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Now it's History (Ireland)! Peter Hart replies on Tom Barry and Kilmichael (but not Dunmanway)

category national | history and heritage | feature author Friday April 01, 2005 10:47author by Niall Meehan Report this post to the editors

Hart Ignores Brian Murphy criticism, says Meda Ryan analysis not "rational"

(An introduction to this discussion can be found at this Indymedia article: What Is The Dispute About Kilmichael And Dunmanway Really About? The accusation that the IRA had a sectarian policy during the War of Independence will be addressed in a talk from historian Brian Murphy in Cork on April 15 at 8pm in the Imperial Hotel)
UPDATE: Audio (mp3) now available from: Radio Indymedia

Jim O'Sullivan - Killed after British Surrender
Peter Hart, author of The IRA and Its Enemies (1998) is interviewed in the current edition of History Ireland. Interviewer Brian Hanley asked Hart about his assertion that Tom Barry lied about the British false surrender at the Kilmichael ambush (which resulted in the death of two IRA soldiers who rose to take it and the subsequent annihilation of the Auxiliary force). But Hanley does not question Hart on the equally contentious claim that the post-truce Killings of Protestant men in Dunmanway in 1922 were the logical outcome of a sectarian anti-Protestant strategy pursued by the IRA during the War of Independence.
Michael McCarthy - also Killed after British Surrender

This is unfortunate, not least since Hart insists on a strong relationship between Kilmichael and Dunmanway: “one is as important as the other to an understanding of the Cork IRA” (1998:292). The killings in Dunmanway were “the culmination of a long process of social definition that produced both the heroes of Kilmichael and the victims of the April massacre”. (ibid)

(These and other references to Kilmichael and to Tom Barry that pepper Hart's account undermine his curious assertion that Kilmichael occupies only 6% of his book and his claim that Tom Barry appears as a “minor character”.)

The omission of a reference to Dunmanway is also surprising given that the interviewer wrote in The Village (Nov 6 2004) that the Dunmanway question is “much more serious” than the “increasingly sterile debate about Kilmichael”. Why then is Dunmanway ignored in the interview (except where Hart interjects a reference, of which more below)? It goes to the heart of Hart's contention that the violence of the war of Independence “had an ethnic basis.

Whatever the reason, there is meat in the interview, but unfortunately not much. Hart asserts a) that he delivered a considered defense of his views on Kilmichael to postgraduate history students in Maynooth (“The Truth about Kilmichael”, 9 December 2004, followed by “Christmas drinks”), b) that the History Ireland interview is not the place to answer his critics in detail, and further c) that he will publish a detailed refutation.

In other words
a) Peter Hart has delivered a refutation (Maynooth);
b) he is not delivering it (History Ireland); but
c) he will deliver one (unspecified place and time in the future).

Knowledge of what was said in Maynooth is in short supply, since the audience was small and select. It would be of help (not least to neutrals in the debate) to publish the Maynooth talk here on Indymedia (I have written to Brian Hanley, who lectures in Maynooth, to see if that is possible). In the meantime, and in the absence of a more detailed response, we will make do with the morsels we have been provided with.

Hart's eyewitnesses

Ned Young, last Kilmichael survivor, died Nov 13 1989

Peter Hart is circumspect about the sources of his anonymous eyewitness information that no false surrender took place at Kilmichael, confining himself to observing that “most” of the interviews were “conducted by someone else”. Three were conducted by the Rev Dr John Chisholm, who admitted in another context to using a “free hand” in composing recollections of IRA veterans, to visiting a location in order to “imagine” and then write up an IRA training camp, and to allowing the prevalence of “my own style”, when editing the memoirs of Liam Deasy (in Ryan 2003: 44, 274-5, 315).

Is Hart's an implied admission that the information may not be wholly reliable? Is he distancing himself from it? Even if so, the Chisholm interviewees do not say there was no false surrender; they do not mention the point.

Hart does not address at all the problem that his two anonymous interviewees spoke at a time when records indicate that only one infirm ambush survivor, Ned Young, was still alive (though not at that stage in full control of his faculties). Young died on 13 November 1989. Hart reported that he conducted his final interview, with scout 'AF', on 19 November 1989. I wrote previously (see web link in summary above): "This is an anomaly that needs to be addressed — and for which there may be a simple explanation. As of yet, it has not been proffered."

Meda Ryan's (author of Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter) dating of the death of ambush survivors is supported by other accounts. In the absence of revelation of who Hart's interviewees were, he should be asked if he has unearthed previously unknown participants in the ambush. (There is anecdotal evidence that, as with the GPO in 1916, claims of participation swelled after the event.)

It is Hart's anonymous interviewees who allege that the story of the false surrender is itself false. It would be of value if Peter Hart could clarify the following in relation to the interviews:

1. Were notes used or was/is there a tape recording?
2. Who was present at the interviews?
3. Why was confidentiality insisted on? (i.e. the interviewee's reasons).
4. Why is confidentiality necessary now, as the interviewees are deceased?

Naming names

The absence of detail in Hart's account, his unwillingness to name his sources, as compared to Meda Ryan who names hers, leaves us with little option but to conclude that Ryan's is the more accurate account: that there was indeed a false surrender that participants spoke of openly.

An academic peer review might be the best way this matter could be concluded. Peter Hart might be asked if he would submit to one. Alternatively, if there are tape recordings, as Peter Hart suggests in his book, then perhaps Meda Ryan and Brian Murphy might be allowed to listen to the tapes under a guarantee of confidentiality. After all Peter Hart says he "respects" Murphy and Ryan's contributions to history.

Ryan not "rational"

Cherry Picking: The Passage that Hart Left Out

When asked specifically about the criticisms of Meda Ryan and Brian Murphy, Hart asserts that as Murphy's work on British propaganda is not yet published he cannot answer Murphy's criticism. But Murphy's charge that Hart misrepresented the British admission that loyalists in the Bandon area did indeed engage in active informing during the war has been in the public domain since 1999 (see “Cherry Picking” for more detail). It is contained in a review of Hart's book in The Month, a partial sentence from which is reprinted as a promotional blurb when The IRA and its Enemies was re-printed.

In his talk on British propaganda on 15 October last in Dublin Murphy drew attention to Hart's editorship of The Record of the Rebellion, with the title British Intelligence in Ireland 1920-21, the Final Reports (Cork University Press 2002). Hart quoted the Bandon passage in full (see "Cherry Picking”) on page 49.

However, this is accompanied by footnote 28. In the footnote Hart refers to the fact that he mentioned this passage in The IRA and its Enemies, giving pages 293-315, but no exact reference. Then, instead of apologising or even explaining why he made the significant omission, he justifies his use of the text! He writes several lines among which are found: "Some condemned West Cork Protestants did give, or try to give, information but there is no evidence that they acted en masse despite this statement." Hart then quotes the notorious Major AE Percival of the Essex Regiment to indicate that a few gave information. The reviewer of Hart's edition of the Record in The Irish Times, Brendan O'Cathair, described this footnote as "disingenuous". Brian Murphy noted in his talk that "the issue casts a serious reflection on Hart's use of sources".

Hart's response to Meda Ryan is surprising. He asserts that her book contains “almost no new evidence”. Not content with that put down, he also asserts that the critical analysis of his work by a woman historian is not "rational”. Peter Hart is the first to spot this alleged failing on Meda Ryan's part, and he will probably also be the last. He should withdraw this comment in relation to someone whose contribution to history he “respects”. (Peter Hart has accused his critics of criticizing him in an "objectionable way" - see Indymedia link above)

Reviewers of Ryan's Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter (2003) have remarked on the wealth of evidence that Ryan has unearthed. She removed the lynchpin of Hart's case, that Tom Barry did not mention the false surrender until the publication of his Guerilla Days in Ireland in 1949, that he invented it many years after the battle. The apparent failure to mention it in a major 1932 article by Barry on Kilmichael for the Irish Press was promoted by Hart as a most significant item of evidence. However, Ryan quoted a contemporaneous letter from Barry to the Irish Press criticizing the paper for editing out the reference.

False surrender noted in 1921

 Tom Barry in 1949. The year his Guerrilla Days in Ireland was published
Tom Barry in 1949. The year his Guerrilla Days in Ireland was published

As Ryan showed, reference to the false surrender first appeared in print in 1921 from a British source, Lloyd George's imperial advisor Lionel Curtis, who wrote: “It is alleged by Sinn Fein that a white flag was put up by the police, and that when the attacking party approached to accept the surrender, fire was opened on them.” (in Ryan 2003: 56). While also referring to mutilated bodies (a piece of British atrocity propaganda) Curtis expressed himself unsure of the truth of this “notorious episode”. However, he said the surrender story was “obtained from a trustworthy source in the district”. (ibid) Piaras Beaslai's life of Michael Collins in 1926 contained: “When volunteers advanced to take the surrender, they were fired on”. (ibid) Hart asserted that General Crozier, commander of the Auxiliaries at that time (who resigned in protest at the failure to curb Auxiliary atrocities) referred to the false surrender in Ireland Forever, (1932), only because he wished to curry favor with republicans. Hart appears to have missed Barry's reference to the false surrender in a piece he wrote for the Irish defense forces magazine, An Cosantoir, in 1941. Of course, as Hart himself admits, the false surrender story was "circulating within the IRA as early as 1921", (1998:27 fn 21). So why would Barry be required to invent it in 1949?

Ryan's interviews with Kilmichael veterans all elicited references to the false surrender. Down through the years, the only person to cast doubt on the false surrender is Peter Hart, arriving on the scene in 1998. There has never been the slightest hint that any participant in the Ambush ever denied that it occurred — apart of course from the anonymous admission promoted by Hart, which cannot be validated.

If the false surrender story was a gigantic lie, it was one concocted by over 36 members of the ambush party and three scouts that stood the test of time until Peter Hart came along. Hart's anonymous source, who regarded the story as an “insult” to the memory of those who fought at Kilmichael, contained his umbrage for well over 60 years, before deciding to get it off his chest and revealing it to a visiting Canadian academic.

It is surprising that during all that time no ambush participant, even in the anonymous and confidential accounts given to the Bureau of Military History in the 1950s (some years after the celebrated and world wide publishing sensation that was Tom Barry's Guerrilla Days in Ireland in 1949) blurted out that Barry's false surrender story was a tissue of lies. Peter Hart's witness for the prosecution did not avail himself of the opportunity. Instead he silently nursed his grievance concerning the supposed monumental insult to those who fought at Kilmichael for another 30 years. If Peter Hart had not come along, the anonymous source might have taken the story to his grave and we would now know nothing about it. In which case this opportunity to question the methods of revisionist historiography might also have been lost. In his interview Peter Hart refers to the revisionist debate as being “incoherent”. Readers are left to judge for themselves where the incoherence lies.

Psycho Killer

The notorious Major AE Percival. His Essex Regiment tortured & executed prisoners. He surrendered Singapore to a force of Japanese on bicycles in 1942

In the interview Hart implies that his reference to Barry as a “serial killer” was journalistic inference. In fact it was a direct quotation from Hart, given to the Sunday Times (April 19, 1998): "Barry is still considered to be an idealistic figure, unlike the great majority of his comrades he was little more than a serial killer and thought of the revolution largely in terms of shooting people. His politics were very primitive."

Hart's outburst is one that Ryan demonstrates to be false, as is Hart's claim that Barry had a record of killing prisoners. There is clear evidence that Barry released combatants after battle, based on whether the particular British regiments they were from did or did not torture and/or execute IRA prisoners. For example, after the Rosscarbery ambush Barry permitted medical treatment for prisoners in the local convent. (Ryan 2003:111) A policy decision was taken to execute members of the notorious Essex Regiment, which exacted brutal treatment on IRA prisoners (commanded by Major AE Percival, who was to gain world renown in 1942 when he surrendered the British garrison in Singapore to a force of Japanese on bicycles).

In the interview Hart refers to “serial killers on both sides” who were “not necessarily psychopaths”. They were “individuals and small groups who did the dirty work”. Thus the Dublin ‘squad', commanded by Michael Collins, which wiped out the British intelligence apparatus on Bloody Sunday in November 1920 (one week before the Kilmichael ambush), were “hard men” who did this “dirty work”. Barry is consigned to membership of this group of not necessarily but maybe psychopaths.

However, Hart's forthcoming biographical subject, Collins himself, was a sort of ‘hail fellow well met' who "would be a great guy to have a beer with or be friends with". The difference between Collins and Barry would appear to be that the former gave orders to others to do the shooting, while the latter was a commander in the field (and perhaps not such a gregarious drinking companion). Frankly, I find these distinctions facile.

Hart says “I respect people who took the moral aspect of the choices they took seriously” who refused to become assassins or to engage in ambushes. One wonders how the IRA could have defeated the British Empire had it been staffed by soldiers who refused on moral grounds to be part of an ambush party. After this comment Hart goes on to discuss the Kilmichael ambush.
Tom Barry leads Kilmichael Ambush survivors in 1966

In his soliloquy on the distinction between certain types of republicans, Hart said “I do think highly of those republicans who tried to put their ideals above tactics, who tried to avoid or refused to be drawn into sectarian violence that they found morally wrong: people like Tomas MacCurtain, Terence MacSwiney, and then Sean Moylan and Liam Lynch who tried to stop the Civil War”. It is either a faulty memory or perhaps some other factor that caused Hart to fail to mention Tom Barry in that regard. Brian Hanley might have reminded Peter Hart of Barry's role in attempting to stave off Civil War, as his book, The IRA 1926-36, refers to it (2002:143). Reference to Tom Barry the peacemaker conflicts with the tabloid depiction of Tom Barry the "serial killer" or "hard man". Similarly the evidence that Tom Barry let British prisoners go does not gel with the story of the prisoner killer. Presumably that is why it is ignored. Taken with Brian Murphy's revelation on the use of archive material, perhaps we should not be surprised.

Hart misrepresents criticism of documents he claims are genuine, but which his critics say are British forgeries. He asserts that his critics "can't deal with the contents". Presumably he has Meda Ryan and Brian Murphy in mind. In his book Hart makes great play of an alleged captured battle report from Barry that gets basic facts wrong, not least about the time and circumstances of the ambush or how casualties occurred, and which does not mention the false surrender. Hart asserted that there is no case of the British ever having forged an IRA document. He will be surprised to note that Brian Murphy has come across many such instances. Hart insists that the document is genuine, despite its many shortcomings as to matters of fact that would ordinarily come as second nature to Barry. Hart is forced into convoluted argument as to why Barry would lie about basic facts that have no bearing on his immediate or historical legacy.
RIC & Auxiliaries take time off from "hunting assassins" (from captured British officer's papers)

Murphy and Ryan accuse Hart of being selective in accepting some parts of a document as accurate and, for no logical reason other than that it does not suit his argument, rejecting another part. The use of the Record is a classic example.

Hart dismisses criticism of his analysis of the Dumanway shootings. He then immediately accused his critics of not wishing to subject "Tom Barry or anybody else who takes it upon himself to kill other people" to any form of scrutiny. Aside from the asinine nature of this observation, the physical juxtaposition of the Dunmanway killings with the name of Tom Barry is unfortunate. Hart must surely be aware from reading Meda Ryan's book, if not from his own less than exhaustive researches, that Tom Barry rushed from Dublin to stamp out the wave of killings.

A finding of irrationality in relation to Meda Ryan's analysis, and Peter Hart's assertion that there is “almost” no new evidence in her book must be considered perverse in the circumstances. Hart must know that Ryan has shown conclusively that those shot in Dunmanway were on a list of “helpful citizens”, left behind by K Company of the Auxiliaries when they left Dunmanway Workhouse. It is but one example of new evidence produced by Ryan. Her relating of the list to the existence of the paramilitary loyalist gangs that operated with British forces is also new. Does Peter Hart still sit in dogged dismissal of this evidence? His book dismissed official references to the loyalist gangs for no apparent reason other than, again, it did not suit his argument that Protestants who were shot by the IRA were shot because of their religion.

Is it possible that Peter Hart has not read Meda Ryan's book?

Neighbour against Neighbour

Hart's account of Kilmichael reinforces his view that this was a war of “neighbour against neighbour” (as the flyleaf of Hart's book has it). I have already written that Hart's depiction of what happened at Kilmichael is the basis for his assertion that this was an ethnic and not an anti colonial or anti imperialist conflict.

Undermining the accepted account of the Kilmichael ambush (and battle of Crossbarry, where Hart alleges that only 10 British soldiers died, not the accepted figure of thirty five to forty) is essential for Hart's view to survive. Strict adherence to his a priori construct forces Hart to dismiss all evidence to the contrary. As noted above, official references to the paramilitary loyalist “Anti-Sinn Fein league” in Dunmanway and other areas of West Cork, working alongside the RIC and other British forces, are dismissed out of hand by Hart. To admit the existence of this unique, to the South, organisation of paramilitary loyalism would be to admit that, as was recognized even by British commentary, there was no sectarian element to the IRA's targeting of informers or other enemy agents.
Tom Barry in 1920: "The British had gone down into the mire to destroy us and our Nation and down after them we had to go"

Ryan quotes Lionel Curtis writing early in 1921 on when “a brave prelate” spoke out in Cork, “his flock … turned their back on him” and evoked the rejoinder “we take our religion not out politics from Rome.” Therefore, “to conceive the struggle as religious in character is in any case misleading,,,, Protestants in the south do not complain of persecution on sectarian grounds. If Protestant farmers are murdered, it is not by reason of their religion, but rather because they are under suspicion as Loyalist. The distinction is fine, but a real one.” (2003:170)

There is little sense in Hart's book that the rhetoric of opposition to, or of adherence to, the British imperial system animated those fighting in what Manus O'Riordan has called the 20th Century's first war for democracy. Even though Tom Barry and other republican leaders saw their role as defeating the colonial system and the British Empire, and that the British and their allies (including unionists) saw their role as defense of that system, Hart is blind to his animating factor. The British saw Irish independence as a potential domino that could topple the Empire. And they were right, since leaders of anti colonial movements in Asia and Africa took great encouragement from the Irish example. This is unremarkable in a certain sense but needs to be emphasized because Peter Hart has no conception of its importance or relevance. It leads him to ignore the efforts of British propaganda to impose a sectarian ethnic character on the War of Independence.

It is classic colonial policy to portray the enemies of imperialism as sectional or ‘tribal' interests opposing the evenhanded efforts of progressive colonial administrators to steer an even course in the midst of great difficulties, etc. In a sense Peter Hart's is a replay of British propaganda of the period. For example he emphasizes the Protestant religion of casualties of IRA violence and downplays or ignores the fact that religion was immaterial to Tom Barry, who was always careful to draw a distinction between 'loyalist' and 'Protestant'. Barry noted that "bigotry was not confined to the Protestants for the ignorant and petty-minded Catholics had their fair share of this ancient curse". (in Ryan 2003:170) Hart's big failure is the inability to note that many Protestants supported the War of Independence. But then to see that would negate the central plank of his argument. More Roman Catholics than Protestants were found to have been and were exposed or shot as informers in West Cork.

Left-wing veneer

Another aspect of Peter Hart's work is the adoption of a sort of sociological history, which gives his analysis a left-wing veneer, evidenced by apparent concern for tramps and vagabonds being the object of IRA attentions. Similarly a hierarchy of rank within the IRA is remarked upon in one of the many asides that clutter Peter Hart's account. Thus the scouts that played an important role during the Kilmichael and other ambushes are “small fry” that are generally written out of history. As Meda Ryan has pointed out (in one of her many lucid findings) this observation bears no relationship whatever to the military situation at the time, to the important and highly exposed role played by scouts, or to the formal recognition afforded to them by Tom Barry and others. What does stand out from Hart's account is a consistently negative attitude to Tom Barry and attempts to undermine his historical standing, despite evidence to the contrary.

Negative view of unionism

What is new in Peter Hart's interview is a more negative view of unionism and its role. Thus, though "there was no ethnic cleansing in the Irish revolution (although the attacks on Catholics in Belfast came close) … unionists had direct links to death squads, and people like Edward Carson encouraged the riots in the shipyards. Incidentally, I think that one of the big untold stories of this period is how Protestant churches behaved In the North - it's not a pretty picture." If nothing else, that comment, if given wide enough currency, may put an end to the promotion of Peter Hart's views by unionist and Orange web sites.

Nationalist rhetoric is recognized as having an anti-sectarian character and intent: "One key difference between North and south was that in the South it was not the Free State or the Catholic church that was responsible for anti-Protestant violence - they were largely blame free."

If that is the case, why does Peter Hart insist that the killings in Dunmanway were carried out on the basis simply of targeting Protestants? If true a blatantly sectarian act and one that Hart says was in keeping with the sectarian and ethnically based war carried out on the republican side (which included those who were to lead the Free State). Of course Meda Ryan has demonstrably set out the circumstances under which, in defiance of an IRA amnesty, these post truce killings of informers and enemy agents took place and their non-sectarian character. She shows the united opposition to the killings from both pro and anti-Treaty sides during this pre-Civil War period.

It may be that Peter Hart has begun to subjectively respond to and to unconsciously accept the criticism of Murphy, Ryan, Lane, Clifford, O'Riordan and others. It may be that some of the criticism is refracted through the academic community. If so it begins to render his overall thesis in relation to ethnic and sectarian conflict in Ireland, to use his own terminology, “incoherent”. Hart says that to impose "categorical differences" between republicanism and unionism is a "partitionist fallacy". However, the only way in which a sectarian form of government could be preserved in Ireland was to allow the creation of sectarian state in Northern Ireland, separate from the non-sectarian character of Irish nationalism, connected to but also separated off from the politics of the British state. In effect a colonial enclave having the trappings but not the substance of democracy.

Peter Hart offers us sectarianism on an all-Ireland basis. His anti partitionism is a justification of Partition on the basis of sectarian irreconcilability.

It is an unfortunate legacy of the 26 County State that the emergence of a vibrant and secular civil society has created an intelligentsia that confuses the ideological history of the state with those who fought to bring it into existence. Almost from the day that Michel Collins was shot the southern state mapped out a policy of conservative ideological control based on the Roman Catholic Church and preservation of the border, combined with a political rhetoric calling for its end. The attraction of Peter Hart's analysis is that it projects this political outlook backwards into the War of Independence period. However, it reads history backwards. This may be a reason why some find Hart's analysis congenial

Examination of the ideas and actions of those who fought the War of Independence reveals that this is not what they had in mind. Britain imposed the Oath of Allegiance and Partition, as it was determined to partly salvage through aggressive diplomacy what could not be achieved in war. For a comparatively short historical period it appeared as though there were two sectarian states — appearance, not reality, there was in truth only one.

Irish nationalists were controlled ideologically in the South, through control by the Roman Catholic Church of many aspects of civil society, and coercively in the North through systems of discrimination and abuse of state power. Since the 1960's they have broken out of the ‘Catholic and Irish' role ordained for them by the settlement imposed by the Treaty of 1921. An assertion of Irishness being equal to Roman Catholicism would be regarded as political lunacy. The association of Protestant and Unionist is still the preserve of unionist political orthodoxy. Unfortunately, there are those who occasionally attempt to project a unionist consciousness on to southern Protestants as a whole and who promote the Orange Order as part of Protestant 'culture'. Protestants in the south usually give them short shrift.

The reason anti-sectarian ideas have such a hold on republican and Irish nationalist consciousness in general is because of the efforts and outlook of Tom Barry, Sam Maguire (a Protestant republican from Dunmanway after whom the GAA all Ireland football trophy is named) and others before and after them.

To get back to Peter Hart, maybe he has moved on from his 1998 work, but he has not answered the criticism. That, by his own admission, we still await. What we have in the History Ireland interview is a combination of defensive assertions and contradictory comments, combined with a sexist characterization of the work of Meda Ryan.

Meeting on nationalist culture in city of culture in Imperial Hotel April 15
Meeting on nationalist culture in city of culture in Imperial Hotel April 15

author by James Mayburypublication date Thu Mar 31, 2005 21:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Why doesn't Peter Hart come down from his ivory tower and tell his story to Joe Public. If he can tell students in Maynooth, why not the rest of us?

Are there any students out there who went to the talk last December? What was said? Is it all a big secret?

Do the academics in Maynooth support the use of source material by Hart that Brian Murphy spotted? What does Hart say about this? Why is he as anonymous as his sources?

And I thought ivory tower types were all in favour of open discussion. Are we too thick to appreciate the finer points, or something?

author by Nick Folleypublication date Thu Mar 31, 2005 23:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In relation to the issue of sectarianism raised by Peter Hart, it must be pointed out that the first challenge to the authority of the Catholic Church in 20th century Ireland (as far as I'm aware) was by the IRA in Cork. Tom Barry recalled that when Dr.Coholan issued his edict in 1920 excommunicating IRA members, those who were devout Catholics had to do some serious soul-searching, as a Bishop's edict and excommunication were not to be taken lightly. They noted with irony how the Bishop had been silent on atrocities by British forces, such as the murder of Canon Magnier by the Black & Tans. Having considered, they saw the Bishop's edict for the political pronouncement it was and ignored it. Many simply went to mass in a parish where they weren't known. It must be pointed out that these IRA men had not rejected their Catholic beliefs or even the Church itself, but its attempts to intervene in a political way on behalf of the British Establishment. The Church had taken the side of the British Establishment more-or-less since the foundation of Maynooth. This was the price it paid for the right to educate its priesthood in Ireland as opposed to having to send them abroad (the case under the Penal laws).
Though the IRA membership was mainly drawn from the Catholic population (hardly surprising even statistically, as they were a majority of the population) there were also Protestants, atheists and agnostics in their ranks. While many rank and file clergy supported the IRA (less so during the Civil War) it received cold comfort from the main hierarchy. Those who still believe that the IRA was some sort of sectarian puppet of the Catholic church should consider the above facts carefully.

author by Peter O'Brienpublication date Fri Apr 01, 2005 11:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Speaking of Percival, whose troops beat and tortured prisoners senseless, some (those not executed) so badly they never recovered their health.

The Essex Regiment Major (later Lt General in charge of the British Garrison of 90,000 in Singapore that surrendered to a smaller force of Japanese) sent word in the early 1960s through a third party that he would like to meet Barry. Reportedly Barry replied: only on condition that he could bring his revolver.

When Barry was told that Percival was awarded the OBE for his actions in Ireland in 1920-22 he retorted: “Good old OBE! Percival should have got a bar to it for his valiant defence of Singapore.”

After the publication of Guerrilla Days in Ireland in 1949 Percival threatened to sue. Barry sent word to Percival that he would have to sue in Ireland .…. Percival replied: “I have my cottage and my pension. I’ll keep away from Barry”.

Then there is the apocryphal story that Japanese troops entering Singapore were singing “The Boys of Kilmichael”…… But this is as yet unverified.

author by Hist 2publication date Fri Apr 01, 2005 20:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What about those who had to flee Ireland during the Civil War when C.I.D. were on the hunt? What about those IRA men who were shot while unarmed by Free State forces? They can't all have been victims of sectarianism.

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Wed Apr 06, 2005 17:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The interview with Peter Hart - the subject of my piece above - is online at:


author by Manus O’Riordanpublication date Wed Apr 06, 2005 18:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ballingeary Historical Society Journal 2005


by Manus O’Riordan

[ Note: The following commemorative article by this “grandson of Ballingeary” was first published in the “Northern Star”, March 2001. It set out to challenge the revisionist attacks on “The Boys of Kilmichael” that had once again surfaced the previous November, on the 80th anniversary of that momentous ambush in this neighbourhood of ours that was of such critical importance to the War of Independence and the course of Irish history itself. Since then, the Kilmichael controversy has also been dealt with in considerable detail in Meda Ryan’s 2003 biography,”Tom Barry – IRA Freedom Fighter”. ]

Phil Kelleher of Macroom, Co. Cork, a top- class rugby player due to be selected as an Irish international, was aged 23 when shot in the back by two IRA gunmen on the night of October 31, 1920. He had served with distinction as a Captain in Britain's War against Germany, and was awarded a Military Cross. He was now serving in Britain’s War against Ireland as a District Inspector of the RIC and had in fact boasted that he would “clean up” his area. He was accordingly targeted by the local IRA unit for assassination whenever a reprisal might be needed. The occasion finally arose in response to the death in Brixton Prison of the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence Mac Swiney, on October 25, 1920. Kelleher’s death had been ordered by GHQ in Dublin and conveyed to the local unit by that area’s Flying Column Commander, who in turn was held responsible for its effective execution. The Captain of the local unit that actually carried out that execution was subsequently forced to go on the run, although he was never caught. Two young Protestants, Elliot and Chartres, were, however, shot by the IRA, having been accused of informing the Auxiliaries of the Captain’s original whereabouts. The area’s Flying Column Commander was again ultimately responsible for such killings. Two newspaper columnists, Kevin Myers and Eoghan Harris, have, of course, been waging a long campaign against the reputation of West Cork’s Tom Barry, charging him with full responsibility as Flying Column Commander for any deed of this character perpetrated in his area during the War of Independence. And they have damned him accordingly.

Kilmichael Ambush in The Irish Times

The arguments concerning the Kilmichael ambush of November 28, 1920, for which Barry was indeed both fully responsible and directly involved, have raged fast and furious, and those of an earlier controversy were brought together by the Aubane Historical Society in Millstreet and published as a pamphlet entitled “Kilmichael – The False Surrender”. November 28, 2000 marked the 80th anniversary of that ambush and it was commemorated by two significant media events. The “Irish Times” column, “An Irishman’s Diary”, so long the preserve and repository of Shoneen invective on the part of Kevin Myers, and so often devoted to character assassination of Barry, was on that date vacated by its usual occupant. In place of, and by welcome contrast with, the diatribe which we might have expected would otherwise have marked such an anniversary, the slot was instead occupied by a guest columnist, Pádraig Ó Cuanacháin, who celebrated Kilmichael for the foremost historical event that it indeed was. And that evening RTE transmitted a well-researched TV documentary by the Léargas team which pulled no punches in exploring all facets of the Kilmichael ambush, including the pros and cons of Barry’s own role.

Sleeping dogs, however, did not lie still for very long. Four days later, the “Irish Times” of December 2 saw a two pronged counter-offensive launched against Barry’s character – the first in the form of a TV review by Eamon Delaney and the second by Kevin Myers, safely back in his “Irishman’s Diary” spot, and apoplectic that it had been occupied for even a day by the likes of Ó Cuanacháin. Delaney-Myers evoked (or, should I say, provoked) a reply from myself on December 5, which a fortnight later had still not seen the light of day. I continued to pressurise the “Irish Times” with the argument that while they might sometimes publish letters critical of Myers’ style, they were carefully censoring any correspondence that highlighted how Myers persistently got his facts wrong. I pointed out that this would be the third such letter from myself that they were suppressing. On this occasion the pressure worked and the letter was finally published on St. Stephen’s Day 2000, three weeks after submission, although missed by many because of the Christmas holidays. In that letter I argued:

In his review of the Léargas documentary on the Kilmichael ambush (December 2) Eamon Delaney charges that Tom Barry derisively said of the dead Auxiliaries: “We threw them their money and their brandy hip flasks”. Lest such an attributed quotation should now enter the history books and leave Barry damned for gratuitously abusing the corpses of his enemies, it is necessary to set the record straight. Barry in fact took active measures to safeguard the corpses for subsequent identification and Christian burial. His actual words recorded in the documentary were: “We took their arms, took their ammunition, took their notes, notebooks. We left them their money and their brandy flasks and we pulled them away from the lorries – the dead bodies - and we set fire to their two lorries”.

In the same issue (December 2) Kevin Myers objects to Pádraig Ó Cuanacháin’s use of words in saying (November 28) that the totally uninvolved civilian Séamus Ó Liatháin was “murdered in cold blood” but that the Auxie storm-trooper Cecil Guthrie was “executed”. Yet in what Myers refers to as “Peter Hart’s outstanding study” Guthrie is also described as “executed”. What Hart nonetheless fails to mention is that in one of the reference works which he himself cites, Father Pat Twohig’s “Green Tears for Hecuba”, Guthrie was identified as the actual Auxie who had murdered Ó Liatháin in Ballymakeera.

Myers proceeds to re-echo Hart’s incorrect claim that Ó Liatháin was “the only person killed by the Macroom Auxiliaries before Kilmichael”. They were in fact in the process of establishing a reign of terror over what they regarded as the untermenschen of the West Cork Gaeltacht.
(Note: “Untermenschen”, literally “less than men”, was the term used by the German Nazis to describe those whom they regarded as “lesser breeds”, the indigenous inhabitants of Eastern Europe whose countries they had invaded and occupied). Sunday after Sunday the Auxies systematically descended on Ballingeary at Mass-time in order to corral and abuse the villagers as they emerged from worship. And in a “shoot-to-kill” mission on November 10, 1920 they murdered the unarmed Volunteer Criostóir Ó Luasa in the neighbouring townland of Túirín Dubh. Hart chose to make no reference whatsoever to this murder, nor to the subsequent encounter between the gloating Auxies and the local parish priest and Gaelic scholar, an t-Athair Donncha Ó Donnchú, at whom they gleefully roared “There’s work for you back there!”.

By way of contrast with the vendetta pursued against Barry’s reputation, the Gaeltacht Volunteer leader Micheál Ó Súilleabháin was one IRA commander about whom Hart could not find a bad word to say. He referred to Ó Súilleabháin’s annoyance at having to cancel his own plans to attack Macroom Castle after Kilmichael. But he avoided quoting what Ó Súilleabháin actually wrote of Kilmichael in the latter’s own memoirs, “Where Mountainy Men Have Sown”. For Ó Súilleabháin clearly set the ambush in the context of what proved to be unmentionable for Hart, the murder of Criostóir Ó Luasa:

“He was not armed. It was a pity, for it was a remarkable fact that even a shot or two exchanged with these warriors disturbed their aim unduly. A few weeks later these marauding Auxiliaries were trapped at Kilmichael, a few miles to the south of our area. Seventeen of them were killed”.

Indeed they were, and the course of the War of Independence was altered

Auxies – Marauding or Diciplined

So much for my reply to the “Irish Times” attacks. On November 26, both Eoghan Harris in the “Sunday Times” and John A. Murphy in the “Sunday Independent” had also previewed the TV documentary at length under their respective headings of “Kilmichael Gives up its Secrets” and “Bloody Fable of Kilmichael’s Dead”. Harris went out of his way to pay homage to “Peter Hart in his classic book ‘The IRA and its Enemies’ “. But then he appeared to pull back somewhat from such a wholehearted commitment: “I do not fully accept Hart’s version”. Harris nonetheless presented the marauding Auxies of Macroom as being guilty of no more than going on “a routine patrol” through Kilmichael. He went on to lay great emphasis on the fact that they were “mostly junior officers in their twenties” who had an OBE, three Military Crosses and a distinguished Flying Medal between them from the First World War and were now serving in Ireland “to taste again the comradeship of campaigning in arms”. He also argued the following on their behalf:

“My account does not depict the Auxiliary Officers – as Cork Republican folklore does – as faceless digits who got their just deserts. If that were true, the comrades of the dead men would have taken a savage revenge. Far from doing so, the Auxiliaries around Macroom remained disciplined”.

No revenge? Within a fortnight of Kilmichael, on December 11, 1920, the centre of Cork City was destroyed by fire in an Auxie-led pogrom.
( During the course of that night they effectively murdered an elderly Jewish lady who had come to Cork as a refugee in order to escape from the pogroms of Tsarist Russia,but who now suffered a heart attack and died as the Auxies ransacked her Tuckey Street home. In the early hours of the morning they went on to break into a house in Dublin Hill where they murdered out of hand two unarmed Republicans asleep in their beds, the brothers Cornelius and Jeremiah Delaney. ) Days later, on December 15, the Macroom Auxies also murdered the parish priest of Dunmanway, Canon Magner, shooting him dead by the side of the road. The Auxie murderer in question was, by ironic coincidence, also named Hart.

Harris’s own modified version of Peter Hart went as follows:
“Barry was determined to take no prisoners so as to build a personal legend … At no stage of my life did I believe in the fake surrender. I believe that Barry used a wounded Auxiliary’s dying shot to coerce his shocked men into murdering the survivors – and did most of the dirty work himself … Professor John A. Murphy, a local man who has heard the folklore, does not swallow the story (of the fake surrender) either”.

John A. Murphy And Bishop Buckley

The problem for Harris, however, is that it is not at all clear any longer what it is that Murphy believes on the matter. Previewing the TV documentary to be shown two nights later, Harris prepared his loyal readership for disappointment in the Professor:

“Murphy and Dr. Buckley, The Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross, will be among those taking part. But in view of the prevailing pietas I shall be surprised if they dance on Barry’s grave”.

Inchigeela’s own Bishop Buckley, of course, proved to be as much an irritant to the “Irish Times” as he was to Harris. Eamon Delaney snidely commented:

“At the end, Bishop Buckley, a ‘local man’, said that ‘The Boys of Kilmichael’ was a great song: ‘I’d sing it for you, only I’ve no great voice’ No Bishop, please don’t. I’m sure you’ve got other things to be doing”.
And in the same issue Myers opined:

“Now what happened in Kilmichael – whatever it was – should not be the subject of pride, or boastfulness, or vainglorious satisfaction, and least of all song … It is an obscenity to carol joyfully at such things, as does the song with which the (Ó Cuanacháin) diary began”.

The double think here is quite amazing. Which Bishops are to be told by the “Irish Times” what songs they should or should not sing? Just like any other subject he touches, Myers is also dogmatically opinionated on questions of Church music – whether Catholic or Protestant. Yet he has never once addressed the subject- matter of one of the most powerful Anglican hymns sung by both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England, “ See The Conquering Hero”. This anthem was composed by George Frederick Handel in 1746 in honour of the Duke of Cumberland – already known in England itself as the “Bloody Butcher” because of his conduct at the Battle of Culloden and his follow-up “ethnic cleansing” campaign of massacre, famine and clearances against the Highland clans of the Scottish Gaeltacht. By comparison with the dark reality of genocide that lies behind “The Conquering Hero”, the sentiments of “The Boys of Kilmichael” are positively angelic. Yet the latter song induced a schizophrenic response on the part of John A. Murphy who wrote of his own parents:

‘The Boys of Kilmichael’

“Whenever they sang ‘The Boys of Kilmichael’ (which they rarely did because they found its braggadocio unpleasant and because in any case their nationalist repertoire was too wide and rich) they used the more genteel punch-line about ‘the boys of the column’ making ‘a clean sweep of them all’. However, the no-holds-barred reality of the encounter is more truthfully and more terribly depicted in the vulgarly robust version: ‘the Irish Republican Army made s**t of the whole f***ing lot’.”

But at this point Murphy went a step too far. Perhaps a crudity-for-its-own sake version has now become more popular. But in my own parents’ generation, not to mind Barry’s , such use in company of the “f” word would not have been tolerated. Indeed, in the wider Republican movement nationalist arguments were advanced in an attempt to hold such words at bay by referring to them as “British army language”. Barry would not have countenanced such a performance for a minute. As a 12 year old boy in September 1961 I was privileged to participate in an extensive tour of Kilmichael, Crossbarry and other West Cork battle sites that was conducted by Barry himself and other veterans of his Flying Column, including Battalion Commandant Jim Hurley (a distant relative of mine), Tom Kelleher, Pete Kearney and Jack Hennessy. And when at the end of the day that song was once again sung in honour of these heroes, the words were as I had always heard them sung, describing the Auxies only too accurately in every sense of the word as “the whole bloody lot”.

Murphy became even more schizophrenic when referring to Hart’s arguments:

“The ‘false surrender’ incident has been much disputed, most recently in a detailed analysis by historian Peter Hart in his admirable book, ‘The IRA and Its Enemies’…”

Dr. Jeremiah Kelleher

Having expressed such admiration for Hart and gone on to nit-pick Barry’s accounts, Murphy then proceeded to sit on the fence. His most coherent contribution as Harris’s “local man” was to recall the role of his family GP, the Macroom coroner Dr. Jeremiah Kelleher. He did indeed testify to the personal integrity of that Catholic loyalist:

“Kelleher had been personally affected in the course of the Troubles when his son, a RIC Officer, had been shot dead by the IRA … Though he made no secret of his anti-nationalist views, it is said that he won the respect of his enemies for unfailingly answering the call of duty in tending confidentially to wounded volunteers.”

In highlighting how it had been Kelleher who had conducted the autopsy on the bodies of the dead Auxies, Murphy went on:

“His bristling integrity commands respect for his Kilmichael evidence. While not corroborating the wilder British charges of ‘hideous mutilation’, the doctor testified that the Auxies had been riddled with bullets, three had been shot at point-blank range, several had been shot after death, and another’s head had been smashed open”.

But all that this was evidence of was the ferocity of the battle, and told us nothing about the circumstances of surrender, whether false or true. In the end Murphy climbed back up on the fence concerning that particular issue:

“No Room For Sentimentality……..”

“There is no room for Thomas Davis parlour-sentimentality in guerrilla warfare, any more than there is for the Queensberry Rules or the Geneva Convention. That is why the ‘false surrender’ controversy is irrelevant … At Kilmichael, Tom Barry’s guerrillas did what guerrillas do”.

But the controversy is not at all irrelevant since it constituted a central thesis of what Murphy himself referred to as Hart’s “admirable book”. Harris was obviously quite annoyed that Murphy’s backsliding on that issue had gone further than his own. Even less palatable was the fact that in both the TV documentary and his own newspaper article Murphy made it clear that the Kilmichael ambush took place in the context of a War of Independence being waged in the face of Britain’s bloody denial of the right of national self-determination. As Murphy put it:

“There were many factors at work during the Winter/Spring of 1920-21 which must be considered in explaining the radical change in British offers to nationalist Ireland over that period, from modest devolution to the substance of independence. But the role of the guerrilla struggle cannot be gainsaid … There is more than an element of truth (making due allowances for local boasting) in the claim made by that other ballad that ‘The boys who beat the Black and Tans were the boys of the County Cork’.”

Harris exited with a rather different conclusion, having berated both Murphy and Bishop Buckley for not dancing on Barry’s grave:
“Let me leave you with a question. After the ambush at Clonfin on February 2, 1921, Seán Mac Eoin bandaged the wounded Auxilaries and sent them home. Which man do we respect most – Barry or Mac Eoin? No need to phone a friend”.

Mouth Of The Glen 1918

Such an example of caring for the enemy wounded had not, however, been the prerogative of Mac Eoin’s Longford. It had also been practised as a matter of principle in West Cork for over two years. It was there that the first post-1916 ambush of armed police took place, and not in Tipperary as is commonly assumed with reference to Dan Breen’s Soloheadbeg ambush on January 21, 1919. Six months previously, Micheál Ó Súilleabháin had led the Béal a’ Ghleanna (Mouth Of The Glen) ambush on July 7, 1918, near the West Cork Gaeltacht village of Ballingeary. It was recounted in his 1965 book “Where Mountainy Men Have Sown”, concerning which Daniel Corkery wrote in his Foreword:

“The book is nothing else than the people’s mind. One might almost say the mind of this rock-built, meagre, sparsely populated terrain – the mind of the Gaeltacht … It tells us of a small enough band of young men – the writer himself was hardly out of his teens – from Coolea, Ballyvourney, Kilnamartyra, Inchigeela, Ballingeary who did not wait to be attacked. Usually they went out to find the enemy”.

And how they engaged with that enemy in their first ambush was described by Ó Súilleabháin thus:

“Dan Mac Sweeney and Liam Twomey presented their revolvers. Their opponent reached for his rifle which lay on the seat inside him. As he grasped it a bullet scarred his neck deeply. He fell from his seat and lay bleeding on the road … Johnny Lynch’s opponent still clung to his rifle. He shouted for mercy, and said he was a married man with a wife and family depending on him; yet he would not relinquish the rifle. Johnny, for a reasonable time, had taken him as easily as he possibly could. He had risked life and liberty to spare him, even after hearing him boast of how the (Crown forces’) machine-gun had frightened the people at Coolea. Now he had to treat him roughly, and when Johnny straightened himself up holding the captured rifle, the RIC man lay on the ground bruised and vanquished … The man scarred by the bullet said nothing. Indeed it was a matter of regret with the Volunteers who knew him, and especially with Johnny who had experience of his courtesy during a raid on his house, that he should have been hurt. They rejoiced when they learned that his wound was not serious”.

Ó Súilleabháin’s instincts were to be no less chivalrous to British Army opponents. Two years later he led the ambush and capture of two heavily-armed military lorries outside Ballingeary on July 27, 1920. In the face of “a long line of men, with guns pointing ominously”, the troops in the first lorry surrendered immediately at Keimaneigh. But it was different with the second lorry at Túirín Dubh:

Ballingeary Lorries

“The order to surrender was not in this case complied with. Throwing themselves flat, they took the best cover available around and under the lorry. A volley from the lads tore splinters from the woodwork over their heads and rattled on the ironwork. That helped them to decide otherwise. A white flag was raised on a rifle … Always, when Tommy was reasonable, we gave him the benefit of the doubt. The Tommies from Keimaneigh were now brought over, and the thirteen were taken to a nearby disused house. A fire was lighted, kettles were boiled and tea was made for them. After the tea, which they much appreciated, three men marched them, two deep, down the road through the village. Showing them the road to Macroom, they told them that they were free to go in that direction”.

Events in Ballyvourney

The following month, at the Slippery Rock ambush on August 17, 1920, the British soldiers had not obeyed the call to surrender. In the ensuing exchange of fire their officer, Lieutenant Sharman, had been killed outright and four of his men wounded, though not badly. Ó Súilleabháin tended to their wounds and sent them on their way.

Within a few weeks, however, the character of warfare in the area dramatically altered, and it was Britain itself that brought about such a transformation. On Sunday, September 5, 1920, as people emerged from mid-day Mass at Ballyvourney Church, a covered British army lorry seemed to break down and apparently could not be repaired either by its own crew or by the soldiers from an accompanying open lorry. Having finally said to “let it there to hell”, all of these soldiers mounted the open lorry and drove away. Sometime later a number of unarmed Volunteers were brought over by the local children and lifted a corner of the lorry’s body covering to investigate. Ó Súilleabháin related:

“From within came a fusillade of rifle shots. Liam Hegarty, whether hit or not, managed to cross a low bank which served as the road fence on his side. Then turning left he travelled in its small shelter for a short distance before he fell. The other Volunteers and the children all escaped injury. However, a young man, Michael Lynch, lived a few hundred yards down the road to Macroom. Hearing the shooting he ran on to the roadway. He was mortally wounded by a rifle bullet. Whether the killers in the lorry aimed at him or not is not certain. But it is certain that one of the miscreants crossed the fence and shot Liam Hegarty again as he lay wounded”.

Ó Súilleabháin’s book, like many another that could give the lie to Hart, is long out of print. His summation of this critical turning point is as follows:

“What was the motive for this killing? The enemy did not mention any, but we came to the conclusion that it must have been a reprisal for recent attacks on them. The last action had taken place less than three weeks previously, at the Slippery Rock. Here one officer and ten men, fully armed, had been opposed to a fewer number of the IRA, only two of whom were armed with rifles. The British soldiers had been invited to surrender before fire was opened on them. The officer in charge had been killed and four men wounded, but there had been no unnecessary shooting … We had taken them as easily as we could possibly have done, and had helped the wounded to the best of our ability. The treacherous killing of an unarmed IRA man and a civilian, and the attempted massacre of others, including children, was not far off the Cromwell standard. Whether the motive was just a vengeful one, or calculated to inspire terror, its result fell very short of the mark. At that time the people of Ballyvourney, and indeed of all our area, would not yield an inch to tyranny or terror”.

“Bandage” Test

In spite of such murders and a further one in his own area of West Cork, none other than Tom Barry himself was also passing Harris’s “bandage” test with flying colours, in the hope that such murders would be the exception that proved the rule. In “Guerrilla Days in Ireland” Barry described as follows the outcome of the fight at Toureen on October 22, 1920:

“Five of the enemy were dead, including Captain Dickson, four were wounded and six unhurt, except for shock … Not one of the IRA was hit. The members of the Column helped to make the wounded Essex comfortable and supplied bandages to the unwounded for their comrades. The dead were pulled away from the vicinity of the lorry and it was sprinkled with petrol. The unwounded Essex were then lined up and told that their ruffianism during raids, their beatings of helpless prisoners and their terrorism of the civilian population were well noted, that their torturing of prisoners, as in the case of Hales and Harte, were not forgotten. They were also reminded that, in September, they had arrested Lieutenant John Connolly, Bandon, an unarmed man, and after holding him for a week in the barracks had taken him out to Bandon Park and had foully murdered him there. It was pointed out to them that on that day (at Toureen) they had been treated as soldiers, but if they continued to torture and murder they could expect to be treated only as murderers. An Essex sergeant, who was now in charge, then thanked the IRA for their fair treatment and protested his innocence of murder and torture, stating he would carry the message to his officers and comrades”.

To no avail. Britain had now unleashed the Auxies on the scene. Their false surrender would cost Barry the lives of two of his men at Kilmichael. But there would also be two Auxie murders in the weeks beforehand. To return to Ó Súilleabháin’s narrative:

“The next shooting, the cold-blooded and deliberate murder of a civilian, took place in the village of Ballymakeera on the evening of November 1, 1920 … The Auxies from Macroom, in the twilight, appeared in the village. One of their number entered a house, called out a married man named Jim Lehane (Séamus Ó Liatháin), a man who would not hurt a fly, and taking him across the road, shot him dead. Nine days later we lost Christy Lucey (Críostóir Ó Luasa) at Túirín Dubh, Ballingeary … He was not armed … A few weeks later these marauding Auxiliaries were trapped at Kilmichael … “.

So much for Hart’s false claim that “their first and only victim before Kilmichael was James Lehane”. Britain had indeed altered the character of warfare prior to Kilmichael but Kilmichael in turn altered the course of the war itself. And Ó Súilleabháin, who had all of the noble attributes that Harris would seek to personify in Mac Eoin, exulted in Barry’s victory. Moreover, Harris’s attempt to canonise Mac Eoin in order to demonise Barry is a non-starter. For there can be little doubt that the Flying Column Commander leader in Mac Eoin himself would also have led him to exult in his fellow-Commander’s victory.

Harris’s portrait of Seán Mac Eoin as a plaster saint was a smart alec stunt that carefully avoided any serious examination of the man’s own fighting record. But why, when he damned Barry for Kilmichael, did Harris make no mention at all of Dr. Kelleher, the Macroom coroner who had performed the autopsy on the Auxies’ corpses, and still less of his RIC son Phil whose Military Cross from the First World War was at least as significant as those listed by Harris in respect of the dead Auxies?

The problem for Harris is that Tom Barry was in no way responsible for the shooting of Phil Kelleher, nor for the follow-up killings of the two young Protestants charged with informing. That was the responsibility of quite a different Flying Column Commander – Harris’s own momentary hero, no less. For District Inspector Kelleher had been shot far from his native Macroom, in the bar of the Granard, Co. Longford hotel where he had taken up residence, the Greville Arms of Michael Collin’s fiancée Kitty Kiernan. In “Green Tears for Hecuba”, Pat Twohig puts it thus:

“Kelleher had been ‘unguarded’ in his remarks about the IRA in the wrong place, General Seán Mac Eoin’s home ground”.

With Kitty Kiernan herself serving in the bar, Kelleher had been drinking sherry and talking about the fine inexpensive wine to be got in France. Kitty had made her excuses to go upstairs and the piano started playing. Whereupon two men came to the door and shot Kelleher in the back. He immediately fell to the floor in a pool of blood. And in Seán Mac Eoin’s own memoirs, “With the IRA in the Fight for Freedom”, he dismissed Kelleher as “a young ex-army officer who was given orders to take action against the IRA and clean up the area”.

To borrow the language of what John A. Murphy said of Barry at Kilmichael, we might therefore conclude:

“At Granard, Seán Mac Eoin’s guerrillas did what guerrillas do”.

And the attempt by assorted revisionist scribes to denigrate the Kilmichael ambush, which struck such a mortal blow against the most powerful Empire in the world, is seen to be incapable of withstanding the light of day.

author by Manus O'Riordanpublication date Wed Apr 06, 2005 18:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish Literary Supplement ( Boston ), Fall, 2004


Tom Barry: Irish Freedom Fighter
Mercier Press, 2003, €30.00

His Memoir of the Irish War of Independence
Aubane Historical Society, 3rd edition, 2004, €15.00

Reviewed by


“Tom Barry’s targets were local Catholics who were attempting to derive sectarian advantage against their Protestant neighbors in West Cork. Protestant farmers warmly thanked and praised Barry for the armed IRA protection he provided them against the threat of sectarian abuse”


Tom Barry was not only the outstanding military leader of the War of Independence in West Cork. His own 1949 book Guerrilla Days in Ireland also established him as one of the foremost historians of that War. Yet on the two occasions in my life when I encountered Barry I failed to seize the opportunity to engage him in conversation.

The first is more explicable in terms of age. I was just a twelve year old schoolboy in 1961 when I was taken on a tour of the West Cork battle sites that was conducted by Barry himself. I was introduced to him, obtained his autograph and was even induced to sing Brendan Behan’s Auld Triangle in his presence. But I was too shy, and too much in awe of the man whom I had just heard give vivid accounts of the military engagements he had commanded four decades previously at Kilmichael and Crossbarry, to actually converse.

In my teenage years, when I went on to devour Barry’s own book from cover to cover, that awe turned to even more profound respect. And yet when I saw him again in Cork in 1975 at the funeral of a mutual trade union friend I still could not bring myself to talk with him. This, however, was more refusal than reluctance, prompted by anger rather than awe. For I had been thoroughly opposed to Barry’s pronouncements which seemed to give his blessing to a war in Northern Ireland, even though his own chivalrous approach to warfare would lead him to condemn attacks on civilian targets. His mistake was to underestimate the substance of Northern Ireland's majority Protestant community by considering it little different from the Southern Loyalist minority he had to deal with in West Cork.

Reading Meda Ryan’s full-life biography reconfirms the two rather conflicting emotions I had felt in Barry’s presence. He emerges warts-and-all, inclusive of simplistic “solutions” to Partition. There is, however, a pernicious view pushed by historical revisionists that somehow the peace process would be further assisted by painting the War of Independence that Barry himself actually fought in 1919-21 as a disreputable one replete with sectarian and other war crimes. Nothing else can explain the award of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize to Peter Hart for his 1998 book The IRA and its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork 1916 - 1923. Meda Ryan’s biography is all the more welcome, then, as an outstanding tour-de-force which demolishes Hart’s much acclaimed reputation as a pathbreaking historian when it comes to his most controversial allegations against Barry.

These primarily centre on whether or not Barry had behaved as a war criminal at the Kilmichael ambush of November 1920. Hart insists that British troops were massacred after the battle had concluded. Barry, however, always maintained that the Auxiliaries had pulled the stunt of a false surrender in order to inflict further casualties on his own volunteers, and only then had he insisted on a fight to the finish. Hart opts for the British version and places Barry’s account in quotation marks as a “history” that is “riddled with lies and evasions”.

Ryan painstakingly reconstructs the Kilmichael ambush from every bit of evidence available, ranging from her own earlier pioneering research in collecting the eye-witness accounts of named participants in that fight to a demolition of “evidence” presented by Hart from unnamed people who were in fact in no position to witness what had happened. But she goes much further than that. Responding to Hart’s assertion that Barry had not thought of presenting the “false surrender” argument in his 1932 Irish Press article on Kilmichael, Ryan comes up trumps with a letter from Barry to the editor protesting at that section of his submitted article being omitted from publication. Finally, Ryan subjects to rigorous linguistic analysis one of Hart’s prize exhibits, which he claimed was an authentic report written by Barry himself in 1920, but later captured by the British military authorities. She convincingly demonstrates how Barry could not have written it, with the coup-de-grace being her restoration of a sentence that Hart himself carefully omitted, the erroneous statement that Volunteer Pat Deasy had been killed outright during the ambush itself, rather than dying from his wounds shortly afterwards. Hart’s evasion grew like Pinocchio’s nose, rapturously admired by revisionist academia as an outstanding piece of art, until it has now fallen off under the full glare of Ryan’s relentless research.

Like a heroine of a historical version of Crime Scene Investigation, Ryan’s forensic expertise is employed to demolish another hare set running by Hart, namely, that the Boys of Kilmichael had engaged in a sectarian pogrom against West Cork Protestants during the Truce period of 1922. Following the murder of a Republican by Loyalists whose car he was attempting to "borrow", there had indeed been a number of Protestants murdered, but not because they were Protestants. Tom Barry had at a very early stage decided that his own history of the War of Independence would not name the British Army's informers of those years, out of consideration for the feelings of their families. Hart, by way of contrast, in shouting from the roof-tops the names of all those Protestants killed in April 1922, and presenting them as religious martyrs whose images might properly adorn a memorial banner, left Ryan with no alternative but to publish the evidence that all but two of them had indeed been Loyalist informers. The two exceptions were the brother of one informer and the son of another. My own Clonakilty Republican mother knew the latter Loyalist family, and forty years ago she told me how disgusted the wider Republican community had been at the despicable murder of the young lad.

But neither should the informers themselves have been killed at that stage, since the Truce ceasefire required a line to be drawn under the settling of "old" scores, however recent. Barry, who was based in Dublin at that time, bore no responsibility for such actions. But he did return quickly to West Cork and did indeed drive some people out of the area. His targets were, however, a number of local Catholics attempting to derive sectarian advantage against their Protestant neighbours from the tensions that undoubtedly resulted. And West Cork Protestant farmers went on to warmly thank and praise Barry for the armed IRA protection he provided for them against any such threat of sectarian abuse.

A powerful defence of Barry against revisionist charges of sectarianism was also mounted in January 2004 by the Minister for Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, who is a grandson of de Valera, when he launched the second edition of Seán Moylan’s Memoir. It is a measure of the hunger that now exists for authentic reminiscences of that period that this Memoir, rescued from the dusty archives by the Aubane Historical Society and first published in July 2003, was already into its third edition by April 2004, with Minister Ó Cuív’s Answer to Revisionists now included as an introduction.

Moylan was a carpenter-turned-soldier in leading the War of Independence in North Cork, without having what he himself judged to be Barry's vocation for soldiering per se. Moylan’s memoir is nontheless just as replete with the details of military strategy and tactics as Barry's writings. But there is also evidence of deeper philosophical reflection. Barry, who wrote of coming to an understanding of his own nationality when news of the 1916 Rising reached his British Army regiment as it swept through what afterwards became Iraq, did not indicate any real awareness of the indigenous peoples through whose lands he passed. Moylan’s deeper understanding of a wider world, however, led him to observe that “ the mere Irish” had experienced the “poverty, oppression and that contempt which only the Mississippi Negro knows”. No better man to be appointed Minister for Education by de Valera in 1951!

While Moylan had spent the 1930s developing as a purposeful politician, Barry floundered in an IRA doggedly determined to pursue a mythical Republic and refusing to acknowledge the actual one that de Valera set about constructing in the real world. The mindless murder of Admiral Somerville in 1936, for which Barry must be held responsible but in relation to which he rather shabbily washed his hands in public, must be regarded as his lowest point. Far more creditable were his firm anti-Nazi convictions and his 1937 visit to Germany in order to subvert an earlier attempt by Seán Russell to set a bombing campaign in motion with such a hoped-for ally, although Russell himself was no Nazi .

But it was when Barry finally caught up with Moylan, and not only recognised de Valera’s state but loyally served it during the precarious years of World War Two, that his military skills were once again put to positive and constructive use. While Moylan as a Junior Defence Minister cooperated with the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland in making special provisions for the evacuation of Jewish children if Dublin were in danger of being occupied, Barry offered his services and expertise to Col. M.J. Costello in setting about strengthening the defences of Cork Harbour against any would-be-invader, British or German. Barry was, of course, now working in tandem with an old Civil War foe, that Civil War which Moylan had done his level best to avert and Barry his own best to bring to a speedier end. All the more reason, then, to have regard to Brendan Clifford’s argument in a postscript to the Moylan Memoir, that the Treaty War should not really be called a Civil War at all, in the sense in which that term has applied to other societies, since both sides shared the same ultimate Republican objectives. And nothing demonstrated the healing of old wounds better than when Barry himself unveiled the Michael Collins memorial in 1966.

But the War of Independence itself had certainly been about the self-determination that its name proclaims, notwithstanding the revisionist assaults on the reputations of those who fought it. And in the polemical wars of independence that are now being fought to defend the reputations of such heroes, both Ryan’s biography of Barry and Moylan’s memoir are indeed indispensable weapons, as well as invaluable records to be placed before the Court of History.

author by Jack Lane - Aubane Historical Societypublication date Mon Apr 11, 2005 09:54author email jacklaneaubane at hotmail dot comauthor address Aubane, Millstreet, Co. Corkauthor phone Report this post to the editors

On the 21st October 2004 Peter Hart, in response to a debate on the Web initiated by Niall Meehan (http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=66994) promised to reply to the criticisms of his book on the IRA in Cork (see Irish Political Review, November 2004). He was presented with a perfect opportunity to do this in an interview with Brian Hanley in the current edition of History Ireland (March/April 2005). But the opportunity was not taken. Instead, he goes into total denial. Tom Barry “He’s really a very minor character” we are told. How convenient to dismiss the most successful military leader of the War of Independence and the central figure in Hart’s original book – in which Hart ‘disproves’ Barry’s account of the military encounter at Kilmichael and in particular the report of the ‘false surrender’ by the defeated Auxiliaries which fooled some of the his men and led to the unnecessary deaths of volunteers. Denying the ‘false surrender’ enables Hart to criticise Barry’s subsequent decision to fight the battle to a finish. Hart’s whitewashing of British actions earned him the Ewart Biggs Memorial prize and an honourable place in the pantheon of revisionist historians.

But now that Hart’s thesis has been taken apart, the Kilmichael ambush suddenly becomes a very unimportant part of his book, “only six per cent of my book”, even though that was the part that all his admirers highlighted as the valuable core of his book. Despite all that, the historian is able to claim, “I have yet to see any convincing refutation of anything I have written” which is a joke to anyone who has followed this debate.

‘Honestly – when you are reduced to claiming that documents are forgeries because you can’t deal with the contents….” he declares in exasperation after Meda Ryan has shown that his central documentary source of evidence against Barry was not Barry’s work. This is a new departure in history writing that Hart has created. It is an attempt to apply to the writing of history the recently created legal concept of a ‘Reynolds defence’ used by newspapers to justify libelling people. The most recent example being that of George Galloway MP by the Daily Telegraph using forged documents to discredit him - and failing - but arguing that they were providing a public service in publishing them even if they were forgeries. This type of defence has had no success in law so far. Imagine Mr Hart dealing with Dreyfus or Parnell. He would no doubt be saying something to them along the lines of ‘would you please stop claiming that these are forgeries and instead deal with the contents of the documents – honestly!’ Hart’s argument is the pathetic one that the contents of forgeries are valid despite being forgeries!

When asked how he responds to the specific criticism by Meda Ryan and Brian Murphy he says: “I recently gave a paper at Maynooth rebutting their statements about Kilmichael, but the question is so dependent on factual details that I don't have the space to really say much here.”

So the rebuttal exists and was provided at Maynooth but readers of History Ireland are denied it for reasons of space! Not even a summary of the details for History Ireland? This is what normally historians do. Why not Hart? In his item on the Web he also claimed, “apart from anything else, there isn’t space here”. Not enough space on the World Wide Web either? Where will sufficient space ever be found then? Will it fill to overflowing the known universe when it appears? Then we are told he “…will be going into all that in a full reply to my critics.” So he has rebutted his critics already and he will be rebutting them in the future but will not do so just now in the present. He is like a three card trick man – now you see it, now you don’t.

Meda Ryan’s book, teeming with evidence that contradicts and refutes Hart’s entire case, is dismissed as follows: “Meda Ryan's book contains almost no new evidence but rather attempts to dismiss the witnesses I quote (most of whom were interviewed by someone else) and the report I use to query Barry's later published account. She isn't interested in dealing with the substance of this evidence in a rational way.”

Meda Ryan’s book is chock full of new evidence and detailed analysis. She does not dismiss anyone’s account but simply asked Hart to name the two ambush witnesses he is supposed to have interviewed and she details all the possible witnesses - all now long dead. That is the normal way to help verify such an account. And he still will not do so. Why not? Of course the evidence of all witnesses, including Hart’s anonymous witnesses, as quoted by him, do not deny a false surrender despite Hart’s best effort to insinuate that they do.

So, the story so far is that not a single participant or witness to the ambush, in writing, in statements, in interviews, in sign language or in any other means of human communication has ever denied a false surrender at Kilmichael. As if that was not enough, the leader of the Auxiliaries, General Crozier and Lloyd George’s top adviser, Lionel Curtis agreed on the false surrender. Who, apart from Hart, now says there was no false surrender? All his original supporters and cheerleaders have long since gone mute on the issue, even the voluble Mr. Myers sings dumb about it nowadays. The controversy started by Hart has been useful in establishing the facts once and for all and we must be eternally grateful to him for that. He has in fact created a whole new interest in the War of Independence just when it was fading from memory. The war in Cork has become a new industry for many.

One of Hart’s main props for rebutting the ‘false surrender’ was the fact that Barry made no mention of it in an article he wrote for the Irish Press. Neither of course does Meda Ryan dismiss Barry’s published account. Quite the contrary. She deals with it thoroughly and proves with new documentary evidence that Barry’s full account was not published in the Irish Press and this ruined yet another plank of Hart’s evidence and his accusations of Barry’s ‘lies and evasions’ over the false surrender.

How convenient and outrageous that we have the slur of an irrational woman introduced by Hart in order to evade the forensic and most rational evidence ever published about the issues raised by him. How low will Hart stoop to defend the indefensible? Is there not more than a hint of misogyny here? In any case he says a lot more about himself than he does about Meda Ryan with this scurrilous comment.

In the interview there is a very noticeable shift away from the claim that the war of independence was a sectarian conflict. The killing of the 10 Protestants in Dunmanway is not even mentioned despite its prominent part in his original book with its arresting chapter heading “Taking it out on the Protestants” and its use as absolute proof that the war was sectarian. This was proof positive, was it not, that the war was sectarian? Here was the absolutely convincing evidence for his case. Here were ten smoking guns. And it’s not mentioned in this interview! And it’s not mentioned because Brian Murphy and Meda Ryan established that they were killed because they were informers and not because they were Protestants and she produced the clear documentary proof of this and far from Barry and the IRA condoning it, he and they rushed to protect other Protestants (informers and otherwise) from being killed. Some sectarians eh! She also pointed out, with exact figures, that Barry executed more Catholics as informers than he did Protestants. As a man who was excommunicated five times there is a much better case for making him an anti-Catholic rather than an anti-Protestant. Barry simply did not give a damn about a person’s religion and was typical of all Republicans in that respect.

So Hart moves sharply on. Now his emphasis is on the ‘ethnicity’ of the conflict. Ethnicity is a polite word for race. And not only was the War of Independence an ethnic affair but all before it was an ethnic conflict as well. He says:
“I think it's blindingly obvious that violence had an ethnic basis. The Irish political system before partition was based on ethnic solidarity and division, so how could popular violence derived from rival Unionist and Nationalist mobilisations not be?”

Irish nationalism was in conflict with British rule in Ireland and always had been as it evolved during the 19th century. British rule was its raison d’etre. Like all valid and successful nationalisms Irish nationalism was a force that had superseded and incorporated ethnic and religious differences in its own area of society while naturally consisting mostly of people who were Catholic in religion. British rule had supporters among all the same ethnic and religious groups as well and Britain was predominantly Protestant in religion. There were plenty Castle Catholics, generation after generation, and there were even a fair number of Irish Catholics in the Black and Tans. So ‘ethnicity’ and religion was not the divide in the conflict between the forces of Irish nationalism and British rule. If it was a racial conflict the evidence of such racial conflicts should indeed be ‘blindingly obvious’ and the evidence of massacres, etc., should be all around us. They are part and parcel of racial wars.

And just like his claim to have evidence to rebut his critics on Barry and Kilmichael the evidence for this racial war is very difficult to pin down and in fact it disappears as quickly as it appears. He says:
“But it's important to stress that I don't argue that this was ethnic cleansing. There was no ethnic cleansing in the Irish revolution (although the attacks on Catholics in Belfast came close) but there was ethnically targeted violence. Not that this was the only thing going on, mind you”

So the only element of real ethnic conflict that makes any sense was that used against Irish nationalists in Belfast! The latter can hardly be blamed for that unless of course there is no distinction between perpetrators and victims in Hart’s world – the violence of one equated with that of the other. And that is precisely what he says over and over again: “I argue that the two sides became very much like each other – dirty- as the struggle escalated but I do have the statistics to prove my case.”, “..there were serial killers on both sides; not necessary psychopaths, but individuals and small groups who did the dirty work..” and “the main interpretative reason I included the Kilmichael chapter was to illustrate my general point about how similar the IRA and government forces really became once the struggle got going - they behaved in much the same way and used the same labels and excuses for killing. ” This is reducing history to a meaningless and absurd tit for tat and pretending there is no wood for the trees. One side does something nasty and the other side does something similar so there is no difference between them. The little matter of cause and effect, never mind the right and wrong of the war, does not enter the equation for him.

But of course even if the war was a meaningless cycle of violence Hart is quite clear on which side the blame lies. He says “..the IRA was the single most violent organisation involved - probably responsible for the majority of deaths on its own.” What does this mean? There were approximately 1,000 Irish casualties and approximately 300 British casualties so how was the IRA the most violent organisation? It is very odd that Mr Hanley did not ask him to elaborate. It is another typical piece of Hart’s trickery of the ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ variety at work here. There were a number of ‘single’ armed organisations on the British side fighting the IRA – the RIC, the Auxiliaries, the Black and Tans, the Regular Army and numerous Loyalist vigilante groups numbering a total of 100,000 at the very minimum. The IRA was the only armed force on the Republican side so it is ‘probably’ true (though not at all certain) that it may have killed more than any one of the other ‘single’ forces ranged against it in the field but it is a deceptive and meaningless statistic as all the Crown forces acted as one. Of course, there is no ‘probably’ whatsoever about who caused the war and all the deaths in the first place – the refusal by the Government to accept the result of the 1918 General Election. But this is a non-event for Hart so it’s all violence for violence’s sake on the Irish side and any explanation apart from the obvious will be tried on with his readers, i.e., sectarianism, ethnicity, etc.

He remarks, for example, that ‘If Tom Barry or anybody else takes it upon himself to kill other people then they’d better expect to have their behaviour scrutinised.” giving the impression that this was the way the War of Independence started. But this is exactly what Tom Barry did in another war - the First World War -as he explained very honestly himself in his famous book but his numerous actions in that war are never, ever, scrutinised by Hart or his colleagues. But Barry ‘scrutinised’ himself about them and in the War of Independence decided to fight instead for the elected government of his country because it was attacked and needed to defend itself to survive. But his offensive, reckless, unjustified war record over four years for the British Empire against various peoples across the world is accepted without question by Hart and co. and Barry’s short, limited and fully justified defensive war record in West Cork is endlessly scrutinised in the most minute detail by these people. But Barry only grows in stature under the scrutiny.

This interview shows us the Professor twisting and turning like a pathetic trickster who has been caught out. I doubt if his peers will take him seriously after this. We can only pray for his students.

Jack Lane
Irish Political Review
April 2005

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Brian Murphy

In Defence of Political Culture in Cork during the War of Independence, April 15, Imperial Hotel, Cork.

Audio of the entire Brian Murphy meeting is on INDYMEDIA RADIO at:


author by Jack Lane - Jacklaneaubane (at) hotmail.compublication date Sat May 07, 2005 10:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Indymedia.ie have packaged the audio on


The discussion is continuing there.

author by Jack Lanepublication date Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Letters in response to Peter Hart's interview on Tom Barry, Kilmichael and the conduct of the War of Independence in Cork from Meda Ryan, Niall Meehan and Manus O'Riordan can be found at:


The Editorial announces that Peter Hart wil reply in the next edition of History Ireland (at last!).

Related Link: http://www.historyireland.com/magazine/features/13.3FeatB.html
author by JOHN DOWNEY - NApublication date Mon Jan 23, 2006 21:21author address author phone 508 279 1254Report this post to the editors


author by Niall Meehanpublication date Wed Feb 01, 2006 20:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to keep matters in this debate up to date. Besides the material written here on Indymedia. History Ireland pursued this debate over four issues, from March-April to September-October 2005:

Peter Hart was interviewed by Brian Hanley in History Ireland Vol. 13 No. 2 March/April 2005:


Letters critical of Peter Hart were published in History Ireland Vol. 13 No. 3 May/June 2005:


Peter Hart replied to his critics History Ireland Vol. 13 No. 4 July/August 2005:


Meda Ryan answered Peter Hart in History Ireland Vol. 13 No. 5 September/October 2005:


There were also four letters in critical of Hart's response in the same issue History Ireland Vol. 13 No. 5 September/October 2005:


author by Patrick Kilkee - Private Citizenpublication date Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:47author email pmarrinan at hotmail dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The actions of the British Government's military and intelligence apperatus in the years of Ireland's armed struggle for nationhood (1916-22) mirror those of the same establishment in the years of the modern struggles in the North of Ireland. The speed with which they sought to show the Irish as essentially 2 sectarian tribes going at it is obvious. They, on the other hand, are portrayed by a compliant media as the force of impartiality, reason and common sense among all this meideval hatred. At least that's what they'd like you to believe.

What do we see in both contexts?....

Their British establishment's colusion with murder gangs in both struggles.(or are they part of the same struggle?)

Their efforts at blackening their percieved enemies actions by the use of propaganda, lies and distortions.

Their use of the same terror and torture tactics, they so strongly link to and condemn in their enemies.

Breathtaking hypocracy when they are caught out taking part in such activities. (See FRU in N Ireland)

In short the lies and propoganda make the truth harder to get at but can't hide it fully. Their dirty wars in Ireland are and have always been about controling their troublesome colony. It is a post colonial struggle we see in the North. Any attempt to secterianise it obscures the point and insults the memory of men and women of all faiths and none who struggled to free Ireland from the grip of our imperialist neighbour.

Tom Barry and his comrades in West Cork fought against overwhelming odds and offered a model of guerilla warfare copied by other groups throughout the world in a score of colonial wars. The guerillas had the support, at least tacitly, of the majority of the population in the area and this was a crucial factor in Barry's success. The 1916 rebellion lit a slow fuse and this allied to the 1918 election gave the Nationalists a legitimate mandate to demand their freedom. The reaction to this mandate of the British thereafter made a wider armed conflict inevitable.

We see a variety of revisionist historians seeking to gain noteriety and possibly financial gain by denying long established and well evidenced truths. (David Irving and the holocaust denial industry come to mind.) There is a place for maverik historians who seek to clarify and challenge, however this must be in the context of balanced, proportionate and well evidenced research. Mr Hart fails in these terms. I would ask all people of integrity to look at the evidence and judge for themselves what happened in those sad and lamentable years. I would also ask that they remember all victims of that struggle and look to build a new and modern Ireland where all are accepted and the past become history to be explored and debated, and not shackles to hold us back.

Rest in Peace all who died in Ireland's struggle.

author by Arthur Wysepublication date Mon Feb 02, 2009 00:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Surely the overall purpose of Niall Meehan's historical inquiries into the Kilmichael ambush should be to determine what actually happened rather than to attack Peter Hart? Most importantly, neither Niall Meehan or Meda Ryan can adequately explain why other accounts of the ambush, especially those from the Bureau of Military History, that make no mention of a false surrender and in fact claim that IRA volunteers who died were killed in battle, NOT as the result of a false surrender. For me, the BMH records are strong evidence against a false surrender of the kind Tom Barry claimed. I recommend anyone who wishes to read an unbiased survey of the evidence to read Seamus Fox's piece; his analysis is very thorough and stresses the importance of the BMH accounts:


Related Link: http://webpages.dcu.ie/~foxs/irhist/Kilmichael%20
author by Guppypublication date Sun Sep 06, 2009 12:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article above, (no author name that I could see) says "Hart must know that Ryan has shown conclusively that those shot in Dunmanway were on a list of “helpful citizens”, left behind by K Company of the Auxiliaries when they left Dunmanway Workhouse. It is but one example of new evidence produced by Ryan. Her relating of the list to the existence of the paramilitary loyalist gangs that operated with British forces is also new."

Apart from the fact that even Meda Ryan says some of the 13 Protestants killed were not on the 'list of helpful citizens' these documents are inaccessible.

Where are the originals and why are they hidden from sight? Until they can be inspected their veracity, and indeed their value, has to be viewed sceptically.

And does listing as 'helpful' warrant execution in a conflict?

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