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Hidden History discussion transcript

category international | history and heritage | opinion/analysis author Monday December 03, 2007 23:03author by Nick Folley - None Report this post to the editors

Transcript of Joe Duffy Liveline radio programme on Hidden History

For those following the Hidden History on Coolnacrease below is published a transcript of the Joe Duffy Liveline programme of Nov 6th 2007 on RTE. It features Jack Lane and Tom Carew. There is also a link to the transcript of the previous day's Liveline where the same topic was duscussed.

I have tried to give the discussion verbatim where possible, but due to sound quality and the natural cadence of conversation, on occasion it wasn't possible to catch every word. Where I have some doubt about the actual words, I have used [ ?]


Transmission date: 6th November 2007-11-22

Joe Duffy – Joe at Back to the murders in Coolacrease in 1920 - 21 wasn’t it, Jack Lane good afternoon, you’re from the Aubane Historical Society?

Jack Lane - That’s right yeah

JD What’s what’s Aubane, where does that name come from, Jack?

JL Oh it’s just a local townland and we set up a local history group some years ago, you know like

JD Townland where?

JL In north Cork.

JD Oh, north Cork, ok. Now you have a view on the killing of the Pears -

JL I mean I was listening to the programme yesterday and there was a lot of emot – more heat and light generated, especially when Senator Harris came on. I mean the basic fact – I did some research on this in London in the Public Record Office, on the, on the Pearson, on the Pearsons – I mean the basic fact is that there was a war on, between the Irish government - the elected Irish government - and the British government.


JL Now that obviously took all forms including a military form. The Pearsons joined the military conflict. Now that’s the crucial thing. They, we all know the incident where they, they shot at the IRA guys setting up a roadblock, wounded two of them and -

JD They alleged, they were alleged to have shot at them, there wasn’t a court

JL Well, I mean, they didn’t, I don’t think the, the IRA guys imagined that they were being shot at,

JD No, no I don’t doubt they imagined, but it could have been someone else!

JL [How do you mean some - ?] Besides the Pearsons?

JD Yes

JL Well, I mean how, how –

JD Well there wasn’t, well there wasn’t a court, that’s my point

JL Look, well,

JD The only, the only courts - and I know you would say unfortunately - a lot of people would say the only courts at the time were the British courts

JL Yeah, well there was an Irish court system as well

JD There was, there was, there was a Court Martial

JL Yes -

JD – Where the Pearsons weren’t asked to attend

JL I know but this was a military affair, I mean that’s the way military matters go. But what I wanted to explain was I looked up the Pearson’s evidence that they gave - that the father of the Pearsons, William, he gave evidence a couple of years later to, in the course of getting compensation – more compensation – for his farm. And he was asked why this happened. He, the question was, and I quote “do you claim that the loss or injury described was occasioned in respect or on account of your allegiance to the government of the United Kingdom? If so, give particluars on which you base the claim” And his answer was and I quote – 14th of April, 1927 – “I was always known as a staunch loyalist and upholder of the Crown. I assisted the Crown forces on every occasion” That, you know -

JD You see, at at that stage he was looking for a grant from the UK government

JL Yes, but was giving – now he wasn’t a liar, I don’t think – he took his religion seriously – as Mr.Harris has told us often enough, and again –

JD Well then, if he took his religion seriously – he was a Cooneyite - none of his family would have took [sic] up a gun ‘cos there wouldn’t have been a gun in the household

JL No, no – as far as I know that went with, they were a militant tendency, in the, in the, and they were more militant against fellow-Protestants than anybody else as far as I know. But that’s, I mean that’s the man’s own words.

JD Coo - Cooneyites – any discussion we’ve had, I know it’s a very small grouping, but any discussion we’ve had so far on the Cooneyites, everyone has agreed that they were pacifists!

JL No, no –

JD - Like the Quakers or the Amish, the Amish community

JL No! They were not! How could they be pacifists if they took up guns and, and shot, shot at the - shot the IRA guys who were creating a roadblock? I mean this this man –

JD He, he –

JL – now hold on – this man says he – it’s words out of his own mouth “I was known as a staunch loyalist and upholder of the Crown. I assisted the Crown forces on every occasion”

JD [interrupting] ok, ok, ok –

JD But do you think, even if what you say is true –

JL It IS true –

JD [sighs] ok – [sighs, pause]

JL I’m not inventing this am I?

JD Well, well are the Pearson family inventing their analysis of it?

JL What’s their analysis? I’m try- [indistinct]

JD Well, you’ve heard, they’re saying it was a land-grab. They’re saying -

JL – Well, who got the land?

JD That the land was subsequently –

JL Who got the land? Who got the land?

JD I don’t know who actually got the -

JL - The first people who got it were ex-British soldiers

JD Yeah, but they were, now let’s go through this again, let’s not be too economical with it, and I’m not suggest- you, I’m not suggesting – but there’s other people got land as well, the first three people –

JL That’s what happens with the Land Commission; the Land Commission did that and the Land Comission was, as far as I recall -

JD But can I go back to my question? Even if what you say is true, ok, about the Pearson boys firing at an IRA party, did that necessitate or justify them being executed?

JL Well…that’s war. Unfortunately. I mean they were a threat, they were a military threat to the army of the Irish government. The IRA the ar- were the legitimate army of the Irish governement at that time. That is a fact that is, that seems to be overlooked.

JD They were the legit – legitimate army of the –

JL –Of the Irish government!

JD – of the party that got the majority votes!

JL Exactly!

JD But there wasn’t a constituted government as such. Un -

JL There was a government!

JD - unfortunately.

JL Yeah, there was a government! And a cabinet, and a Prime Minister and they raise, run Departments of State. And there was a Chief of Staff – Richard Mulcahy, who actually was the man who insisted that the people down in Offaly do something about the situation down there. Richard Mulcahy, a most respectable Free State man later on. I mean, he was as legitimate as you can get. I mean the 1918 election legitimised the War of Independence. There would be no war if that election result was taken note of. There would never have been an IRA, there would never have been a single man killed after 1918 if the British government [indistinct] –

JD But let’s –

JL –election!

JD But let’s be clear about this, whether you like it or not: in 1918 the government of Ireland was the British government.

JL Yeah, and it was -

JD It WAS the British government.

JL And it was –

JD It WAS the British government.

JL It -

JD Whether, whether you like it or not!

JL No, no -

JD - Because you can’t say, you can’t say that the IRA –

JL It was a government by pure physical force

JD But you can’t say that the IRA, in 1918were, were, the army of Ireland – they weren’t, whether you like it or not

JL I certainly can! I certainly can! Who, who, what other army represented Ireland?

JD The British army were in Ireland.

JL They represented Ireland? They, they represented the electorate who voted for independence? Did they?

JD And if - ok, ok, take - I hope you can understand that argument. The next, well then, the next point I made to you is if, if if the IRA were a legitimate army at the time, which, as you say they are and I know the argument you’re putting forward, if they were a legitinate army, is it, is it the actions of a legitimate army to march up to a house, take two men out in front of the house and shoot them dead?

JL All, all armies do it.

JD Well, that that’s – [indistinct, both JL and JD talking at the same time over each other] that to me sounds like a war crime.

JL What do you mean?

JD That to me sounds like a war crime. Now, that to me, even, [JL interrupts] taking, taking your precepts on board, that to me sounds like a war crime.

JL Why is it ‘a war crime’?

JD The men weren’t tried. They weren’t tried! Simple as that!

JL In, in war you don’t have perfect justice, you have Court Martials: that, that in itself alone is not a very democratic system –

JD [interrupts] – Milosevic, Milosevic was brought to the Hague and tried.

JL Eh?

JD You’re, you’re saying the Pearsons were worse than Milosevic?

JL I’m not saying they were worse than anybody, I’m –

JD [interrupts] but you’re saying it was legitimate that these two young fellows should be taken out and shot [JL ‘the war’] in the groin [JL ‘the war’] and bled [JL ‘the war’] to death

JL The war that was fought for Irish independence was legitimate.

JD And then why weren’t they legitimately dealt with then if they had committed a crime?

JL If you, if you’re in a war and you’re attacked militarily, you respond militarily. By whatever means, I mean all is fair in love and war.

JD So you walk up, you walk up to them, take them out of the house and shoot two unarmed men dead?

JL They weren’t they weren’t the only, what, how do you think the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans operated?

JD Oh I know, but do never benchmark yourself against badness. I say it to my kids all the time: do never benchmark yourself against badness. Including your own parents in my case, if I’m the [cursing?] the house or whatever. But anyway I don’t want to trivialise, I want to bring Tom Carew in. Tom Carew good afternoon to you.

Tom Carew; Joe, Joe my ucler is back again, very quiet for many years, I never heard such nonsense: court martials -

JD Well, hang on, from me or from – ?

TC No, not at all, no, from Jack Lane.

JD [I’d be surprised?] to say it’s nonsense from me as well.

TC I could spend a long time telling you about the writings of Jack Lane and the people in the organisation he represents. Because the people in Aubane include people who are involved, not in innocent local history -

JD Now, yeah, yeah, just, just [sounds like warning tone]

TC - in the British and Irish Communist Organisation, but I won’t go into that –

JD But that, that was a legitimate party in the 70s

TC Oh yeah, but I mean the ideology, the ideology is, is particularly weird. When you talk about military court martials, that’s the military way, way, he says.Military court martials involved the defendant being put in front of a trial. Not somebody being put up against the wall without knowing there was any such court martial. He talked about ‘they joined the military conflict’. If you were in Offaly there was no military conflict. He just mentioned, conflicting himself out of his own mouth, Dick Mulcahy asked Offaly to do something, because nothing whatever happened down there. Now if there’s no action going on there’s not a military action to join, and there’s nothing for spies to spy on because the Offaly Brigade was a paper outfit which did sweet damn all. So the idea that there was any threat to the Offaly Brigade was unreal because the Offaly Brigade achieved absolutely nothing. Compared to west Cork or south Tipperary for example, it was a completely different planet. So the idea that there was any reality to all of this is totally and completely unreal.

JD But in fairness, Jack’s substantive point is a document he says he’s come across in London where William Pearson is quoted as saying “I was always known as a staunch loyalist and upholder of the Crown, I assisted the Crown forces on every occasion”. He was looking for a grant for compens -

TC The [number of?] incidences where the Crown forces needed assistance in Offaly were zero, because the Crown forces in Offaly – it was like in northern Ireland in recent years. There were parts of northern Ireland where you could see an RUC sergeant in shirt sleeves as I did on many occasions, which was absolutely quiet, places in parts of Antrim and Down. There were parts in south - south Armagh which was [sic] totally different. The equivalent in the past thirty years to parts of north Antrim would be a place like Offaly where the police could have gone around in their shirt sleeves as you could find them in, in summertime in the north. It was an absolute complete nonsense to say that there was any real conflict in that area. So the whole thing collapses on that reality.

JL ? [right]

JD Jack, do you want to come back in there?

JL Were there any Black and Tans, Auxiliaries, were the IRA guys building a roadblock for fun?

TC [indistinct – ‘Tim’?]

JL Were they? Were they?

TC The incidents in 19, 1920 – 1921

JL Were they? Look, look –

JD Now, now let, let, let Tom answer, Jack, let [the man answer ?]

TC [indistinct] The incidents in 1920 – 1921 did not happen on the island of Ireland, they happened concentrated in certain areas of which west Cork and south Tipperary were among the most prominent examples. Offaly was a place which was an absolute backwater. If you wanted to know where incidents happened you look at where the 15 Auxiliary companies were located. They brought in 15 companies of ex-officers, highly trained, highly armed who were put in the hot spots. Offaly never saw an Auxiliary unless they were passing through to a race meeting somewhere. There was absolutely nothing to be done to tackle the Offaly Brigade and the idea that there was anything – justification for anybody being shot for assisting the Crown forces in Offaly is a complete and total absolute joke –

JD - The UVF for example was mentioned yesterday by a woman caller.

TC [indistinct] well this really a fantastic red herring. The UVF organised in historic Ulster – in the nine counties of Ulster. They never, ever organised in any shape or form anywhere else. And some woman came on yesterday telling us about the UVF in Offaly. There was never a UVF in Offaly or anywhere else. They had 90,000 people all of them in Ulster, in the north. So that just shows, when people call themselves historians and make statements like that and again Pat Muldowney told us about the Chief Inspector’s report: there was never, from 1836 up till 1922, in the entire history of the RIC, they never had any rank of chief inspector and I checked online as well and he repeats the same sort of error elsewhere. It’s amazing that somebody who calls themselves –

JD – Well maybe it was a ‘County Inspector’?

TC – well hold on – but a County Inspector is somebody two ranks above the British rank of Chief Inspector, which is a British, not an RIC or RUC rank. It’s amazing that they call themselves expert, they pretend to know the details, and when you start checking some of the details you find them absoultely, totally, completely inaccurate. But again, like the whole thing, the idea Offaly was a war zone, no way was Offaly a war zone. So therefore idea that military operations are justifiable against an enemy – there wasn’t an enemy in existence in Offaly.

JD Jack?

JL Yes, so as I say, apparently there were no Auxiliaries according to Tom, no Black and Tans, the –

TC - In Offaly? In Offaly?

JL Like in Offaly. So the IRA –

TC How many companies, how many companies of Auxiliaries in Offaly? How many companies?

JL I’m not an expert on Offaly -

TC - You don’t know? I do. I do where [each Auxiliary?] company was.

JL Ok, ok

JD Well tell us then, Tom

TC Jack mentions north Cork. In Macroom you had an Auxiliary company, right? And there was a real conflict involved in Cork in [indistinct]

JD But how many were there in Offaly?

TC Not one. There was nothing for them to do.

JD There was no Auxies in, in Offaly?

TC Does Jack even know that? He calls himself an historian, does he even know that?

JL I’m not a historian of [Offaly?], no, but all I’m [indistinct, TC interrupts]

JD But what about the Black & Tans?

JL There was no Black & Tans there was no Auxiliaries, therefore there was - what were the IRA doing then? What were they doing creating the roadblock?
TC If you looked, if you looked, [JL same time: Why were they creating the roadblock?] If you looked, can I tell you? Can I tell you? If you look at the record of what happened in 1919 to 1921 Offaly was a place where almost nothing happened for the entire two and a half year period.

JL Well this, all this happened anyway.

TC All they did, all they did in Offaly was to murder two unarmed young Protestants. In Cork and Tipperary at least [indistinct, JL interrupts ‘after, after, after they…’] In Cork and Tipperary at least they were [indistinct – ‘decent young’?] men who engaged in stand-up armed combat in places like west Cork and south Tipperary. In Offaly the people who did nothing [sic]. And you know the same thing happened in, in the Northern Ireland. When the ceasefire happened you had some thugs who ki- murdered people when it was safe to do so after the ceasfire situation -

JD - OK. Quickly Jack, last word?

JL Well the, the, the, he says all that happened in Offaly was two decent boys were killed. Well they tried to kill IRA guys first. They started the military conflict of this incident in -

JD Ok, Ok that’s the kernel of the row – that’s the thing, that’s the thing that’s denied and was -

JL - Can I just say?

JD Briefly

JL This is to be fair to everybody including the Pearsons themselves. I think it’s quite wrong that, that, that any descendants of the Pearsons today would get the impression that people took it into their heads to go out and attack -

JD - Ok, Ok, Ok And I said we heard from some of the descendents as well who a lot of people didn’t know exist, but it was great to hear from them. Thanks indeed great to hear from all our callers, back tomorrow, 1.45 (pm). J Murphy produced, Derek Mooney is next, good afternoon.

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author by Nick - Nonepublication date Sun Dec 09, 2007 04:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Perhaps the most striking thing in the above exchange is the lack of knowledge on the part of a national broadcaster with the national radio station about our history and origins as a country. Joe Duffy seems unaware that Dail Eireann was constituted in January 1919 for the express purpose of giving form to the overwhelming mandate it received from the Irish people in the 1918 general election (and again in local elections in 1920): to form an independent republic. The normal diplomatic channels were tried unsucessfully - the Irish delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 were given a sharp rebuff by Britian. "Freedom and democracy" for small nations was not to apply in our case though 50,000 of us had died on Britain's encouragment to fight for just those principles.

The Irish Volunteers were formed into the IRA - the Irish Republican Army, or in other words, the Army of the Irish Republic from January 1919 on. So while Joe might have been correct technically in saying there was no Irish army in 1918, there were the Irish Volunteers who later became in effect, the IRA.

Joe also seems completely unaware of the existence of the Sinn Fein or so-called republican courts and republican police that enforced its judgements. He completely denies there were any Irish courts at all. Reading through the copious litertaure and documents left us by veterans of those times it seems these republican courts operated on three levels, according to the seriousness of the crime, much as they do today. The main difference was that for the most petty of crimes the judges were not always qualified lawyers but simply local men known for their honesty 'their knowledge of the 10 Commandments and their common sense' (quote from Mossie Hartnett's 'Victory & Woe' if memory serves me). In these, the lowest level of republican court, there was little verbose legalese, but good sound judgements that were generally accepted as being fair by all parties. Indeed, so well did these courts operate, despite harrasment by the British forces and RIC, that on occasion even unionists resorted to their judegments in minor disputes.

On the whole it seems shocking that Joe Duffy - a national broadcaster - who made some otherwise good comments on both Liveline programmes, could be so totally unaware of these basic and critically important historical facts. Pat Muldowney had tried to inform him of the same facts on Liveline of 5th November (the previous day) with the same lack of success.

author by Nick - Nonepublication date Sun Dec 09, 2007 04:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom Carew states: " All they [the IRA] did, all they did in Offaly was to murder two unarmed young Protestants"

Not exactly true. While Offaly does seem to have been far quieter than areas in the south of the country as Tom notes correctly, the IRA shot 2 RIC constables dead in Kinnity (only 'down the road' from where the Pearsons had their farm) on May 19th 1921. The killing of the two RIC men thus happened just over a month before the killing of the Pearsons. It may have been that, in the closing stages of the war (and unaware - as most people were - of the impending truce) the Offaly IRA were starting to become active; unfortunately for the Pearsons.

author by Nick - Nonepublication date Sun Dec 09, 2007 04:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to clarify a point - Joe Duffy says " But let’s be clear about this, whether you like it or not: in 1918 the government of Ireland was the British government"

It depends on which part of 1918 you're talking about. Though the public mood, by early 1918 was very much opposed to British rule here, there wasn't of course as yet an Irish government to replace it. That didn't occur until shortly after in January of 1919. But when the general elections of 1918 took place, the mandate to form such a government was already in existence and the British government had lost whatever mandate it had had (a 'mandate' which had been acquired by force, and given the way voting worked at the time - up to 1918 many men and all women were debarred from voting, hardly a representative democracy).

But in any case, my original point could stand anyway on the basis of this exchange between Joe Duffy and Pat Muldowney the previous day:

"JD No but I know (indistinct) there wasn’t, there was a British government running the country [at the time of the Pearsons killing - June 1921], there wasn’t an Irish government, but you say there was a Courts Martial?

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

Why Joe brought up the date of 1918 is in any case incomprehensible, since the period under discussion is June 1921, several years into the period in which Dail Eireann had receieved its first mandate from the Irish people.

But as Pat Muldowney says "that's the whole point". Under the surface of the whole debate on the Pearsons seems to be running another argument trying to push the view that the first Dail and Ireland's struggle for independence were illegitimate criminal acts - an argument which flies in the face of the facts.

author by Nick - Nonepublication date Sun Dec 09, 2007 05:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom Carew says: "In Offaly the people who did nothing [sic]. And you know the same thing happened in, in the Northern Ireland. When the ceasefire happened you had some thugs who ki- murdered people when it was safe to do so after the ceasfire situation -"

But the Pearsons were killed almost two weeks BEFORE the truce, which came into effect at noon on July 11th 1921. It was an act within the timeframe of the War of Indepedence, and is not a parallel to whatever situation Tom has in mind from recent times in Northern Ireland. Being therefore irrelevant in this case, one has to wonder why Tom brought it up?

But interestingly he is not the only person to try and link the Pearsons killings with the recent (1969-93) northern Troubles.

Anne-Marie Hourihan (in the Irish Times, 25th October) "That, notably in the Border counties, similar murders - miserable, vicious, laden with local gossip - happened yesterday"

Once again, the murder to which she may be referring happened long AFTER the Ceasefire, unlike the Pearsons, and from what is known, for completely different motives, but the attempt to create an equivalence is still there.

Brendan Cafferty (Sunday Independent 25-10-07) writes "The modern IRA blood brothers at the time of Enniskillen massacre, whose twentieth anniversary is this year, tried at the time to blame the British for setting off the bomb, but later apologised and said it was wrong. Also Gerry Adams only a few weeks ago apologised to Tim Parry for the death of his son in Warrington. It may not have been easy for him, but at least he did so. Maybe the latter-day IRA recanted too soon, they should have waited 80 years and let Mr Muldowney and McConway justify the actions"

Here at least there is some parallel in the timeframe. But there are many other attacks the IRA have NOT apologised for - Narrow Water etc., Therefore they are only going to apologise for attacks / deaths they see as unwarranted, illegitimate or unjustified according to whatever standards of war are being applied (none of the British forces, RUC or Loyalist paramilitaries have ever apologised for anything, not even the Dublin and Monaghan bombings which killed dozens of unarmed shoppers. On the contrary they have done almost as much as possible to block real inquiry into those events. Any word of protest perchance from Brendan anytime?)

If the IRA at the time - and historians since - viewed the killing of the Pearsons as in some way justified according to the standards of war at the time (as opposed to an absolute moral sense, in which no killings are justified, whether by the British, the IRA or anyone else) then there is nothing to apologise for in that sense.

Eoghan Harris on Liveline of 5th November states: " I have been going round for years trying to dig up some of that buried history because, the last taboo in Ireland. And I’ve been doing it because if we don’t dig up that history and tell the truth about that period, what chance have the people of Fermanagh, or the Northern Catholics, what kind of chance have we of any kind of peace on the island, of any kind of truce?"

The first obvious observation here is that stirring up old atrocity stories - if true - might serve to have just the opposite effect: giving northern unionists fresh grounds for being suspicious of any rapproachment with southern nationalists and republicans.

But there is another deeper implication - that the interest in history of 80 or 90 years ago is not so much a dispassionate search for the truth as an attempt to harness real or imagined history for current political ends.

author by RED HERRING SPOTTERpublication date Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How many red herrings can you spot in Tom Carew's contribution above - I detect the following
- his ulcer
- the BICO
- the shirt sleeved RUC
- the UVF
- Chief/county/other RIC inspectors
- Macroom auxiliaries
- auxiliaries going to the races

Can this be considered a shoal?

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