I must state that I am not putting myself in the same
class as Joe McCann and Seamus Costello as human persons
or as revolutionaries but since my membership of the
Republican Movement at the age of 15 in 1955 they
are two people whom I had much admiration for and
to have been in their company was I believe a privilege.
were a great loss to the republican socialist cause
and when they fell foul to the guns of the Brits and
so called republicans the cause for national freedom
and national self-determination plus the socialist
vision of James Connolly received not a deadly blow
but a blow which staggered it. Now one can understand
the Brits determination to get rid of Joe but it is
beyond rational thought why the blood of Seamus could
stain the hands of so called republicans.
I first met Seamus his appearance reminded me of a
priest for he was clothed mainly in black clothes
and he appeared very militaristic; in fact this sense
of military finesse disturbed me at first and I wasn't
sure what way to take him as we discussed a possible
operation in the north. This discussion took place
on a spring night as we quickly walked quite a number
of streets in the vicinity of Gardiner Street in the
Capital City. I discovered then that this man had
a sharp mind and what we discussed then required equal
thought and military precision but I sensed a sense
of dread because of what was required of me. And truthfully
I got little sleep that night as I crossed over and
over the proposed operation. Even on the bus the next
morning to Glencolmcille, in Co. Donegal to meet up
with a comrade, the late Padraig McCarraig, the meeting
with Seamus had left its mark.
The Man In Black
clip of the heel I heard, Seamus,
Near to Gardiner Street,
Then I looked and saw you there,
And I thought you were a Priest.
time I got to know you well
And a few op's we did do;
All for the cause of Ireland,
And no one braver than you.
in the shadow of Connolly
You used the gifts you had,
All on behalf of the working class
And their state so bad.
man of action you were, my friend,
And high principle too,
Oh why did they go and slay you cold?
For Ireland needed you!
to say the op' was a success indeed Seamus led it
for he was never afraid of reaching for the spade
and digging with the rest of us.
numerous national meetings in Dublin and regional
meetings throughout the north and elsewhere I saw
the intellect of the man in action and what he said
was precise and concise and carried no baggage. In
truth the then Chief of Staff whom I admired as a
friend could have gone away on holidays and the Army
under Seamus would have been in better health than
before he left. This was in addition to being a husband
and father and a member of local and County Councils
as well as many committees in the Wicklow area. In
truth the man's energy and commitment was legend!
for Joe McCann whom I met after I became a full-time
organizer for the Republican Movement in the west
of the Ulster Province through Liam MacMillan who
was OC of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican
Army. On occasions I stayed in Liam's home in Ton
Street in Belfast and a few other houses including
Pronias MacArt's who was a great friend of Malachy
McGurran and MacMillan but who became a founder of
the Provisionals in Belfast.
I found as a quiet person who also had a keen mind
and totally committed to the republican cause. A few
conversations I had with him and I always came away
feeling good about the cause for unaware of his own
contribution he had the knack of assuring one that
the realization of our objective was only a matter
of time. In truth I sensed an innocence in Joe McCann
but an innocence which seemed to be overflowing with
a strength that arose from the depths of his being.
I heard of his death it shocked me more than that
of Seamus for like another friend that is the late
Neal McMonagle who was murdered by the SAS in Derry
I thought that Seamus would like 'Che' Guevara not
see old age. Alas, the chalice of sacrifice in Joe's
case was also youthful!
can picture Joe vaguely now but the main image in
my mind is when he was photographed with a rifle silhouetted
I believe with a burning background scene as he defended
the people of Belfast. And I am in no doubt that I
would have seen him taking on leadership status in
the movement in due course if he had lived.
believe that if the Southern Government via Captain
Kelly and others had not succeeded in splitting the
Republican Movement and spawning the Provisional Movement
in 1969/70, success with the bulk of the then agreed
revolutionary policies would have occured in due course
under the leadership and example of people like Seamus
and Joe. In fact if the movement had remained intact
then many of those who went Provisional if they had
remained alongside Joe and Seamus would have ensured
the full implementation of revolutionary policies
without abnegating the principle of abstentionism
or the calling of a ceasefire. But unfortunately the
activity of Captain Kelly and other republicans, some
of whom remained inactive since the '56- '62 campaign
plus an obvious move to implementing certain aspects
of a republican commission document by those around
Cathal Goulding led to a development or state of chaos
involving personality conflict and power seeking.
Yes, it was a dark period for Irish republicanism!
I believe is not known about those who eventually
became dubbed the 'stickies' is that there were quite
a number of us who shared reservations about the implementation
of certain so called 'new revolutionary policies'
but were not prepared to permit if it was in our power
the break up of the movement especially when we were
aware of the mandate of Captain Kelly. When the split
came however there is no way because of principle,
policy, and tradition coupled with the knowledge of
the Captain's activities that we would join the Provisionals.
That is why I remained with the 'Officials' for sometime
after the split but by this time the Provisional departure
had weakened any possible attempt to prevent the extreme
reformist objectives of others in the 'stickies'.
and Seamus also remained and did their bit to ensure
that the extreme reformist and indeed anti- revolutionary
policies would not be implemented but in due course
when the rumblings of a ceasefire arose in the 'Officials'
Joe was extremely opposed to it and was thinking of
taking quite a number of IRA volunteers from the movement
in an act of resignation if it was to happen. At that
time Seamus kept many cards so to speak close to his
breast but his final break with the 'Officials' implies
that he hung in as best he could but there was a time
in which he had to depart for the revolutionary movement
which fired our minds and hearts in the sixties at
the training camps and the educational weekends plus
the extra-parliamentary agitation north and south
no longer existed.
in attempting to build a revolutionary movement in
his departure from the the 'Officials' some of the
new recruits were not republican or even socialist
although some conned themselves into believing that
they were. In fact there were some whom I would refer
to as socialist dilettantes. Persons who as time has
confirmed especially within the last year were more
interested in their own personal reputation than the
revolutionary objective especially here in Derry.
the ghost of old 'Mister Split' had raised his ugly
head. . . perhaps a split is healthy if it occurs
for positive reasons but in the engineered based circumstances
around 1969/1970 there was nothing positive about
it. In fact like the defeat of the Provisional's military
wing by the Brits the revolutionary republican initiative
was stopped by the southern political establishment
via the activity of Captain Kelly and others.
presence of such unique revolutionaries as Seamus
Costello and Joe McCann with others were unable to
stem the tide but their memory and spirit will help
to make us move on for after all we have only been
stopped not beaten! For as revolutionaries we must
make and not receive. . . the people requires our
leadership for that lies at the essence of our definition.
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