Follow this link to find out more and LIKE their FACEBOOK page: