The Insurrection in Dublin


The Insurrection in Dublin (First published in 1916, this is the 1978 Colin Smythe edition)

I had the good fortune to spend much of this week in Edinburgh,  a city which has a great sense of history, and which is home to many great bookshops, both big and small.  I always make sure to drop into the bookshops around Grassmarkets while there, and I was fortunate this time to find this beautiful edition of The Insurrection in Dublin, which I thought was worth picking up for the cover alone.

The 1978 edition of the book shows Dublin’s historic coat-of-arms ablaze, and the city motto (which roughly translates to ‘The happiness of a city depends upon the obedience of its citizens’) is burning too.  I also love the cowboy western style font of the title.

This was one of the first books published on the Easter Rising, released originally only months after the fighting.  As an eyewitness account, it is one of the finest we have of that chaotic week in Dublin. Stephens was a novelist and poet, as well as an Irish nationalist who was familiar personally with some of the participants in the fighting.  He was not a participant in the Rising himself however, but an observer who did get out onto the streets in the search for information. Brian Hughes has noted that:

James Stephens (d. 1950), was part of [Thomas] MacDonagh’s close circle of friends and collaborators in literary Dublin having co-founded the Irish Review with him. He contributed articles to Arthur Griffith’s journal United Irishman and his first book of poems appeared in 1909 entitled Insurrections. Over the following years he continued to publish poetry, contribute to journals and was appointed registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland after returning to Dublin in 1915.

George Russell, reviewing this book at the time of its release,  heaped praiseon Stephens, writing that “he has the most vivid senses of any Irishman now writing. He kept a journal day by day,writing down what he saw with those keen eyes of his.”

His account of the Rising is available to read in full here, thanks to the excellent ricorso.net.

The first episode of the new RTÉ television series ‘Pat Shortt’s Music From D’Telly’ featured Christy Moore performing in The Abbey Tavern in Howth in 1980.  Playing beside him in the short clip was Declan McNelis.

Christy Moore and Declan McNeilis - The Abbey Tavern, Howth, 1980. Credit - rte.ie

Christy Moore and Declan McNeilis – The Abbey Tavern, Howth, 1980. Credit – rte.ie

It was highlighted to me later by my Dad that the show missed a perfect opportunity to call attention to the fact that Declan was a well-respected musician who was tragically killed after performing a gig in Limerick in April 1987. As there are no major tributes online, I felt it would be of value to collate information and pictures about this well-loved and accomplished instrumentalist.

From Marino on Dublin’s northside, Declan McNelis took up the bass at the age of 12 and in the 1970s and 1980s played with many of Ireland’s leading musicians including Christy Moore, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Maura O’Connell, Freddie White, Robbie Brennan, Mary Coughlan, Donal Lunny, Honor Heffernan, Philip Donnelly, Frankie Lane, Pete Cummins and Jimmy Faulkner.

After secondary school, he began studying in UCD with intentions to become a school teacher. But he gave it up to join the Red Peters and The Dublin Floating Blues Band in the mid 1970s. Around this time, he also played with an acoustic blues outfit called Dirty Dozen with Johnny Norris.

From around 1974 onwards, Christy Moore played with Declan, Jimmy Faulkner and Kevin Burke. They had a residency on Monday and Saturday nights in The Meeting Room on Dorset Street. Declan played bass on Christy’s album ‘Whatever tickles your fancy’ (1975) and guitar on his self-titled ‘Christy Moore’ (1976).

Declan pictured in 1975 recording Christy Moore's album 'Whatever Tickles Your Fancy'. Credit - theballadeers.com

Declan pictured in 1975 recording Christy Moore’s album ‘Whatever Tickles Your Fancy’. Credit – theballadeers.com

In October 1979, Declan set out on the Anti-Nuclear Roadshow to help the campaign against the Carnsore Point nuclear power plans with Freddie White, Matt Kelleghan and Jimmy Faulkner. Together with other groups they mobilised support concerts across the country.

Nicknamed ‘Seagull’, Declan was known for his humour and organising outrageous fund-raising raffles for the campaign –  a £1 ticket could led to people winning a  bottle of lemonade, a wrapped sandwich or a set of boot studs!

Freddie White on stage at Ballisodare Festival, 1980. Declan McNeilis on bass and Arty Lorrigan on drums.

Freddie White on stage at Ballisodare Festival, 1980. Declan McNeilis on bass and Arty Lorrigan on drums.

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Manchester Martyrs cenotaph memorial, thanks to Niall Oman.

Looking at the above,  you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Despite appearances however, and the fact three names are listed on the memorial, there is nobody buried there. This cross commemorates the ‘Manchester Martyrs’,  three Fenian prisoners who were publicly hanged at Salford Gaol on 22 November 1867. A crowd of several thousand watched the men meet their end, and the sad affair is primarily remembered today for a moment of defiance, and the shouts of ‘God Save Ireland’ inside the courts of law.

William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien had all partaken in an event that became popularly known in republican folklore as the ‘Smashing of the Van’, on 18 September 1867 in Manchester.  This was an attempt by republicans in Manchester to free two of their ranks from police custody. Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy were two high profile Fenian prisoners, who had travelled to Manchester to take part in a council of Fenian Centres (or organisers) in England. Both men were veterans of the American Civil War, and their arrests galvanised the Irish communities in British cities like Manchester into action. Michael Herbert, who has a particular interest in the history of the Irish Diaspora in Manchester, has written that when both men were arrested on 11 September 1867, “this was a major coup for the authorities, but Edward O’Meagher Conlon, another Irish-American Civil War veteran who was in charge of re-organising the Fenians in the north of England, immediately set plans in motion to free the two men, procuring arms from Birmingham and organising a party of men to effect a rescue.”


A historical marker in Manchester detailing the events that led to “the last public hanging in the Manchester area.” (Wiki)

Conlon’s party did succeed in stopping a horse-drawn police van , and both prisoners were successfully rescued and smuggled to America by the Fenian movement. The problem was that in the course of this, a policeman, Charles Brett, was shot inside the van. In one ballad dealing with this affair, it’s noted that:

With courage bold those heroes went

and soon the van did stop,

They cleared the guards from back and front

and then smashed in the top,

But in blowing open of the lock,

they chanced to kill a man,

So three must die on the scaffold high

for smashing of the van.

As Herbert has noted, the police response was immediate, as “the Manchester police arrested some of the rescuers at the scene and dragged in dozens of other Irishmen in the following days as the constabulary ransacked the Irish quarters, enraged by the deaths of their colleague.” One man who was present at the ‘Smashing of the Van’, but who evaded arrest, was James Stritch. A committed revolutionary for decades to follow, he was only seventeen at the time. He would later emerge in the General Post Office during the 1916 Rising, and was interned in Frongoch for his troubles.


‘God Save Ireland’ commemorative artwork (National Library of Ireland)

Before Allan, Larkin and O’Brien were executed for their role in the affair, they appeared in court, as did dozens of other Irishmen.  O’Brien struck a defiant note, telling the Manchester court that: “The right of man is freedom. The great God has endowed him with affections that he may use, not smother them, and a world that may be enjoyed. Once a man is satisfied he is doing right, and attempts to do anything with that conviction, he must be willing to face all the consequences.” When the men were hanged outside Salford Gaol, the crowd that gathered taunted and jeered them in their final moments. One of the Catholic clergy who attended the men remembered that “A crowd of inhuman ghouls from the purlieus of Deansgate and the slums of the City … made the night and early morning hideous with the raucous bacchanalian strains of “Champagne Charlie”, “John Brown”, and “Rule Britannia”. No Irish mingled with the throng … They had obeyed the instructions of their Clergy.”

The hangings attracted international attention. Frederick Engels would write to his co-author Karl Marx that “only the execution of the three has made the liberation of Kelly and Deasy the heroic deed as which it will now be sung to every Irish babe in the cradle in Ireland, England and America.” With the men buried in England, the demand for the return of their remains was immediate. In the absence of bodies however, mock funerals took place.


Detail of Glasnevin memorial. Thanks to Niall Oman for picture.

In Dublin, tens of thousands marched in procession to Glasnevin Cemetery on Sunday 8 December 1867, behind three empty hearses, while there were similar mock funeral processions in other parts of the country too, with a particularly large event in Limerick. Of the Dublin march, the  following description of plans appeared in the Freeman’s Journal days in advance:

We understand that the following is the programme as arranged up to the present by the managing committee of the funeral demonstration to be held on Sunday: – A body of men, eight abreast, to lead the procession; the Youth of Dublin; a Band playing the “Dead March in Saul”, three Hearses, the Ladies, the general procession with bands interspersed. The procession will assemble in Beresford Place, the head of the cortege facing up Abbey Street. The start will be twelve noon.

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James Connolly (From  C. Desmond Greaves biography cover)

Media coverage of the 1916 Rising is a favourite subject here, and in the past we’ve looked at how American newspapers reported on the events in Dublin. I recently found this report from the Daily Chronicle and thought it worth posting. It deals with James Connolly, who is contrasted with Jim Larkin. By the time of the Rising, Larkin was in the United States. Despite that, as you’ll see in the above link, some American newspapers managed to blame him for events, even printing images of Larkin in their reports.

There’s lots of food for thought in a recent contribution by Brian Hanley to a panel discussion of the Irish Labour History Society on the theme on Connolly, which is posted in full over on Cedar Lounge Revolution.

Here is the piece from the Daily Chronicle, published in May 1916:

Jim Connolly hardly belongs to any recognised type of Irish agitator. To hear him speak one would have thought of the most pronounced type among the strong Glasgow accent. He measured his words and spoke with a reticence that was wholly un-Irish. In the substance of his talk, apart from  his fervent Irish Nationalism, he would have seemed to be neither Irish not Scottish, but Western American, with strong notions of industrial unionism, as practised by the IWW and the Federation of Labour, and in these characteristics were summed up the history of the man. Born in Scotland, of Irish parents, he became an advanced Socialist of the self-educated type, traveled to America, where he absorbed the new ideas of labour agitation, drifted back to this country, and eventually became Larkin’s right hand man in Dublin and his chief organiser.

Connolly’s greatest achievement was to have succeeded in planting Syndicalist theory and practice – industrial anarchist of the most pronounced type – among the unskilled workers of Dublin. When Larkin descended on the Irish capital in 1907, to lead a dock strike, Connolly became his right-hand man. The one, a hysterical, half-insane enthusiast, supplied the rhetoric and the emotion; the other supplied the wonderful semi-political organisation that had its headquarters at Liberty Hall.

Of the two chiefs of the movement it might be said that the moment it began to assume the character of political revolt Connolly, as the man of strong will and almost unique organising ability, was the more dangerous. During the labour troubles of 1913-14, he preached and taught his followers to practice pure Syndicalist doctrines, as have been practiced in Los Angeles and other cities of the American West – no trust with employers, violence if necessary, cynical repudiation of contracts, unceasing war, by any and every means. He was sentenced for conspiracy, but was set free after a seven days’ hunger strike.

On the subject of James Connolly, his political ideas and his involvement in the Rising, this Witness Statement from Mortimer O’Connell, an Irish Republican Brotherhood member and Volunteer,  is interesting reading. He recalled that:

I attended many of the strike meetings of 1911, 1912 and 1913, coming in from Blackrock with other students from The Castle to hear Larkin and Connolly, amongst others, speak. My impression was that he was an extreme international Socialist or what we would now term a Communist.

O’Connell believed that Connolly’s political views were shaken by the outbreak of the World War and the manner in which many Socialist Parties threw themselves behind their national war efforts, supporting recruitment and the like, rather than opposing the brutal conflict. He recalled that:

Between January 1916 and Easter Week Connolly gave lectures to selected groups of Volunteers. These lectures were held in the offices of some accountant in Nassau St., whose name I cannot recall. I was on occasion one of the Volunteers sent to stand guard, and I was present at some of these lectures. I remember Frank Fahy, later Ceann Comhairle, and others discuss with Connolly’s his views of a National Policy and asking him how it happened that he was taking this National stand in view of his past pronouncements.

Connolly’s explanation was that he got a shock when the Labour Leaders of England, France, Germany, Austria and Russia all had declared in 1914 for their respective countries. In other words they had become national. He felt that he himself should take stock, and he came to the conclusion that his first duty in the crisis was to be an Irishman.

A cocktail in 1960s Dublin.

Thanks to Walter Wouk for sending this interesting little 1960s tidbit through to our Facebook page in recent times. I like it for a couple of reasons, including the fact it not only features the Nelson Pillar (gone fifty years next year of course), but also uses the monument in the menu, with Horatio Nelson recommending Madigans “for a topping cocktail.” Madigans on North Earl Street is still going strong today of course.

There has been a trend of cocktail bars opening in Dublin in recent years, and you’ll find some of these drinks on menus across the city today. We previously looked at denunciation of alcohol cocktails in 1930s Dublin before. The Irish Times denounced the cocktail in 1932, warning readers that the cocktail “fulfils no useful function. It is supposed by the many to induce an appetite and to stimulate intelligent conversation; in fact, it absorbs the pancreatic juices and encourages cheap wit.” This menu shows there was plenty on offer in Dublin fifty years ago.

Madigans cocktail menu (1/2)

Madigans cocktail menu (1/2)

Madigans cocktail menu (2/2)

Madigans cocktail menu (2/2)

The menu also directs customers towards another Madigans on Moore Street, which is now no more – in fact, there isn’t a single pub on Moore Street today.

These are times of great change on Moore Street, with potential new developments that could drastically alter the appearance and character of the street, not to mention the focus on the street with the centenary of the Easter Rising approaching.

A Madigans Lounge sign can be seen in this image of Dublin street traders from the 1970s, and the below:


Madigans Bar & Lounge (Unsure of date of image)

Twenty years later, there was still a pub trading under the Madigan name on the street, though on the other side of it, were these premises related?This image is found in the excellent Dublin City Council Photographic Collection, from 1992:


This photograph is from the Dublin City Council Photographic Collection.


Joseph E.A Connell Jr.’s recent book, Dublin Rising 1916, is a remarkable resource that we’re going to be dipping into for a long time to come. Listing addresses in Dublin by postcode, it gives us an idea of the secret lives and histories of buildings that in many cases are very familiar to us. The buildings featured range from the iconic, such as the General Post Office, to the totally forgotten, like safe-houses in places like Cabra and Phibsborough.

Having dived into the secret histories of  known places in the context of 1916, it got me thinking about the period that later followed, with the War of Independence (1919-1921), and the Civil War (1922-1923). The Bureau of Military History Witness Statements are one way of unearthing the hidden histories of  places, and one that popped up a few times in various statements caught my attention; a bomb factory in the very heart of modern-day Temple Bar, active during the later stages of the War of Independence and into the early phase of the Civil War.

Crown Alley today. (Image Credit: www.geograph.ie/photo/2266860, Eric Jones. Creative Commons)

Crown Alley today. (Image Credit: http://www.geograph.ie/photo/2266860, Eric Jones. Creative Commons)

For the republican movement, carrying on the fight in the aftermath of 1916 involved great logistical difficulty. A defeated army lacks weaponry, not to mention the fact the Easter Rising had clearly demonstrated the need for better weaponry. Arms were procured in the period that followed the Rising in a number of ways. Sometimes, they were purchased abroad and smuggled into Ireland. On other occasions, they were seized during raids on police stations and barracks premises. In Dublin, they were even removed from visiting ships, like the American ship Defiance in 1918. The movement also depended on secret munitions factories, often hidden deep within legitimate places of business. The unenviable task of overseeing all of this fell on the shoulders of the IRA Director of Munitions.

Seán Russell, a Dubliner born in Fairview in 1893, was a veteran of the Easter Rising who had been active with the Irish Volunteers from the time of their inception in 1913, and he is central to this story. By the time of the War of Independence he was a respected member of the IRA General Headquarters Staff (GHQ), and in 1920 he became the Director of Munitions for the body. He would later prove an important figure in the IRA of the 1920s and 1930s, serving as quartermaster general of the organisation from 1926 to 1937 and playing an active role in reorganising the body after its Civil War defeat.  A deeply controversial figure today, he is primarily remembered for his later time as Chief of Staff of the IRA in the late 1930s, during which he orchestrated a disastrous and short-sighted bombing campaign of British cities. He also attempted to procure support for the organisation from both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany in the 1920s and the 1930s, something that has led to repeated vandalism of his Fairview statue.

Seán Russell in the 1930s.  He died in August 1940 on board a German U-Boat, having attempted to secure German assistance for the IRA.

Seán Russell in the 1930s. He died in August 1940 on board a German U-Boat, having attempted to secure German assistance for the IRA.

Seán Russell became IRA Director of Munitions in the aftermath of the death of Peadar Clancy, a 1916 veteran who had become second-in-command of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, and who was shot in Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday, November 1920.

As Director of Munitions, Russell would have been acutely aware of the need for munition and bomb factories. What he didn’t have, according to fellow 1916 veteran Thomas Young, was the required technical or engineering knowledge. Young recalled that “I can’t say that this appointment had the approval of any member of the munitions staff, as Seán Russell had no engineering ability but considered himself, by virtue of his appointment, to be in a position to instruct and direct all munition workers.” Patrick McHugh, another member of the IRA’s munitions team, felt differently towards the appointment, remembering that “Sean and I got on well together. Our ideals were identical and although he had little technical knowledge of work in hand he left the production entirely to my discretion and always introduced me as his assistant and appointed as his deputy whenever he was absent.”

Oscar Traynor, later a Fianna Fáil Minister and Football Association of Ireland President, remembered that Russell stepped into the role quickly, as “a tremendously keen Volunteer”, who “had an extraordinary bent for organising and establishing matters of this kind.”

Before Russell, the movement was utilising a munitions factory at 198 Parnell Street “underneath the bicycle shop of Heron & Lawless”, but the eyes of the law came onto this site, and it became very clear that the work needed to be spread across the city after it was raided. Seán O’Sullivan, a munitions worker who had first joined the republican movement in Manchester in 1916, remembered that raids upon the Parnell Street factory made it redundant:

The munitions factory in Parnell Street was again raided in November, 1920, at night. The whole area was cordoned off. The military and auxiliaries remained on the premises the whole night apparently with the intention of capturing the staff when they arrived in the morning. A young fellow who had left his bicycle there for repairs, called that morning to collect it. When he saw the auxiliaries inside, he made an effort to run away from them. They opened fire on him and wounded him. That gave us the warning as Parnell Street was crowded when we arrived near the premises. None of us knew who was inside as a few of us had our own keys. We kept outside until we collected all the staff and got rid of our bicycles, mixing in the crowds. They seized everything, took away the plant and the premises were closed down. It was our idea at the time that they had only stumbled on to this through an area raid.

The IRA 'big gun', produced at the Parnell Street munitions factory. See 'The Cricket Bat that Died for Ireland':  http://thecricketbatthatdiedforireland.com/2015/05/17/the-ira-big-gun-and-the-death-of-matt-furlong-1920/

The IRA ‘big gun’, produced at the Parnell Street munitions factory. See ‘The Cricket Bat that Died for Ireland’: http://thecricketbatthatdiedforireland.com/2015/05/17/the-ira-big-gun-and-the-death-of-matt-furlong-1920/

Munitions worker Patrick McHugh recalled that “I informed him [Russell] of our requirements regarding a foundry etc., and expressed the view that we should, as far as possible, scatter our work and duplicate premises so that we should not have a recurrence of Parnell Street.” McHugh claimed that within a week, Russell had sourced a new facility for the making of weapons at Crown Alley. This was the Baker family ironworks.

Today home to a Starbucks, the Bad Ass Cafe and The Old Storehouse among other businesses, Crown Alley is a bustling street in the heart of tourist-centric Temple Bar. In 1920 it was a very different place, located in what was still primarily an industrial district. Directly opposite the Telephone Exchange, a large imposing building still there today, was Baker’s Iron Works. It stood where Temple Bar Square is today, beside the Bad Ass Cafe. McHugh recalled inspecting it with Russell:

With Seán I inspected premises owned by Mrs. Baker facing Telephone Exchange which was under military guard. Mrs. Baker was running a small engineering and blacksmith business with her son, Paddy, in charge and a younger son in office. The premises suited our needs and she agreed to allow us more space in the general machine shop which we could partition off for machining grenades…. None of Mrs. Baker’s staff were in I.R.A. and it is a great credit to them that the presence of foundry and work done there was never disclosed to anyone.

The imposing Telephone Exchange, opposite the Baker family ironworks (Image Credit: Paul Reynolds, Rabble: http://www.rabble.ie/2012/11/14/look-up3-rebel-without-a-call/)

The imposing Telephone Exchange, opposite the Baker family ironworks (Image Credit: Paul Reynolds, Rabble: http://www.rabble.ie/2012/11/14/look-up3-rebel-without-a-call/)

There were a number of other such factories established across the city at this time, ensuring that a repeat of the disaster on Parnell Street would be avoided. Yet while dividing the workload between various munitions factories was a good idea, situating one right  across from the Telephone Exchange at Crown Alley would have raised some eyebrows.

The Telephone Exchange was under British military occupation, owing to an eagerness that it not fall into rebel hands. in 1916, the rebels had planned for the occupation of the important communications centre, but in the chaos of the week it had gone unoccupied. It was too important a facility to be left unguarded now. Still, as munitions worker James Foran remembered:

They had sentries marching up and down on the roof of their building as we were going in and out, and we were never caught. I got paid while I was in Crown Alley. It was a full-time job and we were there for a couple of months. I was paid £1 a week, or maybe it was £1 a day. I think it was £1 a day. I was there for two or three months and finished up at the Truce.

RTE Stills image of Crown Alley before the modern development of Temple Bar, 1970s. The carpark on the right, opposite the Telephone Exchange, is (I think!) where Baker's ironworks once stood.

RTE Stills image of Crown Alley before the modern development of Temple Bar, 1970s. The carpark on the right, opposite the Telephone Exchange, is  where Baker’s ironworks once stood. (Image ownership: RTE)

McHugh’s entertaining Witness Statement details how a furnace was acquired for use in the Baker premises, as “try as we might we were unable to produce sufficient heat to melt iron” without acquiring a new one. These issues were resolved, and by March 1921 the munitions factory was well and truly in operation.

This particular munitions factory specialised in the part-production of grenades and landmines, with one munitions worker recalling that “we made there casings for hand grenades and fittings for mines.” Foran recalled that the grenades would be taken away in sacks, and that:

I never noticed how many grenades we turned out. They used to come twice a week and take three or four sacks of them in the car – not full bags. Seán Russell was in charge of us… It was marvellous the way we got away with it, we were very lucky. We were never raided. All the other fellows working there in the usual way at the usual foundry work never gave us away.

An idea of quantity comes from Frank Gaskin, who claimed that when the pieces moved on from Crown Alley to another munitions factory, “we were able to turn out two or three hundred grenades per day.” The product was constantly moving, from one factory to the next:

Finished grenades were brought direct to O’Rourke’s Bakery, Store Street, where all filling was done. Firing set castings were delivered to 1 and 2 Luke Street where machining and screwing was done. Strikers were taken to Percy Place for pointing ,safety levers were taken to Mountjoy Square where assembling of firing set was done.

Oscar Traynor, who provided an in-depth statement to the Bureau of Military History (National Library of Ireland)

Oscar Traynor, who provided an in-depth statement to the Bureau of Military History (National Library of Ireland)

Not alone were the IRA capable of producing huge numbers of grenades at this time – they were producing grenades of a much greater quality to what they had earlier relied on. According to Oscar Traynor:

In the course of time very great improvements were made in this particular type of weapon. Apart from the fact that the grenades were made larger, the explosive material was also greatly improved. The old complaint from which Volunteers suffered previously, that of throwing a grenade and having the experience of not seeing it explode, was almost eliminated. This aspect of the Volunteers’ armament developed a greater confidence in the fighting men of the various units.

The work of making grenades at Crown Alley continued right up to the Truce, and for those who took the Republican side in the Civil War, it was resumed. With the Civil War, the IRA found itself with a serious problem on its hands: former comrades in the Free State Army knew its modus operandi, and in many cases knew the location of such factories. McHugh remembered that the making of grenades and landmine parts “continued in these premises until taken possession of by Free State forces in March 1922.”

Mrs. Baker, who provided Seán Russell and his men with the use of her family ironworks at Crown Alley, was not a soldier, nor did she receive a pension or a medal. Yet, in her own small way, she was a vital part of the republican movement in the Dublin of her time, as were many others. As Patrick McHugh recalled:

Mrs. Baker, too, deserves great credit for the risk she took. She was not a young woman but had a great national spirit. Ireland’s soldiers needed help and she did not count the risk or cost, and was always in the best of spirit. Few women with a military guard facing their premises would take such a risk.

Thanks to Martin on The Atrix Facebook page for taking a high-quality photograph of his original poster for the Carnsore Point anti-Nuclear festival in August 1978.

Carnsore Point poster, 1978.

Caransore Point poster, 1978.

The free festival was attended by thousands of people who wanted to express their opposition to the proposed first nuclear power plant in Ireland. Entrance to the three day festival in the South West corner of County Wexford was free and entertainment on offer also included exhibitions, workshops and theatre productions.

The cream of the crop of the Irish musical scene provided their services. They included traditional legends like Christy Moore, Clannad, Andy Irvine, Liam Weldon, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin who were backed up by soulful rock group Stagalee and Dublin New Wave bands Sacre Bleu, The Atrix and The Sinners.

Christy covered the event in his 2000 autobiography ‘One Voice’:

It was my first time to become directly involved in a political campaign, and I was to meet many  people who became lifelong friends and a few who became somewhat less than that. The festival was  a huge success and opened my eyes to the potential of people power. It was a wonderful collective and  to this day I still try to carry the message of Carnsore Point in my everyday life.

After the 1978 festival, Wexford writer Jim “Doc” Whelan presented Christy with a song he wrote called ‘Nuke Power’. Christy loved it and began performing it at gigs. This version was recorded in St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra in 1979.

Political speakers at the 1978 festival included Petra Kelly (1947-1992; German Green Party), John Carroll (vice-president of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union) and Dr. Robert Blackith (1923-2000; Trinity College lecturer).

Not everyone on the radical Left was onside though. The pro-Unionist Marxist-Leninist group British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) picketed the festival as they believed nuclear power was was necessary to achieve socialism in Ireland!

There were further festivals in 1979, 1980 (with U2 on the bill) and 1981. The campaign was ultimately successful and a number of wind generating stations were opened on the headland in 2003.


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