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Offaly - Event Notice
Thursday January 01 1970

Coolacrease book exposes RTE propaganda

category offaly | history and heritage | event notice author Tuesday October 21, 2008 16:34author by Pat Muldowney - Aubane Historical Society Report this post to the editors

Full documentary record produced - false RTE claims refuted

The Aubane Historical Society

Cordially invites you to the launch by Senator Pat Moylan of

Coolacrease: The True Story of the Pearson Executions

By Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O’Connor, Dr Brian P Murphy, and others

On Thursday, 6th November, at 8pm, in

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society, Bury Quay, Tullamore
New Book answers Eoghan Harris's sectarian fantasies
New Book answers Eoghan Harris's sectarian fantasies

At the end of the War of Independence, two brothers were shot at Coolacrease, Co. Offaly, and their house burned. Their execution was ordered by the senior IRA command for taking up arms against the democratically elected Irish government in time of war.

In 2007 RTÉ broadcast a documentary film portraying the execution of the Pearson brothers – who were Protestant - as a sectarian atrocity and an act of ethnic cleansing by local Republicans in furtherance of a land grab, with the complicity of the Irish Land Commission. It was claimed by Reel Story Productions, commissioned by RTE to make the programme, that their case was proven by official documents.

This book, producing the full documentary record, rebuts the charges made by RTÉ against the people of Cadamstown, the Army of the Dáil and the Irish Land Commission. It shows the charges to be baseless propaganda refuted by the documentary evidence.

This for the first time is the full true story of the events at Coolacrease.

In addition to the commentary by the authors, there are a further 200 pages of annotated documentary, including 50 photos, three maps, reproductions of 60 documents from Bureau of Military History (Witness Statements, IRA reports), British Natinal Archives (British Military Court of Inquiry into the Pearson execution, Pearson claims to the "Irish Grants Committee"), Irish land records (Irish Land Commission, Land Registry and Land Valuation Offices) and newspaper articles.

Aubane Historical Society, Aubane, Millstreet, Co. Cork
Order the book from:
www.aubane.org - jacklaneaubane@hotmail.com

See also:
Hidden History or hidden agenda – the real story
Coolacrease - The Hidden Interview - an Indymedia EXCLUSIVE!

Related Link: http://www.aubane.org


Introduction - click to read
Introduction - click to read

Extensive research and local help in putting book together
Extensive research and local help in putting book together

Enough said
Enough said

author by A Corkmanpublication date Wed Oct 29, 2008 18:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For God's sake, two men were shot and left to die slowly in agony. Can people not object to the posthumous
vilification of the Pearsons without being smeared as "West Brits" by Pat Muldowney and the other "Little Irelanders"?

author by Alfred Dreyfuspublication date Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The comment above that bears no relation whatever to Pat Muldowney's view is a typically clever smear of is own. It is par for the course from those who find accurate and not sensationalist reporting of historical fact a trial.

Those who thought that delving into the otherwise obscure local detail of the War of Independence would confirm unchallenged their middle class prejudices have been surprised. Surprised that the real story of the great unwashed, those who made an independent state possible, effectively combated imperial and sectarian prejudice and propaganda to defeat British colonialism. Who would have thought that many years later these jaded supporters of the elite would dredge up the same prejudices to re-fight ancient battles all over again? Why they do so is a subject in its own right. We are in their debt, their sensationalist provocations have stimulated accurate historical investigation.

I look forward to reading this book

author by Jack Lane - AHSpublication date Thu Oct 30, 2008 12:13author email jacklaneaubane at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Of equal interest to those who may be interested in the Coolacrease book:

Tim Pat Coogan launches 'Troubled History' - Friday November 7th
A 10th anniversary critique of Peter Hart's The IRA and its Enemies,

by Niall Meehan and Brian Murphy osb, Introduction by Ruan O'Donnell (Head of History Dept, Limerick University)


Friday 7 November 2008, 8pm (sharp)
Teachers' Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

More detail at:


Hart's was one of the first attempts to revise the local history of the War of Independence, in Cork this time. Hart revealed a unique methodology, when it came to letting the dead speak. Follow the link above to discover more....

Cover of new pamphlet, published to commemorate 10 years of revisionist history controversy
Cover of new pamphlet, published to commemorate 10 years of revisionist history controversy

author by Nick Folley - nonepublication date Thu Oct 30, 2008 16:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"For God's sake, two men were shot and left to die slowly in agony. Can people not object to the posthumous vilification of the Pearsons without being smeared as "West Brits" by Pat Muldowney and the other "Little Irelanders"?"

Corkman, I don't usually respond to 'personal' posts, but I think something needs to be clarified here. I don't know if Pat Muldowney referred to West Brits or not, but I doubt it. Secondly, your comment is going off on a tangent from the thread topic which is about why this book was written:

RTE commissioned a program about an obscure incident from the War of Independence. Most people hadn't even heard of Coolacrease until the Hidden History program. It had appeared prior to that, mentioned both by historian Paddy Heaney and by a writer called Alan Stanley. But these publications reached a limited audience - at any rate, far more limited than Hidden History.

The Hidden History program presented the case roughly as follows -

The Republican movement, and by extension, the Catholic population of Offaly had engaged in sectarian murder and avaricious land grab with a parochial mindset against an inoffensive Protestant family, who by their virtuous life, transcended all of this murky and narrow-minded nationalism. The Pearsons emerge from the program in the role of victims-only.

The first obvious observation is that such a presentation of the case is both a very serious smear and posthumous vilification of the IRA and the people of Offaly. By extension it is a smear and vilification of the republican movement as a whole and their efforts to secure self-determination for this country. Since this State is based on their efforts, it is ultimately an ideological undermining of the State. Sounds dramatic I know, but the chain of effect is there if you are willing to consider it. Such a line of thinking also clearly emerged in radio and letters debates that followed.

Now if the case presented by Hidden History were true, then the only reasonable course would be to accept it as a deserved criticism, however harsh. The people of Offaly, and indeed this State, would have something to feel ashamed of. This is what the program-makers seemed to desire, whatever their motives.

But what if were not true? Nobody had been talking about the Pearsons much - either to praise or vilify them - and they had been left to rest in peace until they were rudely resurrected and thrust into the limelight by this program. As all historical presentations are subject to academic scrutiny (or at any rate, should be - a lot of stuff passes under the radar here that shouldn't, but that's a story for another day), it was inevitable that Coolacrease would now come under the microscope. Were the accusations (or smears, depending on how you want to look at it) made by Hidden History against the IRA and the people of Offaly justified?

The result was not quite what the program-makers and supporters of their version of events might have hoped. It emerged that there were problems with a) the way the case was presented b) the way the program was made, and claims made by the program makers and c) it seemed the program 'facts' had been made to fit the theory, rather than the other way round, as should be the case in serious academic historical research.

If Coolacrease has been thrust into the limelight and dissected, this is hardly the fault of "Little Irelanders" as you so endearingly term them. It is in fact, what the RTE-commissioned program makers had hoped for. Afterall, who makes a TV program in order not to show it to as wide an audience as possible? Who makes a controversial historical 'documentary' in order not to garner attention and generate controversy?

It just so happens that in the case the kind of publicity it generated and the spotlight it attracted was not the kind the program makers may have wanted. There are at least two levels on which the program could be critcised - as poor or dishonest historical research, and as a thinly-veiled political polemic. Whatever your politics, if you are interested in history, the first critique is not only fair, it is also an academic duty.

But anyway, enough said - read the book and make up your own mind.

(I should declare an interest in the book, since I contributed a very small portion of it; but that is only to say the reason I am bothering to post here at all is precisely because of my interest in this period of history and the events described).

author by A Corkmanpublication date Thu Oct 30, 2008 23:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mr. Folley,

Thank you for your interesting reply. I should have expanded on my comment.
First of all, I didn’t think the “Hidden History” program was promoted the
thesis you advocate. I though it was an excellent program, although I disagreed with Eoghan Harris’s allegations in the
Program about the IRA being sectarian and land-grabbing. I believe the Pearsons were wrong to fire on an IRA roadblock during a time of war,and I felt the program made that clear-they weren’t “inoffensive”. They
were playing with fire, and this triggered the tragedy. But I felt the manner of the Pearson deaths was barbaric.

I quote from Philip McConway’s letter to the Western People, November 14th, 2007:

“Richard Pearson received superficial wounds to the left shoulder, a deep wound in the right groin and right buttock. There were also wounds to the left lower leg of a superficial nature and about six wounds to the back. Abraham received extensive wounds to the left cheek, left shoulder, left thigh and the lower left leg. He was also wounded in the abdomen and the lower part of the spinal column was fractured. Both men died from shock and blood loss.”

If they were sentenced to death by a firing squad, why were they left to die in such A calculated sadistic fashion? Are we to believe IRA members couldn’t deliver a quick coup-de-grace? Why not kill them as quickly and humanely as possible? I’m sorry, but the slow and barbaric manner of their deaths was wrong. And I believe the IRA squad did this on purpose.

The Pearsons’ executions thus brought shame on Ireland’s War of Independence. And to point that out,and disagree with the AHS’ take on Irish history (and the AHS seem to be trying to dominate all criticism of the “revisionist” movement in Irish history) doesn’t mean I wish Ireland had remained under British rule or I agree with Roy Foster or Eoghan Harris’ analysis of Irish history-I disagree with both their ideas on Irish history.

I felt to portray the death of the Pearsons as somehow necessary to secure Irish democracy (as Muldowney has been
putting it in his articles) was wrong.

I will have a look at the book if I see it in my local bookshop or library.

author by Nick Folley - nonepublication date Fri Oct 31, 2008 02:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Corkman, thank you for expanding on your comment.

I seem to identify two separate matters which you take issue with in your post.

The first is the manner of the Pearson's death.

The second is the argument that the Pearsons' deaths were necessary to secure Irish democracy.

To deal with the first; I wouldn't wish a painful death on anyone and indeed I would prefer to see all our problems sorted without resort to violence. But the real issue here is not my personal feelings but rather whether the IRA execution party went out of their way to inflict unnecessary suffering on their victims.

You say you believe they did, and I think that's about as far as anyone can take it who wasn't actually there - as a matter of belief. There could have been any number of reasons why the Pearsons had such a multitude of wounds and why IRA officers hadn't inflicted a coup de grace.

To suggest a few, the execution party may not have been very experienced - it is possible that a number of them may have never fired a gun in anger before. I don't know of any definite information on this, but most IRA volunteers had been farm hands, labourers and so on and many were young. Apart from those who'd already seen service in the British army many had never been in such a close-up proximity to violence, and it may have taken them by surprise.

Secondly they may have been under intense pressure to do the job quickly and leave just as quickly. Since the other two Pearson men were absent, the IRA may have belived these had already gone for help, perhaps having been tipped off (apparently the Pearsons had been tipped off). If I remember correctly, some of the reports filed did mention the IRA leaving in a hurry immediately afterwards.

The Pearson brothers probably put up a struggle at the last minute when they realised this was for real and so twisted and turned to escape.

The above may help explain two things - that the execution party were in a hurry to leave and fired wildly without careful consideration. They may have believed a volley of such firepower would ensure the job was done thoroughly. The Pearson brothers were standing near a wall and pellets and bullets would probably have ricocheted off this, along with chips of flying masonry which could have inflicted some of the odder wounds found on the Pearsons bodies. This effect would have been augmented if the Pearson brothers had been twisting and turning in order to escape.

It is my opinion also that the Officer in charge failed in his duty by not delivering the coup-de-grace. But I do not believe that this was omitted intentionally in order to cause the Pearsons additional suffering. It is possible, as I outlined above, that the party was in shock. By way of parallel, Tom Barry recalled the state of shock his men were in after the close-quarters at Kilmicheal, and had to drill them on the road in order to bring them out of their torpor. I think other combat veterans will confirm that this is not unusual. The officer in charge may have felt the most immediate danger was a) probable swift arrival of British forces and b) a group of men in a state of shock in no condition to fight back and probably low on ammunition. His first priority was getting his men out safely, time being short the Pearsons would have to take their chances and anyway, were unlikely to have survived such a fusilade (though in fact we know now they did).

But again, since neither of us were there, we may never know. The point is is that in this case, my hypothesis is at least as valid as the one you have proposed. After that, it comes down to whatever you believe was the most likely thing to have happened. It is even possible that in their zeal to get the job done, the IRA - never exactly flush with ammunition to begin with - used up all their ammunition in the initial fusilade, and had nothing left to deliver a coup-de-grace with even had they wished to. I doubt this, but that is just my belief.

The second point you have an issue with is whether it was necessary to execute the Pearsons in order to secure Irish democracy. By that I presume you mean, to safeguard the Irish vote of 1918 (and repeated in 1920) to give a mandate to Sinn Fein to separate from the UK. And furthermore, to prevent the attempt being made by the British politically and militarily to thwart that vote. The 1920 vote would have endorsed the methods being employed, as the War of Independence was well underway when it occured.

One could probably argue that no single action of that period - whether Kilmichael or Crossbarry, or Tourmekeady or the shooting of the Pearsons - was necessary in itself in order to secure Irish democracy. No single action probably 'won the war' though some stand out as being in some way more memorable, such as the execution of the British spies by Michael Collins.

Yet each event was necessary and important on a local level. And the local efforts in sum were what 'won the war' overall. Had the West Cork IRA not bothered with this or that police station, or stopped the Auxiliaries from their rampaging at Kilmichael, events would have gone differently. As it was, most IRA action was scarcer than it might have been, for lack of resources. The IRA were also generally very careful about what engagements they got into as they were up against a well-trained an dwell-armed foe and could ill-afford to lose any personnel or weapons. I think you could say they were generally brave as they were usually fighting against superior odds, but I don't think they were generally reckless or undertook any actions lightly.

From what else we know about Coolacrease, it seems the Pearsons were sympathetic at least, and possibly active in assisting the British regime that was attemtping to thwart the Irish vote as I mentioned above. They had attacked an IRA road-blocking party (foolish, as you said, and basically also in the context an act of war, whether or not the Pearsons saw it that way) and it seems they had also supplied information the the RIC that led to the arrests of a number of IRA volunteers shortly after another stand-off. The attack on the road block that nearly fatally injured a member of the IRA may have been the last straw and the IRA may have felt they could no longer safely tolerate the presence of such actively hostile people in their midst. This is common sense - you cannot fight a war - especially a guerilla war with very limited resources - while being sabotaged by hostile elements. The IRA in West Cork found that in order to operate with the freedom they needed, it was necessary first to deal with spies, informers and other hostile elements that were seriously sabotaging their efforts in the area. Once these local sources of information and hostility were removed, the general experience was that the British were often 'groping in the dark'.

I hope this goes some way towards answering your questions, and that you'll enjoy the book!

author by Corkmanpublication date Sun Nov 30, 2008 09:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Former "ally" The Sunday Business Post breaks rank.

Coolacrease book has numerous axes to grind

30 November 2008
By Steven King
Coolacrease: The True Story of the Pearson Executions – an Incident in the Irish War of Independence
By Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O’Connor and others. Aubane Historical Society, €20

Days before the end of the War of Independence in 1921, two brothers belonging to a zealous Protestant sect, the Cooneyites - Richard and Abraham Pearson, aged 24 and 19 - were shot by an IRA firing squad and their Co Offaly home was burned to the ground. The rest, as they say, is politics.

This new book arises from the RTE Hidden History programme of October 2007 about the killings which its author-publishers, the Aubane Historical Society (of which more later), argue obsessively misrepresented the liberation movement as sectarian. It’s a claim that the film’s producers vehemently deny.

Essentially, the programme examined two theses: that the killings were justified on the grounds that the Pearsons were crown agents; and that the real motivation for the killings was local Catholic land hunger. Aubane accuses the independent production company of skewing the evidence to the latter conclusion, and claims RTE was, thus, unbalanced and in breach of broadcasting guidelines. Aubane’s charges were comprehensively dismissed by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

Aubane’s contentions have been debated at length ever since the programme appeared; safe to say that they will not entertain that there is more than one possible interpretation of the Coolacrease killings. The Pearsons had crossed the IRA and deserved to die, no ifs or buts, full stop. One shudders to think what kind of programme Aubane’s members themselves would produce, given the chance.

In Aubane’s version of history, land was never an issue in Offaly, and Protestants per se were never troubled by the IRA. Worst of all, ‘‘we are left with the bizarre situation that the State broadcasting service is being used to undermine the historical basis for this Independent State’’. A national broadcaster’s role is to be a nationalist broadcaster, it seems.

You will have gathered by now that Aubane is not a local historical society in the conventional sense. Indeed, its story is at least as interesting as that of the Pearson murders, and certainly much more so than a controversy over the rights and responsibilities of documentary makers.

The Aubane Historical Society is another of the many successors to the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), a Maoist-influenced, formerly Stalinist micro-group formed in the 1960s in London by one of the Coolacrease book’s contributors, Brendan Clifford.

BICO was unusual on the far left, in that it promulgated the notion that the Protestant/unionist community in the North probably constituted a separate nation in Ireland with equal rights to self-determination. With a network of grouplets in London, Dublin, Cork and Belfast, BICO’s revisionist influence far outweighed its formal numbers.

Until the outbreak of the Troubles, they had taken a more traditional line (for communists), considering loyalism a variant of fascism, but the Irish Communist Organisation, as it then styled itself, began to argue that the British Army was in fact playing a progressive role in the North by preventing a sectarian civil war.

The adoption of the ‘‘two nations’’ theory saw BICO completely reject any claim by Irish nationalists to a unitary state as bourgeois and reactionary. In their view, because Ulster had evolved to a more advanced stage of capitalist development, unionism was a more progressive and dynamic ideology than Irish nationalism. Who were they to argue with Ulster Protestants who had chosen secular British democracy over Catholic reaction?

A torrent of books, journals and pamphlets such as the Northern Star (now called Irish Political Review), poured forth, many of them throwing new light on neglected historical events. Athol Books, named after the site of their tiny West Belfast office (since demolished), was certainly prodigious in its output and these iconoclastic ‘communists’ attracted unlikely admirers, not least the young David Trimble.

Their detractors dismissed them as ‘‘the Peking Lodge’’, and accused them of providing the intellectual ammunition for the UDA’s guns. Think of any of the far left’s pet causes in the 1970s and 1980s and BICO could be relied upon to take the opposite stance. The Birmingham Six, Sean South and Mary McAleese were some of their particular hate figures.

And then, just as everyone else started making peace, BICO cried foul. In its Aubane guise, it decided to occupy the ideological space vacated by Fianna Fáil in about 1957. The unionists had ceased being unionist, so why should BICO/Aubane defend them?

What others see as a new maturity in Irish nationalism, BICO interprets as a betrayal of the independence movement. The good guys now are Islamists, Sinn Féin, Robert Mugabe and Casement forgery theorists. All that remains of the old BICO is the vigour with which those who dare to disagree with them are denounced.

Such spectacular flip-flops bring wry smiles to the lips of BICO-watchers. Indeed, many suspect the whole BICO operation to have been a practical joke played on Ireland’s political classes. But making a 52-minute television documentary the subject of a 472-page book isn’t funny. In fact, it’s sad.

Steven King is a political consultant and a former adviser to David Trimble

author by Reviewer of reviewspublication date Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's odd how the reviewer includes Mary McAleese in a group that includes Sean South and the Brum 6 as targets of BICO publications during the 1980s. Mary McAleese was a TCD professor of law during those years and a broadcaster for RTE television. Although her parents' home was burnt out in the Ardoyne in 1972, Mary McAleese wasn't involved in republican politics. She was a member of a FF branch and supported constitutional politics. Since becoming President of Ireland she has quietly built bridges with sections of the Loyalist community.

author by Ned Flanderspublication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 00:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Steven King (Smithers to David Trimble's creepy Montgomery Burns) was himself close to BICO. To be fair to King, many people who were seriously trying to find a way out of deadlocked violence were prepared to try out their iconoclasm at various times. Bob McCartney and Mary Robinson come to mind. Pity about King's bitter streak - it's quite obvious now that the Pearsons were NOT murdered!

author by S'adder Corkmanpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 00:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Offaly Express
November 11

Coolacrease executions were a war time tragedy

A NEW book "Coolacrease:The true story of the Pearson executions" which claims to disprove RTE slurs against Offaly was given both a welcome and emotional reception when it was launched on Thursday evening by Seanad Cathaoirleach Pat Moylan.
RTE's Hidden History 'damaged local tourism'

The book, published by the Aubane Historical Society, and written by Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O'Connor and other contributors, disputes an RTE documentary 'Hidden History' which described the execution of the Pearson brothers at Coolacrease as a sectarian act.

A large crowd gathered for the launch at the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society in Bury Quay, Tullamore and they showed their support for the publication, hailing it as 'a tremendous piece of local history'.

MC and one of the authors Philip O'Connor said it was a book of great importance. He said the War of Independence had not ended at the time of the executions, an issue of great national importance and said it was dealt with in a 'controversial' way by RTE.

"It was a tragedy that happened in a time of war. Senator Eoghan Harris described it as a sectarian atrocity and said the men were deliberately shot in the genitals. He described it as ethnic cleansing," said Mr O'Connor.

He said there were also claims that the executions were carried out by the IRA to get land and that a mafia silence descended over Offaly.

Mr O'Connor said the basic facts were always known and that in 2000 Paddy Heaney's book "At the Foot of Slieve Bloom" showed that the orders came from senior level within the IRA during a dangerous time.

"The IRA command ordered the men to be executed. It was not a local event," said Mr O'Connor.

He said in 1918 the people of Ireland voted to have the Dail established and for a republic and that war was declared by the British Government to make the election null and void. He said there was talk of 'uncontested seats' but denied this saying it was the election with the least 'uncontested' seats and was won by a landslide.

Mr O'Connor spoke of the court of enquiry which was held in Crinkle, Birr into the executions. The Pearson family were interviewed and there was even a reporter present.

The court found that the main reason was a military engagement with an IRA road block, in which four IRA members were wounded, a raid in which the Pearson brothers partook. He said the British Military Court agreed it was a reprisal, a retaliation for the Pearsons attack on the IRA.

"There were other large Protestant farms around and none of those families or homes were touched. This was a particular case because of a particular situation," said Mr O'Connor.
He said that documents obtained by the Land Commission showed no "sectarian division of land", or no "sectarian land grab."

Finally he said that academic historians who appeared in the RTE documentary and the broadcaster itself, now have "a case to answer."

Local Historian and one of the authors Paddy Heaney thanked all those who came forward with accounts of what happened.

"We were all very annoyed when the documentary came out. Some were reluctant to take part in it ," said Mr Heaney. He said however "it would be sad if we let down the men and women of that period."

He said those interviewed were not treated well.

"We were hauled into Charleville Castle and degraded," said Mr Heaney. He said the documentary did untold damage to tourism in the area.

"Some of us have put in 35 years of hard work trying to encourage people to come to the Slieve Blooms. It was amazing the documentary did a whole lot of damage. It was a pity the documentary portrayed the local area in a wrong light entirely," said Mr Heaney.

He said the book was dedicated to the people of the area involved in the War of Independence. "A lot of them emigrated and are buried in a foreign land with no tombstone to their memory. This book will be a memorial to them."

Another author of the book, Pat Muldowney said a lot of controversy has grown since the documentary was first aired. He said all other stories crumble compared to the true story found in Paddy Heaney's book.

He said when he learned of the discontent amongst those interviewed for the documentary he had a feeling it wouldn't be balanced. He said British Military documents had confirmed what Paddy Heaney's book had said.

Mr Muldowney said his own interview on the Joe Duffy show saw him challenged on whether there was a legitimate government in Ireland at the time. "He was saying it wasn't an Irish army. The first Dail was elected in 1918 and the second was elected in 1921," said Mr Muldowney.

Howth Free Press:

At the end of the War of Independence, two brothers were shot at Coolacrease, Co. Offaly, and their house burned. Their execution was ordered by the senior IRA command for taking up arms against the democratically elected Irish government in time of war.

In 2007 the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ, screened a film portraying the execution of the Pearson brothers – who were Protestant - as a sectarian atrocity and an act of ethnic cleansing by local Republicans in furtherance of a land grab, with the complicity of the Irish Land Commission. They claimed their case was proven by official documents.

This book, producing the full documentary record, rebuts the charges made by RTÉ against the local people of Cadamstown, the Army of the Dáil and the Irish Land Commission. It shows the charges to be baseless, refuted by the documentary evidence.

The documentary records reproduced include contemporary IRA reports, the Proceedings of the British Military Courts of Inquiry into the executions, the Land Commission and Land Registry records, and the records of the British compensation body (“Irish Grants Committee”) which examined the case.

This for the first time is the full true story of the tragic events at Coolacrease.
About the authors

Paddy Heaney is a historian in Co. Offaly who published a first account of these events in 2000. Dr. Pat Muldowney has written widely on Irish history and poetry. Philip O’Connor, who edited the book, is a trained historian. Dr. Brian P. Murphy osb is a renowned Irish historian. Brendan Clifford has published extensively on Irish history and politics. Nick Folley comments on current affairs. John Martin writes for the Irish Political Review and is author of the recent history, The Irish Times – Past and Present.

Introduction – Jack Lane

1. The True Story of the Events at Coolacrease – Paddy Heaney and Pat Muldowney
2. The Cadamstown IRA in the War of Independence – Paddy Heaney
3. The British Army and the War in South Offaly – Philip O’Connor
4. Land Grab? - What the Documents Say – Philip O’Connor
5. “Amish-type Farmers”? – Pacifism and the Cooneyites – Pat Muldowney
6. An Extraordinary Set-Up: The Irish Grants Committee – Philip O’Connor
7. Poisoning the Well or Publishing the Truth? – Brian P. Murphy osb
8. Academic Evasions: Revisionists and the War of Independence – Brendan Clifford
9. Exposing Propaganda – Pat Muldowney
10. RTÉ and the Holy Grail of Revisionism – Nick Folley
11. Defending their Own: the Broadcasting Complaints Commission – John Martin

Documents (Appendices)

1. Location Maps of Coolacrease
2. Photographs
3. Irish Army Reports on the Pearson Execution
4. Proceedings of the British Military Court of Inquiry
5. Selected Land Documents
6. The Pearson Claims before the “Irish Grants Committee”
7. On executions by popular resistance movements: Extract from The Gadfly by E.L. Voynich
8. A Note on the Debate in the Press
9. Annotated Transcript of the RTÉ film The Killings at Coolacrease

Irish Times, November 7

A NEW book on the shooting of two Protestant farmers in Co Offaly during the War of Independence has concluded that their killing was not a sectarian act.

The execution by IRA firing squad of Richard and Abraham Pearson on June 30th, 1921, was the subject of an RTÉ documentary last year.

The True Story of the Pearson Executions by Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O'Connor, Dr Brian P Murphy OSB and others, which was launched last night, claims the Pearson brothers were killed because they had shot at IRA volunteers manning a road block.

They say their conclusions contradict claims that the Pearsons were victims of a sectarian campaign because they were Protestants and that their farm was the subject of a subsequent land grab.

The authors say the allegation that the Pearson brothers shot at IRA volunteers who had felled a tree near their land for a road block is confirmed by a British military court of inquiry held shortly after the event.

Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society:

Coolacrease 2 by Paddy Heaney and others. This book, of some 450 pages, is now available at the Centre for €20.

The 'Hidden History' programme alleged that two young Protestant farmers, brothers Richard and Abraham Pearson of Coolacrease near Cadamstown, were brutally murdered by the local IRA during the War of Independence in order to grab their 341-acre farm and that the Irish Land Commission was complicit in this. The programme led to much public controversy, in which allegations were made that a Mafia-style code of silence was in operation in Offaly to prevent the truth about the 1921 events from coming into the open.

Senator Eoghan Harris, who played a central role in the programme, declared that the only way to heal the wounds caused by the 1921 events was for the people of the Cadamstown area to own up to the heinous crimes of sectarian murder and attempted ethnic cleansing committed by their forefathers, and to seek atonement by confession and apology.

The new book is co-authored by Paddy Heaney and includes contributions from eminent historian Dr Brian P. Murphy osb, Nick Folley - grandson of Offaly-man Herbert Mitchell who played a distinguished part in the independence struggle - and others.”

What is stressed in the new book includes the importance of the British Military Court of Inquiry which established:
+ The nature of the wounds suffered by the Pearson brothers at the execution (there was no deliberate shooting in the "sexual parts" as alleged by Senator Harris);
+ The RIC County Inspector's and British Military Commander's assessment of the execution as a direct retaliation for the armed attack on the roadblock (i.e. it was military event ordered at the highest level and not some sordid local revenge attack);
The fact that there was no land grab (sectarian or otherwise), in particular:
+ that the Pearson farm was purchased in an orderly manner by the Land Commission;
+ That the farm was never "squatted" or "boycotted"
+ That sub-division of the land took place in strict adherence with Land Commission procedure and, if any preference at all was shown, it was for men with WWI records, not republicans;
The Pearson's later compensation claim to the British "Irish Grants Committee" was riddled with exageration and false testimony, and most of the individual claims they made to it were rejected even by this sympathetic body.

author by Not quite as sad as "S'adder Corkman"publication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ah c'mon S'adder Corkman, you'd want to do better than that. Reviews mean reviews - not a pile of promotional material for the new book and a couple of newspaper articles covering the launch of it.
Anyone seen any other reviews of it so far besides the Sunday Business Posts' ?

author by Sharpshooterpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 15:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Smithers King didn't review the book!!
He practically copied & pasted the Indymedia "Peking" article!
A desperate, bankrupt ploy when he had NO ANSWER to the book.
And to think that 'Danny McGrain' wrote the article for which Kink got a fat fee!

author by Browserpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 21:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

King does have a valid point: is it really worth writing a huge book to rebut a single television program,no matter how flawed it is?

But while his article is interesting, it doesn't really discuss the Coolacrease book.

The December 2008 Issue of "Books Ireland" has a review of several AHS books (thought not the Coolacrease one-probably
it will be featured in a future issue).

author by Ned Flanderspublication date Wed Dec 03, 2008 12:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No doubt the television programme provided the original motivation for producing the book.

But the programme itself occupies a relatively small part of the book, which goes far beyond the TV programme.

The book covers a very broad area, focussing on many aspects of the War of Independence in Offaly, on the role of academic historians in revisionism, a large photograph section dealing with Offaly WoI (including Coolacrease). And a big reference section holding reproductions of the source documents relating to Coolacrease. Obviously, the latter has a bearing on the television programme as well.

author by Browserpublication date Sat Dec 06, 2008 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Letters page of Tomorrow's Sunday Business Post could be interesting reading, if supporters and/or opponents of the
AHS have decided to comment on King's article...

author by Ned Flanderspublication date Sat Dec 06, 2008 21:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wonder whether, unlike Smithers King, they will actually address the merits or otherwise of the book:
whether the book actually succeeds in illuminating and dispelling the miasma of confusion and lies of the RTÉ Hidden History fiasco?

author by Voice of Americapublication date Mon Feb 16, 2009 22:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish-American News, January 2009:

WHY IRELAND WILL BE FREE. Rarely is history's framework changed or clarified by one group or one event. "Paradigm shift" is what academia calls it; changes of context, of community understandings of itself and where they are historically. The new book, Coolacrease, is such a paradigm shifter, and Irish-America's current respect for the people of Ireland will skyrocket from what it is about to learn from it. It was written by ordinary people (of great talent) of Ireland who rose up in response to a fraudulent "documentary" aired in 2007 and 2008 by Ireland's State television company, Radio Telefis Eireann (hereinafter RTE). RTE had advertised it as "Hidden History; Ethnic Cleansing in the Midlands" thus advancing its deceptive purpose. The book's foreword states:

This is two stories in one. It deals with the actual facts of an execution during the War of Independence at Coolacrease in Co. Offaly and then describes how the story was dealt with by RTE before, during and after its "Hidden History" programme on the incident broadcast on 23rd October 2007 and again on 13th May 2008.This incident in the War was not hidden in any sense. The facts were long known and well known in the locality. It was not so well known nationally simply because it was not a national event. Paddy Heaney and others have written about it in detail over the years. Paddy has a close family connection. A relative of his died from shots fired at him by the Pearson brothers. That relative and his colleagues were defending the democratic and legitimate Irish government established by the 1918 election against which Britain had launched a war. The Irish government elected overwhelmingly in that election had made its position crystal clear: "We solemnly declare foreign government to be an invasion of our national rights which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison" (Declaration of Independence, 21st January 1919). Instead, the Garrison was strengthened and went on the offensive against the newly elected government. The Pearsons chose to assist the Garrison in a paramilitary capacity.

The Cadamstown roadblock was part of the IRA's preparation for a major attack on Crown forces in Birr (where the Crinkle military base was located) and an Offaly-wide mobilization was planned for this action. It was a rehearsal for taking control of the county's roads and bringing the other side's mobility to a standstill. The Pearson brothers attacked those preparing the roadblock. On the orders of the senior IRA command the brothers were executed directly as a result of this attack.

There is nothing at all unusual in this. It was a military event in a military conflict, but RTE twisted it into something else. They transformed this local event into a national issue and endorsed the claim that it was a sectarian killing. The Pearsons were members of the 'Cooneyites,' a minority Protestant community. The national broadcaster was in no way a neutral facilitator (as it claimed) of two sides of a validly contested historical argument. RTE was fully complicit in the programme's claim that the executions were murder, part of a sectarian land grab and ethnic cleansing. The programme tarred the people of Cadamstown area as sectarian land grabbers, implicated the army of Dáil Eireann in the alleged atrocity and even inferred that Irish Land Commission officials were complicit in it. The programme further insinuated strongly that sectarianism and ethnic cleansing were a general characteristic of the War of Independence itself and the legitimacy and morality of that war were thereby challenged. That challenge was taken up by Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney and others and this book records how they successfully met that challenge. They have proven conclusively the military nature of the incident, the absence of sectarianism in the war in Offaly and the absence of any land grab arising from it.

It is an extraordinary situation that the national broadcaster of a State seeks to misinform its audience and discredit legitimate actions that were necessary to establish the very State it serves! Yet that is the situation confronting us here in Ireland. There is an ideological campaign against the legitimacy—and the basic facts—of the War of Independence, and that campaign has now been given official sanction by RTE. It is essential to counter this malicious campaign, thus this book is an attempt to remind ourselves again of the basic facts of that war; the why and the how of it, and hopefully it will help to set the record straight. Jack Lane, Aubane Historical Society.

COOLACREASE'S AUTHORS are Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O'Connor and others, and they have written a classic. It is at once history, current events, a crackling detective story, an upholding of factual history, an expose of black propaganda spewed from treasonous gov't operatives against their own people to the benefit of a foreign monarchy. It is important to say here that this book doesn't impugn all of Ireland's bureaucrats, only the RTE ones involved in falsifying Ireland's history.

CORRECTING THE RECORD. RTE falsifications of history are exposed by official records (shown in the book) that prove the following: Dáil Eireann (not British imperialism as RTE claims) was the lawful government of Ireland at the time having been elected into power by landslide in 1918, and 1920 and 1921. It was NOT an "ethnic cleansing;" all other nearby Protestant families (named in the book) lived unmolested. Nor was it a "land grab;" the Irish Land Commission had acted exactly opposite to RTE's slurring depiction. Nor were the Pearson brothers "murdered;" they had sided with the Black & Tans and had shot and wounded three members of Ireland's armed forces, one dying later as a consequence. The Pearson's were "Cooneyites," a Loyalist sect rabidly condemnatory of Catholicism, Methodism, et al, the exact opposite of the "gentle, Amish-type farmers" depicted by RTE, Senator Harris and others. The Pearson's were not cheated out of their farm; they put it on the market and sold it to the Land Commission for twice what they paid for it a few years previously. They also scammed the Dominions Office for another £7,500 in "compensation." These are a small sampling of Coolacrease's corrections of RTE's vile "documentary." In toto it comprises a classic "case closed;" correcting a massive, official fabrication of history. Published by Aubane Historical Society, €20 at www.atholbooks.org or from Athol Books, C/O Shandon Street Post Office, Cork; or PO Box 6589, London N7 6SG; or PO Box 339, Belfast BT12 4GQ.

WHY? Why did RTE, Ireland's State TV agency, falsify such an event at the core of Ireland's founding? Why would any gov't attack its own legitimacy? Why attack the honor and integrity of its founding army, the people of Offaly, and Ireland itself? Why do it on behalf of the foreign kingdom that wiped out half of Ireland's population three separate times; Elizabeth I, Cromwell, and Victoria, and still occupies six of Ireland's counties by brute force and deception? The evidence allows but one answer; Ireland's gov't is riddled with traitors. Mary MacAleese, Ireland's President, is promoting the British Poppy for lapel wear in Ireland. The Poppy symbolizes Empire and commemorates those who died while imposing empire on others. Meanwhile Ireland's gov't actively suppresses the Easter Lily that symbolizes Irish nationhood and commemorates those who died for Ireland. Republican prisoners in Portlaoise are punished for wearing the Lily at Easter while gardai harass Lily distributors each Easter Saturday and Sunday. The funds donated by Easter Lily wearers comprise the sole funding for the monumenting and maintenance of the graves of those who died for Ireland; which is why the gov't opposes the Lily. Meanwhile, the same gov't's Public Works Dept., at Irish taxpayers' expense, maintains the Irish graves of British soldiers who died fighting against Irish freedom.

IRELAND'S CONSULS GENERAL argued in Springfield AGAINST Irish-America's ultimately successful enactment of the MacBride Principles for Fair Employment in Northern Ireland. They OPPOSED support for the tortured and framed Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. They OPPOSED justice for Joe Doherty. They managed to BAN support for Irish freedom on Chicago Irish radio. By letter to US Congressman Fish Irish Ambassador Seán Donlon smeared Msgr. Murray who had come to the US seeking justice for the then newly-framed Birmingham Six. It took 16.5 years to undo Donlon's deed and finally free them. Each of these deeds alone didn't fully expose the "Irish" gov't – but Coolacrease does. Every Irish-American family ought to celebrate the intellect and integrity of Ireland's ordinary people by studying this book and keeping it as a manual for restoration of our US republic.

WHO ARE THE TERRORISTS re Occupied Ireland? See terrorismireland.org.
Tel 312/664-7651 or fogartyc@att.net


author by M. Feehanpublication date Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While the above our entitled to their opinions, there is very little mainstream support for the Pat Muldowney/Paddy Heaney/Philip McConway/Philip O’Connor/Brian P. Murphy/Brendan Clifford/Nick Folley thesis.

Pat Muldowney/Paddy Heaney/Philip McConway/Philip O’Connor/Brian P. Murphy/Brendan Clifford/Nick Folley threw collective hissy fits when they realised that the story of Coolacrease was not going to be told the way they wanted in the documentary. They lodged complaints, wrote to the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) about it, documented their account initially in blogland and then in book form and yet, incredibly, their version of “history” hasn’t caught hold. They might cry “conspiracy theories”, “Dublin 4 types”, “RTE spin” etc and pat themselves on the back at being oh so clever for getting to the “real truth” that the rest of us didn’t. But this story had enough media publicity for historians, public representatives etc to pick holes in the facts of the killings as outlined in the documentary. And who are the only ones that did pick holes and are still harping on about it? The Secret Seven mentioned above.

So what did happen to their concerns regarding the documentary?

Their complaints were rejected by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (http://www.bcc.ie/decisions/feb_08_decisions.html), Bertie Ahern it seems never wrote back, and their book has received only one (very negative) review thus far(http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2008/11/30/story377...2.asp).

Support for the documentary was strong - most memorably Senator David Norris who called it a “remarkable programme”. Speaking in the Senate he said, “I was very ashamed by some of the things that were said. There was a horrible and nasty, small minded bestial attempt to smear retrospectively the Pearson family and I deplore that. To hear a young historian say the mistake was that they did not finish them off is repulsive in the extreme. I could hardly believe what I was hearing.” Broadcasters Marian Finucane, Joe Duffy and Ryan Tubrity, journalists Anne Marie Hourihane, John Boland, Sarah Caden, David Young and Davy Adams and politicians Dr. Martin Mansergh, Shane Ross and Charlie Flanagan also showed support. Others (historians Professor John A. Murphy, Roy Foster) have written in support of Alan Stanley’s book I met Murder on the way, which gave an account of the Coolacrease story.

As the Sunday Business Post review for the Muldowney/Heaney book put it: “One shudders to think what kind of programme Aubane’s members themselves would produce, given the chance” and later on “making a 52-minute television documentary the subject of a 472-page book isn’t funny. In fact, it’s sad”.

author by Juvenalpublication date Wed Feb 18, 2009 13:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some notable quotes from Niamh's Folly:

Opening Sentence: "The silence - the people didn't want to talk about it."

Closing Riff by Senator Harris: "Yeats said it. He said: 'Though gravediggers' toil be long, Sharp their blades and muscles strong, They will thrust their buried men - Into the public mind again.' The more you try to put them [the Pearsons' story] down, the more they come back up"

So what has happened? Why does nobody in Dublin 4/RTÉ/Irish Times mention the Pearsons of Coolacrease these days, after the shortlived hullabaloo caused by Niamh's self-indulgent little fantasy "documentary"? Maybe it has all become just too embarrassing for words.

A case of "Let us never speak of this again", perhaps?

author by Lao-Tsepublication date Wed Feb 18, 2009 19:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"....[They] wrote to the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) about it...."

Did the AHS really do that? I know the AHS/IPR crowd wrote to Brian Lenihan complaining about the Irish Times leaks a few
years ago and calling for an investigation by an "official body"-see here:


Oh well, I guess Da Bert had other things on his mind at the time....

author by B. Nafferty - Thin Blue Linepublication date Fri Feb 20, 2009 21:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"COOLACREASE, the landmark book featured here last month, is available from Athol Books in Ireland. Go to www.atholbooks.org to order it directly. For copies at my cost, email fogartyc@att.net or phone 312 664 7651. I’ve ordered 20, but most are spoken for. Coolacrease shows that Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), Ireland’s State TV agency, treasonously falsifies history to delegitimize the Irish nation, to impugn the integrity of modern Ireland’s Founders, to slur the exemplary Irish Land Commission and Ireland’s people, especially those of Co. Offaly. It is hard to believe that Irish bureaucrats are that treacherous, but their own acts and statements in Coolacrease comprise abundant, indisputable proof of it. It is especially shocking that their treason benefits only Britain and Ireland’s Anglo-Irish. Irish-America must become familiar with Coolacrease. It also reveals the courage and intellect of Ireland’s ordinary people faced with traitors operating from within gov’t. Much of the book’s power comes from the follow-up correspondence with Coolacrease’s authors wherein the perpetrators compound their original falsehoods. The perpetrators are not only RTE personnel but an Irish senator and key members of Ireland’s news media. The book includes the complete transcript of the RTE show, the refutations thereof, and proofs of RTE’s falsehoods (in the form of contemporaneous documents from archives of the IRA, the British army, the RIC, the Irish Land Commission, Britain’s compensation office, and from newspapers of the day). Together they make Coolacrease the most elegant “case closed” refutation of falsehood, ever."


Come on Sammonella you owe the people of Ireland a public apology for subjecting the nation to chronic historical poisoning. It chilled me to the bone. For thou soul to be cleansed thou must atone for thou wretched sins.

author by MMckpublication date Sat Feb 21, 2009 02:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Talking about RTE, if you go to the SWP website they are also attacking RTE for his impartial reporting on a number of recent current news stories. They claim that RTE are biased and compare them to the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda! This is an insult to the Bolsheviks and Pravda that a so-called socialist organisation compares them to a bourgeois pro-capitalist news network.

author by MO’Bpublication date Sat Feb 21, 2009 19:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The book makes for grim reading. Sammon emerges as a malicious fantasist and calculated liar. Mind you it’s not the first time her devious methods have come under the spotlight. She tried a similar stitch up on the Gardaí. Her gutless friends in the BCC got her out of that one too. A nasty piece of work.

Related Link:
author by Maura Keatingpublication date Wed Mar 18, 2009 18:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"This is the history we are not taught and this genuinely uncovers another side that maybe we don't want to look at. But maybe we should. I would hope so."

"But even today the ruin of Coolacrease is there, it still stands there. It's this reminder, but it won't be there forever."

Sunday Independent, October 2, 2007

‘Coolacrease – the True Story’ exposes and “genuinely uncovers” Niamh Sammon, the con artist extraordinaire. Her slimy side RTE/BCC don't want to look at. “But maybe we should. I would hope so.”

‘Coolacrease – The True Story’ is a reminder, and it WILL be there forever. Get your copy today!

author by Lao-Tsepublication date Thu Mar 19, 2009 23:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There's a review of the Coolacrease book in the current issue of History Ireland. The reviewer (Joost Augusteijn)
states that "this book proves conclusively that the documentary gave a false portrayal of events" and its creators were "not as well
informed as they should have been". Augusteijn also criticises Peter Hart's "The IRA and Its Enemies" and praises the AHS pamphlet
"Troubled History".

However, he also states that the various articles in the Coolacrease book "are quite uneven,with those sticking closely to the documentary evidence being much more stronger than some of the argumentative pieces". He also claims the book has a "simplistic republican" perspective and criticizes its "sweeping statements in belligerent language" in claiming that the Irish historical establishment is dominated by revisionists of the Roy Foster school, noting the recent appointment of the anti-revisionist Diarmuid Ferriter at
UCD as disproof of the AHS' argument.

It's an excellent review, up to HI's usual high standards, and is well worth reading for all those interested in this issue.

author by J Farrellpublication date Wed May 06, 2009 09:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom Wall, former assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has a review of the Coolacrease book in the Dublin Review of Books:


author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Sat Jun 06, 2009 21:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The following response to Joost Augusteijn's review has been refused publication in History Ireland:

Three train travellers admiring the countryside noticed a grazing cow. One exclaimed: “Look at that! The cows around here are all black.” The second said: “Maybe it’s just this particular cow.” The third chips in: “All we can say for certain is that the visible side of that particular cow is black.”

At the start of RTÉ’s Coolacrease documentary (Oct 2007), the historians announced the programme’s dogma. Dr. Terence Dooley of Maynooth said: "The revolutionary period was used essentially as a pretext to run … Protestant landlords and farmers out of the local community, for locals to take over their land." Professor Richard English of Queen's said: "[The Pearsons] were seen as aliens … and … were taking land from the rightful possession of the community … ."

This goes a lot further than our first train traveller.

It would be most interesting and useful to establish one way or the other whether sectarianism, land grabbing and ethnic cleansing were an intrinsic, widespread, local, occasional, isolated, incidental or absent element in the War of Independence. In this, doctrinaire assertions are worse than useless.

After the programme’s conclusions had been solemnly pronounced on the dogmatic authority of the of the academic history professional elite, and in anticipation of evidence for their dogma, the Coolacrease documentary went on to present its cow.

Unfortunately, this cow turned out to be white.

The Coolacrease documentary was a revisionist train wreck. Joost Augusteijn’s review in History Ireland (March-April 2009) gives a different impression, only suggesting that those involved “should have been better informed”. His review is studiously silent about the most disgraceful aspect of the whole affair – RTÉ’s Big Lie; its brazen invention of documentary “evidence”.

The story of Coolacrease is easily told. In June 1921 the Pearson brothers fired on the forces of the elected Irish government who were engaged in a war of defence of that government against the forces of the unelected Imperial power in Ireland. A week or so later, under the authority of Richard Mulcahy, Chief of Staff of the Irish forces and a Minister for Defence in the elected government, the Pearson brothers were executed following a military investigation. A relatively uncomplicated matter.

Shooting at the Army of the elected government was the reason for the Coolacrease executions. It trumps speculative motives, such as land grabbing, sectarianism and ethnic cleansing. It also demolishes the notion that the Pearsons were pacifist.

Joost Augusteijn accepts that the Coolacrease book is a successful refutation of the RTÉ documentary. He makes a case instead that the political party which won the 1918 general election in Ireland had (1) neither the obligation, nor even the right, to seek to implement its democratic mandate for sovereign independence, and (2) that the Imperial government was entitled to ignore the ballot box and to suppress the elected Irish government with armed force. He also says that “less than 48% of those voting supported Sinn Féin”, implying that “a majority of the Irish population … [was] loyal to [the British] authority that there was no reason to reject”.

This is an each way bet. He alleges that there was not majority support for independence; and in any case imperial legitimacy was not contingent on electoral support.

Augusteijn writes that peoples do not confer legitimate government on themselves by voting for it. He says that legitimacy is conferred by recognition by other Governments. The Declaration of Independence made by the elected Irish Government in 1919 was ignored by Westminster, and Westminster did not allow it to be put on the agenda of the Conference of victors at Versailles.

The destruction of three major European states in Britain’s Great War left the British Empire as the effective determinant of “international law” at the moment when the League of Nations was being formed under British veto. For instance, Italy had to conciliate Britain in the hope of being allowed to seize the whole “irredenta” agreed with Britain in 1915. And the U.S. President had to conciliate Britain in the hope of saving his war programme.

At the moment when Irish independence was declared Britain had an effective world veto on recognition of it.

British policy in Ireland was taken in hand in 1913-14 by the British military caste, which was largely Anglo-Irish, was intensely hostile to nationalist Ireland, and had played a key role in initiating and organising the UVF revolt against the British Government. The Curragh Mutiny was effective because the core of the officer caste had, unknown to the British body politic as a whole, made detailed preparations for war with Germany. The Liberal Government, which had ordered the secret preparations for war, could not do without the military caste. The Liberal Government crumbled in the course of the war and the military caste came centre stage in the Unionist-dominated Coalition Government, and in 1919 decreed that the League of Nations should not deal with the assertion of independence by the Irish democracy.

The USA dates its legitimacy from its Declaration of Independence, and not from the moment when it fought England to the negotiating table. Ireland should do likewise. It should treat democracy as the determinant of legitimacy, in the light of Britain’s declaration of why it launched the Great War in which countless millions died. A blood-sacrifice of 50,000 Irish lives was offered up in that cause.

Let those who still see imperialism as the source of legitimacy explain away the British recruiting propaganda as best they can. They may see the British declarations as legitimate deception to raise cannon-fodder in a still greater cause. But nationalist Ireland, having been made use of as cannon-fodder, took the deception in earnest in its voting, and in its actions, when its vote was brushed aside by the Empire which at that moment was close to ruling the world.

The “international community” today is in effect five governments. And, for twenty years, one of those five Governments was excluded from UN legitimacy even though it governed the biggest state in the world. The actual Government in Peking was vetoed by the USA after the change of regime in 1948, and the UN was compelled to recognise the island of Formosa as China. Kosovo and South Ossetia are contemporary examples of the arbitrary nature of “international recognition”.

Formality and reality parted company under the Great Power structure of the UN, as it did previously in 1919 under the League of Nations.

In arguing that “a majority of the Irish population … [was] loyal”, Augusteijn is ignoring the electoral pact between the Irish Party and Sinn Féin which meant that in more than a quarter of the constituencies they fought the election as a coalition, a political body united against loyalism, having come together on 18 April 1918, with Labour and the All-for-Ireland League, in opposition to Britain’s “Declaration of War” on Ireland – the enactment of Conscription on 16 April 1918, by which Britain could, at any moment of its choosing, arrest 150,000 Irishmen, send them to France, and shoot them dead if they refused to kill citizens of countries with whom they had no quarrel. John Redmond was dead at this point, but he had earlier warned (Freemans Journal 7 October 1916) that, in that event, his National Volunteers would go to war against Britain. (For comparison, the Polish "January Rising" (1863-1865) was initiated by Russian conscription policy in Poland.)

Britain’s war policy in Ireland is demonstrated by: (1) the appointment, on 10 May 1918, of Field-Marshal John French as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as a military viceroy at the head of a quasi-military government; (2) French took steps to send an extra 12,000 troops to Ireland (25,000 were already there) and planned to establish four “entrenched air camps” which could be used to bomb Sinn Féiners; (3) following a proclamation by Field-Marshal French on 16 May 1918 in relation to an alleged German plot, more than 100 members of Sinn Féin were imprisoned without trial under the Defence of the Realm Act, which, under an amendment of 25 April 1918, had been extended to include, as enemy aliens, Irish people in addition to Germans, Austrians and Turks. Field Marshal Lord John French came from a Loyalist background in Ireland, had helped in the organisation of the UVF against the British Government, was a leader of the British Army’s revolt (the Curragh, March 1914) against the government's policy of Irish Home Rule, and had led the British Army in the first phase of the Great War. Before he left for Ireland, French was instructed by Prime Minister Lloyd George to “put the onus for first shooting on the rebels”. Britain remained poised for re-conquest on the scale of the Boer War, if not of Cromwell, King William or General Lake.

Loyalist domination of the British Government’s Irish policy from 1915 is the context for the defeat of the Irish Party’s project and its loss of influence.

Augusteijn’s statement that up to 53% were “loyal” implies that the electorate of constituencies in Counties Cork, Tipperary and other constituencies where voting did not take place in 1918 – and where British forces were subsequently fought to a standstill – should be assessed in a way which boosts the estimates of support for the loyalist position. This makes no sense.

Within an 18-month period in 1917-18 there were 9 by-elections, three of which were won by the Irish Party. (Significantly, the Irish Party awarded a constituency to Sinn Féin when it withdrew from a by-election on 19 April 1918, the day after both parties announced that Britain had made a “Declaration of War” on Ireland. It is also significant that the British government contested none of the elections. Why should it? The British position (its “legitimacy”) in Ireland was based on force, not consent, as was acknowledged many times in Parliament, including by John Redmond. Augusteijn’s suggestion that Britain based its position on “international recognition” is not believable.)

The Irish Party had given a fairly good account of itself in the by-elections, in which a dominant party is often “shown the yellow card” by voters. So it might have been thought to be in good shape for any electoral test, even if, in previous general elections, most of its seats were won without a contest.

Therefore it is not likely that, if even 10% support for it was expected in a constituency, the Irish Party would have shirked any electoral challenge from Sinn Féin in the 1918 general elections.

As things turned out, in 9 of the contested 26-County constituencies the level of support for Sinn Féin in the general election was over 80%, and in one of these constituencies its support was more than 90%. Therefore it is reasonable to estimate Sinn Féin support in the uncontested constituencies at more than 90%. So 90% is a conservative estimate.

Average turnout in the contested 26-County constituencies was 68%. If we now combine 90% of 68% of the electorate in the uncontested constituencies, the figure we get for Sinn Féin support in all of the 26-County constituencies is 74%.

In the 6-County constituencies, Sinn Féin received 19% of votes cast, some of which would have gone to the Irish Party if there had been no electoral pact between them and if both parties had contested all the 6-County constituencies. Correcting for this, a conservative estimate of Sinn Féin support in the 6-County constituencies is 15%.

Combining this with the 26-County extrapolation of 74%, a conservative estimate of Sinn Féin support in all Irish constituencies is 56%.

The 1918 voting figures are given by ARK in http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/h1918.htm .

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Fri Jun 19, 2009 20:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Documents relating to the Coolacrease executions and the RTÉ Hidden History documentary can be read at

author by Mick Kellypublication date Thu Jul 23, 2009 20:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anyone see RTE documentary on Sean Lemass? Scanning though the credits I noticed a consultant historian was employed. None other than the gormless hallucinating ‘historian’ Richard English, the principal propagandist mouthpiece on Coolacrease programme. So in light of Coolacrease travesty RTE has changed its policy on hiring historical consultants for documentaries. Pity it’s for purely cosmetic purposes. Slithery Sammon has yet to resurrect her flagging career. Confined to the BBC wilderness she’s still persona no grata with RTE. I guess it’s what she might call atonement.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have to disagree with your description of Richard English. He has written 2 very fair books about the IRA and Republlicanism.

Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA.

Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland.

I very much doubt if English deliberately lied in his contribution to the CoolCrease propaganda programme. Rather it was a case of his analysis differing from ours.

author by M.Kellypublication date Sat Jul 25, 2009 11:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

English’s opinions on Coolacrease had no factual basis. That’s propaganda not ‘analysis.’

Aside from English’s smug self-congratulatory tone about how fair he was with Armed Struggle I’m prepared to give him the benefit of doubt with that book, but only just.

Irish Freedom was a patronising, lazy, longwinded, sprawling mess of a book. To suggest it was balanced is ludicrous. Brendan O’Leary remarked that English, “like others who imagine themselves to be radical, swims with the present tide of imperial historiography, which cleanses, and even celebrates, the British Empire, or at least accentuates its positive dimensions”. John Regan hit the nail on the head when he said English wants ‘to undermine rather than to understand mainstream separatism.’

In a professional capacity English is Professor of Politics, not history, which explains his obsession with tedious theorising and pungent moralising. It’s still no excuse for his poor standards and blatant bias.

author by pat cpublication date Sat Jul 25, 2009 17:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You obviously dont like it when people disagree with you.

I was merely expressing my opinion. I have criticisms of both of the books mentioned but I dont expect everyone to agree with my opinion. The books have their faults but no way do they fit in with the Harris/Myers/Hart school of alternate history.

author by Tribesmanpublication date Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

English and Hart are old QUB pals, two sides of the same coin. Pat C is living in never never land if he thinks otherwise. Just read their fawning reviews of each others books.

author by Frankpublication date Sat Aug 08, 2009 20:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Galway Pete' the reason there are no more British Colonies is because the British do not call them Colonies anymore. It follows on from that great British tradition of renaming a problem in order to avoid addressing it, eg, Windscale to Sellafield, Long Kesh to The Maze. Ultimately the IRA did not partition the island, British vested interests did, and continue to maintain it.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_overseas_territories
author by Zinnpublication date Thu Oct 08, 2009 16:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Destroying the shameful fiction of non-sectarianism

Sectarianism will never be defeated if one side insists on playing pass-the-parcel with it, writes DAVID ADAMS

IT MUST have been horrendous for the relatives of the 13 Protestants murdered by the IRA in west Cork over a four-day period in 1922 ( Cork's Bloody Secret, RTÉ One, last Monday evening). Most had to flee the area, along with countless of their co-religionists, to begin life anew in Northern Ireland or in England.

This bare factual recounting hardly begins to do justice to the enormous emotional and practical realities of their ordeal. Robbed of a loved one in the most brutal fashion, and driven from the land of their birth, they had to face starting over again, as strangers in a strange land - but only after they had run the gauntlet between Cork and Dublin. According to a first-hand account, the IRA attacked a Cork-to-Dublin train, which was packed with fleeing Protestants, at three locations.

It was even worse for those few relatives who stayed behind. Unlike victims from both sides in the North, for example, they had no large community of co-religionists to provide support, sympathy and a relatively safe haven. Quite the reverse, they were left with just the pain of loss, a daily fear of the gunmen returning, and an isolation from the local community that bordered on ostracism. For decade after decade, generation after generation, they had to act as though nothing had happened, forever keeping a fearful silence, too frightened even to discuss the murders with their children.

I don't know west Cork, but, knowing people, I would suggest that, for a majority of Catholic neighbours, the silence and detachment came from fear and shame. Fear of what might happen to them or their families if they showed sympathy to their Protestant neighbours, and deep shame at what had been done in their name.

Still, even if they appreciated the reasoning, it was bound to be of little comfort to the bereaved and ostracised. How could you avoid forever wondering, and silently speculating upon, who among those neighbours was involved in murdering your loved one(s)?

There is no excuse at all for official Ireland. It buried this sordid episode, and goodness knows how many more, determined to maintain the fiction of wholly non-sectarian freedom fighters. It even invented a cover story to explain the sudden decrease in Protestant numbers within its jurisdiction, claiming that they had freely chosen to leave. Was this where a policy of maintaining appearances at all costs, regardless of how brutal the reality, began? A policy that later contributed so much to the obscenities of the Magdalene laundries, and to the abuse of children in State-monitored institutions?

At least now, thanks to RTÉ, as with its previous documentary on the IRA's sectarian murder of the young Pearson brothers at Coolacrease in 1921, a fearful silence has been broken, people have been given a voice at last, and another bloody secret is no more.

It seemed to me fitting that Cork's Bloody Secret was an Irish language programme and that Irish speaker Hazel Baylor, grandniece of the murdered Bertie Chinnery, should feature so prominently. For too long the Irish language has been used as a divisive weapon by those who misappropriated and abused it. It was heartening to see it wrested back from the fanatics.

Despite what we know about the recent Troubles, and mounting evidence of past misdeeds, it would be wrong to suggest that republicanism, of whatever era, is or ever was primarily driven by sectarianism. That is simply not the case. I am close friends with too many determinedly anti-sectarian republicans (including, incidentally, a few former Provisional IRA members) to entertain that notion.

However, it is equally wrong for republicans to persist with the self-serving pretence that sectarianism is, or ever was, just a unionist problem. Republicanism, from the outset, just like unionism, has been plagued by sectarianism.

In 1798, while Wolfe Tone was still alive, and before Presbyterian Ulster had risen, southern United Irishmen had massacred Protestants at Scullabogue, and committed other anti-Protestant atrocities in the south of the country. Such has it been ever since.

The problem of sectarianism is not exclusive or germane to any political ideology in Ireland, but, rather, it comes with many of the people who attach themselves to the politics. For either side to point an accusing finger at its political rival, without acknowledging that it has the same problem, is like one hopeless alcoholic reproaching another for drinking too much, while having the gall to pretend he is teetotal himself. We will never defeat sectarianism if one side insists on playing pass-the-parcel with it. We must acknowledge it as a common problem, and then tackle it together.

I sincerely hope that Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe watched Cork's Bloody Secret on Monday evening, and was moved to reconsider his plan to discriminate further against the sprinkling of rural Protestants left in the Republic by slashing funding to their schools. It's the least he can do on behalf of official Ireland.

David Adams

author by Ashling Gerepublication date Thu Oct 08, 2009 18:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dublin Review of Books
- current issue (no. 11, Autumn 2009)
has comprehensive rebuttals of Tom Wall's defense of the Eoghan Harris/David Adams line on Coolacrease:



Wall's article is at:


author by Ashling Gerepublication date Fri Oct 09, 2009 18:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish Times, 9 October 2009:

Madam, – On October 5th, I was a commentator on the RTÉ CSÍ: Cork’s Bloody Secrettelevision documentary programme dealing with murders of 13 west Cork Protestants in April, 1922. Appearing on the same programme, Senator Eoghan Harris claimed that at least 60,000 Protestants were “driven out” of the new State in those years and that was a “conservative estimate”.
He stressed that the figure represented ordinary Protestants, “small farmers, small shopkeepers”, and did not include former servants of the ousted British regime such as disbanded policemen and demobbed soldiers. Neither did it include, presumably, those who left because they felt unable to accept the ideology and culture of the new dispensation.
Outside of these categories then, according to Senator Harris, at least 60,000 southern Protestants were subjected to an “enforced exodus” on a massive scale, to ethnic cleansing, in fact. He has made these unsubstantial allegations repeatedly (for example in the Sunday Independent, May 24th, 2009).
It has been well said that history is what the evidence compels us to believe. It is now time for Senator Harris to produce the detailed, documental evidence (no surmises or estimates, please) in support of his dramatic claims. He should do so in the interests of historical truth and of community relations. – Yours, etc,
Emeritus Professor of Irish
University College Cork.

author by Reetpublication date Sat Oct 10, 2009 16:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Saturday, October 10, 2009 Cork's bloody secret

Madam, – Prof John A Murphy (October 9th) claims to have two problems with my contribution to CSÍ, Cork’s Bloody Secret . First he wants me to support my claim that some 60,000 Protestants were driven out of the State with “detailed, documental evidence”. How can I do that that when the statistical work has not been done by professional historians like himself? But I am perfectly entitled to make an educated estimate. The Censuses from 1911 to 1926 show that a third of Irish Protestants left the State in that period. In the brief slots provided by the CSÍ programme I used the phrase “driven out ” to cover any categories of compulsion (from physical intimidation to cultural pressures such as compulsory Irish for State jobs) which caused what I called the “enforced exodus” of the 1921-22 period.

As nobody can say for sure what this enforced exodus entailed, I based my estimate of 60,000 on two figures. First, I rejected as ridiculously high a possible top figure of 146,000. On the other hand I thought the bottom figure of 39,000 a bit too low.

The latter figure comes from Dr Andy Bielenberg’s paper to the 2008 Cork conference, Understanding Our History . Excluding certain categories (RIC, first World War casualties, etc), Dr Bielenberg came up with a figure of 39,000 “involuntary emigrants”. This carefully chosen phrase is still close to my notion of an “enforced exodus”. As a professional historian, Dr Bielenberg is properly conservative in his calculations. However, if you add in the decline of Dublin working-class Protestants, those who made no claims, and those who hung on for a few years, I believe the true figure of the “enforced exodus” is far closer to 60,000. But if Prof Murphy insists that only professional historians can do the tots I will settle for Prof Bielenberg’s figure of 39,000.

This is still an appalling figure and warrants my use of the phrase “enforced exodus” – which a Prof Murphy trickily portrays as being the same as “ethnic cleansing”. But the CSÍ tape shows that I categorically reject making any such claim as follows: “I wouldn’t call it ethnic cleansing . . . and the IRA didn’t have a sectarian ideology, but there was a sectarian tradition in Ireland among rural communities that dated back to penal times, the prophecies of Pastorini . . .”

Finally, I ask your readers to reflect on Prof Murphy’s motives in distorting my contribution. This is his second personalised letter since I was appointed to the Seanad. But in pursuit of me he muddies the cleansing waters of the widely praised CSÍ programme and comforts the tribal patrols who police our past. – Yours, etc,


Baltimore, Co Cork.

author by Ashling Gerepublication date Sat Oct 10, 2009 20:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

" ... there was a sectarian tradition in Ireland among rural communities that dated back to penal times, the prophecies of Pastorini . . .”

Oh, I get it! The Irish rural communities invaded and conquered England, grabbed their land and suppressed their Protestant religion!
How sectarian of them!

The person who wrote under the pseudonym Pastorini was English, not Irish.

author by Ashling Gerepublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 14:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish Times Oct 16 2009

Madam, – In my letter of October 5th, I requested Senator Eoghan
Harris to supply evidence for his dramatic assertion on CSÍ Cork’s
Bloody Secret that at least 60,000 southern Protestants were “driven
out ” of the new State in 1921-1923. His reply (October 10th) fails to
provide the requisite details. He can’t do it, he says, because the
statistical work has not been done. In other words, here are the
conclusions, the research will follow!

In his letter, the Senator significantly revises his programme
contribution. He did indeed reject “ethnic cleansing” as an
explanation of the west Cork murders but the video later shows him
wondering aloud whether the terms “pogrom” and “ethnic cleansing”
might not be applied to the (alleged) 60,000-plus expulsion.

His letter also states he meant “compulsory Irish” to be
included in the cultural pressures forcing Protestants to leave. But
his programme contribution made no mention of this, while it
exclusively emphasised the factors of intimidating violence. Having
thus widened (and weakened) the definition of “driving out”, he then
makes the fatal concession that “nobody can say for sure what this
exodus entailed”, despite his pronouncements on the programme.

Having rejected “a possible top figure of 146,000” (what fantasy
land did that come from?), he grudgingly settles for Dr Andy
Bielenberg’s tentative work-in-progress estimate of “39,000
involuntary emigrants”. I’m not sure what “involuntary” means in this
context, but I doubt if Dr Bielenberg supports the Harris thesis of a
mass “enforced exodus”. In any case, each individual case would have
to be documented.

Far from “distorting” the Senator’s programme contribution, I
have simply exposed its inconsistencies and infirmities. He also
claims I am muddying “the cleansing waters of the programme and
comforting the tribal patrols who police our past”. In other words, I
am accused of giving aid and comfort to tribal nationalists. This
accusation is unworthy of the Senator.

Perhaps more than anybody else, he is aware that, in the
critical years when it mattered, I steadfastly opposed sectarian
terrorism and resisted the nationalist-victimhood reading of our
history. I now find it ironic he should be championing another sort of

Finally, he questions my motives for criticising his
contribution to the programme. First, I was concerned that what
purported to be a dramatic historical statement was being advanced
without supporting evidence. Second, an “enforced exodus” of southern
Protestants on a massive scale would have required the collusion and
active involvement of great numbers of their Catholic fellow-Irishmen
in such a persecution. I certainly will not accept that serious charge
without rigorous historical proof. As for Senator Harris’s view that I
am somehow pursuing him, he should lighten up. Otherwise when he
reaches my age, he’ll be a very dull dog indeed. – Yours, etc,

Emeritus Professor of Irish
University College Cork.

author by Collinspublication date Tue Oct 27, 2009 09:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Before Ashling Gere and others becomes too smug in their "David Adams/Eoghan Harris debunked" and "Harris isolated" claims, John A Murphy contacted Alan Stanley congratulating him on his book "I met Murder on the way". In his letter, he wrote "as a historian, I admire the way you bring out the political complexities of the event. You did very well to bring it all into the light ".

Other correspondences included former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton who called it "a most important book...a story that needs to be told".

author by Ashling Gerepublication date Tue Oct 27, 2009 10:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So why haven't Murphy, Bruton & Co. stepped forward to defend Alan Stanley/Harris/Niamh Sammon/RTÉ, now that this nonsense has been scrutinised and exposed?

Where are the academic historians (Dr Terence Dooley of NUI Maynooth, Prof Richard English of Queens Univ Belfast, Dr What-do-you-call-him of the "Mater Dei" Institute) who were once so vocal in pushing Alan Stanley's version of events?

Is the "Hidden History" to be hidden all over again?

The silence, the silence ...

What now for Harris's WB Yeats quotation:
Though gravediggers toil be long
Sharp their spades and muscles strong
They will thrust their buried men
Into the public mind again.

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