09 April 2006

Cottage’s links with violent Irish history

Sunday Business Post

By Colm Heatley
09 April 2006

The isolated cottage where Denis Donaldson was killed has a long history of association with violent Irish politics.

For most of the 1990s, it was owned by Mary Reid, a schoolteacher and activist with the INLA and the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

She used the cottage for political meetings and cultural classes. Ironically, the North’s Special Branch also played a significant role in shaping Mary Reid’s life.

In 1982, she was arrested along with two others in a flat in Paris and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for possession of explosives and weapons. Nine months later, her conviction was overturned amid allegations that the French Special Branch had planted evidence and invented aspects of the prosecution.

The case thrust Reid into the media spotlight and marked her out for special police attention when she returned to Ireland.

In January 2003, she accidentally drowned on a remote stretch of beach at Inishowen, north Donegal.

The cottage was sold to Donaldson’s son-in-law a few years before Reid died.

The house was also connected to an incident which republicans view as one of the greatest outrages of the civil war. In 1923 the then owner, Dan O’Donnell, a Free State soldier, was ordered to guard a nearby post office from anti-treaty attack.

Along with three other Free State soldiers, O’Donnell manned the post office. At some stage that night, a row broke out between the group, and one of them was shot dead.

The murder was wrongly blamed on republicans, and in March 1923, four republican prisoners were taken to Drumboe Castle in Co Donegal and executed.

None of the Free State soldiers ever talked publicly about their roles that night, and O’Donnell lived in the cottage until his death in the late 1980s.

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