Friday, 24 September 2021 04:47

An Unquenchable Fire

Written by


Introduction to the Author - TOM BROWN


TOM BROWN is a retired senior bank official who worked for 29 years at Royal Bank Of Scotland and during that time frequent business trips to both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland instilled a special bond with the Emerald Isle. Also as a resident of Edinburgh, Scotland, the native homestead of 1916 Easter Rising Patriot, James Connolly, Tom Brown possessed an inquisitive mind into Ireland's troubled history. As a Scottish Protestant living in Edinburgh,with a passionate love affair with Glasgow Celtic of many decades and aware of Celtic's connections to Ireland through their founder, Brother Walfrid of Ballymote, Co. Sligo, indulging in editorial matters of Ireland, was a natural love affair.

As a supporter of the Irish Republican cause (but not the violence) and the author of "An Unquenchable Fire" now published here in a 3 part series, Tom Brown reflects my own Republican ideals and he is a welcome contributor/author to our Irish Heritage Hall Of Fame Online Gallery. We promote Irish theme Tributes and Commemorations at all times. In further support of Ireland's proud heritage, Tom is also the author of The Iron Man of Celtic, Seán Fallon a Sligo city native. 

You can now go to our All Ireland 'SportsLife' Hall Of Fame category herein and read Tom's excellent poetic Hall Of Fame Tribute to Celtic's Seán Fallon. 

Derry JF Doody


@ Irish Home of

All Ireland 'SportsLife' Hall Of Fame; Irish Heritage Hall Of Fame; All Ireland MusicLife Hall Of Fame & Emerald Isle Soccer Heritage


An Unquenchable Fire  part 1

If you don’t know the beginning, you can’t understand the end

If you don’t know the history, you don’t know the story

If you don’t know the story, you don’t know the struggle

If you don’t know the struggle you don’t know the motives

If you don’t know the motives you don’t know the actions

If you don’t know the actions you don’t know the spirit

If you don’t know the spirit, you don’t know the cause

If you don’t know the cause, you know nothing at all.



Modern Irish Nationalism possessed of democratic aspirations

was born in the 1790s out of a mutual association

Theobald Wolfe Tone’s, Society of United Irishmen, sought to end discrimination

against Catholics and Presbyterians arising out of British domination.


Thus, the Irish rebellion arose in 1798

but was bloodily repressed as the rebels met their fate

In the Act of Union that was signed some two years later

the Irish Parliament relinquished its power to its British dictators.

N.Irl Pic 1 Troubles JPEG


It was not until almost a century later that rebellious thoughts, always latent, began to curry favour

and in eighteen ninety six these thoughts turned to action when James Connolly, a born Scot,

determined to launch an insurrection. He founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party that same year in Dublin

and although in the elections their vote did not at first seem to be troubling

the mainstream parties, but an impact had been achieved and their influence

started to gather in the houses and in the streets

this disaffection led to the General Strike in 1913 - the Dublin Lockout

when Connolly formed the Irish Citizens Army to defend the strikers from a rout


Three years on and the fervour for Independence burned fierce

In the hearts of many citizens who had lived under British rule for many years

Seven staunch men of the Irish Republican Brotherhood

signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which declared where they stood


They were Thomas J Clarke, Padraig Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt and Seán Macdiarmada

together with James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh.

Britain was at War with Germany, supported by many of the Irish community

and fearful of waning support for independence, the rebels seized this opportunity.


Two other factions joined with The Brotherhood on Easter Monday, 1916

Connolly’s Citizen’s Army and Cumann na mBan, (The League of Women), now challenged the British regime.

The Proclamation was read aloud by Padraig Pearce outside the General Post Office in Dublin

The Easter Rising was launched......but within a week it was crumbling.

‘Erin go Brach’ (Ireland Forever) was their motto, democratic independence their pledge.

They signed the Proclamation knowing it would lead to their certain death.


They barricaded themselves inside the Post Office and in other strongholds,

they fought with courage and valour though outnumbered tenfold.

Four hundred and eight five died and more than two and a half thousand were wounded

The rebellion was crushed when the Post Office was surrounded.


Revenge was swift and ruthless, within a few days the leaders were shot -

mercilessly gunned down by a firing squad.

They were buried in a mass grave with no respects given,

James Connolly, shot in combat, lay in a cell deathbed, unforgiving.

They dragged him from his bed and although he could not stand by himself,

they tied him to a chair and they shot him as well.

The seven had martyred themselves willingly for a cause they had vowed to uphold

and ordinary people, hearing how punishment was meted, came back in numbers to the fold

Sinn Fèin (We Ourselves) won a landslide victory in elections to the British Parliament

but they declined their seats, convened the first Dàil and declared Ireland independent.


These actions lead to increasing hostility and ultimately, guerrilla warfare

fought between the Irish Republican Army and British Forces until, two years later, a truce was declared.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in December nineteen twenty one

which led to Ireland being partitioned - and then the arguments begun.

N.Irl Pic 2 Troubles JPEG


The Irish Free State was created as a self-governing Dominion

Ulster Province became Northern Ireland and remained part of the United Kingdom.

Disagreement, leading to hostilities, arose between Republicans from this arrangement,

and soon The Irish Civil War erupted in a year-long engagement.

The Civil War was fought by allies who now became bitter enemies.

Irish Republicans fought Irish Nationalists both vying to cement their identity.

Irish Government support, together with resources from the United Kingdom,

ensured a victory for the Nationalists but produced malevolent symptoms.

Society was left divided and embittered for generations to come

and the continuing conflict, including ‘The Troubles’, are a direct consequence of this outcome.

‘The Troubles’


Political and nationalistic divisions have always fuelled conflict in the Irish isle

and that simmering malcontent ferments every once in a while.

This is a conflict, motivated by historical events, with ethnic and sectarian dimensions

and both Loyalists and Nationalists had very clear intentions.

The mostly Protestant Loyalists wanted the status quo

whereas the mostly Catholic Nationalists wanted one Ireland and for Northern Ireland to go


For the most part the Protestant population in Northern Ireland has been in the majority

and the Security Forces together with the Army clearly support British Government authority

so, it is hardly surprising that Nationalists feel marginalised in a place which was once Irish and which they cannot recognise.

It was during a campaign to end discrimination when Catholics felt grossly abused

that brutal tactics were deployed, and the police were accused.

This led to widespread rioting which probably needed little encouragement

and it was not long before the Army were called in to prevent a resurgence

of traditional violence that had always threatened to escalate

but, instead of restoring order, the Army, with the Police, came to be symbols of hate

from a Nationalist community whom they made it clear they despised

against a backcloth of Government rhetoric and media commentary so obviously biased.


Three thousand five hundred lives were lost in that thirty year period of shame

when often the cause became distorted and it became a ‘tit for tat’ game.

Opportunists used this battleground to satisfy old scores that became endemic,

for others it fronted addictive, ruthless violence and criminal activity disguised as polemic .

But, for many, the history and the cause that the Republicans were fighting for

served as legitimate grounds for calling this conflict, war.


Amongst many North of Ireland Republicans, the Nationalist cause was ingrained

in their hearts and their minds, which could never be changed.

They were fighting to restore a country to its natural sovereignty

Ulster should be reunited with its fatherland according to history

and like the martyrs of the Easter Rising they were prepared to lay down their lives -

in war they knew that even good people had to die.

The Hunger Strike

As ‘the troubles’ rumbled on and a solution evaded successive British Prime Ministers,

a destructive force emerged with a mind that was singular.

Margaret Thatcher was a right wing Tory to the very core -

she would do things much differently than had been done before.

She had no truck with reason or negotiation,

hers was the only voice that mattered to this self-styled ‘Iron Lady’.


Thatcher withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners,

there would be no quarter given by this Prime Minister.

This decision prompted some Republican inmates to begin the ‘blanket protest’

when they refused to wear prison uniform, but donned prison blankets instead,

defiantly repeating the dissent of 1972

which had forced Special Category Status to be first introduced.


In HMP The Maze, County Down on 14th September 1976 a convicted IRA prisoner,

Kieran Nugent, was first to adopt these tactics.

In the beginning this did not attract much media attention,

even the external IRA leadership considered this a minor deflection

from a more important agenda with a much bigger mission,

until Archbishop O’Fiaich of Armagh visited the prison and condemned the appalling conditions.


Two years later with tensions high and attacks on prisoners common place,

the Republican prisoners decided to raise the stakes.

They refused to leave their cells to wash or slop out at first,

then they smeared the dingy walls of their spartan cells with their own dirt.

This was The Dirty Protest aimed at re-establishing their political status

by securing five published demands on the following basis......

.....firstly, the right not to wear a prison uniform,

and two, the right not to do prison work which up till then had been the norm.

Three, the right of free association with other prisoners in the jail

and to organise educational and recreational pursuits without fail.

And four, the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week to be addressed

and five, full restoration of remission lost through the prisoners’ protest.


Within the Republican Movement, with its Patriarch, Joe Cahill, imprisoned,

Danny Morrison became the spokesman for Bobby Sands and the striking prisoners.

Strategically, Morrison, together with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness

were considered to have the intellect and the support to challenge Thatcher to the finish.

The Republican thinking may be best described by Morrison’s well versed terminology,

‘the armalite and the ballot box’ was the IRA Leadership’s philosopohy.


Bernadette McAliskey, too, was a leading Republican activist and a passionate firebrand,

twice elected to Westminster, she spoke publicly and articulately for the Five Demands.

She survived assassination attempts where others did not

when many on both sides were bombed, maimed and shot.

But, despite this fear and unrest and economical and social strife,

the prisoners demands were not conceded - so now they had to decide.


On 4th February 1981, the prisoners issued a statement,

placing the blame for not resolving the crisis with the Thatcher administration.

They resolved to begin a collective ‘hunger strike’ once more

(A short lived attempt to introduce this tactic had been made four months before,

when ten thousand people marched through West Belfast in support

now these numbers had dwindled by thousands, on a second march, to less than four)

('An Unquenchable Fire' to be continued on Thursday 30th September 2021)

© TMB 2021


Authors Acknowledgement

Thank you to Finola McAleese and Betty Callaghan for their assistance in reading this work and providing feedback and especially to Charlotte O’Sullivan whose idea inspired and provided the title for An Unquenchable Fire and whose editing has been invaluable. 

This poem is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives in the Irish conflict over the many years that this has burned. 


It is not those who inflict most but those who suffer most who will conquer’.


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