April 20th, 1962


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Two months after the IRA called off its so-called Border campaign in 1962, 29 men jailed for IRA-related offences were released from Mountjoy prison. They included two subsequent leaders of the IRA and Sinn Féin, Cathal Goulding and Tomas Mac Giolla respectively.- JOE JOYCE

ALL THE 29 men who had been serving sentences imposed under the Offences Against the State Act were released from Mountjoy Jail, Dublin, yesterday. They had been sentenced to terms varying from four months to eight years penal servitude. In 25 cases the sentences had been imposed by the Special Criminal Court; in four by the District Courts.

The decision to release the men was taken by the Government earlier this week. There was no official announcement, but it seems that the Government has taken at its face value the statement by an illegal organisation that it had decided to suspend its cross-Border attacks.

No guarantees or assurances were sought from the men before they were released, and it was made clear in Dublin last night that the Special Criminal Court will remain in existence. About 20 other prisoners who had been sentenced under the Offences Against the State Act were released some time ago on the expiration of their sentences.

The 29 men were released together shortly before 9 a.m. They had been visited by the Governor of the prison on Thursday, half-an-hour after being locked-up for the night. He told them that they would be released the next morning.

Mr John Joe McGirl, the former Sinn Féin T.D., said last night that there was “considerable jubilation” when the prisoners were told the news. None, however, was allowed to make telephone calls from the prison to relatives and friends, but yesterday morning the prison authorities offered them train or bus fares to their homes.

Before being released they were taken in batches of seven and searched, and then they assembled in the main hall of the prison. They were not required to sign any documents and no reason was given to them why they were being freed. They filed quietly out through the main gates and some of them began to sing. Some left for their homes immediately, while others went to a Dublin hotel for meals.

Last night about 10 of them were still in Dublin. Most of these will go home to-day . . .

Mr Seamus MacCollum, Liverpool, said that the whole thing was done very quietly. “In fact I don’t think even the warder on duty outside the main gates knew about our being released,” he added. “Certainly he got a bit of a start when we all came through the gates.”

None of the men would comment on their attitude to the Border. “I think it is better for us to say nothing about things like that,” Mr. McGirl said.

Several of the former prisoners said they had been treated very well while in prison. “We were treated as well as could be expected, and there were no real difficulties at any time,” one of them commented. “All prisoners, however, are very badly served in regard to food.”