Stair na hÉireann

Irish Female Convicts and Children Transported to Australia in 1848. Mary Ryan age 12 Crime- Larceny Convicted in Waterford, Mary Jane Movraw age 14 Crime- Larceny Convicted in Antrim, Bridget Haughegan age 15 Crime- Larceny Convicted in Galway, Margaret McConnell age 15 Crime-Larceny Convicted in Down.

Oglach Thomas McElwee 30/11/1957 – 8/8/1981 Died after 63 days on Hunger-Strike RIP


Belfast Nga

Thomas Mc Ilwee died today 32 years ago, he was a young man of 23 years.

Thomas McElwee

Thomas McElwee, the fifth of twelve children, was born on November 30th, 1957, into the small, whitewashed home built by his father, along the Tamlaghtduff Road in the parish of Bellaghy.Jim and Alice McElwee married in 1950 and had twelve children, Kathleen, Mary, Bernadette, Annie, Enda, Thomas, Benedict, Joseph, Nora, Pauline, Majella and the youngest James.

Tom McElwee went to St Mary’s primary in Bellaghy, and then to Clady intermediate, three miles away.Thomas got on pretty well at school. From he was eleven Thomas had an intense interest in working with cars and all types of machinery.

As he grew older, his fascination for engines grew stronger. He got his driving licence as soon as he was old enough, and got his own car. He used to travel all over the place to watch stock-car racing.

Thomas joined Fianna Eireann when he was only 14, and subsequently joined the independent unit led by his cousin, Francis Hughes before it was recruited in its entirety, after a period of time, into the IRA.The following few years, before Thomas’ capture in October ‘76, were active ones in the South Derry area.

He had been arrested on a couple of occasions but on October 9th 1976, Kathleen answered the phone, to be told that both their brothers Thomas and Benedict were in the Wavery hospital in Ballymena following a premature bomb explosion in a car in the town, shortly beforehand.In the explosion, Thomas lost his right eye, while two other Bellaghy men were also injured: Colm Scullion losing several toes and Sean McPeake, losing a leg.Benedict McElwee, fortunately, suffered only from shock and superficial burns.

Following the explosion, several other republicans in the town were arrested, later to be charged. These included Dolores O’Neill, from Portglenone, Thomas’ girlfriend, and Ann Bateson, from Toomebridge, both of whom joined the protest in Armagh women’s jail.

Thomas was transferred from the Ballymena hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for emergency surgery to save his remaining eye. It was three weeks, however, before he was able to see at all.One week before Christmas, he and Benedict were charged and sent to Crumlin Road jail.

At their subsequent trial in September 1977, having spent over eight months on remand in Crumlin Road, Thomas was convicted not only of possession of explosives but also for the killing of a woman who accidentally died in a bomb attack elsewhere in Ballymena that day and with which other republicans were also charged.That ‘murder’ conviction was, on appeal, reduced to 20 years for manslaughterand Thomas returned to the blanket protest he had joined immediately after his trial, in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

The McElwee family weren’t surprised last December when they discovered that both Thomas and Benedict had joined the thirty strong hunger-strike, as Sean McKenna neared death.

Thomas McElwee died at 11.30am on Saturday, August 8th. THOMAS McELWEE Aged 23 from South Derry. Commenced hunger-strike June 8th, died August 8th after 63 days.

Mary Queen of the Gael, intercede for the souls of all our Patriot Dead. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, in the mercy of God rest in peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, comrades and friends of Patriot Dead at this time.

Mary Banríon na nGael, intercede do na anamacha na ár dtírghráthóirí léir Dead. Bealtaine a n-anamacha, agus an anamacha de na departed dílis, i an trócaire Dé chuid eile i síochána. Is iad ár smaointe agus paidreacha leis na teaghlaigh, chomrádaithe agus do chairde de Tírghrá ag

For what Died the Son’s of Roisin, Was it Fame?

Wolfe Tone circa 1794. Tone is considered by m...

Wolfe Tone circa 1794. Tone is considered by many as the father of Irish Republicanism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wicklow Independent Workers union

For What Died the Sons of Róisín, was it fame?

For what flowed Irelands blood in rivers,

That began when Brian chased the Dane,

And did not cease nor has not ceased,

With the brave sons of ´16,

For what died the sons of Róisín, was it fame?

For What Died the Sons of Róisín, was it greed?

For What Died the Sons of Róisín, was it greed?

Was it greed that drove Wolfe Tone to a pauper’s death in a cell of cold wet stone?

Will German, French or Dutch inscribe the epitaph of Emmet?

When we have sold enough of Ireland to be but strangers in it.

For What Died the Sons of Róisín, was it greed?

To whom do we owe our allegiance today?

To whom do we owe our allegiance today?

To those brave men who fought and died that Róisín live again with pride?

Her sons at home to work and sing,

Her youth to dance and make her valleys ring,

Or the faceless men who for Mark and Dollar,

Betray her to the highest bidder,

To whom do we owe our allegiance today?

For what suffer our patriots today?

For what suffer our patriots today?

They have a language problem, so they say,

How to write “No Trespass” must grieve their heart full sore,

We got rid of one strange language now we are faced with many, many more,

For what suffer our patriots today?

IWU MAYDAY 01/05/2013



Liam O Loinsigh ~ Liam Lynch ~ 9 November 1893 ~ 10 April 1923 ~ RIP

mRDT-TcOVPCSRYtzDJEd01QLiam O Loinsigh – Liam Lynch

By Óglaigh Na HÉireann

Jeremiah and Mary Lynch (née Kelly) had seven children: John (Seán), Jeremiah, Margaret, Martin, Liam, James and Thomas. At the time of writing Thomas (‘Tom’), to whom the letters are addressed, was a clerical student at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, until he was ordained to the priesthood on 11 June 1922. He was afterwards Very Reverend Dean Lynch, P.P. of Bega, New South Wales, and died in a Sydney hospital on 28 March 1950. Martin, frequently referred to in the letters, joined the Christian Brothers and took the name Brother Placidus. He died in 1964.

Liam was born on 9 November 1893, five miles north of Mitchelstown, in the townland of Barnagurraha, near Anglesboro in county Limerick. He was baptised William Fanaghan Lynch. In 1910, when he was seventeen years old, he entered upon a term of three years’

apprenticeship to the hardware trade with Mr. P. O’Neill of Baldwin Street, Mitchelstown.

He joined the Mitchelstown Company of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913. Having completed his term of apprenticeship in 1913, he remained at O’Neill’s for a further year. In the autumn of 1915, he transferred to Messrs. J. Barry & Sons, Ltd., Patrick Street, Fermoy,

where he continued to be employed until he took up whole-time active service with the Army.

During the War of Independence he commanded the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the I.R.A. He was captured on 12 August 1920, but not being recognized he was released by the British troops. In March 1921 he was appointed to the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican

Brotherhood. Appointed Divisional Commandant, 1st Southern Division, on 26 April 1921, he was an influential figure in the War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty but worked to avoid a split in the Army and the nationalist movement in general. Appointed Chief of Staff in April 1922 at the Army Convention outlawed by the Provisional Government, he escaped following the attack on the Four Courts and returned to the south.

There he re-assumed command of the 1st Southern Division of the I.R.A. or ‘Irregulars’, the largest command, being one-quarter of the total force. Arriving in Mallow on 29 June he also announced his resumption as Chief of Staff of the I.R.A. In July/ August 1922 he directed that the I.R.A. should break up into small active service units of ‘flying columns’ in order to operate more effectively against the Provisional Government’s troops. He was a member of the Army Council which hoped to negotiate terms of peace that would not bring the country ‘within the Empire’. Following the killing of Seán Hales, T.D. on 7 December 1922 and the wounding of Deputy Speaker Padraic O’Máille, the Government instituted a round of executions of Republican prisoners. Lynch called on Republicans in arms not to surrender, but over the next two months, more of his battalion were captured by Government forces. Despite the hopelessness of his position he attempted to carry on the fight. A meeting of the I.R.A.

Executive was called to consider the new situation, as by now both Eamon de Valera and Frank Aiken favoured coming to terms with the Free State Government. Accompanied by Aiken, Lynch travelled to Cork to attend the meeting, stopping at a hideout owned by the

Phelan brothers in the townland of Poulacappal, county Tipperary on the way. On the morning of 10 April, the day of the meeting, he was shot and fatally wounded in a skirmish with Free State troops at Crohan West on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains. He died later that night in Clonmel. His death signalled the end of hostilities in the Civil War, as his successor, Frank Aiken, called a unilateral cease-fire on 30 April 1923.

On 7 April 1935, on the spot where Liam Lynch fell, a 60-foot high round tower surrounded by four bronze wolfhounds, was unveiled in his memory. Built with the volunteer labour of many of his old friends and comrades, it replaced the simple wooden cross that had stood

there for many years. A crowd estimated at fifteen thousand gathered that day to honour a man who had given his life in the cause of Irish freedom.


The letters were acquired by the National Library of Ireland from a niece of Liam Lynch, Mrs Peggy Lyne (née Lynch) in May 2001 (Accession No. 5760). Her father, Séan Lynch, received them from his brother, Fr. Tom, who brought them back from Australia

in the 1940s.

The letters were used by Florence O’Donoghue in his biography of Lynch entitled No Other Law: The Story of Liam Lynch and the Irish Republican Army, 1916-1923 (Dublin: Irish

Press Ltd, 1954). The letters were also referred to by Meda Ryan in her book Liam Lynch −the real chief (Cork: Mercier Press, 1986), and in Joe Walsh’s booklet The Story of Liam Lynch (Cork: Lee Press, 1973) produced on the fiftieth anniversary of Lynch’s death.

Note: all the letters are addressed to ‘Tom’, unless otherwise stated.


General Liam Lynch – Chief of Staff – Irish Republican Army.


22 July 1921.

Written from: Address torn away.

Signed: ‘L. L’.

‘Sorry I had not the pleasure of meeting Br. Placidus or Austin when at home . . . I expect you little dreamt that No 2 was in same military quarters as 1 & 3 . . . our fellows are suffering terrible agony by the hunger-strike but I believe they will win through. I could nearly wish that they would leave the Lord Mayor die, his death now would be worth a thousand later.’ (Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, arrested on 19 August 1920 died in prison on 25 October after 74 days on hunger-strike). wrote to you − sometime about March − I did indeed think it would be the last as enemy were continually dogging me & often close on my trail . . . I am living only to bring the dreams of my dead comrades to reality & every hour of my life is now entirely devoted to same . . . Too bad I missed Tom the other day . . . If Placidus is calling home I will strain every point to just call as I could get back with Tom, even though Truce is on we are still at high pressure. Through the war I have got to understand so much of the human being that when peace comes I would wish for nothing more that (sic) hide myself away from all the people that know me or even follow my dead comrades.’ ‘Glad so far that I was not the cause of getting the old home destroyed by reprissals’. (Liam was appointed Divisional Commandant, 1st Southern Division, on 26 April 1921. He then commanded nine brigades, comprising more than 30,000 officers and men. The Truce came unto effect on 11 July 1921.)

12 Dec 1921.

Written from: Dublin.

Signed: ‘Liam’.

The Supreme Council of the I.R.B., of which Liam was a member, met on 10 December 1921 and issued a note to divisional and county centres stating its decision that the peace treaty should be ratified. ‘Members of the Organisation, however, who have to take public action as representatives are given freedom of action in the matter’. In his letter of 12 December to Tom Liam gives his reaction to the decision: Assures Tom that ‘my attitude is now as always, to fight on for the recognition of the Republic. Even if I were to stand alone I will not voluntarily accept being part of British Empire. What ever will happen here on this week of destiny we must & will show an united front Thank God that we all can agree to differ. Minority of the Dail will stand by majority no matter what side, the same will apply to the army. It is only natural on such a big issue that there would be difference of opinion, the President has a fair backing of T.D.s but at the moment though I am almost certain of the issue I do not wish to state same. All my Division hold the one view & that strongly too, several other southern areas I know already are with us in this view. If the Government accept Treaty we shall not but strike for final victory at most favourable opportunity . . . Even if we must temporarily accept the treaty there is scarcely another lap to freedom & we certainly will knock her off next time. Speeches and fine talk do not go far these days, we have had already too much gas. What we want is a definite line of action . . . Sorry I must agree to differ with Collins, that does not make us worse friends. If the war is to be resumed he will again surely play his part as before, & that better than some of the Irish Diehards.’

6 July 1923.

To: Fr. Thomas Lynch (‘A Athair a Chara’).

Written on headed paper: ‘Óglaigh na h-Éireann (Irish Republican Army) General Headquarters Dublin.’ .

Signed: ‘Frank Aiken. Chief of Staff’.

Letter from Frank Aiken outlining the circumstances of Liam’s death on 10 April 1923, when he was shot by Government troops on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains. “The fight took place on a mountain as bare as a billiard table. Sean Hyde had him by the hand helping him along when he was hit . . . To leave him was the hardest thing any of us ever had to do. I was last leaving, having been carrying his feet. I was afraid to even say ‘Good-bye Liam’ least it would dishearten him . . . Liam’s death was a great blow to our chances of success, coming at the time it did. But they . . . [the press] . . . are quite wrong if they think they have heard the last of the I.R.A. & the Irish Republic. Although we have dumped our arms, we have not surrendered & there are several thousand men women & boys in Ireland yet, who believe it their duty to free our country & to see that Liam & the rest of our dead comrades have not died in vain.”

Liam Lynch – Chief of Staff I.R.A. – Killed in Action on the 10 April 1923 – Rest in Peace.

Oglaigh na hEireann Kieran Doherty, Died August 2nd 1981 ~ Rest in Peace


Óglaigh Na HÉireann

A dedicated republican and an outstanding soldier

When the family, friends and former comrades of Belfast IRA Volunteer twenty-five-year-old Kieran Doherty learnt that he was joining the H-Block hunger strike, as a replacement for Raymond McCreesh, it came as no surprise to them.

Although Kieran had spent seven of the last ten years imprisoned, his complete selflessness and his relentless dedication to the liberation struggle left no-one in any doubt that Kieran would volunteer for this terrible and lonely confrontation with British rule inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Last December he was amongst those thirty prisoners who were on hunger strike for four days prior to the ending of the original seven-strong strike.

Kieran was born on October 16th, 1955 in Andersonstown, the third son in a family of six children. His two elder brothers, Michael, aged 28, and Terence, aged 27, were interned between 1972 and 1974.

Kieran has two younger sisters, Roisin and Mairead; and his younger brother, Brendan, aged twelve, is still at school.


Kieran’s mother, Margaret, is a Catholic convert from a Protestant background. His father, Alfie Doherty, who is a floor-tiler by trade, is a well-known figure in Andersonstown.

Kieran’s paternal grandfather comes from Limavady, County Derry, and after his people moved to a house in North Belfast in the ‘twenties, they were threatened that the house was going to be burnt.

This was during the loyalist-initiated pogroms which followed partition.

They had to flee to West Belfast enacting a tragedy which was to repeat itself in front of Kieran’s eyes in the early seventies, and stir him to take action.

Alfie’s uncle, Ned Maguire, took part in the famous IRA roof-top escape from Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail on January 15th, 1943.

Ned Maguire’s son, also called Ned, and a second cousin of Kieran, was an internee in Cage S of Long Kesh in 1974, when he took part in the mass escape from the camp during which Hugh Coney was shot dead by the British army. Young Ned Maguire was one of the three who managed to reach Twinbrook before being recaptured. He is now on the blanket.

Ned’s sisters (and Kieran’s second cousins), Dorothy Maguire, aged 19, and Maura Meehan, aged 30, were shot dead by the British army on October 23rd, 1971, in a car in the Lower Falls area of Belfast. Both were members of Cumann na mBan.

Another relative of Kieran’s, his uncle, Gerry Fox, was part of the famous Crumlin Road jail ‘football team’, who escaped from the jail by climbing over the wall in 1972.


However, Kieran’s childhood was relatively ordinary. He loved sport more than anything else, and was always out playing Gaelic football, hurling or soccer.

Kieran went to St. Theresa’s primary school, then moved to the Christian Brothers secondary school on the Glen Road, where he studied until the age of sixteen.

A keen Gaelic footballer, he won an Antrim Minor medal in 1971 for St. Theresa’s GAC.

Kieran took up cycling for a while, following his brother, Michael, in St. Thomas’ cycling club. His mother recalls him taking part in a race with a faulty bicycle: “Although the chain came off at least twenty times through the race, he was so stubborn that he finished with a bronze medal.”

St. Thomas’ cycling club was later decimated by internment. Kieran, his brothers, and many other Andersonstown boys were to end up behind the wire. To such an extent, that Kieran s young brother, Brendan, asked his mother one day in 1975 when it would be his turn to go where all the ‘big boys’ were kept. Brendan was then six.

In the summer of 1971, Kieran got a job as an apprentice in heating engineering but was laid-off when the firm closed down a few months later. He worked for a while at floor-tiling with his father.


In the meantime, however, internment had burst open the lives of many Andersonstown families. Kieran had never been interested in politics until then: nor had his family ever discussed the political situation in front of him.

Like hundreds of other boys and girls of his age, he was moved by the sight of uprooted families leaving a home in cinders behind them. As all of the evacuees were being catered for in local schools, Kieran and his brothers begged their parents to allow them to go and help. Kieran saw the British army on the streets, his friends and their families harassed. He joined na Fianna Eireann in the autumn of ’71.

Kieran proved himself to be an outstanding member of the Fianna. Reliable, quick on the job, he was obviously giving the best of himself to every task assigned him with the aim of being noticed and recruited for the IRA as quickly as was possible.

Even at this early stage of his involvement, he is remembered for his initiative and his discreet ways. Unlike some boys of his age, he never boasted about his activities.

But the British army soon noticed him too and Kieran, his family, and his home, became a target for frequent British army harassment.

On October 6th, 1972, the British army came to arrest Kieran, despite his father’s objection that Kieran was under seventeen. The Brits had checked up, they said, and after a heavy house raid they took Kieran away in the middle of the night. His father got him released eventually after waking up the sexton of St. Agnes’ chapel and obtaining Kieran’s birth certificate.

The Brits were ten days too early.

True to form, on October 16th, the British army were back in force and swamped Kieran’s district, waiting for his return from work. But relatives managed to warn him and he was driven over the border to an uncle in Limerick.

He did not much enjoy his enforced exile and, bursting to get back into action, he made his way back to Belfast at the beginning of ’73.


A week or so later, he was arrested, taken to Castlereagh, and then interned in Long Kesh where he spent over two years from February ’73 to November ’75. He was among the last internees released.

Always even-tempered and quiet-spoken he used his time developing his military skills.

In a letter to his mother he wrote: “They might intern all of us, but we will come out fighting.”

He made a lot of handicrafts during his two-and-a-half years in captivity.

His parents’ home displays a lot of his work, in particular a hand-carved wooden plaque commemorating Dorothy Maguire and Maura Meehan.

On the eve of his birthday in October ’74, Long Kesh prison camp was burned. When visits were eventually resumed he did not complain to his parents of brutality but just remarked jokingly on the ‘birthday party’ he had been given.

He was released from Long Kesh in November ’75, as undaunted as he sounded in his letters, and reported back to the IRA immediately. Always eager to operate, he was included in a team of Volunteers from around Rossnareen which gave the British army in Andersonstown many sleepless nights until a wave of arrests in the summer of ’76.

As the IRA/British army truce petered out at the beginning of ’76, ‘Big Doc’, as he was known by all, soon had to move out of his parents’ house. Raids were a fortnightly occurrence, at least, with furniture wrecked and floorboards lifted.

Mrs. Doherty was tidying up a first-floor bedroom after such a raid when she fell through the carpet, the floor, and partly through the sitting-room ceiling. The Brits had omitted to replace the floorboards. The scar on the ceiling can still be seen.

Many friends who met Kieran after his internment period found him extremely mature for a lad of twenty, not boisterous like most people of his age. He obviously, by then, had thought things out, made a definite choice, and assessed the dangers.

As an operator he was a perfectionist and his comrades recall feeling extremely safe with him. Even in the eventuality of things going wrong they knew Kieran would not give anything away.


He had many narrow escapes.

One night, as he was shifting ‘gear’ in Andersonstown, he was chased up and down the side streets for over five minutes by two Brit landrovers.

Another time, as he was driving to a night job as security man for a firm, armed, as he often was, he drove into a British army road block.

He calmly took his tie out of his pocket, put it on, tidied himself up, and, winding down the window, shouted: “What’s up lads? Let me through, please, I’m going to my work, over there, security staff.”

And the British soldiers opened the way for him. ‘Big Doc’ was welcome in many Andersonstown homes and highly respected by all who knew him.

Families with whom he billeted remember how security conscious he was, staying away for days, using billets in no regular pattern.


Through those months of intense involvement Kieran had little chance to unwind. He mostly liked to go to local clubs for a quiet pint with a few friends.

He also had a reputation as a practical joker. One day he rang a friend from a pub and told him they were wrecking the place, simply to have his friend rush over in his car to pick him up.

In July ’76, a few weeks before his arrest, Kieran enjoyed one of the rare holidays he ever had since the arrival of British troops on his local streets. With a few close friends he drove to the South and was able to indulge in his love for outdoor activities, exhausting his friends with long walks and swims.

By that time he had met his girlfriend, Geraldine, the only steady relationship he ever formed during his short period of freedom.

They did not get much of a chance, as Kieran’s heavy republican involvement often interfered with their dating and since August ’76 they only met for a few minutes once in a while under the gaze of prison warders.


Kieran’s comrades-in-arms recall one particular operation, of the many he was involved in, when one Andersonstown Volunteer – Sean McDermott – was shot dead.

Kieran got away and was told to lie low for a few days, but nevertheless he appeared at his comrade’s funeral.

Sean McDermott’s mother has a photograph of the funeral cortege in which Kieran can be seen, standing on the footpath, sombre, alone, looking on as the coffin is carried to Milltown cemetery.

Sean’s death, and the arrest of other comrades involved, hit Kieran very hard.


In August ’76, as Kieran and his unit were on a bombing mission, the van in which they were travelling was chased by the RUC near Balmoral Avenue in Belfast.

Kieran got out of the van and commandeered a car, which he left some streets away and walked off.

Meanwhile, the others in the van were cornered, Liam White being captured immediately, and the others, Chris Moran, Terry Kirby and John ‘Pickles’ Pickering – himself later to embark on hunger-strike – finally giving themselves up when surrounded in a house they had taken over.

The RUC picked Kieran up one-and-a-half miles away from the scene, unarmed.

He was later charged with possession of firearms and explosives and commandeering the car. Forensic tests could not link Kieran to the first two charges, and although it was impossible for the RUC to have spotted him escaping, seventeen months later, at his trial, RUC Constable Bryons perjured himself twice in order to see Kieran locked up.

On remand in Crumlin Road jail he met Francis Hughes and developed a great admiration for him. Friends often speak of the similarities between the two, always defiant, always fighting, born free.

In Crumlin Road, Kieran was often ‘on the boards’ as punishment for his refusal to acknowledge the warders in any way. He carried this attitude into the H-Blocks after he was sentenced, in January 1978, to eighteen years imprisonment for possession, and four years for commandeering the car.


Kieran joined the blanket protest immediately as did his comrades sentenced with him. He spent all but two weeks of his three years and almost eight months in the H-Blocks, in H4-Block (the temporary spell was in H6), before being moved to the prison hospital during his hunger strike.

Recollections of Kieran’s experiences in the H-Blocks give an impression of relentless conflict between himself and the warders, who made him a target both because of his height and because of his stubborn defiance of the prison regime.

On ‘appeal’ visits he always had to be dragged away, ignoring all calls to end the visit. He never looked a warder in the face when one addressed him and never replied to their orders. He always refused to submit to the anal searches over the mirror before and after visits and was beaten for this.

The worst incident occurred in July ’78 when Kieran refused a mirror search before a legal visit. Eight warders jumped on him, one squeezing his testicles until he became unconscious. He received blows to every part of his body and was taken to the prison hospital.

Although people who visited him recall how often he arrived pale or with grazes on his arms or bloodshot eyes, he never complained, brushing their questions off with a shrug: “I’m OK. What’s the sceal?”


Although Kieran had not been taught Irish at school, and had no time to learn it, later he became a fluent speaker in the H-Blocks like hundreds of his imprisoned comrades.

Another skill mastered by Kieran, whilst in the H-Blocks, was playing chess – crude chess men were made from scraps of paper and the game was played on a mock board scratched out on the cell floors.

Displayed proudly in his parents’ sitting room is an engraved plaque bearing a stunning yet heartbreaking story in eight words: ‘Kieran Doherty, 1980 Champion, Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’.

And, next to it, another shield, again engraved ‘Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’, but this time with twelve metal tags, the top of which bears Kieran Doherty’s name and ’1980′, the other eleven still blank. A clue to Kieran’s patience and ability, a clue to the blanket men’s grim determination to outlast the H-Blocks.


In June of this year, in the Free State general election, Kieran was elected a member of the Leinster House parliament for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency with 9,121 first preference votes – only 303 votes behind the then-sitting Free State Minister of Education.


To a friend who visited him after the first hunger strike, which ended last December, Kieran said: “They (the warders) are really rubbing our noses in it. By God, they will not rub mine!”

Asked whether he would not settle down – after all, with five years done and remission, another six years would soon be over. He replied: “Remission has nothing to do with it. There is much more than that involved.”

So he went on hunger strike on Friday, May 22nd, having put his name forward for it long ago, as undaunted and full of fighting spirit as when he roamed free on the streets of Andersonstown.

A child, like hundreds of others a product of British brutality and stupidity in the North, who revealed himself to be an outstanding soldier of the republic.

Kieran was a shy, reserved, easily-embarrassed young man who was single-minded and determined enough to have become, in himself, a condensed history of the liberation of a people.

R.I.P. ~ Kieran Doherty…



Roger Casement



























Kevin Lynch ‘A loyal, determined Republican with a great love of life’


Belfast Nga

The sorrow of this day 32 years ago still impacts and is as hurtful today, as it was on 1st August 1981. Kevin Lynch lost his battle for life today, Kieran Doherty would lose his battle a matter of hours behind his comrade and friend as they lay in a prison hospital in Long Kesh 1981. Today our thoughts and prayers are with the families, comrades and friends of all our Patriot Dead. For those of you who think of them today, a silent prayer in their memory say. The following biography is taken from

Kevin Lynch

‘A loyal, determined republican with a great love of life’

THE EIGHT republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O’Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

Kevin Lynch was born on May 25th, 1956, the youngest of a family of eight, in the tiny village of Park, eight miles outside Dungiven. His father, Paddy, (aged 66), and his mother, Bridie, (aged 65), were born in Park too.Kevin went to St Canice’s primary school and then on to St Patrick’s intermediate, both in Dungiven.

His great passion was Gaelic Games and his finest achievement was leading the Derry Under 16 hurling team to All-Ireland success against Armagh at Croke Park.He also continued to play for Dungiven. He went off to work in England in 1973 with two of his brothers but on one of his trips home in August 1976 he decided to stay in Dungiven.

He was badly beaten by the British army shortly after his return home and he joined the INLA around this time.He was arrested in December 1976 along with his old friend Liam McClockey and two others. Three days later he was charged with a string of charges included conspiracy to disarm members of the enemy forces, taking part in a punishment shooting, and the taking of ‘legally held’ shotguns.Following a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast, he was tried and sentenced to ten years in December 1977.

He immediately joined the blanket protest in H3, and eventually finding himself sharing a cell with his Dungiven friend and comrade, Liam McCloskey. Both men received a number of bad beatings during the prison protest.He was one of 30 men to join the first hunger strike in December 1980 and took the place of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

Neither were his family, who supported him in his decision, surprised: ‘’Kevin’s the type of man’’, said his father, when Kevin was on the hunger-strike, ‘’that wouldn’t lie back. He’d want to do his share.’’

The direct consequence of that was Kevin’s death the seventh at that stage in the Long Kesh hospital at 1.00am on Saturday, August 1st after seventy-one days on hunger-strike.

KEVIN LYNCH Aged 25 from North Derry. Commenced hunger-strike May 23rd, died August 1st after 71 days.


Mary queen of the Gael, intercede for the souls of our departed family comrades and friends. May their souls, and the souls of all our patriot dead in the mercy of god, rest in peace

Mary banríon na nGael, intercede do na anamacha na ár gcomrádaithe teaghlaigh departed agus cairde. Bealtaine a n-anamacha, agus an anamacha as ár gcuid tírghráthóirí marbh go léir i an trócaire Dia, chuid eile i síocháin

Belfast NGA



Supporters of the Irish Republican Army

The present conflict in Ireland is a direct consequence of British colonial interference which has, for centuries, denied the Irish people their right to self-determination.


Ever since the initial invasion in 1169, the British have attempted to assert their authority in Ireland in the face of Irish resistance. For more than a thousand years before the British invasion began, the Irish had an individual and highly developed cultural identity, a progressive legal system and established political structures. To undermine and control the Irish nation, the British had to rely on the classical imperialist tactics of “Divide and Rule” and colonisation.

In the early stages of its colonial conquest of Ireland the British introduced apartheid laws which prohibited social contact, including intermarriage, between the colonists and the Irish. This apartheid legislation failed in its objective, however, because the colonists were few in number and widely dispersed so that they could not long maintain their separateness. More than four centuries after their arrival, the British effectively ruled only a tiny area of Ireland around the present capital city of Dublin, and even this area was subjected to the ever present reality of Irish resistance. Elsewhere the colonists had, as history records, become more Irish than the Irish themselves.

Britain renewed and intensified its efforts to conquer Ireland in the years following the Protestant Reformation. Since the Irish people remained overwhelmingly Catholic, they were regarded as a potential threat by Protestant Britain, especially in the era of religious wars which erupted in 16th and 17th century Europe.

A more effective method of colonisation known as Plantation, was implemented on a systematic basis with large concentrations of British people being ‘planted’ in various parts of Ireland where they received land grants. This policy was applied with particular zeal and efficiency in the northern part of Ireland (Ulster) where Irish resistance to British rule was always strongest. Here, as elsewhere, the native Irish population was dispossessed of its land and forced to flee into mountainous and boggy countryside.

The purpose of the Plantation policy was to pacify Ireland and to stabilise it in the interests of the British Government by establishing an effective garrison. The Planters constituted that garrison and their continued loyalty to Britain was secured on the basis of the social, political and economic privileges which they were given and on the continued ability of the British Government to keep them divided from the native population.

While the Plantation strategy was generally effective in stabilising British control, it was not always so, and Irish resistance continued throughout the 17th century until military defeat, dispossession and a series of Penal Laws combined to stifle opposition to Britain. By the end of the 18th century, when the religious wars were a fading memory and a new spirit of radicalism and Republicanism was spreading, it appeared that Britain’s divide and rule policy in Ireland had come unstuck when a section of the Protestant population (descendants of the Planters) joined with their Catholic neighbours in demanding an Irish Republic. The United Irishmen, as they became known, rose in rebellion in 1798 but this rebellion was brutally suppressed by the British and their native allies.

Those allies included the majority of the Protestant population (many of whom were organised in a sectarian Masonic movement known as the Orange Order) and also an emerging middle-class

which included Catholic business people and the Catholic hierarchy. All of these saw their interests being guaranteed by continued British rule rather than in a separate Irish Republic which was pledged to justice and equality for all its citizens.

In the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion the British decided that their control could only be guaranteed through direct rule from London. An Act of Union was introduced which transferred the limited legislative powers of the colonial ascendancy to the British Parliament where the interests of Ireland and the Irish people were subjected to the demands of and increasingly powerful and ambitious imperialist power.

Throughout the 19th century as the demand for Irish freedom was raised, and even the demand for limited freedom within the British Empire, the British Establishment deliberately fomented sectarian divisions and, when it suited, they gave every encouragement to the Orange Order. The Catholic middle-class which developed throughout this period articulated the demand for limited freedom through constitutional methods but they did not want to break the link with Britain. The republican tradition of militant separatism continued to win support amongst the people of no property but a large part of this support base was obliterated in the Great Famine of the 1840′s and through continued emigration to Britain, the USA and Australia.

There were several armed uprisings throughout the century but even though they followed inn the republican tradition of the United Irishmen they failed to attract the same degree of popular support and were easily suppressed.

With the gradual extension of the franchise it became clear in the late 19th and 20th centuries that the limited independence of “Home Rule” would have to be conceded if the stability which Britain needed in Ireland was to continue. In Ulster, where the descendants of the Planters still constituted a privileged Unionist majority in favour of the union with Britain, a pro-British and sectarian armed force called the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was formed to resist the democratic demands of the Irish people as a whole. The British refused to move against this force and senior political and military figures encouraged its development.

By the early years of the present century a clear pattern had emerged between the major political forces in Ireland, a pattern which continues to this day, with the limited demands of constitutional nationalism being strenuously opposed by Unionists and qualified by British administrations anxious to ensure that their self-interest was defended. Two events combined to shatter that pattern, for a time at least; first was the outbreak of World War in 1914 which put the issue of Home Rule on the back-burner of British political considerations, and second was the decision by Irish separatist forces including the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army to take advantage of Britain’s involvement in a global conflict and to strike a blow for freedom in the ranks of a combined force called the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

On Easter Monday 1916 the Irish Republic was declared and a Provisional Government established in arms by the IRA. After a week of fighting which was largely confined to Dublin, the superior armed power of the British succeeded in crushing the rebellion.

The subsequent executions of the Republican leaders and the imprisonment of the rank-and-file was resented by ordinary Irish people. Many who had not supported the rebellion changed their

opinions and popular support for Irish separatism grew from a tiny fringe to a mass movement.

Repression breeds resistance and, as the British vainly tried to restore stability by force and the threat of force, a strengthened Republican Movement emerged from interment camps in Britain to be greeted as heroes at home. The resurgent spirit of separatism found its political expression in support for Sinn Fein and its militant vanguard in the ranks of the IRA.

Evidence that Britain would continue to ignore the democratic will of the Irish people was provided by the general election of 1918 which saw Sinn Fein emerge with a massive majority of the

Irish seats, and more than enough to justify the establishment of an Irish Parliament, called Dail Eireann, independent of Britain. Instead of accepting the democratic decision of the electorate, the British tried to suppress Dail Eireann and jailed many of its elected members. Faced with British violence, the IRA fought a guerilla campaign between 1919 and 1921 which eventually forced Britain to the negotiating table.

The outcome of those negotiations had, to some extent, been decided by the British a year earlier with the creation of the Northern Ireland statelet. This statelet was established on the basis of a sectarian headcount which created an artificial majority comprising the privileged Unionist/pro-British population which was concentrated in that area. These were given their own devolved structure of government in return for their continued service as a strategically important British garrison.

The delegation which conducted the negotiations with the British agreed to a set of proposals contained in a Treaty. These proposals fell far short of the Republic declared in 1916 and established by the popular will of the Irish people in 1918. The Treaty established two states in Ireland, one a neo-colonial Free State still tied politically and economically to Britain but with the trappings of freedom; the other was the colonial Northern Ireland statelet.

Supported by the most reactionary elements of Irish society including the Unionists, the Catholic hierarchy and major commercial interests (none of whom had ever supported the struggle for freedom) the Treaty was forced on the Irish people under threat of “immediate and terrible war”. An emerging Free State Government which had British backing set about crushing

Republican opposition to the deal. Civil war ensued but the Republican forces which had tried desperately to avoid war were quickly defeated by the increasingly well-armed and ruthless army of the Treaty supporters.

Successive Free State governments have, since the creation of their state, claimed that the re-unification of Ireland is their primary political objective. Apart from verbalising on the issue, however, they have done nothing to achieve re-unification. On the contrary Dublin based governments have from the beginning contributed to the growth of partitionist attitudes within their own state by encouraging the development of a Catholic ethos rather than that the non-sectarian pluralism of Irish Republicanism. In this and in the declaration of a nominal Republic in 1949 they have shown that their real aim is to maintain the status-quo. This is confirmed by the efforts of those governments to undermine and defeat Republican campaigns against the Northern Ireland statelet, efforts which have included continuous emergency legislation since 1939, the use of internment and active collaboration with the British authorities including the extradition of Republican activists.

With the guarantee of British support for their position, Northern Unionists set about building their statelet on the basis of political, social and economic privileges for their own artificial majority at the expense of the equally artificial anti-Unionist minority. For nearly 50 years of unbroken Unionist rule from the Stormont parliament outside Belfast, northern Catholics were forced to endure blatant discrimination in the allocation of jobs and houses. In areas of local government administration where anti-Unionists were in an electoral majority, a system of electoral rigging known as Gerrymandering was introduced to turn those majorities into minorities.

A wide range of repressive laws which were the envy of the apartheid regime in South Africa, were enforced by vindictive and puritanical Stormomt administrations while the colonial Government in Britain (whether Conservative or Labour) simply ignored what was happening in the North of Ireland.

In every decade of Stormont rule the IRA launched military campaigns of varying intensity against the Northern state but without success. The absence of a radical political leadership within the anti-Unionist population meant that popular support for a sustained campaign of armed struggle could not be mobilised.

Following the emergence of a Civil Rights Movement for blacks in the USA in the mid-1960s, however, a similar movement grew within anti-Unionist areas of the Northern state. As this movement’s campaign of peaceful street protest gained momentum in the late 1960s, the full force of the state repression was used to crush it. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), a sectarian and paramilitary police force, and its equally sectarian reserve force, the B Specials, were deployed by the Stormont Government to beat Civil Rights’ marchers off the streets.

British troops were sent to Ireland in 1969, ostensibly to act as impartial mediators but in reality to lend support to the battle weary RUC and B Specials and to restore British control. As these troops adopted a progressively pro-Unionist stance it became increasingly clear to a growing number of anti-Unionists that the institutional injustices which had prompted the Civil Rights’ Campaign were merely symptoms of a deeper rooted injustice – the very existence of the Northern Ireland statelet. Many people concluded that peaceful and democratic methods could never radically alter the nature of the state which was established and sustained by violent and anti-democratic methods. For them it became clear that the solution lay in dismantling the state, ending British rule and re-uniting Ireland.

The IRA re-emerged, in a defensive capacity at first, following a series of pogroms which were directed against anti-Unionist areas of Belfast and other urban centres. Confronted by Unionist opposition to even the limited reforms demanded by the Civil Rights’ Movement and faced with violence by the official state forces as well as unofficial pro-British forces, the popular resistance campaign quickly evolved into a revolutionary struggle for self-determination. This revolution, which continues to this day, is fought on many levels, both political, cultural and social, and is spearheaded by the armed struggle of the IRA whose actions are directed against the clearly perceived forces of British rule and against the political and economic forces which sustain that rule.

British policy throughout this revolutionary struggle has been aimed at defeating Irish Republicanism, thereby restoring the stability which is necessary for them to re-assert effective control. Believing that this could be achieved through a strategy of counter-insurgency similar to the strategies employed in other colonies such as Cyprus, Kenya and Malaysia, the British tried to crush revolution by introducing internment and saturating towns and countryside with soldiers.

This ‘mailed fist’ approach failed to defeat the IRA but it did have the effect of ending the mass street demonstrations of the Civil Rights’ Campaign as rubber, plastic and even lead bullets were used to disperse such demonstrations. In the absence of massive street demonstrations it became increasingly difficult to quantify the level of support which the revolution enjoyed. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Movement, had no positive electoral role as its activities were mainly confined to protest activities. Without any evidence of demonstrable popular support for Republicanism, a second phase of the British counter-insurgency campaign began. This was based on isolating and criminalising the revolution.

The RUC took over the front line role of the British army to convey the impression that the conflict was merely a political problem. Alongside this, internment and political status were phased out and a specially designed judicial and penal system was introduced to criminalise Republican activists.

The prisoners resisted criminalisation, however, and it was their heroic protest campaign between September 1976 and the Hunger Strikes of 1981 which undermined the British strategy and

mobilised national and international interest in the Irish struggle.

Against all the odds, the IRA survived the black period from the mid to the late 1970s when torture centres and special Diplock Courts were used to rail road people into jail and the media was used to implement the policy of isolating Republicans. A re-organised and increasingly politicised IRA, committed to maintaining the armed struggle as long as necessary, emerged in the 1980s.

Like the IRA, Sinn Fein learned lessons from this period, especially the need to develop an effective political strategy which would complement the armed struggle, counter further attempts to isolate Republicanism and lay the basis for the political, cultural and economic re-conquest of Ireland.

It has been the development of Sinn Fein as an electoral force throughout Ireland (presenting a radical alternative to both the colonial and neo-colonial administrations) and the continued ability of the IRA to challenge the British presence which led to the latest counter-insurgency strategy – the Hillsborough Agreement.

This strategy attempts to undermine the Republican struggle by encouraging the middle class within the anti-Unionist population to accept and support the constitutional status-quo and British repressive measures. In return the anti-Unionists were promised reforms which, it was claimed, would give them equal status in the Northern Ireland statelet.

More than a year after the Hillsborough Agreement was signed the promised reforms had still not been delivered and, far from an improvement, the anti-Unionist population had found that their situation had deteriorated. The British were still clearly unwilling to introduce even minimal reform, in the face of almost unanimous Unionist opposition to an agreement which they regarded as a threat to their privileged position.

To a large extent the Unionist campaign of opposition to the agreement had obscured the fact that the central purpose of the strategy – the defeat of Republicanism – had been totally unsuccessful. Popular support for the Republican position had not been eroded, as intended, because after 17 years of constant struggle and 800 years of similar British strategies, a growing number of Irish people recognise that there can be neither peace nor justice until Britain, the source of violence, injustice and divisions, allows the Irish people, both natives and

colonists, the right to determine their own future as equals in a united and sovereign Ireland.

“The most powerful foe of labour is capitalistic imperialism, and in Great Britain capitalistic imperialism stands or falls by the subjection or liberation of Ireland.” – Erskine Childers

For centuries the people of Ireland have fought for the right to decide their own destiny free from external interference. The history of Ireland has been largely defined by that struggle, as generation has followed generation in a never-ending wave of resistance to British imperialism.

For more than two centuries that resistance has been intrinsically linked to the establishment of an Irish Republic. And for more than a century Irish revolutionaries have understood that that republic must be socialist in nature if it is to deliver not only national but also economic and social freedom.

In the global battle against twenty-first century imperialism the only logical place for Irish progressives to channel their energies is in the building of popular support for Irish democracy and by extension, popular resistance to British rule.

By defeating British imperialism on its own doorstep the people of Ireland could contribute a devastating hammer blow against tyranny in the global struggle for freedom and justice.

The most effective way to oppose British imperialism in Ireland today is through the building a grass-roots anti-imperialist mass movement; the objective of which should be nothing short of a total British military, political and economic withdrawal from Ireland.

“They think they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think they have foreseen everything, think that they provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. – Padraig Pearse…

Marriage in Ireland, ed. A Cosgrove, Dublin 1985 5-24.


Irish Holocaust- Push to Educate the Facts

Marriage in Early Ireland

Donnchadh Ó Corráin

Source: Marriage in Ireland, ed. A. Cosgrove, Dublin 1985 5-24.

There was a controversy amongst early Irish lawyers (about AD 700) as to whether monogamy or polygamy was the more proper and one clerical lawyer solved the problem by reference to the Old Testament: if the chosen of God (here he may be referring to the chosen people as a whole or merely to the Patriarchs, and the glossators of the text refer explicitly to Solomon, David and Jacob) lived in polygamy ‘it is not more difficult to condemn it than to praise it’.[1]

In the longest established of the western churches outside the Roman Empire and in a society in which christian Latin culture flourished in a remarkable way,[2] the norms of christian marriage were not, paradoxically, accepted in society generally (we shall see later that there were exceptions) throughout the middle ages. It is not unusual, of course, that the norms should not be observed: they were, after all, a counsel of perfection and elsewhere in christian Europe the laity were far from obeying the church’s rules[3]—but it is surely interesting that the christian Irish lawyers, most of whom were clerics, should appear to consider marriage within a theoretical framework different from that of the contemporary church and should frame their practical rulings accordingly. However, one should not lay too much stress on the differences between marriage in early Irish and in early continental societies: the similarities are, in practice, much more significant than the differences, and if Ireland was remarkable it was in the persistence of early medieval patterns of marital behaviour into the later middle ages and beyond.

The principal sources for the history of marriage in early Ireland are the law tracts in Irish and Latin, all the most important of which were probably written up within half a century of AD 700.[4] In some respects, the materials are rich—in many instances they provide us with an account of what was done rather than what ought to be done—but they are difficult to interpret. In other respects, they are very limited, for we have no marriage charters and no records of marital cases before the Anglo-Norman period. Records of church legislation about marriage dry up in the eighth century and do not begin again until the twelfth (when the great reform, or rather revolution, in church and society was undertaken). Much of what is said here must, therefore, be tentative.

Lawyers writing in Irish divide first and principal marriages into three categories:

(1) lánamnas comthinchuir, ‘marriage of common contribution’, marriage in which, apparently, both parties contribute equally to the common pool of marital property;

(2) lánamnas for ferthinchur, ‘marriage on man-contribution’, an arrangement by which the bulk of the marriage goods are contributed by the man; and

(3) lánamnas for bantinchur, ‘marriage on woman contribution’, marriage to which the woman brings the preponderance of the property.

All three main types of marriage are considered by the lawyers as special contractual relationships between the spouses in regard to property, which are similar in some important respects to that of a lord and his vassal, a father and his daughter, a student and his teacher, an abbot and his lay-tenant—other pairs that hold property in common and, on occasion at least, run a common household. What each of the pair may have given the other, consumed, or spent in good faith cannot give rise to a legal action; what has been taken without permission must be replaced if a complaint is made about it; and legal penalties are involved only when the complaint (and the appropriate legal procedure which must follow it) is ignored or when property is removed by theft or by violence.

The threefold categorisation, which refers to main marriages only, is not quite satisfactory because it runs together institutions which were really separate, but it does bring out that about AD 700, when the principal tract on marriage was written. Lánamnas comthinchuir, which the tract places first and treats in greatest detail, was regarded as the most important or perhaps the normal type of principal marriage amongst commoners of property (and aristocrats) and had been for some considerable time.[5]

It was a dignified state for the wife in question: if it was a marriage ‘with land and stock and household equipment and if the wife was of the same class and status as her husband, she was known as a bé cuitchernsa, literally ‘a woman of joint dominion, a woman of equal lordship’—a term which seems to be rendered domina in the canon law tracts. Neither of the spouses could make a valid contract at law without the consent of the other. The lawyers list exceptions to this rule but, apart from the specification that these must be dealings which advance their common economy, they are mere run-of the-mill matters in the ordinary business of farming—agreements for co-operative ploughing with kinsmen, hiring land (presumably for grazing), getting together the food and drink to meet the duty of entertaining one’s lord or to celebrate church feasts, acquiring necessary tools or equipment and the like—and one would expect either spouse to make such arrangements without necessarily consulting the other.

Not so the more important contracts, such as those which involve the alienation of property. In Irish law there is really no conjugal fund or common property in marriage: each partner retains ultimate private ownership of what he/she brought into the marriage, though it may be pooled for the purpose of running a common household. (And each may have personal property besides.) This is particularly stressed in the general provision that every dealing in property must be carried out conscientiously and without neglect of the interests of the other partner. One particular rule stated that both partners must acknowledge that any object acquired is not common property but the private possession of the partner whose property was alienated to acquire it. Anything essential to the common economy of the spouses may not be sold without consultation and common agreement and, more generally, each partner may dissolve the disadvantageous contracts entered into by the other. The partners have greater freedom in the disposition of their personal private property: they may, independently of each other, sell or lend it up to the amount of their honour-price—and here the wife is less free than the husband for the honour-price of the wife is usually half that of her husband.

The same preoccupations with property recur in the pro visions regarding divorce. The Irish lawyers (and most of them were clerics) do not moralise about it but rather set to the task of working out an equitable division of the assets between the partners. Since each partner receives back what he/she has contributed in the first instance, the rules concerning division apply only to profits earned and acquisitions made while the marriage contract was in force. In this connection the lawyers hit upon the handy notion of a threefold division between tír, urgnam, cethra ’and, labour and capital (livestock)’ and, in the first instance, divided the profits equally between the spouses in the proportion to which each of them may have supplied these factors of production. The thirds assigned to land and capital are distributed regardless of the conduct of the spouses; but in the case of a divorce in which one partner is innocent and the other guilty, the labour third falls to the innocent party. In this sense, labour may mean either the direct labour of the spouse or the provision of hired labour by meeting the expenses of wages and maintenance of servants out of his/her own resources.[6] These principles are, of course, applied to the division of the principal form of mobile wealth usually possessed by the couple—cattle and other livestock. And they are applied with certain modifications to other assets.

In the division of consumables—dairy products, cured meats, corn and textiles—an additional principle is applied by the lawyers: added value. Here the best example, perhaps, is that of textiles. The woman takes half of all clothing and woven cloth, a third of wool ready and combed for spinning, a sixth of fleeces and sheaves of flax. Textile production is labour intensive and the value of the product is the result of the work done rather than the original worth of the raw materials. The woman’s share on divorce reflects this. Indeed, a commentator on the tract states that land is not taken into account in the case of flax and woad because these take up so little ground and because they require so much labour and are so valuable.[7]

The division of dairy products (no doubt salted butter and cheese) is quite complicated the labour third is divided in two portions and the woman (who, of course, has run the dairy) takes one; of the remainder (i.e. one-sixth of the whole) diminishing fractions go to the spouse who supplied the dairy vessels (a matter of considerable importance, for dairy vessels were expensive artifacts produced by highly skilled craftsmen), the husband, and the spouse who provided the dairy workers.[8] Similar principles govern the division of corn in store and cured meat. The legal tracts incidentally provide first class evidence of the importance of the woman’s role (as manager and worker) in the rural economy—in dairying, in the production of woollen and linen garments, in caring for farmyard animals (especially the fattening of stall-fed beasts for the table) and in organising the ploughing and reaping of corn (and, no doubt, the feeding of the labourers).

Lánamnas for ferthinchur ‘marriage on the man’s contribution’, represents a different kind of property and contractual arrangement and, in some significant ways, is a different kind of marriage partnership, particularly since in Irish law much of the standing of the partners depended on their property relationship. Here the man provides the bulk of the conjugal property—land, housing and stock—and the woman provides little or nothing. In this instance, if the wife is a lawfully betrothed wife but not a cétmuinter (first or principal wife), contracts made by the husband are valid, whether or not his wife knows or consents, but he may not alienate food or clothing, cows or sheep without her consent. What is in question here is the necessities of life and the means of their continued production, and to this degree the interests of this kind of wife are protected. If, however, she is a lawful cétmuinter and a woman of equal standing and birth, she may impugn all her husband’s foolish contracts and have them dissolved on her behalf by her sureties (for which see below).

On the occasion of divorce, such a woman is considerably worse off than the previous kind of wife. Since she provided neither land nor stock, she must take a much diminished share of the assets acquired whilst the marriage lasted: she takes half of her own handiwork and one-sixth of the dairy produce in store. If she has been a hard worker (márdéntaid), she takes one-ninth of the cattle dropped whilst the marriage contract was in force and one-ninth of the corn and cured meat in store. These portions belong to the ‘labour third’ of the assets and the implication is that if she were the guilty party, she received very little indeed on parting. Since, apart from this labour third, she is practically without means, the lawyers specify that she is to receive a sack of corn each month from the date of parting to the next Mayday—the time when new contracts, including marriage contracts, were made and the assumption is that she should re-marry as soon as possible.[9]

Lánamnas for bantinchur ‘marriage on the woman’s contribution’, represents the third type of property arrangement in marriage. In this case, the woman inherits an estate in default of sons and marries a man of little or no property. Here there is role reversal: ‘in this case the man goes in the track of the woman and the woman in the track of the man’. If the man is what the lawyers call ‘a man of service, a head of counsel who checks the home-folk with advice as influential as that of his wife’—a man, therefore, who plays an active role in the management of his wife’s estate—he obtains some recompense on the occasion of a divorce: he receives a ninth of the handiwork and of the corn and cured meat in store and one-eighteenth of the dairy produce. Again, if either of the partners is guilty, the innocent one takes the ‘labour’ portion. If it is a first or principal marriage, all the profits which are not to be assigned to land or capital fall to the innocent party. Apart from that, what each brought to the marriage, each takes away. If the woman owns all the property, the standing of the husband in society is estimated in terms of his wife’s status (enech ‘honour’), unless he is more venerable, better bred or more honourable than she’.[10]

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Irish Holocaust- Push to Educate the Facts

The three categories of marriage described so far are based on property; there were others (as we shall see) but it may be useful to consider these in more detail.

The marriage of the woman of property to a man of less, or in extreme cases, no property is what occurs in a patrilineal society such as that of the early Irish—a society in which estates, offices and ritual roles pass from male to male, ideally from father to son—when a man has no surviving sons to inherit his property. This happens in about one in five of all cases (the percentage may be somewhat lower in polygynous societies, at least among the nobility who had more access to women) and was not, therefore, a rare occurrence.[11] The daughter (or daughters, and in this instance the estate was divided between them)[12] was called a banchomarba ’an heiress’; she inherited a life-interest in her father’s estate, she had to get guarantors that she would not alienate it wrongfully and, on her death, it reverted to her father’s nearest male relatives (to males within her gelfhine or, in default of these, to males within her derbfhine). She could not transmit any rights to the estate to her children. A compromise was however possible: she could marry one of the ultimate heirs and preserve an interest for her children, and this appears to be the ancient solution to the problem. This entailed parallel cousin marriage, that she should marry her first cousin or, perhaps less frequently, her second cousin—but such endogamous marriages were forbidden by church law and denounced as incestuous.

The Irish lawyers searched the scriptures and found their answer in the Old Testament. Jewish law, as preserved in Leviticus, forbade marriage with the following relatives: sister, mother, mother’s sister, father’s sister, son’s daughter and daughter’s daughter. This leaves the way open for parallel cousin marriage but they went further and cited cases from Old Testament history which proved that the law of God allowed such marriages. In particular, they cited the case of the daughters of Salphaad. Their father died without sons and they demanded an inheritance of land amongst their kin, but the elders objected on the grounds that they would marry outsiders and alienate family land. They approached Moses who consulted God who, in turn, judged their claim to be valid provided they married men of their own tribe. The record of their marriages preserved in the same book of the Old Testament shows that they married the sons of their father’s brothers. Here was explicit biblical justification of parallel cousin marriage and divine sanction for marriages contracted with close relatives for reasons of property. The lawyers found further support in the story of Tobias (who married his father’s brother’s daughter) for the legal opinion that ‘all the property of a man who has no son should be given after his death to the husband of his daughter if he is of the same kindred’.[13] Lánamnas for bantinchur is not, then, simply an Indo-European custom which finds its closest comparison in the Greek epikleros and the Indian putrika ‘appointed daughter’ (as some would argue), but a strategy of heirship in which the needs of the kindred and the demands of the church are neatly balanced. It is important to note, too, that this kind of marriage is not necessarily a first or principal marriage: it can be a secondary union, and is perhaps a pointer to the possible independent behaviour—for pleasure or procreation—of propertied women in early Ireland.

It is likely, of course, that men marrying heiresses amongst their own kindred possessed some property; but, where there was competition for land amongst males inheriting a family estate (and such competition involved status as well as property),[14] it is reasonable to assume that the usufruct and prospect of possession (at least as far as his heirs were concerned) acquired by a member of the family who married an inheriting kinswoman were taken into account in the division of the paternal estate, and his share diminished accordingly. This would have given rise to a situation where men were heavily dependent on their heiress-wives, but the same circumstances could come about otherwise. A woman could acquire land ar dúthracht, by outright gift of her father of land which was his personal (as distinct from) family possession, and women could also possess land which is called orba cruib 7 shliasta ‘land of hand and thigh’. It is possible (though quite uncertain) that two kinds of land are in question here: land acquired by the woman’s own labour and land got as a marriage portion or for some other sexual service, but the precise meaning of the term is not clear from the contexts.[15] Further, it is evident from the canon law that, in certain circumstances, a father could be obliged to give his daughter an estate in land amongst her brothers—at least where there was parallel cousin marriage.[16] And it is perhaps worth remembering that, while Irish society was strongly patrilineal in ideology, such social ideologies are usually modified by individual needs and pressures.

The general opinion is that lánamnas comthinchuir was the normal kind of marriage between persons of property in the seventh and eighth centuries. But how old was that institution? Caesar’s brief account of marriage amongst the Gauls appears to refer to two important characteristics which are present in the Irish type: men match the herds which their wives bring as dowries by contributing an equal amount from their own property, and an account is kept of the profits of these conjoint resources (suggesting that each reserved ultimate ownership of what was contributed to the marital fund).[17] If this type of marriage is a common Celtic institution, we may have here a hint as to the meaning of comthinchor ‘common contribution’ that the wife brought a dowry (dos) in herds and that the husband matched that dowry with a payment to his wife of an equal amount from his own resources (donatio ex marito).[18] One need not, of course, assume that such dowries were always in cattle: we have seen that women could acquire real estate and other kinds of property and the glossators, whatever the value of their opinions on this point, note that land could form part of their marital contribution The equality of husband and wife is matched elsewhere and scholars have argued that the Indo-European peoples had always known a variety of marriage which left the wife her husband’s equal partner—and one could compare the Roman marriage without manus and the Germanic marriage in which the husband did not acquire his wife’s mundium.[19]

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Culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin said she was “delighted work has begun on the important historical dig”

A TEAM of archaeologists are attempting to map the archaeological remains of the Ulster Plantation. Excavations have begun at a 17th-century castle at Baronscourt, Newtownstewart, in Co Tyrone.


It was built by Sir James Hamilton of Greenlawe, Scotland. Documentary sources date its construction and occupation by the Hamilton family to 1622. Even before the pivotal 1607 ‘flight of the earls’, King James 1 granted the earldom of Abercorn to the Scottish Hamilton family. In 1606, James became the first real and his brothers Sir George and Sir Claus were granted lands in the barony of Strabane, Co Tyrone. It is there that the castle at Derrywonne was built. The present duke of Abercorn granted permission for the excavation on his estate. Lead archaeologist Nick Brannon beleives the castle began as a domestic, rather than defensive, building but under threat of attack, an additional tower with pistol loops was built on to protect it.

English: James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn ...

English: James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn (1811-1885) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ambitious three-year programme will see research excavations specifically targeting nearly 700 sites and monuments associated with Scottish Planters. It is founded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure on the recommendation of the ministerial advisory group for the Ulster Scots Academy, established in 2011 to advise on how best to promote research, knowledge and understanding of Ulster-Scots language, history and cultural traditions. Culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin said she was “delighted work has begun on this important historical dig”. “Evidence of a shared inheritance based on authentic research is an important element in building a united community for the future,” she said.

With many thanks to : Bimpe Archer, Irish News.


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