Brendan Behan

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2015), Letters, Volume 23

Sir,—Jim Smyth’s article on Brendan Behan’s MI5 file (HI 22.6, Nov./Dec. 2014) suggests that Brendan, from an early age, had anti-Nazi and pro-USSR sentiments that he retained through the frostiest times of the Cold War. My father Paddy and his brothers Eddie and Michael Whelan were incarcerated in the Curragh internment camp with Brendan in the 1940s. Brendan mentions Paddy and Eddie in Confessions of an Irish rebel with the puzzling but gratifying claim that they ‘had shared the battlefields of the poor’.

The Whelan brothers also shared Brendan’s political sentiments. My father claimed that they were confirmed in their left-wing radicalism in 1936 when their friend and fellow IRA volunteer Tony Fox, from Inchicore, Dublin, was killed at Cordoba during the Spanish Civil War. However, their interest in pro-Soviet communism came later, when they attended lectures on Marxism delivered by Neil Verschoyle Gould at Tintown. My father Paddy believed that Gould had returned to Ireland from Soviet Russia as an agent of the Comintern. For a compelling fictionalised account inspired by the enigmatic Gould and an entertaining, sympathetic and honest analysis of his political influence on Brendan and the Behan family one should read The family on Paradise Pier by Dermot Bolger. Critics have described this as Bolger’s finest novel. I agree.—Yours etc.,

FERGUS WHELAN

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