Charlie O'Neill

Veteran Republican activist, Thomas "Charlie" O'Neill, a stalwart from the days of Operation Harvest onwards, died on 17th. February, 2016.

His good friend and comrade, Gabriel Clery, produced this video (length = 37 mins) in memory of Charlie.

Following the shooting of Garda Fallon in April 1970, Charlie O'Neill was one of those named by Gardai as wanted for questioning about the incident. Knowing this was a ploy to get hold of men who were wanted for other actions in previous years, Charlie and the rest continued to live on the run.

In our account of the Republican dissidence of those days we told the story of just one of Charlie O'Neill's adventures at that time. It is in Chapter Ten of Irregulars - Three Nations.

At the end of April, O'Neill, one of the seven named, got into Tim Richards' red Vauxhall. They were going to Derry where O'Neill was active in the Bogside. The two were detained at a garda roadblock in Monaghan and brought to the station there. O’Neill was now sporting a large beard and O'Donnell said in the Peacock that he looked like the Fenian leader John Devoy.

“That's you,” said one of the gardai in the day room. He pointed to a photograph of Ructions who was another of the seven named. O'Neill stared at the bearded mugshot and laughed. He knew, of course, that Ructions was now clean shaven.

“You're not telling me I'm that fucking ugly.”

Charlie O'Neill

Charlie O'Neill

A garda examined a bundle of hand written papers taken from O’Neill’s pocket.

“Are these some sort of poems or messages or what?”

“Poems.”

“Are you a poet?”

“I am. Actually we're on our way to a poetry reading in Derry.”

A sergeant, whose face reminded O’Neill of a Christmas ham, stared at the pair.

“Did you ever hear that poem that goes, 'once there was a hole in a bog, where lived a very old frog: he was old and cold and covered in mould, and breakfasted mostly on fog'".

"In a hole in a bog," Richards chuckled.

O’Neill glared at him. “I would be more sprung rhythm in poetry than iambic pentameter,” he retorted.

“He would, he would be more Ginsbergian, all sprung rhythm,” Richards enthused. He continued to be effusive with the detective who was examining his driving license, and kept giving knowing little nods.

After reading the details on the poster of Ructions, a garda pointed out that O’Neill was at least half a foot smaller.

“If he's Ructions, he must be walking on his knees,” he proffered.

The two were released and told to enjoy the poetry reading. A short time later a car-load of Branchmen arrived at the station. A furious row broke out when they learned that the two had been released. The gardai were stubborn on the issue. If the man they had detained was Ructions, well he must have had a wash and shrunk. They had verified the grey haired older man as an entirely well mannered, respectable citizen and they had no reason to believe that the bearded man was not a man by the name of Seamus O'hEanai, as he had told them.

So, there you are. Just one story from the larger than life and times of an Irish Patriot. Charlie O'Neill:

Go on, yeh boy yeh!