Brendan Behan – Jonesborough Ambush – John Mitchel

March 20: TODAY in Irish History:

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Brendan Behan 1923-1964
Brendan Behan 1923-1964

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

WATCH: A Short History of Ireland



1875: Death of Irish Nationalist John Mitchel

John MItchel - Irish Nationalist

Mitchel wrote for The Nation and was founder of The United Irishman newspaper which openly preached rebellion against England returns to Ireland. Convicted of treason in 1848, Mitchel was sentenced to fourteen years transportation in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania.) In 1853, he escaped to America, where he published his Jail Journal.

While in America, he was editor of the Richmond Examiner and was a strong advocate of Confederate rights. He was imprisoned for several months after the Civil War ended. His return to Ireland, evoked huge enthusiasm amongst an Irish population devastated by the Famine and emigration.


READ: Biography of John Mitchel



1920: Killing of Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás Mac Curtain

Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás Mac Curtain is killed by disguised RIC / Black and Tans in his home in front of his wife and children. The killing was apparently in retaliation for the death of RIC Constable Murtagh some hours earlier in Cork.  Mac Curtain was an active member of the IRA and  O.C. of Cork No.1 Brigade Irish Volunteers.

Some weeks later, a Cork coroner’s court will return a verdict of willful murder in the death of Tomas MacCurtain. The senior RIC officer who either participated or approved the operation District Inspector Oswald Swanzy would be killed by the IRA in August.

Funeral of  Tomás Mac Curtain


READ: Detail on District Inspector Oswald Swanzy


1964: Brendan Behan RIP

The short life of playwright, novelist, poet and enfant terrible, Brendan Behan (b. 1923) ends in Dublin. Behan had found fame as writer of plays like The Quare Fellow, The Hostage and best selling books including Borstal Boy which was basically a memoir of his time in Hollesley Bay Borstal for republican activities in England. Behan succumbed to the curse of many Irish artists – alcohol, providing much copy for media and press about his drunken antics which in his later life simply became sad anecdotes in a brilliant writer’s life.

Two hard drinking Irish: Brendan Behan and Jackie Gleason

READ: Malcolm Muggeridge Interview with Brendan Behan


SEE: Excellent RTE Archive on Brendan Behan


Brendan Behan Quotes

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.

If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks.

I only take a drink on two occasions – when I’m thirsty and when I’m not.


1989:  Jonesborough Ambush. IRA Kills Senior RIC Officers. Security Collusion Alleged

RIC Officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan
RIC Officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan

Two senior RIC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan are ambushed by the IRA in County Armagh after they have traveled from Dundalk where they had a meeting with An Garda Síochána (Irish police force). Prior to driving to Dundalk, Breen had expressed concern that there was an IRA mole in the Garda whom he named to his staff officer.

Although never conclusively proven, there is compelling evidence that an IRA supporter within the Garda provided information to IRA in Northern Ireland. Breen and Buchanan were the two highest ranking RIC officers to be killed in the conflict. Their deaths also strained relations between RIC and Irish police.

The Irish Government set up a tribunal of inquiry to determine the facts of the case. As with all tribunals in Ireland, it’s determinations have taken substantially longer than first planned. Headed by Mr. Justice Peter Smithwick, the tribunal’s terms of reference are:

Tribunal of Inquiry  into suggestions that members of An Garda Síochána or other employees of  the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan on the 20th March, 1989.


The lengthy opening statement of the tribunal is a fascinating profile of the time and the security issues involved.

READ: Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry


Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish


This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)


One Comment to “Brendan Behan – Jonesborough Ambush – John Mitchel”

  1. Reblogged this on Arran Q Henderson and commented:
    Conor’s daily Today in Irish History blog, an excellent resource, pithy and informative all at once.

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