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Date Posted: 07:46:06 06/19/04 Sat
Author: P. Hurley-Irish Emigrant NYC
Subject: Irish America remembers Capt. Kelly

>Irish America Remembers Captain Kelly
>By Patrick Hurley
>Captain James Kelly, the Irish army officer caught up
>in the alleged Arms importation plot of 1969 – 70,
>died in Ireland last year. He was remembered by the
>Irish American Community, in a Memorial Weekend
>ceremony, on Saturday May 29th, at the Michael J.
>Quill Park in East Durham, N.Y. Up to his last
>breath, Captain Kelly had battled with the Southern
>Irish establishment to have his reputation restored.
>To the plain people of Ireland, of course, his
>integrity was never in doubt. He had courageously
>executed his orders to the fullest, in difficult
>times. Unlike his persecutors, he was not only loyal
>to the Southern State but his fealty to the Irish
>nation, in its full realization, was absolute. In the
>pervasive, official equivocation of the early
>“Troubles”, his courage and constancy were an
>In the end, the captain was expendable, thrown to the
>wolves, as political chameleons scrambled to save
>themselves. Although acquitted at trial, the fact
>that the establishment continued to withhold its
>imprimatur of exoneration troubled him greatly.
>James Kelly was born in Baileboro, Co. Cavan, in 1929,
>into a staunchly republican family. He was
>commissioned into the Irish Army in 1951. In the
>turmoil of the evolving northern Irish crisis, he
>achieved an unwanted notoriety.
>These were emotional, violent and volatile times.
>Nationalist areas were in a state of permanent siege
>from unionist mobs, acting with the full complicity of
>the northern statelet's security apparatus. Each new
>atrocity added fuel to the fire of Southern fraternal
>IRA leaders liaised openly with ministers of the
>Southern government. IRA volunteers were brought
>across the border to receive weapons' and tactical
>training from the Irish Army. Emotive rhetoric, such
>as Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s dramatic “we will not stand
>idly by” speech was the order of the day. And, as
>materiel was moved towards the border, speculation was
>rife that the army would be ordered to annex
>peripheral areas of the northern statelet.
>Confrontations were frequent between Southern
>civilians, outraged by the injustices being
>perpetrated north of the border, and British Army
>patrols, which strayed into the South. In one
>incident, in County Louth, a British army armored car,
>and its crew, was nearly overturned by an angry crowd
>before the intervention of Gardai.
>Ambiguity was pervasive. Historians would later allude
>to the role of the Southern government as a midwife in
>the birth of the Provisional IRA. Implicit, if not
>express, support was given, with the proviso that the
>Provisionals restrict their campaign to the northern
>side of the border. In a homogenous Catholic state,
>such support also had the effect of stifling any
>potential of Cathal Goulding's socialist Official IRA.
>In the context of the era, an official government plan
>to import weapons for distribution to northern
>nationalists was not as outrageous as Dessie O’Malley,
>or other political opportunists, would subsequently
>paint it to be. Indeed, to those, like Captain Kelly,
>caught up in the turmoil on the ground, it must have
>seemed like a logical extension of government policy.
> One of the captain's co – defendants in the Arms
>Trial, IRA leader John Kelly, no relation, would later
>say on the stand: "We did not ask for blankets or
>feeding bottles. We asked for guns - and no one from
>Taoiseach Lynch down denied our request or told us
>that this was contrary to government policy."
>At the very least, an ambiguous environment was
>created, which encouraged the actors, who were caught
>up in the volatility of the times, to believe that
>they were executing government policy. An elusive
>chain of executive authority, if not deliberately
>created, was conveniently allowed develop so that
>those at the very senior level of government could
>have resort to plausible deniability, in the event of
>exposure. Potential political rivals and unwitting
>servants of the State would be the scapegoats. This
>was not Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s finest hour.
>It was into this cauldron that Captain Kelly was
>thrust. As a military intelligence officer, with
>relatives in the northern statelet, he was dispatched
>north of the border, to liaise with the nationalist
>citizen defence committees and to gather intelligence.
>Kelly served as a conduit between the beleaguered
>nationalist population and the Dublin cabinet
>subcommittee chaired by Charles Haughey, and
>comprising Kevin Boland, Neil Blaney, and Jim Gibbons,
>which had the brief of ameliorating the distress of
>northern nationalists. Certainly, Captain Kelly had
>every reason to believe that he was operating with the
>full approval of his political superior, Minister for
>Defence Jim Gibbons.
>In early 1970, according to the official version of
>events, the Fine Gael leader, Liam Cosgrave, divulged
>to an apparently unsuspecting Taoiseach Jack Lynch, a
>plot by some government ministers to import arms,
>through Dublin Airport, for distribution north of the
>border. Lynch was allegedly horrified at the plot,
>which had apparently evolved towards fruition under
>the unsuspecting nose of Micheal O Morain, the
>minister for Justice.
>Lynch acted decisively. O Morain was replaced as
>Justice minister by the young, ambitious Dessie
>O’Malley, who zealously effected a damage control
>exercise. Charles Haughey, his brother Jock Haughey,
>Neil Blaney, IRA leader John Kelly, Captain Kelly and
>Belgian businessman Albert Luyx were arrested and
>charged with an attempt to illegally import arms.
>The charges against Blaney were dismissed at a
>preliminary hearing. The other five were acquitted at
>O’ Malley would be ruthlessly Machiavellian in his
>endeavor to circle the wagons around the taoiseach.
>His name still conjures up bitterness for his callous
>disregard for the plight of northern nationalists, and
>his suspected chicanery in manufacturing a protective
>cover up for Lynch. As recent as 2001, indications
>emerged that evidence crucial to the prosecution in
>the Arms Trial, which had been in O’Malley’s nominal
>control, had been “edited", so as to further distance
>Gibbons, and thus Lynch, from the alleged plot.
>As the orator at Jack Lynch’s funeral, in a Freudian
>slip, O’Malley would once again display his
>constricted, barren “Free State” mentality. His smug
>assertion that Lynch had saved the "State" from a
>bloody conflict, begs the question from those who
>recognize a de jure, though de facto unrealized, 32
>county state, as to how one would describe the strife,
>which has raged in the northeastern part of the island
>over the last 30 years.
>Kevin Boland resigned his ministerial portfolio and
>Dail seat, in principled protest. Blaney was fired
>from the cabinet. He resigned from the Fianna Fail
>Party but remained on in the Dail as a self described
>"Independent Fianna Fail" T.D., consistently been re
>elected by high margins. He would continually
>pronounce over the subsequent years: "I didn't leave
>Fianna Fail. Fianna Fail left me". Charlie Haughey was
>also fired from the cabinet. He remained in Fianna
>Fail and, like Blaney, continued to be reelected to
>the Dail by a loyal constituency. Exiled to the
>backbenches, he doggedly laid the foundation for his
>vengeance against Lynch and O'Malley, and his ultimate
>control of the party.
>The most tragic figure to emerge from the Arms Trial
>was Captain Kelly. His subsequent life betrayed the
>frustration of an anxious, unsettled soul. Resigning
>his army commission, he became obsessed with restoring
>his reputation. He tried his hand at various
>professions, one time publican and one time newspaper
>publisher. He tried emigration to Australia for a
>short period. The captain became a member of Kevin
>Boland's fledgling Aontacht Eireann party. However,
>he later rejoined Fianna Fail, becoming a member of
>its national executive. He eventually broke with the
>party over its capitulation on extradition.
>In death, Captain Kelly achieved what had eluded him
>in life, the exoneration of the establishment. In the
>immediate hours after he passed, Taoiseach Bertie
>Ahern described him “as a dedicated officer who
>honourably served the interests of the country… at all
>times during those difficult days… Captain Kelly acted
>on what he believed were the proper orders of his
>The Southern State fired no volley over the grave of
>the captain. To paraphrase Michael Collins, those
>shots would have been the only words necessary over
>the grave of a dead Fenian. In these politically
>correct times, such an act, of course, would have been
>unacceptable to the Europhillic sophisticates of
>Dublin 4. Devoid of any sense of nationhood, they
>could never comprehend the patriotism of "The Captain"
>from Baileboro.
>Here in Irish America, the last redoubt of Irish
>nationalism, Captain Kelly has not been forgotten. On
>Saturday May 29th, at 1.p.m., a committee of veteran
>Irish activists under the leadership of Ken Tierney
>and Tommy Enright unveiled a memorial to him at the
>Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Center
>State in East Durham, New York. In attendance were
>Captain Kelly’s widow, Mrs. Sheila Kelly and other
>family members.
>An international lobbying effort, the “Captain Kelly
>Justice Campaign” is underway to have the Irish
>Government officially acknowledge that Kelly was
>innocent of all charges and that he was at all times
>acting faithfully in accordance with his oath of
>allegiance to the Irish State. In the United States,
>veteran activists Ken Tierney, Tommy Enright, Bob
>Loughman, and Pearse O’Doherty, among others, are
>spearheading the effort. One can receive more
>information and sign the international petition by
>logging on to the campaign’s website:

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