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category national | history and heritage | opinion/analysis author Friday November 09, 2007 01:59author by Nick Folley - None Report this post to the editors

Transcript of Joe Duffy Liveline radio programme on Hidden History

Those following the debate on the Hidden History programme about the shooting of the Pearson Brothers in Co.Offaly may find this transcript of Joe Duffy's Liveline programme broadcast on 5 November 2007 of interest .

Transcript of RTE Joe Duffy’s Liveline Programme
Transmission date: 5 November 2007
Topic: RTE’s Hidden History programme on the shooting of the Pearson brothers in Co.Offaly.

(Note – I have tried to reproduce the dialogue verbatim as far as possible. Hence there are a large number of repitions, non-sequiters and pauses, typical of normal speech. In some cases it was difficult to catch every word, especially when a person spoke quickly, two people spoke at the same time or when the sound quality was poor. I have tried to indicate the parts I am not entirely sure of with [ ] brackets and a question mark. To give the flavour of the discussion, I have also tried to indicate the flow of converstion with asides in [ ] brackets)

1850 715 815…

Joe Duffy: Hello, good afternoon and you’re very welcome to Liveline…Paddy Heaney, good afternoon

Paddy Heaney: Good afternoon to you

J.D: Tell us where Cadamstown is for a start, Paddy

PH: Eh, Cadamstown is situated, it’s a border townsland between Laois and Offaly. If you come from the Dublin direction in to Mountmellick, Rosenallis, Clonaslee, you come to eh, cross the border there and you’re into Coolacrease, you’re into Cadamstown

J.D Ok, and it’s near..what would people know of that? Kinnity Castle is down that way there?

PH Kinnity Castle is about three miles from Cadamstown village

JD Ok, and isn’t there a famous burial pyramid down there, somewhere in one of the graveyard [sic], where’s that Paddy?

PH Oh yeah, there is in the Church of Ireland has a famous pyramid, well I don’t know whether he’s famous or not, but it was built by one of the Bernard families around 1832 or around that period

JD Ok, so it’s at the foot - foot of the Slieveblooms, near Rosenallis, it’s called Cadamstown and it’s the Silver River that flows near there, isn’t it?

PH That’s right, now that you mention Rosenallis, it’s not, it’s near the Clonaslee but it’s in County Offaly.

JD Ok.

PH Clonaslee’s in County Laois

JD Ok. Now, it’s been all over the pages of the Irish Times, almost every day now, the letters page. And this is as the result of a – a powerful - RTE programme, the Hidden History series, and it’s about an incident that happened – what? - 86 years ago. Will you, will you tell us…now I know there’s different interpretations of it, but you can…can you tell us the bare facts of what happened in Coolacrease, which is near Cadamstown on June the 30th 1921, Paddy?

PH Well, em, I – I wrote a book “At the Foot of Slievebloom” about three, four years ago and I documented the history and folklore of the area. So, I – I mentioned all the episodes that happened down through the centuries so I didn’t, I couldn’t admit,or, omit the incident or, or the War of Independence that took place at that particluar time. It’s locals, a lot of the local fellows were involved at that particluar period as well.

JD Uh-hm.

PH Well, the, the, the Pearsons bought a farm I think around 1911 I think, around 345 acres or so, in the townsland of Coolacrease. There’s actually 685 acres in the townsland of Coolacrease…


PH ..and they bought the farm and eh, the eh, they were very, very good farmers we are told, and they, they, all the children went to the local school here in Cadamstown. Actually, my mother went to school at that particular time as well, she knew them there. And ah, they had a little school hurling team and Dick, Dick Pearson - the eldest of the lads - he used to hurl with the local lads. But eh, they all grew up together in the area but when the War of Independence was, was eh, was going on and they seemingly began to, you know, fall away from the local people and they, and they…

JD Because they, they weren’t Protestants as such, they were Cloonyites [sic]?

PH They were Coonyites, yes.

JD And, and what are Cloonyites [sic]?

PH I don’t know much about Coonyites, they were only known at that time as Protestants. People didn’t realise they were Coonyites I think, at the time.

JD The, the Coonyites are apparently a dissenting Protestant sect, but apart from that I don’t know much about them, to be honest.

PH Nor do I, I don’t know much

JD Yeah, but, but they were Protestants in, in that sense?

PH Yeah, they were classed as Protestants in the area, but that, that didn’t matter because there were seven or eight Protestant families in the area as well

JD [As well, and they were integrated ?] And so why were the two, the two boys, two young men – Richard, 24; Abraham, 19 – both of them were shot?

PH Yes

JD Why?

PH Well, ah –

JD Tell us, tell us the details of the shooting, sorry, the ‘why?’ is contentious.

PH Well, you have to talk about the build-up to it first.

JD Uh-hmm.

PH Isn’t that right? Well, they they, they were keeping away from the local people and they weren’t associating with them. And then the first incident it happened, there was a Mass path coming down from the mountain, where people used to come down of a Sunday to Mass. And when they arrived there was a beech tree lodged across the stile. So, so they, some of the fellows proceeded to remove the branches of the tree some of them went to Mass but about 100 came back to clear the timber or the tree away from the stile. And while they were working on it, some of the Pearson family came up and there were a few words exchanged between Dick and an uncle of mine, John Dillon. And I think they drew revolvers on one another bewhat [sic] I hear. And the following day, Monday, two men were arrested by the Auxiliaries: John Joe Horan and John Dillon and taken to Tullamore jail. Ah, then the next incident happened a week later when the local Battalion got word to, to erect a roadblock out to Coolacrease outside Cadamstown, the Coolacrease side of Cadamstown. And eight – ten - men proceeded out there around eleven o’clock. Eight of them got ready to cut the tree. Now, the tree… I (was) reading some of the articles on the various papers..

JD Uh-hmm.

PH And they mentioned that the tree was in a wood, and it was here, it was there –

JD So, so it’s your, it’s your argument Paddy, that there’s, there’s motive in, in – and I use all these, these words loosely and in the context of the time – the motives at the time were that, the argument was that some of the locals believed that Richard and Abraham were co-operating with the Black and Tans?

PH Yes, yes.


PH They were.

JD Ok, the two, the two boys were shot dead by an IRA group?

PH Yes.

JD They were taken out and shot?

PH But what I was trying to explain to you - the reason they were shot. Now, Niamh Sammon wouldn’t even listen to that. The reason they were shot was they fired on fellows that were cutting down a tree on that night, and actually the, the RIC mentioned, in the, in the, when they were brought in Crinkill barracks the RIC mentioned about those two fellows were shot, and actually they mentioned that one of them died. Now he didn’t die – he survived - because he was brought into the Tullamore hospital and he was kept there for about three or four months.

JD Ok. And in the Hidden History programme which was broadcast two weeks ago, this this, you say, you say to us that the image of Cadamstown is damaged because what, what was the impression you got – I don’t know what other people got – what was the impression you got from the Hidden History’s programme?

PH Well, and the impression I got, and I think I had forty two phonecalls the following two days, and there was two of them wasn’t very complimentary. But there was, the forty phonecalls were, were very complimentary and they said that one phone, one man that phoned in from County Cork, he said that at least ye’ve [set?] up for those men who are dead and gone and who are not able to speak for themselves.

JD And what is your problem with the Hidden History programme?

PH It is biased.

JD In what way?

PH It wasn’t balanced. Eh, well, any of us who live around here and who know the history of the whole episode, know clearly that the, the documentary showed those two boys taken out of the field, they showed them being executed -

JD But why, why were they being executed?

PH They showed, they showed they were being executed twice. But they did not do a documentary on the Mass [party / path] incident, or they did not do a documentary on the shooting of the two IRA men at the roadblock.

JD So, what was the motive given in the TV programme for the killings?

PH On the TV? Well, they… as you said, as I’m telling you now, the TV documentary was very biased, was completely biased.

JD In that you said the background wasn’t included. Well Niamh Sammon is the director of Hidden Histories. Niamh, good afternoon.

Niamh Sammon: Hello, Joe

JD How are you Niamh?

NS I’m very well thank you.

JD What do you think of Paddy’s criticisms that you left out references to what they believe – what some people believe – are the motive [sic], insofar as you can use that word?

NS Em, well, everything is included in the documentary. [I mean] I’ve listened to Paddy, I’ve listened to the points he’s raised, he talked about the tree-felling incident, that was actually in the programme and it was covered extensively in the opening. [What we did we] presented both sides of the argument. They were two very different events – versions - of what actually happened that night. You know, Paddy said he spoke to the men involved he, he presented in the documentary his evidence that the Pearsons had fired directly on IRA men who were felling a tree on the Pearson’s land. On the other side of the argument which [we hopefully] presented, we, em, you know, the Pearsons say that people were trespassing on their land and that they fired the shot in the air in order to basically get them off the land because they didn’t actually fire directly at the IRA. I, I don’t know how much fairer we could have been -we presented both sides very clearly and I think we [were / worked] extremely fair. I’d also like to say that if I’d made an unbalanced documentary Paddy Heaney wouldn’t have been in it. It was absoultely essential to interview the people of the community, which we did – five local people were interviewed in the programme. If anything, people have said to me that the programme was almost too balanced because what happened to the Pearson’s was so dreadful that there comes a point where you have to start to call a spade a spade because it was an atrocity that shouldn’t have happened.

JD And Paddy do you think it was an atrocity?... [background noises, possibly Paddy’s voice “Yeah,I thought…” further noises like phone lines crossed] Paddy? [possibly Paddy’s voice “how’ya” someone laughs] ....what’s happening there? Is Paddy there? Paddy are you there?

PH Yeah, somebody cut in there…

JD Niamh’s, Niamh’s point that it’s, the programme, that the programme was balanced, that you were in it,

PH Yes, of course I was in it, but it wasn’t a balanced programme

JD Well give me, give me, give me the reason why

PH Well, I gave you two incidents there that that was not documented, it wasn’t shown. I mentioned it, I mentioned those two incidents, but why was it not shown, documented and -

JD Well,but people who saw that Hidden History programme, what would, what do you think they would have thought about the reason for the killing of these two men?

PH Yes, the, the main reasons were of course spying on the two –

JD No no, now you see - that’s your point, but you’re saying Hidden Hisory was unbalanced –

PH It was of course -

JD This, this battle is raging in the Irish Times at the moment -

PH I don’t mind the Irish Times

JD But, but tell me how you think it was unbalanced

PH It, it, the wrong impression was, was given.

JD Well give me, tell me the impression the programme gave.

PH Well the impression the programme gave was that those two young fellows, they, they were innocent.

JD And why were they killed, then?

PH They were killed -

JD - According to the programme?

PH They were… well, I’m, I’m not, the programme was biased, I told you a few moments ago, and everybody knows it was biased. But according to the local people here, that the programme was biased, and those two young fellows were executed because they were involved in undercover, they were undercover agents.

JD Ok. Niall Ginty has contacted us. Niall, good afternoon to you.

Niall Ginty: Hello Joe, how are you?

JD Are you like myself, you’d never heard of Coolacrease-

NG Not a word until I saw the programme.

JD And then you decided…

NG I had a good look at it, and eh, as I said I knew very little about it but generally I thought the, the balance was, was very good. I thought that you know, that both sides had their, had their say. And I thought in fact if anything, the balance was geared towards, towards the IRA side.

JD And in terms of watching the programme, can you articulate for me why, why some people in Cadamstown might be upset?

NG Yes I can. Because there’s been, there’s been, there’s a crowd from North Cork, they’re, they, they, they’ve been roaming the country, it’s been going round the country stirring up trouble anywhere, where such an, any event as it happens. I don’t know, have you heard of the Aubane Society?

JD No, I haven’t no

NG Well anyway, they’re, they’re, they’re -

JD They’re a historical society?

NG Yeah, they’re a historical society, yeah, correct. But there are people who are going around and particularly now with this story –

JD Ok, with what stories? Are you saying putting a complexion on stories of atrocities against Protestants?

NG Well they’re muddying the waters you see,

JD How?

NG Well, what they’re doing Joe, is for instance they’re, they’re trying to bring some of the blame for this on the people of Offaly. And of course that, that is, that’s totally ludicrous. The people of Offaly are blameless. The, the people who carried this out, it was carried out by, by a, an IRA group who were not from that area for a start off.

JD And why, why having watched the programme and then read about subsequently, why, what do you understand happened to the two men? Why were they shot?

NG Well, eh, I tell you if you were to read the Sunday Times article yesterday you’d wonder what, what’s going on altog- what is going on. But the, the, the eh, two lads, right, number one they were, they were deliberately – and I mean deliberately – shot in the genitals. Right?

JD Uh-hm.

NG Based on the doctor’s evidence – I don’t know if you are, are you familiar with the story yourself?

JD Yes, I am, yeah – I read up on it this morning

NG Based on the doctor’s evidence they were shot in the groin - which is as near to the genitals as you can possibly get.

JD And why were they shot? Paddy says the reason they were shot was because they had attacked an IRA party, that they were collaborating with the Black and Tans. What’s your understanding? Help us here - what’s your understanding of the other side of the story? Is it because, they were shot simply because they were Protestants, were they shot simply because the land would, could be sold off to small farmers around or whatever?

NG I have to admit Joe I’m not sure, but I’d say there, there, there is a combination of situation [sic]. There is the question of the land, but there is also the question of the fact that they were just, they were Protestant. Plain and simply.

JD Brendan, Brendan Caf – Niall, I appreciate that comment, Brendan Cafferty, 1850 715 815. Brendan?

Brendan Cafferty: Congrats to RTE Joe by the way, for doing this documentary. I thought it was pretty balanced and –

JD You’re a historian?

BC I’m not a historian but I’m into history –

JD Right

BC But eh, but this is a part of our –

JD Now Brendan, can you – I’m going to stop you and try and start again. I’ll tell you why. Because…there’s an ongoing row about this programme -

BC Yeah

JD – and I’m asking Paddy Heaney, I’m asking you now, tell me, having watched the programme, what do you think the row is about? Because I’m told by Paddy and other people who’ve contacted us, the row is about that the programme says we were just small-minded sectarian people in Offaly who killed them to get the land. And the other story Paddy says [woman’s voice “that’s right”?] they were shot because they had a background of collaborating or indeed attacking an IRA party, that was a war incident. What’s your understanding Brendan?

BC Well, You know, there’s a broader picture here: there’s a certain sectarian element to, to that period. You only have to read Peter Hart’s book about the killings in West Cork. You know, in order to justify that, I think, I think they were killed because they were Protestants, there was probably a land grab and people saw this as an attempt to take back what was supposed to be ours by the way. And you know, to justify that then they were all heaped with this thing of spies and informers. If you read Peter Hart’s book about the killings in West Cork where old men, some of them blind or that and that were taken out and shot, just because they were Protestants, but they were incapable of being spies or informers. And you know, those boys were left to die in agony for hours, you know, they were mutilated. And what eh, gives anybody the right? I see some letters in the Irish Times talking about this was a lawful execution and who can say that, like?

PH Could I come in there Joe? Could I come in?

JD Yeah

BC Who, who can give anybody the right to go out and shoot two lads like that? You know what I mean? I’m not au fait, with what, you know, previously took place, there was some rumour that there was an IRA volunteer killed but now I hear that isn’t true at all, so you know, this is, this a fig leaf to –

JD So you’re saying this was a straight-forward sectarian attack, shot because they were Protestants, get the land, and this was common in Ireland at the time?

BC And it, it succeeded -

JD - Despite what we saw in “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”?

BC There were killings in Cork, Tipperary, parts of Galway, and several places round the country. And this is a handy, this is a handy thing to label them as (‘spies…collaborator..informers?’ – background noise, indistinct)

JD Yeah, Paddy – stay there - Paddy come back in.

PH Yes, just to answer those two gentlemen who spoke last. They mentioned again, the, because they were Protestants. You must remember – and I mentioned it in my letter to Eoghan Harris when he had that ferocious documentary in the Qua- the Independent in regard to the locality here. I mentioned there were seven Protestant families living in the area; they were never harmed or molested in any way -

BC – Did, did, did they have big farms of land?

PH - They had – big farms – a lot bigger: a thousand acres and more.

BC Yes, you know, well, you know, this, this, this thing of labelling them you know, those people cannot speak for themselves

PH No, no, now -

BC And, and, and my question is who gave, who gave anybody the right to do that to them, you know? I mean can you please answer that? To mutilate, leave them die in agony without medical assistance for hours, you know.

JD … there for eighteen hours or so(indistinct)

PH Could I answer you again?

BC Can you please justify that?

PH You –

BC I’d like to hear your justification for that

PH You, you mentioned something about land, land again

BC Well, the, the -

PH Now, the land problem, why, you mentioned there they were shot for their land. I think the documentary was trying to bring out that as well. Now -

BC There was a note, there was a note left on the plough –

PH That –

BC – a week later, you know -

PH That is ridiculous. That is ridiculous

BC That’s not true, you say?

PH That is ridiculous.

BC Well, that is a historical fact.

PH Prop-propaganda at its finest.

BC Well now!

PH Now the land question: when the land was divided by the Irish Land Commission

BC Yes?
JD Uh-hm.

PH And there was a PP in Kinnity, the local - and he was anti-IRA, and he made sure that no IRA got land. The three first people to get land were three ex-British soldiers who served during the ’14-’18 War. It wasn’t for land, because it wasn’t a good farm, as we, we saw in the documentary those, eh, the television cameras were focused on the good land up around Kildare, up around Meath, they should have brought down the cameras here around the Slievebloom Mountains. They should have shown the beauty of the Slievebloom Mountains. -

BC Eh.. (groan)
JD Eh..

PH - And people like yerselves should come down here and write about the beauty of the mountains –

JD (indistinct) We’re not, Paddy don’t turn the programme into ‘No Frontiers’; now we’re not, it’s not a tourist programme, it’s this debate that’s going on and we’re allowing people to talk to each other a bit, they’ve been talking independently, but now they’re talking to each other -

BC Eh, eh [wants to say something]

JD - Brendan stay there, I want to bring Niamh back in - Niamh Sammon who produced and directed the programme. Niamh, do you want to respond to some of the points made there?

NS One point in particularly [sic], Paddy says there’s absolutely no way this was about land; I mean we explored this evidence quite clearly. The Pearsons moved in in 1911 they were outsiders coming into the area, they bought a three hundred and forty acre farm which was surrounded by their Catholic neighbours who would have held holdings that were, that were much smaller; We talked to experts (in the field?) such as Terry Dooley, and it’s only now that the social aspects of the War of Independence are being explored and what’s very very clear in that there were all sorts of motivations for people joining the IRA at the time and fighting. And one of the motivations was land. Em, there’s also evidence, there’s also evidence that in 1917, I mean William Pearson’s (father?) in 1917 was talking about members of Sinn Fein coming on his land and trampling his corn, because he was growing crops under (constructive?) tillage order. And , eh, also one thing Paddy said there I find really remarkable – he said that it was only former British soldiers who got land, when the Pearsons left the area. Paddy actually on the programme himself had said - and says - that two or three former IRA men got some of the Pearson’s land.

PH Can I answer that?

JD Yes, Paddy.

PH Could I answer it?

JD Yes Paddy.

PH I said the three first people to acquire land – the three first people, Niamh, are you listening? An bhfuil tú ag eisteacht? Are you, are you listening?

NS I am, I am listening yes, Paddy.

PH I said (‘I said’ - indistinct) - of course you twisted it and turned it on the programme – I said the three first people who received land were three ex-British soldiers. Now, one of those wasn’t wasn’t able to pay for the land because there was, there was a terrfic rent on it, and, and a former IRA man – a local man, who was jailed for four or five years – he got, he got land in it. Three ex-IRA men got land there, because the, the Land Commission could get nobody else to take it up; because the land wasn’t the best; there was a, a double rent on it, compared to other land all over the country; and that was the reason. You know, Niamh mentioned there about the reason a lot of the IRA joined that time, was to acquire land. I think that’s a slap in the face to a lot of the people who went out that time who died and lay in the ditches and left us the lovely country we have here today

JD Ok, but –

PH A brother-in-law belong [sic] to me went out, my mother… Cumann na mBan. I, I reject that completely, that, what Niamh Sammon is saying. She should be ashamed of herself.

JD (indistinct)

NS Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein itself (indistinct – we’ve seen this?) extensively – Sinn Fein has [sic] exploited the land issue. There was an IRA leader in Clare who said “of course some of these men are motivated by land (indistinct) incredible amount of (indistinct)”

JD Let me bring in Patricia Howard who’s in Wexford. Patricia, good afternoon.

Patricia Howard: Good afternoon Joe, yeah.

JD You’re listening, you believe this, these killings in Coolnacrease were an act of, were - ethnic cleansing?

PHo Yes, I do yeah. I saw the documentary I watched it, particularly I was horrified by the way those two young men were killed (it was) quite gut wrenching. And I, em, remembered what happened to my grandfather, em, he was a shopkeeper - or merchant, if you will - in Limerick, at the time of the War of Independence. And ah, a member of the Church of Ireland. And his house was, he was raided one night, and men came to take him out and shoot him, and at the time he wasn’t there as it happened, he was away on business, he was in the fish business, and he was away. But one of my aunts was on her own in the house, and they didn’t harm her or, or do anything, any damage to the house; but, but it was always told in our family that he, he had a lucky escape that night.

JD And you’re saying, Patricia, your grandfather, they came, the IRA came for him that night to shoot him because he was a Protestant?

PHo – yeah, we always believed that, yeah. That was always what we believed. And I believe that those people - the Pearsons – this is just my own belief, I haven’t done research obviously or, I was just listening to, you know, watching the television, I believe that they were defensive rather than proactive, if you know what I mean. When the, the war started, Protestants would have felt defensive, and they would have drawn into themselves, what else would you do? You have to get on with your life. And you would have been part of the local community, but people make you feel unwelcome and you draw back into yourself,and that’s what I believe they did. And also I think, I don’t know a lot about the Cooneyites, but my mother – my maternal grandmother’s family were Quakers, and if there’s any similarity, they were pacifists! Wouldn’t have got involved with, with military –

JD And are the Cooneyites pacifists, in the sense I understand the Quakers - I know most people are pacifists anyway, but…?

PHo That’s what I’m saying, I’m not sure about that but (indistinct)

JD - But the difference, the difference in this is that -

NS If I could just jump in there? I should say that Cooneyites, Cooneyites are pacifists, anyway… essentially (indistinct)

PHo Yeah..

JD They would be similar to the Quakers, Niamh?

NS They’d, they’d still, well, they’d be very close to the Amish, I mean -

PHo - The Amish, yeah.

NS - They’d be non-political to the extent that they don’t even vote.

PHo No, that’s right. And the Quakers didn’t take oath and they didn’t pay up tithe, so they were actually disliked by both the Roman Catholic hier- you know, authority and the Church of Ireland authority.

JD But in the case of the Pearson family, Patricia, they all left and, and Niamh found some of them in Australia, they all left, and they, they don’t feel -

PHo Well, A lot of my family have left too, they went to Australia, they went to England – I’m here -

JD - Because, because of the War of Independence?

PHo Oh, there was, yes. There was an exodus of Protestants after that. They didn’t feel welcome. My father said to me once that, em, ‘we’re not wanted in politics’. And I mean, you know, those, those are the kind of things you grow up with. There’s a defensiveness about it and there’s eh, yo know a keeping into your own little group if you like.

JD Hmm.hmm

PH Could I answer that question Joe?

JD Paddy, yes

PH That last lady who, who spoke there -

JD - Patricia Howard, yes

PH Yeah, yeah. We appreciate her, her, her ideas on it. The reason – that is being talked about by revisionists and those who are trying to rewrite Irish history for the last twenty years. And they always come up with this thing about ‘the Protestants left’. And the reason a lot of them left was, a lot of the (specific) landed Protestant farmers they got broke, they weren’t able to pay a labourer or anything –

PHo Hm

PH - times were changing. And also – those, a lot of the Protestants, they left because the British military and the RIC weren’t here to back them up when they do [sic] some dirty work, or something like that -

PHo Well, you see – that’s, that’s one way of looking at it, Paddy,

PH I know –

PHo And I don’t wish to argue with you really because I, I (indistinct)

JD Paddy, hang on – Paddy, I wish to argue with you – would you hang on, Patricia? - Paddy, what do you mean the RIC weren’t there when they were up to some dirty work, what would Patricia’s family have been doing that would have been classified as dirty work?

PH Well I, I didn’t mention that Patricia’s family –

JD What about Protestant families?

PH Joe, I’m surprised at you stating that over, over the airwaves

JD But you’re saying that they, they left because the RIC wouldn’t be there to back up their dirty work. What does that mean? Just –

PH There was lots of, of landed gentry or landlord [sic] who were, who were doing a lot of dirty work down through the years –

PHo Yes - [wants to come in]

PH - They evicted people, they drove people out on the road -

PHo - Yes, yes, but you have to see Paddy, you have to see, [both PH and PHo talking] hang on a minute – you’ve got to make a diffrentiation between the landed gentry, the Anglo-Irish and the ordinary Protestant working – I mean, not working class, but people who owned farms – small, three hundred acres would have been classified as a small farm, if you compare it to the landed gentry. It is a different group of people. And the people in the cities like my grandfather who was in Limerick, that’s a different group again. They weren’t in cahoots with the authorities, they weren’t doing dirty work. He, ah actually lent, he gave employment, he lent money to people, he was, he was seen as, as a good person. And yet because of his religion, he was a suspect.

JD Ok, ok, hang -

PHo Mainly at a time when there was a lot of inflamed feelings -

PH Joe -

PHo – and I totally accept that [sighs]

PH Joe, what I was trying to explain there, was - and yer inclined to twist it round to suit yerselves –

JD Who? Me, now, is it?

PH Yeah, that -

[indistinct – someone mutters in studio]

PH - that a lot of
PHo No, you’re not -

JD - Paddy, the great thing about this radio is that you’re live, and you can say exactly what you say and I can’t edit anything you say, ok?

PH I know –

JD Off you go

PH I said that a lot of the Protestant people left the country

JD Uh-huh

PH - a lot of them went down to the North, some of them not, not too far away from my area, twenty miles of a radius from here, because as that lady said there a few minutes ago, maybe they felt isolated when we got our freedom. And in years gone by, when anything would happen if there was an eviction they always had the authorities there to back them up and they always had the RIC – well, they were gone, and they felt isolated as that lady said a few moments ago.

PHo Yeah, but it’s not just that they were getting back up, that they were wanting to do bad things to the Catholic community – that’s not the point! The point is that they weren’t wanted. And many and many of them left because they just felt that there was no future for them here. Or for their children. Because the whole thing went against them. I mean the [sighs] civil rights, I mean I could go on. You know, we didn’t have our civil rights, for what? – eighty years. Only just really beginning to open out since we joined the European Union [sic]. For people who didn’t see things the way the majority saw them. You have to accept that, it’s the fact – I’m not trying to rewrite history here – history was written for the majority.

PH Listen, my good lady, we all suffered, we, all our ancestors suffered -

PHo – please don’t patronise me – I’m not your ‘good lady’

PH yeah

PHo [short laugh] Sorry. I just wanted to put that viewpoint. Thank you.

PH Whatever you are, whatever you are

[Patricia hangs up]

JD Are you there Paddy? Is the line gone? Claire? I’ll come back to you Paddy. Claire Guerin is in (indistinct)

Claire Guerin: Hello, Joe, I just wanted –

JD What’s your interest, interest in this, Claire?

CG I’ve studied, myself, em, the specific area of intelligence and -

JD Are you an historian? (indistinct – ‘or into academia’?)

CG I’m, I’m doing a research degree

JD You don’t have to be anything, ok,

CG Well, I’m on a break but I’ve, I’ve done a couple of years of research, a research degree in history.


CG And, the, the specific point about the, the execution of the Pearsons, now the decision to execute them was made at Brigade level by the Offaly Brigade officer and Battalion –

JD – of the IRA?

CG Yeah. So the point that there’s the decision to execute them was made on a local basis and was influenced by local animosities I don’t think would have been the case.

JD And how do you know that the Offaly Brigade made the decision?

CG Well, because I’ve seen, it’s in the papers – the Beasley papers.

JD And where are they located?

CG They’re in the National Library

JD Ok, fantastic, so you’ve gone though these [CG – Yes] they’re what, the minutes of a meeting or… signed orders?

CG It’s a report submitted to Headquarters, General Headquarters by the Offaly Brigade

JD And why do they say that they’d singled out these two young men to be, to be shot?

CG They said that there was evidence that they had been conspiring with the enemy, they said that they had been involved with the UVF in the area, previously, and there were specific reasons –I’m not, I can’t actually remember whether they went into the specific details of the ambush and so on, but, and they said there was definite evidence that they had been conspiring with the British military in the past that there were definite grounds for their execution. Now, as regards the, the point that the IRA targeted Protestants, Protestants in particular, I would have to say that I never found that that was the case. Now, Catholics were targeted, as well as Protestants, and I’m not ruling out the, the the possibility that there were local factors, often because obviously the IRA was very, eh, was organised on a local basis, and GHQ couldn’t always initiate – regulate – their activities no matter how they tried, and they did, they tried very hard. But on a whole, on the whole there were always investigations into every case, and reasons had to be given for every execution. Now it was Tom Barry, I think, who said that there were, the fact that there were Protestants executed was always brought up by British propaganda to discredit the Movement and to try and say that, that, that it was a sectarian war. But he pointed out that the number of Catholics who were executed as spies was never brought up. And you know I just find it rather interesting that in this whole debate, you know, when points of history come up –

JD Uh-hm

CG – Dublin – you know, the, the, the kind of propaganda that was put out by Dublin Castle is utilised so much. Now, I’m not saying that people don’t have these concerns about what happened. But, you know, I remember a quote from deValera in which he says that ‘we, we know that something may be propaganda, but the future generations may not know that and take it as fact’.

JD But the programme as far as you’re concerned gave the impression…?

CG It gave the impression that there were reasons behind the executions which I think, could not have been the case.

JD And what were those reasons which the programme proffered?

CG Well, well, I’m not saying that the programme didn’t try to give both sides but, but some historians have the view that, that people were targeted unfairly for sectarian reasons -

JD Because they were Protestants and to get their land –

CG – Exactly

JD And char- allegations were trumped up

CG Yes,

JD In other words, spying a lot of the time, as someone said earlier, it could have been after the event the allegations were [made], Brendan Cafferty made that point, didn’t he?

CG Well, well, as far as I’m concerned that is not the case because the documentation that is there in the papers, clear, and from the time clearly gives the allegations that they were spies and this was on a Brigade level. So it did not come merely from the locality.

JD OK, I need to take a quick break - I’m fascinated that so many people want to talk about this, come back after this…

[commercial break]

JD You’re with RTE dot i-e… Pat Muldowney has e-mailed us. Pat?

Pat Muldowney: Hello, Joe

JD You saw the programme?


JD We’re dogged by bad lines, can you hear me Pat?

PM Yes, yes I can hear you Joe, fine

JD Yes, go ahead, you’re fine, please

PM Ok, the point is that the, the actual reasons for the execution was, was adjudicated on by two courts – one the Irish Courts Martial after the attack on the roadblock and I have the report of that one in front of me

JD And who carried that Court Martial?

PM Sorry?

JD Who carried out the Court Martial?

PM The responsible officer at, at at the, under the Irish government at the time,

JD (indistinct)

PM - it was a Courts Martial. And subsequent, subsequent to the executions – and this is the important point – the, the –

JD Was the brother, were the brothers brought before a Court Martial?

PM This is a war, Joe, the Courts Martial, the country was under, under military rule –

JD No but I know (indistinct) there wasn’t, there was a British government running the country, there wasn’t an Irish government, but you say there was a Courts Martial?

PM There was an elected government Joe, you see, that’s the whole point, the elected – the legitimate – authority there was held by the, by the, Irish, by the elected government -

JD But therefore -

PM - They were, they were -

[both trying to speak]

PM But the important point you see is that point that the evidence that was excluded from the Hidden History programme which I tried to present to them and I was interviewed for by [them] -

JD - Ok, what’s the evidence?

PM This was the evidence of, presented at the British Court of Enquiry which took place two days later and which had medical experts, high-level police reports, and eyewitness reports. And it confirmed to the letter the, the, the reasons given for the execution by the Irish - that had been determined by the Irish Court Martial. I can read the two, the two, the two reports to you

JD Well, paraphrase, because we’ve been doing this for a long time

PM Well, here’s the one, here’s the report sent in by the, by Thomas Burke on behalf of the Irish Court Martial. He says that ‘the men who fired were recognised by the men present to be three [blood?] brothers named Pearson. Having satisfied myself by enquiries from the Company Captain in Kinnity and officers present at the time in counsel that there was no doubt about the identities of the men who fired I ordered that these men be executed and their house destroyed’ Now I’ll give you –

JD And who gave that order? Who signed that?

PM That’s Thomas Burke, he was the Officer in Command of the -

JD Of the IRA, yes

PM – of the area, of the Irish, the Irish army.

JD The, the IRA

PM Responsible to the Irish Government, yes.

JD Insofar as we had an Irish government

PM Here’s the report of the Chief Inspector of Queen’s County given to the sworn, a sworn and solemn inquiry under British law, held two days later on the 2nd of July, and he was the Chief Inspector of Queen’s County, he said that, ‘the two Pearson boys a few days previously had seen two men felling a tree on the land adjoining the road, had told the men concerned to go away and when they refused – [just lost the line, sorry?] when they refused, eh, had fetched guns and shot the two Sinn Feiners, one of whom they thought died’ Like the,

JD We know, we now know that

PM This is the, the – there’s all sorts of other reasons being put about like land hunger, spying, and all the rest of it. But the actual reason, in terms of the, the, the legal – legality – of the thing, whichever authority you choose to recognise – whether you choose to recognise the elected government, or whether you choose to recognise the authority of the government that was trying to impose its rule by military force – that is, the British government – [JD tries to come in] they’re both agreed on it, you see. All the other –

JD Ok, there’s arguments there. Let me bring in Senator Eogahn Harris. Eoghan, good afternoon.

Eoghan Harris: Good afternoon Joe.

JD You want to respond to a number of points?

EH Well, I’m, first of all the programme was worth doing just to hear Patricia Howard because her direct testimony of her own Protestant family history is a, a another useful piece of the mosaic, basically the – I won’t call it ethnic cleansing – but what happened to Southern Protestants, and particularly to Low-Church Protestants: those caught between the rather posh Church of Ireland and those who were Evangelical, Methodists, Cooneyites, they tended to have farms around the same level as their Catholic neighbours – they seem to have got the brunt of the IRA’s ethnic cleansing or what then was very looked like it in the ‘21 – ’22 period. And the problem is this – that most modern – Paddy Heaney said that I attacked the people of Offaly – I have been going round for years trying to dig up some of that buried history because, the last taboo in Ireland. And I’ve been doing it because if we don’t dig up that history and tell the truth about that period, what chance have the people of Fermanagh, or the Northern Catholics, what kind of chance have we of any kind of peace on the island, of any kind of truce? And in every time I bring up, or I publish, or anyone else publishes an atrocity against Protestants,a group of people, of which Paddy Muldowney is one, who seem to make an itinerant travelling circus of – they’re like Holocaust deniers – flood the letters, bombard RTE with letters, proving that it really didn’t happen at all. They did that about the twelve Protestants shot in the Bandon valley and now they’re doing it in Coolnacrease. Look, the facts are very simple, two lads were taken out in broad daylight in front of their sisters and their mother and they were shot in the groin or genitals as I recall it because I thought there was a deliberately sexual kind of, form of contempt to shoot them like that. And the fact is that all of this is a [nest?] of whitewash afterwards. Now, the important point is this: I’m down in the Dail and Senate, and I’m meeting people from the Offaly area, and I’m getting letters, I got letters off, I wrote in the Sunday Independent about this, and most Offaly people – I believe – are thoroughly ashamed of what happened. Because of course it wasn’t an IRA execution as per the normal IRA executions used to take them out shoot them in the back of the head, shoot them at night, but, this thirty men arrived in broad daylight to the farm of a little peaceful Cooneyite sect is what they were, and they took out two young lads and they shot them in the groin and there’s a lot of this rubbish being pushed out by Muldowney and his friends like Niall Meehan, and the Aubane group that were mentioned in the programme, they’re like a professional crowd of holocaust deniers. They run around the place bombarding, and trying to tell lies about simple facts, and everyone …

JD Alright, hang on,

EH Everyone in Offaly, basically – I believe – most people in Offaly are ashamed of what happened and would like to apologise. And its doing the people of Offaly no service to drag this out like that mystifying and mudraking and trying to pretend it was IRA Court Martials. It would be far better if the people of Offaly just accepted that a bad thing happened and just allowed the ordinary people of Offaly to deal with it by apologising. Paddy Heaney is doing no service to the people of Offaly.

JD Paddy, Paddy, do you want to respond to that?

PH I, indeed, I was reading Eoghan Harris’ letter, article in the Sunday Independent a couple of years ago, people were raging, were actually raging about it. You know to try and label people here – a great tourist area – and to try and bring about a bad name on the people. I think Eoghan Harris would be, be better off if he wrote something reasonable about people and not be digging up dirt about people. There’s a little, a few small little lines in the today’s Independent which said ‘with so much revisionsim in the air these days I presume this government will shortly apologise to the Queen of England for the 1916 Rising’ And I know, that’s a short little notice on today’s Independent.

JD Is Pat Muldowney, does Pat Muldowney want to come back?

[2 Voices: one, possibly EH: ‘It’s catch-22, you see about the.. hello?’ The second, possibly PM ‘…remarks by Senator Harris’]

PM The, the, I actually have the medical report in front of me there were no, there were no wounds to the genitals, there were wounds all over, superficial wounds – [EH tries to talk, something about ‘groins and genitals’] – the women were reported [as / by] eyewitnesses that were moved to a group of trees to the back of the house: they couldn’t see anything from the grove of trees in the back of the house.

JD [tries to speak: ‘- tell you,we have –‘ EH still trying to speak in the background]

PM – the Ordanance Survey map is totally impossible to see anything. So the atrocity allegation is –

JD Ok, I just,

EH – But, I – can I just comment on that? That is exactly what I mean by mystification and muddying the waters –

PM – What? He made a report, he made a due sworn inquiry held on July 2nd 1921 [EH speaks also, so both indistinct]

EH [finally speaks over Pat Muldowney for second time] he makes two distinctions - you had your chance, could I just comment [PM still trying to speak] could I just comment on the two points you made? Can I comment on the two points you made?

PM Yeah, go ahead

EH Someone who makes the distinction between shooting them in the groin and genitals, and someone who tells me they were taken around the corner rather than being killed in front of their sisters is somebody who’s not in touch with reality.

PM But the report that was made, I mean, they, the wounds were in the leg –

EH – [interrupts again, shouting] But I, I look, you, [indistinct, EH shouting over PM: EH ‘look, I’ve got, got forty pages…you’re famous for sending enormous boring letters to people, you did the same, you did the same thing…’]

JD [trying to intervene to restore calm] Ok, ok there’s no - by the way I just want to point out that it mentioned earlier by Eoghan about different people on Live; now I know it was a general [sop?] about revisonism, history and all that carry-on, but the people that are mentioned, Niall Meehan for example, is a respected lecturer in Dublin and there’s no allegation of untruth there, I just want to clarify that.
Roger Pearson, Roger, good afternoon!

Roger Pearson: yeah, Joe is it?

JD Yeah

RP Yeah, g’day mate, how are you?

JD And you say you’re a grandson of..?

RP That’s right, under Sid Peasron, he was only one of the other brothers, and he, em, he had to flee the country, to Australia,

JD That was your grandfather?

RP That was my grandfather Joe,

JD Where are you now?

RP I’m in Dublin – living in Dublin

[short laugh, possibly EH]

JD And were you contacted for this programme? For Hidden Histories?

RP No, well actually my father was on it, ok?

JD I, I thought, I thought all the Pearson family had left the Cadamstown area after this atrocity but, but you, but you, you’re telling me you did, after your grandfather’s whose two brothers were killed?

RP That’s right

JD Is that correct? [both speak indistinct] your grandfather, his two brothers were killed, Sid Pearson he went to Australia, you are the grandson, and now you are back home in Ireland?

RP I’m back home in Ireland, yeah, yeah

JD Are you living here or are you -?

RP Yeah, I am at the moment, I’m, I, I I’ve been coming and going for like six years, yeah, yeah, so I’d just like you know,

JD well, what’s your understanding then, in your family what are you told about what happened to your two grand uncles?

RP Well, my grandfather would never, you know, he would not talk about it, I mean, you know, he would just like, tell a few things, but we did like you know, here’s a story that well basically, [I believe?] they were just farmers, you know, wealthy farmers, going about, em, their business, and what happened was, was pretty rough you know. I’d say at the least, you know.

JD Have you, have you been back to Offaly?

RP I have been back to Offaly, yeah, yes

JD Have you gone back to where the, to where the -

RP I have – I have been there, that’s right. The ruins and the –

JD And what was it like for you going back to the ruins of the, where your ancestors came from, and where two of them were killed?

RP Yeah it was, you know, em, it was, you know, I’m not really sure like, you know, how I felt, ah,it was you know em, It was some experience yeah, for sure. You know, Joe, yeah. But, em you know em, they were dirty days and you know I, we don’t, like you know, hold, [harbour?] any grudges or anything you know, what happened happened and you know,

JD How did the family get on in Australia when they -?

RP Yeah they done pretty well, I’m into the wind farming out there and em [tree farming?]

JD And what did your father do for himself?

RP He’s a dairy farmer as well, He’s, he’s now taken over from my grandfather, yeah yeah, so, this wind farming, you know,

JD And do you consider yourself, Roger do you consider yourself Irish or Australian?

RP Oh, I’m an Ozzie. Yeah

JD An Ozzie, yeah, Ok

RP Yeah. But I mean there’s you know, a bit (indistinct)

JD From, from what you know of this argument, which as I say is raging in certain quarters here, and,and it’s fascinating how our phones light up when we talk about something that happened, what? Eighty, eighty five, eigthy six, eighty- seven years ago!

RP That’s right, yeah

JD Do you think it was ethnic cleansing or do you think there was other motives?

RP Ammm, you know, I don’t know, you know, look, I was very, you know, like – it’s still very clouded isn’t it, you know? I mean there’s like a lot, you know, I mean there’s a lot of things that people say happened that, look you know…I’m not prepared you know like, I still think you know, I mean what happened, em, em, em was terrible, but you know,

JD OK, Paddy is, Paddy is – stay there Roger, because Paddy is, Paddy Heaney who is in Cadamstown, Paddy?

PH Yes, yes

JD Paddy have you ever spoken to a member of the Pearson family?

PH Ah, indeed I have, I, actually I met two grandnieces of Sid Pearson that come back from Australia

JD Ok, well now we have [to / two], Roger, who’s a grand nephew of the two men who were, who were -

PH Yes, I appreciate what he said there. Ah, y’know

JD And do people apologise to the Pearson family? I don’t know whether, that’s not what Roger wants? I know from what he’s saying, but -

PH Well, nobody apologises for anything. If we were start apologising we go back to when the Normans came in here, 1169 and start apologising up through the centuries. I, you asked me a question there Joe a moment ago; I spoke to two grand nieces of the Pearsons, and they were two lovely girls, they came here, spoke to me about it, one of them was a bit aggravated, and I brought them over and I showed them where the, the incident took place, and actually one of them broke down and cried, and she writes to me every Christmas

JD Yeah, well, they could be, they could be Roger’s either sisters or indeed cousins

PH Oh, they could be. They were grand nieces of Sid. Two lovely girls.

JD Roger, have other members of your family come back?

RP Yeah, my parents were over, they come back with me, I mean like, they come over like six years ago, they were down there as well,

JD Eoghan, Eoghan Harris makes a very strong point and that is, if we don’t start looking at these incidents 80, 90 years ago we won’t start looking at incidents 20, 30 years ago. But, you, you, you still think Roger it’s clouded, it’s still clouded as far as your concerned?

RP Well, you know, look,

JD Or you’ve moved on?

EH Joe? Joe? Joe?

JD Yes, Eoghan

EH Can I ask a question of Roger through you? Did Roger get any personal reaction, did anyone say anything to him? Because there was other relatives, there was one relative reported as saying that she wondered if there’d be reprisals. I just wonder if Roger feels totally free to say what’s in his mind in all this?

RP Aw, yeah I do, really, you know,

EH Yeah

RP - I mean there’s work mates that have been, you know, clowning around with me, and em, you know, you know, but I sort of know like they’re just joking, I feel pretty free about it, like. You know, I’m not too worried really. I mean, ah –

JD Do, do you – Roger, sorry, just to continue on Eoghan’s point there – do you, have you told your workmates in Dublin for example that your family left after –

RP I did, I did actually, yes, I did tell them yeah, and they were shocked, (indistinct) you know, but -

JD And they were shocked.

RP They were shocked, yeah – they were shocked, you know. Because I never said anything about it because I’ve been here for like six years and like I’ve just never said anything but when it come [sic] up I just told them one day – in the morning like when the programme was on, and em, yeah, and I mean like, eh,

JD (indistinct) they heard this guy who they knew to be from Australia and that they worked with telling them ‘oh, by the way, that, that, that documentary last night about that family down in Offaly were my unc – my grand uncles?’

RP Yeah, they were two great-uncles yeah, yeah, yeah. So ah, you know,

JD But you didn’t, you haven’t, you haven’t encountered any animus?

RP No, not really, no. No, I haven’t no. No, not so far anyway, no. So eh, yeah. But you know, it’s just a bit, there’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of things that have been said and that you know, em, you know, look, you know

JD I see, I see Roger are you wor –

RP You know, I mean like you sorta – I don’t know – you sorta get on with it, too. You know what I’m saying? You know like, you gotta move on in life

JD Well, Eogahn, Eoghan Harris, is that not a point, do these programmes help or hinder?

EH Well, I think you see the tip of the iceberg is only there, you see, I, to be honest again and again in West Cork and now listening to Roger I don’t think that – if you’ve local people in West Cork, and for example, one of the extended Pearson family asked the other night if people thought there would be reprisals. I don’t think you see, if you’re a tiny Protestant community living in a place like Offaly or West Cork I don’t think you’re free actually to speak out and say what you really think about what happened to your relatives. I mean for example, Roger – he’s been very good there and he’s trying to sort of put the best face on it but I doubt very much like, if it’s as simple as, I, I would ask him straight out did any workmates say anything about, did the word ‘informer’ cross anyone’s lips?

JD Roger?

RP Aw, yeah, you know, yeah (indistinct)

JD Did they say your great-uncles were spies?

RP They did you know, but, I mean you know,

EH And Cooneyite? Was the word ‘Cooneyite’ used to you?

RP Yeah, it was used yeah, because, I can tell you one thing, that we’re not, I mean we’ve broke away from them actually, I mean we’re not really the Cooneyites at all, I mean Adam Cooney, ok, he was the guy who, like, started it off, but then (indistinct) broke away

JD Ok, to come back to, to come back to, to come back to Eoghan’s point, I see from your call you’re in the centre of Dublin.

RP Yeah

JD Yeah, Ok, You’re working in the centre of Dublin?

RP I am working in the centre of Dublin

JD That’s where you work? The address you’ve given us is where you work?

RP I’m in the city centre, yes.

JD That’s what I thought. But Eoghan Harris’ point is, did anyone say to you ‘well, your family were spies or informers’?

RP Oh, they did, yeah

JD And how did you react to that, Roger?

RP Oh well, you know,I just sort of like, took it with a pinch of salt really, because I sort of knew, you know, it was only my work mates really, and they were just like, messing really – well, I think they were!

[laughter from Roger’s workmates in the background]

EH Just a bit of slagging, you see

JD Ok, ok and I can tell, see by the address, Eogahn Harris, that Roger Pearson is living about 400 yards from the Dáil or working about 400 yards from the Dáil.

EH He’s just got a bit of slagging but there’s different ways of keeping social control, like that. I think that sometimes Paddy Heaney’s voice, when you heard the sort of patronising sounds he made to Patricia Howard – you see the way a certain kind of person with Sinn Féin sympathies can keep a grip on, on quite a timid Protestant community, there’s no-one talking for them, they’re not represented by Church of Ireland rectors, who would talk out for them? And if people like RTE and Niamh Sammon, yourself and others don’t publicise that, who would talk out?

JD Ok, ok, thanks indeed. Back after this break.

JD Ok, welcome back 1850 715 815… Niall Meehan, good afternoon to you.

Niall Meehan: Good afternoon Joe

JD How are you?

NM Fine, thank you

JD You’re, you’re partcipating in this debate, now your your name was mentioned earlier on I made the point that you are a respected academic

NM Yeah, the reason I rang in was because I heard my name was mentioned on the programme. But it’s in relation to this issue, in relation to Coolacrease, which I had a letter about in the Irish Times this morning, the reason I wrote the letter was because I’m currently researching what Protestants said at the time. And Southern Protestants said almost unanimously that they weren’t attacked for sectarian reasons during the War of Independence. And the, there was a Protestant convention on May 11th 1922 at which, the Mansion House which was packed out, and speaker after speaker said that apart from one exceptional incident in Cork in April 1922, Protestants were not attacked for sectarian reasons in the south. And the reason they said that was because in 1920 Edward Carson – the northern Unionist – had alleged that Southern Protestants were under attack – it was a sort of a quid pro quo – for the allegation that Catholics were attacked in the North.

JD They said they weren’t attacked for those reasons or they weren’t attacked, full stop?

NM Well, Protestants and Catholics were attacked during the War of Independence, but the point the Protestants were making was that, em, em, there was no sectar- there were no sectarian attacks on Protestants. And even Lionel Curtis, who was an advisor to the British government, to Lloyd George after a tour of Ireland, he said if a Protestant farmer is attacked it’s not for reason of being a Protestant, but for reason of being a loyalist. The distinction is a fine one, but also a real one. In other words it was recognised at the time and I think it is important to, when a lot of this controversy is going on now – to go back and actually look and see what people said at the time. And these events were reported openly. They were reported in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, there was no problem , it’s not a Hidden History, and it was, they were openly commented upon.

JD But the point, one of the points that Eoghan Harris was making, he was making it to the grandson, sorry, the grand nephew, of the two men that were killed, who is ironically now living back here in Dublin, I wasn’t aware of until he contacted the programme but he is, apparently –

NM Yeah

JD – And he made, Eoghan Harris made the point that sometimes people don’t feel free to speak out and say that a spade is a spade

NM Yeah, well,

JD – so would Protestants at a convention on May 11 1922 at Mansion House stand up en masse and say actually we’re being attacked by the Free State?

NM Well, it’d be the first time in human history when a group en masse said that, denied they were being attacked, and said that they were in fact being protected. There’s no, no evidence of that ever occuring in human history. In fact these are Protestants who were outraged by the statements made by Carson. You must recognise at the time in relation to the land the Minister for Agriculture in the Sinn Fein government was a Protestant, Robert Barton. The government set up a national land bank at which, in which a number of representative Protestants were partcipants, including Protestant bishops.

JD OK, well,

NM And one of the things I’m researching at the moment is, in Skibbereen a guy called Willy Kingston wrote a memoir about his participation in Sinn Fein courts. He was a Protestant. He wrote about some of his friends joining the Irish Volunteers, about the 1916 rebellion not having much support but then people turned after the executions. He participated in the illegal courts, his cousin Jasper Wolf (Wolfe?) was Crown Solicitor at the time, the IRA were after Jaspar Wolf. Willy Kingston worked with, worked with him in the office. Wolfe said if he was caught in the Sinn Fein courts he’d be arrested. So again, it’s not as, eh, you know, as grim as it is made out.

JD Ok, stay there for a sec, Luke is on the line, Kilkenny, Luke, you say your grand-uncle was shot?

Luke yeah, eh

JD Why?

Luke Good afternoon Joe. Just a quick one, I don’t want to stay on the line too long at all, I’m not comfy about being here at all, right?

JD Ok, why waas your grand-uncle shot?

Luke Ethnic cleansing, Joe. Plain and simple, that’s it. That’s the story.

JD Because of his religion?

Luke Yeah. The likes of, as you say, low church – deadly combination, to be low church, nobody back you up, [you have to?] you have a few quid, you’ve worked hard all your life, and expanded the farm, expanded the farm, got along well with the neighbours all along, and then all of a sudden it’s time for you to go, you have to sell out and move, ‘no, were not selling out – well, you’re all going to be killed’. Well, we’ll take our chances. So time went on anyway, and they were, the understanding in the family is that they were tipped off, we’ll say, by friendly people,

JD Uh-hm

Luke Until, I mean these guys were only like 16, I think one was 16 one was 18, goes out one day and was shot and that was it. And these people, believe you me, they wouldn’t have been colluding or co-operating with anybody.

JD And who shot them Luke? Who shot them?

Luke You know who shot them, Joe. You know.

JD You’re saying, the local IRA?

Luke There you go.

JD Simply because of [their religion?]

Luke Listen, these, these – I won’t say exactly how many – but there were two or three young men in the family anyway, and they knew that the time was up if you like, they were only young men, they had nothing to do with anybody, they worked hard from early morning till late at night, that’s all they did, they built themselves up, and they were tipped off consistently – ‘look you’re about to be done away with, don’t go home [this?] way, the other way, and they managed to avoid it one day, and the others were very cute and the youngest fellow went out one day and they killed him. And evreybody was absolutely heartbroken and devastated, left the country and stayed away from it. Ethnic cleansing, Joe.

JD You’re saying it’s the same complexion that’s being put on the Pearson brothers killing?

Luke It’s purely ethnic cleansing Joe. Believe you me, these people relatives of mine if you knew them, they wouldn’t have been colluding with anybody. Believe you me. You know.

JD And why did you say at the outset that, Luke, you were anxious almost not to talk about it?

Luke Eh, It’s not something you talk about Joe, you know. It’s new Ireland, it’s all different, it’s all great and it’s all changed. It is different, yes, up to a point [indistinct]

JD Uh-hm. Have you ever said to your, I, I, I know that your address is there,

Luke Yeah yeah,

JD You’re living in Ireland, do people you work or, or trade with or colleagues or friends know of this history?

Luke I tell you what Joe. A sister of the man that was a shot – of the young boy that was shot, right, lovely lovely old lady, she died only a few years ago, an old lady, she would never set foot in the Republic again after that, it was just a principle with her you know, whether she was right or she was wrong, and she said to me, ‘remember’ she said to me when I was only a little fellow, she said to me, ‘remember this – Luke - never talk about religion or politics in public. Absolutely never. Unless you’re in your own front door’. And it’s no different today.

JD Ok, back after this break….

JD …Apologies on the time, no more time for more calls, indeed lots of them on Coolacrease….. Margeret Curly produced, Derek Mooney is next.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84547
author by gameballpublication date Fri Nov 09, 2007 21:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good man Nick.

But I'm still confused as to the court martial orders to the firing squad. Were they to:
1. Kill the brothers
2. Mortally wound them
3. Wound them as a warning.

If it was 1., and they were still alive, the officer would 'finish them off' with a shot to the head. Using a 303 at close range, the bullets would pass through, and so squads had to aim at the chest.

But the officer and the squad left them wounded. I don't know of any other such 'partial execution' in the 1919-21 war. Can someone say if this was what HQ ordered, or were the squad intimidating the rest of the family who had to watch? Were they wounding the men deliberately, giving them some slight chance to live? It seems very deliberate in the circumstances for six or eight men not to kill a man standing just yards away.

author by Nick Folley - Nonepublication date Sat Nov 10, 2007 01:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gameball -

I'm still researching up on more specifics, myself. It is possible that the execution squad were very inexperienced. Afterall, I gather Offaly was 'quieter' than most other areas of the country at the time, though two RIC constables had been shot on May 19th of the same year in Kinnity (and so, a little over a month before the Pearson shootings). IRA volunteers - apparently also young men themselves - who had little experience of killing might have found the actual task of shooting someone to be more exacting than they had anticipated. It is also hardly likely that the two Pearson boys - both fit young men - would have gone to their deaths quietly. There may have been a struggle, or last minute movement that resulted in the shots not hitting their targets in the intended areas. The medical reports indicated superficial wounds on the lower thighs, back etc., as well as the fatal wounds. Some of these may even have been caused by ricochets (the brothers were apparently put standing near a wall). A number of volunteers had shotguns, and if these were used superficial pellet wounds might have resulted from shots that did not hit directly. Again, I'm only saying this is a possibility.

I too, wonder why a 'coup de grace' was not administered by an IRA officer. Again, it's possible the IRA volunteers thought the men were dead or nearly dead (the firing party fired a volley of shots) or they may even have been panicked and ran. The house behind them would have been burning strongly at this point, and the smoke and flames would certainly have risked attracting the attention of the British forces or at least someone who would inform the British forces of what was happening.

It's just a possibility, but my guess is that the execution party was not very experienced in actual killing and botched it and perhaps panicked. They had been ordered to kill all four Pearson males. An experienced team of IRA men might have occupied the house, taken the family hostage and awaited the return of the remaining men, thereby killing them all and fulfilling their orders to the letter - rather than just arriving, killing whatever Pearson men on their list happened to be there before taking off again. Compare this with the action of an experienced solider like Tom Barry in Cork when he occupied Burgatia House with his column.

I guess more research will shed yet further light on this in due course.

author by gameballpublication date Sat Nov 10, 2007 09:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks again. So we can say they disobeyed orders; "executed" means only one thing. The responsibility for the cruel aspects of the outcome (the slow deaths, the family nearby), and any sense of apology, lies directly with the officer in charge, not on the "people of Offaly".

There is no point in anyone arguing that the matter was ultimately approved by area HQ, GHQ, the Dáil and the electorate of Offaly if the officer on the spot didn't carry out his orders.

Had the squad only burnt down the house, it would hardly have come to our attention, would it?

author by S Cahillpublication date Sun Nov 11, 2007 00:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very amusing to read the presumptions of Quaker holiness by Joe Duffy.

One of the most famous Quakers in politics was none other than Richard Nixon. A harmless ould Amish type if ever there was one!

author by Barrypublication date Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

remember ladies , aim for the bollocks !

picture of firing squad
picture of firing squad

author by Scepticpublication date Sun Nov 11, 2007 13:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

S Cahill that is a devious and inaccurate remark about Nixon and Quakerism. He was born thus but effectively abandoned the faith when he enlisted in the US Navy not long after Pearl Harbour. He firmly left his pacifism behind him with that. In later life he became a follower of more mainstream Protestantism with preacher friends like Billy Graham and Normal Vincent Peale.

author by anti looney tunespublication date Sun Nov 11, 2007 14:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In today's Sindo, Harris calls 'Blackass' to the Aubanes. But they both support the rapidly-crumbling Ahern regime. For how long?

author by Nick - Nonepublication date Mon Nov 12, 2007 01:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

gameball: "Thanks again. So we can say they disobeyed orders; "executed" means only one thing. The responsibility for the cruel aspects of the outcome (the slow deaths, the family nearby), and any sense of apology, lies directly with the officer in charge, not on the "people of Offaly"."

Disobeyed orders? Perhaps yes, in the sense that they didn't kill everyone they had been instructed to kill. Perhaps also in not ensuring - as you mean (I suppose?) - that the victims were not actually dead when they left.

But 1) had they stayed to wait for the other Pearsons to come back, the Pearsons might well have arrived with the military. They had gone by bicycle to Birr barracks to get military protection (acc. to William's later statement). I don't know if the IRA party was aware of this, but someone might have informed them. Thye may simply have decided it was too risky.

2) had they arrived, seen not everyone was present, and gone away to wait a more opportune time, it would have been unlikely they'd get a second chance. The Pearson family would -having met them - no longer have had mere warnings and suspicions, but clear factual evidence of what was to happen. It is likely the Pearson house would have acquired a British military presence, or a trap would have been laid for any returning IRA party. Tom Barry again makes similar comments explaining his reasons for returning to burn out Burgatia house the same night he'd fought his way out of it against British soldiers. Not simpy bravado, but the house - now evidently marked - was sure to be reinforced with British military personnel. If it was to be done, it had to be done there and then in whatever way was possible.

3) As for leaving them to die for so long, once again, the IRA party may have thought they were as good as dead, but I do agree the officer should have made sure of this before leaving. The Pearson sisters indicate the house was already burning before the men were shot, and that the IRA party had all disappeared within three minutes of the same. They obviously departed at speed. Like I said, they might have panicked.

I don't believe the attack was sectarian, despite what Harris, Sammon et al claim. There are simply too many clashing facts, such as the large number of other protestant families in the area that were unmolested (and who also had big farms); William Pearson had - according to himself - his crops trampled by 'Shinners' in 1917 for growing crops under tillage order. By doing so he would have shown himself to be very clearly on the side of / in support of Britian's war effort at a time when the mood in the country was souring against same; his applications for compensation were made through the Southern Irish Loyalists' Relief Association, and he describes himself as 'well-known as a staunch loyalist who supported the crown at every opportunity' Of course his own words directly contradict Sammon's contention he was a peace-loving Amish-type, quite uninvolved in politics, perhaps not even voting. (Of course, in any case, one doesn't need to vote in order to wield political influence, or we wouldn't be having all these tribunals!). This is all in addition to the Pearson attack on the IRA tree-felling party, or the fact that IRA ranks and the Dail contained a number of Protestants, including from smaller sects such as Presbyterians.

In the transcript above, Patricia Howard admonishes Pat Heaney to make a diffrentiation between Protestant and loyalist. It's advice Harris et al would do well to listen to. The IRA in Offaly at least seem to have been able to make this distinction.

Harris and some others seem to be making it into a sectarian issue for reasons best known to themselves. Harris seems to want to be the self-appointed champion and spokesperson of small Protestant sects - though being a RC according to himself doesn't seem to disqualify him and equally it seems unclear if they are as eager to embrace him, as 'anti-looney tunes' link above notes. I'm not sure either how much he actually knows about the sects he chooses to champion: the Cooneyites preached hell-fire against other Protestant groups, as well as the 'Papishes'. Harris seems to lump them all together without distinction.

If they do manage to make it into a sectarian issue in the minds of the ordinary person, the only result - I believe - will be a slight increase in the sum total of hatred and fear in this already overburdened world. Of course as a nation we WOULD be a lot easier to divide and conquer once again all set at each other's throats!

author by Nick - Nonepublication date Mon Nov 12, 2007 01:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"It seems very deliberate in the circumstances for six or eight men not to kill a man standing just yards away"

Though not unheard of. There was a case (not during the 1919-1921 War of Independence) where two men were shot a number of times at very close range with assault rifles (firing high velocity 7.62mm ammunition). Now you'd think both men would have been killed immediately, but though one died, the other actually survived (getting to a hospital on time seems to have been critical in that case, otherwise the second man would probably have died also).

author by gameballpublication date Tue Nov 13, 2007 19:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I go along with all that.

But if leaving them half-dead wasn't deliberate, and a group of 30 were panicky about the police arriving, then it sounds as if they weren't up to much as guerrilla fighters. Someone had been sent down from Dublin a few months before to retrain them.

When cutting down the tree the group's scouts hadn't warned off, or noticed, the Pearsons, and had allowed the Ps to nearly kill one of them. The tree cutting squad didn't secure the area properly first. You'd think they would take a lot of trouble to do so if they already suspected the Ps were loyalist spies / loyalist activists and they were going to cut down a tree on the edge of the Ps' property.

So I discount the theory that the Ps were known to be spies for the Crown forces.

That in turn colours their testimonies about the actual shooting. Anyone who will take on the job of leading a firing squad knows that you feel the jugular afterwards and if necessary fire into the brain. That's his job, done in a second or two. And no-one would order a man to lead such a firing squad if he didn't know what to do if the condemned men lived, and wasn't prepared to finish it himself.

I wonder if the motivation for the botched nature of the execution could have been partly from embarassment that the Ps had drawn the first blood, had made them seem amateurs.

As it happened, Collins and Dev were happy to sign for that truce within a week or two.

author by Bemusedpublication date Wed Nov 14, 2007 07:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So it can be said that the IRA in Offaly made a bags of it then? Could have been said about many things that followed the 1921 truce - the rapid influx of new volunteers subsequently called the 'trucileers', the handling of the treaty negotiations, the slide into civil war. And of course all the political inertia that occured between 1923 and the outbreak of conflict in Northern Ireland in 1969. Know the final line in that cult movie, Easy Rider? "We blew it baby. We blew it." Translated into hiberno dialect it says: We made a bags of it a chushla. We made a bags of it.

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