Supreme Court rules against man convicted of IRA murder attempt
by Martin Galvin
The denial of Gerry McGeough’s appeal on IRA related charges, will affect far more than the Tyrone Republican. Mr. McGeough finished his two year ‘whack’ at Maghaberry, although he will remain barred from seeking election, or teaching. However the Supreme Court ruling threatens any political asylum applicants that their applications may now be handed over and used to imprison them.
The principle of granting asylum to those fleeing political persecution is centuries old. The asylum seeker must submit a detailed written statement of all affiliations and reasons for a well-founded fear of persecution. Such applications were always protected and confidential. The reasons are obvious.
For example, Irish political asylum cases became a major legal battleground in American courts. Some Republicans came to the United States fleeing collusion murder threats or sham Diplock prosecutions at the hands of the British. They married, got employment and settled. In the 1980s and 90s, a score of Republicans were rounded up and put under deportation proceedings. It was done at Britain’s behest, as part of the British policy of criminalization.
The British smugly assumed that American courts would brand these former IRA members as criminals and deport them, despite marriages to American citizens, political asylum claims or other grounds that would otherwise entitle them to remain in America.
This criminalization strategy backfired. Witnesses such as Pat Finucane, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Fr Des Wilson, Gerry Conlon and Oliver Kearney came to testify for the ‘Irish Deportees’. They were joined by Congressmen and judges. They put British rule on trial in American courtrooms, packed by Irish-Americans.
Headlines announced that American Federal Judges ruled that IRA Volunteers were part of a legitimate struggle, not terrorists, and refusing deportation. The Secretary of State intervened to settle these cases.
These ‘Irish Deportee’ cases each began with an application for asylum detailing their Republican connections and why they feared returning to British hands. Meanwhile Mr. McGeough filed his asylum application in Sweden. His confidential statement was passed on to the British and used against him. The Supreme Court ruling means no one can apply for asylum, without danger that their required statement could one day be used to imprison them, as happened to Gerry McGeough.
The London Supreme Court only considered this narrow issue. It did not consider whether his 2007 arrest at the polls, after years living openly in Tyrone, was retaliation for his election campaign as an Independent Republican. Nor did it take up selective prosecution and why he received no OTR immunity certificate. Within this narrow area, the Court has set a precedent for which many others may suffer more than Gerry McGeough.
Sept 11, 2015-- 1970s Intro
(Part of a series of "decade introductions" that Gerry McGeough was asked to write for a local school anniversary book).
The 1970s began with what might be termed a regime change in Derrylatinee. The summer of 1970 saw the retirement of the school’s Principal, Mrs Quinn, following a career spanning almost fifty years. Her departure severed the last link with the old school where she first began teaching back in 1924. The sheer longevity of her tenure in Derrylatinee, which effectively touched upon six decades, was a remarkable achievement by any standards.
The genuine affection in which Mrs Quinn was held by the generations of students she had taught was manifested in the huge turnout at a farewell event held in her honour that August. The occasion was celebrated in the Parochial Hall in Eglish and the venue was crammed with well-wishers for the evening.
The gathering also offered people the opportunity to meet and welcome Mrs Thornton to the area. She would replace Mrs Quinn in the wee room teaching the P1 to P3 classes and become the new Assistant Teacher, while Mr McGuckin moved into the role of Principal.
The new decade also witnessed a major improvement in the school’s infrastructure with the building of new toilets towards the end of 1970. In order to facilitate these, the original cloakroom had to be converted with a minor extension added on. This amenity was a significant development, not least in terms of hygiene, now that there were flush toilets and sinks. In 1972 the original desks and tables, some dating from 1939, were replaced with new furniture.
In the wider community, the advent of the “Troubles” was making a considerable impact. There had been a rapid militarization of the entire Six-Counties since the summer of 1969, and this was evident everywhere. Low-flying British Army helicopters, armoured military vehicles, random check-points and foot patrols of soldiers were a common feature throughout the decade. So too were the thunder of bomb and landmine blasts, and most people heard the rattle of gunfire at some point.
The Troubles period had a direct effect on many of the families and past pupils associated with Derrylatinee School, and a number of former pupils were killed or wounded during the conflict.
The routine of school life continued nonetheless, albeit with a level of inconvenience from time to time. Undoubtedly, the greatest threat to the very existence of Derrylatinee occurred in 1976, when the school came perilously close to closure despite a steady rise in enrollment over the decade. A spirited campaign in support of the school by the local community, however, succeeded in staving off any closure, and pupil numbers continued to rise.
In 1977 Mrs Thornton left Derrylatinee, and her position as Assistant Teacher was filled by Mrs Donaghy, who was appointed in January, 1978. Her engaging and industrious style of teaching brought a new sense of vivacity to the educational atmosphere of the school. Pupils from the era have generally fond memories of their experience in Derrylatinee, and this was undoubtedly influenced to some extent by the reluctance of the sundry new teachers to resort to corporal punishment. Unlike in previous decades, when mass slapping, punching and de facto punishment beatings were seen as the panacea for all ills, disputes, learning difficulties and disciplinary issues were now being increasingly addressed by other means.
Still, it would be another few years until corporal punishment would be officially outlawed, and pupils at Derrylatinee throughout the 1970s could expect the odd slap to be administered from time to time.
Sept 1, 2015-- 1960s Intro
(Part of a series of "decade introductions" that Gerry McGeough was asked to write for a local school anniversary book).
The 1960s decade was to witness a number of changes for Derrylatinee School. The most obvious of these was the sudden fall in the number of enrolled pupils from a high of eighty-nine in 1961 to forty-nine the following year.
The initial cause of this drop was the opening of the Intermediate school in Dungannon, which for the first time offered the opportunity of Secondary education to a huge swathe of the population. First year students in the new institution were drawn from the eleven to twelve year-old cohort. Up until this, most children remained at primary school until they were fourteen. In earlier decades students were required to stay at school for a period of three months after their fourteenth birthday before they could officially leave. This meant that pupils were leaving at various stages throughout the final academic year rather than altogether at the end of it in June or July. The process can only have been very disconcerting for all concerned.
The enrollment numbers continued to drop throughout the 1960s and at one point there were only thirty-five pupils in the entire school. This was largely due to the overall reduced numbers of younger adults in the district, as a consequence of the high levels of emigration from the late 1940s. Their absence meant fewer families and therefore fewer children of primary school age.
The decade also heralded a major change in the make-up of the teaching staff, which had hitherto been in place for decades. The formidable Mrs Casey retired as Principal in 1965, having almost quite literally ruled with an iron rod, or at least a wooden one, since her appointment to the post in 1928. She was replaced by a Kerryman, Mr O’Connor, who acted as Assistant Teacher, while Mrs Quinn became Principal. In 1969 he left to take up a post as Principal in Caledon, and his replacement, Mr McGuckin, hailed from Moneymore in Co Derry.
By 1967 mains electricity was being extended to the area, and was finally installed in the school that year also. Running water and flush toilets were still a few years off. The decade saw the provision of school buses, but these were initially allocated along sectarian lines, and catered primarily to the protestant children who attended the nearby Mullycar State School. This meant that a significant proportion of the Derrylatinee pupils had to walk to school well into the late 60s, and while the bus did not pass those Catholic children who lived along the Mullycar route, they regularly found themselves subjected to sectarian abuse and violence from the majority protestant children on the bus.
Television sets were becoming increasingly common in households in the wider community as the decade wore on, and by 1968 Derrylatinee pupils were able to view the rise in political tensions as the Civil Rights campaign and the heavy Unionist Government response to it got underway.
The academic year beginning in September, 1969, was to mark the final phase of Mrs Quinn’s tenure in Derrylatinee. She retired as Principal in the summer of 1970, having first been appointed to the old school as Junior Assistant Mistress in September 1924.
July 15, 2015-- 1950s Intro
(Part of a series of "decade introductions" that Gerry McGeough was asked to write for a local school anniversary book).
The 1950s was a very different decade to the tumultuous one that had preceded it. As the rest of Western Europe entered into serious post war reconstruction while confronting the new realities of the Cold War, rural areas in the North of Ireland experienced a new era of economic stagnation. For largely nationalist districts like the Brantry this was exacerbated by the institutionally defined prohibition and discrimination that was widely practiced and encouraged by the unionist government in Stormont and its satellites in places like the Dungannon Council.
Being treated and regarded as second class citizens left Catholics with very few options in life where employment was concerned. This was why they always placed a very high premium on education and the possibilities it might open up in a society where they had to struggle for mostly everything and where their religious identification worked against them. Thus the significance of schools like Derrylatinee and the important cohesive role such establishments played in the community.
For the people of the area Derrylatinee school was something to be proud of as far as the building itself was concerned. It was a sturdy and well-built structure with a distinct hip roof and it was well provided for insofar as the circumstances of the time would allow.
In 1955 the driveway and paths around the school were concreted. This was quite an advancement bearing in mind that many of the by-roads in the district still remained un-tarred. Parents were then asked to make financial donations towards the replacement of the boundary fence, which was completed in 1959.
The 1948 Education Act opened up a new set of opportunities for students through the introduction of the Eleven Plus examination, which meant that it would be possible, for some at least, to acquire a secondary level education. This in turn could lead to a university education. The uptake of the scheme was fitful and not universally applied at first, which meant that only some children were given the opportunity to sit the examination. The majority stayed on at school until they were fourteen at which point they left and were expected to find work in the wider world. Farm work was no longer much of an option and advances in synthetic engineering had rendered production of the once labour intensive flax crop largely redundant. Flax disappeared.
For many, if not most, this meant emigration. Since the late 1940s the post war construction boom in Britain had drawn large numbers of young people from the area. That trend continued throughout the 1950s and many young emigrants travelled further afield to the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Returning home to face discrimination in jobs and housing held little appeal and in time many of these married, had children and settled abroad. This would have direct consequences for the pupil enrolment numbers in Derrylatinee in the 1960s.
June 15, 2015-- 1940s Intro
(Part of a series of "decade introductions" that Gerry McGeough was asked to write for a local school anniversary book).
The first half of the 1940s decade was of course utterly dominated by the Second World War, and Derrylatinee did not escape the impact of its events. Although the new school was operational from about the spring of 1939, war time restrictions on public gatherings meant that the official opening ceremony had to be postponed until 1946.
The school itself was a model of modernity and a welcome change from the physical restrictions of the old school, which had in the end been compulsorily closed by the then Ministry of Education. The new building was erected on a site purchased from Alexander “Sandy” Pinkerton for the princely sum of £45.00.
The architectural design was produced by Omagh-based Vincent Murnaghan and the contract ultimately went to the builder, Patrick McKenna from Killymoyle. Work commenced in September, 1938 and the school was completed by Easter of the following year, which is quite a feat considering that the foundations had to be dug manually by spade and very little machinery was used in the rest of the building work involved.
The new Derrylatinee had two classrooms separated by a large cloakroom, with an in-built storage closet mostly used for keeping sporting equipment. The main and only entrance opened directly into this cloakroom. Both classrooms were heated by barrel-shaped stoves set into rear wall corners by the teachers’ desks and blackboards. A small ancillary kitchen could only be accessed from the senior room by a door set between the blackboard and the stove area. This kitchen consisted mainly of a hand-operated water pump supplied by a well and a sink, plus areas for cups and other utensils. Water for tea was boiled by placing a kettle on one of the stoves, and tea was for teachers and visiting dignitaries only.
A blockhouse construction with separate entrances for boys, girls and teachers, served as the toilet amenities. These were “dry” toilets, and the building was set several yards from the school further west into the playground area.
In the wider community at the time, wartime rationing meant fewer commodities, although the proximity of the border and a cavalier attitude towards customs protocol helped alleviate many of the discomforts associated with the imposed shortages.
The British, however, did plunder local resources for their increasingly desperate war effort, and many beautiful woods in the district were cut down and the trees hauled off for timber.
At the beginning of the 1940s gas-masks were issued to all families, but these were often disregarded by young men in the district who quickly converted the pipe element into use as parts for car engines. Fords were becoming increasingly popular despite fuel restrictions.
A common feature throughout the area at the time was the proliferation of tiny shops. Practically every townland had at least one. For the most part these operated from a room in family dwelling houses, and the stock was fairly basic; tea, tobacco, sugar, oil for lamps and the like when these were available under rationing conditions. Produce from the family farms was also sold, and these little enterprises did a roaring trade in selling eggs to the American soldiers who had flooded into the area for training ahead of the D-day landings in 1944.
For years afterwards, locals marvelled at the relaxed attitude of these U.S. troops and spoke of how they used to pull up in their jeeps at the window of one of these shops in Carrycastle, conduct their transactions through the open window and speed off again without ever having gotten out of their jeeps. A forerunner of the drive-thru, perhaps.
Flax, which was used in the production of linen and related by-products, had been grown in the area for centuries, and the 1940s saw a boom in the industry due to wartime demand. Pupils from Derrylatinee would have been expected to help with work in the fields that produced the crop after school. By all accounts it was hard labour.
The post war years witnessed a number of changes that would have long-term implications. The advent of the soon to be ubiquitous Ferguson tractor would change farming methods forever, and one of the first casualties of this little grey machine was the farm horse. These began to disappear quite quickly over the coming years, and one unforeseen consequence of this for Derrylatinee school children of the time was the sudden unavailability of hair from a horse’s tail. For generations pupils had attempted to protect themselves during slapping episodes by wrapping a few strands of horsetail hair around their hands. This apparently had the effect of splintering the stick that was being used on them. The success of the tactic remains open to debate.
Pupils of the era would also have been exposed to significant developments in the realm of communications and the “wet-battery” powered radio provided access to a wider world. During the early war years most people tuned-in to the propaganda broadcasts from Germany by William Joyce, a.k.a. Lord Haw-Haw. Unknown to most, Joyce’s family, originally from Galway, had lived in the Brantry area for a period following the 1920s.
One night in 1941 when a group of neighbours were listening to Lord Haw-Haw announce an imminent bombing raid on Belfast, they were disturbed by an unusual noise. Running outside into the bright moonlight they witnessed one of those same Luftwaffe bombers circling the Brantry lough, apparently seeking its co-ordinates which were based around Rehaghy Mountain, not far from where the Joyces had once lived.
By the end of the 1940s, pupils were going to a Derrylatinee school that found itself in a world very different from what previous generations had ever experienced.
June 1, 2015-- Introduction - 1930s
(The following is one of a series of "decade introductions" that Gerry McGeough was asked to write for a local school anniversary book.)
Although they were known as the “Hungry Thirties” in Depression Era America and other heavily industrialised societies, many parts of rural Ireland were surprisingly unaffected by the great economic downturn of the decade.
This had probably as much to do with the fact that there had been little economic progress to begin with over the previous decades than anything else. In addition to that, farming communities of the period tended to be fairly self-sufficient, labour intensive and unburdened by unrealistic expectations. In a sense, when there was very little to start with, few people noticed any significant change when deprivation struck elsewhere.
There was, however, a very strong sense of community and a devotion to religion, which becomes clear when talking to Derrylatinee pupils from the era. These community bonds made for very happy memories that far outweighed any recollections of hardship.
The 1930s was the last decade during which the old school was in operation. Situated a few hundred yards from the current site, it was a basic construct dating from 1855. The building itself was about thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide, with a hallway entrance near the roadway. The hallway was slated, while the rest of the building had a corrugated roof, which may have replaced thatch from an earlier time. There were dry toilets at the back of the building.
The old Derrylatinee was essentially a one-roomed schoolhouse with two teachers, one working at each end of the room. During the 1930s, Miss Conway, who later became Mrs. Quinn, taught the younger children from infants to P2, while Miss Coyle, later Mrs. Casey, taught P3 to P7.
The school catered to children from a sprawling rural area that ranged across the lower Brantry, the townlands around the Greystone, and as far as Rahaghey. Mechanised transportation was a rarity in those days and most pupils, or scholars as they were then referred to, walked to school. In the warmer months they went barefoot and stories abound of people complaining about having “crigged” a big toe en route to school. By this they meant that they had bruised a toe on some loose stone along the mostly un-tarred roads. Some deliberately went barefoot so as to avoid the dancing classes that the teachers regularly press-ganged the shod ones into.
Throughout this period there was a general awareness of growing political tensions across Europe. A number of men from the Dungannon area had gone to Spain to fight on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, and there was a widespread interest in unfolding events in Italy and Germany. In 1938, as the Germans were marching into the Sudetenland, an incident occurred in the Brantry that raised tensions in the area for a brief period. A bomb damaged the Gaelic Hall in Gort. and although it had been placed by an agent provocateur from the B-Specials Militia, the event was used by the Unionist Stormont government to launch a series of raids and ransackings on Catholic households in the Brantry district.
The end of the decade witnessed the building of a new Derrylatinee school. This one was considered state of the art at the time, and it boasted two classrooms and pumped running water among other amenities. Its opening coincided with the outbreak of World War II, and pupils from Derrylatinee recall having been at Mass in Eglish Chapel in early September when the priest read the news from the altar that war had been declared. A new era had begun.
Easter Greetings from Gerry McGeough
Dia dhaoibh a chairde,
A very Happy Easter to one and all and may I begin by extending special fraternal greetings from Co Tyrone in British Occupied Ireland to our American Hibernian Brethren.
I consider it a great honour to be asked to send a message of solidarity to this year’s Nassau County Easter Rising celebrations. This area of New York has been synonymous with the Irish independence struggle for many generations and reflects the importance of the Irish Diaspora, especially Irish America, in the long struggle for freedom in Ireland.
At various stages in Irish history when the weight of English misrule crushed down hard upon Ireland, the cause of Irish freedom often depended almost exclusively upon the exiled Irish and their descendants overseas. This was the case throughout the 17th and 18th centuries when the Gaelic chiefs, friars and soldiers on the European Continent plotted, supported, instigated and often took part in insurgency against the English in Ireland.
In later centuries, that role fell to the huge Irish population in the United States. It’s not necessary for me to remind you of the legacy of the Fenians, Clan na Gael and great figures like John Devoy and O’Donovan Rossa, suffice it to say that they represent the vibrant Irish-American energy and input that was crucially important to the struggle in the Irish homeland. It’s also worth mentioning that it was to the United States that countless Irish patriots came for support, sustenance and advice when planning Irish freedom.
Many of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation had either spent time in America or were familiar with the political intricacies and workings of Irish America. Pearse had travelled along the eastern seaboard and often engaged in long discussions with influential Irish Republican stalwarts, such as my fellow Tyrone man Joseph McGarrity, in the run-up to the Rising.
Tom Clarke who hailed originally from Dungannon, close to where I live, knew the United States extremely well and it’s a source of tremendous pride for me to know that this old Fenian was one of the two key figures behind the Uprising of Easter Week 1916. The other, Seán MacDiarmada, was originally a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and it is said that his remarkable capacity for plotting, secrecy and intrigue was perfected through his experience with and exposure to the Byzantine inner politics of the A.O.H.
Nor can we overlook the strong Irish American influence that lay behind the Hibernian Rifles, one of the most courageous elements to fight for Irish freedom during that fateful week in central Dublin almost a century ago. Theirs is a story and legacy deserving of much greater attention by historians and Patriots.
Now, in the twenty-first century, our need for a focused, pro-Irish freedom American Diaspora is greater than ever. A United Ireland remains little more than a pipe-dream and never have I seen the fires of nationalist fervour in Ireland as low as they are today. In the twenty-six counties Patriotism in its proper sense is practically a dirty word. In the six-counties young people, even the children of former militant republicans, know virtually nothing about our rich Irish history and tradition of resistance to foreign misrule. It is, sadly, not uncommon to hear young (and not-so-young) people from nationalist/republican backgrounds refer to “here in the United Kingdom” when speaking about the North of Ireland. Incredibly, others openly talk about a place they call “Londonderry”, the ultimate blasphemy for any decent Irish man or woman.
Yet Irish patriots do remain on Irish soil and despite the threats, silence and censorship that have been imposed upon them they are becoming increasingly vocal and critical of the circumstances that allow for the continued, illegal British presence in our country.
Sooner or later these people will find a political voice and it will be to Irish America that they will look for solidarity, guidance and sympathy, just as generations of true Irish Patriots have done for centuries. Once again, mo chairde, it is your duty to close ranks and stand watch in order to insure that the home fires of the ancient Irish Nation are kept burning for future generations. May God Bless you all.
Éirinn go Brách.
Lady Hallett Report Total Whitewash
March 2015 - I noticed the House of Commons report regarding the ‘On the Runs’ is due tomorrow 3/24/15 It will be interesting to see what conclusion it reaches; bearing in mind the Hallett Report was a total whitewash.
According to journalist Liam Clarke, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and company told Hallett they repeatedly warned and advised Gerry McGeough not to travel to the north. This is a complete and utter fabrication. A total lie. This is underscored by the fact that Hallett refused to meet with Gerry McGeough or his legal team.
The fact that the Hallett Report was released in the middle of July 2014, when most people would be away on holiday and few would notice it, is a testimony to its cover up tendencies.
The reality is that Sinn Fein sacrificed Gerry McGeough for purely vindictive political reasons and allowed him to go to prison when they could easily have collapsed his case and had him freed as they did with John Downey last year.
March 2015 - SF PSNI Strategy a Fiasco
Eight years ago on March 7th, 2007 Gerry McGeough stood as an Independent Republican candidate in the Six-County Assembly elections of that year. Among other things Gerry argued that the Sinn Féin position of urging republicans to recognise, join and give information to the local British police constabulary, the ex-RUC now PSNI, was not only a massive betrayal of Irish Republican principle, but was also a half-baked naïve tactic that was poorly thought through.
Gerry's point was brutally underscored the following day when he was arrested outside the Omagh election count centre by the Sinn Féin endorsed PSNI and railroaded into Jail via the corrupt British Diplock Court system.
Back then Sinn Féin famously boasted that their leadership would "put manners on" the PSNI. This week, leading members of SF are complaining to the media that the PSNI is still an overwhelmingly unionist force that is 70% protestant and 70% male in make-up.
Bearing that in mind and with no United Ireland in sight, what exactly has Sinn Féin achieved despite all its hype, hot air and expensive razz-matazz?
Una McGeough presents a cheque on behalf of the American AOH
to Patricia Conroy of St. Joseph's Pro-Life Group Dungannon.
American Hibernians Aid Tyrone Pro-Life Group
The Ancient Order of Hibernians in the United States has pledged to help a Dungannon-based pro-life group in its struggle to keep English abortion clinics out of Tyrone.
The influential Irish-American organisation has cited the St. Joseph’s Pro-life Group as a prime example of Irish Catholics standing up for their faith and defending Catholic teaching. The A.O.H has praised the Tyrone group for showing great leadership and courage not only in the fight against abortion but also for exposing an on-going programme by a non-Catholic organisation to introduce anti-Catholic indoctrination to our school children.
Welcoming the Hibernian support a spokesperson for St. Joseph’s Pro-Life Group said that they would continue to highlight the “atrocity of abortion and oppose all attempts to have it legalised in Ireland.” The spokesperson went on to say that “as the once virulent anti-Catholicism of the Orange State slowly recedes into history, a new threat to our faith is being posed by mostly lapsed Catholics who have enthusiastically embraced militant secularism. We are not going to lie down and let these people tramp over us and kill our unborn children. We are going pro-actively stand-up to them and take them on and we are asking all Catholics to rally around the faith on these issues.”
The following article was written by Gerry McGeough as part of the anniversary celebrations for a local school - January, 2015
Derrylatinee - A Long Tradition of Learning in The Brantry
In the course of a relatively recent discussion with an academic from Trinity College Dublin on the cultural aspects of local history, an interesting observation emerged that set me thinking about the origins of formal education in the Brantry.
Amid the twists and turns of our conversation around the topic I happened to mention that in my home area of south-east Tyrone, the tradition of Kayley-ing (from the Irish ar do chéile - visiting/togetherness) was quite common well into my late teenage years and, indeed, beyond, albeit in dwindling form. Neighbours would gather in particular houses for banter, general conversation and plain old gossip. Inevitably, snippets of local history, the background to peoples’ blood ties and familial relationships to one another would arise for discussion and clarification for the next generation.
My learn-ed friend was familiar with this social activity once common across rural Ireland. His interest piqued, however, when I mentioned that from time to time older people at these events would burst into poetry, rhyming off stanza after stanza of obscure poems with remarkable clarity and memory. What struck me most about these poems was the frequent references to the classics in the form of “great Parthenon” and the like, which was particularly impressive given that those doing the reciting were people who had never received any formal education beyond the age of fourteen, if even that. Moreover, few of them were widely travelled, and most had spent the bulk of their lives close to the land and far from the “hallowed halls of erudition” that they also quoted in the course of their poetic deliveries.
The academic was genuinely impressed by this piece of information and at once informed me of its significance. He assured me that this was reflective of a very ancient tradition of learning in that particular part of the country. I was both surprised and immeasurably proud to know this, but at a loss as to how this could be the case.
Dwelling on the matter afterwards, I recognised that the scant information we have on schools in the Brantry area was hardly going to provide many clues. Beyond the old Derrylatinee School, located a few hundred yards up from the current site and in operation during the late 1800s, there was very little to go on.
Ironically, though, this old school may provide something of a link to the source of the tradition that the academic alluded to in his observations. This was the school that my grandfather, John McGeough, attended in the 1890s. His was a remarkable generation, and among those in attendance with him was an individual by the name of Joseph McVeigh, a first cousin of John’s future wife and my grandmother, Margaret Carberry.
The Joe McVeigh in question died a wealthy self-made businessman in New Jersey in the United States in 1975, having left the Brantry never to return, in the early 1920s. A great Patriot and Republican, he always maintained that England would “only be driven from Ireland at the point of a bayonet”!
His story has yet to be told, but his name has appeared from time to time in the history books and makes for fascinating reading. Heavily involved in the War of Independence and Civil War, his activities took him through an adventurous web of intrigue and danger, from the Brantry to the U.S. to Germany and back. His is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say, his personal courage and uncompromising individualism reflected traits and hallmarks not uncommon among people in the Brantry.
Among those traits was a deep love for his home area and a real pride in its history. This was all the stronger for the fact that he was reared in a house in Gort that stood on the site of the legendary Franciscan Friary of Gort Tamhlacht na Muc, overlooking Friary Lough.
It is this Friary, I contend, that has left an indelible impression and a tradition of learning upon this area. For generations people have spoken about the Friary and passed on the legends and lore associated with it.
In addition to this we have the facts. In my youth, older people always spoke reverently about “Friar O’Mallon’s Journal”, without knowing much about its content.
Today, we know it as Cín Lae Uí Mhéallain, and are more familiar with its recordings. It was written by Fr. Tarlach Ó Méallain, during the turbulent years of the 1640s, following the 1641 Rising. It is unique not only for its historical value, but also for the fact that it is penned in the now extinct East Ulster dialect of Irish. There are many references in it to the Brantry, and the original script is kept in University, College Cork.
What’s of note here is the fact that there was literacy in the Brantry at a time when few people across Europe could read or write. Moreover, the Brantry Friars were in direct contact with the great Irish Colleges on the European Continent, and letters were constantly being exchanged between them. They were also up to their necks in fomenting the rebellion, and were at the epicentre of intrigues involving the Irish soldiery in overseas exile. These latter, whose regiments figured prominently in the armies of Spain, France and Austria, were constantly planning an invasion of Ireland, to free it from English dominance and restore the old Gaelic Catholic order.
The Friars were also famous for their work among the people, and it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to picture local children being taught literacy skills. There were practical reasons for this, given that Tyrone Friars on the Continent had taken it upon themselves to produce Catholic religious tracts in Irish, in order to counter the effects of the Protestant Reformation among the populace at home. What good would these be if people couldn’t read them?
The tradition of learning in a remote area would have persisted over the centuries despite the Penal Era suppressions and persecutions. It would have manifested itself in oral tradition and given rise to the epic poetry recitals referred to earlier.
Whether by coincidence or design, therefore, it is wholly appropriate that Derrylatinee Primary School should be dedicated to St Francis, the Brantry Friars’ original Founder.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Blair, On The Runs And Gerry Mcgeough: Criminalising Republicanism Through The Back Door
Sean Bresnahan looks at the OTR issue. Sean Bresnahan is a Tyrone republican who frequently contributes to online discourse.
Much ado the past few days about Blair, 'On The Runs' and the peace process, but let's keep in mind that without the Troubles there would have been no OTRs to begin with. And also that some should have profited from this scheme but instead were thrown to the wolves by their own, likely deemed unworthy of inclusion by an arbitrary decision-making process that excluded potential adversaries at the behest of the Sinn Fein leadership.
Many in the Unionist community take issue that a 'deal' on OTRs was reached at all, when the truth is the scheme did not go anywhere near far enough. My issue with OTRs is not that it let anyone off the hook but that it didn't go far enough and (like everything else the leadership negotiated) we got the short end of the stick.
Like everything else it was done on Britain's terms with a carrot thrown in to keep us happy – or more accurately to keep THEM happy and to secure their position, with no threat of two years in gaol for some. The greatest leadership in history my arse. Spin that yarn to Gerry McGeough, who spent two years in Maghaberry thanks to their ineptitude. Or was it ineptitude? Perhaps something more was afoot.
The dogs in the street know McGeough was shafted to put him out of the picture politically, while Michelle Gildernew, the Adamsite darling, could only be the better-positioned for it. God forbid an independent-minded voice within the republican movement. A calculated political move which raises its own set of questions regarding the relationship of the leadership to the state and a disgrace from start to finish – from the original selection convention in June 2000 to the carting away in the back of a police car at the count in Omagh nearly seven years later. I’d venture the two are connected at some point, if only in terms of the agenda being served.
That aside, the reasoning in McGeough being gaoled is it sets his actions as an IRA Volunteer inside the paradigm of an acceptable British law. In this narrative McGeough is breaking the law and being suitably punished whereas state agents, like his direct opponent, are elevated to a higher moral plateau – as are the mechanisms used to ensure a conviction. That OTRs pose a threat to this narrative is the source of the recent hullabaloo.
The key aim of the British is to frame the conflict as a criminal undertaking and the arrest, political show-trial and unsafe 'conviction' of those like Gerry McGeough is part of its strategy. Many, out of blind loyalty to the leadership and its pathetic negotiating abilities, are sadly content to go along with that, regardless of how it impacts on the legitimacy of men like Pete Ryan, Jim Lynagh, Martin McCaughey and their actions.
This approach would see such men happily subjected to British Diplock Courts today, if they'd somehow managed to escape the death-trap set for them, went on the run and returned home years later thinking it was safe to do so – absent of course that all important letter, which some were deemed worthy of and others not. Would Jim and Pete have been deemed worthy? Would Martin? Who knows but who would trust it.
Some would have it they should just be grateful no matter, sure what’s two years away from your family and loved one’s anyway. That's the pitiful notion those like Sinn Fein Councillor Michael McIvor promote when publicly claiming McGeough done alright and should be thankful for his lot – whether they see it or not.
Constitutional issues aside, the 1998 Agreement was poorly negotiated around such issues as prisoner-releases and conflict-related 'offences'. It created a situation whereby it was acceptable practice for a British Diplock Court to try and convict this man, and others such as Scotchy Kearney, using all the various legal manipulations and lowering of the standards of 'law' long employed against and objected to by republicans.
That some now accept the legitimacy of these legal processes is a victory for Britain and a shafting of the IRA Volunteers who stood up against and called such reactionary 'laws' for what they were and are – repression. That ‘letters of comfort’ are set to be withdrawn while the republican leadership continues to sit in Stormont is just the broom-handle being rammed up their backsides all the harder.
Under the British-imposed narrative, in which republicans now acquiesce, the state had a right to prosecute its violence whereas republicans had none – not even to defend themselves and their community. The evidence around Bloody Sunday, collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane and the refusal to grant inquests into a plethora of state killings speaks for itself, the British justice system is designed to protect its own and set them apart from 'terrorists' like Gerry McGeough, who are to be gaoled while the state and its agents walk free.
Those who consider the underhand mechanisms employed to stick McGeough and his like behind bars as acceptable fare, and anything other than the product of inept negotiating at best, the deliberate removal of a political foe at worst, are either fooling themselves or are that far removed from the republican struggle they no longer care about the broader picture.
What amounts to the effective collapse of the OTR scheme, at the behest of political Unionism, serves the same end for Britain as the gaoling of McGeough and Kearney, to show republicans their place within the British law, which can be altered and employed against them at will, if and when required. The only difference on this occasion is that ordinary Volunteers were not alone in being shafted, this time the leadership was shown its place in the order of things too.
New Year's Greetings from Gerry McGeough
Here's wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year! The past year, 2014, was of course the one during which the British were supposed to have left Ireland. At least that was the on record promise made some time ago by a leading Sinn Féin figure. Oh well, ho-hum!
Now we must bide our time until 2016 when an even more prominent Sinn Féin figure has publicly promised a British withdrawal from the Six Counties. While one is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt in all instances, it's probably true to say that very few people seriously believe that the British State will begin to vacate its forces from Ireland in about twelve months from now.
The real wonder is that supposedly astute politicians would tie themselves to such definite dates in the first place. Sooner or later all those who have placed their faith in these individuals will be disappointed by them.
Sinn Féin leaders come and go of course, albeit at a glacial pace, and the fate of the Irish Nation is far more important than the ambitions of individual egotists.
It is to be hoped that 2015 will mark the beginning of a serious debate that will end the cult of leadership and the curse of factionalism within the wider Irish Republican family.
The cause of Irish freedom remains a noble one and Irish Republicans are a formidable people, forged in the fiery tradition of true Patriotism. Unity is strength. Let's work towards it in 2015.
Éirinn go Brach!
Christmas Greetings from Gerry McGeough and Family
Nollaig Shona Daoibh! We wish the very warmest of Christmas greetings to all our friends throughout Ireland, the United States and beyond.
At this time of year we thank God for the gift of true friendship and acknowledge that we have been blessed to have known so many good and decent people who have stood by us through thick and thin. May God bestow bountiful blessings upon you all.
During this season I have been reflecting on the historical fact that Ireland and the Irish are never stronger than when they totally embrace Christianity, which lies at the very root of our ancient culture and national identity. This Faith we must never abandon.
A very Happy and Joyous Christmas to everyone.
Vivat Christus Rex!