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Sectarian Wind Up - a defence of The Wind that Shakes the Barley

category national | history and heritage | other press author Friday June 30, 2006 10:33author by Niall Meehan - Irish Examiner June 26th 2006 Report this post to the editors

And a defence of the anti-sectarian nature of the Irish War of Independence

"Practically all commanders and intelligence officers considered that 90 per cent of the people were Sinn Féiners or sympathisers with Sinn Féin, and that all Sinn Féiners were murderers or sympathisers with murder. Judged by English standards, the Irish are a difficult and unsatisfactory people. Their civilisation is different and in many ways lower than that of the English. They are entirely lacking in the Englishman's respect for truth . . . Many were of a degenerate type and their methods of waging war were in the most case barbarous, influenced by hatred and devoid of courage."

British intelligence assessment of the Irish People from The Record of the Rebellion

Steven King's review of 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' contains many contentious allegations. Perhaps the most extreme is that "many a Cork Protestant was murdered in pure sectarian reprisals" during the War of Independence. King attempts to portray in Cork a mirror opposite of the sectarian cauldron created by Unionism in the North of Ireland. This depiction could not be further from the truth. Evidence suggests that Protestants lived more in fear of Crown Forces reprisal than of IRA action. This was true of Protestant unionists as well as Protestant nationalists.

In July 1920 Mr J.W. Biggs, a wealthy Unionist, wrote:

"I feel it my duty to protest very strongly against this unfounded slander (of intolerance on the part) of our Catholic neighbours ... I have been resident in Bantry for 43 years, during 33 of which I have been engaged in business, and I have received the greatest kindness, courtesy, and support from all classes and creeds in the country".

Some days after publication of these remarks Mr Biggs' business premises, valued at £20,000, were burnt down by the RIC.

Cork in 1920 was not Belfast in reverse
Cork in 1920 was not Belfast in reverse

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church wrote in June 1920:

"it is a notable fact that nowhere has a hand been raised against one of our isolated Church buildings, nor against a single individual Presbyterian in the South and West".

These assertions appeared in the form of letters to newspapers after blood curdling unionist claims to the contrary in the North of Ireland. One Protestant stated:

"One would imagine from the speeches of [Unionist leader] Sir Edward Carson in the North that we in the South, because of our differences in our religions, were at one another's throats. No greater mistake was ever made".

The speeches of unionists had the purpose of justifying partition, but also had the effect of encouraging sectarian fanaticism among unionists in the North, where it was nationalists who suffered real ethnic and economic 'cleansing', being forced out of homes and jobs. Even in the face of this provocation the IRA was scrupulous in preventing sectarian retaliation.

Protestants generally held little regard for the Black and Tans who, without distinction of creed, burned property at will. Protestant owned businesses were burned in Cork City and Fermoy. Protestant owned creameries also were burned to the ground. When Black and Tans and the military went on the rampage in Bandon, the 'Londondery of the South', it was Protestant property in the main that was destroyed.

Unionists today, in particular the Orange Order, allege that there was "ethnic cleansing" of Protestants in West Cork during the War of Independence. In fact prevalent British racist attitudes encouraged sectarianism in the name of the Protestant religion. The British Record of the Rebellion observed:

"Practically all commanders and intelligence officers considered that 90 per cent of the people were Sinn Féiners or sympathisers with Sinn Féin, and that all Sinn Féiners were murderers or sympathisers with murder. Judged by English standards, the Irish are a difficult and unsatisfactory people. Their civilisation is different and in many ways lower than that of the English. They are entirely lacking in the Englishman's respect for truth . . . Many were of a degenerate type and their methods of waging war were in the most case barbarous, influenced by hatred and devoid of courage."

The British Army regarded the entire population as their enemy. Viscount Montgomery of Alamain, then serving Brigade Major Bernard Montgomery, typically remarked:

"it never bothered me a bit how many houses we burned… I regarded all civilians as "shinners", and I never had any dealings with them."

Sectarian sentiments were to be found in the minds and actions of those who set up and ran variants of the shadowy 'Anti Sinn Fein Society'. Such 'loyalists' gathered intelligence and went on RIC and Auxiliary raids to 'spot' their quarry who were captured and/or shot. They were not representative of the whole Protestant community, many of whose members were sympathetic to the republican cause.

British forces openly encouraged the loyalists and this has lead some to mistakenly conclude that the civilian type raids consisted entirely of British forces in mufti. The revisionist historian Peter Hart holds this view. He spoke on it in a recent 'Rebel County' documentary on the Ken Loach film on RTE 1. Hart was unchallenged in his conclusion that Protestants shot for informing were innocent of such activities.

Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, stated recently, after reading Peter Hart, that a "massacre of Protestants … took place …. on the main street of Dunmanway, in April 1922". There is no evidence that Protestants were shot because of their religion.

There is evidence that informers, whose names were left behind by departing Auxiliaries, were shot from April 26th to 28th 1922 near Bandon, contrary to express IRA post-Truce orders. The shootings were condemned by all shades of then post Treaty, pre Civil War republican opinion. Initially it was thought that Protestants were targeted for no reason other than revenge for an IRA officer shot by a prominent unionist on April 26th. Ironically, it was the Belfast Brigade of the IRA who were first to condemn the killings.

Republicans locally, Tom Barry, Liam Deasy and Tom Hales, immediately put armed guards on the homes of known loyalists and the killings were stamped out. Tom Barry ensured that some who attempted to take advantage of the situation by stealing livestock owned by Protestants were firmly discouraged. For this he earned a friendship and respect of Protestants in the area that lasted until his death in 1980.

Barry pointed out,

"British propaganda tried to fan the flames of religious intolerance by announcing the religion of an executed agent when he was a Protestant. Although the West Cork Brigade shot in quick succession five Catholics who were British agents, never once did the British use the term Catholic in their announcements. Their plan was to persuade the Protestant community that they would be extirpated under a republican government."

This is traditional British 'divide and rule' policy

On May 12th, 1922 in Dublin, soon after the April outrages a Convention of Protestant Churches, including the presiding Protestant Bishop of Killaloe, the High Sheriff of Dublin, and 31representative dignitaries resolved that:

"We place on record that, until the recent tragedies in the County Cork, hostility to Protestants by reason of their religion has been almost, if not wholly, unknown in the Twenty six counties in which Protestants are in a minority."

A similar message was heard earlier on May 1st, 1922 from a Convention of Protestant Churches in Schull, in the heart of IRA West Cork Brigade territory. This is quite a contrast to the naked sectarianism of life for over 50 years in the North of Ireland under unionism.

Two historians in particular, Brian Murphy and Meda Ryan, have written on this subject. Murphy researched it in his recent fascinating work, The Origins and Organisation of British Propaganda in Ireland in1920(2006). He spoke on the anti-sectarian nature of Republican politics last year in the Imperial Hotel in Cork. Meda Ryan dealt with it in her recent Tom Barry biography (Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter, 2003 HB, 2005 PB). Ryan was the first to reveal the connection between those killed on 26-28th April and the Auxiliary informers' list, thereby resolving an 80 year mystery. This was made necessary as a result of Peter Hart's misleading claims. Brian Murphy first drew attention to racist British attitudes cited earlier.

The phenomenon of loyalist participation in the conflict in the South has attracted increased attention from historians over the past number of years. The research indicates the IRA did not as a rule target their opponents on the basis of their religion and indeed that the IRA had significant Protestant sympathy and support.

Ken Loach's film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley accurately depicts the familial, community and political relationships that operated in rural parts of Cork during the conflict. Loach is to be commended for accurately capturing them in a film that will live long after the petty allegations levelled at it recently have been forgotten.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/69172

Attack on Ken Loach, his films,  and on War of Independence
Attack on Ken Loach, his films, and on War of Independence

author by Luke Gibbons - Irish Independent 1 July 2006publication date Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:01Report this post to the editors

The Myth of Ethnic Cleansing in the Irish War of Independence

Luke Gibbons replies to Kevin Myers

Lest it be lost in the muddied waters of Kevin Myers’ prose, let me re-iterate the claim in my introduction to the screenplay of Ken Loach’s film The Wind That Shakes the Barley that prompted his frenzied misreading of my argument (June 28).

There is no evidence that Republicans in the War of Independence pursued a campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against either Anglo-Irish or Protestants in West Cork. There were deplorable incidents, as no war goes according to plan, still less a war of insurgency. This is the upshot of Loach’s powerful film, which shows that nobody can escape such intense conflict without deep scars, moral, psychological or otherwise. Even when justice is on one’s side, there is no getting away from the terrible human cost of violence.

But such incidents do not amount to a campaign of systematic extermination, as the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ implies. There was indeed discussion of a war of extermination, but it was on the British side, as fears were expressed by officials such as Sir Alfred Cope that only total war could annihilate Irish political opposition to British rule, given its mass popular support. It was perhaps this appalling vista more than any other factor that brought the British to the negotiating table: the Irish war of Independence could not have been won without an all out offensive on the Irish population. The atrocities of the Black and Tans provided a trial run for such a war of attrition, as did the vicious pogroms in Belfast alluded to by Myers which were indeed sectarian in character.

This touches on the kernal of the issue. Myers accuses me of double standards, but there is indeed a profound difference between opposing a unjust system, and perpetuating one. The central question concerns the legitimacy of British rule in Ireland, and whether Irish independence could have been wrested from the might of the British Empire without a recourse to arms. I am one of those who believes it would have been far preferable if separation could have been achieved by peaceful means, but that was even more of a utopian dream than Connolly’s socialist republic. Father Michael O’Flanagan, vice-President of Sinn Fein, related the story of a farmer who protected himself from an attack by a bulldog by using the prongs of his pitchfork. On being asked why he did not use the handle, the farmer replied: ‘I would have – if he attacked me with his tail!’.

The primary motivation of republican forces in the War of Independence was not one of ethnic cleansing but was to remove an illegal army of occupation, which had no democratic mandate. All armies of occupation require substantive native collaboration: this is the tragedy of colonial rule, and the source of the bitter internal conflicts that often convulse local communities. Myers contends that political considerations had nothing to do with what he construes as purely sectarian attacks on Cork Protestants: yet he goes on in the next breath to admit that Cork Protestants ‘were almost entirely unionist’ (which of course had nothing to do with politics). Bizarrely, he seems to think that to challenge the legacy of Cromwell in Ireland is ‘racism’. Is he serious? Can words such as ‘racism’ be so bent out of shape that they come to mean their opposite? Perhaps he would also consider those who challenge the Ku Klux Klan – another proud legacy of Ulster Protestantism – racist as well?

Myers conceals political disagreements in a bluster of moral outrage. He asserts that the 1916 Rising was a matter of ‘cold-blooded murders’, that the War of Independence was simply ‘the lunacy of the 1919-21 war’, and so on. At least historians such as Ruth Dudley Edwards have the courage of their convictions by questioning the legitimacy of the Irish state in the first place, and lauding the benign British Empire. Myers might command respect, even from those who disagree with him, if he admitted his own Unionist credentials, and his contempt for the very notion of Irish independence.

Myers questions my knowledge of Irish history, and and casts a gratuitous slur on the spelling of the name ‘Keough’ (as in name of the sponsor of my professorship at the University of Notre Dame). The slightest research or knowledge of Wexford history would demonstrate this was an acceptable spelling, as inscriptions on gravestones all over the county indicate. Walter Benjamin once remarked that even the dead would not be safe if fascism had its way: reading Kevin Myers, one understands why.

Myers conceals political disagreements in a bluster of moral outrage
Myers conceals political disagreements in a bluster of moral outrage

Related Link: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent
author by Niall Meehan - Irish Times Letters to the Editorpublication date Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:24Report this post to the editors

[Note: I briefly mentioned Peter Hart in the course of a letter to the Irish Times on Luke Gibbons’ introduction to the script of The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Peter Hart took exception and accused me of misrepresenting him - though I fear he may have misrepresented himself. A further small point: the heading to Hart’s letter and to my reply refers to “Killing Protestants” – in my view it would be as valid (or rather as invalid) to refer to British forces as ‘killing Catholics’. This conception of the War of Independence falsely sectarianises the conflict and takes the politics of anti and pro British imperialism out of it. Depicting the conflict as sectarian and as internecine was a British propaganda aim.]

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY

Irish Times June 23 2006

Madam, - In his article on Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley (June 17th), Luke Gibbons correctly asserts that there is no evidence of "ethnic cleansing" of Protestants in West Cork during the War of Independence. [see Gibbons piece at: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76800]

He is also correct to draw attention to the fact that racism was a prevalent British attitude. The British army regarded the entire population as their enemy.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, then Brigade Major Bernard Montgomery, typically remarked: "It never bothered me a bit how many houses we burned. . . I regarded all civilians as 'shinners', and I never had any dealings with them."

Such sentiments were also to be found in the minds and actions of those who set up and ran variants of the shadowy "Anti-Sinn Féin Society".

Such ‘loyalists’ gathered intelligence and went on RIC and Auxiliary raids to "spot", assassinate or torture their quarry.

They were not representative of the whole Protestant community, many of whom were sympathetic to the republican cause. Protestants generally held little regard for the Black and Tans who, without distinction of creed, burned both Protestant and Catholic-owned property.

British forces openly encouraged the loyalists and this has led some to conclude mistakenly that they were British forces in mufti. The revisionist historian Peter Hart holds this view. He spoke on it in a recent Rebel County documentary on the Ken Loach film on RTÉ 1.

Hart concluded that Protestants shot for informing were innocent of such activities.

Hart's view is a favourite among Orange Order members, as Drew Nelson, grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, explained to Gerry Moriarty (June 17th). Nelson believes, on the basis of Hart's research, in a "massacre of Protestants that took place. . . on the main street of Dunmanway, in April 1922". There is no evidence that Protestants were shot because of their religion.

There is evidence that informers, whose names were left behind by departing Auxiliaries, were shot from April 26th to 28th, 1922 near Bandon, contrary to express IRA orders. The shootings were condemned by all shades of then pre-Civil War republican opinion.

Two historians in particular, Brian Murphy and Meda Ryan, should have been interviewed. Murphy researched the topic in his recent work on The Origins and Organisation of British Propaganda and Meda Ryan dealt with it in her recent Tom Barry biography.

Murphy first drew attention to the racist British attitudes cited in Luke Gibbons's piece. Possibly the documentary makers were also not aware that Irish Academic Press will soon publish John Borgonovo's Spies, Informers and the Anti-Sinn Féin Society. It undermines the contention that the IRA was sectarian in countering the activities of loyalist spies.

This is a subject that, I am sure, will excite further interest in the debate that The Wind that Shakes the Barley has opened up. - Yours, etc,

NIALL MEEHAN

KILLING OF PROTESTANTS IN THE 1920s

Irish Times June 28 2006

Madam, - Niall Meehan, as usual, misrepresents my work (June 23rd). I have never argued that "ethnic cleansing" took place in Cork or elsewhere in the 1920s - in fact, quite the opposite. Nor does my book The IRA and its Enemies suggest that no Protestants were "guilty" of "informing" (at least by IRA standards) or that they were the only group to be targeted

What I do argue - based on a great deal of evidence from both sides - is that Protestants were no more likely than Catholics to inform, but that they were much more likely to be suspected, and vastly more likely per capita to be killed (or otherwise attacked) as a result

Nor were they alone. Ex-soldiers and those referred to as "tramps" and "tinkers" were also frequent victims, as were other perceived social deviants. What they all had in common was a marginal position in local society. The IRA, a product of local communities, couldn't get away with killing respectable farmers or shopkeepers - let alone priests - and tended to suspect outsiders anyway. It is surely a familiar enough pattern in human affairs: fear, anger and prejudice

My argument is thus about the nature of violence and community, not the straw man that my critics like to attack. As for the massacre of Protestants in April 1922, there is absolutely no publicly available evidence available to suggest that any of those killed were informers or members of some loyalist underground. They do not appear on any IRA intelligence lists, for example

Mr Meehan's suggestions - that religion had nothing to do with it, the IRA wasn't really responsible and the victims were probably guilty anyway - only reveals his commitment to the party line.

We should always be profoundly suspicious of excuses for killing, no matter who offers them. - Yours, etc

PETER HART, Department of History, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

KILLINGS OF PROTESTANTS IN 1920s

Irish Times July 3 2006

Madam, - Peter Hart writes (June 28th) that "Niall Meehan, as usual, misrepresents my work". That, indeed, is a serious charge, but let us see. He states: "I have never argued that 'ethnic cleansing' took place in Cork or elsewhere in the 1920s".

My letter (June 23rd) did not say he did, and Luke Gibbons (June 17th), whom I cited as using the phrase "ethnic cleansing", did not name him at all. I referred to the Orange Order's use of Peter Hart as an authority on "murders" of Protestants in West Cork (Gerry Moriarty interview with Orange Order Grand Secretary Drew Nelson, The Irish Times, June 17th).

However, It would not have been misrepresentation had I stated what Peter Hart denies. In 2005 Peter Hart said: "There was no ethnic cleansing in the Irish revolution. . .but there was ethnically targeted violence". If there is a real distinction here it is not clear to Peter Hart's Memorial University History Department. Its web page states, under "Research", that Peter Hart researches "ethnic conflict and cleansing in Ireland".

Peter Hart, in The IRA at War (2003), wrote: "Similar campaigns of what might be termed 'ethnic cleansing' were waged in parts of Kings and Queens Counties, South Tipperary, Leitrim, Mayo, Limerick, Westmeath, Louth and Cork. Worst of all was the massacre of 14 men in West Cork in April [1922], after an IRA officer had been killed breaking into a house." Now, Peter Hart refers to a "massacre of Protestants". Is this ethnic "conflict" or "cleansing"?

The evidence in fact suggests that these maverick, post-Treaty, pre- Civil War killings targeted loyalist British agents, in which close relatives were shot dead in two cases. They were stamped out locally by the IRA, but were "motivated by political and not sectarian considerations", to quote historian Brian Murphy's disagreement with Hart on this point.

Hart complains that "there is no publicly available evidence" that those shot were loyalists or informers. The evidence is an intelligence diary left behind by Auxiliaries as they evacuated Dunmanway Workhouse. Hart noted (1998) that it was published in the Southern Star in 1971, with the loyalist informers' names removed out of deference to local families. A similar consideration informed Tom Barry in his Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949).

Hart claimed that, apart from the name excisions, this "invaluable series of articles reproduces the complete text". However, despite not possessing a key piece of the jigsaw, Hart made speculative assumptions about the victims of the April killings. The assumptions turn out to have been wrong. The publicity Peter Hart gained for his sensational findings caused a response in which the linked names from the Auxiliary diary were published in 2003.

On the April killings, Hart (1998) cites "by common consent the most trustworthy source we have", the British Record of the Rebellion, to the effect that Protestants generally were not guilty of informing because "except by chance, they had not got [information] to give".

He failed to quote a key sentence following, stating: "an exception to this rule was in the Bandon area". This is where the killings that Hart described took place. On January 18th, 2003 an Irish Times review of Hart's editorship of The Record, by Breandan Ó Cathaoir, stated that Peter Hart "appears disingenuous" on this point. Madam, I see no reason to disagree with your reviewer.

In my opinion Peter Hart, despite demonstrating his research and some flashes of insight, is not an objective historian of the Irish War of Independence or of its immediate aftermath. - Yours, etc,

NIALL MEEHAN

Racism was a prevalent British attitude
Racism was a prevalent British attitude

Ethnic cleansing in Cork: yes and no says confused Newfoundland academic
Ethnic cleansing in Cork: yes and no says confused Newfoundland academic

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76800
author by Chris Ryanpublication date Wed Jul 05, 2006 10:59Report this post to the editors

AG Mathews letter above (July 23 2006 Irish Times)

See reference to “Our fellas took it out on the Protestants”. It is another Peter Hart misrepresentation - to adopt his chosen phraseology. Dennis Lordan ("Lourdan" is Hart's spelling) was talking about an unrelated incident much later during the Civil War, in a light-hearted manner to his friend, Dorothy Stopford, who was a Protestant. The context had no sectarian connotations whatever.

Hart is a sort of 'tabloid' historian - anything for a good story, try not to let inconvenient facts get too much in the way.

It is in Meda Ryan's Tom Barry book and was first pointed out by Brian Murphy in 1998 (I think), soon after Hart’s great opus came out. The 1998 Murphy criticism, including the point about Hart’s misuse of sources, was ignored by the great and good in the media and in academia for many years.

Considering the well-documented incidents of British brutality, assassination and torture, it is a sad commentary on academic history that Hart was lauded as the great iconoclast. In reality, he is simply biased and pro-British (or should that be pro-unionist?).

author by jimmythegentpublication date Fri Jul 07, 2006 16:51Report this post to the editors

It's a shame that anything that gets close to telling the truth about the English (later in history the so called British Empire 'imperialists') atrocities against the Irish nation is always attacked.The British propoganda, media press etc that has reported Ireland 's story (occupation) with regards the Brits is always backed up by the age old myth that British does not do terrorism. Film's like this are welcome, too many people are ignorant of British hold over N Ireland (this is the same as it had on R Ireland only without the Orange protestant police state back up). It is linked of course because one stemmed from the other. In the case of Ireland the Brits should hang their head in shame and beg forgiveness to all Irish people especially the nationalists of N Ireland. The British are the 'terrorists' and they know it deep down, history shows it but rather than face it, they justify their blatant fearful bigotry. The black & tans were terrorists state sponsored by George, and Churchill two rats if their ever was!!!

author by a Yankpublication date Sun Jul 09, 2006 20:01Report this post to the editors

Peter Hart should be considered the latest in a long line of propagandists for "the empire". Using cherry-picked extracts from dubious sources and anonymous interviews of supposed participants, he is attempting to throw mud on and darken the reputation of one of Ireland's great heros of the Tan War, Tom Barry. His purpode in doing so seems clear to me at least. If he can paint the IRA of the 20's as sectarian psychopathic murderers, then obviously the current bearers of that name must be below sub-human, and every effort must be made to resist them. (As an aside- I found it curious that the only group in the six counties that was Reuired to disarm was the IRA.) If in so doing, he can lesson regard for one of Ireland's heros, he gets double the results for same propaganda.
There was a book about the Lusitania published about thirty years ago (authors last name is Simpson). It gives an insight into Brit propaganda and intelligence operations. Certain names wouls be familar to those knowledgeable about Irish history.
I was in Ireland when "The Wind That Shakes the Barley " came out. I took the opportunity to see it. (They should consider an American release) It is a powerful movie which compresses a lot of events, as movies generally do. It took a lot of inspiration from the well documented activities of the Auxies and the Black and Tans, as well as the history of the West Cork flying Column. If thi movie does well, and it should, perhaps the same creator could make a more heroic movie or mini-series based on Tom Barry's book.

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 11:41Report this post to the editors

KILLINGS IN CO CORK IN 1920s
Irish Times July 14 2006

Madam, - Dr Peter Hart's letter of June 28th stated: "I have never
argued that 'ethnic cleansing' took place in Cork or elsewhere" during
the War of Independence. That is not accurate. In his article "The
Protestant Experience of Revolution in Southern Ireland" (in Unionism
and Modern Ireland, Gill & MacMillan, 1996), Dr Hart wrote of this
period: "Similar campaigns of what might be termed 'ethnic cleansing'
were waged in parts of King's and Queen's Counties, South Tipperary,
Leitrim, Mayo, Limerick, Westmeath, Louth, and Cork".

He also compared the Irish Revolution to Bosnia and "the postwar
'unmixing' of people in Europe". Dr Hart's landmark book The IRA and
Its Enemies essentially attributed the shooting of Protestant
civilians in Cork to the IRA's "fear of a desire for revenge", rather
than the actual guilt of those victims. I disagree.

My upcoming book Spies, Informers, and the "Anti-Sinn Féin Society"
studies the executions of suspected informers in Cork city during
1920-1921. Of the IRA's 30 civilian killings, five victims were
Protestant and 19 were ex-servicemen.

The latter number should be placed in the context of the city's large
ex-soldier population, which included over 5,500 veterans of the first
World War. Overall, my research revealed no IRA campaign against the
city's Protestant, unionist and ex-servicemen institutions and
leaders.

Among Cork's executed "spies", clear evidence linked some of them to
the crown forces, while others were shot without any explanation.
Today it is impossible to establish guilt in many cases. British
records about informants are fragmented, incomplete, and often
unreliable. IRA records were destroyed during the conflict for
security reasons. However, surviving documentation indicates the Cork
city IRA only targeted civilians it believed were passing information
to the crown forces.

The Cork city Volunteers certainly had the means to identify local
citizens working with British forces. Volunteers systematically
intercepted mail, tapped phone lines and monitored telegraphs around
the city. Republican spies and sympathisers could be found in key
workplaces throughout the town. IRA intelligence officers closely
watched British bases and personnel. One IRA spy penetrated the
British army's Cork command at its highest level, and had access to
sensitive information that we must assume included the identities of
local civilian informants. Her story can be found in Florence and
Josephine O'Donoghue's War of Independence, which I edited. - Yours,
etc,

JOHN BORGONOVO, San Francisco, USA.

Related Link: http://www.ireland.com
author by Jack Lane - Aubane Historical Societypublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 15:50Report this post to the editors

Peter Hart keeps digging deeper holes for himself. He now contradicts himself in the same letter. He says he does not argue that ethnic cleansing occurred in Cork or elsewhere but also seeks to deny that the Protestants killed in April 1922 were informers. This can only mean that they were killed because they were Protestants and that would clearly be ethnic cleansing as understood nowadays. It certainly would not qualify as “the opposite” of ethnic cleansing. Peter Hart cannot have it both ways and trying to do so is transparent verbal trickery. .

He also says that "What I do argue - based on a great deal of evidence from both sides - is that Protestants were no more likely than Catholics to inform, but that they were much more likely to be suspected, and vastly more likely per capita to be killed (or otherwise attacked) as a result." But where is the actual evidence to support these "more likely" arguments? Anyone can say anything is more likely than anything else if evidence is not provided one way or the other. Surely, after his decades of research - his lifetime’s work- he is obliged to provide the evidence in a precise and indisputable way and should not have to resort to this vague formulation. If, on the other hand, he is serious about the non-existence of ethnic cleansing then he has wasted his life. But who likes to admit that? Why cannot he be as precise as Tom Barry who specified exactly the number executed as spies in his area as 15, and explained "Incidentally for the benefit of those who are bigots - 9 Catholics and 6 Protestants ” Why is Hart with all his knowledge and hindsight not able to be as precise as Barry? Barry seems to have Hart in mind!!! Why is Hart not as specific as John Borgonovo is in his area of research as he shows in his letter above? Borgonovo has no need for innuendo or ambiguous phrases. He states the facts as a historian should and explains where and when the facts cannot be stated with certainty. What a refreshing change from Hart and our other revisionists.

But of course the most absurd idea of all is that “per capita” parity of executions and attacks was not maintained by the IRA. He should elaborate on this concept. He should give us the criteria by which those who wish to follow this line of argument could develop it and draw conclusions and make judgements. Don’t forget that the other side should be judged by the same criteria so there must be objective criteria established . No war has just one side. Are we to expect that the Black and Tans should have taken due account of the socio-religious balance and made the necessary, meticulous, calculations before they went out on their escapades?

What it shows conclusively is that Hart saturates his ‘history’ with a sectarian view of the War. He can only see Catholics and Protestants. . Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum was that there was no such thing as society - only individuals and their families. To Hart it is clearly a case of society consisting of individuals and their religious denominations. He would of course deny this but he has to put himself into this sectarian framework when he deals with his subject in order to seek to prove his case. His career and reputation depend on establishing sectarianism as the driving force of the War of Independence - by hook or by crook. He therefore has a vested interest in proving something that he also denies exists! If he continues to deny ethnic cleansing then all his supporters are made to look complete idiots because they have misinterpreted him comprehensively as evidenced by many comments, reviews and letters to the press on the subject. He should urgently set up an advice service for his supporters, as they may get confused. Unlike Hart, they don’t seem to be the type of people who can hold two contradictory views at the same time.
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The first requirement of a successful army to ensure victory is to be clear about its enemy. That seems obvious but not if you take Hart seriously. The enemy army in the War of Independence was the armed forces of Britain and its supporters. If that was allowed to be obscured defeat was almost inevitable. It was this clarity that ensured that IRA did not lose. Imagine an army contemplating that in its attacks and executions of spies and informers it should ensure it was proportionate to the religious make-up of the people concerned. Imagine the ANC taking that approach in the ethnic sense. Imagine Hamas and the Israelis doing so! And what happens in wars where there are no religious or ethnic blocs to relate to? Maybe gender balance applies in those situations? And perhaps there is sexual orientations to be considered. And what about ageist factors? Soldiering could become a very complicated business indeed if Peter Hart’s concepts were pursued. One could almost pity the Tans in the work.
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The mind boggles that anybody could dream up such a “per capita” concept in fighting a war. If Monty Python was still in operation I think they could hardly do justice to it. I am tempted to draft a script just in case they make a comeback:

Sorry lads, no more Catholic/Protestants to be topped this week, quota’s been met for both!
Ah, but this one’s not a practising Catholic, sir.
And this one’s a very odd type of Protestant, opposed to all the others.
And this one says he’s an atheist.
Can’t execute me at all, then.
I bet the next one’s a Jew or a Muslim.
Funny you should say that, sir.

Will Peter Hart’s ultimate contribution to Irish history be as an inspiration for bad jokes?

Jack Lane

author by observerpublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 16:00Report this post to the editors

You've got to give the Aubane Historical Society its due - its members are utterly relentless! Bravo Aubane!

author by barrapublication date Tue Jul 25, 2006 23:29Report this post to the editors

A feature length film has it limitations with how much information it can communicate to the viewer, this film is about how the events of the era affected peoples lives, it does not give or try to give an historical account of the main events in the Irish civil war.

I don’t understand why so much attention is given to the issue of sectarianism its not relevant as the film is a snap shoot of a group of anti-imperialist/british rebels, not an account of all that happened in the civil war in or around the area.

To drag more dark areas of Irish history on to the screen would have eaten away the plot and watered down the character development.

author by Non-violentpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 15:20Report this post to the editors

There was no ethnic cleansing in the 26 counties - or very little

- But -

in starting the war of independence in Munster in 1919, sectarianism was almost certainly going to restart in Ulster, given the orangemen's general paranoia. Thanks for that.

'The wind' is a fine film about a very particular and short period. If faced with the Black & Tans, anyone would resist. But they were only sent because an undeclared war was under way.

Much cleverer if Sinn Fein in 1918-19 had sucked up to the USA, regretted 1916 and had their help at Versailles. But we didn't need it, did we? We had declared independence.

Then war was declared months before the truce in July 1921. Killing continued on all sides after the truce and the treaty. The civil war followed. The IRA split. The ulstermen could say: 'weren't we right not to join that bunch'.

10,000 corpses later we must have learned a better way. Violence solves nothing. Full independence might have taken 30 or 50 years of patience but it was coming. After 700 years, what was another few decades to separate peacefully?

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