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Nelson McCausland: Tyrone-born republican Joe McGarrity was the IRA's go-between with German regime

Orfhlaith's Sinn Fein branch and its links to Hitler collaborator who dreamed of Nazi occupation of Northern Ireland


Órfhlaith Begley

Órfhlaith Begley

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Órfhlaith Begley

It was the by-election that was started by a tweet and a lack of respect for the victims of IRA terrorism. Now, West Tyrone has a new MP, albeit another abstentionist MP, Orfhlaith Begley. Orfhlaith is one of the new faces of Sinn Fein and the introduction of another young female representative is part of the current Sinn Fein "makeover". The graduates of the Maze, Maghaberry and Armagh are not quite as prominent these days and a prison sentence no longer features among the "desirable" criteria for Sinn Fein candidates.

Since she graduated from university, Orfhlaith Begley has been working in the solicitor's office of her brother Sean-Pol Begley, but at the same time she has been gaining political experience.

As the daughter of a Sinn Fein councillor she grew up in a political family and was already well-acquainted with election campaigns.

Moreover, she has been actively involved for many years in the Frank Ward/Joe McGarrity Sinn Fein Cumann (branch) in the Carrickmore and Creggan area of Tyrone.

Of course, it wasn't always the Frank Ward/Joe McGarrity Cumann. Previously, it was just the Frank Ward Cumann, but, in 2010, Sinn Fein members in Carrickmore decided to honour one of their own, a native of the village named Joe McGarrity. The addition of his name to that of the cumann was "in recognition of his historical contribution".

So, what was that "historical contribution"?

McGarrity emigrated from Tyrone to the United States of America in 1892 and revived Clan na Gael, the American sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

The rest of his life was devoted to the republican cause of Irish separatism and the use of violence to achieve that end.

He helped to finance the 1916 Easter Rising and supplied arms and ammunition to republicans during and after the Irish War of Independence. In that regard he was similar to many of the other republicans after whom Sinn Fein has named its branches.

However, there is another - and later - aspect to the "historical contribution" of Joe McGarrity.

McGarrity is also remembered for his role before and during the Second World War.

In 1939 he worked with IRA leader Sean Russell in implementing the "S Plan" - a terrorist bombing campaign in Britain and one directed against civilian targets. In just one explosion - in Coventry - the IRA murdered five people.

McGarrity also collaborated directed with the Nazis and sought their support for the IRA. Indeed, he was the initial link between Irish republicanism and the Nazis. He met Nazi agents in America and travelled to Berlin, where he met Hermann Goring.

This led on to "Plan Kathleen" - a plan for a Nazi invasion of Northern Ireland, which would be supported by the IRA. The plan came to nothing because the Nazis recognised that the IRA was a small and rather incompetent organisation.

Nevertheless, the IRA chief of staff at the time, Sean Russell, was another collaborator and so the IRA in Ireland and Clan na Gael in America were both controlled by men who were happy to collaborate with the Nazis.

While Ulstermen and Irishmen, Protestant and Roman Catholic, were fighting the Nazi war machine on the battlefields of Europe, Joe McGarrity was happy to work with the Nazis and seek their support.

It is hard to believe that, in this day and age, any political party would honour someone like McGarrity, who collaborated with the Nazis. But that is the shameful reality for Sinn Fein.

After her election, Orfhlaith Begley said that she was "holding out an open hand in friendship" to unionists.

So, how about her holding out an open hand in friendship, not just to unionists, but to all those who love democracy and detest the evil of Nazism?

As an MP, Orfhlaith Begley has a new standing within her party and she has, therefore, the opportunity to show leadership.

So, perhaps Orfhlaith Begley will reflect on the name of her local Sinn Fein cumann and demand the removal of the name of a man whose association with the Nazis should be a source of shame - even to a party like Sinn Fein.

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