DISPATCHES FROM THE BARRICADES
Fionnbarra O’ Dochartaigh has been a stalwart civil rights campaigner
for over 40 years and was one of the 40 people who founded the Northern
Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in Belfast in January 1967.
In late December 2010 he published a book entitled “Ireland: England’s
Vietnam 1960’s- 1990’s”. This book is an eclectic collection of articles
spanning the full spectrum of Northern Nationalism’s struggle for civil
and human rights. The book covers a wide period from the authors public
speaking days at Speakers Corner, in Hyde Park, London in 1965 on behalf
of the Derry Unemployed Action Committee to the celebrations in Derry’s
Guildhall Square following the publication of the Saville Report on the
15th June 2010 which vindicated the 14 innocent martyrs murdered by
British paratroopers on the streets of Derry in Bloody Sunday in January
1972. (Chapter 2)
Many of Fionnbarra’s articles have an eyewitness quality to them, so
much so that they read like dispatches from the front line in the battle
for civil rights in Ireland.
The book contains a wide variety of articles from biographical portraits
of the life and works of people such as Bishop Edward Daly of Derry
(chapter 9), Nobel peace prize winner, Sean Mc Bride (Chapter3) and 1970
arms trial fall guy, Captain James Kelly (Chapter 23) to book reviews
such as of Fionnuala Connor’s ‘In Search of a State’ (Chapter 11), Mark
Ryan’s ‘War and Peace in Ireland’ (Chapter 18) and David Miller’s ‘Don’t
Mention the War (Chapter 16).’
The book also contains some interesting investigations into the murky
world of British state collusion with loyalist paramilitary death
squads. Chapter 6 examines the career of UDA chief intelligence officer
and British military intelligence ‘double agent’, Brian Nelson and his
role in reinvigorating the UDA/UFF and rearming them with arms from the
racist apartheid regime in South Africa in 1988. These revelations
forced Britain to establish the Stevens Inquiry, the conclusions of
which have been suppressed to this day.
Chapter 21 examines the allegations contained in Paul Bruce’s book ‘The
Nemesis file’ and allegations made by former British intelligence agent
Colin Wallace that MI5 destabilised the British Labour government of
Harold Wilson and ran a paedophile blackmail ring from the Kincora boys
home to blackmail senior unionist politicians and paramilitaries.
Chapters 12 and 13 examine Amnesty international and Committee for the
Administration of Justice reports into allegations of security force
collusion and shoot to kill policies as well as harassment of the
bereaved and abuse of the inquest system.
The book additionally contains many unique photographs and reproductions
of important documents such as the ‘Irish Front manifesto’ of the mid
1970’s (chapter4). I believe that Fionnbarra’s book provides a useful
and unique insight into northern nationalism’s struggle for civil and
human rights over the past 40 years and would be an essential
acquisition for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of that
The book is available on www.lulu.com
and in paperback from the Amazon website. Personalised signed first
editions are available on request via
Published by Irish National congress, Dublin
REVIEW – Michael Mc Monagle – Reporter. The Derry Journal – December 2010
NEW BOOK LIFTS THE LID ON MI 5
A new book by Derry author and historian
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh
investigates the role played by British intelligence services in the
North during the Troubles.
“IRELAND: England’s Vietnam 1960s to 1990s
– Writings of a civil rights veteran” is a collection of articles
written by Mr. Ó Dochartaigh from the beginnings of the civil rights
campaign right up to the IRA cease-fires.
The book spans the author’s own political involvement through the years,
firstly as a co-founder of the N. Ireland Civil Rights Association in
1967, through the splits within republicanism, and the short-lived unity
created by the Irish Front, as well as his numerous campaigns for
It also contains photographs and original documents from various
campaigns and political movements.
Patrick Mc Guill, secretary of the influential Dublin-based lobby group,
the Irish National Congress, paid tribute to Mr. Ó Dochartaigh’s
writings in his preface to the book:
“I was both honoured and humbled to be asked to write this preface for
the writings of one of the Titans and founding members of Ireland’s
civil rights campaign.
“The struggle that civil rights campaigners like Fionnbarra Ó
Dochartaigh teaches us is that regardless of the odds or the obstacles
placed in our way, if you believe in the justice of your cause, endure
whatever your opponents throw at you and relentlessly persist in
exposing the truth, We Shall Overcome,” he said.
The book features articles written by Mr. Ó Dochartaigh throughout the
Troubles about a range of topics such as profiles on Sean MacBride,
Irish army intelligence officer, Capt. ‘Jim’ Kelly, Roger Casement,
Bishop Edward Daly etc., continuing discrimination, state collusion in
loyalist murders, how MI5 re-armed the Orange death-squads, state bias
as part of manipulation of the media, the N. Ireland civil service, and
much more besides.
One of the claims the author makes in the book is that British
intelligence officers were able to check what parties’ people voted for
at elections. He claims they then used this information to identify who
voted for Sinn Fein, allowing them to target republicans for
Mr. Ó Dochartaigh writes that revelations from former MI5 agent James
Rushbridger support his theories. “The retired senior official in the
counter-espionage agency, MI5, permitted his name to be used when he
made his leak. James Rusgbridger, who is the cousin of Peter Wright of
‘Spy-Catcher’ fame, went on to claim that trawling ballot papers was
‘quite common practice for MI5 officers after elections in Northern
Another claim which the civil rights founder also highlights centres on
a book, The Nemesis File, which states that a secret SAS unit was
involved in killing and secretly burying dozens of republicans and
nationalists during the conflict.
The author reprints the claims from a former soldier, using the pen-name
Paul Bruce, that he was involved in the murders of up to 30 Catholics,
kidnapped in the Republic and then were secretly buried this side of the
Border. Bruce also provided maps for the locations of the alleged
burials, which are re-produced, in this new book.
Commenting on the claims, Mr. Ó Dochartaigh writes: “One wonders, is
Bruce really credible? Are the names of those ‘disappeared’ recorded
“It seems very strange that ‘the authorities’, RUC, military and Garda,
if they really wanted to totally rubbish these claims, that they did not
carry out any official searches of the areas clearly identified.
“Bruce’s claims may possibly invite many to have a re-think.”
The book, running to around 275 pages, and illustrated throughout, was
launched at the Museum of Free Derry, where it is on sale, and is
available internationally both as an e-book and in paperback from
LATEST: Copies of the book, because of its controversial content, will
be sent to the PSNI’s HET (Historical Enquiries Team) and the
Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (“The
THE civil rights campaign is to be revisited by a Derry man who was in
the thick of things at the height of the movement.
Next month, Finnbarr O’Doherty, one of the north’s leading civil rights
activists of the sixties and early seventies, launches a new book on the
start of the current troubles in the city.
O’Doherty, a veteran socialist and the engine behind more agitprop
committees than you could shake a red flag at, is to publish ‘Ulster’s
White Negroes – from Civil Rights to Insurrection’ , the first in a
series of three histories on his home town.
The book, which was commissioned by AK Press, has just gone on release
in the United States where it is already attracting great interest.
“It’s a factual, insider’s account of what happened from about 1962 to
Bloody Sunday in 1972,” the author said.
“If you’re looking for in-depth analysis, forget it. The book relates
who was involved in the campaigns, what the issues were and the various
methods we employed to draw the state into recognising our grievances.
“It’s not an autobiography although it does contain many references to
events I was involved in. It’s largely about the people who agitated to
bring about change – sadly, most of whom never get mentioned nowadays.”
The title of the book, as Bernadette McAliskey outlines in her foreword,
derives from a headline in the London Observer, which paraphrased a
speech given by O’Doherty in 1968 linking the plight of the American
blacks and those in South Africa, with the nationalist working-class.
A co-founder of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association,
O’Doherty’s involvement in social issues back to at least 1961, when he
joined Sinn Féin towards the end of the Border Campaign.
He went on to set-up the Derry Unemployed Action Committee and the Derry
Housing Action – which was to stage a seven-week occupation of the
Guildhall in late 1968 after the unionist controlled council refused
accommodation to Catholics. Twelve families took part in the take-over.
“The police attempted to starve us out of the Guildhall by blocking the
front and back exits,” O’Doherty recalls.
“But I used to shin down a drain-pipe and go into the City Hotel around
the corner to get milk for babies, food hampers and clothes for the
“We even had our own system of government inside – I was unanimously
For his pains, O’Doherty was frequently charged under the Special Powers
Act, for breaches of the peace and offences against the state, on both
sides of the border.
“We used to regard getting a summons as a victory as it meant we were
engaging the state,” he said.
“Whenever the summonses landed in the door, my mother used to rip them
up into tiny pieces and throw them over the departing police cars. I
would then have to ring up RUC District inspector Ross McGimpsey to ask
him what I’d been charged for.”
As the pace heated up, O’Doherty was always in the thick of the action,
helping to organise the infamous October 5 and Burntollet marches.
Then came the start of the Battle of the Bogside and a continuation of
O’Doherty’s tour of Irish jails.
“Jailed first in Belfast in 1966, by 1972, I had been held in virtually
every prison in Ireland, north and south – except the women’s ones, “
smiling, he related.
“I was arrested in anti-internment battles in the south and charged
under the Offences Against the State Act. I spent time in Mountjoy,
Limerick and Portlaoise.
“When I came out, the Sunday Independent asked me to write a ‘Prisoner’s
guide to Irish Jails – which I did.
“I gave them all stars. Crumlin Road got one- which was the lowest,
while Limerick got five – as there was a choice of menu and the screws
were very police.”
Imprisonment was nothing new to the O’Doherty clan, however. Finnbarr’s
late father, Harry, to whom the book is dedicated, was jailed in the
1930s for opposing a Derry Corporation decision to tax factory girls’
wages to pay for Coronation bunting.
And the author’s brother, Pat Leo, was interned for three years in the
1950s “for being an Irish teacher.”
After leaving Official Sinn Féin in 1972, Finnbarr moved to England
where in 1973 he was one of the founders of the Troops Out Movement in
From the late seventies he was highly active in the IRSP, but since 1984
he has had no involvement in mainstream party politics.
Today he is editor of Ar nDuthchas, the newsletter of the Doherty Clann
which is distributed quarterly to over 7,000 readers throughout the
globe. He is also a correspondent for the Catholic Herald and writes
regularly for the Derry Journal.
He is very proud of how much the civil rights movement achieved and his
only regret is that subsequent campaigners did not realise its potential
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would bring down Stormont,”
“We weren’t there to get rid of the border. If you read the book you’ll
see there was no papist ploy – we never even thought the old Derry
Corporation would be abolished.
“We were demanding the same rights as people in Liverpool, Cardiff,
Glasgow and Manchester – we weren’t even comparing ourselves to the
people in the south.”