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Garda Heavey Gang


The Real Heavy Gang bosses.

British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan (Labour)
Irish Taoiseach (PM) Liam Cosgrave (Fine Gael)

The British Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, agreed a joint security policy with Irish Taoiseach/Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave to target the IRSP in particular, but all radical political opposition in Ireland in general (what they termed ‘dissidents’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘subversive fellow-travellers.’)

Cosgrave, now in coalition with the Labour Party, led a party (Fine Gael). His father before him, WT Cosgrave, who was also once a Taoiseach, boasted he would kill 10,000 republicans to ‘defend’ the State. 

Ireland was experiencing an economic recession, massive unemployment,  growing emigration, emerging social issues and a national bank strike. An unpopular Cosgrave was  lampooned in a popular satirical TV program as the ‘Minister for Hardhsip.’ The last thing he needed was  radical opposition.

British army brutality on Northern Streets was a daily occurance, as the prisons filled.

Liam Cosgrave felt the Irish State was ‘under threat’ in 1976 from anyone (‘terrorists’/ ‘subversive fellow-travelers‘) who questioned the State’s economic and political basis. Consequently, he illegally and unconstitutionally conspired with the British Government, in a joint operation, to destroy the newly formed Irish Republican Socialist Party. 

Women were organising on health and legal rights issues. Socially, they were treated as second class citizens, even being barred from many pubs if unaccompanied.

The new politics being introduced by the IRSP related to campaigning nationally, simultaneously, on both social and constitutional issues. Its strategy was to contest elections and take seats North and South by organising a formalised broad-based national opposition for regime change. Initially, the party drew increasing numbers of members with backgrounds in community, trade union, human rights, women’s campaigns and national politics. The party was registered as a legal political party in the Irish state.

The party also launched a new all-Ireland inclusive  peace process. This peace initiative was at variance with that of the British-Irish governments, which excluded most of the front line participants and was bound to fail.

The joint British-Irish operation to destroy the IRSP involved: infiltration and the placing of agent provocateurs in the organisation; a media campaign to isolate and blacken the party; intimidation of members; false arrests; incarceration of members; assassinations and murder through British agents.

Spy master speaks out

For the purpose of espionage, Ireland, north and south, is viewed as one block by the British Secret Service.

Both British Secret Service agencies (MI5 and MI6) run agents in the Republic of Ireland. They (or their historical counterparts) have been doing so since before the State was established. As well, they direct agents to influence across all sections of Irish society (eg media, industry, professions, academia, public service, civil service, legal.) All are recruited by way of greed, blackmail, ideology, revenge or ‘false-flag’ (recruits believe they are working for one country or organisation when in fact they are working for another). Their programme of work involves supporting British economic/ political interests as well as disrupting organisations or individuals deemed to be opposed to ‘British interests.’

Below, on YouTube, is a master-spy recounting how he ran Irish Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey and how both targeted the IRSP. Remember, the IRSP was a legally registered political party with full rights under the Irish Constitution, equal to those of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party.

Ex- MI6 agent Captain Fred Holroyd has exposed some of their operations in the 26 Co.s.  He ran various agents within the Gardai in the mid 1970s.  One was Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey. In the above UTube segment he admits to this. He doesn’t pull his punches or use diplomatic language to hide his involvement in a conspiracy to target a political party in another jurisdiction.

Note that he views the IRSP, as did Garvey, not as a constitutional political party but as ‘terrorist’- despite the IRSP’s legality.

In  an interview in 1975 (the substance of which the Irish government did not deny) Holroyd said Garveygave me about 150 photos and files on IRSP members” (Sunday Tribune 18 Oct 1992.)

It was Commissioner Ned Garvey that hand-picked members of the Heavy Gang. Holroyd confirms a joint Irish-British policy to target an Irish registered political party (IRSP.)

3 IRSP members murdered, 30 wounded in a futile attempt to stop their existence.

Struggling to survive as a new political party, the IRSP in the North suffered 3 IRSP members murdered and 30 wounded. In the South, an attempt was made to assassinate the IRSP party chairperson by the Official IRA. Members of the IRSP were targeted for low intensity harassment on the street, at work or educational facilities, house searches and routine 48- hour jailing by police.

Many crimes and robberies were falsely attributed to the party in the media, proofed by the lack of any evidence or subsequent legal follow up. Regular press releases issued by the Party complained of these attacks and the consequent reputational damage. All this stunted the development of the party.

'I would do the same again.'

MI6 agent Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey, handpicked Heavy Gang members. Sacked by incoming government during Sallins trial. Never charged but ‘compensated’ for his dismissal.

Inspector Ned ‘Buffalo‘ Ryan in charge of co-ordinating the frame up during the Sallins Case  ‘interrogations.’ Later he orchestrated the prosecution in various Sallins court cases.

‘I’ve learnt a lot from this case, but I would do the same again.’ (sworn evidence in court.)

Detective Gerry O’Caroll with his boss Heavy Gang under-boss Superintendent John Courtney photographed at the Kerry Babies inquiry. At the inquiry (or Hayes family inquisition) they doggedly excused the torture and unspeakable treatment of the Hayes family. Many years later, the Irish State was forced to offer a public apology to the Hayes family and wipe all findings of the inquiry from the public record.

Osgur sued O’Caroll and five other gardai for assault and battery, false imprisonment, intimidation, malicious prosecution and failure to vindicate his constitutional rights.

Det Inspector Michael Canavan who assisted Heavy Gang Underboss Superintendent John Courtney in interrogating those arrested in the Sallins Case.

Meanwhile, the State orchestrated a frame -up to jail the IRSP’s central and middle leadership in a blow that would destroy the party’s public credibility. That is the Sallins conspiracy Case. Not a train robbery case.

To secure the evidence to deliver the blow, the State waited for an opportune time to launch.

They decided the Sallins Mail Train Robbery of March 1976 was that opportunity. Internment was out of the question as it had failed in the North. However, the non-jury trials in the North were jailing opponents en masse. The juryless Special Criminal Court in the South was doing the same, but it needed a semblance of evidence, for PR purposes, to jail the IRSP members.

Heavy Gang Structure


The largest round up since WW2 followed as Taoiseach/Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave instructed Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey to let loose a recently established illegal and secret police unit- nicknamed the Heavy Gang by the police themselves. Between March 31st and April 9th they questioned, arrested or detained over 40 people – all connected to the IRSP. Eighteen of those arrested were targeted for torture to force them to sign incriminating statements.

At the time, although not true, Taoiseach/Prime Minister Cosgrave believed that anyone merely implicated in a statement could be charged as a co-conspirator. Of importance was an extensive pre-existing list the police wanted their suspects to ‘confirm.’

'If you give prisoners the right to a solicitor they will want hairdressers next' was the attitude of Justice Minister Patrick Cooney.

Commissioner Garvey instructed Superintendent John Joy, one of the top 40 policemen in the country at the time, to supervise the plan. Some police jumped the gun and arrested Osgur Breatnach and two others, separately, in different locations. They were held for 48 hours and released, uncharged.

Two days later, 30-40 detectives attended a conference in Dublin Castle called by Joy. He appointed Inspector Ned (Buffalo) Ryan to lead the ground operation. Heavy Gang under-boss Inspector John Courtney was appointed his assistance.

Arresting Gardai fanned out across the country

Eighteen Police teams were dispatched in the South, consisting of two Special Branchmen (SDU), two members of the Heavy Gang (Technical Bureau) and one other policeman. Their instructions were to arrest and interrogate everyone at the addresses they raided.

Arrests of men and women followed in Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow, Cork, Limerick, Dun Laoghaire and Kerry. Those arrested were publicly known members of the party with responsibilities on the national executive, regional executives; as community and trade union organisers, or members of local IRSP branches. Spouses, relatives of friends who alibied them were also arrested. The editor of the party newspaper was arrested.



The torture consisted of a mix of  insults, threats, stress positions, deprivation of water and sleep, denial of legal rights, ear-clapping, assaults, kicks, being coshed, threats to be shot, threats to arrest families, threats to put children into care- all on a continuous 24-hour basis by teams of gardai.  Of the 18 detained for torture: four signed false incriminating statements dictated by the police. Two were alleged to have made incriminating verbal statements, which were denied by their ‘authors.’

Following the release of many of those falsely arrested and tortured, the party formalised complaints to solicitors, public bodies and associations and to Amnesty International.  All those wrongly convicted in the Sallins Case were subsequently exonerated after many years of  court cases, jail, hunger strike and  campaigning. Irish governments still refuse to hold an impartial public inquiry. 

Some of the many Garda members involved in the Sallins Case.

In some of the subsequent 5 trials, the following (then) Gardai, of a variety of ranks from ordinary Garda to Superintendent, were named as being involved in the interrogation and formulation of the only evidence against the six originally charged and the three wrongly convicted.

Those against whom allegations of ill-treatment were made in the Sallins Case were:
D/Garda Thomas Ibar Dunne           D/Supt. Francis Campbell
D/Garda Michael Finn                    D/Garda William Maher
D/Garda Kieran P. Lawlor                D/Garda Thomas Boland
D/Sgt. Patrick F. Cleary               D/Garda Joseph Egan
D/Sgt. Patrick Culhane               D/Garda John Jordon
D/Garda Patrick Raftery                D/Garda Felix McKenna
D/Sgt. John J. McGroarty       D/Insp. Edward Ryan
D/Garda Fitzgerald                     D/Garda John Hegarty
D/Insp. Murphy                D/Sgt. Cavanan
D/Insp.lohn Courtney

 Osgur sued the only Gardai he could  identify to bring them before a jury in a public trial. They are highlighted in Green below.

The Gardai who gave evidence in the trial were:
Garda John Murphy                      Garda James Heffernan              D/Garda Thomas Connolly                   
Supt. Hubert Reynolds                 Garda Pierce Freaney                  D/Garda Gabriel McCarthy
D/Garda James Grehan               D/Inspe”ctor FJ. Campbel            D/Garda Michael Drew              D/Garda Thomas Ibar Dunne      D/Garda William Maher                D/Garda Kieran P. Lawlor
D/Garda Adrian O’Hara                D/Garda Felix McKenna               Garda Thomas B. Fitzgerald      D/Insp. Myles P. Hawkshaw       D/Supt. John Courtney                 D/Inspector Michael Canavan
D/Inspector Edward Ryan           Sergeant Patrick Bohan               Sergeant William Ryan                D/Sgt. Patrick J. Sullivan           Asst. Comm. John P. Fleming     Sergeant Luke Padden
D/Sgt. Patrick Culhane               D/Garda Michael Finn                   D/Garda Joseph Egan                D/Insp. Vincent McGrath           Chief Supt. John J. Joy                 Supt. Patrick Casey
Garda Noel Ryan                         Garda Philip Bowe                          Sgt. John M. Freeman                    Garda James Galvin                   Supt. Patrick Casey                        D/Garda Thomas Fitzgerald
D/Garda O. Fitzsimons               D/Insp. John Murphy                     Garda Noel McGuire
Garda Joseph Calnan                 D/Sgt. P.F. Cleary                            D/Sgt. Joseph Collins
D/Sgt. John J. McGroarty          D/Garda Michael Mullen               D/Garda Patrick Waters              D/Insp. James McPartland        D/Garda Fintan Dunne                  D/Sgt. Patrick Byrne
D/Garda Patrick Looby               Garda George Callanan                Garda Francis King                          Garda Eric Lynch                         Sergeant M. Purtill                         Sergeant Carey
D/Garda John Jordan                 Garda John Hyland                        Garda Patrick J. Delaney            Garda Joseph Callanan              Garda Alphonsus King                  Garda Eric Lynch
Ex-Supt. Patrick Flaherty           D/Sgt. Michael Egan                     Garda Peter P. Cavanan                D/Sgt. Bernard Cullen                 D/Garda Gerard O’Carroll             Chief Supt. Anthony McMahon
Garda A. Keane                            D/Garda Joseph Holland              D/Garda John Jordan
D/Insp. Richard Murphy             D/Garda Michael Noonan             Sgt. Martin J. Dowling                  D/Sgt. Thomas Boland               D/Garda Patrick Raftery               D/Sgt. Thomas King
Sgt. James Dolan                        Garda James G. Keogh                 Garda Brian McGauran               
Garda Patrick Fitzgerald             D/Garda J. Naughton                   D/Garda James Butler
Sgt. William lohn Fennessy        Garda Peter P. Cavanan              D/Garda Adrian O’Hara   

The ranks detailed above were held at the time. Most have been promoted to very senior positions in the Gardai since. 


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As the seeds of police state develop, Osgur Breatnach re-visits his nightmarish conviction for the Sallins mail train frame-up, his subsequent efforts to quash the conviction and force a public inquiry.

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