Ireland's Cause

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There had been mayhem immediately after that single shot had been fired at Sean in the Graveyard. Everyone there that had heard the shot had dived to the ground and behind the headstones for shelter and protection, fearing further bullets from the British soldiers. When there had been no further shooting the crowd had gathered around Sean’s body where Ann was crying and holding Sean’s lifeless body. Helen hugged Ann, trying to comfort her. Hugh had taken one look at his son, Sean and ran at the security forces bellowing his hatred. Dáithí and his friends joined in with Hugh, firing stones and whatever broken slabs and rocks that they could find. The security riot squad set up in front of the Army vehicles and battled with the enraged crowd. A full scale battle erupted with the Police charging the crowd of mourners and the mourners in turn fighting back, pushing the riot police back out of the graveyard. It had taken hours for quiet to ensue.

That night the day’s happenings were broadcast all over the world due to the presence of the international press. One camera had actual footage of the soldier taking the shot that hit Sean. The British government were quick to reassure the world that they were horrified at the sectarian war in Ireland with Catholics and Protestant embedded in a tick for tack warfare. They also assured the world that their presence in the graveyard had stopped a slaughter of a massive proportion.

Sean’s funeral was a huge affair that was conducted days after his murder. It was estimated that there were 30,000 in attendance. Once again the media presence was huge, coming from all the corners of the world. The Glenbeg Volunteers insisted on providing the Guard of Honour and the Firing Party. The oration was given by Sean’s friend and comrade Danny McConnelly from Cork. They had both fought together in the Resistance Campaign and both had been a driving force in the setting up of the Provisional IRA. Danny was on the Army General Headquarter Staff and on the run from the security forces, north of the border.

His speech was inspiring as he traced the Clarkes family Republican history back through the generations and Sean’s involvement in the fight for Ireland’s freedom for the last twenty years. Danny spoke of Sean’s activities in the Resistance/Border Campaign and how the local Glenbeg Provisional IRA Company was now one of the top Active Units in the Army. Proof of which was the successful ambush and shooting dead of the British Army elite Military Reaction Force members.

Continuing his speech Danny shouted into the loudspeaker “The Glenbeg Company successfully out witted, out fought and out manoeuvred the best of the worse that the Godforsaken British Government could throw at us. Us. A proud Celtic Nation that demands our freedom. And Sean Clarke beat them. Devious England had to resort to a murder, a murder in a previous worldwide respected and sacred holy ground of the Graveyard. But from Sean Clarke’s actions and spirit the fight lives on and as a better man than me once said in 1915 “Ireland Unfree Will Never Be At Peace!” In Sean’s memory we will continue this fight and we will beat the British out of our country! May he Rest in Peace!” Danny finished, raising a clenched fist to the sky, to loud cheers and applause from the gathered mourners.

Ann and her children stood proudly and defiantly with her family and the Clarke Clan. After Danny McConnelly speech the local Cumann na MBan members, in full uniform, stepped forward and standing to attention sang the republican lament, The Patriot Game. A song wrote in honour of Ann’s cousin and Sean’s comrade, Fergal O’Hanlon who was shot and killed while on active service in the Resistance/Border Campaign in 1957. The words wound hauntingly throughout the soft summer afternoon air,

“My name is O’Hanlon, I’ve just gone sixteen,

My home is in Monaghan there I was weaned,

I learned all my life cruel England’s to blame,

And so now I am part of the Patriot Game.”

The crowd stood stiffly to attention, gently swaying with the air and rhythm of the proud song. Tears of sorrow and rebelliousness rolled down saddened but undefeated faces. Undefeated believers of Irelands cause.

The funeral passed off without incident from the security forces, or from British Army interference. When the local Volunteers had vanished into the crowd after performing their Guard of Honour duties the crowd had provocatively challenged the security forces but the security forces held their ground and then tactically withdrew to the vicinity of the barracks.

Immediately after the burial was over the volunteers in the Glenbeg Company gathered in a local safe house and elected Stephen Maguire as their Officer Commanding, in place of Sean. There were 20 volunteers at that meeting and with Big Gerry’s encouragement Stephen was unanimously elected. The air was one of defiance, confidence and eagerness to revenge Sean’s murder. Stephen urged caution and promised that Sean’s legacy would continue and that Sean’s vision of the Glenbeg Company being one of the most feared IRA Company’s would be fulfilled.

Gerry proposed that the known volunteers stay away from the area for the time being and that all business and plans be conducted through the section leaders. Stephen then appointed the section leaders. It was agreed that they would continue to build on Sean Clarke’s foundation of successful guerrilla tactics. Even though they had lost one of their main inspirations and leaders the local company was full of enthusiasm and belief in their abilities to take on the British Army.

A couple of weeks after the funeral a cease fire was called and the leaders of the Provisional IRA entered talks with the British Government. The night before the cease fire was called the Glenbeg Company had set off a bomb at the front gate of the British Army Barracks in town and had then opened fire with numerous rifles and machine guns. The Volunteers escaped into the nearby mountains and safe houses in South Derry and East Tyrone. The British Army, as usual claimed that there had been no causalities. Declan from his bedroom lookout saw one body bag and three wounded security forces members being loaded into vans and being driven away.

Nearly three weeks after Sean’s murder in the graveyard and one week into the ceasefire Stephen called the Glenbeg Company Irish Republican Army meeting to order.

The meeting is being held in a safe house on the northern end of town. Stephen had used the cease fire period to strengthen the structure that Sean had initiated. Present at this meeting are the volunteers responsible for the different sections within the company. Gerry and Bernie represent the active volunteers, Jimmy is there from the engineering section, Declan represents the Intelligence section, Barney and Colm O’Reilly represent the communications department and Derek McManus is the newly appointed Quartermaster.

Stephen looks around the room smiling and asks for the sections reports. He has a newly acquired Armalite Rifle on the table and is practicing stripping and cleaning the gun. They all listen to the reports from the various sections and discuss how improvements could be made and ideas to strengthen the company.

Stephen raises his hand. “Thank you for your reports. The fact that we are stronger and more cohesive than ever is a reflection on both yours and our volunteers’ commitment and dedication. This cease fire will end within a week or so. The loyalists are murdering anyone that they want in order to spark a backlash. The Brits are encouraging it, supplying the weapons, intelligence and support.”

Everyone nods their heads in agreement and Declan said “I am developing a fairly good source that works in the barracks, and he is convinced that the local UDR are supplying weapons to the loyalist death squads with the British Army’s approval and support. He is trying to get solid proof but naturally enough he is very wary and cautious.”

Bernie nodded and said “We are going to have to do something about these loyalist murderers after the cease fire is over.”

This causes a stir of uneasiness in the room as their real objective is the removal of the British security forces, not the killing of sectarian loyalist murderers.

Stephen is equally uneasy about this line of thought and speaks out again “They are a secondary concern, even with their killings of innocent people. The Brits are only using them. We must concentrate on our primary target. The British Security Forces, from the coppers right through to the British establishment.”

Bernie spoke out first “I agree with you Stephen. I’m only pointing out that the people are expecting us to protect them.”

Gerry agreed “We have to protect our community, if we want them to stay with us.” There was wide spread agreement on this comment.

Stephen looked around the room, wishing Sean was here with his advice and ability to look months ahead “I agreed lads. This so-called cease fire is a farce and will be over very soon. In the meantime, we have strengthened our position. We now have better weapons” he said as he held up the Armalite rifle. “Our engineer unit is progressing with better techniques and methods for bombing and they are even designing mortars, Declan has established a web of Intelligence gatherers. All in all we are coming out of this cease fire in much stronger condition than we went into it.”

“I have to add a comment” said Declan, “our internal security has to improve. We must always be aware that the Brits are constantly attempting to turn anyone in the community or in our Army against us or to act as a tout. We must be continually aware of this.”

The rest nodded their heads in agreement and all murmured their own thoughts on touts.

Stephen continued “In the meantime our surveillance of the barracks and local area continues. All information is key and is being collated by Declan. When this cease fire ends I want to hit the ground literally with a bang and be in action as soon as it’s announced that it’s over. Jimmy here has been working with the South Armagh boys with a couple of ideas for some bombs and the Intelligence Unit has identified some potential opportunities for our other volunteers also.”

He spread out the map and they all bend in closer to hear and discuss the plans going forward.

As the Volunteers packed around the table Stephen stood back to light a cigarette. He stood looking at the Volunteers standing around the table plotting and planning. He took a deep draw on his cigarette enjoying the taste of the tobacco smoke going deep into his lungs. He inhaled, sucking the welcoming taste and sensation deep into his lungs, he paused and held the smoke in his lungs then slowly exhaled, flavouring very iota of that filterless Sweet Afton. Turning he walked to the door where his young 16 year old brother Dáithí stood, leaning against the doorframe, on lookout duty. Stephen tossed him a cigarette and a box of matches,

“Here you go Dáithí. How did you get on with that package?”

“Not a bother Stephen. I took the bus to Bundoran, hid the parcel by the Fairy Bridges outside of the town and then went to O’Neill’s pub for a bite of grub. Johnny was there so I gave him a wink, like you said to do.”

“Good man yourself. What did Johnny do?” Stephen asked.

Dáithí grinned back at Stephen “Again, just like you said, he ignored me. But he did send down a free piece of cake!”

Stephen laughed and walked away back inside to his meeting, finishing off his cigarette and throwing the butt onto the ground.

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