Who Was Mr. Leonard?

41 years ago on Halloween a mysterious American man named “Mr. Leonard” pulled off a serious trick. He hired a helicopter for an ‘Aerial Photo shoot’ in Ireland. It was thought to be a scouting mission for a movie or a book of photography – at least that is what Mr. Leonard told Captain Thompson Boyes, the pilot. Captain Boyes was instructed to fly to a field in Stradbelly in order to grab the photography equipment but when he landed, he was met with armed gunmen instead. “Mr. Leonard” vanished from the scene while Captain Boyes got to know his new masked passengers, much to his own distress. He was informed that he would not be hurt as long as he followed instructions and he wasn’t but he wasn’t given a choice about being involved in a daring prison break either. If he wanted to live, he was going to aid in the escape of Irish Republican prisoners Seamus Twomey, JB O’Hagan, and Kevin Mallon from Mountjoy Prison.

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Remembering Máire Drumm

And now for a different Máire.  Máire Drumm was born into a staunchly Republican family. She was lucky enough to have had a mother who was active in the War for Independence and the Irish Civil War, so the concept of strong women who could fight and lead was instilled in her from birth. Perhaps it was also the reason she knew she could grow up to be a commander in Cumann Na mBan and the Vice President of Sinn Fein.  She settled in Belfast in 1942 and began fighting on behalf of Republican prisoners, which she did for many years to come. It was in this role that she met Jimmy Drumm, a Republican prisoner who would later become her husband.

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Maíria Cahill

::Trigger Warning – today’s blog deals with rape and abuse:::

There is no doubt that Maíria Cahill grew up a staunch supporter of Republicanism. She came from a Republican family and she sacrificed more than any girl should for the Cause. Whether or not you are skeptical of her reasons for coming forward now about the abuse she suffered, there really is no doubt that she feels like a victim.

She is being victimized now as well by the media, by her detractors, and by those who would politicize her story of abuse – who would take it and wield it as a club against Republicanism. She already endured the rape(s) and currently has to relive and share it in the hopes that people will believe her and that no one goes through what she did ever again. She has been vilified by some and used by others. She is being called everything from a liar to a whore to a British spy on a daily basis. There have been credible threats against her life and she has had to move at least four times since the story broke. Is this how a society should treat a woman who has been raped and violated? Of course not. Unfortunately, it happens all too often and judging, bullying, and slut shaming is a worldwide problem that doesn’t seem to have a cure.

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Kilgobbin Burial Grounds

There’s more than one Kilgobbin in Ireland. There’s one in Dublin and one on the edge of Tralee Bay in the shadows of the Slieve Mish mountains. If you’re heading down the scenic route toward Dingle there’s a tiny little road near the village of Camp that leads to a stunning old church, a cemetery and an unbelievable view of the bay.

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Remembering Margaret Skinnider

Margaret Skinnider was a woman who should have died long before she did, but like a cat with nine lives she nearly always landed on her feet. She did not die while learning to shoot weapons and build bombs in her home town of Glasgow. She did not have a fatal accident while smuggling explosives under her hat and detonators under her dress from Scotland to Ireland in 1915. She did not blow herself up while spending many afternoons testing dynamite in the hills around Dublin and she was not killed while acting as a courier between rebel outposts during the Easter Rising of 1916. On the contrary, between delivery missions on her bicycle, she joined the men on a roof over Stephen’s Green with a rifle and took her own deadly aim. She was proud of her sniper abilities and famously said, “More than once I saw the man I aimed at fall.”
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Fighting for Moore (Street)

There have been a lot of ups and downs, questions, and contentious debates in Dublin regarding just what to do with Moore Street. It is home to one of the only outdoor produce and farmer’s markets left in the city, it is a magnet for black market cigarette sales and it is an historical gem that should never be lost. All around the area, you can find shopping centers, malls, restaurants, and hotels rising into the sky, dwarfing the historically significant buildings and edging out the market, little by little. There’s been talk of development and yet another mall, hotel or shopping center, despite how many are already there.

Historically it needs to be preserved. This is where the soldiers trapped in the burning GPO made their escape in 1916. The alley they ran through is a shady spot – some people have witnessed drug sales and shakedowns of various degrees. It’s not the best area – but what back alley is? The buildings above the market, where the escapees busted through walls for at least half a city block are ramshackle and almost entirely empty. Everyone knows something has to be done about them, but no one can agree what that thing is.

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On October 5th in 1974, two bombs rocked Guildford, an area south of London. The Provisional Irish Republican Army’s bombing campaign had begun in England and it was brutal and effective. The Guildford pubs were targeted because they were popular with the British Army and the explosions injured about 75 people and killed a handful more. This highly publicized incident aided in the passage of the far-reaching Prevention of Terrorism Act in the United Kingdom shortly thereafter.

Some of the most widely abused provisions under this act were that anyone could be stopped and searched and those arrested could be detained for up to 7 days, rather than the original limit of 48 hours. During that detention, many rights were misplaced and extensive and brutal methods of interrogation were used in an attempt to get confessions from prisoners. As the bombing campaign continued, it led to suspicion, violence and racism within the communities, whether the authorities were involved or not. It was not a good or safe time to be Irish in Britain.

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A very important question

Peter Taylor has been extensively covering the Troubles and their aftermath for decades. In his new and fascinating report, he asks, Who Won the War? Who indeed…

It’s amazing how much can change, and how little truly does over the course of a lifetime. If you have the time and the inclination, this is worth a watch.