Weekly Series on Centenary of Events of 1919 - 1921.
Compiling the web's most definitive timeline of years the 131 weeks during the Irish War of Independence with daily updates @ https://twitter.com/131Weeks
Mick McDonnell told us that Detective Officer Smith was living in Millmount Avenue and he was to be shot as he was becoming too active working against Volunteer interests.
Mick McDonnell instructed me to go to Drumcondra Bridge and take with me Tom Keogh, Tom Ennis and Mick Kennedy, who knew Smith by sight. Mick McDonnell told us that Smith usually came home by tram, alighted at Botanic Avenue, and walked across the bridge. We were to wait at the bridge and shoot Smith when opportunity offered.
We waited at Drumcondra bridge for about five nights. Finally we saw a man approaching across the bridge and Kennedy said, “I think this is Smith”. I told him to make sure, but Kennedy said he could not be sure, although he thought it was Smith.
I said, “If this man turns into Millmount Avenue we will shoot him”, because I knew Smith was living there, and between Kennedy being nearly sure of his identity and the fact that he turned into Millmount Avenue would leave very- little doubt about him. Kennedy was still undecided, but instead of turning into the Avenue, the man walked across, passed the Avenue and turned down a lane going along the back of the Avenue After he passed us and crossed over I nearly dropped on my knees thinking I had nearly shot an innocent man, but when he turned down at the back of the houses we knew it was Smith. By this time he had gone out of range and we knew we had missed him.
There was a bit of an argument then, "I told you so", and so on. We stayed around the bridge for about half an hour thinking Smith would go to the window of his house, and seeing us still there think nothing of it. Mick McDonnell arrived on the scene and asked us did Smith not come. We told him Smith came allright but that we did not, recognise him in time. McDonnell then said, "What the hell are you doing here so?" I told him that I figured that Smith would have a look out the window, and the fact that we were still there would allay suspicion. We came back again to the bridge and after about a week we shot Smith. We had. 38 guns and they were too small. I thought that the minute we would fire at him he would fall, but after we hit him he ran. The four of us fired at him. Keogh and myself ran after him right to his own door and I think he fell at the door, but he got into the house. He lived for about a fortnight afterwards.
I met Mick McDonnell the following morning and he said we had made a right mess of the job the night before, but I can assure you that I was more worried until Smith died than Mick was. We never, used. 38 guns again, we used. 45 guns after that lesson.
The G-Division: About July, 1919, Dick McKee rang me up and asked me to meet him at 5.30 p.m. at the rere entrance to Gill's in O'Connell Street, where he was employed at this time as a printer. I met him and we came across to 44, Parnell Square, our newly acquired headquarters.
He told me that he had been talking very seriously with Michael Collins and Dick Mulcahy, and that they had decided that the time had come to wipe out the G-Division. This came as a shook to me. I said nothing.
"The position is this", said Dick. "These fellows are watching us night and day. They know where we live, where we sleep, where we eat; and, when they have got all the information they want about us, they will spread the net a bit wider, and follow and find out the same information about the people with whom we associate. We know that they are almost ready to strike and some night, when we are all sleeping in our beds, they will get every officer in the Dublin Brigade."
I agreed. "We will go down in history as a "laughing-stock"," he said, "if we let them get away with that. We have already given them a final warning. We have told them that, if they did not resign, the next reminder they would get would be a bullet. We have got to go ahead at once." "Well, yes", I said, "I agree but, Dick, I want to make my position clear in this. It is a job I would not be prepared to do myself. I simply could not do it, even if you ordered me to do it; and, for that reason, I will never ask any other man to do what I would not be prepared to do myself. So, when you are picking your men for it, will you please leave me out?".
He was, I think, disappointed, but he did not say so. "We know quite well", I went on, "that Cathal Brugha will raise hell over this, because he won't have it". "Whether Cathal wants it or not, we are going ahead, and I an making arrangements to have Smith shot during the coming week." "If Cathal disapproves", I asked, "what will happen then?". "Well", he replied, "what we assume will happen is that, at the next meeting of G.H.Q., Cathal. will ask by whose orders was Smith shot.
I will say by mine." "What then?" "Well, I will almost certainly be suspended and tried by courtmartial for breaking orders, or exceeding them." "What will happen then?" "You will have to carry on the Dublin Brigade!" "Well, Dick, I won't. If Oaths suspends you for carrying out this operation, I'll tell him that you did it after consultation with me and that I approved; and I shall decline to carry on the Dublin Brigade if you are to be punished."
He smiled. "That is all I wanted to know!" and so it ended on a happy note.
One little matter is perhaps worthy of comment here. I warned Dick that, if he was shooting the G-Division, he should start with Bruton. Bruton was a brave man and, from our point of view, a dangerous man.
I told Dick that, -73- if he shot Bruton, I felt certain that Smith would resign and clear the country. Dick laughed and said, "Go on! You are only saying that, because Bruton raided your house!". "No, it is not that, Dick. Smith and Bruton raided my house, with about fifty others, looking for Michael Collins. The first man into every room was Bruton, he fully expected to find Collins behind the door, staring him with a gun. Smith spent about three-quarters of an hour searching the outhouses, and only came up ten he was quite sure Collins was not there." Dick did not heed me, but went on with the job, and Smith was shot up very badly, at the corner of Millmount Avenue and Drumcondra Road, within the week.
We afterwards found out, to our cost, how right I was. After the death of Smith, Bruton did not resign but took up his residence permanently in Dublin Castle, and many a brave man went to his death or torture at the hands of the Auxiliaries, after he had been identified by Bruton. I looked forward to the next meeting of G.H.Q. with great trepidation. I had a great love for Cathal. Brugha, but I felt that I would have to side with Dick McKee if there was a row. I waited for Dick after the meeting of the Staff. "How did you get on with Cathal?", I asked. "Oh, that!", said Dick, with a big hearty laugh. "Cathal. said, 'Who shot Smith, McKee?'. 'Certain members of the Dublin Brigade'. 'A damn good job!', said Cathal." But he did not tell him to go ahead with any more.
Smith lingered for quite a long time, though he must have had at least ten holes in him. He ran up the length of Millmount Avenue to his own house, with about five bullets in him, and knocked at his door. Porn Keogh came racing up the street after him and put two more through him as the door opened; yet Smith lived three weeks.
On the night of July 30th 1919, at perhaps about ten o'clock, I stood at the door of 140 Drumcondra Road, talking to Dot when a volley of shots rang out in the direction of Millmount Avenue just beyond the Tolka Bridge. We had no idea what had happened, but in the few minutes silence that followed the shooting, Dot remarked: "that sounds like the direction of Millmount Avenue where Detective Sergeant Smith lives". A few inquisitive people began to drift towards the scene of the shooting and about twenty minutes later the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance went clattering over the bridge.
I walked down to Millmount Avenue myself then, as quite a crowd had collected there and was just in time to see Sergeant Smith being carried from his house to the ambulance. Joe Connolly, the ambulance driver whom I knew as a Volunteer, remarked to me, rather disappointedly, I thought: "I don't think he is dead yet", and the crowd silently melted away as the ambulance left with the wounded detective for the Mater Hospital. Smith died from his wounds a week or two later and a great outcry was made in the British controlled press about what was described as the brutal murder of a police officer. In fact, as has since been disclosed, Smith had made himself notorious in his efforts to track down Collins and other members of the Volunteer General Staff, and had been warned that his life would be forfeited if he chose to continue on this work. When, therefore, the Intelligence Branch received further indications of Smith's continued activity on what was called political work, the order for his execution was given.
Streets Scene of Wild Terror as Whites and Negroes Battle Two Nights of Fighting Continued Into Today Loop and North Side Are Affected.
ROCK ISLAND MAN KILLED.
Chicago, July 29. Harold Rignadell of Rock Island, white, was riddled by bullets fired from house
at 1021 South State street and killed. When the police rushed the place they found and arrested four women and nine men, all negroes. Two revolvers, two razors, an axe, several knives and a quantity of cartridges were discovered piled near a window from which the negroes had been shooting. Rignadells home was in Rock Island.
Chicago, July 29. City, county and state officials united today in an attempt to soothe Chicago's social torment of race rioting complicated by a complete street car strike. Despite their joint efforts trouble flared intermittently throughout the morning and the death list of embattled whites and negroes grew until it reached 24. Even that figure was approximate as unconfirmed reports of additional killings were still seeping into police stations.
The race rioting spread outside the: south side colored district today. There was serious fighting and shooting in the loop early in the forenoon. The exclusive north side residential district received a touch of disorder. Killings continued after daybreak, bringing the number of dead, in police reports, up to 24 by mid forenoon and hundreds were injured. The police had under investigation other reported killings.
Last night a hundred thousand negroes and an equal number of whites cither fought in streets and
alleys or cowered in their homes while shots rang out. Mounted policemen galloped along the boulevards, patrol wagons dashed back and forth with prisoners and wounded, and children screamed as men fought with cudgels, knives and fists.
We do not in the least understand the Irish Question. This remark is on the lips of many a Frenchman Who is anxiously seeking information. We know how British propaganda, especially with regard to muzzling the French Press, has tried to keep the French in darkness about the true facts of the Irish Question. Ireland has had one great advocate of late in France, M. Treguiz, the author of 'Ireland in the Universal Crisis,' who is about to bring out a new edition of his valuable work, covering the whole period of the war up to the General Election last year.
This honest review of the Irish situation has- done a great deal to set the minds of the French on the right path. We must not forget the classical work of M. Paul-Dubois, 'Modern Ireland and the Irish Question,' written some years ago, but which on reading now in the light of recent events seems prophetic. And yet in spite of these two admirable publications there is a great deal of mist enveloping the mind of the ordinary Frenchman, and hence he asks: 'What does Ireland want?' The answer to this is very fearlessly and completely given in an article by Xavier Moisant in the June number of 'Etudes' edited by the Jesuits in Paris.
Many Frenchmen, he says, do not think it opportune to understand the Irish question. They are politicians. But there is no reason of being afraid of more light on the subject. We must not take into account merely the Irish Republican Press, we must understand the origin and the meaning and the issues. The French are inclined to be annoyed with the Republicans on account of the Rebellion, which had all the more chance of success since England and the Allies' found themselves in a very critical situation. The logic of sentiment must be put aside, and the old and faithful friends of Ireland must not close their eyes to a question that goes beyond and is quite distinct from one of sentiment. Besides the hour of victory is one that permits, without any trickery, of a generous obliteration, and of an honest endeavour to study the Irish question logically and in its fundamentals.
"It is the misfortune of Ireland," said A.M Sullivan, "that there is in the country no party authorised to give expression to the national will." And this was written in May 1919. England then says with a show of reason that the responsibility rests with the divided Irish. The writer then goes -on to show the claims of the Constitutional Party, of the Sinn Feiners and of the Ulster Party to represent the voice of the country. He first -disposes of the alleged German plot, and shows that there is not a particle of evidence, and that the Sinn Feiners are not pro-German but Nationalists.
He refers his readers to the appeal of the United Irishmen to France against England and asks did they renounce the idea of self-determination, or did they thereby become pro-French, wish to change their masters. He deals with the Ulster rebellion under Carson and says Carson's activities were the incentive to Casement's, quoting from Maloney's 'The Irish Issue in its Ulster Aspect' in 'America.
Speaking of the growth of Sinn Fein he says that England had a great deal to do with it, and continues: "England was waiting in good-will and consideration towards a country morel slinned against than sinning. Why should Ireland not think of her wrongs? Legally, perhaps, the execution of the leaders of the rebellion might be justified; but morally and politically, justice should have taken another course.
England had established a precedent; she had tolerated the rebellion of the Orange minority against the Nationalist majority in legal possession of the Home Rule Bill; and yet she struck down without mercy men in when their fellow-countrymen saw as did the American Lloyd Morris "the finest and richest intellects in the country;" she placed people who had nothing to do with the affair under martial law and hateful police restrictions. Ireland has recoiled under the repeated blows of a rigorous and partial justice, and, if not altogether by conviction, at least by sympathy, she has become Sinn Fein. England would have gained the greatest advantage from this revolution. She could by a little kindness in the suppression of it have disarmed public opinion. Sinn Fein would not have moved the great mass of the people. But she chose another method."