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Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

The Military Service Pensions Collection is a publicly accessible online archive of material relating to the 1916-23 period. For successful applicants, material and correspondence on their file can continue for decades up until the time of their death. A goldmine for first-hand accounts of the revolutionary period, an individual’s application can also occasionally throw up an interesting item which is historic in its own right.

John Adamson (1901-68) served with the Cyclists Company, 3 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA during the War of Independence. He claims to have taken part in arms-raids on private homes and two ambushes of British forces in Portobello, Dublin 8. Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), Adamson served with the same unit and stated that he took part in IRA attacks on the Four Courts Hotel; the home of Lord Glenavy, Milltown; the Grand Central Cinema, O’Connell Street; Portobello Barracks and on National Army troops on the Rathgar Road.

Handwritten reference from James J Ardiff in support of John Adamson dated 07 Sep. 1942 (MSP34REF3861)

Adamson was awarded 3 and 1/6 years service for pension purposes in 1942 at Rank E (Private). He lived for many years at 3 Darley’s Cottages, Vevay Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow and died on 13 Dec. 1968. Following his death, his widow contacted local county councillor Seamus Costello to make representations on her behalf. Buried in the payment file of John Adamson is a one-page hand-written letter from Seamus Costello of Roseville House, Dublin Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow dated 08 March 1968 to the Department of Defence.  The year previously Costello had won a seat on Wicklow county council (and Bray urban district council). In the same month that he wrote the below letter, he had secured over 2,000 first-preference votes in a Dáil by-election.

Representations from Seamus Costello dated 08 May 1968 for the widow of John Adamson. File 34E7936.

Costello, a veteran of the IRA’s Border Campaign, was a leading member of the Official IRA and later the IRSP/INLA in the 1970s. He was shot dead in a feud between the two groups in Fairview in North Dublin in Oct. 1977. A concise biography of Seamus Costello is available at the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

The file of John Adamson and nearly 10,000 others (to date) are available on the MSPC website here.

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(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; ‘Animal Gang’ violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

This is the second article looking at gangland murders in Dublin that occurred in the decades leading up to the killing of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) in Aug. 1994 by the Provisional IRA. The last piece looked at 13 deaths related to organised crime and Dublin’s underworld in the 1979-89 period. Now we explore seven killings that took place from 1990 up until the summer of 1994. I don’t think I will go beyond this point as the gangland murders in the post Cahill years after have been documented to some degree in this blog and in different newspaper articles (1 2) available online. It’s worth noting of course that the number of gangland killings in Ireland increased heavily from the early 1990s onwards from 3 in 1993, to 10 in 1999, 20 in 2003 and then peaking at 22 in 2009. There were 10 last year in 2019.

Of the seven murders in the 1990-94 period, the attacks occurred in the South Inner City (The Coombe), the North Inner City (Stoneybatter) and suburbs in the west (Blanchardstown) and north (Finglas, Marino, Darndale). One took place during a football match in the Phoenix Park. The youngest victim was 20 and the oldest was 54. What is striking is the average age was 39 – much older than the targets in today’s gangland feuds.

The death of Sonny Mooney was the only case that didn’t involve firearms. It was not strictly a gangland feud hit as he died of injuries received in a personal revenge attack but the media emphasised the tragedy that four young Finglas men – Brian Chaney (Sep. 1988), Thomas Boulger (March 1990), Willie Christie (Sep. 1990) and Sonny Mooney (Oct. 1990) – died violently in a very short time period.

Brian Chaney was the only individual who did not seem to have a criminal record or have connections to organised crime, it appears that he was gunned down for being a suspected child molester. The hit was professional and organised crime was linked.

As I said in the first piece, these articles do not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explore Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

As always, if there’s any corrections or cases I’ve missed – please email me or leave a comment.

8 Sep. 1990 – William Christie (Willie Christie) (27)

Father of two William Christie (27), of 12 Barry Drive, Finglas, was described in the press as a small-time criminal and cannabis dealer. He led a “small gang” that robbed “factories and post offices” according to sources quoted in the Sunday Tribune (21. Oct. 1990).

William Christie. Sunday World, 06 Sep. 1992.

Christie had been arrested and charged with the murder of Brian Chaney (see part one) but was released – after four months in custody – when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charge due to a lack of evidence.

On 8 Sep. 1990, Christie was playing in goal for Dublin United F.C. in a football game against Park View Celtic in the Leinster Junior League. The match took place at a pitch in the Fifteen Acres, near St. Mary’s Hospital, in the Phoenix Park. Christie was substituted at half-time and was watching the second half of the match when, at 4.30pm, two men approached from behind. The hitman, who was wearing a balaclava, shot Christie four times in the back of the head with a .38 handgun. He passed the weapon to his accomplice who packed it away into a sports bag. Both men jogged in the direction of the Chapelizod entrance to the park where the police believed they had parked their getaway vehicle.

One of the football spectators owned a mobile phone (relatively rare at the time) and rushed to his car to ring the Gardaí and who were on the scene within minutes. Christie was taken to Blanchardstown Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.15pm.

Murder scene at Phoenix Park. The Sunday Tribune, 21 Oct. 1990.

It was originally suggested in the media that the killing was in revenge for the murder of Brian Chaney two years previously but this was quickly discounted by both the authorities and the Chaney family including Brian’s brother Tom Chaney who spoke to the Sunday Tribune (15 Sep. 1990).

Two theories about the killing emerged. The first, as reported in the Sunday Tribune (21 Oct. 1990), was that Christie had been shot dead by the Provisional IRA after he had publicly threatened a local member of the Republican movement in Finglas. However it was mentioned in the same article that a possible suspect, a Finglas man with Republican connections, had denied any involvement and claimed that Christie actually had Republican sympathies. Speculation remained about the Provisional IRA’s possible involvement and it was repeated in the Irish Independent (20 Aug. 1992) who said that Christie had become “tangled” into a dispute with “associates of the IRA” in Finglas and so had “been earmarked as a target”.

The second theory is that Christie was killed by a criminal gang. The Sunday World (30 Dec. 1990) suggested that Christie was killed under orders of a “major crime boss” who hired a professional hitman, possibly from England, to carry out the job. The Sunday Tribune (13 Oct. 1991) later proposed that a “senior IPLO figure” and hitman with links to criminality was paid by a Dublin gang to kill Christie. The Irish Press (18 Jan. 1993) referred to the suspected involvement of a “Dublin heroin dealer” in the attack. Nobody was ever charged or convicted.

In July 1991, William’s brother Peter Christie (26) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his involvement in a house robbery in Ashbourne. On 8 Nov. 1993, as reported in the press, he was abducted from his girlfriend’s house in Valeview Crescent, Finglas by eight men and found severely beaten behind a Ballymun tower block.

8 Oct. 1990 – Sonny Mooney (20)

Sonny Mooney was born in 1970 to a black father and a white Irish mother. His mother married John Mooney in 1973 and the family moved to Kippure Park, Finglas in 1975 where Sonny was raised by John as one of his own children. A friend, who knew Mooney from growing up, remembered him as the “only black kid in Finglas South” and that he “hung around with us when we were young” rude boys (ska/reggae fans) for a time. A “likeable fella” but he “fell in with the wrong crowd”.

Mooney’s parents told the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that their son had been a “target of racial abuse” from a young age which had turned him into a “tough” kid and a capable street fighter by his late teens. He was described by police as a petty criminal with convictions for stealing cars and being drunk and disorderly.

On 3 March 1990, his sister’s boyfriend Thomas Boulger (‘Bullit’) (20) got into an altercation with Richard Groves (17) at a local disco. Groves kept a horse on waste ground and blamed Boulger for mistreating the animal. On the night of the incident, Groves stated that he was headbutted by Boulger and then was attacked by him again on his way home. He returned to the scene with a knife and clashed again with Boulger who armed himself with a pole. Boulger was stabbed five times and died of his injuries. Groves was convicted of manslaughter and received a five year suspended sentence.

In Sep. 1990 or thereabouts, Sonny Mooney got into a serious brawl outside a Finglas pub with a man named Stephen Kennedy. Mooney came out on top and won the fight. Another local Finglas man Seamus Duffy, whose sister was in a relationship with Kennedy, vowed to get ‘even’ with Mooney. Duffy worked as a bouncer in the city centre for a number of different nightclubs and fast food restaurants. He enlisted the help of five other bouncers he knew from this line of work for the revenge attack.

On 8 Oct. 1990 at 10pm, six masked men forced their way into the home of Sonny Mooney (20) in Kippure Park, Finglas. They beat him with pick-axe handles in front of his family and bundled him into a blue Hiace van which was later found burnt out. The gang transferred him into a different vehicle and drove towards the Southside. They left the badly wounded Mooney at Ballymount Lane at the junction of Ballymount Road and Greenhills Road near Tallaght. One of the group made an anonymous phone call to the police around 11.30pm and Mooney was found unresponsive by Gardaí. He had died from his injuries. The culprits later claimed that they hadn’t meant to kill Mooney.

Six men were arrested, charged with manslaughter and convicted of the killing:

  • Seamus Duffy (24), Donomore Crescent, Killarnden, Tallaght – six years imprisonment
  • Derek B. (23), Lower Oriel Street, D1 – four years imprisonment
  • David G. (20), Bracken Drive, Portmarnock – four years imprisonment
  • William D. (22), St. Mark’s Grove, Clondalkin – four years imprisonment
  • Emmet R. (19), Ballycurris Road, Ballymun – four years imprisonment
  • David M. (24), Foyle Road, Fairview – 30 months imprisonment (false imprisonment)

The death caused further tension and it was reported in the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that one of those convicted, David B., was attacked in Mountjoy Prison by an inmate who was friends with Sonny Mooney.

20 Dec. 1991 – Patrick McDonald (‘Teasy-Weasy’) (41)

Patrick McDonald, of Newry, Co. Down, was a member of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in the mid 1970s. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for an armed robbery but whether he served the time is unclear as the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991) stated that he went on the run in 1975.

Patrick McDonald. Sunday Tribune, 22 Dec. 1991

A hairdresser by trade, he was called ‘Teasy Weasyafter the 1950s London hairdressing icon Raymond Bessone.

In the early 1980s, McDonald ran a hair salon in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan and lived in a house on Muckno Street with another INLA man Daniel Hamill (Danny Hamill) (‘The Rabbit’) from Portadown. In 1980, McDonald was charged with demanding £67,000 by menace from Neil Halpin, Monasterboice, Co. Louth and for assaulting Thomas Rooney, Haggardstown, Co. Louth over two separate days in early Jan. of that year. The state dropped the charges and McDonald avoided conviction.

On 13 July 1981, a cattle dealer named Maurice Wilson was driving from Co. Monaghan to his home in Co. Armagh when he came across a border post on fire near Carna, Co. Armagh. He was flagged down by two armed men – Patrick McDonald and Daniel Hamill – who hijacked his car and drove back to Castleblayney where they released Wilson unharmed. The pair were arrested and at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, McDonald was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for kidnapping, car hijacking and possession of a firearm. Daniel Hamill received eight years for firearm charges.

McDonald was released from Portaloise Prison in Aug. 1989 after serving eight of his ten year sentence. He moved to Dublin and set up a small unisex hair salon above a bookie’s office at 2 St. Aidan’s Park Road, Marino. McDonald rented a basement flat in Castle Avenue, Clontarf and was described as a “snappy dresser who enjoyed the company of women” by the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991). He was separated and had a 17-year-old daughter. Police said upon release he became active with the IPLO (Irish People’s Liberation Organisation) which had been formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the INLA.

The Evening Herald (31 Dec. 1991) stated that in July 1991 three armed men went to St. Joseph’s Mansions flat complex, Killarney Street near the Five Lamps in the North Inner City. After failing to find a specific individual they were looking for, one of the frustrated gang members fired his shotgun at a group of women in the flats. The four, including a 13 year old girl, were hit by shotgun pellets. Police linked this incident to Patrick McDonald, the IPLO and a feud with a North Inner City criminal gang.

On 20 Dec. 1991 at about 5.15pm, McDonald (41) was cutting the hair of a female customer when a lone, masked gunman entered his premises in Marino and shot him six times in the neck and back. He was killed instantly. The customer and a female shop assistant were badly shook up but not injured in the attack.

Scene of Patrick McDonald’s murder. The Irish Press, 21 Dec. 1991.

McDonald received a IPLO guard of honour and this photograph shows IPLO members firing a volley of shots at his funeral in the Derrybeg housing estate, Newry, Co. Down.

IPLO firing a volley of shots at the funeral of Patrick McDonald. Uploaded onto Facebook in 2018 by ‘Exploding Cat’.

The Provisional IRA released a statement denying any involvement in McDonald’s murder while the IPLO said to the press that they would enact revenge for the killing. Four men and two women from the North Inner City were quizzed about the murder but released. The Sunday Tribune (02 July 1995) and many other newspapers linked McDonald’s death to a North Inner City criminal gang and their associates in Swords who had previously been involved with the INLA.

As a side note, McDonald’s former partner-in-crime Danny Hamill was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2008 for a bank robbery in Crumlin in 2006.

12 July 1992 – Michael Travers (Mick Travers) (48)

Mick Travers, originally from the North Inner City, was an imposing man. He was over six feet tall, weighed over 16 stone (101kg) and had been a black belt in karate since at least the late 1970s. Travers was linked to a criminal network that ran protection rackets in the areas around North King Street, Mary Street, Capel Street, Parnell Street and Moore Street. It was often said that Travers lived up to his ‘hard man’ image. Some of the well-known stories included the time he was shot in a leg by a police officer in a pub altercation and walked himself to the hospital and in another incident he physically defended himself from a murder attempt and jumped out of a two-storey window to escape his attackers.

Michalel Travers. Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

In the early 1970s and early 1980s, he lived with his family in Marigold Court, Darndale. On 18 Dec. 1978, Travers got into a verbal and physical argument with publican Kevin Rafferty and barman Nicholas Bennett at Raf’s Lounge (since demolished), 177 North King Street at the corner of North Anne Street in Dublin 7. The Evening Herald (08 Dec. 1981) reported that Special Branch officer Michael Hughes had gone to the assistance of the two men and in the ensuing melee shot Travers in the leg with his .38 revolver. The Irish Independent (13 July 1992) claimed that Travers had threatened the officer with a broken bottle during the incident. It was rumoured that the wounded Travers refused the offer of an ambulance and instead walked the 1km or thereabouts to Jervis Street Hospital for treatment. Travers was charged with assault at the Central Criminal Court but was acquitted by a jury in 1981.

In Sep. 1981, Travers was alleged to have assaulted Garda Anthony Gannon and pub manager Mr. Kelly in the Black Sheep pub in the Northside Shopping Centre. As reported in the Irish Independent (22 July 1982), a Circuit Criminal Court judge threw out the case and dismissed the jury because he felt that State’s evidence had “blackened” the accused in the eye of the jurors.

The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On 11 March 1982, Travers escaped a murder attempt at his Kenpo karate club in Wolfe Tone Street when a three man gang burst into the premises. His 16 year-old-daughter managed to shout a warning and the Irish Independent (14 July 1992) recalled how “the club manager grabbed a brush and struck one of the three men while Mr Travers grabbed a chair and hit one gunman as he fired a shot (and) kicked out at one gunman who also opened fire”. Another long-standing rumour is that Travers jumped “from a two-storey window” and ran away from the scene “with two badly injured ankles” as retold by the Irish Press (13 July 1992).

In the 1980s, the father of three lived on Clanmahon Road, Donnycarney. The Irish Press (20 Dec. 1988) announced that Travers and his associate Terence Brazil (30) of St. Mary’s Road, East Wall, had been charged with extorting money from an auctioneer named Mrs. Shirley Nolan. However this key witness “withdrew her allegations just as the Gardaí were preparing to forward a file to the DPP”, according to the Irish Press (13 July 1992), and was believed to have moved to England in fear of her life. This was the only time that authorities came close to a convection for the widespread protection rackets he was believed to have been involved in.

Travers had a number of business interests including a karate club and newsagent in Smithfield until about 1991. He also co-owned a grocery and vegetable shop with Paddy McNeill in Darndale.

Mick Traver’s karate studio in Smithfield, D7. The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On the morning of 12 July 1992, Mick Travers (48) was standing behind the counter of McNeills grocery shop, Ring Road, Darndale when two gunmen entered wearing helmets and visors. They shouted at the shop assistant Willie Darcy and a local milkman to get down on the ground. The hitman shot Travers in the chest at close range and fired at least three more times into his body when he fell to the ground. The two men jumped on a motorbike and escaped from the scene through neighbouring housing estates.

Ann O’Loughlin summed things up in the Sunday Independent (19 July 1992) when she described it as a “another professional, cold-blooded and ruthless slaying – the result of an increasingly intense and lethal rivalry within the capital’s criminal underworld”.

Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

Gardai began to investigate whether a “major pub row” that had “wrecked” The Barry pub in Finglas was connected to the killing. The incident which left “several men injured” occurred about a year previous to the murder and was linked to a protection racket involving Travers according to the Evening Herald (18 July 92). Apparently the IRA-connected pub told Travers that they no longer required his security men on the premises. The resulting melee was vicious and the Sunday World (06 Sep. 1992) reported that one member of the bar staff was stabbed by Travers. This person received “horrific facial injuries” and needed 140 stitches. When Travers apparently refused twice to pay compensation for this incident, he became the target of Provisional IRA according to senior Gardaí.

Other newspaper speculated that Travers fell out with another criminal gang and was killed as a result. The Irish Press (18 July 1993) said that detectives believed the same ‘hitman’ was the prime suspect in the gangland executions of Gerard Hourigan (1983), Danny McOwen (1983) and Patrick McDonald (1991).

Nobody was ever charged or convicted for the murder.

(more…)

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(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; Animal Gang violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: I added the murders of Christy Shannon (1979), Patrick Garland (1986) and Barney Murray (1986) after I had published the first version of this article. All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

Recent gangland feuds in Dublin and other Irish cites have made newspaper headlines worldwide. The Hutch-Kinahan conflict has resulted in the deaths of 20 people alone since 2015. Many see the starting point of modern gangland carnage as the shooting dead of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) by the Provisional IRA in 1994 and the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin by criminals two years later. The early 1990s did certainly mark the start of a new bloody chapter. Over the four years between 1991-94, there was 11 gangland murders altogether in Ireland but the first six months of 1995 saw seven killings alone. The numbers rose exponentially in the 2000s and 2010s as criminals became more ruthless and more liable to murder rivals in tit-for-tat killings.

This article is the first in a series on gangland killings that occurred in Dublin pre-1994. It does not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explore Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

There were certainly cases of criminal gangs in Dublin using guns to injure and maim rivals in the 1960s and 1970s but the first murders that I can identify occurred in the late 1970s. The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

It includes only individuals who were killed by criminals or suspected criminals. They were for the most parts premeditated ‘hits’ and firearms were used in all but one of the murders. If you aware of any other cases, please email me or leave a comment.

I have identified 13 such murders in Dublin the 1978-89 period. The youngest victim was 15 and the oldest 47. The attacks took place on both sides of the River Liffey in the inner city and Dublin suburbs in the south (Crumlin), west (Blanchardstown) and north (Ballymun, Killester, Cabra).

19 March 1978 – Christopher McAuley (Christy McAuley)

Christy McAuley, of 38 Millbrook Road, Kilbarrack, was arrested in 1976 and charged with conspiring with another person to import arms but he was not convicted of the offence. The following year he was fined for possession of cannabis and cocaine. Police also linked to him to a number of armed robberies in the city.

On the night of 19 March 1978, Christy McAuley (25) met another criminal Eamon Saurin (36) in the Celebrity Club night spot on Upper Abbey Street. McAuley gave Saurin and his friend Laurence Maguire (Clicky) a lift home. At the junction of Craigford Avenue and Killester Avenue, Saurin asked that the car be pulled over. He drew a small .32 automatic pistol and shot McAuley twice in the head. McAuley somehow managed to open the door and stagger out onto the road. Saurin followed and fired two more shots. The paranoid Saurin had mistakenly thought that McAuley (who was actually gay) had slept with his girlfriend while he had been on the run. The authorities caught up with Saurin in July 1981 and he was charged with the murder of McAuley. The chief prosecution witness Laurence Maguire (Clicky) refused to give evidence and was imprisoned for a month for contempt. Saurin’s trial was rescheduled but Maguire failed to turn up and the case subsequently collapsed.

Christy McCauley. The Irish Press, 21 March 1978.

Saurin was described in the book ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates as a “well-known robber” originally from Liberty House off Sean MacDermott Street. The family moved out to 8 Glencorp Road, Whitehall and the teenage Saurin picked up his first conviction in 1964. He was based at 25 Clanree Road, Donnycarney in the mid 1970s. Saurin was described in ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams as “one of the first criminals credited with smuggling commercial shipments of cannabis and heroin from Amsterdam into Ireland in the late 1970s”. While he got away with the McAuley murder, Saurin was immediately extradited to England where he was jailed for life in 1983 for the murder of his former neighbour Kenneth Adams (32) in Birmingham on 6 Nov. 1972.

In Sep. 1981, Christy McAuley’s brother Anthony was injured in a shooting in O’Neill’s pub, Summerhill Parade. On 19 Sep, two masked gunmen – armed with a .32 automatic pistol and a sawn-off shotgun- entered the premises looking for one or two specific people. In the incident, a total of four men were wounded – Anthony McAuley, Andrew Corbally, Nicholas Wynne and Kevin Brennan. It’s unclear as to who the original targets were but police told the Irish Press (18 Sep. 1981) that it was linked to a gangland feud.

25 April 1979 – Basil English

Basil English, of 95 Harmonstown Road, Artane had a long criminal rap-sheet history going back to 1964. On the night of 25 April 1979, he was shot through the head at point blank range inside the doorway of an eight-story flat in a Ballymun tower block addressed 184 Sillogue Road. English (33) was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The Evening Herald (26 April 1979) described it a “gangland slaying” and reported that the police believed the murder was connected to an “internal gangland feud”.

Basil English. The Irish Press, 27 April 1979.

The main suspect, Thomas Tyrell (21) (aka Tommy Tyrell), of 47 Ribh Road, Artane, barricaded himself into a Ballymun flat for five days and threatened to kill himself before he eventually surrendered to the Gardaí. It transpired that Tyrell was dating English’s ex. girlfriend so there might have been a jealousy/personal aspect to the killing. Both men were supposed to have been heavily intoxicated on the night in question. Tyrell was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possession of a .32 revolver and ammunition but the manslaughter charge sentencing was postponed to July 1980 following psychiatric treatment and evaluation.

Thomas Tyrell following the five day siege. The Irish Independent, 16 Oct. 1979.

Tyrell was released on 13 Jan. 1982 after serving two years for the manslaughter of Basil English. He was involved in another shooting incident just weeks after he was let out of prison. On 25 Feb. 1982, Tyrell shot and wounded Edward Charles McGuinness with a double-barreled shotgun at the doorway of McGuinness’ flat at 324 Sillogue Road, Ballymun. Tyrell, who had 25 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to the charge of malicious wounding and was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

18 Oct. 1979 – Christopher Shannon (Christy Shannon)

Christy Shannon was originally from Lower Dorset Street in the North Inner City. In the 1970s, he lived with his wife Breda and seven children at 3 Shangan Gardens, Ballymun.

In Sep. 1977, Mrs. Breda Shannon (38) went missing and the strange case was covered in the national press. The Irish Independent (27 Sep. 1977) stated that she had “not been seen since she discharged” herself from the Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre for recovering alcoholics in Athy, Co. Kildare on 9 Sep. In the Evening Herald (20 Sep. 1977), her husband Christy Shannon “appealed” to his wife to “return home and look after the children”. Nothing further was reported in the press over the next two years.

On 18 Oct. 1979, the body of Christy Shannon (43) was found by police in a stolen Ford Granada car in a laneway behind the Nally Stand, Croke Park. He had been shot twice in the face and neck at point blank range with a shotgun by somebody in the driver’s seat. Shannon had previous convictions for burglary and larceny. The Evening Herald (22 Oct. 1979) noted that the police were searching the homes and haunts of known Dublin criminals” to question about the murder.

Death notice for Christopher Shannon. The Evening Herald, 22. Oct. 1979.

The Irish Independent (03 Nov. 1979) published a photograph of Mrs. Breda Shannon under the heading: “‘Come home’ plea to Croke Park murder wife”. The piece claimed that Mrs. Shannon “disappeared from her home” in Ballymun and “has not been seen since”. The Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre was not mentioned. The police believed that she “may still be in the country but it is thought she may be unaware that her husband is dead”. The Irish Press (04 Nov. 1979) claimed that the police believed that she “might have gone to England”.

But then the Evening Herald (12 Dec. 1979) included a one line buried in a larger piece about the murder indicating that “Mrs Shannon’s wife was contacted in London, but she was not able to shed any light on her husband’s activities or associates”. So it appears that Breda Shannon left her husband and children in Dublin in 1977 and was found by police in London two years later but there doesn’t seem to be any other evidence besides that one short mention.

It was reported in the Irish Examiner (27 Jan. 1981) that the Gardaí had interviewed between 400 and 500 people in relation to the Christy Shannon murder case and had considered up to 30 people as possible subjects. The police arrested Laurence Cummins (Larry Cummins) (32) of Summerhill Parade and charged him with the murder. Cummins had multiple convictions going back to 1961. The police found a set of cars in Cummins’ home which belonged to the Ford Granada car where Christy Shannon’s body had been found.

In court, Cummins denied that he was responsible but admitted that he had lent his shotgun and a car to a criminal associate named Frank Hughes. The Irish Independent (20 July 1982) stated:

The accused said that his friend Frank Hughes remarked that Shannon was dangerous and there was only one way to finish him and “to finish him right”. Cummins said that on the day Christy Shannon was killed he was in the pub about 9.30pm when Frank Hughes came in (and) said he had done the message, and the accused knew Christy Shannon had been killed.

The Irish Independent (22 July 1982) reported that Cummins had told police that Christy Shannon had been charged for breaking up a taxi owned by the father of Frank Hughes. The jury “failed to reach a verdict” in the first trial in Jan. 1981 and Cummins was found ‘not guilty’ and acquitted of the murder in a second trial in July 1982. It is unclear whether Frank Hughes was arrested.

Cummins served many prison sentences in the 1980s and 1990s and had convictions for drug dealing, armed robbery, possession of firearms, assault and receiving stolen goods. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in July 2006 for his role in the robbery and shooting of the publican Charlie Chawke at the Goat Grill pub in Goatstown in 2003. Cummins died after a long illness in 2009 while serving his sentence in Mountjoy Prison.

17 Sep. 1980John Kelly (Jackie Kelly)

Jackie Kelly, of 9 St Andrew’s Court off Fenian Street in Dublin’s South Inner City, was married and had a two-year-old son. He had worked for about eight years as a postman in the Donnybrook area. He started a position as a telephone operator for the Irish Taxi Owners Co-Op in the summer of 1980. On the night of 17 Sep. 1980, Kelly (24) was watching a UEFA cup match between Polish club Widzew Łódź and Manchester United on the television in Grace’s pub at the corner of Townsend Street and Shaw Street near Pearse Street. There were about 15 other customers in the bar. At around 10.50pm, a man in a motorcycle helmet walked into the premises and fired a number of shots at Kelly who was sitting with two friends at a lounge window. The gunman left the bar but immediately returned and shot Kelly again.

Scene outside Grace’s pub on Townsend St. where Jackie Kelly was murdered. The Evening Herald, 18 Sep 1980.

The assassin’s mask, motorcycle helmet, jacket and a sawn-off shotgun (not used in the attack) was found in a rubbish chute in nearby Markievicz House. The .32 pistol used in the murder was later discovered in a county council dump in Ballyogan near Dundrum.

Kelly, who was shot a total of five times, was interviewed by police in his hospital bed but died of his injuries ten days later on 27 Sep. 1980 in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Kelly’s widow described her husband as a “quiet family man” who “played football” but “devoted most of his spare time to his family”. He had no known connections to organised crime and Gardaí were unable to find an apparent motive for the killing.

Grace’s pub was destroyed in a suspicious fire in Nov. 1983. Another pub on the street, The Countess, had burnt to the ground earlier that same year. A local criminal gang engaged in protection rackets were suspected.

The Irish Press (18 April 1993) described the Kelly murder as an “underworld killing” and stated that the police were “convinced a notorious south city gang leader personally carried out the killing as a favour for a friend”. Nobody was ever convicted of the murder.

26 May 1982 – Gerard Morgan

Gerard Morgan (15) was shot dead as he came to the front door of his family home at 22 Lismore Road, Crumlin on 26 May 1982. It is believed that his older brother Alan Morgan (17) was the intended target. Alan had allegedly fallen out with a criminal gang over the missing proceeds of a bank robbery in Drumcondra in Feb. 1982. There had been a previous gun attack on the Morgan home on 9 March 1982 when five shots were fired.

Patrick Conroy was sentenced in 1983 to seven years in jail for being an accessory to murder by providing shelter to the killer. Michael McDonnell, of 6 Dermot O’Dwyer House, Hardwicke Street, was arrested for the murder but the state dropped the charge and he was not convicted.

Front page story regarding Gerard Morgan’s murder. The Evening Herald, 26 May 1982.

(more…)

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The Royal British Legion (RBL) is a charity, founded in 1921, to provide financial and social support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces. It’s best known for its annual red poppy fund-raising drive in the run up to Remembrance Sunday (11 November).

During the 20th century, the Legion operated a number of social halls throughout the island of Ireland. The organisation peaked in the late 1920s with a membership of just over 4,200.

Many Legion Halls were targeted by the IRA during the 1930s with premises being burnt down in Killaloe, Co. Clare (June 1933); Boyle, Co. Roscommon (Jan 1934) and Killarney, Co. Kerry (March 1934). A raid also took place on a Legion Hall in Park Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in Nov 1935.

This is an attempt to list and map the halls which were based in the counties of Dublin and Wicklow. If you have any further information, please leave a comment or email me.

I have divided the list into:

  1. Dublin City
  2. Dublin North
  3. Dublin South
  4. Wicklow
  5. Other

1. D U B L I N – C I T Y

The Legion operated a social hall at 61 Mountjoy Square in the 1920s and early 1930s. The club was fined £40 in 1931 for selling liquor after hours.

Evening Herald, 14 March 1930

The British Legion’s main administration office during this period was based at 28 Harcourt Street (1930s/1940s) and later 44 Upper Mount Street (1940s/1950s).

Irish National War Memorial Committee. Correspondence between Major J.J. Tynan, Area Secretary, British Legion in Ireland and [Miss H.G. Wilson], Secretary, Irish National War Memorial Committee, 1937. Source: DRI

From the mid 1930s and into the early 1960s, the Legion operated a hall at 19 Bachelor’s Walk near O’Connell Bridge:

Dublin Evening Mail, 07 Oct 1950

From the mid 1960s onwards, the Dublin Central Branch ran a social club at 4 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. The premises had previously been in possession of the Catholic Seamen’s Institute.

On 24 February 1966, attempts were made to burn down the Legion Club by Irish republicans. On 1 March, petrol bombs were thrown at the home of Brigadier RN Thicknesse, British Military Attache, at 71 Eglinton Road, Donnybrook. The kitchen of the house was badly damaged in the incident. The same individuals were linked to the bomb attack on Nelson’s Pillar a week later. It is suspected that those responsible were instrumental in the forming of Saor Eire in 1967.

The Legion Club on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay’s quietly operated behind the scenes during the conflict in the North and was open until about 2001.

2. D U B L I N – N O R T H

Balbriggan

There is a short reference online to a Legion Hall in Skerries Street, Balbriggan.

Skerries Street, Balbriggan in c. 1897-1913. Source: OSI Map.

Killester (Free standing structure at green space at Abbeyfield)

Between 1918-1922, over 240 houses were built in the emerging suburb of Killester for ex-British servicemen and their families. Historian Jason Robert Myers attractively described the scheme as possessing “a rural serenity, replete with gently winding roads, cozy cul-de-sacs, individual yards in the front and back of each property, several community gathering places, and plenty of trees.” This video shows hundreds of ex British army soldiers marking Remembrance Day in November 1923 in Killester:

A community hall was built by the Legion for local men and their families. It was targeted by the IRA in an arson attack in April 1928. In August 1932, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfred Byrne officially opened a newly built hall in front of a “large gathering of ex Servicemen and friends”. It was described by The Irish Times (29 Aug 1932) as a “commodious building, handsomely finished and equipped in every suitable way”. General Sir William Hickie told the crowd that the British Legion would remain “non political and non sectarian”.

Notice of politician Peadar Cowan speaking at the Legion Hall, Killester. Ref: Dublin Evening Mail, 13 June 1955

This undated photograph shows the Legion Hall in Killester which is situated in a green area at Middle Third and Abbeyfield.

Legion Hall, Killester. nd. Source – https://wfadublin.webs.com/

The hall was sold by the British Legion around 1982 according to information online 
but it continued to be used by local people for sport and community events. Known locally as Judo Hall, the building was put up for sale in 2014 for €50,000. After a local campaign, the hall was saved from destruction but remains unused.

There are references to Legion Halls in Donabate and Swords including in this newspaper notice from Sean Dunne TD in 1962. I cannot find any more information online. Could these have been Legion of Mary halls?

Drogheda Independent, 10 March 1962.

3. D U B L I N – S O U T H

Dún Laoghaire (3 Crosthwaite Terrace off Clarinda Park West)

The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) owned this impressive house from about 1914 until 1930 when it was then taken over by the British Legion Club (Kingstown Branch). In the mid 20th century, the Legion built a flat roofed, single storey, clubhouse at the rear of the building. It played host to fencing championships and the annual Clarinda Fair throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The club was quietly active over the next decades. It’s one foray in the spotlight occurred in 2003 when a case was brought before the Dublin District Court by the club’s neighbours who complained of “stomping, whooping, handclaps and amplified music” at weekly line dancing (Tuesdays) and jazz (Friday) nights held in the venue. Judge Terence Finn told the Legion that they risked having their licence revoked if they did not deal with the noise complaints.

The Legion sold the building in 2005 and the new owners applied to to demolish the clubhouse in 2009. The house was put up for sale in 2013 for €995,000.

Interior of the British Legion Hall, Dún Laoghaire. Source – http://planning.dlrcoco.ie/

Harold’s Cross

There is a brief mention of a Legion hut on Clareville Road, Harold’s Cross in 1951 but I can’t find anymore information.

Inchicore  (Free standing structure at Granite Terrace)

On 5 November 1927, a Legion Hall was opened on a green area beside Granite Terrace in Inchicore for the use of members of the Legion’s Great Southern Railways Branch. The building was completely destroyed five days later in an arson attack by Irish republicans causing £1000 damage.

Burning of Legion Hall, Inchicore. Belfast Telegraph, 10 Nov 1927

The hall was rebuilt circa 1929 and it was was targeted again by the IRA elements in November of that year:

Attack on Legion Hall, Inchicore. Donegal News, 16 Nov 1929

The hall was repaired and became a popular spot for dancing in the early 1930s:

Evening Herald, 29 Nov 1933.

Today it is home to the CIE Boxing Club and is where Bernard Dunne started his boxing career at the age of five in the mid 1980s.

CIE Boxing Club, Granite Terrace, Inchicore. Source: Google Street View, 2009

Rathfarnham

A small wooden hut, used by the Legion on Whitechurch Road, Rathfarnham, was burnt down in the early morning of Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 1934. Compensation of £140 was later granted to the Club Secretary Joseph Bently in the Dublin Circuit Court.

Legion Hall, Rathfarnham. Source: 12 Nov 1934, Irish Independent.

Shankill/Loughlinstown

The Shankill & Ballybrack branch of British Legion opened a hall on the New Road, Shankill around 1930. In 1936, John Dunstane Wallis of Dorney Court, Shankill applied for a public dancing license for the hall. No further information is available.

Legion Hall, Shankill. 19 Aug 1936, Irish Independent

4. W I C K L OW

BRAY

The Bray Branch of the Legion opened its headquarters in the basement of 12 Goldsmith Terrace, Quinsboro Road in late 1929. The Irish Times (18 Oct 1929) noted that their premises had a billiard and card room, a room for “women’s work” and offices. There was no bar. In the 1930s, the Bray Branch moved their headquarters nearby to Galtrim House where it held events until the 1950s at least. A 2012 Sunday Independent article states that coach Johnny Maloney started a boxing club in Bray in the 1960s in the “British Legion Hall”. Was this Galtrim House? The building was gutted by a fire in 1984.

Legion Hall, Bray. Wicklow People, 13 Nov 1937

ENNISKERRY

The Enniskerry Branch of the Legion opened a social hall on the Old Bray Road in August 1931. It was a popular spot for dances in the decades ahead. The building is still standing today and is used as a community centre.

Legion Hall, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Source: Google Street View, 2019

5. Other

There is a ‘Somme Room’ (dedicated to Irishmen who took part in the Battle of the Somme) in the City of Dublin Working Men’s Club, 33 Little Strand Street off Capel Street and there is also British army memorabilia on the walls of the Dublin Conservative Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 8.  See my previous article on Private Bars and Social Clubs.

The RAF Association operated a bar at 23 Earlsfort Terrace near St. Stephen’s Green. A petrol bomb was thrown at the building in September 1967 causing no significance damage. Following the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in January 1972, the Club was attacked again with molotov cocktails and its windows were smashed. It appears that the club closed its Earlsfort Terrace bar around this period and moved operations to the British Legion’s club in Dún Laoghaire.

The Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall was opened in 1923 to commemorate local residents who were killed in the First World War. It is connected to the Rathfarnham anglican church which is situated about 1km away from the building.

Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall. Source: http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/

 

 

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Edit: This is my final post on CHTM. Thanks for your readership of my posts over the last decade! Stay in touch! My new podcast, Three Castles Burning, is available on all podcast platforms.

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CHTM was established in the winter of 2009. It is difficult to believe that a decade has passed. In signing off for the year personally, this post seeks to give a sense of some of what we published in 2019. While less busy than in previous years content wise, the quality was high! We thank readers for their continued support, their comments (which often really add to pieces) and their engagement with the blog across its various platforms.

Revolutionary period:

Much of our 2019 content focused on the revolutionary period. These posts included Surrey House, Rathmines (home of Constance Markievicz), food distribution during the revolution and the day the Volunteers stole pigs set for export, May Day during the War of Independence, the Munitions Strike (the centenary of which is fast approaching) and the Bachelors Walk massacre.

Music:

Some of the most interesting comments this year came on a piece exploring multiracial bands in Irish musical history, while other musical pieces focused on anniversaries, including the centenary of An Fear Ceoil, Seamus Ennis. Original Pirate Material explored the bootleg tapes of O’Connell Bridge, while there was also the great Earl Gill. There was the return of legendary Dublin band The Atrix to celebrate, too.

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1928 coverage of the Liffey Swim, Irish Independent.

Architecture and Built Heritage:

Architecture was more prominent this year than before on the blog. Posts examined the George’s Street Arcade, Deirdre Kelly who fought so bravely for Dublin, the unlikely meeting place of the Dublin United Tramways Company and ALDI and the emergence of Lord Edward Street. Monuments remained a feature of the site, including Big Jim.

Public Houses, Social History and Gach Rud Éile.

A popular post from the start of the year concerned early houses (fewer, but still in existence), while there was also the curious tale of The Zodiac. It was goodbye to Hector Grey’s, a century of the Liffey Swim, and we remembered the Pike Theatre, a lost (and tiny) Dublin institution. We had migration, white horses and censorship in there too.

Thanks to all who engaged with the blog in 2019. Be sure to check out Three Castles Burning, a new Podcast I hope captures some of the spirit of CHTM, and remember CHTM books Volume 1 and 2 are available in all good bookshops now, and would look fantastic under any Christmas tree!

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buildingsofireland.ie image of Crow Street

Crow Street is one of my favourite streets in Dublin. You could easily miss it, but if you venture down Dame Street and turn into it, you’ll find one of the most colourful streets in the capital in terms of the diversity of independent businesses there. All City Records, Classic Ink Tattoos and other long-established businesses are there. While within the Temple Bar area, it has avoided the crassness of much of the district.

The street has an interesting history,going back to the Crow Street Theatre of the eighteenth century, and it was the home of the Charitable Musical Society, centrally important to the visit of Handel to Dublin. That’s not why we’re here today though.

In revolutionary times, the street was fundamentally important to the intelligence war. At 3 Crow Street, what appeared to the public to be only a legtimate printing company was the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army’s intelligence campaign.J .F Fowler’s printers had long been in the printing business, its name appearing in 1850s Dublin editions of books, but there was other business apace in different parts of the building. Republican Frank Thornton recounted that:

The first office opened by G.H.Q. Intelligence in the city was over Fowler’s in Crow Street, Off Dame Street, which was right bang up against Dublin Castle. Here, Liam Tobin, Tom Cullen, myself, together with Frank Saurin,Charlie Dalton, Charlie Byrne, Joe Guilfoyle, started off our Operations.

The Crow Street operation was in business from the summer of 1919. By this time, things were heating up in Dublin, with IRA assassination teams (broadly remembered in Irish history as ‘The Squad’) striking against intelligence police targets on the streets. Republican Charlie Dalton, in his memoir of the period, recounted how:

…one of the Squad called on me and asked me to accompany him. ‘The assistant director of intelligence wants to interview me’, he told me. He brought me into the city and through a number of side streets to Crow Street, an alleyway off Dame Street, quite close to Dublin Castle – the stronghold of the enemy. When we came to a small printer’s shop he beckoned me up the stairs, and on the second floor he knocked on the door….After a little delay, a door was opened and we were admitted. There were three or four other Volunteers inside, some of whom I knew slightly, I noticed there were stacks of newspapers lying around.

Newspapers were the least of the material in 3 Crow Street. Intelligence workers were figuring out how to crack the codes of Crown Forces, while as Dalton (who accepted a position) remembered, “we compile a list of friendly persons in the public services, railways, mailboats and hotels. I was sent constantly to interview stewards, reporters, waiters and hotel porters to verify our reports of the movement of enemy agents.”

Race meetings, fashionable hotels like the Shelbourne Hotel, and restaurants like Kidd’s Buffet were all known to be popular spots for members of the British forces and crown services to gather. Still, the most significant job for 3 Crow Street was to get an idea of just what was happening inside Dublin Castle.

In this regard, Lily Mernin was key. Born in Dublin in 1888, but raised primarily in Waterford, Lily worked as a shorthand typist inside Dublin Castle. In 1919, she made contact with the republican movement, leading to Michael Collins meeting her at her home, where she agreed to become an intelligence agent. As Dominic Price has noted, this was an incredible coup:

Situated in the same building as Mernin was the British Army’s intelligence department. This gave her access to officially classified information such as official reports, troop strengths, British army raids and information on the identity and addresses of British secret service personnel. She also picked up a great deal of information on physical descriptions, social habits and activities of British and RIC personnel through friendships and gerneral ‘loose talk’ among Castle employees.

LilyMerlin

Lily Mernin, photographed with Piaras Beaslai. (Image: National Library of Ireland)

Mernin, codenamed ‘The Little Gentleman’, got down to work. Quickly she solved one mystery, as key republicans were being sent death threats on official Dáil Éireann notepaper. Not only did Merin discover where in the Castle they were coming from, she found the very typewriter. Bravely, she attended social functions as a means of gathering information.

Striking against British intelligence operatives, and the Dublin Metropolitan Police ‘G Division’ in particular, was of paramount importance.The much-feared ‘G Men’ had been centrally important to identifying ringleaders of the Rising, and their ‘Movement of Extremist’ files demonstrate just how much the British state knew about republican radicals. As far as the republican movement were concerned, these men either had to turn or be elimated. Collins later justified this by explaining the key difference between an intelligence officer – or a spy – and a regular soldier:

Without her spies England was helpless… Spies are not so ready to step into the shoes of their departed confederates as are soldiers to fill up the front line in honourable battle. And, even when the new spy stepped into the shoes of the old one, he could not step into the old one’s knowledge… We struck at individuals, and by doing so we cut their lines of communication, and we shook their morale.

Operations at 3 Crow Street were overseen by a team that included Liam Tobin, who had served at the Four Courts during the Rising, Tom Cullen and Frank Thornton. Collins, though in almost constant contact with this team, did not frequent the premises.

Intelligence gathering was a two way street of course. Secret republican munitions factories, Dáil ministry offices and more besides were constantly being raided throughout the period. In time, the Crow Street operation folded, moving to Great Brunswick Street, where the sign “O’Donoghue & Smith, Manufacturing Agents” was over the door.

Fowler’s business survived the revolutionary period. There is nothing marking the building today as a site of such importance in the Irish revolution, but that is true of so much of the city centre core, where revolution was plotted behind quiet doors.

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The last days of O’Devaney Gardens (Image Copyright: Peter O’Doherty)

This year, there was considerable political debate in the capital on housing, much of it centered around O’Devaney Gardens and the question of private and public land. A new photobook explores the final years of the flats, through the lens of photographer Peter O’Doherty, and is an important piece of social history in its own right.

O’Devaney Gardens dated from the 1950s, named in honour of Bishop Conor O’Devaney, martyred in 1612. Media reports on the opening of the flats were more concerned with the historic tales of Bishop O’Devaney than the state of the new housing schemes. Many of those moved into the new scheme came from Dominick Street in the inner-city.

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Irish Independent, 1955.

Dominick Street, readers of the Sunday Independent were informed, was now “the street that died.” “As the people moved out, Corporation workmen moved in. Doors and windows were bricked up and the old Georgian houses made ready for the demolition squads. When will life return to Dominick Street?” In time, the decline of O’Devaney Gardens was the subject of much media comment.

Last year, Peter O’Doherty published the brilliant ‘Voices From The Flats: O’Devaney Gardens’. It is a fine piece of oral history work, interviewing those for whom the ‘Long Balconies’ were home. Importantly, O’Doherty’s work does not dwell on the negative – and there were things that went wrong – but also captures much of community.

Some of O’Doherty’s documentary photography of the site is now captured within the self-published O’Devaney Gardens, available from The Library Project in Temple Bar and other stockists. It is a moment in time, brilliantly captured, and deserves a wide audience.

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O’Devaney Gardens (Image Copyright: Peter O’Doherty)

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This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the passing of Dominic Behan. Playwright, novelist and songwriter, his remarkable career was every bit as prolific as that of his brother Brendan, with whom he shared radical political tendencies and many characteristics. In Dominic’s honour, a night will be held in Liberty Hall on the 30th of this month with singers including Phelim Drew and historians. A new edition of his memoir has been published too (photo below, apologies for making a haims of this post first time!)

Born in Dublin’s north inner-city, Dominic Behan spent the formative years of his life in Crumlin, where the Behans were moved to from Russell Street. He would joke about the “jungle” of Crumlin in his memoir Teems of Times and Happy Returns, still one of the great Dublin memoirs, capturing both the stories of the inner-city streets and the new suburban experience.

A plaque on the Kildare Road house honours Brendan, but in truth it was a house of writers, singers and debate. It is difficult for us now to imagine how transformative Crumlin, Kimmage and schemes like them were in the hungry 1930s, and not just for those moving into them. Brendan would quip that there was “no such thing as suburbia, only Siberia.” Crumlin native Fiona Watchorn remembered how “we had never seen so many houses – all of the same shape and size, and wondered how the new kids could find their own.”

Dominic remembered Russell Street fondly, recalling that “the native industries of Russell Street were drink and cleanliness, represented respectively by the Mountjoy Brewery and the Phoenix Laundry.” It was far from the worst of tenement Dublin, with Dominic recalling how “Russell Street was the extreme tip of a jungle of north city tenements: Georgian, red-bricked, strait-laced, and, at this time, complete with closed hall-doors and mahogany railed staircases. Even a few of the windows were still intact.”

The atmosphere in which the Behan children were raised was fundamentally radical. Stephen Behan, Dominic’s father, was a veteran of the War of Independence, and took the Republican side in the Civil War which followed. By trade, Stephen worked as a signwriter, a trade Brendan would briefly follow him into. Stephen married Kathleen in July 1922, as the country was in the midst of Civil War. Her brother was Peadar Kearney, author of The Soldier’s Song, the national anthem. Not long after his wedding, Stephen was himself imprisoned. Family lore had it that Brendan Behan would first see his father through the railings of prison.

Dominic, born in 1928, arrived too late for the excitement of the revolution, but he found his heroes in that tradition. To him, “Jim Larkin gave a new meaning to Christianity when he decided to fight his cleric critics with their own cannons – a Bible and a plea for a true brotherhood of man.” He brought his politics into much of what he did; working on a number of building sites with his brother Brendan in the 1940s, with one foreman complaining to their father that they were “the greatest bastards I’ve ever come across.One wants the men to strike for an incentive bonus so that the other one can bring them down to the pub to drink it.’ His political activism would land him in trouble in the early 1950s, with his role in agitation for the movement against unemployment seeing him imprisoned.

Dominic’s lyrical output was unprecedented. He was quick-witted, and able to get songs into the public domain quickly as events unfolded. Arkle, his tribute to the greatest racehorse Ireland has ever produced (known simply as ‘Himself’) honoured a brilliant victory for the Irish Thoroughbred racehorse over hotly tipped English opposition:

They’re at the last and over, Pat Taffe has more in hand
He’s passing England’s Mill House, the finest in the land
My God he has us beaten! What can we English say?
The ground was wrong? The distance long? Too early early in the day?

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Marble Arch Records cover of Arkle

Some songs were sweet, like Liverpool Lou, which became a top 10 hit for Liverpool group The Scaffold, and which Yoko Ono would select as one of her Desert Island Discs, noting that John Lennon had sung it to their child as a lullaby. Still, it is undoubtedly the republican songs that Dominic is best remembered for, Come Out, Ye Black and Tans and The Patriot Game among them. Behan would accuse Bob Dylan of plagiarising his song for his own With God On Our Side, leading to legendary tensions. In a scene in Don’t Look Back, the documentary of Bob Dylan on the road, Dylan retorts quickly that “I don’t hear nobody like Dominic Behan, man!” when his name is mentioned. Music industry legend has it that when Dylan suggested “my lawyers can speak with your lawyers”, Behan replied, “I’ve got two lawyers, and they’re on the end of my wrists.”

As a broadcaster, singer and playwright Dominic would spend his life between these islands. In Britain, he was fundamentally important to opening doors for emerging Irish acts, including The Dubliners, and was part of a golden age of Irish folk and traditional performers on the UK circuit, which could include talent as diverse as Seamus Ennis, Margaret Barry (honoured at this years RTÉ Folk Awards) and a young Luke Kelly. In an interview with this writer, Christy Moore (for whom Dominic produced the album Paddy On The Road) recounted that time fondly, but while acknowledging a profoundly important truth: “Dominic was pure Dublin to his very core. He mesmerized me with an enormous repertoire of songs, reflections and poetry. Himself and his wife Josephine were very kind to me. Like myself back then,he seldom put the cork back into the bottle. The sessions went on ’til the bitter end.”

At the time of his passing in August 1989, Dominic Behan was just sixty years of age. His ashes were scattered on the Royal Canal in Dublin, and an oration delivered by his friend Seán Garland, President of The Workers Party. He would be remembered in the pages of The Irish Times as “a funny man, garrulous, brilliant, infuriating, angry,lovable but never boring.”

Up Russell Street!, a night in honour of Dominic Behan marking 30 years since his passing, takes place at Liberty Hall on 30 November. Tickets available now from eventbrite.

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2019 edition of Teems of Times and Happy Returns.

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Designed by Paul Guinan (www.paulguinan.com)

At long last, I finally got the podcast over the line!

Three Castles Burning is available now on a host of podcast providers, including Apple iTunes (Spotify will follow) and Podbean. For those of you who are old fashioned,you can stream it, and all future episodes, here.

Episode one is the Bachelor’s Walk Massacre, and features guest Lorcan Collins. We stood at the site of the atrocity and got into it, the Howth gun running, and questions of commemoration.

The Bachelors Walk Massacre of 1914 was a turning point event in the Irish revolution, shocking Dubliners and packing the ranks of the Irish Volunteers. Yet today the event is largely forgotten, without so much as a plaque honouring the victims. Guest: Lorcan Collins, Historian and Author.

The editing will improve, this is a brand new project for me but I hope you subscribe and stick with it. If you want to help us out, please give it a play and a rating on Apple iTunes which will move it up the chart. Future episodes already underway include 1930s suburbia, the Animal Gangs, Grogans public house, Dominic Behan and Dalymount Park.

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Crosses honour the dead of Bachelor’s Walk (Illustrated London News, 1914)

The version of events surrounding the violence on Bachelor’s Walk that made it to the United States in July 1914 was somewhat different from how things occurred. Readers of one New Jersey newspaper were informed that “some of the mob fired first with revolvers. The mob then pressed forward and threatened to sweep the soldiers with the revolvers.”

In reality, the 26 July had witnessed something different entirely. The King’s Own Scottish Borderers, confronted by a jeering crowd, opened fire on unarmed Dublin civilians on a day of considerable embarrasment for the authorities, as the nationalist Irish Volunteers successfully armed themselves. To The Times newspaper in London, those fired upon were “the sort of slum crowd which gave so much trouble during the Dublin strikes.” Three were killed on the day, with a fourth dying weeks later as a result of injuries sustained at Bachelor’s Walk. In Dublin, there were immediate scenes of mourning and anger, with recruitment into the Irish Volunteers swelling the ranks of the nationalist organisation, while the funerals of the victims became political spectacles. In its aftermath, Bachelor’s Walk loomed large over political discourse. When John Redmond and Prime Minister Asquith held a recruitment meeting at Dublin’s Mansion House months later, the signs of protestors urged those in attendance to “Remember Bachelor’s Walk, Don’t Join the Army!”

It is curious that this event remains uncommemorated today. A plaque honours the Asgard’s landing of arms at Howth earlier that same day, yet nothing marks the violent deaths of innocent civilians. A year on from the event, attempts to unveil a plaque there in July 1915 were stopped by the authorities, under the war-time Defence of the Realm Act. Dedicated “to the memory of innocent civilians slain by British soldiers”, the completed plaque was not unveiled, its location today a mystery.

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American frontpage coverage of the deaths.

The King’s Own Scottish Borders, garrisoned in the Royal Barracks, maintained that they were responding to attack by a hostile crowd when the first shots rang out just after 6:30pm in the vicinity of the Ha’penny Bridge. Certainly, some stones were thrown, though Thomas Johnson of the Irish Trade Union Congress would later remark that he had seen “more stones thrown at a football match in Belfast without interruption of the game.” Professor Eoin MacNeill of the Irish Volunteers, in correspondance with Roger Casement, would try and outline what had happened:

The news from Howth and Clontarf soon got all over Dublin. The King’s Own Borderers had to bear the brunt of the disgrace…of the Castle regime. Even at Clontarf, a young girl cried out upon them for cowards and asked the women to line up before their bayonets. Half a mile further towards the city, at the North Strand, a jeering mob collected around them and reminded them of their prowess in South Africa. In Talbot Street they thrice charged the unarmed populace with their bayonets, and still the cry of ‘cowards’ followed them, all along O’Connell Street to Bachelor’s Walk. When they reached the metal bridge, they could stand it no longer.

MacNeill claimed “from Amiens Street to Liffey Street you could not find a missile of any kind, except orange or banana skins”, something contested by some first hand accounts, but the facts of history are that the crowd were unarmed and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers were never in any danger. Subsequent investigation of the incident was widely dismissed as a cover-up, and the end effect, as MacNeill noted, was a sea change in public feeling.

The dead were all working class Dubliners. Mary Duffy was a 56 year old widow whose son was serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. James Brennan, the youngest of the dead, was a teenage messenger boy. Patrick Quinn was a father to six children and employed as a coal porter. In September, the wounded Sylvester Pidgeon succumbed to his injuries, his death reigniting public outrage.

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Luke Kelly wounded in hospital following the Bachelor’s Walk outrage.

There were dozens of other injured Dubliners too, including several children. One of the wounded was Luke Kelly, namesake and father of the ballad singer who would go on to achieve international fame as a member of The Dubliners. Luke Senior lived a remarkable life in his own right, and distinguished himself as a football player with Jacobs Football Club in the League of Ireland.

In the immediate aftermath of the events, soldiers were confined to Barracks across the city. As historian Pádraig Yeates notes, “one soldier with a Scottish accent who was foolish enough to venture out in civvies was thrown in the Liffey. The Lord Lieutenant, Lord Aberdeen, wanted to visit the injured in hospital but his officials refused to allow him risk his person, given the mood in the city.”

The funerals brought Dublin to a standstill, with the bodies of the three victims brought to the Pro Cathedral, before a procession through the city streets to Glasnevin Cemetery. The Irish Independentreported on 29 July that “The removal of the remains of the unfortunate victims of Sunday’s shooting in Dublin from the City Morgue to the Pro Cathedral last night was marked by scenes of the most impressive character. Seldom in the recent history of Ireland has a more poignant and dramatic scene been witnessed.”

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Volunteers parade in the funerlal procession for the victims of Bachelor’s Walk (National Library of Ireland)

Mary Duffy’s son marched in British Army dress uniform, but for the most part it was the uniforms of nationalist Ireland which were on display during the great procession. The words of Duffy’s grieving son, who condemned those who shot down “helpless women and children in my native city”, had a deep impact. Likewise, the first hand account of a former British soldier who witnessed the carnage was also widely reprinted in the press:

I heard the officer, a young man, give the order to load. I tried to get a couple of women and a girl out of the way. I got the little girl clear, and the women lay down on the pavement. I saw the soldiers load their rifles with ball cartidge. They seemed to be very excited. They were within ten yards of me, and I saw one man fire. He reloaded, and as he put in his second cartridge he pointed his rifle downwards without taking aim. He pulled the trigger, and I was shot in the leg.

There were scenes of mourning during the funeral procession, in particular at Bachelor’s Walk, where the Freeman’s Journal reported that “the assembled thousands became overwhelmed by grief…Hundreds wept and sobbed aloud.”

In the days following the shootings, there were sporadic protests, one of the most remarkable of which was in Liverpool, where a Dublin GAA team were taking on Merseyside opposition. Frank Thornton recounted in his Bureau of Military History Witness Statement:

It was decided in Liverpool that we would mark the occasion by making a strong protest in the streets of Liverpool against the shootings at Bachelor’s Walk. The Volunteers were paraded on Sunday afternoon, headed by the O’Toole Pipers Band and a large banner in front with the words “Remember Bachelor’s Walk”, “Bullets for Dublin”, “Support the Volunteer Defence Fund”. Hundreds of collectors accompanied the demonstration through the city and a large amount of money was collected, all of which went to purchase arms at a later date.

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Bachelor’s Walk, In Memory (Jack B. Yeats)

The painter Jack B. Yeats would capture something of what the tragedy came to mean for Dubliners in Bachelor’s Walk, In Memory, painted in 1915. Jack was moved to paint this from something he had seen at the site of the killings, noting in his diary “a flower girl placing her own offering on the scene of a killing.”

The historian George Dangerfield, writing in The Strange Death of Liberal England in 1935, captured something of why Bachelor’s Walk became the turning point moment it did, putting it in context by comparing it with the indifference – and sometimes tactical support – of the authorities for the UVF arming itself: “Under these circumstances, it matters very little whether three thousand civilians were slaughtered, or three hundred, or thirty, or three: there are stains in Bachelor’s Walk which nothing will ever quite wash away.”

‘Remember Bachelor’s Walk’, whether chalked on walls, printed on handbills or carried on banners, was a rallying cry for nationalist Ireland in the years of the Irish revolution. While commemoration of the civilian dead was disgracefully prevented by the authorities in 1915, we have now passed the centenary of this event without marking the lives cut short on that day. They deserve more.

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Swiftshead

The inimitable Dean Swift

It is an honour to contribute a walking tour to the Jonathan Swift Festival this November. The festival is a chance to look at unusual aspects of the eighteeth century city, and with that in mind my tour is focused on voices of protest and dissent in the Dublin of the 1700s.

Swift rests today in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where, his inscription tells us, “fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart”. There was much to be indignant about in the time of Swift and after.

The tour takes place on Sunday, 24 November.

18th century Dublin was a city of protest and dissent. From Dean Swift to James Napper Tandy, via The Liberty Boys and Charles Lucas, this tour will examine the angry city of the 1700s. (€10 per person) Join author, historian, and writer of the “Come here to Me Blog”, Donal Fallon.

Tickets are available here, priced at 10 euro.

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HandsOffDublin

The cover of Hands Off Dublin, a collaboration between campaigner Deirdre Kelly and photographer Pat Langan

Deirdre Kelly was only 61 years of age at the time of her passing in 2000, but by then she had done so much. In the words of Dublin’s finest historian, David Dickson, she “became the most fearless community activist – on the streets, in the courts and with her polemical Hands Off Dublin.”

Author, activist and conservationist, she was to the fore of the battle for Dublin, founding the Dublin Civic Group and instrumental in bringing about the Dublin Crisis Conference in 1986. Together with the work of others like Uinseann MacEoin and Frank McDonald, she helped to shine a light on poor planning and the threat to the heritage of the city. She was centrally involved in the campaign to save Hume Street from demolition, which first brought her to public prominence.

Crucially, Kelly (earlier Deirdre McMahon), MacEoin and others were important in changing the image of heritage activism in the city, concerned as much with the proper provision of houses and facilities for Dublin in the present as with saving the past.

In June 1963, the writer Barbara Page lamented those who she felt were concerned only with the Georgian past:

My work takes me frequently into the slums and tenements of Dublin, and although I love the city I feel often depressed and dispirited at the end of the day. I listen to the fine talk of the Georgian Society and read the pleas to save our Georgian Architecture. I climb the stairs, four and five storeys, of Georgian tenements…to rooms unfitted for modern living. There are times when I wish I could make the Gerogian admirers live in these hovels.

No such criticisms could be levelled against an activist of Deirde Kelly’s standing.

The Battle for Hume Street:

Hume Street, and the occupation of a number of endangered buildings by architectural students and conservation activists, drew significant national and even international attention onto the threats facing Dublin’s Georgian heritage.

A significant catalyst for public debate had come earlier, in August 1957, with the demolition of two Georgin houses on Kildare Place, next to the National Museum of Ireland. Campaigners, including Uinseann MacEoin and Seán Ó Faoláin, had argued that these houses had importance in helping to tell the story of the city, and positioned them in an Irish context:

We believe that the architecture of Dublin in this period – the period of Grattan’s Parliament – is one of the country’s chief treasures and to the educated traveller one of its principal attractions. These houses have no particular historical associations: they form a part of a great heritage which was allowed to go to waste in the last century, which, if every effort is not made in the present, will be dissipated. The preservation of a few historical buildings do not keep a city’s character: it is the total effect of houses such as these which made Dublin unique.

The campaigners lost, but the Irish Georgian Society would emerge. Frank McDonald, in his study The Destruction of Dublin, quotes one Government Minister as stating “I was actually glad to see them go. They stood for everything I hate.” The IGS, as McDonald writes, was born “with the twin aims of awakening public interest in Ireland’s heritage of Georgian architecture and spearheading a campaign for its preservation.”

Hume Street played out differently from Kildare Place. Moving beyond words of condemnation into action, the site was occupied in an attempt to stop its destruction. Visiting it in January 1970, journalist Mary Kenny described Deirdre McMahon as leading the occupation:

The architectural students occupying the house at No.1 Hume Street operate in a rigidly democratic manner and proclaim not to have any specific leader. but a yougn woman, Deirdre McMahon, is clearly emerging as a spearheading force in the movement… Miss McMahon, a first year student at UCD, is Dublin-born and bred (from Leeson Street). She is lively, merry and extremely resourceful. She is full of purpose about the project of saving Dublin, but she is clever enough to avoid sounding a hotheaded extremist.

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Irish Press image of the occupation.

Hume Street had been brewing for some time,with the Green Property Company acquriing property there from 1966. In December 1969, when the first demolition began, concerned students and others moved in, occupying the site. This was in the aftermath of the destruction of similar Georgian houses for the premises of the Electricity Supply Board, and feeling was running high. Sam Stephenson, the architect of the ESB offices, took a dim view of the Hume Street occupation, insisting that the protestors should “stop bleating on about all of Georgian Dublin being preserved for posterity – posterity might not want it.”

Reflecting on the Hume Street occupation, Deirdre remembered “we used to have school parties coming in, people came from Belfast and places like that to visit us. We spent a lot of time showing people around.” The occupation lasted several months, and had some curious moments, like the arrival of a Christmas hamper for the students from Charles Haughey.

Things turned ugly in June 1970,when private security arrived to remove the students occupying the building in the dead of night. The violence was serious, condemned as the “strong-arm methods of a private army employed by property speculators”. Gardaí, not for the first or last time, watched on as private security removed protestors from a building. Widespread condemnation followed,and a protest that evening would be addressed by Mary Robinson, Noel Browne and others.

Hume Street was a noble defeat, but a victory in a sense that it demonstrated the broad support for conservation campaigns in the city, a perfect rebuff to the idiody of Minister for Local Government Kevin Boland, who had denoucned the protestors as “a consortium of belted earls and their ladies and left-wing intellectuals.”

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Deirdre Kelly at Christchurch Cathedral.

The Living City Group and the Dublin Crisis Conference:

Beyond Hume Street, Deirdre involved herself in a number of important 1970s campaigns in the city with the Living City Group, and published City Views, which shone a light on poor planning in the city and threats to heritage. The group was founded by Niall Montgomery, Aidan Kelly (her husband, and the business partner of architect Uinseann MacEoin in MacEoin Kelly Architects) and herself, but quickly formed an active and commited membership.

Some of the language around Kelly in the press was typical of its time, described in the Irish Independent in 1976 as “housewife who leads war on the planners”, but despite such language she seized upon any and every opportunity offered to put forward her argument:

She does not like the Living City Group being referred to as a conservation group, because this term deals mainly with buildings, whereas their greatest concern is with people and protecting them in their small communities. It’s the threat to these communities with which Mrs. Kelly is concerned at present. The threat, she says, is contained in the Draft Development Plan for the city.

Kelly’s impassioned plea for a new approach to planning, Hands Off Dublin! , highlighted all that was wrong in the Corporation’s Draft Development Plan, in the words of one reviewer, “people before traffic, homes for them near their jobs and property speculators way behind in the list of what Dublin needs is what this book is all about.” With Pat Langan’s brilliant photography, she demonstrated the destructive impact road widenings would have on inner-city Dublin communities, communities she always insisted wanted to live in the city. Cleverly,she and Pat took a busload of local politicans and journalists around Dublin, visiting places mentioned in their study and highlighting the potential negative impact of changes on communities. At the heart of Kelly’s argument for Dublin was for the centre of Dublin to be embraced as “the living heart of a capital city.”

One of Kelly’s greatest moments – in conjuction with other longstanding voices for the city – was the Dublin Crisis Conference, which drew up a Citizens’ Alternative Programme for Dublin. Drawing up a 16-point Citizen Alternaive Programme, the iniative won the support of organisations as diverse as the Architectural Association of Ireland, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Students Against the Destruction of Dublin, the Liberties Association and the Concerned Parents. There is still much of merit and wisdom within the programme. It drew attention to the need for improved public transport, highlighted the decay of Dublin’s docklands (insisting that it was vital the land there “is developed as a diverse and humane environment in the context of a community planning framework which is compatible with the needs of existing residents”) and opposed road widening schemes which threatened the fabric of the capital.

Beyond her work as an activist, Kelly also produced a brilliant local history Four Roads to Dublin: The History of Rathmines, Ranelagh and Leeson Street, published by O’Brien Press. As with many of her contemperaries – Uinseann MacEoin, Frank McDonald, Máirín de Burca (of the Dublin Housing Action Campaign) – she fought plenty of battles, lost a few and won others. Still, she shifted views, and opened up improtant discussions on the direction in which Dublin was heading. She is commemorated today with a memorial in Ranelagh, where a plaque reminds us to think about the streets we walk down as living streets:

Wherever one walks, one is conscious that these are living streets, steeped not just in their own history but woven into the history of Dublin. Writers and musicians, unionists and nationalists, scientists, poets and artists lived and still do – in the houses which line these streets.

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A place to sit and reflect, Deirdre Kelly’s Ranelagh memorial (Image: Dublin City Architects Blog)

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