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27 October 2005 Edition

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Remembering the Past - Connie Green and Saor Uladh

BY SHANE Mac THOMÁIS

On 26 November 1955, almost 50 years ago, Connie Green of Saor Uladh was buried unnamed in a Monaghan graveyard.

In October 1951 Liam Kelly of Pomeroy, County Tyrone, was dismissed from the IRA. With his own power base in East Tyrone he took the local Volunteers with him in a new direction.

Founding Fianna Uladh, a political party recognising Leinster House, he was elected to Stormont in 1953 but immediately arrested and jailed for 12 months for sedition.

Seán MacBride secured Kelly's election to the Seanad in 1954. On his release on 19 August 1954, Kelly returned to a wild welcome in Pomeroy including a bloody riot with the RUC. Despite the attendant publicity Fianna Uladh faded away. Kelly turned his energies to his military organisation — Saor Uladh.

Saor Uladh remained a local phenomenon, mainly isolated to one area of Tyrone. The IRA kept a close watch, warned off republicans, and criticised Kelly for causing division.

One morning in November 1955, Kelly and a raiding party including Connie Green attacked the RUC barracks in Rosslea, County Fermanagh. Placing a mine by the guardroom window blowing it in, they swept the ground floor with gunfire and moved into the barracks.

Upstairs RUC Sergeant WR Morrow snatched a Sten gun from the rack. Looking downstairs into the clouds of dust he saw movement and heard someone shout for surrender. Morrow fired his Sten into the movement below. Creeping down he found Constable Knowles wounded by gunfire.

The RUC had no idea who had attacked, if they had suffered any casualties, or what the future held. At the time it was not generally realised that there were two militant republican groups at work. Nor did the public or the IRA know that Connie Green, who had formerly served with the British Army and was a member of the Saor Uladh attacking party, had been shot in the raid.

Connie Green's death and the irregularities surrounding the inquest, caused such a storm that Saor Uladh was finally forced to issue a statement, in the Fianna Uladh journal Gair Uladh on 16 December, accepting responsibility for the raid.

Rumours published in the Sunday Independent on 28 November persisted that one of the attackers had been shot in the raid and buried secretly in Monaghan after an inquest had been held and a coroner had made the usual order for burial. After enquires by journalists the Government Information Bureau in Dublin made the following announcement:

"In answer to enquiries it was ascertained through the Government Information Bureau that on Saturday afternoon the Coroner for North Eastern Monaghan was informed that the body of an unknown man who appeared to have died from gunshot wounds was lying in a farmhouse in his district. An inquest was held in the evening when it was found by the jury that the unknown man had died from shock and haemorrhage and that there was no evidence to show how the injuries had been received."

The GIB refused to make further comment but journalist, John Healy got the coroner, Dr Thomas Leonard, to talk to him. He revealed that the man had died on the morning following the attack. He had been attended by a local doctor who had sent for a priest to give the man the last rites. That afternoon the doctor and two other men called on Leonard, told him that a man had died and asked him to hold an inquest. Leonard then got in touch with the Gardaí and was visited by a Superintendent who at first said he knew nothing about the affair. He later returned and told Leonard that he would be called for at 8pm to carry out an inquest.

Leonard was taken to a farmhouse where he found the body of a 'fine looking man' already in a coffin, and six men ready to act as jurors. Leonard swore them in. The Superintendent presided and the inquest was held in his presence and that of a solicitor, a detective, the owner of the farmhouse and the doctor who had examined the man while he was dying. Uniformed Gardaí and detectives were stationed outside.

Evidence was taken from the owner of the farmhouse and from the doctor, who said that the dead man had had a bullet wound in his left side. A verdict that death was due to shock and haemorrhage was returned.

Leonard went home and made out the death certificate which he described as a "most unusual one. There is no name. I could not say if the man was married or single, what occupation he had. In the age column I wrote 'about 30'. That was all."

The body was buried the following morning at Carrickroe Cemetery, about 12 miles north of Monaghan, with full church rites.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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