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National - Event Notice
Thursday January 01 1970

Kilmichael Commemoration (November 28) breaks through media silence

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | event notice author Friday November 26, 2004 15:31author by Barry McGarry Report this post to the editors

RADIO ULSTER broadcasts criticism of revisionist historian Peter Hart

Irish Historians Dr Brian Murphy and Meda Ryan aired their criticism of Peter Hart, who based his account of what happened at the Kilmichael on anonymous sources and British Intelligence reports. Meda Ryan demonstrated that, at the time Hart claims he spoke to his un-named sources, the survivors were dead or (in the case of one) too ill and infirm to carry on an intelligible conversation. Brian Murphy has demonstrated that Hart also relied on British reports heavily compromised by propaganda distortions.
Commemoration Meeting Sunday November 28 at 1pm
Commemoration Meeting Sunday November 28 at 1pm

BBC Northern Ireland Radio, Good Morning Ulster programme, November 26 2004:

BBC Announcer Conor Bradford:
This Sunday marks the 84th anniversary of the Kilmichael Ambush in Co. Cork in 1920, the bloodiest single battle in the Irish War of Independence. Queen’s University academic Peter Hart alleges that IRA leader Tom Barry had soldiers, who had surrendered, shot in cold blood. But now another expert says he has found new evidence of a British propaganda operation which discredits all official British accounts of the time. Diarmuid Fleming reports from Dublin on the controversy:

The ambush at Kilmichael was the bloodiest single battle of the Irish War of Independence. Commemorated in song, for nationalists it was seen as a turning point of the conflict.
[Song: O forget not the Boys of Kilmichael ….]
But for 17 Auxiliary Officers who had survived the First World War, a routine patrol through the Cork countryside on a Sunday afternoon was to end in death when they were ambushed by an IRA Flying Column led by Tom Barry. Three IRA men also died, two of them shot, according to Barry who died in 1980, after they stood up to take the surrender of a group of auxiliaries. But Tom Barry’s account has been challenged by a Canadian historian Dr Peter Hart, author of the award-winning book, the IRA and its Enemies. He says the notion of a false surrender was made up to excuse the execution of defeated soldiers in cold blood.

Seven accounts by eye-witnesses, two of whom were interviewed by me, say there was no false surrender. Either they explicitly deny it or they make no mention of it at all in their accounts. So I think there is an enormous preponderance of evidence giving accounts of the ambush radically different from Tom Barry’s.

Martial law was declared shortly afterwards in Cork after newspaper articles wrote reports of the mutilation of the bodies of those killed at Kilmichael. But new research by another historian, Dr Brian Murphy, reveals that fictitious official accounts such as these were run from a British propaganda office established just three months before Kilmichael, headed by a British Army Major Street in London and former journalist Basil Clarke in Dublin.

He said that “We must engage in Propaganda by News rather than Propaganda by Views”. and he said “We must do this in accordance with truth and verisimilitude”. That’s the air of being true but not strictly true. Now Major Street, he said for propaganda to work it must be dissolved in some fluid which the patient will readily assimilate. And official news, according to Street, was the best way of doing that. It must be now very close as to whether Peter Hart has to qualify his statement in the light of the fact that the hand of Basil Clarke was at work in defining what happened at Kilmichael. To dismiss, as Hart does, Barry’s account as lies and evasions, I don’t think is tenable.

My account is based on IRA witnesses, not on the British report. One of the points of my looking into Kilmichael was to examine the kind of stories and labels that came out of the event, whether both sides calling each other terrorists, for example, and to try and get to the truth behind it. And the truth is, as I think the whole book shows, that really, in many ways, the two sides acted in much the same way, whether in terms of propaganda, or thinking, or violence.

But Barry’s biographer, Meda Ryan, says that her interviews with the IRA leader and other survivors of the ambush, including her uncle who was beside one of the IRA men when he was shot, do not corroborate Dr Hart’s account.

Admittedly it was years later, but it was so vivid in their minds. This was a major event, and if a major event happens in anybody’s life they will remember it with stark reality. In fact they were really adamant about the false surrender.

Among some who revere the memory of Tom Barry, Dr Hart’s findings provoke fury. Secretary of the Kilmichael Commemorative Committee is Sean Kelleher.

We’re baffled, genuinely baffled, at his sources. The people of my generation, and younger, and some older, to put it bluntly they are outraged that such allegations would be made.

Peter Hart says that he doesn’t mind criticism but feels that some of his critics are not open to debate

What becomes difficult is not people being sceptical, what becomes difficult is people refusing to accept what one says has any validity. Because the typical reaction of critics is not that I have some things wrong. The typical reaction of critics is that I have everything wrong, and everything Tom Barry says has to be right. So in other words it is almost a kind of faith-based history.

Myths still swirling around that ambush at Kilmichael many years on. Dr Peter Hart ending that report on the controversy still raging about the Kilmichael ambush 84 years on. Diarmuid Fleming reporting.


Peter Hart’s suggestion that his critics are using a “faith based history” is insulting, patronising and lacks credibility.

Those who have read Ryan’s book or who attended Brian Murphy’s recent talk in Dublin are aware of the meticulous attention to detail with which they presented their findings. Hart’s approach will not wash.

Peer Hart, who refuses to debate the issue on Indymedia (see link below) is nevertheless on record here, in his response to criticism, as agreeing to respond in some forum, though what that forum is or when it will be published has not been clarified. It is now time for Dr Hart to come form behind the shadows and to answer the criticism.

His account of what happened at Kilmichael forms one part of the matters in dispute.

Related Link:
author by Jack Lane - Aubane Historical Societypublication date Fri Nov 26, 2004 16:00author email jacklaneaubane at hotmail dot comauthor address Aubane, Millstreet, Co. Corkauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Could Peter Hart once and for all tell us who were the two eye winesses at the Kilmichael Ambush that he claims to have interviewed in the late 1980s. I take it they are all now dead and will not mind - assuming that these people were too cowardly or too shy to say publicly who they were about 20 years ago.

author by Eamon Dyaspublication date Fri Nov 26, 2004 22:05author email eamon.dyas at talk21 dot comauthor address author phone 020 76396445Report this post to the editors

Peter Hart made the following statement on BBC radio "Good Morning Ulster" today: "Seven accounts by eye-witnesses, two of whom were interviewed by me, say there was no false surrender".

The impression was deliberately given that the seven accounts back up his claim of the false surrender. Of course he goes on to qualify the initial claim by stating "Either they explicitly deny it or they make no mention of it at all in their accounts". However the impression is given in the initial claim which, particularly on radio, retains the impact it was deliberately meant to have.

This is a really disingenuous technique by which he inflates the "evidence" of his case. What is the evidence? The actual evidence he provides consists of two participants whom he refuses to name. This, together with his slight of words, more becoming of a politician than a serious academic, must lead one to seriously question the entire basis of his case.

author by Con Leepublication date Sat Nov 27, 2004 00:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Peter Hart has shown in works of the most scrupulous scholarship that Ireland's struggle for national liberation was not a tea party. Incidentally it was the engagement at Crossbarry that was the key battle, not Kilmichael.

author by pat cpublication date Sat Nov 27, 2004 19:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What an apropriate name you have! You do however have an odd idea of what amounts to scholarship.

I agree with you that Crossbary was the more decisive battle but Hart would not. He dismissed it totally, he claimed that the Crown forces only sufered trivial casualties at Crossbary. The fact that General Barry with just 104 men under arms was able to smash encircling forces which amounted to 1,200 just does not suit Hart's world view.

author by Con Leepublication date Sun Nov 28, 2004 01:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat, ever hear of sarcasm, irony? Hart's writings suggest that the only way a national liberation struggle could be legit. was if it was about as disruptive as a teaparty. Irelands struggle was no teaparty and therefore its not honourable, etc. This is the gist of what Hart is claiming: this is not my view.Crossbarry was the key battle. It marked the end of the British empire, although it took a long time after that to die. This is why the empire loyalists at the Indo . the paid hacks of Sir Anthony, such as stickie and Stalinist, Eoghan Harris, spread the propaganda of revisionism. Even John A. Murphy has laughed at Harris' claim the 10,000 Protestants were 'ethnically cleansed' in the 1920s.

author by historianpublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well said Con Lee. What matters is not the etiquette of what took place at Kilmichael and Crossbarry but the reality which was that the Brits got a right pasting that reverberated around the world and forced the bastards out of almost every country they occupied at the time. Ironically they are still here, leaving the solution of that particular problem to plague our politics right up to the present day.

Ironic too, that the week after the poppy wearing nonsense that we commemorate the great man Barry who learnt his trade in the murder machine but put it to better use at home!

author by Joepublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is more a general question to those who seem to see the war of independance as a military rather than polictical-military battle.

Why do you think an army/state that squandered millions of lives in France would be worried about a 'pasting' that involved less than a couple of dozen deaths?

author by pat cpublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 14:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Forgive me! Your style is a brilliant parody of the west brit revisionists!


"Why do you think an army/state that squandered millions of lives in France would be worried about a 'pasting' that involved less than a couple of dozen deaths?"

Because this happened at "home". Ireland was part of the "UK". An appalling vista indeed if British Soldiers were to be killed by "British" people whether at Kilmichael or Canterbury.

The Brits were also on their uppers at this stage and could ill afford to keep an entire Division in Munster alone. Killing the "Paddies" was also getting them a lot more bad press than gassing Iraqis.

author by Joepublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 14:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat I get why it was a political-military problem but some of the posts here present it as a major military defeat for the empire, which it wasn't. I'm interested in the logic behind this claim.

author by pat cpublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 14:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

but it was a major defeat for the brits in terms of their claim that the "army" was only present to assist the ric in police actions against "criminals". it is very unusual for "criminals" to succeed in killing 17 "policemen" (such as at kilmichael) or 40 "policemen" and soldiers (as at crossbarry).

i use "" around policemen, because auxilaries, who were effectively a special forces unit, made up of ex army officers were classified as policemen. the blac & tans were also classified as police.

author by Joepublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 14:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat you are outlining why it was a political defeat. I agree with this. It was not however a major military defeat outside of the political context.

author by pat cpublication date Mon Nov 29, 2004 15:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

depends on how you define major. losing 40 men in an engagement against a millions strong germanarmy would be minor.

but the british army losing 40 men in an action against the miniscule ira was a major event. especially since the crown forces outnumbered the ira by more than ten to one and had motorised transport and heavymachineguns which the ira did not.

given that this was all supposed to an internal "uk police action", the military aspects cannot be seperated from the political ones. the brits never seperated them in their thinking either at a strategic or tactical. level.

author by Con Leepublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 01:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The auxiliaries were the cream of English manhood, drawn mostly from the upper classes, battle-hardened veterans of Ww1. At Crossbarry, they outnumbered the IRA ten to one, yet they lost 40 men, at least. It takes an empire a longtime to die, but Crossbarry was a key battle in its defeat. Remember they had just won WW1, and the other great Anglo-Saxon power, the U.S. had not yet risen. It certainly had a profound effect on their morale, on their self-confidence. And the oppressed of the world learned a valuable lesson: that the mighty could be defeated.

author by Barrypublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 02:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom Barrys stated reasons for executing the Kilmichael operation in the first place illustrates its military and political importance.

Prior to Kilmichael the IRA had not physically engaged the Auxiliaries, which had the reputation of an elite group of super-soldiers, just like the SAS today. British propaganda promoting them as such was in turn being given credence by the IRAs reticence in confronting this particular armed grouping.

By inflicting such a comprehensive military defeat on the auxiliaries, Barry and his men showed the other IRA columns and units that these super-soldiers were far from invincible and should be confronted at every opportunity. After Kilmichael they regularly were.

It was not only the quantity of casualties, but their supposed quality, which set an example for the rest of the IRA.

Similarly the CrossBarry engagement was an example to the rest of the IRA that the regular British Army could be outmanouvered and outfought by a lightly armed guerilla force .

Tom Barrys meagre supply of arms and munitions were almost entirely captured from British forces.Had they been better supplied with ammunition for example the casualties inflicted in this and other engagements would have been significantly higher. Therefore the importance of these operations was that they gave the IRA that most important commodity in any war of liberation - hope. Hope leads to faith, and with faith you can move mountains.

Similarly its effects on British army morale were highly significant. In a communique to the British govt, a senior military figure in Ireland claimed that the troops morale was so low in Ireland that he did not believe they would stand another winter. (the dark nights and poor weather being ideal for guerilla attacks) This was undoubtedly significant in the British decision to enter into a truce during the summer months, usually a quieter period,

In doing so they undoubtedly avoided even more comprehensive defeats, which Kilmichael and CrossBarry had shown them the IRA were more than capable of inflicting.

author by R. Isiblepublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 02:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

QUOTE: The auxiliaries were the cream of English manhood, drawn mostly from the upper classes,

Really? Can you support that and define what "upper classes" are just to make it clear? I find it hard to believe that the upper classes were doing much dying for Empire. I wouldn't be surprised if their _officers_ were upper class, but I'll bet the majority of them were working class.

author by Barrypublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 03:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The minimum entry requirements for the auxiliary force, as distinct from the Black and Tans, was that one must have previously held a commission in the British armed forces (.ie been an officer).

British Army officers are exclusively drawn from among the upper classes. The fact they were comprehensively routed by what they considered to be poorly armed working-class Irish "bogmen" was a huge blow to the British upper class psyche.

author by Devil Dogpublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 03:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1. The IRA was on the verge of defeat by the time the truce was called - another few weeks and the Brits would have won.

2. A lot of British officers in WWI would have been commissioned form the ranks - I doubt if too may ex-Public Schoolboys or Oxbridge graduates would have joined the Auxies.

3. There are numerous accounts of IRA members showing a lot of respect for the Auxiliaries...just like the SAS Barry, they didn't relish going up against them.

4. The posts so far would suggest that these incidents were typical of the WoI - they weren't, as can be seen from reading the rest of Hart's book - most Crown casualties were RIC men i.e. Irishmen and were not killed in major engagements like K'Michael.

author by pat cpublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 11:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The point is that Harts book is not to be believed. He basically made stuff up. His figures on Crown casualties are the best work of fiction since the Irish Constitution.

Hart is intent on trivialising the major engagements such as Crossbarry or accusing the IRA of killing prisoners such as at Kilmichael. Evidence which does not support his thesis is ommitted.

Why does Hart pretend that Crown casualties were so light at Crossbarry? The lowest accepted figure for Crown dead is 35, with figures as high as 49 being qouted even by British Military sources. No one denies that the Crown forces were at least 1,200 strong. Why did they retreat in disorder if they had only suffered minor casualties?

Of course the IRA didnt relish going up against the Auxilaries, only headcases would fancy the idea of going into battle, and only a special type of nutter would welcome the idea of going into battle against special units such as the Auxies.

But this didnt stop the Cork IRA from engaging the Auxies or the Kings Own Scottish Borderers or the Essexs (both front line regiments).

Yes, the IRA also killed RIC men in individual actions. Tom Barry shot a RIC Intelligence sergeant on the steps of a church. Barry never regretted it, it was a blow against the Crown which damaged their intelligence gathering abilities.

I'm curious about you Doggie. You claim to have been an USMC Officer. What abot the American War of Indeoence? Was it wrong to shoot British troops then? What about the colonists who stayed loyal to the Crown? They left to go to Canada. Was that Ethnic Cleansing?

author by Barrypublication date Tue Nov 30, 2004 15:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Now the Dawg, a self confessed Black and Tan lover, claims the IRA were on the verge of defeat ,"another few weeks and the Brits would have won".

A summary of attacks given by Harry Boland for the WEEK 24-30 April 1921 - "Forty three attacks on British forces ; continuous sniping of fortifified constabulary barracks - 13 of which came under heavy attack during the week ; a Lewis gun, arms and a convoy of ammunition captured by Irish troops at Glenbeigh co Kerry - the military convoy dispersed with several casualties ; a troop train ambushed between Durrow and Kilmacthomas ; the rescue of 3 men from the fortess at Spike island ; British army stores and equipment captured on 10 occasions ; and 100s of raids on the enemy mails during the week, the most important of wich was the capture of the outgoing mails from Dublin Castle; also the capture of 3 Air Force automobiles, two Crossley tenders and a military touring car, also an army transport van ........" . Mmmm. Obviously on the verge of being defeated the boys were getting desperate.

At the end of May, the commander of British forces in Ireland, General Sir Neville MacCready presented a highly pessimistic report ; he was convinced that " unless a peaceful solution has been reached by October, it would not be safe to ask the troops to continue there another winter ". The fear of another winter of dark nights, poor weather and ideal guerilla warfare conditions had the Brits in total despair.

Right wing militarist and Empire fanatic Sir Henry Wilson fully endorsed Macreadys assessment. The Brits offered a truce within a matter of weeks from this military assessment. The Brits dont enter into Truces with a defeated enemy. They crush and humiliate them.

Perhaps Mr Dog reckons these 2 gentlemen were a pair of tea-drinking surrender monkeys, or maybe hes talking out of his tail - yet again.

As for attacks on the RIC, these Irish renegades and traitors were carrying arms for the British in order to do their dirty work. The IRA had little or no arms at the beginning. The attacks on the RIC were simply the only way in which these badly needed weapons could be acquired.

author by pat cpublication date Thu Dec 02, 2004 19:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Autumn edition of History Ireland had an article on "Who were the Black-and-Tans? " by W.J. Lowe. It also had some background on the Auxies. A surprisingly large number of Auxies came from Catholic backgrounds (some were English Catholics). Cant find it just now. Will do a summary when it turns up.

Related Link:
author by R. Isiblepublication date Fri Dec 03, 2004 18:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd certainly appreciate an article summary/link if/when you dig it up. I'm already excited because I see that the current issue has Martin Mansergh talking about the "Hegelian dialectical process" in Irish history!

author by pat cpublication date Fri Dec 03, 2004 19:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

it may be put online eventually.

82% of of B&ts & auxies were protestant.
17.4% were catholic
10.27% were Irish Catholics.

20% of B&Ts were Irish.
10% of auxies were Irish.

Previous Occupations:

Black & Tans:
clerks 4.3%
agriculture 6.7%
labourers 14.4%
mechanics 2.6%
railway 4.5%

a total of 180 different occupatons were listed!

136 b&ts were recruited directly from the military.


95% listed "former military officer". So it doesnt help much as to telling how many rose from the ranks during WW1. But painstaking research and cross checking at the PRO in KEW, comparing milirary records to RIC records could solve this. (Anyone want to sposor me?)

The most dangerous county for the RIC was Cork where 90 were killed and 119 wounded in the 12 months prior to the truce. In total during the 12 months prior to the truce, 330 RICmen were killed in action. 147 of these were B&ts and Auxies.

author by jarlathpublication date Sat Dec 04, 2004 13:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Strange that they were all killed/massacred, if the story about the false surrender was true, all the ambushers had to say was
"come out with your hands up and walk over to our position"
Why was it necessary for the flying column to break cover?

author by Suspicious of Jarlathpublication date Mon Dec 06, 2004 11:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jarlath is either being disingenuous or has no understanding of Military procedure. You dont accept someones surrender by remaining in your own position. You move forward keeping the enemy covered whilst also being covered by other members of your own unit. I am sure Devil Dog being a military man would agree.

author by jarlathpublication date Mon Dec 06, 2004 13:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You stay in cover as you have not offered to surrender, otherwise why expose yourself.
The oher side has offered to surrender, they are the ones that will have to co-operate with any of YOUR commands, not the other way about.
You don't offe rto surrender to the enem and then start to dish out the orders!!

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