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EOGHAN HARRIS – columnist redoubles sectarian campaign

category national | arts and media | news report author Sunday July 24, 2011 23:20author by Jack Lane - Aubane Historical Society Report this post to the editors

More than the usual amount of reactionary drivel

Over the past number of weeks Eoghan Harris has been uttering more than the usual amount of drivel in relation to the 1919-21 War of independence. Contemporary events have been dragged in week on week to promote the moronic view that the IRA systematically attacked Protestants during the War and after it.

No notion is too ludicrous in pursuit of the deeply reactionary and frankly sectarian campaign aimed at undermining the IRA’s anti-sectarian pursuit of independence between 1919-21.
Harris in his hey day, supporting censorship, secretly - he has attempted to re-write this history ever since
Harris in his hey day, supporting censorship, secretly - he has attempted to re-write this history ever since

It was a war to end sectarian privilege of either the Protestant or Catholic variety. It was not Republicans but especially the party that became Fine Gael, that initiated and continued an alliance with the Catholic Church, one the British initiated in the 19th Century in an attempt to stave off Republican revolution. The Republicans were ‘the excommunicated party’ at one stage.

The British left the former privileged elite in place, as did the deeply conservative ruling caste that governed Ireland after the ‘Treaty’. How does Harris think the Musgraves, who he mentions today in the context of their attempted buyout of Super Quinn, continued to prosper? Harris, a former member of Poblacht Chriostuil is a Johnny come lately when it comes to sticking the boot into the Catholic church. Some of us were doing it when it was neither profitable nor popular, when the Church was a powerful organisation in alliance with the state, that packed off the poorest of the poor and the marginalised out of sight out of mind.

So few in number are the examples of sectarian outrages cited during the period prior to full state formation that Harris returns to the well again and again to dredge up the same incidents ad nauseam. Today he names all three yet again, “the Old IRA's sectarian actions in the Bandon Valley, at Coolacrease and at Clifden Orphanage”, and then adds “to name only a few”. There are just these ‘few’ in the arsenal of Orange Order merchants and neo-unionist commentators like Harris.

These pathetic examples are a cloak that covers up the documented sectarianism that blighted the Six County state and its ruling unionist ideology from its inception. Harris made a fool of himself over Coolacrease in an RTE documentary of the same name. Harris described a botched IRA execution of two brothers in June 1921 for taking armed action against the IRA as follows, “they shot them in the testicles, in their sexual parts.” No evidence justified this nonsensical observation.

When confronted with evidence - yes evidence - that southern Protestants, yes Protestants, rejected this unionist propaganda, Harris (the imaginative former unelected representative) opined, “they had a gun to their head”. What, all of them, individually and as represented at the Protestant Convention on May 11 1921 in Dublin? The Protestants said that, apart from what they temed “this incident”, the killing of 10 Protestants two weeks earlier in the Bandon Valley, southern Ireland had been free of sectarian attacks on the religious minority. That is during the entire period of the war of independence, and the 10 months afterwards when republicans ruled the roost.

This is how the silly man explains it today (24 July 2011), “what happened frightened [Protestants] into a forced amnesia about the actions of the IRA”. Only someone devoid of critical faculties could use the term ‘forced amnesia’ and expect it to be believed without contradiction.

However, if a columnist couldn’t care less about the facts and knew that contradiction could be excluded, then such an unprincipled person could be on to a winner. The grinding out of the same propaganda week in week out in the manner of an old style Pravda hack on heat (or as merely a modern day Murdoch style hacker) can leave the audience in ignorance of the alternative. Harris has perfected the art of never naming the “academic historians” or others, such as myself, who do not agree with his historical hysteria. While it has the disadvantage of leaving the audience scratching its collective head it means that those with the contrary view cannot avail of right of reply rules.

Last week, child abuse, Nazis and the agreeable (to Harris) prospect of hanging intellectuals from lampposts featured in increasingly ludicrous attempts to resuscitate the declining stature of Harris's favourite historian, the late Peter Hart. It seems (Harris suspects) that something is stirring the historical undergrowth, a rebellion is fermenting. If rational argument won't stop it, nameless verbal terror might. Well, it won’t. Neither sticks and stones, or stones from a former 'stick' wil do it.

I have written twice to challenge the columnist, who got his professional training in RTE when it was subject to legislative censorship (and who revelled in it). On both occasions, my efforts have been censored, that is excluded. The columnist’s ego is so fragile that he cannot abide seeing an alternative view to his own in print in what he considers his personal paper fiefdom. Here are the two letters Harris’s paper censored:

, Sunday Independent
19 July 2011


Eoghan Harris is correct in suspecting that the late Peter Hart’s reputation within Irish historiography has slipped (17 July 2011). This slippage is due partly to consistently negative reaction to a recently published book, ‘The Year of Disappearances’, by Gerard Murphy, that many hoped might enhance Hart’s stature. It seems to have had the opposite effect. Consequently, the ‘niggle and quibble ‘brigade, as Eoghan Harris terms them, do appear to be in the ascendant.

I suggest that the fundamental problem people have with Hart’s research is that he claimed to have interviewed two War of Independence veterans, one of whom was in fact dead at the time, while the other was a 96 year old almost incapacitated stroke victim. Hart also misrepresented material disproving his charge of IRA sectarianism that he found unpalatable. Before his sudden and highly unfortunate death in 2010 Peter Hart never addressed the substance of these issues. Possibly, he could not.

Perhaps understandably, your columnist has difficulty recognising deficiencies in a historian whose conclusions he clearly would like to believe are true.

Yours sincerely,
Jack Lane

Editor, Sunday Independent
28 June 2011

Dear Sir,

Eoghan Harris's article on the Kingsmill massacre of 10 Protestants on 5 January 1976 forgets that the day before six Catholics were killed nearby. To recall these possibly associated events is not to engage in 'whataboutery' but to avoid the trap of singling out some victims as more worthy of remembrance than others, for possibly political purposes.

There is another reason, once we go past remembrance to understanding. The motive for the second massacre most likely originated in reaction to the first.

The failure to remember the first massacre is not something for which your columnist should receive blame, as his is not the only media failing in this regard. It appears that the killing of Catholics by loyalists is regarded as unexceptional and commonplace, hence less likely to agitate newspaper ink. The deliberate targeting of innocent Protestants by republicans is regarded as exceptional and apt to be commented upon long after similar Catholic victims are forgotten.

The first RUC officer, on his own admission, to attend the sickening aftermath of the Kingsmill killings was Billy McCaughey. He had shepherded one group of loyalist killers to their Catholic prey the previous day (additionally, at least one of this group was a member of the UDR, according to one victim before he died). McCaughey boasted that he and his associates took special measures to ensure that no Catholic RUC officer would stay in their loyalist gang. He was later jailed for the murder of a Catholic pharmacist after suffering a nervous breakdown.

Northern Ireland was and is a dysfunctional political set-up, ‘a failed entity’. Some members of the security forces there saw it as their function in the 1970s to enable loyalists to kill Catholics. In the midst of such a breakdown of law and order, it is not surprising that sectarian terror resulted in a sectarian backlash.

Your columnist may consider this nit-picking. I record it for his evaluation and for the consideration (in full) of your readers.

Yours sincerely,
Jack Lane

There is more that could be said, but never in the Sunday Independent where comment is free but facts are few.

Further Indymedia Reading

Eoghan Harris and John A Murphy fall out

Edwards, Myers, Harris, Carew: Pro-British, Pro-US, Pro-Israel, Pro-War

Hidden History or hidden agenda – the real story

Coolacrease - The Hidden Interview - an Indymedia EXCLUSIVE!

War Of Independence Debate On Sectarianism Descends On Unassuming Offaly

Communist to Capitalist - Eoghan Harris fights the pesky RTE provos

EXPOSED: Censorship in the Sunday Independent

Eoghan Harris defends the 'Gentle Black and Tan' against verdict of history

Two faced Sindo sneers at and applauds Ken Loach Film

Justice for the Forgotten attack Jim Cusack's misreporting on Dublin Monaghan bombings

Ian Paisley should say "Sorry!" to Eugene Reavey

Link below to an article (PDF format, page 19-20) on 'Harris, Hard Gospel and Hot Stuff in Co Cork' - another outing for the excitable right winger, whose antics at a private function were revealed to us by some Protestants who objected.

Related Link: http://aubanehistoricalsociety.org/bishop_cork.pdf
author by Dick Helmspublication date Wed Jul 27, 2011 00:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Harris is engaged in the production of disinformation. It is the politics of the big historical lie.

author by Dick Hillpublication date Wed Jul 27, 2011 00:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I see RTE's late great Gerald Barry did that expose of Harris in 1987. Too 'professional' and 'factual' for the great imaginator.

(If you click on the Sunday Tribune report above it will expand and you can read it.)

author by Jim O'Sullivanpublication date Wed Jul 27, 2011 09:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Found this interesting as I have made a few efforts to confront the dangerous nonsense he spouts. Recently he was singing the praises of U.S. Grant, a "protestant" hero of his, and tried to point out that Grant was a slave owner for many years. As with your own experience the correspondence was censored. That said, surely Harris's paranoid must be getting embarrasing in the backrooms of even the Sindo at this stage. Below is censored letter.


The Sunday Independent


I read Eoghan Harris’s chastisement of the media for not emphasising enough the fact that Barrack Obama has a Protestant heritage with amazement. That such a silly piece would ever see the light of day in a paper that sets out to firstly inform and secondly provide entertainment to while away the rest day was unbelievable. Does no one proof this stuff? The tone of the piece clearly indicates that much effort was expended seeking out the slightest glitch in order to pour cold water on what was an essentially breeze occasion for most people.

Aside from this, to repeatedly suggest that the fight for independence was noting other that a “war” between Catholics and Protestants is not only an insult to the intelligence but it is also disingenuous to say the least. Mr. Harris should put the same effort into seeking out reliable historical accounts of the past as he does at petty mischief making. Aside from getting a proper prospective on local events he will also discover that the Protestantism of one of his heroes, U.S. Grant, did not prevent him and his wife “owning” slaves for many years. 

author by Jackpublication date Thu Jul 28, 2011 07:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Jim.

If there are other examples of your efforts being denied in the censored Sindo, post them here. Harris and his pals get away with it by the exclusion of views exposing his reactionary nonsense.

author by Jack Lanepublication date Mon Aug 01, 2011 21:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On Sunday last (1 August) one of Harris's supporters, Jeff Dudgeon, was given letters page space to support his hero's sectarian view of the War of Independence.

Meanwhile critics continue to be censored. The following letter I received from Dr Pat Walsh was also denied space.

"Sir, In his column of last Sunday (‘Following IRA's bloody track from the Bandon Valley to south Armagh’, 26 June, 2011) Eoghan Harris makes the statement that “the exodus of 107,000 Irish Protestants in the period 1911 to 1926” was “the largest movement of population in Europe before the Second World War.”

One only has to look a couple of years past 1911 to see that this statement is incorrect. During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, 410,000 Muslims and thousands of Jews were driven out of the Balkans by the Christian forces of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria. More than a million Muslims were also killed in this vast ethnic cleansing and genocide. The alliance that accomplished this was partly facilitated by an Anglo-Irishman, James Bourchier, old Etonian and correspondent of the Times of London.

If Mr. Harris can be so ignorant of these events, or if he ignored them to simply press home his points, it throws into doubt the other, even less factual elements, of his article.

Dr. Pat Walsh, Co. Antrim"

No one is allowed to show up this ignoramus. How come Harris gets this special treatment? In the Irish Independent Kevin Myers is not so shielded from critics who are allowed to question Myers’ reactionary attacks on (for example) Jim Larkin.

If Eoghan can’t take the heat of criticism, he should get out of the kitchen.

author by James Mitchellpublication date Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is more than likely that the great censor read Pat Walsh's letter (above) before deciding that the great unwashed could not read it, since Harris came out with the following nonsensical observation on July 24th:

"The Balkan war showed us how little it takes to frighten people from a village in which they have lived for centuries. Whether Irish Protestants left because of a bullet in the post, a billeting on their family, or an insult in a pub makes no difference. They were told in many ways they were not wanted and they left."

Innuendo, Sinuendo - its all the same to the great propagandist.

In the 'Balkan war' (which one by the way, oh never mind) people were massacred.

That did not happen in Ireland and there was no targeting of Protestants, not least because Protestants were in republican ranks. They did not target themselves.If you want pogroms go north where Catholics suffered from unionist bigots who spread propaganda that it was ok because that was what was happening to Protestants in the South. Protestants in the south rejected that out of hand.

Eoghan Harris is just a latter-day bigot.

author by gym memberpublication date Wed Aug 03, 2011 05:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

During his career as a communicator Harris has shown great dexterity in making U-turns, leapfrogs, head stands and backflips. And so has editorial policy in the Sindo and the Irish Independent. Students of journalism should be directed into historical analysis of these important profitmaking institutions.

author by Ben Blackpublication date Sun Aug 14, 2011 12:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Sunday Independent had no option but to publish a letter (below) in response to Ruth Dudley Edwards (April 10, 2011). In her article RDE delivered her usual reactionary fusillade against the 1916 Rising and the Irish struggle for Independence. She came up with this novel explanation of Sinn Fein success in the 1918 general election and the War of Independence:

"A sentimental reaction to the 17 executions -- and quite a bit of intimidation and fraud -- helped Sinn Fein win the 1918 election…. In the ensuing devastating war, Catholic police bore the brunt of the casualties.”

She should take this up with Eoghan Harris, who thinks it was an attempt to kill Protestants. She should write him a letter.

The reason a responding letter was published is because (unlike Press Council rules savvy, Harris) RDE named the person she was making fun of, Patrick Pearse's first cousin, Patrick Shovelton. RDE possibly thought the 91 one year old would not see her effort. He did (see reply below). Had Ruth taken the Eoghan Harris line of failing to mention who she was complaining about, her employers would not have had to publish the reply. But then the object of the exercise, name-dropping title tattle, would have been defeated.

Eoghan Harris has (for the moment) laid off his obscure campaign to re-fight the War of independence in a sectarian manner - by accusing anti-sectarian republican forces of behaving like unionists in reverse (though the neo-unionist EH doesn't put it like that).

Last week, he bemoaned the loss of presidential candidate David Norris, who he had hoped would drain off support for a left week candidate (Michael D Higgins) and let one of his (and Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s) pro-capitalist candidates through.

This week, EH bemoans attacks by Fintan O’Toole and Myles Dungan on his hard working racist colleague, Kevin Myers, who (unlike Harris, the weekend warrior) produces right wing drivel four days a week. The subject was the English riots and Myers' moronic observation that fatherless Afro Caribbeans were primarily responsible.

A confused Harris concludes his defence of Myers with a ‘theory’ his own:

“Let me finish with a few observations of my own on the causes of the riots. Clearly any analysis must combine Freud and Marx. The absence of family authority in the form of a father is surely as important as the absence of a national authority that would help immigrants to find jobs and foster the American approach to integration.”

The ‘American approach’: we don’t need to go back to Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950s (never mind slavery). How about the anti-racist critique of US society by Martin Luther King and/or Malcolm X in the 1960s? Rodney King and the 1992 LA riots anyone? How about, more recently, George Bush ‘winning’ (he didn’t) the Florida state election (and the presidency) in 2000 by systematically excluding Afro-Americans from the voting rolls? EH should read Greg Pallast’s The Best Democracy Money can Buy. EH might, if he lived in the US, give advice to the Klu Klux Klan, whose formation as an anti Black, anti Jewish, anti Catholic organisation was inspired by the activities of the Orange Order. Harris finishes by citing Marx as an authority on the recent riots, but clearly Marx was commenting on the type of people ('white trash') who join the KKK (and the OO?):

"The social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue."

Normal service will return soon enough - nameless attacks on those who undermine EH’s favourite (and factless) historian, the late Peter Hart. No names, no pack drill.

Here is Patrick Shovelton telling RDE to shove it:

Sticking to views on hero Pearse

Sunday Independent August 7, 2011

Sir -- There has just come to my attention Ruth Dudley Edward's article on April 10, 2011, making fun of my English public school background and yet supporting the actions of my first cousin (once removed) Patrick Pearse for his part in the Easter Rising. And in her final paragraph Ms Dudley Edwards snidely implies that at the age of 91 I am too old to change my views.

First, I resent Ms Dudley Edwards taking advantage of a brief private conversation to make capital of, and reiterate her well-known views on the Rising.

Second, I have no wish or intention of withdrawing my views about my cousin. He was a remarkable man by any standard -- writer, poet, playwright and orator. As for the Rising itself, it was doomed from the start. But it was a gallant show of what strength could be mustered against overwhelming odds.

So, Ms Dudley Edwards is right, I do not change my mind. But not because I am 91 and "too old"! And next time I meet her I shall be careful not to say anything which will enable her to construct an article when she couldn't think of a new idea.

Patrick Shovelton

author by Conor Lynchpublication date Sun Aug 21, 2011 17:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eoghan Harris and the Sunday Independent allow only cheerleaders to respond to Eoghan Harris's sectarian vapourings. I sent the letter below a few days after Ulster Unionist Party supporter Jeff Dudgeon wrote in support of Harris on July 31. No surprise that mine was not published, while Dudgeon's was.

Letters to the Editor, Sunday Independent, August 3, 2011

I am puzzled by Jeff Dudgeon's suggestion (letters, 31 July) that a person's name is 'blacken[ed]' if it is alleged that they acted alongside British forces during the War of Independence. Where is the shame in a cause Jeff Dudgeon supports?

The question in Dudgeon's letter in support of Eoghan Harris can be answered. The possible basis for the shooting dead by persons unknown of 10 Protestant civilians between April 27-29 1922 (after the Treaty split, before the onset of civil war) does not depend on a captured British document seen by the historian Meda Ryan in the 1980s, naming those shot as ‘helpful citizens’. It was part of a cache of documentation, part of which was published over several editions of the weekly ‘Southern Star’ newspaper in 1971. The document in question was not released, as it was thought that it might upset community relations. Ryan cited it only after Peter Hart upset them by alleging republican sectarianism during the war, in his 'The IRA and its Enemies' (1998). I agree with Jeff Dudgeon that the document should be released. A document that is not verifiable, as with Peter Hart’s questionable anonymous interviews, is apt to be discounted (though, unlike with the late Peter Hart, we have no reason to doubt Ryan's bona fides in this matter).

However, a reason for the shootings can be established alternatively by reference to another British intelligence document that Peter Hart's book cited, but misrepresented. In 'The Record of the Rebellion', a senior British intelligence officer, complained of a dearth of information from Protestants during the war. This is the section Peter Hart cited on the April 1922 killings in the Bandon Valley, in justification of his view that they were sectarian. Hart omitted the section following in which the British author stated that the ‘exception’ was in the Bandon Valley where many gave information. In a direct reference to the April killings, the intelligence officer concluded that many were killed or suffered grave material loss. Therefore, if there was any ‘blackening’, the British did it.

Had Peter Hart acted ethically by including this qualification, that eviscerated his argument, I doubt that acres of newspaper space would have been devoted to this topic. Unfortunately, Eoghan Harris and Jeff Dudgeon are reluctant to confront serious flaws in Peter Hart’s research. Their failure, in the face of irrefutable evidence of those flaws, is itself sectarian.

Conor Lynch

I see Harris has left history behind today, writing instead about the Baltimore lifeboat. He writes of the crew that they talk 'the language of courage and comradeship. The language we all need to learn'.

The courage required to publish criticism is something Harris needs to learn.

author by pat cpublication date Sun Aug 21, 2011 19:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Try sending your letter to the Irish Examiner explaining the context. They might publish it.

author by Platopublication date Mon Aug 22, 2011 15:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Try sending your letter to the Irish Examiner explaining the context. They might publish it."

I agree here, the Examiner is fair. While the celebrity contributors are right wing to a man and woman, the Editor at least prints contrary views from readers. Worth a try, the antics of the Sindo in this regard are reprehensible and clearly the actions of bitter wee minds.

author by Jemmy Hopepublication date Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More deranged witterings from the great twit, this time on the late Patricia Redlich, yet another ex Workers Party refugee plying their trade for Ireland's top capitalist, 'Tony (sorry 'Sir Anthony') O'Reilly. Harris wrote (Sept 4th) that Redlich:

"opposed all attempts by supporters of the Provisional IRA to make the Irish trade union movement an instrument of their armed struggle.

From 1970 to 1998, the Provisional IRA set out to infiltrate individual trade unions, the Dublin Trades Council and the ICTU. Frequently the issue would be decided by those who stayed longest at the meeting. Patricia Redlich never went home early leaving a Provo rump to rule the roost.

Like many other pluralists, she joined the Workers Party because it was the most active opponent of the Provos. Anyone who doubts that WP attracted some of the most able political activists at that time has only to look at some of the leaders of the current Labour Party in Government."

Even the most dimwitted student of recent Irish history knows that Official Sinn Fein / The Workers Party had trade union intervention all to themselves. The story is adequately detailed in Miller and Hanley's reasonably priced 'The Lost Revolution' (Penguin). Also, an inconvenient fact Harris ignores, in the early 1970s, before they became neo-unionist and hysterically anti provo at Harris's beckoning, Official Sinn Fein was anti-imperialist.

Harris would say anything to re-write history. There is no point in writing in to the Sunday Independent because Harris, Harris and Fanning would block it. Censorship and secrecy rules as usual, just like in the old Workers Party.

author by Ben Brennanpublication date Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This from Politics.ie (though mathematically challenged) is apt:

Just had a read that piece [on Patricia Redlich]. 50% of Eoghan's weekly collection-of-words seem to be lavish obituaries, but 100% of Eoghan's weekly collection-of-words seem to be paranoid diatribes against the Provos.*

Skipping a fair bit of the main body of text, this piece near the end really stood out:

As she said to me on her deathbed last week: "The Provos can say sorry and I can hear them say sorry -- but they still did it."
Either Eoghan has finally let the noxious cloud of bitterness turn his fanciful political musings into outright lies that can only be rebuked by a now-dead person, or else this poor woman is Eoghan's real soulmate.

Imagine wasting one's deathbed speech on the Provisionals in this day and age? Life is so Beautiful would still get my vote, I'm afraid, Eoghan.

*76.4% being against the Trots

Related Link: http://www.politics.ie/forum/current-affairs/169233-eoghan-harris-speak-liam-lynch-commemoration-3.html
author by Is Mise Lemasspublication date Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That discussion at Politics.ie is about Harris giving the Liam Lynch Commemoration speech at the FIANNA FAIL commemoration. The real Lynch commemoration is the National Graves Association commemoration in July.

Have Fianna Fail not suffered enough humiliation (no, obviously not). But to shoot themselves in the foot is a sign of complete loss of bearings.

Asking Harris, an apologist for unionist sectarianism, US imperialism and British imperialism to speak on the leader of republican forces during the Civil War, who was killed jus before the end, shows how far FF have strayed from its roots. What's the betting they give up the ghost and ask Enda Kenny (leader of the forces who shot Lynch) next year?

I bet Harris's speech will be a real hoot. Will he mention Peter Hart who communed with the dead in his revisionist history of the War of Independence, or Hart follower Gerard Murphy, whose recent book was an exercise in sheer fantasy?

Anyone going?

author by Platopublication date Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is a half decent response to Harris's waffle today, even though the Editor admits to havimng censored , sorry edited, that too. The protective ring remains firmly in place.

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