ON SUNDAY, September 9, 1951 the Seán Russell Memorial was unveiled in Fairview Park, Dublin – close to Seán’s home and in the area where he operated as an active service Volunteer throughout Easter Week, 1916.
Contingents travelled from all over Ireland to honour the man who as Chief of Staff, Irish Republican Army, died at sea while on active service in August 1940.
As well as the huge attendance there was a very big Special Branch presence noting who was present and what part they took in the ceremonies.
This is borne out by the following report submitted to the Superintendent, Special Branch next day by Detective Inspector John F Flaherty.
A writer who secured it from the Archives in furtherance of research into Seán Russell’s life remarked: “They must have had so many men there to have done all that spotting and counting – it’s very useful for me, but I cannot see what on earth use it was for them!” The report reads:
J U S 8/802/18
Garda Síochána – Metropolitan Division
10TH September 1951
Re: Memorial to Seán RUSSELL Unveiling at Fairview Park on Sunday, 9th September 1951
I beg to state that on Sunday the 9th instant, the ceremonies in connection with the unveiling of the monument to Seán Russell were carried through under the auspices of the IRA.
The proceedings commenced with the marshalling of a procession at Parnell Square and this occupied a period of one hour and twenty minutes; that is from 11am to 12.20pm.The advertised time of the move-off was 11.30am but some delays occurred owing to the late arrival of some of the country contingents.
The Dublin units of the IRA fell in under orders from Cathal GOULDING but it was Gerald McCARTHY who was “Chief Marshall” for he gave the orders to move when the procession was finally assembled. The order of the march to Fairview was as follows:-
1. Two motor-cyclists on machines numbered ZC-7363 and ZH-3847. The former is registered in the name of Thomas CROSSAN, 96, North Circular Road and the latter by Brendan FARRELL, 17 Stanford Green, Walkinstown who is on the “active” list. The identity of the riders of these machines has not been yet satisfactorily decided.
2. Colour Party consisting of three men, one of whom is known and he is John (Seán) CREANOR of Cadogan Road, Fairview and who came under notice some years ago. Enquiries are being made regarding the other two who composed this unit.
3. Dublin unit of the IRA led by Cathal GOULDING, Richard BURKE and Andrew NATHAN. This group numbered 136 in all.
4. Cork Volunteers (sic) Pipe Band
5. Miscellaneous group led by Gerald MacCarthy of Dublin. This contingent composed some members of public bodies such as the Dublin Corporation, GAA, Anti-Partition Association, etc. It totalled 41.
6. Unidentified group of men marching in fours and totalling 96.
7. Cumann na mBann (sic). Group of 40 women and girls led by Doreen ROGERS, Margaret DOYLE and Kitty O’CONNOR.
8. Inghíní na h-Éireann. Group of very young girls, 23 in all.
9. Girls Pipers Band, City of Dublin.
10. Cork group led by Donal KEANE with Thomas (sic) McCURTÁIN and another man taking secondary place in the lead. A Colour Party of three preceded this contingent which numbered 122.
11. Cailíní na hÉireann – a group of 32 girls.
12. Fianna Scouts. A group of 47 scouts led by Richard BELL (Risteárd MacGiolla Chloig) and Desmond GAREN (sic).
13. Kerry Contingent led by John Joe SHEEHY and including Seán Ryan and John Joe LANDERS of Tralee. This group numbered 96 in all.
14. A miscellaneous group totalling 103 in all and which included Con LEHANE and Michael FITZPATRICK (former Clann na Phoblachta TDs 1948-51 – Ed).
15. Pomeroy Accordion Band
16. Sinn Féin group, male and female numbering 82.
17. Another Sinn Féin group totalling 86.
18. Transport Workers’ Union Band.
19. “Joe McKelvey’s” Pipers Band from the Six Counties.
20. Northern group led by John Collins and numbering 176 in all.
Excluding the five bands, the total number in the parade was 1,075.
The procession marched to Fairview via O’Connell Street, Amiens Street, North Strand, arriving at Fairview Park at about 1pm where the general public had already assembled in large numbers, many no doubt attending from the point of view of curiosity.
Nevertheless, the crowd at this period was not far short of five thousand people, including those on the paths and roadway outside the Park proper.
It was observed that Andrew HIGGINS of Loughlinstown was very active at this juncture giving orders from the platform to the various units.
It is also of interest to note that he was particular to get the general public well away from the monument and to get all the IRA units close to the memorial, near which was erected the platform which was equipped with amplifiers.
The proceedings at this juncture were taken over by Anthony MAGANN (sic) who did the introductions but made no speech himself.
The first speaker introduced was Mícheál O’NEILL, late of Ellesmere Avenue and who came under notice some years ago. He recited a decade of the Rosary in Irish. He is an elderly man.
The next speaker was T McMONAGLE of Clan na Gael of Philadelphia. He only said a few words of no importance from the political point of view, after which he left the platform and unveiled the monument.
Flags were then dipped at the orders of Gerald McCARTHY, while the Last Post was sounded by buglers. At this point six revolvers were raised in the air and three volleys fired. The weapons used were long .45s and seemed to be new ones.
While no member of this Section has a close up view of the firing, the following were seen to leave the spot where the firing occurred. They marched in single file:-
Cathal GOULDING leading, with Richard BURKE, Andrew NATHAN, Kevin McCAY, Gearóid Ó BROIN, Séamus BAIRD (Mac a’ Bháird), Malachy FORDE, and John KEANE.
The men were also observed moving towards the base of the statue prior to the shooting. There is no doubt that these fellows composed the firing party. All wore hats, save Andrew NATHAN, an unusual feature for such company.
Following this, the assembly was addressed by P. O’MAHONY, Clan na Gael of New York who said that he was honoured to be permitted to deliver the oration on this occasion and proud to do so after observing the youth of Ireland give three volleys in honour of one of the Ireland’s greatest patriots.
He recalled with pride his association with Seán Russell during the years 1920-27, his rejection of any compromise at the IRA Convention in the Rotunda in 1927.
He recalled the pride they in America felt when he came to America prior to the war and informed them that “his boys were then attacking Seán Buí in his own land.
O’MAHONY continued by saying that he himself had toured the United States endeavouring to whip up support in the cause of Irish Freedom. Many attempts were made by Russell to return to Ireland and the last resulted in his death and buried at sea.
He was proud to see that there were young men still eager and willing to carry on the fight to a successful conclusion.
After the playing of the National Anthem the proceedings concluded.
As already indicated the procession numbered 1,075 persons. However, it is considered desirable to say that approximately one half of those participating are not active members of the IRA.
Participants came from many parts of the country, some of whom were observed but in a great many instances parties from the Provinces were not seen at all, though it is known they attended.
The fact that the replay of the All-Ireland football Semi-Final (Mayo V Kerry) was held on the 9th inst., had no doubt had a favourable bearing on country representation, especially Kerry.
In order to simplify matters, I have listed those who came under observation and who took part in the proceedings.
On Saturday the 8th inst flag boxes were distributed to members of the IRA and the Fianna Scouts at 9 Parnell Square. Later, members of those organisations sold flags around the city the sales were not on a big scale.
John F. Flaherty. 1761. D/Insp.
List of Dublin IRA “active” Strength who took part in the Seán Russell Memorial Parade 9/9/51.
List of Persons, ex-IRA or “Fellow Travellers”.
Joseph Clarke, Dublin, JJ Seelig, Dublin [Seán Ó Ceallaigh, ainm chleite “Sceilig”]. Mícheál O’Neill, do, Mrs Jim Russell, do. T Mc Monagle, Philadelphia. P O’Mahony, New York. John (Seán) Creanor, Dublin. Jack Murphy, Dublin, ex-Kerry. Seán Goulding, Dublin. James Cafferley, Dublin. John O’Sullivan, ex-Killarney. James Jackson, (Jimmy), Finglas. Maura Twomey [Máire Ní Thuama], Dublin. Margaret Doyle, Rathfarnham. James O’Hanlon, Dublin. Doreen Rogers, do. Jeremiah Handley, do. Con Lehane, do. Michael Fitzgerald, do. Charles Leonard, do.Michael Kelly [Sec Clan na Pobhlachta], Matthew O’Neill, [Maitiú Ó Néill]. Seán Dunne, do [Labour TD]. Myles Heffernan, do. Joseph O’Connor, do. Patrick Nolan, do [Pádraig Ó Nualláin]. Frank Scullion, do. Madame Rogers, do [Madame Nora]. Joseph Clarke, do. Partick Russell, Dublin. Henry Beggs, do. Thomas Burke, father of Richard Burke. Thomas Murphy, ex-Kerry. Michael Smith, do. Patrick Browne, do. Thomas Brady, do. Thomas McKenna, do. Seán Fitzpatrick, do [National Graves Association]. Joseph Stynes, USA.
The following public bodies or associations were represented:-
The names of many Republicans like Tomás Mac Curtáin who used and were well known by the Irish versions of their names had them written in English by the Special Branch. This was the practice of the RIC and is still that used by the 26-County police today.
In all such cases the Irish form is added in brackets in this article.
Some readers may feel that such close attention to Republican activities by the Branch may have followed from Fianna Fáil’s return to office in June 1951. Such Branch activity, in fact, never ceased from 1948.
In the 1970s Inspector Flaherty was still observing all public meetings and giving evidence against Republican platform speakers before the Special Non-jury Court.
In point of fact there were many mistakes in the listings quoted and many mis-spellings. The latter were corrected in most cases. Des Carron’s name was mis-spelt “Caren”. The titles of Cumann na gCailíní and the Clann na nGaedheal girl scouts were given as Inghíní na hÉireann (absorbed into Cumann na mBan at its foundation in 1914) and Cailíní na hÉireann.
Such are the “observations” on which are based the “opinion” of a Chief Superintendent which can send a person to prison for membership of the IRA.
(More next week. Ref: Report of Special Branch detectives compiled by Inspector John J Flaherty from Archives.)
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