‘The White House’ – barely fiction!

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U.S. President Tyrone Bentley Trout has a problem. His exclusive Irish golf course is falling victim to climate change and rising sea levels. He wants the Irish to build a wall, and he wants Ireland to pay for it. This is a tale of Russian interference, a tenacious Special Prosecutor, three ex-wives, a frustrated assassin, Ireland’s first female Taoiseach and a climactic golf match.

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myles dungan final copy

 

Here’s a slightly longer preview. Strictly between ourselves. Don’t tell anyone. 

PROLOGUE

 

A future, of sorts, in a barely tangential universe…

 

The spaniel heard the limo approach and stopped licking his testicles. Fleetingly it occurred to him not to bother giving chase. After all only vassals pursued cars, and he was a feudal Lord. A High King. But the limo was sleek, interminable and enigmatic. Despite the intense cold, and his aristocratic lethargy, the chance to assert his mastery over a chrome and steel Titan was irresistible.

Agamemnon had a rigid modus operandi when it came to chasing cars. Some dogs bark and never leave the kerb. But where was the fun in that? Aggie had an appetite for physical and moral hazard. He really should have been shorting the euro on Wall Street, with his dealer on speed dial.

Agamemnon—his human was a history professor— had inherited his technique from his mother, Athena. Her style was an homage to her own mater, Aphrodite. Both had long since made the journey across the Styx, aged, obese and diabetic, but unmarked by a single car track. So why try and reinvent the hubcap?

As the limo swept past, its black windows impenetrable, splashing brackish water onto the hedgerows of his County Meath domain, Agamemnon sprang into action. He was the Hound of the Baskervilles. He was Cujo. He was Vishnu’s familiar, Death, destroyer of tyres. At least he would be if he ever caught one.

He set off after the vehicle with a surprising turn of speed for an animal who, with a certain physiological inevitability, was tending towards the avoirdupois of his ancestors. His neglected skills quickly reasserted themselves and his enthusiasm for the chase mounted. As the limo approached a pair of imposing gates it slowed down and, to his astonishment, he began to gain ground. Then it stopped altogether. He now held the monstrous beast in thrall. For Agamemnon, the prospect of imminent victory posed a dilemma. He had no idea what to do next. What do you do with an overpowered Leviathan whose body parts were composed entirely of aluminium, rubber, glass, tungsten and PVC?

As Agamemnon pondered his next move, the door opened on the front passenger’s side. A man with a crew cut and designer sunglasses emerged. He began talking aggressively to his sleeve.

‘Hey, dumbass. Why isn’t the gate open? Godammit, POTUS is a sitting duck here.’

Agamemnon became excited at the mention of ducks. Then a rasping voice came from the driver’s seat.

‘Stop with the POTUS, Schmidt. We’re not even supposed to be here.’

‘Sorry sir,’ said the sleeve-talker. He resumed the tête-a-tête with his clothing. ‘Repeat. Golden Eagle is a sitting duck here.’

Agamemnon was puzzled. How could an eagle be a duck, he wondered? He knew he was only a dog, but still, the proposition sounded absurd. Sleevetalker, who clearly had an interest in birds, now approached the entrance and began to press the buttons of a silver pad on the gate’s pillar. After punching the same four keys half a dozen times he reached into an inside pocket, took something out, and pointed it at the pad. He spread his feet a shoulder length apart, extended his arms, and secured his right wrist with his left hand. Then he had second thoughts. He abandoned his awkward stance, reached his left hand into another inside pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He studied it for a moment, then tried some more buttons. There was an immediate response.  A bored voice issued from the metallic grille underneath the buttons.

‘Welcome to Beltra Country Club, how can I help you?’

‘You can open these goddamn gates and get POT … Golden Eagle out of harm’s way, numbnuts.’

Just then the rear window of the limo opened a few inches and a new voice, strident and high-pitched, intervened. To the superstitious dog, it sounded like the whine of the Banshee. An anxious Agamemnon began to whimper and look around for an escape route.  ‘What the merry fuck is going on here?’ rat-tat-tatted the Banshee. ‘Is this a negotiation?’

‘Did you hear that, asshole?’ Sleevetalker shouted at the pillar. There was a smooth whirring noise and the gates began to open. The engine of the car started up again. As it did so, Agamemnon feared that his quarry was about to elude him. Before Golden Eagle had time to disappear the black spaniel cocked his leg and urinated on the gleaming hubcap of the limo’s rear wheel.  Then the vehicle sped off down what looked to Aggie like an interesting driveway, one with lots of rabbit holes to either side and no obvious badger setts—badgers were trouble. Contented with his lot the little dog strutted back down the country road. He was returning home for another session with a copy of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France.  It belonged to his history professor and, so far, hadn’t been missed. He had already chewed his way through a superior chapter on the gruesome reign of the guillotine and the depredations of Robespierre.

 

BOOK ONE – THE SEA

‘Cast thy bread upon the waters …’

Ecclesiastes 11:1

That smug patrician, Adrian Breakspear, had plenty to smirk about, thought President Trout. His face must be permanently fixed in one of his lop-sided leers. It was as if he had conjured the waters himself, like some tweedy Anglo-Irish Sea God. This thought, however fanciful, served to increase Trout’s agitation. He imagined Breakspear, a flop-haired Neptune, directing the acquiescent waves of the Irish sea, across the sands of Beltra beach, towards the fescue grass of the ‘White House’ green.

‘There must be some sort of blacklist I can put the bastard on?’ the President mused, staring vacantly out the window of the Oval Office at the bare branches of the crabapple trees in the Rose Garden. They were being pruned by a small army of well-muffled gardeners.

While he doodled on yet another unread daily CIA briefing, Trout couldn’t help feeling that, in spite of everything, Breakspear might ultimately have triumphed. The thought exasperated him. All the more so because the Breakspears, in all their horsey decrepitude, had oozed buttery condescension.  They liked to remind everybody that they were descended from the only English Pope. They had seized the Beltra lands by force majeure after their saintly ancestor sent his fellow countrymen to invade Ireland in 1169. In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the natives hadn’t taken kindly to the Breakspears. The disdain was entirely mutual and the twain rarely met. An inevitable consequence was centuries of spectacular in-breeding, exemplified by the ubiquity of the famous Breakspear unibrow. While their neighbours were impervious to the Breakspear pheromones, they had a stimulating effect within the extended family. Such a rate of consanguinity meant it was inevitable that a genetic glitch—someone like Adrian— would eventually lose the plot. In fact, he had managed to squander all four thousand acres of it.

Only someone as hapless as a Breakspear, however, Trout pondered with quiet satisfaction, could have fallen foul of pirates in the 21stcentury. Adrian had wagered the entire County Meath estate on a precarious Lloyds syndicate, being spectacularly mismanaged by some of his chinless old Etonian schoolmates. In 2010 the consortium took one punt too many on the insurance of cargo ships sailing off the Horn of Africa. The Breakspears, who had survived the Black Death, Cromwell, the Land League, a plethora of IRAs, and a substantial shareholding in Anglo Irish Bank, finally succumbed to Somali buccaneers with speedy motor boats, garish headbands, and a persuasive arsenal.

Then, from the west, a white knight had galloped to the rescue. Tyrone Trout was a humble New York billionaire hedge fund manager. He had amassed his wealth by failing to lose the entire fortune bequeathed him by his father, and by avoiding tax like most avoid stepping in dog shit. The Fall of the House of Breakspear had coincided with an epidemic of status anxiety on Wall Street. Clifton Cathcart III had begun the stampede of bankers and traders anxious to avoid the social stigma associated with the failure to acquire some heavily encumbered Irish real estate. Warren Buffet’s tide had gone out, and Ireland’s bankers had been caught swimming in the altogether. Wall Street’s Finest were snapping up Irish properties like crocodiles. If the degenerate Cathcart was buying Irish, then so was Tyrone Bentley Trout. The acquisition of the Beltra demesne (‘fabulous sea views, ripe for development’ – Real Estate Alliance) became a sacred mission.

Trout successfully gazumped an attempted purchase by the Irish state, when he offered the Breakspears twice what the Office of Public Works couldn’t afford anyway. This minor coup had added the all-important hint of lemon juice to his mayonnaise. The word ‘public’ offended him, and he had promised his billionaire father on the latter’s death bed that he would never flinch in the fight against briefcase socialism. What clinched his triumph was the ‘sweetheart’ deal he dangled before the Breakspears. The family could remain in situ in Beltra House, while their knight errant doffed his armour and constructed two championship golf courses in the demesne land around them.

Breakspear and Trout had sealed the transaction with a gentlemanly handshake. Unhappily for Breakspear, however,  he neglected to count his fingers after pressing the flesh. Had Trout been a man of his word he would have been a mere hedge fund millionaire.

The official photographer who recorded the happy event had difficulty framing his shot. The Anglo-Norman Breakspear was tall and slender, yet to manifest the famous family stoop. The cross-bred Trout was squat. His father and mother had been squat, his younger brother was squatter still. Trout was also a sixty-something, cantankerous, florid alpha male who liked to tell photographers—and most other service providers—how to do their jobs. Trout’s priority was a favourable camera angle, this was essential to avoid drawing unnecessary public attention to the jaw-dropping wig whose very existence he consistently denied.

At first, the deal had worked unexpectedly well for the Breakspears. The discovery of a thriving colony of protected whorl snails on their former estate delayed the start of course construction. After a congenial visit to New York, however, the incumbent Taoiseach, Austin Purcell, had come to see things from the billionaire’s point of view. His considered judgment was that having a ‘signature’ Trout leisure development in Ireland was well worth the inconvenience of flouting the European Union Habitats Directive—at a cost to the state of €20,000 a day.  There were unpalatable, and unprovable rumours that Purcell had been well recompensed for his own inconvenience.

Having now accounted for the wildlife, Trout had built his two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses—Beltra (Links) and Beltra (Park)—while the Breakspears slumbered. But as soon as the designer’s helicopter had taken to the air at the end of the exhibition match marking the opening of the two courses, the Breakspears had been unceremoniously shunted out. A couple of ostentatious suits of armour were imported for the lobby and their Beltra mansion became a ‘Blue Book’ country house hotel, specialising in upmarket weddings.

After their humiliating eviction, there was one final, despairing throw of the dice from the Breakspears. A shadowy organisation calling itself the New Irish Land League emerged from the snooker room of the Merrion Street Club to fight the eviction. In response, Trout International hired half a dozen sinewy members of the Drogheda Mixed Martial Arts club to act as their champions. Facing a dialogue with six ‘wannabe’ Conor McGregors, the New Irish Land League had discretely ‘called stumps’ and had never been heard of again.

Then, just a few weeks after the disaster of the Presidential victory, came more bad news from Ireland. Nature had chosen to demonstrate its abhorrence of a vacuum, and its support for climate change science, by sending a tempest against his property. The ‘signature’ seventeenth hole of Beltra (Links) had been in the eye of the storm. This was Nicklaus’s personal favourite. He had named it the ‘White House’ in honour of Trout’s maverick run for the Presidency. After an impressive winter storm, all that remained of his verdant ‘White House’ was a partially submerged flagstick. Even this had quickly been claimed by an enterprising souvenir hunter in a kayak.  Defying the wishes of the Secret Service, Trout, in the midst of the presidential transition, had gone to have a look for himself. What he saw on his clandestine mission dismayed him. Having started life as a classic dogleg left—with three fairway bunkers in the shape of a shamrock—the ‘White House’ was now an expensive water hazard.

Trout recalled to mind a lesson that his father had once taught him after ‘Junior’ had crashed one of ‘Senior’s’ Mercs. Someone would pay for the damage, and it was not going to be Daddy.

 

 

Edward Rothko, United States Commerce Secretary, was a trim, elegant, vigorous looking athlete of early middle age. The former merchant banker was a grizzled, non-smoking, Marlboro’ Man, squeezed into the sharpest of Armani suits. In his previous life, for which he was beginning to yearn already, he had haunted the gym of the New York Athletic Club. His daily 6.00 a.m. workout—always accompanied by two competing personal trainers—was the chisel that had chipped out the angles and shallow recesses of his attenuated face. He liked to think of his body as a temple, though, in truth, it was little more than a modest synagogue.  He encouraged both Angelo and Jalen to call him ‘The Beast of the Bourse’ hoping that the nickname would reach the executive washrooms of Wall Street. So far, it hadn’t caught on, and now that he had relocated to DC he would have to start from scratch.

The Presidential Transition Team had plucked him from Price Waterhouse Cooper and deposited him in a swimming pool-sized office on 1401 Constitution Avenue, a few blocks from the White House. Rothko had sat beside a Stanford academic at Trout’s inauguration. She chatted about the charms of eugenics, the elegance of the Bell curve, and her loathing for John Maynard Keynes (‘I’m told he was a compulsive onanist!’), while Rothko shivered in the dry freezing air and wondered what an onanist was. So far he had spent the first three days of his tenure doing little more than conducting job interviews with beetle-browed economists far to the right of the late Milton Friedman while nursing his attendant migraine, and sneaking a nostalgic look at the Hang Seng Index on Bloomberg TV. His tightening hamstrings reminded him of how much he missed Angelo and Jalen.

Today he had been peremptorily summoned to the White House. He had been greeted on his arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by the carnivorous Buchanan. Trout’s sentinel handed him a (temporary) laminated White House pass.

‘The first of many, I’m sure,’ said the Chief of Staff jovially, in the manner of one of Pavlov’s dogs who has heard a bell ring. The man made Rothko nervous, and it wasn’t just the infamous black eye patch either. The cadaverous Buchanan always looked as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks, and was sizing you up as a potential snack. He had, thought Rothko, the balls of Satan, and the charms of a funnel web spider.

‘Any idea what this is about?’ Rothko inquired, trying not to sound too diffident. He was, after all, tenth in line of succession to the Oval office. He’d looked it up on Wikipedia before agreeing to take the job.

‘It must be about you, I suppose. Just be yourself,’ replied Buchanan unhelpfully. ‘And an occasional display of fawning deference wouldn’t go amiss.’

The laconic Chief of Staff had then ushered Rothko into the Oval office without offering any further enlightenment.  As he entered the room the Commerce Secretary detected a musky but vaguely familiar odour. Trout was finishing off what looked like a helping of chicken nuggets. Rothko hadn’t seen a chicken nugget face to face since finishing a teenage internship in a Brooklyn McDonald’s at the insistence of his autocratic father. He immediately understood why the White House Chef had already handed in his notice.

Rothko was motioned by the Falstaffian Trout, his mouth brimming with capon, towards the opposite side of the huge Oval Office Resolute desk. The proffered seat looked extraordinarily like an electric chair with truncated legs. When the Secretary sat, his head barely appeared above the top of the oaken writing table. He was looking almost directly into a carving of a bald eagle with an E Pluribus Unum scroll billowing from its beak.

Without swallowing the remnants of his lunch the President had dived right in,  berating his Secretary of Commerce for obscure sins of omission. Rothko did his best to be sycophantic but lacked any bearings. Worse still he became fatally distracted by a sliver of white chicken lodged between the President’s yellowing upper incisors. He studied it attentively as the rant continued, wondering when it would dislodge. Should he say something? What if the President’s next meeting involved lots of hand-holding and congenial grins?  Deflected from the message by the medium, he missed the thrust of the President’s diatribe. He gathered that vital American commercial interests in Ireland were at stake, but then became confused by militaristic references to ‘flags’ and ‘bunkers’. His bewilderment had accumulated just enough octane to fuel an interruption when the President curtailed his tirade to swallow a mouthful of something dark and bubbly from a red aluminium can. It had no effect on the sliver of chicken, which still clung to greatness.

‘I’m sorry Mr. President but I wasn’t aware that we had bases in the Republic of Ireland,’ the Secretary ventured. His speech was so rapid that he feared his sudden lack of diffidence might be construed as insubordination. His dental preoccupation also meant that he had no inkling what a military crisis in the North Atlantic had to do with the Commerce Department.

Trout grunted, opened a drawer and produced a toothpick. A tsunami of relief washed over the Commerce Secretary. He was off the orthodontic hook.

‘Who said anything about military bases?’ hissed Trout ‘ We’re discussing an endangered American facility on Irish soil – soil, I might add, which is eroding at an alarming rate and is rearranging the boundaries of a US overseas dependency.’

‘Eh … overseas dependency Mr. President?’

‘Yeh! Like Guam … or Hawaii. US sovereign territory is shrinking by the day and the Commerce Department is doing nothing about it.’

Just then Rothko felt a sharp pain in the meaty part of his right thigh. He jerked upwards. He’d been correct about the chair, he thought. There must be a button under the desk. How many more volts did Trout have at his disposal? The first jolt had only been a warning. Then, looking down, he spied what appeared to be a matted blob of orange marmalade perched on his lap. It had flamboyant whiskers and two malevolent walleyes.

‘Aww,’ murmured Trout affectionately, ‘I see you’ve made friends with Supreme Court.’

‘The Supreme Court, sir?’ Rothko was, by now, so far out to sea that he might have been a minor character in a Patrick O’Brian novel.

‘Not THE Supreme Court, you moron. MY Supreme Court. The cat sitting in your lap. A magnificent specimen, don’t you think?’ purred Trout.

Rothko couldn’t have agreed less, barring the probability that Supreme Court’s magnificence could be measured in litres of pure evil.  While Rothko eyed the cat warily, and surreptitiously rubbed his smarting thigh, the President had returned to the matter in hand.

‘You’re my Commerce Secretary, right? Rubenstein … or something like that.’

‘Rothko, sir.’

The President looked at him with sudden interest.

‘Rothko … didn’t my wife—not this one … Number Two … the one with the weird accent—buy some piece of crap painting from you, for my kitchen?’

‘I think you’re mistaken Mr Pres—’

‘You’re right. Maybe it’s the one in the john. Lots of straight lines and boxes.’

‘I think you’ll find …’

‘Doesn’t matter. Moved on already. So you ARE my Commerce secretary …?’

‘Absolutely, sir. However, might I suggest, Mr President, that this may not be within my bailiwick?’ He considered making a joke about waging a trade war but thought better of it. He had already heard rumours about how policy was being made in the Oval Office.

Trout speared a post-it note on his desk with the toothpick. He began to twirl it between thumb and index finger as if it was a square yellow cocktail umbrella.

‘Your … bailiwick?’ he inquired, menacingly. Too late, Rothko remembered that Trout had no grasp of multisyllabic English. He spoke what he called ‘American’, and carved short cuts through language like a Deliveroo cyclist.  Rothko took a deep breath and tried again. ‘My province.’ And again. ‘My sphere of responsibility.’ A slight upward movement of Trout’s jowls indicated that he had finally understood. Rothko wondered whether it was the ‘province’ or the ‘sphere’ that had captured the heights.

‘So, who do I need to talk to that can put the shits up the Irish?’ asked the President, stabbing the air with the toothpick, which, to the Secretary’s dismay, had yet to be applied to the purpose for which it was designed.

‘Probably the Secretary of State, Mr President.’

‘State? That scrawny motherfucker. Maybe I should just go straight to the Joint Chiefs of Staff?’

‘That might be a shade provocative, don’t you think, Mr President? I don’t believe Ireland has much of a standing army worth talking about.’

Trout laid the toothpick on the table and opened a second drawer. From this to Rothko’s surprise, he produced a packet of cigarettes and proceeded to light one. Instinctively the Commerce Secretary’s eyes sought out the nearest smoke alarm. Trout intercepted the glance and smirked.

‘They’re all gone. Sprinklers too. Obama got rid of them. Sly bastard.’

Rothko smiled wanly. That explained the strange but oddly familiar aroma, he thought.

‘OK, we’re done here,’ barked Trout. ‘You can go now. Put down Supreme Court and send in Buchanan. Chop chop!’

As Rothko gingerly extracted himself from underneath the ginger tom and beat a welcome retreat, the President suddenly changed his mind and called him back. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Rothko returned to the huge oaken desk, by now denuded of everything other than a phone, a hideously mutilated post-it note, and a leaf of discarded iceberg lettuce from the President’s chicken nuggets that had been pressed into service as an ashtray.

Rothko knew instinctively that he was about to be fired. Angelo and Jalen beckoned. He wondered what the previous record was for the shortest tenure as Commerce Secretary.

‘I remember now’, said Trout. In his head, Rothko was already composing his resignation letter. Abrupt or apologia? Terse and enigmatic, he decided. Mostly verbs.

‘It was the john,’ said Trout, thoroughly pleased with himself.

‘Eh … what was, sir?’

‘Where I hung that painting of yours. The reason I remember is that bar a couple of random lines of beige, it was the colour of shit.’

With a flourish, he extracted the sliver of chicken with the nail of his index finger, studied it for a moment, returned it to his mouth, and swallowed it.

As the last shard of Presidential nugget slipped down the Commander in Chief’s throat he turned his attention, once again, to the man he took to be an abstract expressionist.

‘Do you play golf?’ he asked.

 

 

 

Josephine Brown – British-born spy in the British Army, 1919-21

JOSEPHINE O’DONOGHUE – CORK,  IRA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER

Military Service Pensions Collection – MSP34REF55794

John Borgonovo’s definitive account of the collaboration of Josephine and Florence O’Donoghue

Josephine O’Donoghue, as Josephine Brown, went to work i n early 1917 as a clerk and typist at Cork Military Barracks and in late 1919 managed to contact  officers of the Cork Brigade of the IRA and offer her services. From then, until the Truce, she collected and transmitted original documents, copies of documents, and information relating to British personnel, equipment and troop movements. She had access to extremely valuable information, which included the correspondence of Major General Sir Peter Strickland, OC of the 6thDivision, and military governor of the Munster martial law district.

‘Under the direction of the Brigade officers I paid special attention to scouring information with regard to the personnel and movements of the British Intelligence staff attached to the 6th Division, and transmitted a list of the officers of this staff. As a result of information given by me concerning the movements of members of this staff three British Intelligence officers were captured by the IRA at Waterfall near Cork. These officers were wearing civilian clothes, and were subsequently executed.

            Information as to the movement of troops which resulted in the Upton ambush was given by me also. 

            In the winter of 1920 a letter was sent to Capt. Kelly who was in charge of the British intelligence  operation in the 6th division area, informing him that IRA men passed along a certain road on the outskirts of the city each night a short time before curfew. I saw the letter and as it was not possible to make a copy of it, and realising that the matter may be very urgent, I brought out the original letter, showed it to the Brigade IO and returned it to the file the next morning. I learned afterwards that the information was accurate, that it referred to the Brigade O/C and other members of the Brigade staff who were sleeping outside the city at the time, and that the road referred to was watched on the following nights. The writer of the letter was subsequently executed by the IRA.

            I brought out and passed on to the Brigade IO much other original matter in cases where several copies of a document were made in the offices, including on one occasion a general order issued by General Strickland (which was afterwards quoted in an tÓglach) relating to general policy and tactics to be pursued by his forces in seeking out and attacking IRA columns.’ 

In order to enhance her intelligence gathering Josephine Brown actually contrived to have three other women working in the barracks, sacked for unreliability. This gave her access to a far greater amount of confidential information. This she shared with the Cork Brigade IO,  Intelligence Officer, Florence O’Donoghue – whom she secretly married in 1921. Florence O’Donoghue went so far as to organise the kidnapping, from the UK, or her child, who was in the custody of his grandparents.  So valuable an asset was Josephine O’Donoghue that her pension application was endorsed by Sean O’Hegarty, the Cork Brigade OC, national Deputy Director of Intelligence, Liam Tobin and East Cork Flying Column OC, Tom Barry. 

‘On another occasion, early in 1921, I think, I secured a copy of a letter from General Strickland to his GHQ outlining his proposals for a large scale round up in the mountainous districts of west Cork and East Kerry, intimating his requirements of troops, transport and aeroplanes and giving details of the proposed operation. This round up took place on the 5th and 6th of June 1921. Between two and three thousand men in fourteen columns took part, and were assisted by several aeroplanes. Due, however, to the advance information which the IRA had, not a single officer or man was captured in the round up.

            Where it was not possible to get copies I made shorthand notes of important documents, or on such points as appeared to be of special value. In other cases I took the actual letters after they had been made up for post, and passed them over to the Brigade IO. These were opened and copied, then re-sealed and put back into the next day’s post by me. 

            On one occasion there was a  letter from Captain Kelly to the effect that he had got a man in as a ‘stool pigeon’ among the internees in the barracks. After this letter had been transmitted to Michael Collins by the Brigade IO a general instruction was issued by the IRA for the appointment of Intelligence Officers in all jails and internment camps, for the purpose of counteracting activities of this type, preventing undesirable talk amongst prisoners and keeping the IRA informed of any suspicious characters amongst the prisoners.

             I secured information in several cases where civilians had sent in information relating to the IRA. Six civilians were executed by the IRA as a result. 

            Over the whole period I was recording and passing on to the Brigade IO lists of names and home addresses of enemy officers; some of these were subsequently used in cases of reprisals in England. I secured also particulars of Stokes mortars with which the enemy were supplied towards the end of 1920. These particulars were used in training notes by the IRA.

            Many details were given by me of the views, characters and peculiarities of the officers directing the enemy activities in Cork. Descriptions of almost all of them were passed on to the IRA, notes of transfers and new arrivals were notified  and the minutes of the 6th Division weekly conferences frequently secured and transmitted. Everything I could do was done to give the IRA as complete a picture as possible of the personnel, methods and resources of the British forces opposed to them.

            From about the end of 1920 there was very considerable concern in the 6th division offices because of the continued leakage of information, most of which could not have come from any other source. All the staff were subjected to very rigid supervision, and it became more and more difficult to bring out actual documents. I continued to make shorthand notes and bring these, but concealed. On days when even this was not possible I memorised important points as well as I could and passed on the information to the Brigade IO. But even in this period opportunities of securing actual documents occurred, and the Strickland order referred to above was brought out by me in this period. 

            I was the only member of the 6th Division working for the IRA and was entirely without assistance in the office where I worked. A man in the 17th Brigade offices was also working for the IRA but as the offices were entirely separate I had no contact with him and we were unable to give each other any assistance. Several members of my staff were dismissed and one male member  interned but suspicions of me, which I think existed, were never confirmed before I left the employment. 

            After the Truce I went to Cobh with two members of the Brigade Intelligence Staff for the purpose of getting my sister, who was travelling to the USA, to identify and ascertain the destination of a family named Connors or O’Connor. This family were [sic] going to the USA to join a member of it who had been in the IRA but had given information to the enemy, and had been got out of the country secretly by the British authorities. As a result of this action of my sister and myself this man was traced by the IRA and subsequently shot in New York.’ 

The trial and execution of Roger Casement

Sir John Lavery’s painting of the treason trial of Sir Roger Casement

After the execution of the two surviving signatories of the 1916 Proclamation (James Connolly and Sean McDermott) on 12 May the Crown had one final score to settle with the leadership of the rising. Sir Roger Casement, career diplomat, humanitarian and British civil servant, had been the first of the leaders of the rising to be arrested. He was the last to be tried and executed. 

The Asquith government had initially decided that he would be quickly court-martialled and shot. But, informed by the strong negative reaction to the executions in Dublin the Government began to be attracted to the idea of civil trial for treason. A form of ‘show trial’ in which ‘justice would be seen to be done’. The attraction was one of rehabilitation. Some of the international criticism drawn down on the heads of the Asquith government for the methods used to deal with the leaders of the rising (a system amounting to virtual drumhead courts martial) could be deflected by a robust and open prosecution of Casement. 

There was, however, an unfortunate corollary embedded in the governmental logic. Their forum for the ex post facto validation of General Sir John Maxwell and the Dublin executions, would also become Casement’s platform for the justification of the rising and the lionization of its leaders. If they had looked back to the trial of Robert Emmet in Dublin in 1803 they could have been forewarned. Just because the result of both was a foregone conclusion did not mean they would not have to share the propaganda value of a public trial process.    

GEORGE GAVAN DUFFY

Casement’s defence was organized by George Gavan Duffy. Duffy was a successful London solicitor, the son of the Young Ireland leader, Charles Gavan Duffy. The Casement trial would prompt him to abandon his London legal practice and become a Sinn Fein MP in 1918. Gavan Duffy, with some difficulty, managed to engage the services of Serjeant A.M.Sullivan (the son of the former owner of the Nation newspaper, A.M.Sullivan) to defend Casement. No senior British-based barrister would take the brief.

Sullivan was a Crown law officer in Ireland but had been called to the English Bar and was, therefore, entitled to plead at the Old Bailey. Casement’s desire was to conduct a defence based on an acceptance of the facts of the case. However, he would emphatically deny that he was guilty of treason on foot of those facts. His contention would be that his loyalty was to an Irish republic not to the English Crown.  

Sullivan, however, persuaded, or browbeat, his client into a more reductive line of defence. Casement was to be tried under the same treason statute—of the medieval King Edward III—as Robert Emmet had been. 

This held that the crime of treason had been committed ‘if a man be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm’. Sullivan would contend that Casement, in his dealings with the Germans, had not threatened the King in his own realm. There was a hopeful precedent in the case of Colonel Arthur Lynch. Lynch had been a leader of the Irish Brigade during the Boer War. A similar defence had been entered in his case but he had been convicted and sentenced to death. Lynch, however, had been reprieved. Sullivan was hoping for similar treatment for Casement.  

But there was another reason for acceding to Sullivan’s insistence that his line of defence be adopted. Casement, famously, had recorded many of his homosexual exploits in a series of notebooks. These were in the possession of the prosecution. Adopting Sullivan’s defence strategy, a plea based on a technicality and on legal argument, would not allow the prosecution to introduce the diaries in evidence. Prodigious use was made of the ‘Black Diaries’ covertly, both before and after the trial, but they were not produced in the Old Bailey. However, much like Robert Emmet’s letters to Sarah Curran in 1803 they were allowed to hang in the air above the proceedings. In the case of Emmet the threat was that Sarah Curran would be prosecuted if he challenged the Crown’s evidence against him.   

Casement’s trial opened on 26 June. Leading for the Prosecution was Sir Frederick Smith (formerly F.E. Smith) successor to Sir Edward Carson as Attorney General. 

Witnesses were called who had been prisoners of war in the German camps from which Casement had hoped to recruit his Irish Brigade. All identified him but also acknowledged that they had been told that they would not be fighting for Germany but for Ireland. A number of witnesses identified Casement as having landed on Banna Strand. 

After the prosecution case concluded Sullivan rose to enter a motion to have the indictment quashed. He argued that the allegation of treason was bad in law and that in order to secure a conviction it was essential that Casement should have been in the King’s realm when he attempted to persuade the Irish POWs to change allegiance.

The judges ruled otherwise. They held that a treasonable offence committed by one of His Majesty’s subjects was liable to trial under Common Law wherever that offence was committed. Sullivan’s strategy, unpromising from the outset, was now in tatters. 

Sullivan’s address to the jury, in the light of the failure of his own defence strategy, now pivoted towards the defence originally advocated by his client, i.e. that he owed his loyalty to an Irish Republic and not the British Crown, so that he could not be guilty of treason. 

In his own concluding remarks F.E.Smith reiterated the Crown’s allegation that ‘German gold’ was behind the rebellion [already denied by both Pearse and Casement] and concluded: 

If those facts taken together, his journey to Germany, his speeches when in Germany, the inducements he held out to these soldiers, the freedom which he there enjoyed, the cause which he pursued in Ireland . . . satisfy you of his guilt, you must give expression to that view in your verdict.

The direction by the Lord Chief Justice [Rufus Isaacs, Lord Reading] to the jury left them with little alternative but to convict Casement. The jury took less than an hour to find Casement guilty of treason.

Casement now took advantage of the opportunity that had been denied Pearse, MacDonagh and Connolly and the other leaders of the rebellion, to offer an explanation of the objectives of the leadership of the Easter rising. His peroration was, arguably, the finest republican valedictory since that of Emmet more than a century before. He concluded …

Ireland is treated today among the nations of the world as if she were a convicted criminal. If it be treason to fight against such an unnatural fate as this, then I am proud to be a rebel, and shall cling to my “rebellion” with the last drop of my blood. 

A failed appeal delayed Casement’s execution and allowed a head of steam to build up behind a campaign to have him reprieved. It was during this period that tactical use was made of the Black Diaries in order to influence newspaper coverage against Casement and dampen the enthusiasm of actual and potential supporters (such as John Redmond and George Bernard Shaw)

Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison on 3 August, 1916. As with the other leaders of the Easter rising, his body was buried in quicklime in the prison cemetery. In 1965, a year before the country commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the rising, Casment’s body was repatriated and interred in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin. He was afforded a state funeral that was attended by President Eamon de Valera, the last surviving commandant of Easter Week. 

Trump can’t hack a postal ballot – but, then again, neither can Russia.

To post or not to post?

There’s a moment in the Orson Welles classic film Citizen Kane when the main character, Charles Foster Kane— based on the newspaper and business tycoon William Randolph Hearst—is running for election as governor of New York. The editor of his New York daily has prepared two early editions, one of which will appear the morning after the result of the election is announced. One reads ‘KANE ELECTED’ the other reads ‘FRAUD AT THE POLLS’. With a long face he is forced to go with the latter when Kane loses (so did Hearst, in 1906). 

It appears from his tweet today—the one about the possibility of postponing the November Presidential election, not the 87 other ones—(this was written before midnight so that figure might no longer be accurate!)—that President Donald J. Trump is of a similar mindset. Either he will defeat Joe Biden in November, or he will have been the victim of massive electoral fraud, most of it coming via mail ballots.

So, what does history tell us about a) the postponement of a US Presidential election and b) US electoral fraud.

The first thing to be reiterated is that the President cannot release his inner spider yet again and sign another Executive Order to postpone/cancel/exclude/deport/pardon a Presidential election. He may be able to rename Mars as Planet Trump (I’m not sure if that actually happened but I saw it on Twitter) but according to Article 2 Clause 4 of something called the United States Constitution (apparently we have one too, but the UK hasn’t gotten around to it yet) … 

‘The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.’

Americans seem to have adopted the standardised spelling of ‘choosing’ since the 18th century, so it’s probably only a matter of time before they overcome their loathing of the letter ‘U’ and begin to spell ‘labour’ ‘flavour’ and ‘savour’ properly as well. 

As to the date, the American election has not always taken place on the first Tuesday after the 1 November. That practice began on 7 November 1848  when the USA staged the first national election that was held on the same day in every state. Zachary Taylor became President. (Me neither!) The 1848 election date was based on a snappily titled 1845 law – ‘An act to establish a uniform time for holding elections of electors of President and Vice President in all the states of the Union’ which did exactly what it said on the tin and settled on ‘the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November’. That is the way it was been ever since.  

Any change would require an amendment to that act, approved by both Houses of Congress. To the Democrats, who have a majority in the House of  Representatives, it is an non-runner, dead duck, non-starter, ‘just ain’t gonna happen’ –  and even Republicans in the Senate have no stomach for such a move. Trump Enabler in Chief, Mitch McConnell has described the date as ‘set in stone’[1]

And even if it was postponed when would the USA go for a reset? No election (bar the first in 1788) has failed to take place in the final full year of a presidential term. This is not the Olympic games. Any postponement beyond the end of December would require a constitutional amendment. This would have to be ratified by 38 of 50 states!  If you’ve been watching Mrs. America on the BBC you’ll have some idea how difficult it is to pass a constitutional amendment. (Spoiler Alert – I’ve probably just given away the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment was never enshrined in the US Constitution. Oops! Sorry).  

And it’s not as if American Presidential elections haven’t gone ahead in spite of a few minor difficulties!

In 1812 James Madison and DeWitt Clinton had to face the electorate despite the USA being in the middle of a war with their former colonisers, the British. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln had to fight an election against one of his former Generals, George McClellan even though the Civil War was still raging.

Lincoln and McClellan in more convivial times

According to Michael Burlingame, Professor emeritus of History, Connecticut College:

‘No other democratic nation had ever conducted a national election during times of war. And while there was some talk of postponing the election, it was never given serious consideration, even when Lincoln thought that he would lose.’[2]  Lincoln’s chances weren’t helped by a rebellion in his own party that threw up a charismatic third candidate in John C. Fremont. But the Lincoln Project was ultimately successful (fnarr, fnarr!)

Not to mention the fact that FDR was re-elected, for the seventeenth time, in 1944 during a global conflict. 

Then there is the mail / absentee voting issue.

Is voting by mail more liable to produce a fraudulent result? Well, nearly 1 in 4 voters cast 2016 presidential ballots that way, and Trump won (albeit losing the popular vote by a narrow 3,000,000 margin). Being permitted to post off your ballot in October or November, rather than appearing in person to pull the lever, would make it less likely that electors would be required to die for their country, of Covid-19. It would also be more difficult for Cozy Bears, APT29 or whatever those talented Russian hackers are calling themselves now, to game the system. Not even Vladimir Putin is patient enough to stand over every postal voter and steal their ballot. 

They’ve been voting by mail in Oregon since 1998 and out of over 15 million ballots cast the conservative Heritage Foundation detected fourteen cases of fraud.[3] That’s a rate of .0000009%. A study that was funded by by those celebrated bastions of Marxist/Leninism, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Knight Foundation, found an “infinitesimal” number of fraud cases in elections between 2000 and 2012. They detected a total of 2,068 illicit ballots cast, amounting to one in every 15 million eligible voters.[4] And those were not all mail-in voters, some of the fraud took place at election booths. 

If about 150,000,000 Americans vote on 3 November that’s a potential incidence of around 10 fraudulent ballots nationwide. I’m sure the Democrats would be happy to ease President Trump’s mind by giving him a ten vote start? He can even take them all in Wisconsin or Minnesota if that helps.

BTW – President Trump himself voted by mail during New York City’s mayoral election in 2017. He cast an absentee ballot the following year, and again used a mail ballot in Florida’s primary election in 2020.[5] What’s that old saw about sauce, goose and ganders again? So, unless Democratic members of the House of Representatives are accidentally locked in a broom cupboard before a vote on electoral postponement, the poll will proceed as planned on 3 November. 

Incidentally, the last time a Presidential election was held on 3 November was 1988, when a Republican incumbent (George H.W. Bush) was defeated after serving a single term in the White House. Just sayin’ 

Caveat – all sources cited here are, of course, fake news outlets, like Snopes.com, Reuters and NPR. So, you can safely take it all with a pinch of salt. 


[1] https://www.npr.org/2020/07/30/897111969/trump-floats-delaying-the-election-it-would-require-a-change-in-law

[2] https://millercenter.org/president/lincoln/campaigns-and-elections

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-vote-by-mail-explainer-idUSKBN2482SA

[4] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mail-in-ballot-voter-fraud/

[5] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mail-in-ballot-voter-fraud/

Archbishop John Charles McQuaid agus Mná na hÉireann.

An unidentified Irish Head of State kneels before Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. Proper order!

Abject apologies for missing the 125th birthday of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid yesterday. 

Here was a distinguished clergyman who might have been imported directly from the Spanish Inquisition to administer his particular brand of religious certitude on an Ireland whose abject politicians were only too willing to kiss his ring. (See photo above lest there be any doubt on that score)

McQuaid was a cleric who liked women to know they were welcome in his church, as long as they restricted their activities to making the sangitches and changing the flowers on the altar every week.

Mind you, Ireland has never lacked for misogynistic Archbishops of Dublin. Cardinal Cullen, in the 1870s tried to force the administration to withdraw scholarships and prizes based on examination results from female second level students. He was supported in this by Irish MPs. It was British MPs who ensured that Irish girls would continue to benefit from their hard work in preparing for exams.

His successor, Cardinal MacCabe —an Irish churchman much beloved of Dublin Castle—went through multiple phases of apoplexy at the sight of women attending Land League meetings and, holy horror of horrors, making platform speeches.  In a pastoral letter to his archdiocesan clergy he advised them:

‘Very reverend dear fathers, set your faces against this dishonouring     attempt, and do not tolerate in your sodalities the woman who so far disavows her birthright of modesty as to parade herself before the       public gaze in a character so unworthy of a child of Mary.’

 But, of course, the Daddy of them all when it came to clerical misogyny was the Ayatollah himself, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (sadly he was denied a ‘red hat’ despite his sterling work on behalf of sixteenth century values). We don’t even need to grapple with the celebrated controversy over Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme to bathe Dev’s favourite Archbishop and Constitutional Consultant in the cold light of female repression. Or even his role in the insertion of the infamous Article 41.2.1 in de Valera’s 1937 Constitution. (Just in case you need reminding about that one it went something like this …

‘In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.’ 

That’s all big politics. Let’s focus on the really petty stuff instead.

Take, for example, how he took issue, in 1934, with the notion of girls and women being allowed to compete in athletics. In 1928 women had been admitted to the Olympic Games for the first time but McQuaid came from the same school as the founder of the modern Olympiad, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who believed that ‘women have but one task [in the Olympics] that of the role of crowning the winner with garlands’. 

Not even for 11″ or so were women to be allowed compete in the national championships.

In 1934 the National Athletic and Cycling Association [grandparent of Athletics Ireland] was contemplating adding a women’s 100 yards dash to the national championships. McQuaid, then president of Blackrock College, (apparently this is an all-male rugby playing establishment somewhere in south Dublin) wrote a letter on the subject to the Irish Press newspaper on 24 February 1934 in which he observed that: ‘Mixed athletics and all cognate immodesties are abuses that right-minded people reprobate, wherever and whenever they exist.’

He then proceeded to invoke one of only two superior beings whom he acknowledged, by pointing out that ‘God is not modern; nor is his Law’. Women who sought to compete athletically in the vicinity of men were ‘un-Irish and un-Catholic’, and the entire phenomenon was a ‘social abuse’.  He concluded by quoting from the only other superior being he recognised, the Pope (the one who never gave him a ‘red hat’), who was, apparently, of the opinion that: 

 ‘…in athletic sports and exercises, wherein the Christian modesty of girls must be, in a special way, safeguarded … it is supremely unbecoming that they flaunt themselves and display themselves before the eyes of all.’

So that was pretty conclusive, God, the Pope and John Charles were on the same side. The NACA decided not to include female athletes … even over 100 yards. To their eternal shame the Irish Camogie Association supported McQuaid, although that may have been not unconnected with the fact that its secretary was a man. Sean O’Duffy—who was apparently not related to Ireland’s leading Fascist Eoin O’Duffy—promised that the Camogie Association:

‘…would do all in its power to ensure that no girl would appear on any          sports ground in a costume to which any exception could be taken. If      they remained Irish in the ordinary acception of the word they could not       go wrong.’

Apparently the word ‘acception’ means ‘acceptation’ or ‘received meaning’. No, me neither!

Not until 1956 did Maeve Kyle become Ireland’s first female athletics competitor at the Olympics. It probably helped that she was a Northern Protestant and, consequently, beyond redemption.  

Maeve Kyle – avert your gaze Archbish!

Ten years later, having left Blackrock College, McQuaid was now Archbishop of Dublin with responsibility for all the clergy of the diocese, so, clearly, no longer associated with an institution dominated by testosterone. But he was still obsessed with female modesty, and in 1944 his attention had shifted from athletics to cycling – as in the menstrual cycles of women. In a letter to the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health he shared his anguish about:

‘…the evidence concerning the use of internal sanitary tampons, in       particular, that are called Tampax. On the medical evidence made available,          the bishops very strongly disapprove of the use of these appliances, more particularly in the case of unmarried persons.’

Now, in fairness to the Archbishop, in using the words ‘unmarried persons’ he was obviously expressing concerns in relation to men who used tampons as well as women.  One wonders had his eminence mistaken Tampax for Durex, both, after all, were highly sexualised products with the suspect letter ‘x’ in their names? 

Or was his anxiety based on the fear that the tampon might, in addition to its medicinal / physiological purpose, be used by women in pursuit of sexual stimulation. Sexual pleasure and gratification was after all:  

         a) in the gift of men only.  

         b) an unfortunate (if unlikely) pre-requisite for the production of children. 

         c) never willingly experienced by truly Catholic women.

Staying with sport, the Archbishop was also concerned about the dangers of hockey for women – he feared that the frequent twisting movements would lead to infertility, or what he called ‘hockey parturition’. Female hockey players might conceivably—ok, pun intended—find themselves unable to perform the main function appropriate to their gender, i.e. reproduction. The sport of lacrosse, which he believed, for some baffling reason, to involve less midriff action, was encouraged in Roman Catholic girls’ schools in the Dublin archdiocese. The fact that lacrosse had originated among Native Americans using the heads of defeated opponents did not seem to occur to him as making it in any way unsuitable. 

Lacrosse – far less midriff twisty than hockey, apparently

Belated happy 125th JC! No returns please. 

Lily Mernin – Collins’s ‘Mata Hari’ in Dublin Castle – the espionage work of ‘The Little Gentleman’

Lily Mernin – aka ‘The Little Gentleman’

To accompany tonight’s History Show programme on ‘Women in the War of Independence’ below are contextualised extracts from Lily Mernin’s Bureau of Military History Witness Statement about her espionage activities on behalf of Director of Intelligence, Michael Collins during the War of Independence.

LILY MERNIN – INTELLIGENCE AGENT, DUBLIN CASTLE

BMH WS #441 

From 1914-1922 Lily Mernin, a cousin of leading IRA propagandist, Piaras Beaslai, was employed as a typist in the Dublin District Garrison Adjutant’s office in the Lower Castle Yard. When Beaslai became aware of the precise nature of her work he spoke to Michael Collins about her. In 1918 Mernin met Collins for the first time. 

Piaras Beaslai brought him to my home and introduced him to me as a Mr. Brennan. I did not know he was Collins at the time. He asked  me would I be willing to pass out to him any information that might be of value which I would come across in my ordinary day’s work. I remembered he produced letters that he had intercepted concerning some of the typists and officers in the Castle, and things that were happening generally. I cannot remember exactly what they were. I promised to give him all the assistance that I possibly could. 

            The garrison adjutant for Ship St. barracks and Dublin District at the time was Major Stratford Burton. The work that he gave me to do was connected with Volunteer activities generally and, in addition, court martial proceedings on Volunteers was also given me to type. These dealt with the strength of the various military posts throughout Dublin district. Each week I prepared a carbon or typed copy, whichever I was able to get. Sometimes I would bring these to the office placed at my disposal at Captain Moynihan’s house, Clonliffe Road. He had a typewriter there and I typed several copies of the strength returns and any other correspondence which I may have brought with me that I thought would be of use. I left them on the machine and they were collected by some person whom I did not know. I had a latch key for the house and nobody knew when I came or went.  It was arranged for me that if I had anything special requiring urgent delivery to the Intelligence staff that I would deliver it at Vaughan’s [Hotel] between certain hours and/or Maire ni Raghallaigh’s bookshop , Dorset St. and Captain Moynihan’s, Clonliffe Road. Another place where I left messages was at Collins’s shop Parnell St, the number I cannot remember.

            I cannot recollect the exact nature of the letters and correspondence that I passed to the Intelligence staff. All I can say is that, in general, they dealt with the movement of troops, provisions for armoured trains or cars, and instructions and circulars to military units from GHQ.

Mernin proved extremely useful to Collins when it came to the identification of the Dublin accommodation of British agents, information that was to prove crucial to the assassinations on Bloody Sunday, 21st November, 1920.

Before the 21st November 1920, it was part of my normal duty to type the names and addresses of British agents who were accommodated at private addresses and living as ordinary citizens in the city. These lists were typed weekly and amended whenever an address was changed. I passed them on each week either to the address at Moynihan’s, Clonliffe Road or to Piaras Beaslai. The typing of the lists ceased after the 21stNovember 1920.

Apart altogether from using her access to written information Mernin, from time to time, was in a position to pass on useful office gossip to Collins.

There was a girl in the office who was the daughter of Superintendent Dunne of Dublin Castle. When he resigned she moved out of Dublin Castle to an address in Mount Street. Stopping at the same address were a number of men. Every morning she would come into the office she would tell us about them, she was puzzled to know who they were. Her brother also resided there with her and, apparently, he used to mix with them, and he discussed their conversation with her. She would report this conversation to us when she would come into the office in the morning. There was one fellow there by the name of McMahon who was very addicted to drink. While under the influence of drink he was, I believe, liable to talk a lot, and, mainly, his conversation concerned raids and arrests of ‘wanted’ IRA men. Whatever tit-bits of information that I could glean from Miss Lil Dunne I immediately passed it on to the Intelligence section. Suspicion was thrown in my direction one morning when Miss Dunne entered the office and excitedly said that her brother had been missing and that she thought he was held by the IRA, that somebody in the office had been giving information to the IRA concerning the conversation we had in the office about McMahon and Peel, British agents, who were lodging in the same house with her in Mount Street. However, I found myself in a predicament, but I remained cool and calm and bluffed my way out of it and said: “Who could be a spy?” and put the blame on her brother for talking too much. Sometime later the position was eased when Miss Dunne took ill and never again returned to Dublin Castle. All this information was, of course, passed on to the IRA Intelligence prior to the 21st November 1920.

            After 21st November 1920, a number of British intelligence officers were drafted into Dublin Castle. A [4] new department was opened up in the Upper Castle Yard. My work did not bring me in contact with this department. I was asked by the IRA Intelligence Squad to get what information I could about the movements of these officers. These were mainly descriptive particulars for the purpose of identification, where they resided, and where they frequented, also the registration numbers of the motor cars used by them.

            These Intelligence officers used come into our office. The three girls of the staff were curious to know who they were. Some of the girls would ask “Who was so-and-so that came in?” In this way, we got to know the names of the various Intelligence officers. Some of the girls in the office were very friendly with them and used to go around with them. General conversation would give a lot of information concerning their whereabouts, things that were said, etc. Any information obtained was immediately passed by me to IRA Intelligence.

            On various occasions I was requested by members of the Intelligence Squad to assist them in the identity of enemy agents. I remember the first occasion on which I took part in this work was with the late Tom Cullen in 1919. Piaras Beaslai asked me to meet a young man who would be waiting at O’Raghallaigh’s bookshop in Dorset St and to accompany him to Lansdowne Road. I met this man, whom I later learned was Tom Cullen, and went with him to a football match at Lansdowne Road. He asked me to point out to him and give him the names of any British military officers who frequented Dublin Castle and GHQ. I was able to point out a few military officers to him whom I knew.

            When I  got to know the Auxiliaries better, I accompanied Frank Saurin (then known as Mr. Stanley) to various cafes where I identified for him some of the Auxiliaries whom I knew.

A footnote. The ‘Lil Dunne’ in question was a great aunt of the novelist Sebastian Barry, she is the main character in his novel On Canaan’s Side. Lily Mernin, who was referred to by Collins only as ‘the little gentleman’ also had social access to Auxiliary policemen based in Dublin Castle, members of the notorious ‘F’ company.

The Auxiliaries organised smoking concerts and whist drives in the Lower Castle Yard. I was encouraged by Frank Saurin, a member of the Intelligence Squad, to give all the assistance I could in the organisation of these whist drives for the sole purpose of getting to know the Auxiliaries and finding out all I possibly could about them. Frank Saurin had arranged with me that should any of the Auxiliaries see myself or any of the girls of the Castle home, he would have members of his squad hanging around Dublin Castle to identify them. However the Auxiliaries never did come past the Castle gate.

            On one occasion I asked Frank for a reliable girl, whom I could trust, who would come along to the whist drives with me, to enable her to get to know these Auxiliaries and so prove a further source of identification. He sent along Miss Sally McCasey, who is now his wife. She did her work very well. She had a very charming manner and struck up a friendship quite freely.

L42

On at least one occasion Mernin brought the kind of intelligence to her relative, Piaras Beaslai, that he did not want to hear.

WS-042

One day a Sergeant from British Intelligence came into my office, carrying a lot of magazines – as I thought – bound together. I asked him what they were and he told me they were copies of “An tOglach” and would not part with them for five hundred pounds, as they were very valuable to them. I reported this to Piaras Beaslai the same night, not knowing he was the editor of “An tOglach” and wondered why he became so alarmed about it. I got the impression that some member of the IRA had been playing a double game. 

Mernin with her cousin Piaras Beaslaí