Look at it from every point of view, and still our own Cave Hill stands unrivalled. Ben Madhigan is well named the Hill of Caves, for there are three large caves on the face of the precipice. They were used in the old war times as hiding places for prisoners as well as for treasure. Sir Samuel Ferguson tells us they were also used as hiding places for the people in times of danger. The lowest cave is quite easy of access, and it opens just above the large semi-circle which is called the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It is twenty-one feet long, eighteen feet wide, varies from seven to ten feet high, and it is dry and clean. The next cave is ten feet long, seven feet wide and six feet high. The third cave is the largest, but so difficult of access, that few people venture to ascend such a dangerous cliff. It is very extensive and is divided into two parts. It must have been in this upper cave that Corby MacGilmore kept his prisoners.
Gino Gallagher was callously murdered by a hired assassin over 15 years ago on January 30th, 1996. Born Gino Majella Gallagher in 1963 to Irish Republican parents, his mother Theresa was a member of the first Ard-Chomhairle of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and his father, Patrick, had been on hunger and thirst strike in a Dutch prison protesting against extradition to Britain in the 1970’s.
Contemporary IRSP activists and especially younger Irish Republican Socialists, who may not have known him owe much to Gino Gallagher, not least being that he is credited with refurbishing Costello House, the IRSPs national headquarters on Belfast’s Falls Road. At his insistence, Costello House was transformed from being a run-down, semi-derelict building into something resembling the working party offices that exist there today. Gino Gallagher, in his then role as IRSP POW spokesperson was responsible for obtaining the re-patriation of INLA prisoners from English gaols. He also was instrumental in forcing the NIO to agree to negotiating rights for the Irish Republican Socialist Party in relation to the INLA prisoners in Long Kesh.
Politician and Soldier, Soldier and Politician
Although a feared military operator, who at the time of his death was Chief of Staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) he was also a highly politicized Republican Socialist activist who embodied Ta Power’s doctrine of ‘every soldier a politician, every politician a soldier’. Gino Gallagher was instrumental in promoting the central tenets of Ta Power’s analysis and vision for the Republican Socialist Movement which stressed the primacy of politics. Gino Gallagher described Ta Power as, ‘the biggest influence in my life’ . Tragically, both men were to meet similar cruel ends, cut down by the Judas bullets of counter-revolutionaries.
Gino Gallagher was made INLA Chief of Staff following the arrest and subsequent expulsion of Hugh Torney and his associates when they declared an unauthorised INLA ceasefire from the dock of a Dublin courtroom in 1995, in return for a successful bail application after their arrest in Ballbriggan. By all accounts, Torney had been an a one-dimensional militarist, at best, and his tenure as INLA Chief of Staff was marked by his concerted attempts at running down the political wing, the IRSP. Torney would have resented Gino Gallagher’s reversal of the IRSP’s political fortunes and his drive to make the party the significant player it had once been.
Feared In Life and Death
Gino Gallagher was cruelly shot dead as he waited to sign-on at the Falls Road offices of the Social Security Agency, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 1996. The assassin who the Torney cabal hired to murder one of the IRSM’s most able leaders was Kevin McAlorum, the career criminal son of an infamous North Belfast drugs dealer. Both Torney and McAlorum met violent ends, the former only 8 months later on 3 September 1996 and the hired assassin 8 years later on June 4th, 2004, by grim irony only the day after Gino Gallagher’s father’s funeral.
Even in death the forces of reaction feared and hated Gino Gallagher, heavily armed RUC and British army stormtroopers invaded the family home, disrupted the funeral procession and beat mourners. Gino Gallagher was buried in Milltown cemetery on 2 February, 1996, with the funeral oration delivered by IRSP Ard Chomhairle member, Michael McCormick, who paid tribute to his political activism and revolutionary zeal. The oration praised Gino Gallagher’s promotion of ‘open democratic discussion’ , his struggle against ‘elitist, militaristic and non-political attitudes in the movement’ and how he, through determined activism ‘along with others, revitalised the Republican Socialist Movement.’ Gino Gallagher’s funeral oration ended with the sentence:
“Finally, as we lay this Volunteer and Comrade ino the soft green soil
of his native land, remember him each time you gaze into the stars
and see there etched across the sky, the Plough and the Stars!”
Today, his cowardly killer and those who hired him have been dispatched to the dustbin of history but Gino Gallagher’s image is immortalised in murals and commemorative plaques in his native west Belfast. Though times have changed greatly since 1996, Gino Gallagher’s legacy lives on in a revitalised IRSP that has fully endorsed the primacy of politics and continues to represent the interests of working-class people.
On 28th October 1976, 28 years ago, Sinn Féin Vice President Máire Drumm was shot dead in her hospital bed.
Máire Drumm (née McAteer), was born in the townland of Killeen, South Armagh, on 22 October 1919 to a staunchly republican family. Máire’s mother had been active in the Tan War and the Civil War.
In 1940, Máire joined Sinn Féin in Dublin. In 1942, she moved to Belfast, which became her adopted city and she continued her republican activities. Every weekend, Máire would carry food parcels to the republican prisoners in Crumlin Road Jail and it was here that she met Jimmy Drumm, who she married in 1946.
When the IRA renewed the armed struggle in the late 1950s, Jimmy was again interned without trial from ’57 to ’61.
Máire became actively involved in the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s. She worked tirelessly to rehouse the thousands of nationalists forced from their homes by unionist/loyalist pogroms.
During her work as a Civil Rights activist, Máire emerged as one of the Republican Movement’s most gifted leaders and organisers. Máire was the first to warn that the British troops sent in as “peace keepers” were a force of occupation. Máire was a dynamic and inspirational speaker. Once, when addressing a rally in Derry after the shooting of two men from the city, Máire said:
“The people of Derry are up off their bended knees. For Christ sake stay up. People should not shout up the IRA, they should join the IRA.”
In 1972, Máire became Vice President of Sinn Féin. Due to their dedication to the republican struggle, Máire’s family was continuously harassed by the RUC, British Army and by loyalist intimidation. The British Army even constructed an observation post facing their home in Andersonstown. At one point, her husband and son were interned at the same time. Her husband, Jimmy became known as the most jailed republican in the Six Counties. Máire was also jailed twice for ‘seditious’ speeches, once along with her daughter.
In 1976, her eyesight began to fail and she was admitted for a cataract operation to the Mater Hospital, Belfast. On 28 October 1976, as Máire lay in her hospital bed, loyalist killers wearing doctors white coats walked into her room and shot her dead.
Máire Drumm, freedom fighter and voice of the people, was buried in Milltown Cemetery. One of her most famous quotes was:
“We must take no steps backward, our steps must be onward, for if we don’t, the martyrs that died for you, for me, for this country will haunt us forever.”
THE Republican paramilitary group known as the ‘IRA’ last night claimed it was “confident” it struck an RUC/PSNI vehicle with an EFP mortar in Strabane last week.
In a statement the organisation, sometimes referred to as the ‘New IRA’, said it fired the potentially lethal device at the passing patrol car at Townsend Street in the Tyrone town last Tuesday night. The group claims the EFP (explosively formed projectile) mortar contained Semtex and was triggered by command wire and fired from a distance of nine feet at the police vehicle as it passed at around 8pm. The ‘IRA’ claims that the mortar was moved from another location in the border town earlier on Tuesday after the security forces failed to show up.
Using a recognised codeword, the republican group claimed that an attempt to target a police car with the same device at Townsend Street was abandoned an hour before the attack because of the prescence of civillian vehicles in the area. The RUC/PSNI has said that the device, which it described as a “roadside bomb with command wire attached” was “designed to kill or seriously injure” its officers. Three officers who were travelling in the vehicle were uninjured but believed to be left shaken. The RUC/PSNI vehicle left the area after the attack and police were later criticised for failing to cordon off the scenne for three hours.
Several people were removed from their homes during a follow up operation but later allowed to return. Politicians have condemned the latest attack which came just weeks after the ‘IRA’ tried to kill a Catholic police officer in Derry using an undercar bomb. Policing Board member and SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: “Such attacks on the PSNI (RUC) have no place in a modern progressive society.” DUP MLA Tom Buchánan said: “There must be a united and resolute stand from right across the political spectrum to such activities.”
In August 2015, a motar was discovered and disarmed at a cemetery in Strabane after a security operation. EFPs, which can pierce armour over a long distance, have been used by the ‘IRA’ in Derry and Belfast in the past. On those occasions no-one was injured. Unexploded EFPs have also been recovered by the security forces accross the north. Believed to have been developed in Iran, the homemade weapon was regularly used in Iraq. It is considered by some as the modern version of the horizontal mortar – known to republicans as a ‘doodle bug’ – which was used by the Provisionals. Meanwhile, police have been given additional time to question a 20-year-old man arrested in Newtownstewart in connection with the attack last week, while a 31-year-old man arrested on Saturday continued to be questioned last night.
With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the orgional story.
How many people know why Donegall Pass has such a curious name? For whom was St. Anne’s Church named? It was not for Queen Anne. There were five Annes and five Arthurs in the Marquis of Donegall’s family and that explains why these names were so frequently used in Belfast. How many know why there is a King John’s Road in Holywood, and a King William’s Road on the Holywood Hill? Why is there a “Joy” Street in that particularly joyless neighbourhood, or a Fountain Street where no water is now seen?
Why should a road high and dry above the city be called The Falls? We shall find why these things are so in Belfast, and then see what is interesting in the places near us.
The first idea which suggested itself was to take the City Hall as a starting point, and in imagination take a walk along each road leading from it out to the suburbs. This is impossible, for in old times the place where the City Hall stands was surrounded with extensive fields and meadows for grazing, where we now have streets and houses.
We cannot go to the Lisburn Road or the Shore Road when there was no road there, so we must give up that plan and take the places as we can make the best out of them.
Belfast has no very ancient history as we know it in Ireland. Derry, Armagh, Newry, Carrickfergus and Bangor are richer in memories of the olden times, and these neighbouring places are filled with tales of thrilling interest.
Some one has truly said “Happy are the people who have no history,” and we know the best times are the years when nothing particular happens. So our fair city has been spared the bloodshed, the cruelties, and the destructions that were so painfully familiar to some more ancient cities.
It is mentioned in the “Four Masters”—a wonderful old book,—that there was a king’s residence about ten miles from Belfast and a great fort called Rathmore about the year 680. A little while before that time, Bel-Feirste was the scene of a battle which took place on the banks of the Lagan. St. Patrick was very near us when he was in County Down, but we are not told if he ever really came to Belfast.
The next mention of the town comes with the famous John De Courci, who arrived with a small army in the year 1177. He built a great many castles and churches, and lived in regal state in Downpatrick. He is said to have built the first castle in Belfast and a church where the old graveyard of Shankill is now. It was called the “White Church,” and the “Chapel of the Ford ” where St. George’s Church now stands was a minor building.
De Courci was made the first Earl of Ulster, and he built twenty strong fortalices round Strangford Lough, and great castles and churches at Ardglass and Greencastle, Dundrum, Antrim, and Grey Abbey all owe something to his masterful guiding hand. King John next came in 1210. He arrived at Jordan’s Castle in Ardglass on the 12th of July. He visited Dundrum, Downpatrick, and Carrickfergus and crossed the Lough to Holywood on the 29th of July, where the road he passed along is still known by his name. The O’Neills were for one thousand years great warriors in Ulster, and the story of that powerful family would fill volumes. One branch of the clan was intimately connected with Belfast, Clannaboy Clan-Aod-Buide—children of yellow Hugh O’Neill.
The principal stronghold was the Grey Castle, at Castlereagh, which was in existence long before the name of Belfast was on any document, and was once called “The Eagle’s Nest” from its situation and the powerful influence of Conn O’Neill. The coronation stone chair of the O’Neills is now in the Museum in College Square. It was found among the ruins of the Old Castle, and was brought to Belfast in the year 1755, but the chair of state had many adventures. It was built into the wall of the Butter Market. No doubt many a farmer’s wife found it a resting place. Afterwards for some unknown reason it was taken to Sligo. Then it was brought back, and has found a home in the Belfast Museum. King Conn O’Neill has left his name at Connswater and Connsbridge. Many a story is told of him, and his end was very sad. He was imprisoned in Carrickfergus, but he managed to escape to Scotland. In order to save his life he was obliged to transfer his property to Sir James Hamilton and Sir Moses Hill, for he was the owner of 244 townlands. In the year 1606, he gave seven townlands to Sir Hugh Montgomery and seven to Sir Fulke Conway. His vast estates were taken from him, and he died in great poverty in a small house at Ballymenoch near Holywood. All the land as far as the eye could see had once belonged to him, and, at the end of life, he could claim only a grave in the old Church that once stood at Ballymachan.
On 23 March 1922, five members of the McMahon family and another man were murdered by the RIC in their family home in North Belfast.
At 1.20 am, masked men sledgehammered down the door of the three-storey house at 3 Kinnaird Terrace, rousing the occupants, who at first suspected a bomb had been put in the letterbox, from their beds.
The murderers quickly collected the women of the house and locked them in a back room. They then forced 50-year-old Owen McMahon and his five sons, ages 11 to 24, and a 25-year-old male boarder, into the living room. The leader of the assassins told the men and boys to avail of the few moments to pray for their souls. As they were praying, the gang opened fire.
Owen McMahon and three of his boys died instantly, as did boarder Ed McKinney. Another McMahon son, Bernard, died of his wounds a week later. Amazingly, the shots intended for 11-year-old John McMahon missed. The boy, shrieking with fright, ran round the dining-room table. Two more shots were fired at him as he ran, these ricocheted off the table into the wall. The boy managed to get under the sofa and lay there until the killers had fled. John McMahon later identified the killers as uniformed, but masked, police. He was absolutely categorical about the murderers’ identity in his statement to local clergy: “Four of the five men were dressed in the uniform of the RIC but, from their appearance, I know they are Specials, not regular RIC.”
An explosion of violence accompanied Britain’s 1920 partitioning of Ireland, the Irish Tan War, and the ensuing Irish Civil War. From July 1920 to July 1922, 453 died in Belfast alone. Over 60 percent were Catholics, who then made up a third of the population. The McMahons, a business family, were killed in reprisal for the IRA killing of two police auxiliaries the day before.
There is no doubt that some members of the B-Specials were present at the McMahon killings but it must be remembered that the ‘Specials’ were in fact mere ‘helpers’ to those who were involved in the planning and carrying out of such attacks and who were all members, and in most cases high rankings members, of the RIC. They were known as the Cromwell Club and were established in Belfast. These death squads were set up by the Unionist Party and attacked Catholics when the opportunity arose. Their sectarian purpose was to drive all the Catholics out of the newly formed Ulster State.
A chief Belfast death squad leader was Inspector John Nixon. The Stormont government eventually tried to dismiss him, but backed off when he threatened to publicly name senior police and unionist politicians who had helped in the murder gangs.
Nixon was elected five times to Britain’s Parliament and he was awarded an MBE by King George in 1923 for his “valuable service during the troubled period”.
After interviewinree Sinn Féiners (in their homes)… the only way to stop these cold-blooded murders.”
A week after the McMahon incident, in a deliberate attempt to wreck the Craig-Collins pact, lorry loads of RIC and Specials from Brown Square barracks perpetrated the “Arnon Street Massacre” of five Catholics.
Such was the weight of evidence against Nixon and named police for these murders that DI Lynn not only “investigated… the police for murder” but ordered the police suspects to parade for identification.
However, as Fr Laverty reported, they refused; and Craig resisted demands for an inquiry.
On Sunday 26 March 1922, the funeral of the Owen McMahon and his three sons, Frank, Patrick and Gerald, left St Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street, en route for burial in Milltown Cemetery. Thousands lined the streets to show their abhorrence for the brutal killings.
One week later the RIC were renamed the RUC.
On 29 January 2003,the North Belfast News reported that, following a request from the DUP’s Ian Crozier, Belfast City Hall would ask the Department of Social Development for the former home of RUC Officer and Unionist MP John Nixon to be declared a national monument.
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.