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history and heritage |
Friday May 21, 2010 13:25 by Jack Lane - Aubane Historical Society jacklaneaubane at hotmail dot com
RTÉ’s discredited 2007 documentary on the 1921 execution of two Protestant farmers in Coolacrease, Co. Offaly, features in a UCD summer course in Irish history starting Tuesday June 8 2010, 11am – 1.30pm, in Room Q005 of the Quinn School of Business in UCD.
RTÉ atrocity propaganda in UCD History Course
The highlight of this five-day overview of Irish history for foreign students comes on the last day of the course:
Day Five, Monday, June 15 2010 : 10am – 1.30pm
Topic: The Two Irelands: 20th & 21st century Ireland
The Irish Revolution, 1916-1921, resulted in the birth of the Irish Free State in 1922. This class will examine how Ireland finally won her Independence and the immediate impact that had in the shape of a Civil War. It will also examine the two Irelands, looking at developments North and South of the border that still divides the island.
Afternoon Monday, June 15 2010:
A screening of The Killings at Coolacrease
@ 2.30pm. (Location To Be Announced)
The Killings at Coolacrease is the bloody tale of a bitter land dispute, involving a family of Protestant farmers in County Offaly, which came to a deadly conclusion during the War of Independence. The documentary calls into question the idea of patriotism. When it was aired in October 2007, it proved extremely controversial and provoked much discussion and debate in the media.
Write a review of The Killings at Coolacrease.
Some questions you might consider when approaching it.
(Note: these are only guidelines & are not exclusive)
Which version is more credible?
What consequence does it have for our understanding of the ‘four glorious years’?
As this assignment is to be written during, and submitted at the end of, class,
please ensure that you bring pens and paper as they will not be supplied.
The above is an extract from the official course description. For more, see:
The UCD history course culminates in RTÉ’s flawed version of the 1921 Offaly events, suggesting that this version of a relatively insignificant incident is the essence of the “Four Glorious Years”, or indeed of 800 years of Irish history.
The “two sides” mentioned in the course publicity above are to be the “two sides” tendentiously presented in the RTÉ documentary: “Few dispute the central facts of this event but, nearly a century on, the one story continues to divide itself into two – two sides, two sympathies, two truths” (Narrator, The Killings at Coolacrease, RTÉ).
Never mind that the documentary conceals and distorts the real evidence and invents fantasy evidence as it deliberately and skilfully undermines “one side” and props up the other. As they view the film, the novice students of Irish history will hear the cream of the academic history profession confidently assert the message of this documentary’s working title:
“Atonement: Ethnic Cleansing in the Midlands”.
Dr Terence Dooley of NUI Maynooth said: “The Revolutionary period was used essentially as a pretext to run many of these Protestant farmers and landlords out of the community, for locals to take up their land.” This message was reinforced over and over again in the documentary by QUB Professor Richard English, and by a UCD alumnus now lecturing in the Mater Dei Institute in Dublin.
Before the documentary was ever broadcast Professor Roy Foster and Professor Lord Paul Bew, doyens of the Irish historical profession, referred to Coolacrease as proof that the Irish independence movement was sectarian rather than democratic. And revisionist hubris continues to attract academic historians to Coolacrease, like moths to a flame. Professor Marianne Elliott’s book When God Took Sides: Religion and Identity in Irish History – Unfinished History (Oxford University Press, 2009) still peddles the Coolacrease sectarian murder thesis, long after it has been comprehensively debunked.
The ivory towers may be reluctant to let go of their discredited myths, but the real world has moved on. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) which dutifully supported the RTÉ propaganda has been abolished and replaced. Plans for a feature film on Coolacrease by director Perry Ogden, subsidised by the Irish Film Board, were also quietly dropped. And the droves of media types who descended on Offaly in search of Irish ethnic cleansing have packed their bags and gone home empty-handed.
The UCD history course’s introductory synopsis above includes a direct – but unacknowledged – extract from the RTÉ publicity material: “The Killings at Coolacrease is the bloody tale of a bitter land dispute, involving a family of Protestant farmers in County Offaly, which came to a deadly conclusion during the War of Independence.” But in spite of the RTÉ propaganda it is now widely accepted that this issue had nothing to do with land or religion. The execution of two Loyalist combatants after they attacked a local IRA unit was a legitimate action by the forces defending the elected Irish government against the war waged on it by the imperial power.
It seems the UCD history students will be given little if any opportunity to critique the RTÉ documentary objectively, to investigate how the “two sides” of the argument fared after the documentary was broadcast. They will not even be able to do what many students do these days – search the internet to see what material they can download for their coursework assignment. The instructions above say: “this assignment [a review of the RTÉ documentary] is to be written during, and submitted at the end of, class” – directly after watching the documentary.
The students will view, perhaps in a darkened auditorium, an hour-long film which won an international TV award for clever camera-work. Editorial chicanery, emotional musical accompaniment and striking cinematography presents powerful footage of hate-filled assassins brutally gunning down pacifist Amish-type farmers in front of their mother and sisters; the motive being sectarian murder, land grab and ethnic cleansing. Ireland’s top history academics dutifully endorse RTÉ’s message.
And then, according to the official course description above, the students are advised to declare, without any further investigation or evidence, “which version [which side] is more credible”.
No doubt most of these overseas students, having written their assignment and received their marks, will heave a sigh of relief and get on with the business of enjoying the summer. And their exposure to the RTÉ Coolacrease propaganda, endorsed by UCD, will be their parting take on Irish history.
They will have little reason to investigate further – for instance to examine the information and evidence in
or the wide-ranging discussions in
The students may never discover that, in a desperate and duplicitous defence of the documentary against Broadcasting Complaints, RTÉ recklessly claimed its flimsy thesis was proven by historical Land Commission documents vouched for by their academic “experts”. A claim which was later proven (NOT by the now-abolished Broadcasting Complaints Commission, needless to say) to be an audacious lie. RTÉ never examined the documents in question.
These documents were published in the book
“Coolacrease: the true story of the Pearson executions, an incident in the Irish War of Independence”, Aubane Historical Society, 2008,
(€20 /Ł18, from http://aubanehistoricalsociety.org/ )
In fact the documents prove conclusively the opposite case – there was no sectarian murder, land grab or attempted ethnic cleansing.
RTÉ’s Coolacrease travesty exposed the methods of academic history. Far from its purported aim of removing misconceptions the academic history profession is avidly engaged in creating destructive myths. Public trust is eroded. Were it not for the role of conscientious citizens and local historians RTÉ’s Coolacrease myth, endorsed by academic “experts”, would now be the accepted version of an unremarkable incident in the War of Independence.
It is difficult to imagine that Irish academic history could sink lower than the depths plummeted by Dr Dooley, Professor English and Dr Murphy. But this UCD history course indicates that we have yet to hit rock bottom.
For further information and copies of the true account of what happened at Coolacrease contact:
Aubane Historical Society
Aubane, Millstreet, Co. Cork
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, 2008