Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: The 'Protestant IRA man' who hosted Provos formation meeting

Man's family secret hidden for 50 years

The house was built as a farmhouse in 1949 and was later run as a guesthouse.
The house was built as a farmhouse in 1949 and was later run as a guesthouse.

The grandson of an IRA man who was raised a Protestant has spoken about how the terrorist organisation was formed in his grandad's living room.

Victor Fagg lived in Athlone and played host to a significant meeting where the Provisional IRA was founded on December 23 1969, according to a BBC documentary Spotlight On The Troubles.

The house was built as a farmhouse in 1949 in Co Westmeath and Victor Fagg's grandson Morgan tells the Irish Times its historical significance was hidden in the family for nearly 50 years.

Des Long, who was a senior figure in Republican Sinn Fein, tells the first episode of the BBC series on the Troubles he attended the meeting. It was claimed about 24 republicans gathered for the meeting and checked in as guests at 8pm before checking out at 8am.

Mr Long described Victor Fagg as "a Protestant IRA man". He was born in July 1906 near Belmullet, Co Mayo and as a 14-year-old, witnessed the assassination of Major-General Thomas Stanton Lambert by IRA members in Athlone during the War of Independence in 1921.

Mr Fagg saw a staff car depart with the general's body after the ambush but refused to answer questions put by British troops even when they threatened to shoot and kill him over what he had seen. The troops retaliated by burning down a number of farmhouses in the area.

He joined the Irish Republican Army a few years later and according to the republican newspaper Saoirse "was a member of the Guard of Honour when the bodies of 20 republican soldiers executed by the Free State Army throughout its western command were handed over to relatives and comrades at the main gate of Athlone Barracks in October 1924".

He went on to be one of 12 nominated for the IRA executive council at its general convention in 1938. All 12 men were later interned in the Curragh during the Emergency and two of them, Sean McNeela and Tony D'Arcy, died on hunger strike in 1940.

Mr Fagg later went on to convert to Catholicism in 1943 when he married Una Daly who was herself a captain in Cumann na mBan  (Irish republican's women's paramilitary organisation).

He was well respected in the midlands of Ireland where he operated the agricultural store and was secretary of the co-operative committee. Mr Fagg was well-known for his networking skills, which perhaps explain why he was a natural host for the meeting in December 1969.

Victor Fagg died on March 6, 1988 aged 81 and received a republican funeral where Ruairi O Bradaigh, president of Republican Sinn Fein, gave an impassioned eulogy.

He described Mr Fagg as a quiet and unassuming Irishman whose “family background was one of service in the British forces but he was brought face to face with the realities of British rule in Ireland at the early age of 14 years”.

The farmhouse was inherited by Morgan Fagg's mother Mary and was operated as a guesthouse until last year.

The first episode of Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History will be broadcast on Tuesday September 10 at 8.30pm on BBC1 Northern Ireland.

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