On October 16th 1971 Joe Dillon and John Morrissey were arrested after a high speed car chase in the Sutton area of North Dublin. The getaway car was brought to a halt when Special Branchmen opened fire on the car, blowing out its tyres on the driver's side. The two were charged with the murder of Garda Fallon and remanded in custody.
Dillon was a former member of the IRA. In the mid-sixties he had become dissatisfied with the inactivity of the organization. In 1967 he was sentenced to five years imprisonment having been found guilty of a robbery of a Dublin Corporation rent office in Artane. The robbery was to get funds to help in setting up a more militant organization. The sentence, unusually long at that time, for any offence other than murder, reflected how seriously the authorities viewed dissident republican activity. Dillon did succeed in the Court of Criminal Appeal in having the sentence reduced to three years. He was then immediately transferred to Portlaoise Prison.
Dillon appealed the transfer order on the grounds that it referred to his original conviction in the Central Criminal Court and not his final sentence in the Court of Criminal Appeal. In 1968 Mr Justice Henchy upheld Dillon's appeal, saying that Dillon's legal place of detention was Mountjoy Prison. He refused an application by counsel for the Department of Justice to have Dillon re-arrested.
While the Special Branch loitered at the front entrance of the Four Courts to detain him, illegally if necessary, until an original order could be effected by the relevant authorities in Mountjoy, Dillon made his escape through a back entrance.
In January 1972, Dillon and Morrissey were acquitted on the murder charges. They were later sentenced for possession of firearms.
On October 25th, Peter Graham was shot dead in a flat on St Stephen's Green. The shooting may have been the result of an internal dispute, possibly over firearms, as Graham was rumoured to be the Saor Eire quartermaster.
In 1972, Maureen Keegan, a prominent socialist and member of Saor Eire became ill and died. Keegan had appeared in a short film about Saor Eire in which she and a number of masked men fiddled with assorted firearms. The film was shown on BBC Televison. Soon after this Liam Daltun died in London.
Martin Casey was sentenced to four years imprisonment for possession of firearms. This was in connection with the bomb blast in which Liam Walsh was killed and Casey was injured.
In the first week of November Marsh stepped from the busy street into the dingy hall of a corporation house on York Street. He could hear the faint voice of the radio presenter, Gay Byrne, coming from a radio in the back hall flat. A cold blast of air met him on the first floor landing: the result of a broken pane of glass in the high window which looked out on featureless back yards.
On the second flight of stairs up he met an elderly woman.
"It's very cold," she said in a frazzled voice.
"It is, t'would freeze the balls of a bulldog."
The woman gave a cackling laugh and from a withered gum he could see a single tooth hang like a black stalactite.
He dawdled for a time on the second storey landing until he heard the woman's footfalls fade into the whine of the street traffic. He knocked on the shabby brown door. It was opened almost immediately by a young woman, Miss Reid, with a fine head of tangled black hair. She was wearing jeans and a black sweater.
"Tommy, you're the first here. Tea or coffee?"
As Miss Reid disappeared into the kitchen, Marsh studied the front room. A new leather couch had appeared since he was last at a session there. The bedraggled armchair was still resisting eviction. A crack on one cream painted wall seemed to begin from the head of Angela Davis. Beside her black and white poster was a poster of Bob Dylan. The bookcase in the corner was overflowing, he noticed, not that this was a time to be reading books. On the mantelpiece above the empty fireplace was a clock in a polished wooden case, two green glass vases and a photograph of the occupant. He fixed his eye on a leather dress which hung on the back of one of the wooden chairs. Then he lit a cigarette and went over to the front window. After glancing at the moving traffic below he pulled across the curtains. The dark Miss Reid re-appeared from the kitchen and placed the cup of coffee and a saucer of biscuits on the low table in the room centre.
"Ah Tommy, the curtains!" she complained.
"Telescopes. They have fucken telescopes now, turn on the light."
Ructions arrived next, followed by Fitzgerald and two other men: one from Cork.
"I know they're out there but where. That is the question," he laughed.
Days earlier he had heard of the arrest of the Dillon brothers and Morrissey. After the arrest of Frank Keane a year earlier Marsh, in retaliation, burned down the premises of a shopkeeper who had never heard of Frank Keane. It was how the dice fell or, as Colm Long had put itthe day of the innocent passer-by had gone in the wind. He now swore that this latest act of provocation by the state would not go unpunished. With his robust indifference to obloquy, which Anthony Eden could have used after Suez, he had called a meeting to agree on a response. It was simple and direct: they would blow their way into Mountjoy Prison and release the Saor Eire prisoners and the small number of Provisional IRA prisoners then in custody.
"The more the merrier. Not a patriot will linger in a free state dungeon while I have a breath in me body," he promised.
On the low table he spread out a map of Mountjoy Prison.
"I had great problems getting this."
"Don't know why you bothered. We all know every inch of the kip," said Ructions.
"Yeah, but I don't. There was never a jailbird in my family," he joked.
"Or in mine," declared Greenslade, who had just arrived with the fractious Long in tow.
Despite reading both Marx and Keynes, Greenslade was an impecunious intellectual. In his mid twenties, he was fair haired, slim, and attractive to women. He did not admit to the others that he was too proud to sign on for unemployment benefits and eked out a living by giving grinds to the weaker students of his neighbours' children in the Clontarf and Fairview environs of Dublin. His interest in economics and mathematics was matched by his sedulous study of social history and he was an authority on the life and times of Cardinal Richelieu, the tricky French clergyman, noble and statesman.
After they had studied the map and agreed on a plan of action, those who had spent time in Mountjoy exchanged humorous tales about their in-prison experiences. They were about to leave when Marsh spotted a large bag underneath the table.
"What's in the bag?" "Some small bags of goodies for some of the women pensioners on the street," explained Miss Reid.
Marsh nodded his head in surprised approval and looked at the others. They looked back at him except for O'Donnell who was looking at the leather skirt on the back of the chair.
"Fair play to yeh," Fitzgerald applauded, as he looked into one of the small brown paper bags which were packed into the larger bag. He took out a tin of spam, a tin of beans and a woolen cardigan.
"I didn't buy them," explained Miss Reid.
A quizzical look crept over Fitzgerald's face.
"McGonigal, McfuckinGonigal," he muttered. "Is that the fucker who owns the supermarket near Hangover Haunt?"
"That fucker," echoed Marsh, "accused me of trying to steal a shank of lamb once and when I fucked it at him he claimed I left an incendiary device in a box of tampax."
"Condign slander, exemplary compensation," Greenslade tutted.
Long examined the tin of spam.
"He's a devious bastard who's been in and out of Stubbs like a fucking yo-yo and left a lot of people short of dosh," he added.
"It's not that long ago since I heard him on the radio mouthing off about the amount of money people were getting on the dole," Ructions complained.
"I didn't think he was that bad," protested Miss Reid.
Fitzgerald guffawed as he lit a cigarette.
"Bad! Didn't he try to start a political party only last year with the aim of doing away with tax...for the rich, of course."
"Axe tax was their mantra. A slogan designed to have every greedy fucker in the country salivating at the jowls," added Long.
"No tax, no state," quipped Greenslade.
Marsh was peering out through a chink in the curtains. "He's supposed to own property all over the fucken kip," he said.
"He has a finger in every pie," agreed Long, "and his line on pay is sort of fucking like an inverted formulation of the theory of hypothetical and disjunctive syllogism. He claims magnanimous wages are unfair because workers are thus burdened with the onerous responsibility of becoming financially diligent with their surplus dosh." Fitzgerald emerged from the kitchen with a cup of tea in his hand. "That's his modus operandi. No unions, no work contracts, no fixed hours, no fixed wages, no comradeship...nothing but isolation. Aloneness, individualness, everybody completely free to compete against everyone else in mutual economic slaughter, a free for all world of permanent competition from the cradle to the grave. He stands for a country of individuals all tearing the arses off each other so's to work for some cunt for a penny an hour less. A violation of reason. If he had his way he would gas all those oulwans if he could get a fucking government grant for the gas.."
"Stop Dan, you're depressing me," interrupted Miss Reid. There must be someone with a streak of goodness in their bones."
"I'm sure it's possible to find one rich fucking freak with bulging pockets," Greenslade agreed.
Marsh looked at O'Donnell.
"What are you eating?"
"Chocolate. There was a bar in that bag there."
Marsh studied the wrapper. "It's well fucken past its sell by date," he shouted.
"That's illegal," declared Ructions.
"An oulwan eating a bar of that could spend a fucking night on the jacks. Diarrhoea galore," explained Marsh.
"Might not make it to the jacks. Fucking zimmer frame skittering all over the bathroom," chuckled Long.
O'Donnell put another chocolate square into his mouth.
"I wouldn't eat anymore of that," Greenslade advised.
O'Donnell shrugged as Marsh took out a packet of cigarettes from another bag.
"Look at this. The cunt is trying to give them lung cancer to shorten the pension payments."
"That's if the diarrhoea doesn't get them first," O'Donnell said resignedly.
Fitzgerald turned to Greenslade.
"I heard of a rich fucker once who had a conscience." He spread out his arms like a parish priest on a pulpit. "He was very rich and very good. In fact his body was so welled up in goodness that one night he choked on it."
Marsh burst into laughter. "Bejaysus Dan, that's a new one on me. Choking on goodness. Fuck."
"The point Tommy is not this do-gooder suffocating on his own goodness that was the problem."
"No. It was his issue."
"His fucking kids."
"Well the eldest cunt of a son who took over the businesses from his philanthropic father made William Martin Murphy look like Saint fucking Nicklaus."
"Exactly. And there were the workers...no fucking union, no fucking contracts...up shit creek without a paddle. Pawns in the game."
Marsh passed around some of the cigarettes.
"We could expose the charitable shannannigans of the fucker to the papers," suggested Long, "yeh know, how he's getting rid of his out of date stock on poor oulwans under the guise of charity."
"What papers, for fuck's sake?" Ructions asked. "The Irish Presstitute? The Whore of D'Olier Street? William Martin Murphy's snot rag? D'ye really think any of them arse wipes would ever tell a truth to shame the great and the good? Not a chance of it. And you call yourself an Anarchist! Kropotkin'll be turnin' in his urn."
Marsh agreed. He began taking the tins of spam out of each bag and placed them on a small table near the window.
"Fucken salmonella," he muttered angrily. "We should replace these ourselves, have you any money Colbert?"
Greenslade's eyes widened.
"Where would I get money?!?!?!."
"In a bank," retorted O'Donnell.
Marsh turned off the lights. Those in the room watched him in silence. He pulled open the curtains and raised up the bottom section of the window. Then, with an underhand throwing stroke of his right hand, six tins of spam disappeared out the window in rapid succession. He took a step back and closed the curtains with an energetic swish. There was a sound of screeching car brakes and breaking glass from the street below. This was followed by what appeared to be people shouting at one another.
"Wait until Jimmy Clarke hears about this fucken altruistic pervert," said Marsh to Miss Reid as he hurried out of the flat.
The plan was ready by the middle of November. The explosive expert was the only problem. One was dead, and the nitroglycerine man, was in London. He had scarpered there to settle an urgent domestic misunderstanding. Nevertheless, Marsh had full confidence in his own engineering ability.
During the evening rush hour, one hundred and thirty nine years to the day after Catherine Labore, a novice with the Saint Vincent de Paul, was led to the chapel of the Rue de Bac in Paris and there spoke with the Mother of God, four cars were discreetly parked on Innisfallon Parade. One truck was parked off the Whitworth Road and a small pick-up was ready in Prospect Square opposite the 'Gravediggers' public house.
On a walkie-talkie command from Marsh, the driver of the truck, Edwards, would veer out and, with total contempt for the rules of the road (and the laws of God and Man), block Cross Guns' Bridge. The pick-up would be abandoned down the road in Finglas. The conspirators hoped that the authorities would, initially at least, jump to the conclusion that the escapers were heading North and concentrate all their resources in that direction. The men would, in fact, be driven to safe houses on the south side of the city in the legitimate vehicles.
"They'll fucking rip the Keanes' house apart," the men laughed, referring to the home of Frank and Dessie Keane.
At about seven o'clock in the evening nine men met in a vacant house on Glangarriff Parade. The house was cold and damp. They arrived singly and at short intervals so as not to attract attention. In a darkened front room they congregated while Marsh, in a back kitchen, prepared the bomb by the light of a candle.
Ructions took it upon himself to rest in an armchair that seemed large enough to be capable of swallowing him whole. His hair and beard had now grown so that he was once again able to walk the streets looking like himself. The others stood or sat on the dusty floor in the musty ripening darkness. The single front window in the room had been shuttered with planks of wood.
While the men were there some cars with headlights on drove up Innisfallon Parade and turned onto Glengarriff Parade. As they did bars of light flooded through the thin spaces that had opened between the ill-fitting boards of the casually constructed wooden shutter. They crossed the room, and crossed the figures in the room, slowly and ominously. On one occasion the white pokers of light halted: the striped figures looked at one another.
One of Ructions eyes appeared glassy in the wan light: the other disappeared in a black crevasse. He had removed one of his surgical gloves and was flicking his right thumb frantically at the carborundum wheel of a cheap cigarette lighter. He stopped. Then the stripes of light inched forward before fleeing across the room. In the darkness the thumb renewed its agitated flicking and tiny explosions of light flashed until a spluttering whisper of flame gently lit up the derelict room. Some cigarettes were lit and they in turn dimmed and glowed as people dragged on them.
"Remember, nobody leaves a butt here. Spit on it and pocket it," ordered Walsh the Cork Saor Eire leader.
Marsh arrived from the kitchen carrying the candle. He reminded O'Donnell of a grizzled Florence Nightingle.
"She's ready," he announced.
Long whipped off his right shoe and sock.
"What are you doing?"
"I want to leave the Slug a few clues."
He began fingering the inside front doorknob to ensure that they were littered with prints except that he was using his toes. Then he got Marsh to press a dusty teapot from the kitchen against his bare foot. He did likewise with two cups, one badly cracked, and smudged his now dirty foot all over the fridge door. In the candle light Ructions noticed that somebody had scrawled over the cooker, 'Kilroy was here'.
As the prisoners in Mountjoy heard the gong for supper the men climbed over the back wall of the unoccupied house. Somewhere near, above the throb of the traffic, a dog barked excitedly.
The gang was now in a long grassy patch running the length of the high South wall of Mountjoy Prison. The night was clear and dry. To their right the shiny black figures could see the tall orange sodium lights of Whitworth Road throw a pale yellow glow over the railway wall. Marsh was on his knees cradling the bomb in the shadows at the prison wall.
"Isn't he like a Jew at the Wailing Whatsit," muttered Ructions.
Marsh had changed his mind about electrical detonation, fortunately perhaps, and opted for a short fuse. The shorter the better, he concluded, because the space they were in was overlooked by the back bedroom windows of the small two storey houses. They did not want people gawking out of their windows and wondering what was sparkling in the grass on its snakelike passage towards the wall. Every second of ignorance on the part of the three quarters of a million city dwellers who were not involved in the conspiracy could be vital later on.
"Not a single mot in her knickers going to bed," O'Donnell declared as he scanned the darkened back bedroom windows.
Marsh lit the fuse, ran, and threw himself on the grass beside the others who were now lying down with their hands over their ears. There was a tremendous bang and they were showered with clods of earth and stones. Everywhere there was dust and smoke. The black prone figures jerked into crouching and semi standing positions as if they were controlled by a giant puppeteer. They stared into the dark abyss.
"Move, move, move," somebody shouted.
They made for the wall twenty five yards away. Ructions had pulled his balaclava askew as the explosion took him by surprise. He jumped up with the balaclava at a raffish angle. As he tried to align his eyes with the eyeholes, Walsh, the formidable Cork man, crashed into him. Ructions thought that the police had arrived and he lashed out blindly.
"Leave it out," demanded Long, as the two figures tried to pulverize one another on the damp grass.
"Where's the fucking hole?" others shouted as they milled around in the smoke and dust. There was a great deal of confusion. The would be rescuers ran up and down alongside the wall roaring at one another: madness reigned supreme.
In Mountjoy, puzzled prisoners and wardens, stared at each other as mirrors and family photographs on cell walls crashed to the ground.
"Whassa?" Macker, the night chief, roared. He was standing in the prison centre circle which afforded him a view of all the wings as they spread fanwise before him. He was a tall thin man who stood, legs apart, with his prison cap worn far back on his head. This displayed a high forehead beneath graying, brown hair. He was in his early fifties and his prison uniform hung loosely on his long bony frame. His dark brown eyes were close together above a hawk like nose and they seemed to contradict the cadaverous visage as they flitted, almost incessantly, from side to side. On one long arm, his hand held the master key and this he had been using to relieve himself of an itch in his back passage when the explosion echoed throughout the jail.
The imperious sentinel clattered down the stone floor of B wing. He held his cap with one hand while his trousers flapped wildly about his long skinny legs.
"It's D wing, I think," shouted Bunhead in a gravelly voice to the galloping chief warden. Bunhead was in his late fifties. He was unmarried and institutionalized, with his prison cap sitting awkwardly on his enormous head. This was covered in close cropped grey hair. It rested on a body of average build which, in turn, sat on a pair of bandy legs. As a result he tilted from side to side when he walked and his head, unintentionally, became a dangerous weapon. He carried a heavy bunch of keys on a long leather strap.
Macker stared at the pale faced warden, then he turned on his heel and with elastic strides bounded back up B wing. He was followed by the bow-legged jailer whose head lurched from side to side as he raced to keep up with him. The corridors had come alive as clusters of prisoners began cheering on the two runners. They turned, almost level, around the corner onto D wing where the first-time prisoners were incarcerated. Bunhead lashed out at nobody in particular with the belt of keys as he ran. He grabbed a prisoner around the neck.
"Who made that bang?" he yelled, his voice rising above the general clamour.
"It wasn't me," the prisoner protested.
"It was outside," another shouted. "A plane crash!"
A special Branchman on guard duty at the canal corner of the prison wall had his wooden watchman's hut blown over. He dashed out of it in a daze, shouting "who are yis?" as he ran past the frantic figures to Mountjoy Garda Station to alert them to the fact that something untoward was going on nearby. "We're fucking extremists, who the fuck are you?" O'Donnell shouted after him. A walkie-talkie was cackling and Marsh yelled into it, "There's no fucken hole, everybody vamoose."
Edwards and Kenny were on Whitworth Road when they heard the blast. "She's away," Edwards shouted, raising his fist to the sky. He grabbed Kenny by the head and kissed him on the forehead.
"Where's your theory now?" he shouted as Kenny pulled away. A heavy set pedestrian who was walking past, stopped and gave the pair a malign look, before continuing on his way. The walkie-talkie hissed and crackled and Edwards was shouting back into it with a puzzled look on his face.
"What is it?" Kenny asked.
"Marsh! He's...No...fucking...hole," he said in stumbling speech.
"You mean he's no fucking soul. Sure every man has a hole," explained the intellectual who maintained an intolerant disposition to illogical statements.
Suddenly the truth dawned on Edwards. "A total cock-up. Marsh couldn't blow a bluebottle off a bishop's bum."
"Let's head for the Peacock and study some theory," mocked Kenny. There were lots of dogs barking and back-bedroom lights were switched on as the men clambered over the back wall of the empty house.
"That bang must have them jumping out of their knickers," Walsh remarked to O'Donnell, jerking a thumb towards the newly lit bedroom windows. They left the house smartly. Some drove away in the legitimate cars. O'Donnell jumped into the back of Marsh's Honda. There was no sign of Fitzgerald as they passed Findlater's Church. He was to wait there until he heard the explosion and then stroll into town and phone the Irish Times with the glad tidings. The completely ineffectual blast was heard over a wide area of the city, but, because it was badly placed, did little damage to the wall.
Within a short period they were all in the Peacock with faces on them that would send a funeral up a back alley. Marsh, his shoulder twitching, was trying to blame the condition of the explosives on Davis. Fitzgerald had made the phone call. Now he hurried back to phone again. The same voice answered.
"That call earlier about the 'Joy'; false alarm."
"Make up your mind for fuck's sake."
When he got back to the Peacock the atmosphere had completely changed. Those seated around their favourite table were in fits of laughter and he could only grasp some of the trivia. They particularly pondered on the terrified Branchman who tore past them on his way to the garda station. They presumed that he was a citizen who was in flagrante delicto on the banks of the Royal Canal. What must have gone through the citizen's mind as orgasm and explosion coincided was now the source of mirthful speculation.
"He must have thought he met the best bang since the Big One."
On the other hand the Branchman whose temporary accommodation was blown down around him, probably presumed that the milling figures he raced past, were people who had rushed out from the backs of their houses in Glangarriff Parade to witness the end of the world.