Republican News · Thursday 29 August 2002

[An Phoblacht]

Eamonn MacThomáis

The death of Eamonn MacThomáis will have come as sad news to republicans and his many other friends throughout Ireland and abroad. Born in Dublin into a staunchly republican and, as he described it himself, Larkinite family, Eamonn's involvement in the Republican Movement spanned four decades.

Eamonn also became well known as a writer and broadcaster and was an endless fount of knowledge about Dublin. Many will recall in particular his RTE television series on the history of the city, which was a breath of fresh air in those days of the stultifying censorship of national ideas and history. Indeed, it was no secret that Eamonn, along with Donncha Ó Dúlaing, was a particular hate figure for the renegade republicans who had infiltrated RTE.

Eamonn joined the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army as a young man and was active in the preparations for and prosecution of the 1956-1962 campaign. For his part in this, Eamonn was one of those imprisoned by the Special Court, which was reintroduced by the then Minister for Justice, Charles Haughey. Following his release, Eamonn was an integral part of the reorganisation of the Army and Sinn Féin. He served on the Dublin Brigade staff, and was regularly elected to the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle throughout the 1960s.

A radical republican in the Connolly tradition, Eamonn supported the efforts to make the movement more relevant to the lives of ordinary people. However, he also saw this as a part of a process that if successful, would lead to a situation in which the revolutionary movement would have to be politically and militarily prepared to take the offensive. When the crisis came in 1969, it was discovered that the movement was not in such a position. Eamonn was one of those who then gave his allegiance to the Provisional Army Council.

In August 1972, An Phoblacht moved from its offices at 2A Lower Kevin Street, Dublin, to Kevin Barry House, 44 Parnell Square. On 1 October, An Phoblacht became a fortnightly paper. Eamonn MacThomais took over as editor from Coleman Moynihan, following the latter's arrest in November and within a few months, made major changes to the paper, with improved layout and more news reports. It eventually became a weekly paper on 4 March 1973, with a circulation of 40,000 copies per issue.

By this time, An Phoblacht had become a target for increased harassment from the Garda Special Branch. In July 1973, Eamonn was arrested and charged with IRA membership at the Special Court in Dublin and the following month was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. He was succeeded as editor by the Dublin journalist Deasún Breatnach.

Having completed his sentence in July 1974, Eamonn once more became editor of An Phoblacht, but within two months he was arrested during a raid on the paper's offices and again sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.

Eamonn's first book, Me Jewel and Darlin' Dublin, was published by O'Brien Press while he was in Portlaoise in 1974. His other books were written and published under more congenial circumstances.

Eamonn continued his association with the republican family following his release and played a role in the campaign in support of the hunger strikers in 1980 and 1981. Despite differences that had arisen with former comrades over the years, Eamonn retained friendships with people who had taken all sides in internal debates over the decades. To the end, he also retained his deep interest in history and was a regular visitor to the National Library in Kildare Street, where he was always available to answer the questions of more novice researchers.

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