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War Of Independence Debate On Sectarianism Descends On Unassuming Offaly

category national | history and heritage | feature author Friday February 24, 2006 09:46author by Pat Muldowney Report this post to the editors

featured image
Republican Prisoners, 1921

Eoghan Contradictions Harris Plays Both An Orange Protestant Card And A Green Catholic Card: A Story In Four Parts

Extract: "In the Sunday Independent Eoghan Harris played both an Orange Protestant card and a Green Catholic Card in an effort to explain away this historical context, in dealing with one of the last acts of the War of Independence. In so doing he sought to arouse sectarian feeling where there is little if any. It was the Republican side that overtly rejected an association of religion and nationality. The empirical evidence thus far uncovered supports this contention. In their courageous determination to keep politics separate from religion, and to sweep away centuries-old divisions, Republicans of the Protestant faith broke with the historical identification of their community, while Catholic Republicans defied the ultimate sanction of excommunication from their church. But in playing with sectarian fire, Eoghan Harris risks undoing 80 intervening years that have tended towards harmony and reconciliation."

An account of apparently sectarian murders by the IRA in Co. Offaly in 1921 was publicised by Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent in October 2005. The allegation of the sectarian murder of the apparently unassuming Protestant Pearson family of Coolacrease was made by William Stanley of Carlow in his "I met Murder on the Way - The Story of the Pearsons of Coolacrease" (2005). This account of events that took place during the Irish War of Independence was then promoted by Eoghan Harris and by the Sunday Independent.

In the course of his analysis Eoghan Harris criticised Protestants in the South for not supporting his analysis and that of the Reform Group: "a group which wants to dig up the buried British and Protestant parts of Irish identity", according to Harris.

This article gives readers the other side of the story, the side ignored by Harris and the Reform Group, and by the Sunday Independent.

Part 1: "Invincible Innocence"

Eoghan Harris wrote in the Sunday Independent on October 9th 2005, under the heading, "This tree has rotten roots and bitter fruit".

He said that "The story Alan Stanley tells ... touches a raw nerve in the Irish Republic. .... He tells how in June 1921, shortly before the Truce, an IRA gang descended on a defenceless Protestant farm family, the Pearsons of Coolacrease, Co Offaly, and carried out an appalling atrocity.

Alan's account asks awkward questions, not just of Roman Catholic nationalists, but of those who call themselves Protestant republicans. But first let me say why the story affected me so deeply at a personal level. The Pearsons of Coolacrease belonged to a small Protestant sect called the Cooneyites, whom Alan Stanley aptly compares to the Amish of Pennsylvania."


Harris then relates a personal encounter with a "Cooneyite" family in Cork in the 1950s and concluded, "I have never forgotten their aura of invincible innocence".

Harris continued, "It was the start of my life-long respect for low-church Protestants. Tildy Pearson would have looked like the girl with the gloves whom I saw in my father's store so many years ago, and who thanked me with a sweetness which still breathes its benediction after almost 50 years.
To attack a family like that calls to high heaven for atonement. Alan Stanley's book helps make historical amends, not only to the Pearsons, but to the 50,000 Protestants who were bullied, frightened and burned out of their modest farms, both before and after the Truce, and whose story has been suppressed by nationalists."


"Cowardly desires" of "Dublin Protestants"

Harris claimed, "Most Dublin Protestants don't know anything about the atrocities against their rural co-religionists in places like Cork, Carlow and Longford. And most don't want these tragedies dragged up because it is socially inconvenient. But their cowardly desires do not close the case. .....

The Pearsons suffered in silence. So did thousands of Protestants in modest circumstances. And I have a hunch that the persistent self-suppression of this dark history and the policy of keeping the head down must have done some damage to the Southern Protestant psyche."


Martin Mansergh - "posh southern Protestant"

Harris then goes on to criticise Senator Martin Mansergh as a "posh southern Protestant" who "provides a rotten role model for any young Protestant Irishman", principally because, like many southern Protestants, he does not agree with Eoghan Harris's view on these matters. Senator Mansergh is an advisor to The Taoiseach on Northern Ireland.

Harris declared, "from my Roman Catholic nationalist background" that he would like to "put the matter simply. The Pearson family did not deserve what was done to them, and neither did the 50,000 artisans and farmers who were driven out of their homes and across the world. Facing our tribal past helps us understand the fears of Northern Protestants - and is good for our souls. That is why I reject the right of posh Protestants to plant some green plastic Tree of Liberty with Gerry Adams."

Reform Group and Orange Order

While not referring to the events in Offaly in the October 16th edition of the Sunday Independent, Harris did return to the theme of condemnation of those who do not agree with him that Protestants in the South suffered the type of discrimination endured by Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. In fact, "the main purveyors" of the contrary view are "southern Protestant spokespersons", he asserted.

Eoghan Harris returned to the fray in the Sunday Independent of October 23rd with a highly personalised attack on someone he sees as a "southern Protestant spokesperson", Martin Mansergh.

"Dr Martin Mansergh .... has a posh accent. I could almost hear his dulcet tones in his Irish Times column last week. He commented "Southern Protestants like American loyalists in the early 1788s, and European settlers in colonial Africa in the 1950s and 1960s lost out, and there are many sad and some tragic stories.""

Harris again mentioned "the atrocity against the Pearsons of Coolacrease" and said that he resented "Mansergh's alleged reference to people like me who are members of Reform, a group which wants to dig up the buried British and Protestant parts of Irish identity."

The Reform group was set up by members of the Dublin and Wicklow lodges of the Orange Order. They do indeed attempt to conjoin the terms Protestant and British in Ireland in perpetuity, though today without the overt association with the highly contentious Orange Order that marches incessantly each year in Northern Ireland on behalf of an assertion that Protestantism and Britishness are one and the same thing.

Harris asserted: "I reject the slur that I poke around in the past in order to make a Unionist case. Not true. I do so in order to make a moral case. I want to show that neither the Irish Republic nor Northern Ireland has clean historical hands in the matter of dealing with their minorities.

I also reject Dr Mansergh's use of the term "outsiders" in a context that seems to reject the right of people who are not members of the Church of Ireland to comment on the treatment of southern protestants. As a cradle Roman Catholic I consider that a trifle tribal. After all, I could consider him an outsider too.

As the scion of an Anglo-Irish family, Dr Mansergh was educated in a British public school, speaks with a posh English accent, and has the air of an English gentleman - all of which were big attractions for Charles Haughey. But I would no more call Dr Mansergh an " outsider" than I would call Dean Swift."


Those who allegedly suffered discrimination actively conspire to keep silent about it. How very strange. And how it is that, in the absence of a body of assertive Protestants, it becomes the task of a "cradle Roman Catholic" to set the record straight for posterity.

Part 2: Alternative account with no axe to grind

Detailed local history refutes sectarianism accusation

We now turn to an alternative version of the events on which Eoghan Harris based his vitriol.

A six-sentence letter from a Patrick Heaney, Cadamstown, Birr, Co Offaly, appeared on October 16th in the Sunday Independent, between Eoghan Harris's October 9th and 23rd pieces on the subject:

"Sir - I would like to remind Eoghan Harris that there are two sides to every story. I interviewed men and women who were involved during that period of our history.

These findings I have documented in my book At the Foot of Slieve Bloom, which was published in December 2000.

There were six Protestant families living in the Cadamstown area during that period. They were never molested or harmed in any way. Let our readers judge for themselves."


Patrick Heaney's account was published within an unassuming, though well presented, volume of local history. It had no apparent axe to grind.

It is a history of the area around Cadamstown in Co. Offaly, which is close to the county boundary with Laois, about halfway between Birr and Tullamore, the two principal towns of Offaly. The Slieve Bloom Mountains straddle the boundary between counties Laois and Offaly. In a small farming area, the Pearsons were big farmers, on about 300 acres. There were three sons and several daughters. Previously resident near the Laois-Kilkenny county boundary, they arrived in Coolacrease in the Cadamstown area shortly before 1900 and, prior to the War of Independence, were well liked there.

In addition to Heaney's original account there is the newly released Bureau of Military History official report by Michael Cordial, second-in-command of the IRA Offaly Brigade. This report also describes the execution of two of the Pearson brothers and the killing of two R.I.C. policemen in the nearby village of Kinnitty.

Heaney's book includes a history of the local IRA unit, and its pivotal position between Munster, Galway and the Midlands during the War of Independence. Having researched the subject over thirty years, and having interviewed all the surviving participants and others with first-hand knowledge, including the O.C. of the Offaly Brigade of the IRA, Heaney gives a detailed account of the circumstances which led to the killing of the two elder Pearson brothers of Coolacrease.

It is worth quoting at length, since it is an account that has hitherto been ignored.

Heaney's Account

[START Patrick Heaney's account]


Arms were always a problem for the men of the [IRA] company [in Cadamstown, Co. Offaly] so they devised a plan to get some. On a particular day three local volunteers approached Pearsons' house at Coolacrease. They were armed, and when admitted they requested that any guns which were in the house should be handed over. This the Pearsons refused to do. Placing one volunteer on guard, the remaining two searched the house and found two guns which they took away with them. Captain Drought received similar treatment, as did Biddulphs. Two or three guns were found on their premises. After four days Mr. Biddulph requested that one of the guns be returned as it belonged to his son who was killed in the 1914-18 war. Two men from the Cadamstown company returned the gun to the Biddulph home and they were very grateful.

The mountain area above Cadamstown village provided safety for the men of the company. There were many safe houses in this district: Horans of the Deerpark, Dillons of Seskin, Ryans of Seskin, Nolans of Deerpark, Dalys of Glenletter, and Heaneys of Glenletter. Local men had to leave their homes and many men on the run found safety with these kind people. Many men from Cloghan found refuge in the mountain area; for instance, the Geraghtys, the Brogans and the McIntyres. There was a major breakout of prisoners in the camp at the Curragh of Kildare early in 1920. Ten of the escaped prisoners were guided to the safety of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, when they were brought to Dillons of Seskin on a night in May by a volunteer from the Clonaslee Company. There they were fed, and after a good night's sleep and a rest, the following day they made preparations to continue their journey in the direction of Tipperary. They hailed from different counties in Munster, and one particular man came from an island off the Kerry coast. They were guarded during their stay at Dillons by the local company. They left Dillons on the summer's night and were guided across the mountain by my mother and her brother, Pat Dillon. They arrived at Maloneys of Ballybritt near Roscrea the following morning. A volunteer from Cashel was awaiting their arrival, and after a brief rest at Maloneys they continued on their way to the safety of the Tipperary hills.

Pearsons: "Loyalist headquarters"

Cadamstown was the only place in Offaly that was declared a no go area, and a curfew was also imposed. The local company knew that there were Dublin Castle agents in the area so they had to be very careful. They kept a watchful eye on the Pearsons of Coolacrease for they knew that this was the local loyalist headquarters. The British military were seen coming and going from this residence at all hours of the night.

There was a mass path leading from the Deerpark in the direction of the village of Cadamstown which crossed through Pearsons' land and which had been used for hundreds of years by the people from the mountain area. On a particular Sunday morning as the people came to mass they found to their dismay that the mass path was blocked by a giant beech tree which had been felled across the path. There were about twenty people coming to mass that Sunday morning and they immediately returned to their homes, and to those of their neighbours, for saws and axes. In a short time they had the path cleared, but as they were about to continue on their way to mass, they were confronted by three of the Pearsons, the father and two sons, and each of them claimed they were trespassing. The people refused to go, and threats and words of abuse were exchanged as the people continued on their way to mass. After mass, as the people returned home, they found the mass path again blocked by timber and other materials, so they again cleared the way. This agitation continued for some time.

Under Fire

It was shortly after this incident that the local company received word to block the roads on the Coolacrease side of Cadamstown, as there was to be an ambush near Birr. The local company mobilised and marched to Coolacrease, where they selected a large beech tree which was to be used to block the roadway. Mick Heaney was appointed to stand guard on the road. He was armed, as was Tom Donnelly. The other volunteers taking part in the operation were Jim Delahunty, John Joe Horan, Tom Horan, Joe Carroll, Joe Manifold and Jim English. The tree was almost sawn through when footsteps were heard approaching from the direction of Pearsons' house. Mick Heaney, who was on guard, ordered "Halt, who goes there?" but the footsteps came nearer. The order to halt was repeated, without reply.

Suddenly the volunteers found themselves under fire. Mick Heaney returned fire and he immediately fell under a hail of bullets. Tom Donnelly was the only other man to be armed, and he ran to the rescue of the fallen man, firing as he went. Heaney was mortally wounded but he still kept going. Donnelly caught Mick Heaney in his arms and returned back to the roadway, still firing his revolver. He had the satisfaction of hearing one of the attackers groan and fall to the ground. Then the firing ceased. The volunteers came together again and brought the two wounded men in a pony and trap to Dr Brown in Kilcormac, from where they were transferred to a secret ward in Tullamore Hospital. It was discovered afterwards that British army officers were with the Pearsons on the particular night. One of these officers subsequently lived under an assumed name in a neighbouring county.

This incident was brought to the notice of the Offaly Brigade headquarters who kept a watchful eye on the movements of the Pearsons. A raid on the mails coming from Dublin disclosed that there was contact between Dublin Castle [British HQ in Ireland] and the Pearsons of Coolacrease, and that information regarding IRA members in Cadamstown and the naming of safe houses in the Cadamstown area had been sent to Dublin. For the shooting of Mick Heaney and the sending of information to Dublin Castle, Offaly Brigade headquarters ordered the execution of the Pearsons. This was carried out on 10th June 1921.

Execution of the Pearsons

The flying column arrived in Cadamstown that June morning. The Pearson brothers were making hay in a field adjacent to their home. When the column arrived at the field, a man who was recognised as a British army officer was seen running away. The column followed him and fired on him several times, but he escaped and headed in the direction of Mountbolus where he was captured. He was held by the Mountbolus company for one night and was released the following morning when he made his way to the barracks in Tullamore and later went to the north of Ireland. The flying column escorted the Pearsons to their home where the sentence was read out to them. They made no comment, nor did they protest in any way. They faced the firing squad bravely. The house and its contents were then burned down. The remaining members of the family left the locality and settled in Australia. A sister of Dick and Abe Pearson returned recently to Cadamstown to see what remained of the old homestead.
Jim Tormey's flying column was based in County Westmeath. The column consisted of thirty men and they took part in many ambushes throughout Westmeath and County Longford. British troops poured into that area to curb Tormey's Column. The column was hard pressed so they retired to the safety of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. As the song says, "And to the Slieve Bloom Muntains came Jim Tormey's Flying Column". The Cadamstown Company had the honour of guarding Tormey's Flying Column for three weeks as they rested in the mountain. The flying column then returned to Westmeath where they engaged British troops at the famous ambush at Park outside Athlone. This proved fatal for the column as they lost their great leader, Jim Tormey. He was killed as he led his men into action on that day. There is a cross erected to his memory at the spot where he was killed.

Shortly after the shooting of the Pearsons British troops took over the Cadamstown area and arrested eight members of the local Company.


[END Patrick Heaney's account]

Part 3: Laois Offaly - King's and Queen's Counties

The historical context

The social stratum to which the Pearsons belonged came into existence in Ireland through the violent conquest, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and colonising activities of the English state. Offaly and Laois were the scene of the first ever colony of what became known as the British Empire, when the native O'Connors, O'Moores, O'Dempseys, O'Dunnes and others were killed or driven out by the army of Queen Mary in 1556, and the area planted with English settlers. Queen Mary ("Bloody Mary") was herself a Catholic, as was her husband Philip of Spain. Queen's County (Laois) and King's County (Offaly), along with the towns of Maryborough (now Portlaoise) and Philipstown (now Daingean), were named after them.

The modern English state was fashioned by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Mary and Elizabeth were the daughters of, respectively, Henry's Catholic wife Catherine of Aragon and his Protestant wife Anne Boleyn. From the 12th to the 16th centuries English conquests of the savage Irish enemy, though sponsored by the English state, were often of a freelance character. It is true that Henry II and his son John (later King John) each led armies into Ireland in the 12th century. But in theory, as agents of the Pope who was in some sense of international law the overlord of Ireland, they came to protect the native Irish against freebooters from England. In reality their objective was the opposite of protection. Think Iraq.

Two centuries later Richard II invaded Ireland on two separate occasions, and was defeated twice. (By Art McMurrough, as it happens, descendant of the infamous Dermot McMurrough. Art is buried beside the 1798 leader Thomas Cloney in the monastic complex of St. Molins in Co. Carlow, along with a number of those who died in the 1798 Rising.) Thus, although the Irish did not seek to establish a state of their own at that time, the English colony was confined to a foothold around Dublin. The other Norman settlements eventually assimilated with the natives.

Settler and-native - Pearsons and non-persons

So Mary and Philip launched their strike into Laois-Offaly, beginning both the English world-conquest and the long sequence of what is known as Irish terrorism - Raparees, Tories, Whiteboys, Ribbonmen, Fenians, IRA.

The Pearsons were not descended from these original colonists. The settlers were often transient, moving on to new continents where the natives were more easily exterminated, being unaccustomed to firearms and lacking the skills of literacy which, having been lost in Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire, had been preserved in Ireland, despite the best efforts of various English overlords to eliminate them.

The Pearsons were originally settled in the North Kilkenny area during the Cromwellian Plantation, a hundred years after the Plantation of Mary and Philip. The traditional Gaelic leaders, the MacGillaPatricks, had held onto their predominant position in Ossory, or Kilkenny, throughout the previous four centuries. In the initial 12th century Norman invasion, the MacGillaPatricks, and their allies both native (O'Brennans, O'Donaghues, O'Carrolls etc.) and Danish (with names like MacTorkil (McCorkill), McKittrick or Mac Sitric, McAuliffe or Mac Olaf, etc.) fought the Anglo-Normans and their Irish ally Dermot McMurrough. The Norman baron, Maurice de Prendergast, was captured by the MacGillaPatricks and became their ally. With Latin as their common language they bottled up the invasion forces in the Wexford area. When Henry II arrived in Waterford with a massive army, some accounts say that de Prendergast persuaded the McGillaPatricks not to make war on Henry, and arranged a diplomatic agreement under which Norman settlement and town-building were permitted in Ossory under Gaelic overlordship.

The hundred-year Norman grab for Gaelic lands, rivers and monasteries, and for Danish towns, cities and trade, did not wreak as much destruction in Ossory as it wrought elsewhere. It was as if the Pilgrim Fathers had negotiated a peaceful and mutually beneficial trade-off with Ohquamehud, Chief of the Sachem Indians, instead of exterminating them all. But Cromwells's defeat of the Confederation of Kilkenny saw the destruction of the Gaelic MacGillaPatricks and Brennans etc. along with the Anglo-Norman Rothes (Bishop David Rothe helped to finance the Four Masters in compiling their comprehensive History of Ireland just as the final destruction of native civilisation was looming), the Graces (descended from Raymond le Gros), the Cantwells and all the rest. Thus ending a couple of thousand years of native society and inaugurating the hegemony of the colonial society of Berkeley (born in Kilkenny), Swift (like Berkeley, educated in Kilkenny) - and the Pearsons.

Disharmony and failed colonisation

The violent British conquest and colonisation of Ireland were never legitimised by the establishment of good government and harmonious relations with the native population, which now included the descendants of the Anglo-Normans, and which remained relatively numerous despite several attempts to kill them off or drive them out to make way for colonial settlement and money-making. The British colony in Ireland, though supremely powerful, failed to use its overwhelming power for the benefit of society as a whole, and it did not flourish in the longer run. For the most part it persisted only as a declining alien, colonial presence.

Under the ferocious colonial regime, the native Irish capacity for political and military leadership had for many centuries found expression in continental Europe, Latin America, the West Indian slave islands, and even Russia. The society of Berkeley and Swift envisaged a future for the aboriginal population as illiterate beasts of burden, if not destruction. So Hitler was not the originator of such policies. Inexplicably the Irish managed to evade their destiny, perhaps with the aid of their music and poetry.

When, after several centuries of untramelled power, the colony had passed its hey-day and was showing clear signs of being trapped in a historical cul-de-sac, significant numbers of Protestant individuals, both northern and southern, contributed leadership to the independence movement.

Re-emergence of the natives

After a couple of centuries, the natives were recovered sufficiently to seek separation from Britain. This was undoubtedly problematic for the colonial remnants. Having pitted themselves against the natives in the final, debilitating struggles - religious, social, political and economic - of the 19th century, the British settlers in the South of Ireland were largely reconciled to the historic Home Rule settlement of Irish self-government within the British Empire. So when Ulster Unionism raised the flag of armed revolt against this settlement, and when the British government reneged on Home Rule after exacting a heavy blood-price for it in the Great War, many southern Protestants were disappointed at the loss of the historic opportunity of an achievable settlement which would have been congenial to them, and they felt betrayed by their own side.

Britain went to war against the Irish government established by the 1918 elections, and the Irish democracy was defended by its volunteer armed forces, who, for historical reasons were committed to an ideology which sought to transcend the distinction between settler and native within a common national sentiment. So the wholesale slaughter and expulsion, which befell British loyalists a century and a half earlier in the American colony, were not on the agenda in Ireland.

In addition, the Irish Republican side was well represented by individual Protestants in prominent positions, as detailed by historian Brian Murphy recently in his account of the non-sectarian trajectory of Republican policy and practice during the War of Independence.

Thus, by 1919-21, for whatever reason, the attitude of the Protestant British community in the south was very different from its conduct a century earlier in 1798, and they mostly kept out of the conflict. Except for a small number of cases such as the Pearsons.

Part 4: Paramilitary Loyalism in the South

Sectarianism within the Irish revolution


After the IRA had set it on fire the Pearsons' house exploded. It is likely that munitions were stored there, indicating that the Pearsons may have been loyalist paramilitaries as well as spies. If so, they were not entirely alone. The Cork historian Meda Ryan has written about the organisation of loyalism along sectarian lines in parts of west Cork in the area surrounding Bandon. More information on this phenomenon in Cork City and the surrounding county will be published during the course of 2006.

The Pearson controversy has a curious echo of the dispute around the way the IRA dealt with paramilitary loyalists in Cork at that time. In particular the unauthorised shooting of loyalist spies and informers after the Truce in April 1922 forms part of a heated debate between Canadian historian Peter Hart and Irish historians Meda Ryan, Brian Murphy and Manus O'Riordan. Hart denied southern Protestant participation in sectarian paramilitary activity and asserted instead that the execution of such people was an example of republican sectarianism. Hart's contentious conclusions on the Dunmanway shootings and his attack on IRA leader Tom Barry have been debated in History Ireland (April-May to October-November 2005) and on indymedia.ie. Serious questions have been asked about the manner in which Hart suppressed inconvenient evidence in his possession and claimed to have interviewed IRA veterans anonymously, when records indicated that they were in their graves.

William Stanley, 'Jimmy Bradley' and Alan Stanley

Eoghan Harris who, alongside Kevin Myers, had previously championed Hart's work, bases his account of the Offaly events on "I Met Murder On The Way", by Alan Stanley of Carlow.

In a curious twist, it was reported in the Carlow Nationalist (March 23rd 2005) that Alan Stanley is the son of William Stanley. William Stanley was the British Forces officer who ran away as the Pearson brothers were being arrested by the IRA, prior to their execution. William Stanley was subsequently captured, though later released, by the IRA. William Stanley reportedly returned to live in Carlow under the assumed name of 'Jimmy Bradley'. These issues are not acknowledged in Alan Stanley's book, and await clarification.

After the executions, the Pearsons' farm was occupied by British Forces until the Pearsons returned about a month later. Theft or looting that reportedly occurred should therefore be put down to British Forces in place - a not uncommon occurrence. Before they finally left the area in 1924, the Pearsons sold their property to the Land Commission.

The dozen or so other local Protestant families in the surrounding area were left undisturbed in the War of Independence, but they were disturbed by Alan Stanley's book.

End of Empire?

The British Empire began with the 1556 conquest and colonising of Laois-Offaly. At the height of its power the Empire, and the system of colonial privilege on which it was based, began to unravel in the Irish War of Independence. Curiously, the first military action of that war took place in Laois-Offaly with the cutting of the Cork-Dublin railway line near Abbeyleix at the start of the 1916 Rising. Four centuries after it began, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan signalled the end of the British Empire, in his 1960 "Wind of Change" speech to the South African Parliament. "Whether we like it or not," he said, "this growth of national consciousness is a political fact."

In the Sunday Independent Eoghan Harris played both an Orange Protestant card and a Green Catholic Card in an effort to explain away this historical context, in dealing with one of the last acts of the War of Independence. In so doing he sought to arouse sectarian feeling where there is little if any. It was the Republican side that overtly rejected an association of religion and nationality. The empirical evidence thus far uncovered supports this contention. In their courageous determination to keep politics separate from religion, and to sweep away centuries-old divisions, Republicans of the Protestant faith broke with the historical identification of their community, while Catholic Republicans defied the ultimate sanction of excommunication from their church. But in playing with sectarian fire, Eoghan Harris risks undoing 80 intervening years that have tended towards harmony and reconciliation.

Luckily we have the meticulous research of local historians like Patrick Heaney to illuminate the subject with the healing light of fact and reason.

Note: At the Foot of Slieve Bloom by Patrick Heaney is available from The Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, www.offalyhistory.com

Pat Muldowney has also written a series of articles on these issues in Church and State magazine in a debate which the Reform Group sought and initiated but from which it speedily ran away. See this page on the Atholl Books website.

RELATED UPCOMING EVENT
Propaganda In 1920 In Ireland – Bloody Sunday & Kilmichael - The Origins Of 'Fake News'
Book Launch: FRIDAY MARCH 24 - 7.45pm Teachers Club Dublin
THE ORIGINS AND ORGANISATION OF BRITISH PROPAGANDA IN IRELAND IN 1920, by Brian P Murphy. Published by the Aubane Historical Society and Spinwatch

IRELAND & IRAQ
From Ireland to Iraq governments attempt to control and to direct the media in order to disseminate the 'official' version of the facts. Brian Murphy shows how the British government did it in Ireland. This important work details how the British propaganda machine in Ireland was organised in 1920. Murphy's original research illustrates the power of, and the origin of, 'spin'.

Related Link: http://www.atholbooks.org/magazines/cands/index.php

Coolacrease House
Coolacrease House

Croppy graves from 1798
Croppy graves from 1798

Republican prisoners from the area
Republican prisoners from the area

1798 memorial to Scully and Daly
1798 memorial to Scully and Daly

author by James Reillypublication date Wed Feb 22, 2006 02:14Report this post to the editors

This is well worth the read. It destroys the credibility of Harris and his cronies who are incapable of even the barest hint of objectivity or fairness in the presentation of information. The Harris attack on "Dublin Protestants" for not supporting him is laughable - maybe he should call them 'Dublin 4' Protestants.

This research and the work being done on the War of Independence in West Cork rubbishes the pro-British nonsense about there being two equally contending sectarian forces. The Brits were the ones promoting and supporting sectarianism in Ireland. It is called ‘divide and rule’ and it is what makes colonial rule possible.

Well done Pat Muldowney

author by peterpublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 14:17Report this post to the editors

The war on independence was a legitimite war against imperialism of the british and it must never be forgotten. I'm glad indymedia brought it up on their newswire.

author by ex-official - nonepublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 19:29Report this post to the editors

Why would anyone take Eoghan Harris's views on history seriously when he has constantly rewritten his own personal history.

I was aquainted with Harris in the 1970s when he first came to prominence in the Official Republican Movement. He started out in UCC, Cork, as an ultra nationalist, then came to Dublin and found stalinism. You have to give it to him he's a clever operator. He was accepted by the leadership of the Officials as the ideological guru because they lacked confidence in their own ideological abilities and had always looked outside the movement for inspiration (as they had before when they followed another stalinist turned rightist, Anthony Coughlan and the US trotskyist Gerry Foley) . Harris is not and was not a very original thinker, but he's a masterful spindoctor: he simply stole the basic two-nationist ideas of a small sect called the British and Irish Communist Organisiation (led by their own guru Brendan Clifford, who's since, bizarrely become a born-again Irish nationalist) and with a slight repackaging sold it to the Official leaders, to be imposed on the rank and file in the late 70s. He was also an ardent Stalinist who used the unfortunate Eamon Smulllen to push dogmatic economistic statism on what became the WP, while he built a small cult of middle class followers within the party who peddled his 'provos are satan' line while demonising any internal oppponents.

In all his career in the WP up til 1989 he never once criticised Stalin, the stalinist regimes etc., a fact he'd like us to forget . Then he made a u-turn in 1988-89, decided that, since socialism=stalinism, and stalinism was colllapsing, socialism was dead. He tried, once again to impose his u-turn on the WP, hoping they would fall for his reheated right-wing social democracy but this time he failed and exited. He then recast himself as a neo-con, advising Fine Gael, supporting the war on Iraq etc. etc. He has never acknowledged his depp responsibility for the disastrous turn to stalinist of the Official movement.

He has remained consistent only in two things besides his enormous capacity for self-promotion, his vitriolic attacks on those who oppose him and his magpie-like tendency to steal other peoples ideas and sell them, with some flare it has to be admited, as his own. Those are: his hatred of 'Trots' which means anyone who occupies a position to the left of wherever Eoghan finds himself on the ideological spectrum at any given point, and his view, strangely shared by Sinn Fein, that the 'national question' is the most fundamental issue in Irish politics.

If you like political showmanship he's your man, if you value the truth, avoid him like the plague.

author by William Gindonpublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 19:44Report this post to the editors

Mr Harris gives the game away with his reference to Protestants being driven from their "modest farms". I am quite well aware of the fact that in general Protestant holdings were certainly not "modest" in comparison to the mostly smallholdings of their Roman Catholic neighbours. Protestants were not “driven” from their large farms either. There is no evidence for this allegation, apart from in the ravings of those who lament for an era of privilege.

If Patrick Heaney had not written his short letter to the Sunday Independent (and his original story of what happened in Offaly in 1921), we would be none the wiser about this invented "atrocity". I have the feeling that in the past local historians glided over the 'loyalist' activities of the small minority of Protestants who thought they were born to lord it over and to rule Roman Catholics 'peasants' in the name of British civilization. This was out of deference to the feelings of neighbours and a sense that those days were gone forever. In the context of an invented 'history' from revisionists, this 'deference' may have to be abandoned. In the search for historical accuracy, this is possibly no bad thing. The revisionists may have opened up a can of worms that is distasteful to their sophisticated pallets.

(I am interested in the Peter Bradley - William Stanley connection. Would love to hear more about this.)

author by Malachy McGurranpublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 20:05Report this post to the editors

"Why would anyone take Eoghan Harris's views on history seriously...." says 'ex-official'.

I always marvel at those who are so 'serious' that they cannot join the dots. Harris writes for newspaper read by hundreds of thousands, his views monopolize the outlook and reporting of the paper, he cites what appears to be serious historical research in what appears to be a serious manner. People who read it, who do not have the advantages in life experienced by 'ex-official' will tend to take the constant reiteration of the same view endlessly repeated in various forms seriously themselves - unless it is challenged.

If we were only to challenge those who come up to the level of our own sense of intellectual pretension we would live very lonely lives of quite desperation.

Anyway, this stuff gives ‘ex-official’ the opportunity to give us the benefit of his long nurtured observations. Well done Pat Muldowney and Indymedia – keep up the good work. As alternative history, that tries to make complex issues interesting to a modern audience, this can’t be beaten. More.

author by P.H.publication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 21:05Report this post to the editors

What an excellent piece of research this is.

I actually studied the War of Independence period in Offaly for my M.A. degree, and I have to say that some very salient points regarding the Pearson incident, to be found in the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements, have not even been discussed:

1.) That before the incident, at least one of the Pearson brothers was involved in a hostile action against an IRA member who was in the process of blocking roads;

2.) When the outhouses of the Coolacreese estate were torched, a significant explosion was noted by IRA officer Michael Cordial, hinting that the Pearsons were storing large amounts of ammunition on their estate.

Hope this helps!

author by redjade - {ignorant of such things}publication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 21:10Report this post to the editors

Pat Muldowney writes..
'the side ignored by Harris and the Reform Group'

What's the 'Reform Group'? I googled around and came up with little

author by P.H.publication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 21:15Report this post to the editors

It's a lobby group angling for a return to the old days of Union with our near neighbours.

author by markinpublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 22:25Report this post to the editors

excellent piece--get it published somewhere, in print. why not approach harris' own paoer wit ha request for space for a rebuttal of his sentimental lies?

author by James Reillypublication date Fri Feb 24, 2006 22:30Report this post to the editors

From Orange Net - Reform Movement an offshoot of the Orange Order

“After the First World War the Orange Order in Dublin started its decline. This was mainly due to losses in the Great War, emigration and the political system which existed at that time. Pride of place in the Orange Hall in Dublin is a roll of Honour of all the Dublin Lodges which existed then and a list of names of all who served and who were lost in that Great War.

"The decline continued and the last remaining Lodge serving all Orange brethren in Dublin is King William III Prince of Orange LOL 1313 (founded in 1949) in the District of Dublin and Wicklow. In recent years the lodge has been stabilised and new younger members are coming forward for membership. LOL 1313 is now an active and vibrant lodge well adapted for the changing society here in Dublin as we progress into the twenty-first century.

……..

"For many years the Orange Institution in Dublin have had little or no interest in influencing change in this state. In 1996 members of the institution here decided to redress this by supporting the formation of the non-denominational REFORM MOVEMENT, which was launched in 1998. The REFORM MOVEMENT was founded to represent all those who regard themselves as British/Irish, descendants of the old southern Unionist tradition, Redmondite and post Nationalist. The Reform Movement is actively promoting a greater co-operation within these Islands in recognition of out common past and for the promotion of a more tolerant and pluralist society in this state where all cultures and traditions are respected equally.

"If you would like further information of the Dublin and Wicklow District LOL 1313 then write to:
The Secretary Dublin and Wicklow District, C/O 368 Cregagh Road, Belfast BT6 9EY, Northern Ireland."

---------------------

Readers may notice letters in newspapers from Reform spokesperson Robin Bury every now and then. He fires off highly indignant letters from his base in Military Road (how apt) in Killiney, to inform us that a) prods are brits whether they like it or not, b) although sectarian discrimination against Roman Catholics in the North never happened, if it did then the prods of Foxrock, Dun Laoghaire ('Kingstown'), Killiney and other areas suffering similar forms of social depravation were treated the same or worse. Mr Bury was a big fan of the Orange Order coming to Dublin a few years ago. He is also a big fan of the idea that 60,000 Protestants were driven out in the 1920s (it used to be 50,000, but no one paid any attention to these phantoms, so another 10,000 martyrs to the cause were posthumously enlisted).

If he reads this Robin Bury will cite it as an attack on his right to pursue and promote his Protestant, British heritage and culture. He is a clot.

author by Brian Borupublication date Sat Feb 25, 2006 17:35Report this post to the editors

Harris is a brainwashee of revisionism. His rantings reflect a self-loathing of his country. Shame on him!

author by hist 2publication date Sun Feb 26, 2006 02:02Report this post to the editors

Good stuff, thanks for making that available.

author by Seánpublication date Mon Feb 27, 2006 01:03Report this post to the editors

I don't know how it could be said that Offaly, like anywhere else in Ireland (except Loyalist areas in the North) could be seen as unassuming in relation to a debate about the Black n Tan war.

author by themanpublication date Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:14Report this post to the editors

"Protestants were not “driven” from their large farms either. There is no evidence for this allegation, apart from in the ravings of those who lament for an era of privilege"

try looking at county Cork, in particular around Bandon!

author by Peter Bandonpublication date Mon Feb 27, 2006 12:19Report this post to the editors

The previous commentator obviously has not read the article as the events near Bandon in 1922 are referred to. There is no evidence whatever that the IRA targeted people on the basis of their religion during the War of Independence in that area or in Offaly, apart from in the now discredited claims put forward by Peter Hart (who was supported by, you guessed it, Eoghan Harris and Kevin Myers).

The info is on Indymedia and in History Ireland.

author by themanpublication date Mon Feb 27, 2006 19:14Report this post to the editors

but just because Cork is referred to in the article does not mean that the article is correct

author by hist2publication date Tue Feb 28, 2006 00:54Report this post to the editors

Anyone hear Matt Cooper's programme on Today FM this evening during which someone (didn't catch the name - John something) cited Hart's book as proof of the enduring sectarian nature of Irish republicanism (as demonstrated by the evil thugs who rioted in Dublin - the thwarted marchers who came up to Portadown and attacked Catholics don't demonstrate anything, though - in fact, theirs is righteous anger).

author by Seánpublication date Tue Feb 28, 2006 02:28Report this post to the editors

"I don't know how it could be said that Offaly, like anywhere else in Ireland (except Loyalist areas in the North) could be seen as unassuming in relation to a debate about the Black n Tan war."

I'd just like to clarify that many Loyalists maybe did know about what the Black n Tans were doing in Ireland.

I do think that indymedia should get their act together when they post feature news headlines up on their news wire.

The first sentence to the thread about the peaceful protest inside the terminal of Shannon Airport reads:

"On Saturday 25th Feb 2006, while Dublin was busy rioting against a loyalist paramilitary march..."

I never knew that Dublin was. I know that maybe 200-500 people were.

author by Boss Crokerpublication date Wed Mar 01, 2006 01:42Report this post to the editors

The Pearsons were human beings. You wouldn't treat a dog the way they were treated. Shame on you for defending it. I hope your end is not as cruel.

author by Peter Feeneypublication date Wed Mar 01, 2006 10:17Report this post to the editors

The issue is not primarily one of defending or supporting what happened. It is a debate about accurately describing what happened. Was it a purely sectarian attack, as Eoghan Harris argued, or was it an action taken against an enemy in warfare, for which action there was evidence of the Pearson brothers working with and on behalf of British forces. Execution is a terrible thing, death is, and war is. But that is not what this debate is about.

You may want to argue that everyone killed in the conflict was treated worse than a dog (though you seem to concentrate on one incident).

The revisionist historians argue that the IRA was sectarian during the War of Independence. The claim appears to be part of an agenda in association with certain newspaper columnists. The evidence advanced here disputes that assertion. It seems compelling.

author by Chris Fogartypublication date Fri Mar 03, 2006 23:31author email fogarty at ix dot netcom dot comauthor address 900 No. Lake Shore Dr.; #1507, Chicago, ILauthor phone 001 312 664 7651Report this post to the editors

Please have yourself cloned, Mr. Muldowney. There are too few as capable and principled as you in Ireland.

In Ireland one might tend to blame Sir Tony and his Harris and Myers for the constant anti-Irish spin; but here in the States their spin is the official Irish line from Irish Consuls General.
It is astounding to observe them promoting the notion that Ireland and the Irish must constantly
stifle their own traditional, mass-murdering proclivities.

author by P.H.publication date Sat Mar 04, 2006 03:55Report this post to the editors

When researching Offaly for my M.A. thesis I found there was interesting account of an incident where the grave of a Constable John Dunne, shot dead in Kinnitty on May 17, 1921, was reportedly desecrated. This is mentioned in a witness statement by IRA man Patrick O'Riordan.

I find it strange that IRA members (many of them devout Catholics) would desecrate Constable Dunne's grave (who was likely to have been a Catholic himself).

In June 1921, four men were shot dead at Killeigh, Belmont, Tullamore and Cloghan because it was suspected they had passed on information about local Republicans to British forces. Even the Irish Times confirmed this motive behind the killings, and there wasn't the slightest mention about sectarian motives.

The Coolacreese incident occurred the same month, with Michael Cordial, in his witness statement, pointing out that the Pearsons were "violently opposed to the National Movement, and they looked with contempt on local Volunteers or I.R.A. men."

It appears that the final straw with regard to the Pearson men was the shooting of an IRA man (carried out by at least one of the Pearson brothers) who was in the process of blocking roads around the estate. When the Pearson brothers were executed, and the estate burned, the R.I.C. were quick to report the looting of farm animals and equipment, but failed to record the fact that several "heavy explosions" took place, which, in Michael Cordial's opinion, "indicated that a large amount of ammunition was stored in [the estate]".

I have read 'I Met Murder on the Way', and I have to say that it is yet another poorly-researched revisionist effort engineered purely to portray Republicanism as a blood-stained movement without a popular mandate. We are given no independent indication with regard to the Pearson men's role in the Cadamstown/Kinnitty community, and the veracity of their political leanings. Their portrayal as mere innocent bystanders in the local scene, without giving any solid evidence for such assertions, is careless. How exactly did they commit themselves to the conflict?

If they were merely politically hostile to Republicanism then this might be a case of IRA heavy-handedness. But reports of ammunition stores, and their participation in aggressive, armed actions against IRA men, eliminates their status as innocent bystanders in the conflict. It is the witness statements which open our eyes to these questions, but surely there are sources which provide independent confirmation.

The IRA are often condemned by revisionist historians for their mockery of war through their use of "gunmen on bicycles in pinstripe suits". If this assessment is true, what of the Pearsons? Were the executed parties a fifth column who were simply caught red-handed aiding the enemy? Mr Stanley's work is over-emotional, and based purely on what Tom Barry referred to as "atrocity propaganda".

author by Peter Feeneypublication date Sat Mar 04, 2006 13:01Report this post to the editors

Where can the MA Thesis be read? Sounds very interesting and exactly the type of empirical research that needs to be done and publicised in order to counter revisionist propaganda.

This meeting and book launch will help fuse past and present concerns about the dominance of propaganda in history and in the media.

Propaganda is what you read, history is what it is frequently turned into
Propaganda is what you read, history is what it is frequently turned into

There is an alternative history, there are alternative media
There is an alternative history, there are alternative media

author by P.H.publication date Sat Mar 04, 2006 16:43Report this post to the editors

It's in NUI Maynooth. My treatment of the Pearson affair is very brief, as the thesis deals with the wider 1913-21 period. I'd actually like to flesh it out a bit, if I got the time.

author by P.H.publication date Wed Mar 08, 2006 21:57Report this post to the editors

Actually, it's not there at the moment, don't think it's been indexed in the library yet :)

author by hist2publication date Fri Mar 17, 2006 23:44Report this post to the editors

That's a very interesting comment. I've always had the impression that the Irish govt were behind this line, as the universities are, and what you say would seem to bolster the idea that they're putting it out where they can't be held accounable. Sounds very much like British propaganda circa the War of Independence, which would indicate just whose creatures the govt are.

author by Davepublication date Mon Mar 27, 2006 17:55Report this post to the editors

Eoghan Harris continues to flail fellow journalists and others who do not like his pro Orange and pro Paisley rantings. Sounds to me like the actions of a desperate man who knows the game is up. I think he's about ready for plucking by Podge and Rodge.

author by C M Guerinpublication date Sat Apr 08, 2006 00:17Report this post to the editors

From the article above:

- Hart denied southern Protestant participation in sectarian paramilitary activity and asserted instead that the execution of such people was an example of republican sectarianism.

I have seen the report of the trial and execution of the Pearson brothers sent by the O/C of the Offaly brigade to GHQ. He confirms Patrick Heaney's account in everything and further states that the Pearsons "had been active in promoting the Ulster Volunteers movement in their district".

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Apr 20, 2006 16:11Report this post to the editors


The clinching proof of the involvement of the Pearsons in loyalist paramilitarism is provided, curiously, by Alan Stanley himself in his book "I Met Murder on the Way". You just have to read it carefully. Easier said than done, as his account consists of snippets of information presented out of sequence.
But a careful examination is provided in the Spring 2006 issue of Church & State:
http://www.atholbooks.org/magazines/cands/currented.php

Related Link: http://www.atholbooks.org/magazines/cands/currented.php
author by DarkWarriorpublication date Tue Apr 25, 2006 00:39author email dooley.1967 at tiscali dot co dot ukReport this post to the editors

Would love to get a copy of that thesis....am going to be in Birr area this weekend. let me know if its possible. thanks

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Nov 30, 2006 13:26Report this post to the editors

This discussion has resumed at
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76350
and
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/79753

author by Pragmatic Nationaistpublication date Sat Jul 28, 2007 19:46Report this post to the editors

Sure anyone who diagrees with the Aubane boys is a Dublin 4 type.

author by pleasedpublication date Mon Jul 30, 2007 00:12Report this post to the editors

how the "spin" began. indeed.
it's a wonder we haven't all fallen off.
but that's the thing with the flat earth, it can't offer pit-pat explanations for high technology or GSP but if nothing else it will stop even the most vindictive pirate falling off. Man! we can prove they were anything we want to. These people were heroes. These people gave birth to you nation and merit statues. These people were begging parasitic foreigners who muddied your windscreens. These people put on latex masks and accepted cardiac fibilator technology pretending they were Cheney & you know - they put it past the CIA, FBI, NSA; and yes- they put it past even the CIE

- spell that out - coras iompar eireann.

now we're talking bubblegum this week.
would yiz not occupy the customs house?

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue Oct 09, 2007 20:01Report this post to the editors

This discussion has resumed at
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84547

author by Middle of the Roadpublication date Wed Oct 24, 2007 22:23Report this post to the editors

I am sure that I will receive much vitriol and abuse in relation to my above statement. I fully believe that it is absolute rubbish to describe the unfortunate Pearson family as collaborators and informants.

Like it or not the Forces representing The Crown were the legitimate forces of law and order in Ireland at the time. If William Pearson observed or believed he had information on " the freedom fighter " he was duty bound to inform the relevant authorities. I think if you accept the logic in this it is clear who the paramilitaries were in this sorry episode. Also this kind of outrage was not an isolated incident. Every county in Ireland has it's own story of the property and livestock of landowners being attacked and destroyed, why ? because these people had a different opinion regarding the politics and religion of our land.

This is not revisionist opinion just plain fact.

author by Cedric Arsonpublication date Fri Nov 16, 2007 23:34Report this post to the editors

... these people had a different opinion regarding the politics and religion of our land.

Nope. No evidence of systematic targeting of people because of religion - apart from by unionists in the north of Ireland. But let us ignore the bleeding obvious.

Anyway, this discussion has resumed at
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84547

Not here.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Apr 03, 2008 21:25Report this post to the editors

More information at
http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease

author by Bilfpublication date Thu Apr 30, 2009 17:46Report this post to the editors

Another review explaining how crap the book "Coolacrease: the true story of the Pearson executions – an incident in the Irish War of Independence" is:

http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-03-27/getting_them_ou....aspx

That's three poor reviews - haven't seen a good one yet.

author by Bilfpublication date Thu Apr 30, 2009 19:43Report this post to the editors

No doubt a lot of people are still sore that the Great Fraud of Coolacrease was exposed so comprehensively, along with the academic reputations of revisionist historians Richard English, Terry Dooley & Co.

Rather than take their medicine they console themselves by shooting the messenger. Too bad that won't revive their hopes for Coolacrease.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Fri Jun 19, 2009 19:55Report this post to the editors

Documents relating to the Coolacrease executions and the RTÉ Hidden History documentary can be read at
https://docs.indymedia.org/Local/IMCEireCoolaCrease

author by Corkboipublication date Fri Jun 19, 2009 21:26Report this post to the editors

Sorry but there was a show on RTE about this the family all fled to Australia.They spoke about what happened.,It was sectarianism.There is also a book about it
The dead members are buried in a C of I grave yard outside Ballacolla Co.Laois. Though they were not Church of Ireland.

There is also evidence of sectarianism in West Cork and allow the Boarder counties.Of Protestants expelled from their farms by young people who had links with the Republican and Nationalist movement.

As a member of a minority faith myself I can safely safe sectarianism is very much alive in Ireland.Even to this day Protestants are abused for being British,There was glass cielings for many non Catholics in this country for many years.Especially in the areas of the civil service and hospital management.

And I know of some Protestant who live on farms less than 40 acres.Even a hundred years ago that was small farm.The myth of wealthy Protestants is not helped by D4 Protestant .The Alexandria ,Wesley types, Go to West Cork,Laois or Kilkenny and see that many people who attend Protestant Chruches, C of I,Presbytarian and Methodist are not wealth.,There are plenty of small old bangers.AND there are plenty of poor protestants who are not college educated,Work in low paid employment.The Protestants in Ireland today are not decendants of the wealthy British.Most came to Ireland in what we would today call economic migrants.They remained in ireland after independence as many supported Independence and were generations born in Ireland.They were as Irish as the Irish themselves.They went to a different church.Is that so bad.Is that the Ireland the people who faught for independence wanted.I dont think so.

I can say the Republican Movement has been hijacked to an extent by Catholics.The memories of Jews and Protestants fighting for Independence are rarely spoken of.

When it came to Sectarianism or anti Semitism in this country.There generally was a view of keep your head down and shut up.The under 30's are proud to be Irish and Protestant or Jewish and don't want to shut up.They want to expose the people who abuse them for their faith.But I can say that sectarianism is alive and well even in the people who are MEANT to protect us the Gardai.The Army .

author by Yeatspublication date Mon Dec 28, 2009 21:09Report this post to the editors

Members of the Pearson family spoke on the RTE programme. They were reserved and dignified. They deserve the truth however unpalatable. Unfortunately Eoghan Harris and RTE's Niamh Sammon cynically manipulated and exploited the family’s tragedy for narrow minded political motives, the same as Corkboi's attempt to hijack them now. Harris’s nefarious propaganda charade and RTE's malicious falsehoods have since been thoroughly exposed.

The historical facts surrounding Coolacrease is, and was always, well known. The two Pearson brothers were shot for firing on an IRA roadblock. IRA Volunteer Mick Heaney was blasted in the stomach and seriously wounded. This was the sole motive for the shooting. Heaney died prematurely some five years later in Australia.

Corkboi is a deluded disciple of Harris’s pseudo-victimisation spin, clinging tenaciously to imaginary grievances. Behind Corkboi's pious and paranoid facade lies a cold hearted bigotry belonging to a bygone era. Like Harris he thrives on ignorance, promoting artificial emnity and discord.

author by Vivasvatpublication date Tue Jan 05, 2010 20:41Report this post to the editors

Yeats wrote:

"The two Pearson brothers were shot for firing on an IRA roadblock. IRA Volunteer Mick Heaney was blasted in the stomach and seriously wounded...{he}...died prematurely some five years later in Australia ".

Oh yeah. This is the guy who was initially reported "killed", then "seriously wounded" then later managed to drag himself to a boat bound for Australia and finally died "prematurely" five years after. Pull the other one.

The Pearson family have always denied that the brothers shot directly at an IRA party. There are two sides to this, only one of which is reported here. Tom Wall in his essay "Getting Them Out" seems to have got the balance right:

"On the crucial question of why the Pearsons were shot, there seems little doubt that the immediate cause was the tree-felling incident when an IRA party was fired upon. Alan Stanley heard from his father – who was deeply involved and narrowly escaped being shot himself – that heated words were exchanged between Richard Pearson and IRA men at the site of the intended road block. Richard, who was described as "somewhat hotheaded" fetched a shotgun and "discharged it over the heads of the rebels". Paddy Heaney says on the other hand that a volley of shots was fired without warning and at short range at the tree-felling party, resulting in his uncle, Mick Heaney, being seriously wounded and others also being hit. Fire was returned and there was a belief that at least one of the attackers was wounded. One must assume, on the basis of the evidence presented by Heaney and Dillon, both related to members of the IRA in the area, that IRA men were indeed wounded and that the attackers were believed by them to be members of the Pearson family. Stanley says he was told by a relative that the attackers were RIC and Auxiliaries".
....

"The IRA believed that they shot at least one of the attackers but it seems clear that none of the Pearson brothers was wounded. The failure of the Pearson brothers to run, as William Stanley did, days later when they saw an armed party of IRA men approach them in the fields, might indicate that they believed they had nothing to fear".

Full Tom Wall essay: http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-03-27/getting_them_ou....aspx

author by Nemesispublication date Thu Jan 07, 2010 20:25Report this post to the editors

As far as we know, the Pearson family NEVER denied that the brothers shot directly at an IRA party. It is Alan Stanley who denied it – and he wasn’t even born at the time!

In fact there is no record of the Pearson family ever saying ANYTHING about the roadblock attack, good bad or indifferent. What IS on record is statements by Pearson descendants that the family NEVER talked about this incident one way or the other.

Here is how Indymedia described the injuries inflicted on a soldier of the elected government whom the Pearsons fired on when he was on duty: ”After the road-block incident in which all of the Cadamstown IRA were involved, the seriously injured man was secretly treated for his injuries in an undercover ward in Tullamore Hospital, but the others were arrested and jailed.” http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76350#comment151694 Publication date Tue May 30, 2006 17:26.

This was published a year and a half before Eoghan Harris’s infamous RTÉ propaganda programme on the subject, and that is how this matter has been consistently described here in Indymedia. “Vivasvat’s” criticism is not applicable to Indymedia. The story of a man killed by the Pearsons at the roadblock comes from the contemporary RIC account, and that account was first published here in Indymedia, along with some explanation of how the RIC might have got their facts wrong:

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84547 :
”The Pearsons were not sentenced to death because of a ludicrous sectarian squabble over a mass path, or for felling trees across the path, or for pulling guns on churchgoers, or for spreading human excrement on the stiles. They were not even sentenced because they were informers. They were sentenced to death because they fired on a unit of volunteers, wounding two of them. That is what all the IRA reports declare. And that is what the official RIC report also declares: “C.I. [Chief Inspector RIC] Queens County [reported] that the two Pearson boys a few days previously had seen two men felling a tree on their land adjoining the road. Had told the men concerned to go away, and when they refused had fetched two guns and fired and wounded two Sinn Feiners, one of whom it is believed died.” From British Military Court of Enquiry in lieu of inquests on Richard and Abraham Pearson, Crinkle Barracks, Birr, July 2 1921.” Published Monday October 08, 2007 10:13

(In fact three IRA men were wounded by the Pearsons, one of them seriously; along with one loyalist – Bert Hogg – who lost a lung from gunshot wounds inflicted by the Pearsons. The Hogg family is still resident in Ireland.)

“Vivasvat” recommends Tom Wall’s Dublin Review of Books article using words identical to those used by Eoghan Harris in his Sindo column. The story of the whole controversy is simply this: Harris span a tissue of lies which have been comprehensively exposed and discredited. He gambled and lost. My advice to Eoghan is: “YOU WERE DEFEATED. GET OVER IT!”

In fact the Tom Wall article mentioned by “Vivasvat” backhandedly accepts the Indymedia report – that the Pearsons were executed for attacking the Irish armed forces, and that land-grabbing had nothing to do with the executions.

What “Vivasvat” does not mention is that Dublin Review of Books has published a reply to Wall’s article which comprehensively demolishes it, exposing numerous factual errors in it, along with a mass of tendentious and specious argument:
http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-09-19/A_House_Built_o....aspx

Related Link: http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-09-19/A_House_Built_o....aspx
author by Jinnpublication date Thu Jan 07, 2010 21:56Report this post to the editors

Nemesis wrote,

"As far as we know, the Pearson family NEVER denied that the brothers shot directly at an IRA party. It is Alan Stanley who denied it – and he wasn’t even born at the time! In fact there is no record of the Pearson family ever saying ANYTHING about the roadblock attack, good bad or indifferent. What IS on record is statements by Pearson descendants that the family NEVER talked about this incident one way or the other".

Sorry Nemesis, get your facts right - the Pearsons' younger brother, in a letter to Alan Stanley (see his book) written from Australia many years later, denied that their family was directly involved and that from that perspective his conscience (and his family's) was clear - whether or not it's true or false, or valid or invalid, he said it .

Check your facts next time before you start peppering your response with Caps Lock, Bold and exclamation marks.

author by Ned Stapletonpublication date Thu Jan 07, 2010 22:52Report this post to the editors

There were two responses in the Dublin Review of Books to the Tom Wall Review of the Coolacrease Book:

Frank Gallagher and land agitation, by Niall Meehan
A response to Getting Them Out, Southern Loyalists in the War of Independence (drb, Issue 9 Spring 2009)
http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-09-20/Frank_Gallagher....aspx

(see also: Sectarian gloss on State's early years is flawed. The evidence does not support claims of sectarianism against Protestants in the South in the 1920s, writes NIALL MEEHAN, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/1012/1....html)

and

A House Built on Sand
Philip O’Connor and Pat Muldowney: A response to Getting Them Out, Southern Loyalists in the War of Independence (drb, Issue 9 Spring 2009)
http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-09-19/A_House_Built_o....aspx

Pretty convincing as a critique of the sad and sadder attempt to make republicans look like a mirror image of unionists. If you want sectarianism, go north where Carson conceived and Craig ruled.

author by Nemesispublication date Thu Jan 07, 2010 23:45Report this post to the editors

"the Pearsons' younger brother, in a letter to Alan Stanley (see his book) written from Australia many years later, denied that their family was directly involved [in the Roadblock Attack]" (comment by "Jinn" above).

This letter, from David Pearson to Hilary Stanley, quoted by Alan Stanley in his book ("I met murder on the way", pages 46-48 2nd edition), makes no mention whatsoever of the Roadblock Attack. It states: "As regards your query about us giving information to the military, nothing could be further from the truth. ... On this point our conscience is clear."

Compare this with William Pearson's 1027 application to the Irish Grants Committee, which states:
"I was always known as a staunch Loyalist and upholder of the Crown. I assisted the Crown Forces on every occasion "

But not so much as a whisper about the Roadblock Attack, never mind a denial!

author by Patpublication date Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:21Report this post to the editors

Just because Muldowney, Meehan and O'Connor insist on getting in the last word (& they always have the last word) doesn't mean their version of events is definitive - in fact it's the same old arguments being recycled for the last 3 or 4 years.

Interesting too how people on this thread choose to interpret the "facts" - somebody earlier inferred that because William Pearson's stated: "I was always known as a staunch Loyalist and upholder of the Crown. I assisted the Crown Forces on every occasion " with regard to his application to the Irish Grants Committee, this therefore supports the idea that they were guilty of firing on the IRA. This is astonishing. Within the circumstances (sons' shot dead, house burnt down, threatened off their land) it would be understandable that he would make such a statement in order to claim as much as they could. (Indeed elsewhere, Muldowney in one of his (endless) essays implied that because the Pearsons read the Bible, this in part proved that they were violent people!! - While I don't often run to the defence of religious people, to throw that kind of smear for the sake of argument is disgraceful).

Interesting too how somebody earlier would make a ridiculous statement like "It is Alan Stanley who denied it – and he wasn’t even born at the time! " .... and then get down on all fours to lap up everthing that Muldowney tells us. He wasn't there either. This is a poor way of arguing, and not a convincing way of dismissing Alan Stanley's argument. His father was central to the event - Pat Muldowney had no connections to it.

From looking at this thread, and others and reading the Heaney book, a few things become clear. The Pearsons were guilty from the start. It was then just a case of piling up the evidence against them, cutting and pasting the evidence to fit as they went along.

Discussing an event like this is difficult when so much is based on hearsay. The essay by Tom Wall (mentioned earlier) seems to deal with the events of Coolacrease far better better than some of the nonsense written here.

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Fri Jan 08, 2010 13:48Report this post to the editors

"Same old arguments being recycled:"
If someone argued with me that 2+2=5 and repeated their view I might after a certain point have difficulty inventing new reasons for why the evidence suggests that the answer remains 4.

To a certain extent "Pat" above can't agree to differ. Since he mentioned me, I will try and explain, using as much innovation as I can muster.

In my Dublin Review of Books article, (www.drb.ie, Autumn 2009 - link below) I think I did in fact introduce some new material, if not arguments.

I looked at the Manchester Guardian coverage of the Luggacurran Plantation (Co Laois), where Lord Lansdowne introduced new tenants through an Orange Order network, in place of striking tenants in the 1880s. Lansdowne brought a sectarian element into the equation as a means of breaking the strike. This is where Alan Stanley’s father, William, came from before settling in with the Pearsons, while on the run from the IRA. He had been expelled from Luggacurran by the IRA for setting up a civilian auxiliary there alongside the official version. There is some more detail is in the article.

I also introduced the split in the southern unionist opinion, with the more extreme loyalist variant in alliance with the northern version. They were out of sympathy with the conciliation being pursued by Lord Middleton's southern Unionist Anti-Partition League (after Middleton and other southern unionists were effectively expelled from the parent body). I also showed that southern Protestants did not generally express sectarian fear of the IRA, because they seemed convinced they were not under sectarian attack. If anyone should know, they should and did (again see the DRB article linked below)

The northern unionist contacts and origins of the Luggacurran planters, and the precarious and antagonistic nature of their relationship with the surrounding community, would I think make them feel in sympathy with the overtly sectarian policies of Northern Unionism. Expressing this sympathy in alliance with British forces seems also a logical next step. As far as they were concerned, these were the legitimate forces of law and order. Unionist (and British) propaganda, in such publications as The Red and the Green, suggested an IRA - Roman Catholic - Bolshevik alliance. The land the planters began to purchase, as part of the land reforms of the early 20th Century, might conceivably be taken from them and given back to the previous, now landless, tenants (who were denied access to same land purchase opportunity). Even despite the lurid pre-Paisleyite propaganda it was a reasonable fear in Luggacurran. The publicising of the flare up of the conflict in 1921 by the Conservative and Unionist Alliance, together with their naming 'William Stanley' as an evicted planter, is also suggestive of the links and circumstances that led Stanley from Luggacurran to the Pearsons in Coolacrease. The Pearsons were also, in any case, linked themselves to the Luggacurran plantation - again, see the article.

In essence, why deny Stanley and the Pearsons the legitimacy of their convictions? They acted on them and were defeated. Where is the dishonour in that?

It seems illogical not to factor these elements into the argument, but to see them in context.

Some people, instead of confronting the actual pogroms in the North post July 1920, for which abundant evidence exists, want to relocate the pogroms down south by 'discovering' an event here and there and generalising it out of all proportion. This dispute started because RTE produced a history documentary that failed to consider pertinent evidence and made assumptions, asides and comments for which no evidence existed. The reviews of the Coolacrease book (including Wall's), irrespective of their overall attitude to it, concluded that the RTE programme's case was successfully refuted by Coolacrease (the book).

This is not the last word as new evidence (If not new arguments) may possibly emerge. So far I have not seen evidence persuading me to alter my view that the answer remains, so to speak, 4.

Related Link: http://www.drb.ie/more_details/09-09-20/Frank_Gallagher....aspx
author by Johnpublication date Fri Jan 08, 2010 17:00Report this post to the editors

"He (William Stanley) had been expelled from Luggacurran by the IRA for setting up a civilian auxiliary there alongside the official version".

Do you have for evidence that he set up a a civilian auxiliary??

author by Nemesispublication date Fri Jan 08, 2010 17:54Report this post to the editors

“Pat” says:
"Interesting too how somebody earlier would make a ridiculous statement like "It is Alan Stanley who denied [that the Pearsons attacked the IRA roadblock] – and he wasn’t even born at the time! " .... and then get down on all fours to lap up everthing that Muldowney tells us. He wasn't there either. This is a poor way of arguing, and not a convincing way of dismissing Alan Stanley's argument. His father was central to the event - Pat Muldowney had no connections to it."

“John” says:
"Do you have for evidence that [Alan Stanley’s father William] set up a a civilian auxiliary??"

Here is what Alan Stanley himself says about these matters in his book:

“My father did not mention this [roadblock] incident” (page 69, 2nd edition).

“The new settlers remained [in Luggacurran], and were known as “planters” to those whose neighbours they became, and “land grabbers” to those who despised them for what they had done. … An upheaval [1921] was bound to revive old enmities. I was inclined to assume that this was the reason my father had been banished from his area. … In 1982 I found this was not the case. … Frank Stanley [was aged 15 in 1921 and] said that my father used to keep company with a number of … sons of “planters”. … All were in possession of a pistol of one kind or another. …Violet Stanley, Frank’s sister, who later married James Kavanagh [the “ringleader” of the armed group] told me she overheard them discuss [with Auxiliaries] plans to “lift” a young man of the area who was an active IRA member. …It was not long until [the armed gang] got notice to leave [from the IRA].” (Pages 103-7, 2nd edition).

author by Danpublication date Sun Jan 17, 2010 20:07Report this post to the editors

Alan Stanley was hoisted on his own petard in I Met Murder on the Way. The numerous factual inaccuracies and discrepancies diminish the book’s historical value. The book is a useful guide to loyalist mentalities rather than local realities. Stanley disclosed how his grandfather was a member of the Orange Order. His father, William, excluded a sympathetic Catholic neighbour on sectarian grounds from his armed loyalist group. William was also an informer for the RIC. Confrontation between local Republicans and the Pearson family occurred after William, aka Jimmy Bradley, arrived at Coolacrease. William left a trail of death and destruction in his wake.

An overly defensive tone bordering on parody pervades Dr Jack Carter’s foreword: ‘However, I grew to respect Willie’s innate kindness and his passionate concern for the truth…’ Did William exploit and manipulate the Pearsons to gain revenge on the IRA for forcing him to leave his Luggacurran home? Did he goad the Pearsons to attack the IRA roadblock at minimal personal risk? In later life he was prone to bouts of depression suggesting a troubled conscience. Was it suppressed guilt? He thwarted his son’s efforts to uncover what happened at Coolacrease. Sketchy details were pieced together from relatives. William concealed key information i.e. the Luggacurran loyalist group, informing for the RIC, and the use of an alias Jimmy Bradley when residing with the Pearsons. Why the deceit?

author by Bobpublication date Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:02Report this post to the editors

"Nemesis" tries to quote Alan Stanley's book as "proof" that William Stanley and the Pearsons were part of the military but then deliberately distorts the text by adding his own running commentary - "[the armed gang]", "[with Auxiliaries]" etc. Your argument becomes invalid. I notice too that you conveniently didn't bother to quote the other line from Alan Stanley's book: "Like the Pearsons he (William Stanley) was just a farm boy, with no connection whatever to the military". Why?

So the challenge posed earlier to "Niall Meehan" still stands: Do you have any direct evidence that Alan Stanley’s father William set up a a civilian auxiliary?"

While "Dan" is entitled to his opinions of Alan Stanley's book (distorted as they are), I'd have more respect for Professor John A Murphy's opinion on "I Met Murder on the Way". He wrote "as a historian, I admire the way you (Alan Stanley) bring out the political complexities of the event. You did very well to bring it all into the light".

Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton called it "a most important book...a story that needs to be told".

author by Nemesispublication date Sun Jan 24, 2010 13:31Report this post to the editors

Don't get me wrong, Bob. I too think that Alan Stanley's book is very good, in the sense that it contains useful information - information which inadvertently refutes Stanley's thesis that the Pearsons and his father were innocent of armed violence directed against the elected Irish government and in support of the terror campaign of the imperial power.

If you don't like the words "[armed gang]" then how about substituting Alan Stanley's own words: "the coterie of gun-toting yokels" (page 105). And if "[with Auxiliaries]" offends you, then here is how Stanley himself describes them (pages 104-5): "auxiliary Police Cadets".

When Alan was describing this in Eoghan Harris's RTÉ propaganda programme ("The Killings at Coolacrease"), it seems he was tipped off against this kind of plain speaking. Here is what he said on-screen: "Now these were police people, not quite the Black and Tans. They were officer material."

The problem is, no matter how you dress it up, William Stanley and and his armed outfit were civilian collaborators colluding with Auxie thugs. He never disclosed this to his own son. And he never revealed to his son that the Pearsons opened fire on the defence forces of the Irish government causing several casualties, which is the reason they were executed.

This guilty concealment says a lot about William Stanley. And it's all in Alan's book.

author by Big Tom - Cadamstown Country Clubpublication date Mon Jan 25, 2010 22:37Report this post to the editors

Emeritus Professor Murphy ripped Senator Harris’s ‘Cork's bloody secret?’ propaganda charade to shreds. A Harris blurb appears on Alan Stanley’s book. If Murphy was to judiciously assess ALL the known evidence he’d be equally dismissive of Stanley. No academic historian can stand over Stanley’s claims. In the fallout over the Coolacrease fiasco RTE's three historians ran to ground. If Stanley merited a creditable defence it would have occurred then. To save the day Niamh Sammon unleashed her political cavalry, Davy ‘UDA’ Adams and later Steven ‘Smithers’ King. The charge of the Light Brigade. There’s nothing left to salvage.

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Mon Jan 25, 2010 23:53Report this post to the editors

Dear Bob,

I think Nemesis (yours) has answered the point, or rather pointed to where Alan Stanley did. The answer to 2+2 is still 4 I am afraid and as I have no new evidence or arguments with which to trouble you, I will not venture further at this time.

All the best,
Niall

author by Agri Culturepublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 00:34Report this post to the editors

I am intrigued by Alan Stanley's notion that a mere 'farm boy' could not conceivably be mixed up in matters military. A song I remember from my youth went something like this (it was number one in the hit parade in the days before RTE banned such songs), from memory:

Oh I am a Merry Ploughboy
And I plough the fields all day
Till a sudden thought came to my head
That I should roam away
For I'm sick and tired of slavery
Since the day that I was born
And I'm off to join the IRA
And I'm off tomorrow morn

Etc, etc, you get the gist.

Thought I would see if the Internet had a version and it has, the best, The Dubliners with Ronny Drew's incongruous Dublin accent telling us he has left aside both his plough and his Mary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPZmFQQu8L0

Also, twin songs on the 1798 rebellion, one about Wexford and one about Antrim, with Luke Kelly this time

Kelly The Boy From Killane
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXvt25IsIZ0&feature=related
or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHOVlEbOMIc&feature=Play...ex=65

Roddy McCorley
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkknyuEE498&feature=related

Also Clancy Brothers version (early '60s) with Liam Clancy, the youngest Brother, who died recently
Roddy McCorley
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gixzEtC2I8g&feature=related
(Bob Dylan said Liam Clancy was the best interpreter of a ballad he had ever heard. When Bono met Bob for the first time, Bob said the Clancy Brothers gave him a good deal of his initial inspiration. Bono said, "Who?")

As the arguments appear to be exhausted, anyone got any Offaly songs?

Caption: The Merry Ploughboy


author by Luke Burkepublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 01:16Report this post to the editors

Actually, that excellent Dubliners version of Roddy McCorley is sung by Ciaran Burke.

Continuing the 1798 theme and to amplify the ‘Croppy Graves’ photograph above, here is Ronny Drew singing The Croppy Boy. Plus 1963 Kingston Trio version of Roddy McCorley that some think is the best. And, to round off, the Irish Rovers version that some like.

In the intro to Henry Joy Ciaran Burke says that the conflict in Ireland is not a religious war, but the propaganda in the British newspapers and on television won’t tell you that. I suspect it is from the very late 1960s or very early 1970s, before the censorship took hold and the songs were banned on RTE and the history started to get twisted.

I suppose most of the historians won’t tell us that either.

The Croppy Boy – Ronny Drew
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QMx1lXgUKc

Henry Joy McCracken – Ciaran Burke
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF04VsJTJAk

Roddy McCorley – The Kingston Trio (US 1963)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV1ZZ4Xp08A

Roddy McCorley – The Irish Rovers (Western Canada)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uAY2HuIVxU

Caption: The Croppy Boy - Ronny Drew


Caption: Henry Joy - Ciaran Burke


author by Chrispublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:50Report this post to the editors

Odd, how "Coolarease." the masterful defense of truth by Muldowney, Heaney, et al, would never have been written but for the RTE/Harris orgy of spin started by Alan Stanley. That Stanley's book was pure spin was signaled by the title he misappropriated for it; "I met murder on the way."
When Shelley wrote:

I met Murder on the way –
He had a face like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him , etc., it was about a British mass murderer of Irishmen of 1798

author by Helenpublication date Mon Feb 15, 2010 18:06Report this post to the editors

Coolacrease is not isolated event in Niamh Sammon’s CV. RTÉ gave the disgraced producer a license to lie on a Prime Time documentary. The similarities are uncanny.

Related Link: http://www.bcc.ie/decisions_details/Mar2004/decision%20...e.doc
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