At about noon on Friday 3rd April 1970 a green Morris Minor raced up the Cabra Road. The car screeched to a halt outside the T.S.A. tyre remould factory. Blackie Byrne and three other Branchmen forced themselves out and, with guns drawn, they jogged into the factory. Inside, they pointed their guns at one of the workers.
"Your fucking brother has just killed a fucking garda, you cunt. Tell him that when we fucking get him he's brown fucking bread."
They trudged out again and there was more screeching of tyres. The worker stood with a baffled look as the smell of the burning rubber mingled with the smell of burning rubber which always permeated the factory air.
"What have they got a flea in their ear about?" inquired a curious work mate.
"Eh, I'm not sure."
"Tell yah something, the way they're buggering about they'll need a moxy load of remoulds. How did they fit into that car?"
About two hours earlier four masked raiders had entered the Royal Bank on Arran Quay. As they came out they were confronted by unarmed Garda Richard Fallon, a native of Roscommon. He grabbed the third raider. The two grappled behind the bank railings as Fallon's companion, Garda Noel Firth, radioed for assistance. In the struggle Fallon was shot and died at the scene. The four raiders escaped.
The Garda was the first to be killed in the South since Superintendent Gantley was accidentally shot during a manhunt in Ringsend in 1948.
Fitzgerald and O'Donnell were in a top floor flat in Leeson Street. O'Donnell, a defender of Stalin's economic policies in the USSR sought Fitzgerald's academic firepower to help him debunk a theory promoted by the Irish Communist Organisation, which concluded that as a result of the uneven development of capitalism in Ireland, two distinct nations had evolved on the island.
"Listen to this," said O'Donnell as he read from Engels writing to Marx on 27th September 1869, "'The worst thing about the Irish is that they become corruptible as soon as they cease being peasants and become bourgeois. Admittedly this is the case with all peasant nations. But it is especially bad in Ireland'."
"I've hung around with them," Fitzgerald laughed.
As the two continued to speculate and debate, the biggest manhunt ever witnessed in the State got under way, led by the one hundred and sixty Branchman then stationed in Dublin.
"They're ripping the city apart. Even had a few snooping around Trinity. They're like the clap, all over the kip," Marsh hissed after arriving at the flat at about three o'clock. "Clarke told me that they raced in and out of the Peacock all morning like blue arse flies. He couldn't figure out what the fuck was going on until he heard the one o'clock news."
By that evening some alleged subversives ran up to Dublin Castle to proclaim their innocence. Some got beaten up for their trouble.
"Sure yah wouldn't dare plug a policemen, sure yah wouldn't."
"Of course not. We wouldn't be good enough for you to shoot, sure we wouldn't?"
"No sir. I mean yes sir I mean."
"Take that yah bollocks."
By the following day whole streets were cordoned off in the early hours of the morning as armed gardai, backed by the army, raided the houses of suspects. Frankie the striker's house was one on the list and was torn asunder. This was a mistake, because when the gardai informed the press that they were overwhelmed by the public response, citizens who phoned the authorities about suspicious looking individuals in flats and elsewhere, they did not realize that, to begin with, many of the calls were deliberately useless; perpetrated by republican sympathizers and cranks. A large number of these calls were made by Frankie.
It was dusk when Frankie pushed a notebook and a biro into his coat pocket and mounted his bicycle. He criss-crossed the city, stopping to take notes now and again, and then, peddling as fast as he could through a few streets, he dismounted and made urgent 999 calls from public phone kiosks.
He told the responding operators about suspicious men with a stuffed pillow case in a car in Blessington Street and supplied the car registration number and make. In Smithfield he reported a woman pushing a very large pram in which a baby inside, if that's what it was, seemed to be wearing a balaclava. In the Cosy Bar in the Coombe, he spotted a man slip a fat woman a large revolver who then shoved it up her dress. A man in Drumcondra took a wad of notes from another man and put it inside his umbrella before walking into Fagan's pub. Although it was pitch black, two men loitering in Nerney's Court were wearing dark glasses, and, two women, one carrying a suitcase, and walking up Baggot Street were probably men because he had spotted one of them take a standing piss in Baggotrath Place.
For a number of nights he covered miles and had the time of his life as he cycled from phone box to phone box to send the Special Branch on wild goose chases all over the city. Sometimes they raced past him and sometimes against him, the blue light flashing on the car roof, to intercept two bearded women who were seen hailing a taxi in Stoneybatter, or sometimes to investigate the sound of a chainsaw coming from a basement in Henrietta Street, and then he got a fright.
He was about to tip off the Special Branch, from a public phone kiosk in South Great George's Street, to check out a big man with a large beard who had just entered the Savoy cinema with a hairy-legged woman in a red dress, when he noticed, nearby, a figure standing in a doorway. He could feel his heartbeat rate increase as he realized that it was a Branchman he knew. He cycled on towards Camden Street and, sure enough, near a phone box there, he spotted another Branchman sitting in a green Morris Minor.
On Saturday, the day after the shooting, the gardai took the unprecedented step of releasing to the newspapers the names of seven individuals they believed to be members of Saor Eire and who they wished to interview. The list read: Simon O'Donnell, Joe Dillon, Paddy Dillon, Frank Keane, Charlie O'Neill, Seán Doyle and John Morrissey. One of the addresses they gave was that of Kathleen Behan, the mother of Brendan Behan. The other was that of an Irish Times news editor.
One of the named men, Frank Keane, believed to be the Saor Eire Chief-of-Staff, published a letter stating that the gardai had a hell of a neck in seeking his assistance when they were well aware that he would be detained in connection with other offences.
O'Donnell considered the Special Branch tactic of not just naming him, but putting his name at the top of the list for the national press, a gross intrusion of his privacy. Fitzgerald and himself responded with their own statement which read:
The Saor Eire Action Group wishes to draw attention to the fascist tactics employed by Michael O'Morain and his political police in connection with the death of Garda Fallon. We view with particular indignation the naming of certain members of Saor Eire under the guise of a bogus appeal for assistance.
We also criticize the hysterical campaign of the anti-socialist press which is designed to fool the public into accepting further coercive measures and greater inroads into their civil liberties.
We deny that Garda Fallon was killed, as the Government and the anti-socialist press suggest, in the course of protecting the public. He died protecting the property of the ruling class, who are too cowardly and clever to do their own dirty work.
The Officials' Nuacht Naisiunta deplored the "orgy of sentimental twaddle and calls for repressive retaliatory legislation" that followed the murder.
The searches spread countrywide and the gardai combed large areas of Wicklow and Tipperary. A strong force of gardai from Ennis and Limerick, led by Superintendent Doris, assembled to raid O'Donnell's ancestral home in West Clare.
Another contingent of gardai surrounded the cottage of Tim Richards' aunt near Moate in Westmeath.
"Open up in the name of the law," Nobber shouted as he hammered on the front door.
"Are you expecting anyone?" Richard's aunt Agnes asked her husband.
"Nary a soul. Sure the postman was here and gone. Are you expecting anyone Aggie?"
"We're not expecting anyone," she shouted out, "so fuck off outav it, yis bastards."
When they burst in Agnes took the sweeping brush to them and ended up with two black eyes.
In some cases, when groups of armed Branchmen burst into houses, the incident was witnessed by concerned neighbours. They thought that the Branchmen were bank robbers and alerted the gardai, who then raced to the scene to confront the Branchmen. In one such incident in Walkinstown a brief fist fight ensued when a Branchman abused a uniformed garda.
In a raid on the Peacock pub the Branch seized Frank O'Donnell and Denis Casey. Casey was then secretary of the Dagenham Essex branch of the Irish Civil Rights' Solidarity Campaign. They were forced at gunpoint into a green Morris Minor and taken to the Phoenix Park where they had guns put to their heads and were told to come across with the relevant information. They had no information and, as a consequence, Casey was punched and kicked.
The two had been sitting in the Peacock with the 50's Republican, Paddy Browne. The Branch mistook him for Frank Cluskey the Leader of the Labour Party, and gave him a long, hard look.
"What's that beardy bollocks doing with them?"
"Sure isn't he another one of those 'the seventies will be socialist movement'," the other snorted.
Also arrested in the mass swoops were two older socialists, Mick Kearney and Pat O'Neill. The latter had been prominent in the British Trade Union movement. Kearney was one of the founders of the unemployed movement, and after a baton charge in 1953 he received a three months prison sentence. Both were in their forties and had no connection with paramilitary groups.
Kearney was a humorous individual with a round, pleasant face beneath a good head of hair. He refused to allow his fingerprints to be taken, telling Blackie Byrne that they had taken them in the fifties and that he had no desire to clog up their clinical efficiency with unnecessary material.
"When did you last hear of O'Neill and O'Donnell?"
"I think it was sometime around 1607 when they fled to Spain sir, course that would not be admissible in a court of law as I wasn't born then and it's only heresay."
"Don't get smart with me yah commie fucker."
"I wouldn't dare attempt to match my brains with someone such as the likes of yourself sir."
This was all too much for Byrne, who with the help of a number of other angry Branchmen, proceeded to pummel Kearney and tear lumps of hair from his head.
Not everybody received such rough treatment. A friend of Fitzgerald, who was later to become a prominent professional, was hauled in. She was asked about the suspects. She said that she did not know any of them.
"You're a liar," scoffed a Branchman who was from Belfast. He was a devout Catholic and he often placed a wind-up plastic Padre Pio statue with flashing stigmata on the table in front of suspected subversives he was interrogating. He did this once when he had detained Marsh for questioning. Marsh stared wide eyes at the flashing statue and then mimicking the accent of a Moore Street dealer at Christmas time began shouting, "get yer jumping monkeys, four for a pound."
"Tell me this?" said the Branchman to the soon-to-be-eminent professional.
"Do you ever go to Confession?"
"Certainly not. I'm a Protestant."
A friend of some of the seven had a flat on Waterloo Road which was often the scene of late night parties. At 6 a.m. one morning, a Belfast man, an international waterpolo player, who rented the flat, was confronted by a gang of Branchmen. He denied that he knew any subversives. While searching the flat, they accused him, among other things, of fornicating with his mother. One Branchman got curious. He had come across something in a suitcase that reminded him of a sash, not that he had ever seen a sash close up. He studied it and scratched his head.
"What part of Belfast are you from?" he asked slowly.
"The Shankill Road."
The Branchmen scuttled down the granite steps to the deserted pavement.
"There's some cunts up there in the intelligence section an' they don't have the I.Q. for digging ferrets out of ditches," one muttered.
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."
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?"
"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.
One suspect was grabbed in North Great George's Street on his way to a session in the Bru na Gael club. He was brought to a garda station somewhere nearby, he told those in the Peacock. He described how he was put sitting in a chair facing a shabby grey wall which could have done with a coat of azure blue paint. While he was sitting there someone behind him was smashing what sounded like wooden furniture. Each sudden crash made him flinch in fear. The next thing is this fellow, who was breathing heavily because he was overweight or a heavy smoker or not very fit or most likely all three, crept up behind him and started massaging his scalp.
"Jesus Christ!" said Charlo O'Driscoll, the Cork tearaway, "if he did that to me I'd get an erection."
The Irish Civil Liberties League protested at the heavy handed garda raids. Marie McMahon and Ernie Bates also condemned the Special Branch for kidnapping customers from the Peacock to bring them up to show them the ducks in the Phoenix Park duck pond in the middle of the night.
On May 12th Frank Keane was having a cup of tea in Nick Waters' house in Derby, England. The phone rang.
"Hello Nick," said Pah Wah the Branchman. He was considered a good mimic and delighted his audience with his impersonations of Lugs Brannigan and Maureen Potter at retirement parties in the Garda Social Club in Harrington Street.
"Who's that?" asked Waters tentatively.
"Seán," said Pah Wah.
"Seán Mac." Ah, Seán. Where are yeh calling from?"
"Nobber in Meath. Where fucking else."
"Jesus, Seán!" exclaimed a relieved Waters. He presumed that he was talking to a senior Republican then based in Meath.
"Were yah raided?" asked Pah Wah before Waters could say anything else.
"It's fucking cat melodeon here. They're ripping the arse out of the place. But we have most of the lads safe. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah. We got them offside like. Can yah put someone up if we yah know."
"Sure Seán, sure there's one here yeh know"
"Yeah." "Jesus, keep him safe. Who is it?"
"The Mayo man."
"Fuck. The cunts are really gunning for him."
"he's dead safe here."
"Of course he is. How's the family?"
"Good. Has Fia still got the derringer in her knickers?"
"Yer never lost it Seán."
When Keane left the house the following day he quickly realized that he was under surveillance by the British Special Branch. Keane arrived in London by train and led his sleuths all over the city in an attempt to lose them, but failed. Eventually, they realized that he was not going to lead them to anyone or anywhere worthwhile, and he was arrested on May 13th at the Highbury and Islington Underground Station.
Keane challenged the extradition warrant on the grounds that the offence he was charged with was a political offence. Cathal Goulding, the Chief-of-Staff of the Official IRA, sent a sworn affidavit to the hearing at the Old Bailey saying that Keane was a man of very high character inspired to do good for his country and that he had been a former member of the IRA.
Keane lost the case and was extradited to Ireland. He was sent to trial for the Capital murder of Garda Fallon and was acquitted. Later, he was found not guilty of taking part in the raid on Rathdrum in county Wicklow.
At the end of May, Davis got a job washing cars at a garage on Dorset Street. He was using a power hose.
"Hey look. An enemy of the state," said the Slug to a junior assistant as he pulled alongside. He was referring to the badge which Davis often wore on his coat lapel at demonstrations. Davis ignored the jibe and went on working.
"Oh! There's not a squeak out of the little cock-sucker now that he's on his todd," continued the Slug. "Oh, by the way Frank, are yeh still shagging yer sister?" He laughed, a laugh which sounded like a buffalo with a severe gastric problem until it suddenly became a gasping gurgle as Davis turned the hose and directed the powerful jet stream of soapy water in their car window. He then disappeared over the garage back wall.
"What in the name of jaysus?" wondered Blackie Byrne, as the Slug and his assistant squelched across the Castle Yard.
"That fucking turd Davis," the Slug coughed, "I'll do him for attempted murder, I'll give him Chinese water torture, I'll leave him a hydrocephalus dunderhead."
Richards told Davis that he had the very place where Davis could stay until the Slug dried out. He was painting a house on Grosvenor Road for Bob Bradshaw.
Bradshaw had come South in February 1933, after he shot dead John Ryan, a Tipperary born R.U.C. man during a gunbattle in Belfast. Bradshaw had aquiline features beneath silky white hair and was of athletic build. He nearly always wore a black polo neck sweater and could pass for the Hollywood idea of what a submarine commander should look like. He was deeply interested in literature and spoke on the subject in a soft melodic Northern accent. To keep the wolf from the door he dabbled in a painting and decorating business.
As Bradshaw did not take fools gladly Richards told Davis that they would not tell Bob, and, anyway, a middle aged alcoholic and a bit of a half-wit, Barney Desmond, was staying there at night.
Desmond was the black sheep of a successful business family from Belfast. He was in his late forties but the years of heavy drinking had taken their toll and he looked much older. His reddish, weather-beaten, face and piercing eyes above a bristling nose gave him the appearance of a white haired rascal. When he walked he tilted slightly forward and made short irritable movements with his hands as if he was continually brushing flies away from his wracked body. He had become a shriveled outcast from his family.
That first night, Davis was in bed in a room in the basement which looked out onto the front garden. A figure approached the window, the street light throwing giant shapes against the wall. The window was raised and the grunting figure eased itself into the dark room.
Talking and cursing to himself, Desmond began to remove his trousers as he stumbled about in the pale light which flooded the room centre.
"How's she cutting?" Davis called out from the bed which was almost invisible in the dark corner of the large room.
"Who, what, where, who?" Desmond prattled in a repetitious slur as he peered into the dark shadows.
"John, I'm a friend of Bob. I work in the Baptist Church."
"Well, fock Bob! He never said anything about you."
Davis was gone when Richards and Bradshaw arrived the next morning. They were met by the worse for wear Desmond.
"You're a terrible focking man Bob for not telling me about John. He could have been a homo or..."
"Bradshaw's soft voice sharpened "
"John! What are you talking about?"
"John! Your friend who stayed here last night, who works in the Boptist Church yonder," explained Desmond as he gave a coriaceous jowl a brisk scratch.
Bradshaw ushered the confused half-wit on his way. He turned to Richards and shook his head.
"Baptist Church! Really!"
Richards gave a chuckle.
"Alcohol in vast quantities, very dangerous. Wonder he didn't say it was a Mormon," he ventured.
Richards told Davis to call around to the house that evening: he said that he would be alone.
Davis went around to the house at the appointed time. He peered through a shabby window at the side entrance: it was gloomy in the subterranean light. Then, as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom three gauze figures appeared to float for a moment in the celler-like storage area and then, as if detaching themselves from the dimness, they merged into living beings. Bradshaw had his back to the window. He appeared to be issuing instructions to Richards and Desmond.
"There, Bob, there he is. Outside the focking window," Desmond shouted out.
Davis ducked just as Bradshaw swung around, and disappeared down the road past the Baptist Church.
Bradshaw raced out with Richards behind him, followed by the wheezing outcast. There was nobody to be seen.
"What was he like Tim?"
"The fucking fellow at the window. Who else?"
"I didn't see anybody at the window"
"You must have Tim," Desmond pleaded.
"Not a sinner," insisted Richards, as he removed his dark glasses.
Bradshaw became grim. "You're going to have to cut down on the juice, my man, or you'll find yourself in a lunatic asylum."
"Worse, maybe Dundrum," Richards warned.
It was July and Davis decided that it would enhance his sanity if he moved into the basement flat on Harcourt Street, known as 'Hangover Haunt'. In its front room, cluttered with sofas and settees which gave it the haphazard cosiness sometimes found in a junk shop, Davis bumped into Frank Roche. As luck would have it Roche told Davis about a job, as a kind of butler, in a plush house which a friend of his had just left. He would have applied for it himself except that he had to go to London on secret Saor Eire business and he was unable to say how long it would detain him.
Roche was from Wexford and was twenty-five years old. He was about five feet seven inches tall and of stocky build. In appearance he was like a young version of the actor Peter Ustinov. He was a regular visitor to Derry's 'Bogside' and was friendly with the Peoples' Democracy leadership.
As soon as Roche arrived in London, he and his accomplice headed for the flat of the Kerryman, Patcho, in Fulham. He carried a Daily Telegraph under his arms.
"You've got some balls to bring that rag in here."
"Got to meet some important people later. Got to create the right impression."
Patcho watched Roche dickey himself up. He thought of Marsh who had been there earlier with his rubber mask on looking like Methuselah. And how amazed he had been when Marsh peeled off the mask and almost immediately mixed some Nivea face cream with some instant coffee. Then, after massaging this concoction all over his face, he had put on a turban and disappeared out the door.
"The last fellow who came here with Fitzgerald turned himself into a fucking Indian. Now, you're trying to turn yourself into an Englishman. I don't know what the fuck is going on back in Dublin," Patcho moaned.
"Its very complicated Patcho. So international now, sure some of us don't know what the fuck we are anymore. It's pure mule, as they say down in your neck of the woods."
Roche entered the Strangers' Gallery overlooking the Chamber of the Houses of Parliament in Westminister at 4.30. p.m. The strategically placed Daily Telegraph concealed the bulge in his suit pocket. He sat down beside an American visitor for a few seconds.
Then he stood up and hurled two canisters of C.S. gas onto the floor of the House, shouting: "If it's all right for Derry and Belfast, it's all right for here. How do you like it?"
The first gas bomb bounced across the floor and rolled under the crowded opposition front bench. The second landed a few feet away. There was total chaos in the House. The speaker, Dr Horace King, collapsed in his chair. He was dragged from the House by those few members who did not clamber over each other to escape from the Chamber, as the stiff upper lip brigade went wild in their seats.
Opposition Chief Whip, Mr Robert Mellish said: "It was right under my feet, the first one, I thought it was a hand grenade. I ran. I went like a bomb. I wasn't going to read my bloody obituary in the Times."
Roche was immediately arrested and spent one year in prison where his interest in politics was lost on the English criminal fraternity.
"Who cares what a fellow's politics are when you're creeping out of his manor with his colour television."
At the same time an explosion ripped through the offices of Dalton Supplies in Bray County Wicklow, after the company had failed to adopt recommendations made by the Labour Court on behalf of the workers.
A few days earlier Marsh had got on the phone to the factory.
"Could I speak to the gaffer?"
"Beg your pardon."
"Put the gaffer on the blower would yah."
There was a pause.
"Are you the gaffer?"
"I'm the managing director. Who's that?"
"Saor Eire pal."
"Saorfuckeneire. Recognise the union."
"Are you threatening me?"
"What does it fucken sound like. Oh join the union yourself!"
After this it was suggested that if Marsh was given a back room in the Irish Congress of Trade Union Headquarters and supplied with an untraceable phone link he could save the unions a lot of money.
Ructions had now arrived back from London. O'Donnell had preceded him, having had a stint in Liverpool. While there he had joined the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). In the Liverpool equivalent of the Peacock, the Grapes pub in Liverpool 8, he studied the ideological character of gossip and dialectical shit kicking with the stand-up comedian Alexei Sayle and other young Maoist revolutionaries.
Ructions was clean shaven and had a short back and sides haircut. Marsh, the master of disguise, was amazed at the transformation to his appearance when he met him in the Peacock.
"Jesus Christ!" he laughed.
Fitzgerald swept in with a bundle of papers under his arm. He slapped them down on the table and then gave a wild laugh as he looked at Ructions.
"What?" inquired Ructions.
"Nothing. Jesus Christ!" he laughed again.
Fitzgerald called a pint as he briskly removed his jacket and placed it on the back of the chair. He pulled the chair closer to the table and, after clearing his throat, portentously sat down and stared at the others. They, in turn, stared back at him as he picked up the sheaf of written material and rattled it.
"Well now, we've been perusing this two nation theory business for the last two months," he announced.
Marsh and Ructions shared blank expressions.
"Yep. We have segmented and examined it for consonant cluster conspiracies and rising and falling modulation, onomatopoeias and parallelism to no fucking avail. We, Simon and myself, constructed morphophonemic variables as a velarized bilabial to investigate its acoustic and articulatory transcription and failed to find a frictionless epenthesis along a continuous scale ranging from one extreme point, the cardinally phonemic, to the other, the cardinally prosodic."
"Holy fuck," declared Marsh.
"We focused at the beginning of a phoneme, of a syllable, of a stress or rhythm group, of an intonation contour, of a phonological sequence of some type so that we could expose a syntactic boundary but we didn't even discover a fucking homogeneous pharyngealization," continued Fitzgerald. "Unless somebody was to identify a new palatalization feature in analyzing polystemicity values as prosodies the theory is devoid of vexatious analytical distortions. So it is our considered opinion that because of the uneven development of capitalism in Ireland we have two nations on this island."
Fitzgerald drummed his fingers on the small wooden table top and then steepled his hands. Marsh took a long drag on his cigarette while Ructions moved to stroke his beard before realizing it was gone. Marsh exhaled a smoke ring or two before twitching his shoulder as a theory began to glimmer in his mind.
"Two nations means two ruling classes. Double the targets," he said wryly.
Outside the bluster of a breeze was beginning to nudge away the torpor of the day. A ray of late evening sunlight entered the studious pub as the clouds began to disintegrate. Twilight was put on hold.
"Make it three," said Ructions.
"Nah, three fucken Irish nations! I've just left the one in London." He threw his arms in the air. "It's a horror story. Its ruling class is largely made up of Leitrim and Donegal navvies. Elephant John, have youse heard of him."
"No," said Fitzgerald as he polished his reading glasses.
"Lucky for you. He fries his eggs on a shovel."
Ructions went on to explain, that this nation, the London Irish, had swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the Protestant work ethic of the Industrial Revolution. Not only did they believe in work, but they believed in hard work with loads of overtime. Even though they did not have time to spend all this money, particularly not the time to buy him a pint or several in whatever public house of their own choosing, they went back the next day at the crack of their arses dawn to earn more money, which they also had no time to spend. It was economic discombobulation, because no matter what way he mulled the mathematics of it over and over in his mind he was always left with the same impossible question: what was the point in being a rich corpse.
Ructions further claimed that he had conducted a boozer-wide canvass of Dublin and found not a sinner to disagree with his plan for a nationalized beer industry which would allow each worker a couple of free pints per day. When he proposed to some members of the London Irish, that they incorporate this into their political programme, they looked at him as if he still possessed his wild beard and long hair.
He also detected a Luddite attitude in some who were complaining that technological development in industry was doing them out of overtime.
"In my state, technology will be used to give more leisure time from the curse of work," he explained to Marsh.
"To spend more time in the pubs like?"
"Jaysus, the pubs will be open all day and all night so," said Fitzgerald, straightening himself up on the chair.
"What's wrong with that?"
"There's fuck all wrong with it. Definitely not. No, I'm thinking of the fucking barmen. They'll be worked off their arses."
"The stick some of those fuckers have given me over the years, maybe they deserve it," growled Marsh.
"Not at all," declared Ructions. "In a proper technological system you wouldn't bother your bollocks about barmen. You'd just press a button for your drink. I'd like the barman to be sitting out here having a drink with me."
"Yep, but would he?"
"Barmen of the world unite," proclaimed Davis as he and Edwards joined the company. "Ye've nothin' to lose but the froth."
"He's just been reading Marx," said Edwards in feigned awe as he placed his black hat on the table beside his pint of Guinness.
Fitzgerald, who had been about to light a rolled cigarette, removed it from his lips and raised his eyebrows.
"Ah yes, Marx. The fellow who wrote a hymn of praise to Capitalism and an ecstatic vision of Globalization in the Communistic Manifesto," he explained as he leaned back on his chair.
Davis gave a nervous twitter which momentarily concealed his normal puzzled look.
"Would yah ever fuck off."
Outside, the sky was beginning to yield to the darkness. One of the Special Branch men on duty left the green Morris Minor to buy cigarettes in Lucky Duffy's tobacconist shop on nearby Parnell Street. At the Peacock counter the enormous bulk of Plopps sagged down on a creaking stool and gurgled contrapuntally. Marsh looked towards a group of women who were seated across from him.
"See the wan in the short skirt?" he asked Ructions.
"They all have short skirts."
"The wan with the long black hair?"
"I don't think she's wearing any knickers."
"Sure wasn't it Marx in Capital who explained the whole concept of surplus value and class struggle which would lead to socialism," Davis countered.
"That's right. He put out the fucking lunatic idea that the complete world wide victory of the capitalist market, through the operation of the dialectic, would bring the working class to power as overproduction and the law of increasing misery did the trick."
"Is that in the coming budget?" Edwards laughed.
"What's wrong with that?" asked Davis.
"What's wrong with it," repeated Fitzgerald. "It's because you have these so-called Marxists cheerleading corporate globalization as a wonderful idea that will bring about Utopia while we all sit on our arses and get as fat as Plopps up there." He took an urgent drag on the cigarette. "We should be taking the Lenin line."
"The Lenin line.....?"
"Yep. It was Lenin, the first and greatest of the revisionists who knocked all that nonsense on the head by leading the Russian working class in a revolution that owed absolutely nothing to Marxist categories of understanding. He went along with Marxist social democratic terminology, but completely altered the sense of it. The fucking cheerleaders are recovering the original Marxism from its Leninist revision. The cunts are trying to make the revolution redundant."
Marsh stood up. He twirled his index finger around his temple and gesticulated down at Fitzgerald. Ructions laughed. Then Marsh picked up his pint glass and sauntered over to talk to the woman with the long black hair.
"They'll be going to Mass next," continued Fitzgerald.
"What's wrong with going to Mass?" asked Hannigan gruffly. He had just arrived in the pub, where he was known to enemies and acquaintances alike as The Retcher Hannigan because it was customary for him to gulp down pints of Guiness twice as fast as the average Peacock drinker, and then, as the night's festivities came to a close, to relieve himself by puking all over Marlborough Street. He was also a member of the Legion of Mary and worked on the Dublin Docks.
"There's nothing wrong with going to Mass if you believe in mumbo jumbo," Fitzgerald quipped.
"So it's fuckin' mumbo jumbo," said Hannigan, squaring up his shoulders.
"Well it is to me, I'm an atheist," explained Fitzgerald.
Hannigan's face reddened. He poked Fitzgerald into the chest with his forefinger.
"An atheist. So yeh believe in fuck all," he sneered.
"I believe in sex," replied Fitzgerald, glancing towards the woman in the long black hair who was now in deep conversation with Marsh. "Free sex," Fitzgerald added.
"Free sex, free to fuck other men's fuckin' wives, free to fuck my fuckin' wife??????" Hannigan roared in a paroxysm of almost inarticulate rage.
"Nah," Fitzgerald replied, "well yeah! but not just that, not that fucking thing of fucking your fucking wife in particular. Not only that, there's other women, genuine virgins..."
The blow that Hannigan that moment let fly in the general direction of Fitzgerald's face would have flattened the philosopher forthwith and required several months of surgical reconstruction forsooth to restore both equanmity and, given a medico with a steady hand and a vivid imagination, dashing good looks. But, luckily for Fitzgerald, the blow missed him, though it whistled close enough to Marsh's pint to cause a wild white water wave to arise.
"Will yah hold this for a second?" Marsh asked the long haired woman, handing her what was left in his pint glass.
Less than a minute later order was restored after Marsh, invoking both the laws of thought and the rules of debate, had pummelled Hannigan into insensibility and turfed him out onto the street. A number of white faced individuals helped Plopps back onto his stool at the counter. He had unceremoniously tumbled to the floor in the brief but furious melee.
"What the fuck was that all about?" inquired Marsh.
"Dan asked The Retcher if his wife was a virgin," replied Davis.