Garda Special branch, Britain’s lackeys

Garda special branch- Britain’s lackeys

“Gombeen men lured down from the mountains of Kerry by the smell of fresh meat” so summarised Brendan Behan the men of Special branch over 50 years ago. Some things have changed since then, they now have the odd female detective and on rare occasions you may even hear a Dublin accent from the men in the mondeos. To Republican activists they are synonymous with harassment and thuggery. I hope to give a brief summary of their history and their role in the Free State’s campaign against the Republican movement.

The actual term “special branch” goes back to the 19th century. The Fenians were enthusiastically dynamiting London in what was perhaps the first organized insurrectionary bombing campaign in Western Europe. Scotland Yard formed a new department, the Special Irish branch. Its role was to disrupt and destroy revolutionary Republicanism both in Britain and Ireland. This role was to be supplemented by the RIC in Ireland. Its detective division based in Dublin castle was compartmentalized alphabetically. G section dealt with Republican activists and their time was spent largely monitoring the IRB, GAA and similar organizations.

Following the Tan war and the establishment of the Free State regime it became clear to the new government that they would require a force to supress those Republicans who refused to accept the sell-out of 1922. A new department of An Garda Siochana was created. Its role was little to do with maintaining the peace. It was given a remit to torture, kill and destroy the Republicans waging a new war against the Free State. The headquarters of this new force was in Oriel house. Many of its members had served in the hit squad formed by Michael Collins. They were poachers turned gamekeepers. William Cosgrave laid down the measures the Free State were prepared to take when he stated in August 1922 “I am not going to hesitate and if the country is to live and we have to exterminate 10,00 Republicans then our 3 million will be larger than this 10,000”. Over 80 Republican POWs were murdered by Free State firing squads during the civil war. 3 young republicans putting up anti-Free state posters in Dublin in 1923 were abducted, tortured and murdered by the new political detectives in Oriel house.

Upon assuming power in the 1930s de Valera wished to bring on board as many of the IRA volunteers as possible. To do so he created a new force of the police to be led by Ned Broy. Employing ex IRA volunteers who now supported Fianna Fail this force rapidly became known as “broy’s harriers”. Using their knowledge of their former comrades they ruthlessly hunted down those who refused to accept the constitutional path. This force which succeeded the initial civil war political detectives is the origins of today’s special branch.

Throughout the decades of the 40s, 50s and 60s Republicans were harassed, interned and executed by the Free State. The information used to supress the Republican movement and its adherents were supplied by the men of Special branch. During the Provisional’s campaign they cooperated with British intelligence to attempt to destroy the IRA. The heavy gang of this period beat confessions from Republican suspects. Their brutal tactics were given full approval from such “intellectuals” as Connor Cruise O’ Brien who remarked approvingly in his autobiography on the savage beatings handed out to young Republicans. IRA volunteers and INLA volunteers were murdered by Special branch officers. This was seldom remarked upon by the media yet whenever Republicans killed one of the pro-British militia such as Gerry McCabe it became a national outrage. Following the ceasefire and surrender of the PIRA the Special Branch continued their campaign against those who resisted British rule. On the 1st May 1998 Volunteer Ronan MacLachlann was murdered by a special branch officer during an IRA operation. He was trapped in a car and had not fired a shot despite having the opportunity to do so. This showed the length to which this force was willing to go to to serve British interests.

Today the Special Branch has an essential counter revolutionary role. Their campaign of harassment and intimidation must not be detached from its over-arching political motivation. They are an integral cog in Britain’s counter-insurgency effort in Ireland. Throughout its history the British government has used locally recruited forces in an attempt to supress those seeking to remove them from their native lands. In Kenya, Malaysia, Oman and elsewhere their local allies have hunted down their fellow countrymen for British wages.  The current Special branch budget is not open to public examination. They cooperate extremely closely with British intelligence and are fed information, funds and equipment from MI5.

The tactics utilized by this reactionary force are well known. House raids, stop and searches, internment, harassment of families, surveillance and threats are all used in their attempt to try and dissuade Republicans. It is essential that Republicans stand in solidarity with those who suffer from this campaign. This force must be highlighted for what it is, a colonial relic no different from those who assisted the Black and Tans as they murdered and intimidated. The fact that the Special branch regularly harasses those who pursue progressive issues such as shell to sea shows that the state will use its thugs to try and crush any who oppose it’s right wing and reactionary politics.

All Republicans and Socialists should record incidents of harassment and intimidation. Standing together in solidarity is the only way to face down those who seek to preserve the rotten systems in the six county and 26 county states. For those who stand on the left who ignore the harassment of Republicans they would do well to ask themselves whether some day it might not be their families that will be targeted by Special branch. For Republicans and especially young Republicans it is vital to stand firm and to refuse to allow yourselves to be turned away from Republicanism by Britain’s lackeys.

Onwards to a Socialist Republic!


One Response to “Garda Special branch, Britain’s lackeys”

  1. 26 comtés : La Special Branch, valet de la Grande-Bretagne | Liberation Irlande Says:

    […] : ici. Share this:FacebookPrintTwitterEmailJ'aimeJ'aime  article Cette entrée a été […]

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