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BÓTHAR NA SAOIRSE - TG4 series on Dan Breen, Tom Barry, Ernie O'Malley

category dublin | history and heritage | news report author Tuesday January 11, 2011 23:44author by Eoghan Myers - Bah Humbug Report this post to the editors

Last interview with Peter Hart - on his controversial Kilmichael Ambush ‘interviews’

Bóthar na Saoirse (The Road to Freedom) is a trilogy of documentaries on the lives of Dan Breen, Tom Barry and Ernie O’Malley, iconic hardline republicans from the War of Independence.

It begins on Wednesday on TG4 with My Fight For Irish Freedom, Scéal Dan Breen, the colourful and complex South Tipperary guerrilla who started the War of Independence at Soloheadbeg in 1919 on the day the First Dail sat in Dublin. Forced to flee Tipperary he joined Michael Collins’ hit squad in Dublin but then opposed the Treaty negotiated by Collins. Later he joined De Valera’s Fianna Fail and was the first anti-Treaty activist to enter Dail Eireann and take the oath of allegiance he had fought to abolish.
What History Ireland said about programme on Tom Barry
What History Ireland said about programme on Tom Barry

In Guerilla Days in Ireland Scéal Tom Barry, the late historian Peter Hart offers a final account of the controversies he raised on the Cork IRA. Hart had threatened the Tom Barry legend by claiming that he ordered the death of Auxiliaries who had surrendered at Kilmichael ambush and further claiming that West Cork’s fight for independence was sectarian.

On Another Man’s Wound, Scéal Ernie O’Malley, the life of a man who became a legend for his exploits as an IRA leader in the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War but is best remembered now for the literary and intellectual quality of his writing, mainly his two-part autobiography, ‘On Another Man’s Wound’ and ‘The Singing Flame.’

The stories of these three very different men, sharing a common republican ideology, will shed new light on the turbulent period that led to the foundation of the state. All three characters opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and survived, unlike many of their colleagues, and all three published their own best-selling accounts of what happened. Events in Ireland have not taken the course they fought for so single-mindedly but the passage of time allows this series to assess the impact of their lives and measure their influence on the more recent troubles and how they may have reacted to the outcome.

Bóthar na Saoirse broadcast dates, TG4:

My Fight For Irish Freedom, Scéal Dan Breen - Wed, 12 Jan 2011 - 21.30
Repeat - Sat, 15 Jan 2011 - 20.10

Guerilla Days in Ireland, Scéal Tom Barry - Wed, 19 Jan, 2011 - 21.30
Repeat - Sat, 22 Jan 2011 - 20.05

On Another Man’s Wound, Scéal Ernie O’Malley - Wed 26 Jan 2011 - 21.30


The issue of sectarianism in the War of Independence is in the news again with the publication of Gerard Murphy's The Year of Disappearances (Nov 2010), that has been praised by Eoghan Harris and Kevin Myers (who originally championed Hart). The book has received two reviews, in the Irish Times (by Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid) and in the Jan-Feb 2011 edition of History Ireland, by John Borgonovo.

Borgonovo wrote that, overall, the book "cannot be presented as serious scholarship", while the IT observed in a review headed, "Rumour, gossip and coincidence", "Instead of a coherent, balanced narrative, what emerges is a confusing muddle". In addition the book has been discussed online - though Murphy considers criticism that appears on the internet to be a "campaign of vilification". Murphy also disagreed publicly with the Irish Times review:

IT Review
Murphy letter

While Murphy openly acknowledges his debt to Hart's research, the initial reception for his work has not been as uniformly positive as that received originally by Hart in 1998.

Together with Hart's final word on Kilmichael in the TG4 programme on 19 and 22 January, the issue is set to regain attention.

Tom Barry's Guerilla Days in Ireland serialised in the Irish Press 1948 - instalment 11
Tom Barry's Guerilla Days in Ireland serialised in the Irish Press 1948 - instalment 11

Serialised account of Kilmichael Ambush - instalment 8
Serialised account of Kilmichael Ambush - instalment 8

Irish Press Photograph of location of Crossbarry Ambush
Irish Press Photograph of location of Crossbarry Ambush

Review of Guerilla Days by Robert Brennan, father of short story writer Maeve Brennan
Review of Guerilla Days by Robert Brennan, father of short story writer Maeve Brennan

author by Observerpublication date Wed Jan 12, 2011 22:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I watched most of the first instalment tonight, about Dan Breen. The part I saw was quite good, I thought. It dealt fairly with Breen's military role. It did not condemn him piously as a terrorist. The programme explained his motivation - a strong concern for social justice in Ireland and in other countries. He was active in organising opposition the the American war in Vietnam. Though he kept up Catholic religious practice he was deeply sceptical of the church hierarchy. He was a soldier and fighting man, in what he believed was a serious, righteous and necessary cause of defending his country against foreign aggression and occupation.

author by southern comfortpublication date Thu Jan 13, 2011 14:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It all depends on how necessary it was to fight, given that both British parties (Conservatives and Liberals) had agreed by 1916 that there would be no repeat of the near-civil-war of 1912-14, and that after the first world war Ireland would have home rule and partition.

The fighters in 1919-21 wanted the new republic to kick out the Brits and create an all-Ireland 32-county republic, and Breen reconfirmed that. In that aim they failed. That failure has had to be presented ever since then as a clear-cut military victory.

The real success was the functioning Dáil courts system in 1919-22, and Arthur Griffith proposed a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. Either or both would have achieved the same Treaty compromise of 1921, with no blood on anyone's hands. There was little social justice here after 1922 - the 1919 Democratic Programme has been studiously ignored ever since.

Hart was controversial, as we all know, but he made one good point - violence came easiest to those counties that started earliest, such as Cork and Tipperary. Martin Corry's activities fit in with that theory, and he was also close to Florence "Florrie" O'Donoghue who ran the Bureau of Military History, the official compilation of memoirs of the war. Has anyone out there ever noticed that "official Ireland" sometimes presents facts in a self-serving way?

author by Gerald Harrispublication date Thu Jan 13, 2011 14:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"... the same Treaty compromise of 1921."

Lloyd George said 'sign this or we will kill you and lay waste your country (more than we have done so already)'. Isn't that what he meant by 'immediate and terrible war'. Some 'compromise' - more like what the Chinese used to call an 'unequal treaty'.

The southern comforter above factors out British violence, oppression and censorship.

"No repeat of the near-civil-war of 1912-14", means repeat of capitulation to unionism and its 1914 British allies. Yes, that is what happened, partition and the sectarian state of Northern Ireland.

The south got suppression of the Dail, its institutions, locking up its representatives, burning down towns, villages, shops, offices, factories and creameries, murder of civilians, execution of Irish soldiers captured in arms, suspension of coroner's courts, the Black & Tans, Auxiliaries, the Essex Regiment torturers, etc

A pity the British didn't try a little non-violent civil disobedience.

The last paragraph is s impenetrable gibberish.

(As for Peter Hart making 'one good point', that is possible. A pity he manufactured so much evidence and claimed to interview a dead man.)

author by Criticpublication date Thu Jan 13, 2011 18:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"It all depends on how necessary it was to fight, given that both British parties (Conservatives and Liberals) had agreed by 1916 that there would be no repeat of the near-civil-war of 1912-14, "

A very interesting way of putting it. And also correct, in that the Britain - "a war-fighting country" in Tony Blair's immortal words - had returned to what it did best: blasting the shit out of the rest of the world for imperial aggrandisement, plunder and conquest. Yes, the Liberals & Conservatives were indeed burying the hatchet, in several different senses. In terms of Irish concerns, this manifested itself as the control of government by the UVF rebels (Carson, Law & Co.) and their British allies, both Liberal and Conservative, from 1915-16 onwards. Militant/military Unionism gained power without resort to elections, and Ireland was subjected to dragooning and military rule - in effect a war policy. The actions of Dan Breen & Co. look tame by comparison, and were certainly necessary in view of the intransigence they faced.

That's what the "truce" between the Liberals and Unionists (as the Conservatives called themselves around that time) boiled down to. The way Redmond's position was comprehensively demolished by them ( - NOT by his Irish opponents) is toe-curlingly embarrassing, even at this distance in time. You could nearly feel sorry for him - were it not for his complicity in launching the crime against humanity that was 1914-18.

Whatever about August/September 1914, from late 1915 onwards only a fool could deny that the hopes invested in Redmond's approach were dashed. It's not for nothing that those unfortunate Irish who went to Flanders & Gallipoli ( - Gallipoli!! - to slaughter people there, don't forget) were said to have been duped. And it's almost beyond belief that, with the benefit of nearly a hundred years of hindsight, people can still peddle this preposterous line.

Suppose we entertain, as a hypothesis, that Collins, Breen, Barry & Co. were the intransigent obstacles to a settlement. In that case, as an even more preposterous counter-factual, all that the British had to do to marginalise these "intrsansigents" was to give some credence & credibility to the idea that elected Irish representatives would be given a hearing at the post-War "peace" (!) conference. That's where a fair and workable arrangement for Ireland could have been threshed out before the eyes of the world.

The Irish were not the source of the intransigence. "blood on anyone's hands"? An ocean of blood had been shed by then. We owe it to Breen & Co. that Ireland quite quickly drew back from all that - and kept us at some distance from further relentless decades of blood-letting.

author by o'Brienpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2011 09:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The graphics above can be read better if you place you mouse pointer over them and click them

author by southern comfortpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2011 13:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gerald Harris says:
"Lloyd George said 'sign this or we will kill you and lay waste your country (more than we have done so already)'. Isn't that what he meant by 'immediate and terrible war'. Some 'compromise' - more like what the Chinese used to call an 'unequal treaty'."

.. but in fact the war had been started by Breen and Treacy in 1919; there was a truce in July 1921; the comment made by Lloyd-George to Robert Barton about the war restarting if nothing was agreed was therefore 100% logical. They had been discussing the deal for 5 months.

If you take the trouble to read Barton's notes on the negotiations you will see that he didn't say that L-G ever used the words "immediate and terrible war". That was put into the Dáil record by opponents of the treaty and then became "the truth".

Despite the undoubted personal bravery of Breen and Treacy, the result of their war was partition and the Treaty. Home rule was on offer anyway. A non-violent campaign by half the electorate (the half that voted for Sinn Féin in 1918) would have led to something more than Home rule - something like the Treaty - with no bloodshed. 10,000 unnecessary dead by 1998, no orange paranoia in the wee north, think about it.

author by southern comfortpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2011 14:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Critic makes some better points;

Redmond's "complicity in launching the crime against humanity that was 1914-18." was not seen as a crime by many of our great-grandfathers, just a final parting on good terms with the Brits. Redmond's real failure was to ignore the northerners. Fair enough, but the result was always going to be partition of some sort.

The arguments all came out in the 1917 Convention that Sinn Féin chose to boycott. Every other Irish party was there. Having boycotted it, because it only offered partition home rule, Sinn Féin then accepted not much more than partition home rule in 1921. Was the difference really worth all the deaths then and since?

It took Gandhi to work out the non-violent solution so Arthur Griffith was a bit ahead of his time. The difference was that there were no Indian home rule act in 1914 and no Indian convention in 1917.

We the People are Sovereign - yes, bring it on, 90 years later. The Beal na mBlath speechmakers are the ones living in the past, let the rest of us leave them there.

author by Criticpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2011 21:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

De facto partition was established in 1912 when unionists established a rebel army on the ground in the six counties, with the support of the leadership of the British army, and, from 19 May 1915, with the support of the British government formed in coalition with the UVF political leadership.

All this happened on Redmond’s watch. Sinn Féin had nothing to do with it – neither the Griffith Sinn Féin nor the post-1917 Republican Sinn Féin/IRA. Redmond’s project was defeated in 1914 when the Home Rule Bill was enacted and suspended, with only a promise (for whatever that was worth) that after the War was won (IF it was won?) Home Rule might be implemented – but only if there was revision of the HR Act.

But within a year of HR enactment/suspension, the UVF - who signed in blood their mortal hostility to Home Rule - were in government, and their power and influence grew by leaps and bounds over the following decade or so. The position which enabled Redmond to get HR on the agenda in first instance was comprehensively lost, with no conceivable possibility that he or any other Irish representatives in the British parliament could ever recover a position which might enable them to make good any residue of British commitment to HR.

The shoe was very much on the other foot, and anybody with eyes in their head could see it, as top UVF activists and supporters arrived in Dublin Castle to govern all Ireland, with bayonet, baton charges, mass imprisonment, suppression of newspapers, and declaration (25 April 1918, extension of DORA) that "persons of hostile origin" included not just citizens of countries with which Britain was at war, but also persons born in Ireland.

The government’s Convention was a mere ploy. On 16 May 1917 the Coalition Prime Minister Lloyd George offered a proposal for Home Rule which was rejected by Redmond. Lloyd George then proposed an Irish Convention charged with producing proposals for the future government of Ireland within the British Empire.

“Every other Irish party was there.” This is false. Redmond and the Irish Unionists agreed to participate. The All-for-Ireland League (a nationalist parliamentary party) declared that the Convention had no hope of success and abstained. The remaining Irish political parties (Sinn Féin, Labour), rejected the proposal for a Convention because Irish independence was not an option to be considered by the Convention – even though all by-elections in the preceding year had been won by the independence movement, including a Republican prisoner in May 1917.

To cap it all, the government did not commit itself to implement the proposals of the Convention. Its credentials can be gauged by the fact that during the preceding year it had about 3,400 people arrested and 183 tried, 90 of whom were sentenced to death. Court martial trials were held in camera, without defence or jury. Fifteen were executed. The executions were widely regarded in Ireland as a mass lynching of surrendered prisoners of war who had committed no war crimes. In comparison, the 1945 Nuremberg trials put 24 defendants on trial, sentencing 12 of them to death.

“just a final parting on good terms with the Brits.” Is this some sort of sick joke? What kind of friendship is it that involves travelling across oceans and continents to attack, invade and kill other people with whom you have no grievance or quarrel, and who are well-disposed towards you?

Redmond’s policy involved the slaughter of thirty to fifty thousand Irish people and presumably similar numbers of Germans, Austrians, Turks and others. Irish rejection of this brought 50000 or so British troops into Ireland to subdue it, but saved countless thousands who would otherwise have been butchered for the Empire.

author by Nick - nonepublication date Sun Jan 16, 2011 18:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I often hear repeated - as it is here - the myth that the War of Independence caused or 'copperfastened' Partition. Sometimes the same argument is made about 1916. It is suggested that we would have all been one big happy Home Rule family if there had been no separatists Sinn Fein, or IRA, or Breen, or Barry etc.,

Partition came about because of a Unionist revolt in 1912. The facts are well known, but let's just recall them again to make clear - Unionists, faced with the prospect of Home Rule in the near future, formed a paramilitary army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the beginnings of all paramilitarism that has since followed in 20th century Ireland. They then imported some 60,000 Austrian rifles & ammunition and were not impeded in this by the British authorities, despite the fact that had clearly stated they intended to use them to resist the democratic will of their own parliament and the majority WHOLE of the island of Ireland to implement Home Rule here. Instead the British state - and its armed forces here - capitulated or mutinied and acceded to unionist demands to partition.

What message do you think this sent to the rest of the country, and nationalists in particular? Brute force works. Paramilitarism gets results. The Unionists can defy the Irish electorate and their own government and get what they want. The British respect and understand it better than they apparently understand democratic processes. Yet the Irish still attempted the democratic route - the 1918 election, the 1919 Versailles treaty & Woodrow Wilson's 14 point plan. The difference being they didn't discount militarism anymore (and they had plenty of reason to, after several centuries of failed rebellions).

1916 and 1919 - 1921 had nothing to do with Partition - 1) unionists had already succeeded in this aim in their 1912 coup. 2) Unionists didn't revolt against a republic, they had revolted against Home Rule. It wouldn't have mattered if the Dail or IRA in 1916 or 1919 or 1920 had decided to have a Home Rule Ireland rather than a republic, Unionists would still have risen against it. Indeed they did in many areas, actively helping the British forces who were intent on wrecking the fledgling Irish democracy and parliament. They didn't need to get involved militarily en masse as the British state was already using taxpayers' money to do the job for them, with the regular army, Auxiliaries, Black & Tans and RIC all on the payroll.

In the end when Ireland got something similar to Home Rule, it was still on the basis set by the unionist minority in 1912 - with partition.

The same arguments being made here about 'was it necessary to fight' should be seen in this light. What if the unionists had accepted the democratic will of both islands and their own parliament? What if they had not set up a private army? What if they had not threatened to turn their imported guns against their own fellow countrymen and their own government? What if they had not insisted on partition. Everything here up to the 1998 Agreement flowed from that act of unionist rebellion, and it's time the record was set straight.

That's not even taking into account other points as made here, such as the rejection of Ireland's peaceful approach via the 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty, not to mention the will of the Irish electorate as made clear in the 1918 general election. Consitutional and democratic processes are practically useless when not respected by the powers-that-be. Take a look at modern day Burma / Myanmar as a current example. The people there can vote for democracy until the cows come home, for all the difference it'll make.

Unionists have the unenviable distinction of introducing the gun into 20th century Irish politics - which for at least the previous 30 years had been Constitutional & democratic. Blaming the republicans for the gun & partition is 'lazy journalism' or propaganda or both.

author by Oscarpublication date Sun Jan 16, 2011 21:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Eoghan Harris verdict is in (Sindo, Jan 16th 2011)

"Dan Breen -- My Fight for Irish Freedom was the title of Jerry O'Callaghan's documentary for TG 4. .... Me, I would make a film called "Dan Breen -- Portrait of a Political Psychopath."."

Harris is a big fan of Peter Hart, who feature's in next Wednesday's programme on Tom Barry. Hart originated the idea that the IRA were sectarian in the War of Independence, though he blotted his copy book by interviewing a veteran of the 28 November 1920 Kiimichael ambush six days after the last veteran died. It is probable EH will deliver more considered thoughts of the type above next Sunday (while ignoring Hart's unique means of allowing the dead to speak).

Eoghan Harris - supporter of big business, Bertie Ahern and of the Ulster Unionist Party
Eoghan Harris - supporter of big business, Bertie Ahern and of the Ulster Unionist Party

author by Marie Murphypublication date Mon Jan 17, 2011 13:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Harris is also supports Gerard Murphy's new book, The Year of Disappearances (Gill & Macmillan, 2010). He praised its contents in the Examiner and got his assistant, John Paul McCarthy, to write supportively in the Sunday Independent. Kevin Myers wrote similarly in the Irish Independent.

Apart from that initial burst of applause, things have not gone well for Murphy (who states that Peter Hart was his inspiration).

Critical reviews by Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid (Irish Times), Niall Meehan (Spinwatch) and John Borgonovo (History Ireland) have questioned the book's reliability. As a result of research by Limerick historian and author, Pádraig Ó Ruairc, the following partial report of Ó Ruairc's findings appeared yesterday:


Author owns up to errors in IRA Cork deaths book

John Downes, News Investigations Correspondent
Sunday Tribune, January 16, 2011

The author of a controversial book into sectarian killings in Cork has acknowledged that there are flaws in his research, including the incorrect transcription of at least one original document cited in the work.

However, Gerard Murphy, author of The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork 1921-1922, has strongly defended the accuracy of his conclusions, including his claim that members of the "old" IRA in the city killed three Protestant teenagers in July 1921.

This is identified by him as a key event which prompted the subsequent murder by the IRA of dozens of Protestant and unionist Cork citizens, in effect leading to a "land grab" and the collapse of the Protestant population of the city. The killings ended with the entrance of the Free State army into Cork in August 1922.

However, responding to an analysis of the original source material conducted by historian and author Pádraig Ó Ruairc, Murphy accepted that he had incorrectly transcribed a section of an intelligence report from the IRA's Cork No 1 Brigade which Ó Ruairc claimed "completely changed the meaning of the sentence".

Murphy said this was "merely a genuine error on my part. I just misread the sentence and it was not part of some conspiracy to denigrate the Republic." He also acknowledged he had incorrectly described four British soldiers killed the night before the truce as "teenagers" when in fact they were all in their 20s.

author by Ned the Youngerpublication date Thu Jan 20, 2011 09:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom Barry (Parts 1, 2, 3) TG4 January 19th 2011

A documentary on the life of General Tom Barry, legendary IRA guerrilla leader of the Third West Cork Brigade during the War of Independence.

See it here:

The second part of Part 3 includes an interview with the late Peter Hart (possibly his last) on his controversial claim to have interviewed two veterans of the November 28th 1920 Kilmichael Ambush when only one was alive though incapacitated, having suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. Hart stated that he never called Tom Barry a 'serial killer'. This is followed by a sentence from his book where he stated precisely that. Other difficulties with Hart's account were discussed also.

author by southern comfortpublication date Fri Jan 21, 2011 08:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

OK to all your points BUT we still get back to this central reality - if the war of independence was "won" in 1921 then how come SF didn't lay down terms to Lloyd George & Co. and set up a 32-county republic? The answer is that they hadn't won, militarily, and could not lay down terms.

What the IRA had won was to make London realize that to "win" the war they would have to find 200,000 troops and lay waste to much of the 26 counties. They planned and priced it and thank god realized it wasn't worth the candle.

All the way thru Lloyd George had accepted partition but hoped for - and in the unpopular 1920 home rule act he provided for - Irish unity by consent. Which is where we still are today after the 1998 Belfast agreement. Starting the war in Ulster caused over a thousand deaths and lasted into 1922 but never had a chance of success. That provoked the B specials, set up in 1920, and the general orange siege mentality ever since. Actions have consequences. In 1912-14 the Carsonites had armed themselves illegally but did not fire a shot.

If you read Dev's ideal text for the treaty (link below) you will see that even he provided for the treaty ports, partition in the short term and paying a part of the "imperial debt". He disagreed over the oath and the relationship with the british empire. That is what the extreme republican position had come to in late 1921. No sign of winning a war hands down, but a compromise. Presented in secret (of course) and then contradicted in 1922. Such is politics...

Related Link: http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/DT/D.P.A.170001.html
author by Criticpublication date Fri Jan 21, 2011 18:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As far as I can see, nobody said on this thread that the 1919-21 war was won by the Irish side. And when the Irish divided on the “Articles of Agreement” issue in 1922, neither side believed the “war had been won”. Your point about this is a red herring.

The de Valera side believed that they should not settle on the terms offered. For what it’s worth, if I’d been around at the time I think I would have disagreed with this – at the time. But in hindsight, with knowledge of, for instance, the 1922 Chanak crisis in which the “defeated” Turks called the British bluff and ordered them out of Turkey, I now believe I would have been wrong in disagreeing. (We hear little about Chanak. I wonder why.)

So, whether or not de Valera’s side was prepared to end the 1921 Truce with Britain, for them the contest with Britain was not over and therefore not “won”.

The Collins side – at the time – believed that the “Articles of Agreement” had won “freedom to achieve freedom”. This implies that they believed that the 1919-21 contest with Britain, though not “won”, had delivered a position from which further movement could be made towards the objectives of the “un-won” 1919-21 contest.

The "1919-21" contest, was really the 1916-21 contest. Though the Irish side surrendered in 1916, the British side maintained and increased its UVF-inspired military policy in Ireland, and skirmishing – with military action and fatalities on both sides – continued without break until 1920, when the Irish side began, in reaction to government military action, to undertake larger-scale military activity. This produced significant military events, in which both sides had significant military victories and defeats in 1920-21.

("Starting the war in Ulster ..." (see above) is just another red herring, lacking any sense of historical context.)

The Soloheadbeg incident of January 1919 was, in military terms, not different from similar events in 1917-18-19. What was drastically different was two political circumstances, both of them of a magnitude which dwarfed, into relative triviality, the 1917-20 military skirmishing by the Irish against the military occupation. The first circumstance was the 1918 electoral mandate for independence. The second was the ignoring of this mandate – as if absolutely nothing had happened, not even a blip! – by the world power which had won a world war in which a monumental blood-sacrifice had been made, supposedly for democracy and the right to national self-determination. (When democratic mandates are ignored/over-ridden in Myanmar, Zimbabwe or any other far-flung outpost of Empire, prepare to be drowned in the torrent of British moral outrage.)

The second red herring in Southern Comfort’s post is the partition issue. The UVF seized military control of about half of Ulster in 1912, and consolidated its position by gaining supremacy in the British government of 1915 onwards. Redmond negotiated alliance with the ruling Liberal Party with a view to securing British military support for his National Volunteers to make war on the UVF and force it to submit to his Home Rule Bill/Act. Redmond’s stomach for bloodletting on a gargantuan scale in 1914, 1915, 1916, ... was not a new phenomenon.

Redmond's hardline approach had been rejected by a section of the Irish Party, who, as the All-for-Ireland League group of MP’s, opposed Redmond’s approach in favour of “Conciliation and Consent” – a more gradual introduction of Home Rule in which the unionist minority in Ireland might over time establish working relationships in local government with the majority, thereby forestalling the drift towards partition of Ireland which Redmond’s reckless political pandering to the Liberal government was doing nothing to prevent – rather the opposite.

But then there was the UVF’s military coup; the simultaneous enactment-suspension-defeat of Redmond’s Bill/Act/policy; and the capture – without benefit of elections – of control of the British government by a rampantly triumphant UVF.

On 10 May 1918 Lord John French was appointed Lord Lieutenant and General Governor of Ireland, as military Viceroy at the head of a quasi-military government. General French was a member of an aristocratic Loyalist family in Ireland, and was a leader of the Curragh Mutiny, supported by General Sir Henry Wilson, probably the most powerful of the UVF-affiliated figures. After being removed from command of the British Army in France in 1915, in favour of General Haig, Lord French was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in the United Kingdom. French declared that "if they leave me alone I can do what is necessary" in Ireland. What was “necessary”, and planned for by the UVF-controlled government including Lord French, was the conscription (=arrest) of 100,000 Irishmen (in effect, the membership of the Irish Volunteers, later re-named the IRA), transporting them at gunpoint to France/Middle East/Mesopotamia, and shooting them dead if they refused to kill Germans/Austrians/Turks. Lord French took steps to send an extra 12,000 troops to Ireland (25,000 were already there, a total greater than the Iraq/Afghanistan invasion forces combined, and about equal to the British forces which invaded the Co. Wexford Republic in 1798). Lord French planned to establish four “entrenched air camps” which could be used to bomb Sinn Féiners.

The All-for-Ireland League's “Conciliation and Consent” were no longer relevant in this new situation. Partition was a fact. Undeclared war by Britain against Ireland was a fact publicly acknowledged in Ireland. The Catholic bishops’ Conference at Maynooth declared that “the Irish people have a right to resist by every means that are consonant with the law of God”.

Even Redmond threatened to order his National Volunteers into action against the government. (What a pity his Volunteers were now "volunteering" for the government's army. But there seems to have been no limit to R's militarism). In fact Redmond was finished. There was no longer any point to the All-for-Ireland idea that the Irish should scale back and postpone their long term objective of independence in order to bring the unionist minority on board. Much had been lost and many killed as a result of Redmond's policy, but much was still at stake. The unionists, with Britain, had forced a new agenda. So the All-for-Ireland movement declared for independence and joined forces with the 1917 Republican Sinn Féin.

By 1919 partition as such could not be undone, and Southern Comfort is presenting another red herring in suggesting that the 1919-21 contest (and presumably the 1922-23 conflict) were about partition. It is common knowledge that both of these episodes had independence, not partition, as their focus. It is even confirmed in SC’s post above, despite his partition red herring.

While partition as such could not be undone, there were obviously many issues to be negotiated from the basis which had been achieved by hard struggle during the 1916-21 clearing up of the mess left by Redmond. Including issues about partition.

And why should any party on the Irish side give away any position (including partition), in principle, in advance of serious, good-faith negotiations? From SC’s post, it appears that the pro-Treaty side held a more entrenched position on partition, as such, than the anti-Treaty side.

Proper negotiations required that the British side accept the credentials, mandate and authority of the elected Irish representatives. (The British had certainly accepted, endorsed and blessed the authority of the UVF.) Without any such negotiations the British government installed a form of sectarian local “government”, over a territory whose range and extent were decided unilaterally by the UVF; a form of government which was more than likely to end in disaster. (Step back for a minute, and just think about the system set up in Northern Ireland by the British government in 1920. Suppose you were an experienced and objective administrator, with long and detailed knowledge of the society. The UVF decided on partition, and on the extent of it. But it was the British government that decided how Northern Ireland would be governed.)

It did end in disaster. If the British government had been in good faith, safeguards and protections against disaster would have been negotiated with the Irish side.

But the imperial supremacist mentality had an agenda that did not include good government in any part of Ireland.

author by Ned the Youngerpublication date Sat Jan 22, 2011 16:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On Saturday, December 11, 2010, the Irish Times published a review by Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid of The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork, 1921-1922, by Gerard Murphy. Murphy, whose work is inspired by Peter Hart (see Hart interview in Tom Barry TG4 documentary last Wednesday), objected to the review, leading to further correspondence. Here it is, below.

The review:
Rumour, gossip and coincidence

The author responded:

The Irish Times - Thursday, January 6, 2011

Political killings in Cork

Madam, – I wish to make a few observations on your review of my book, The Year of Disappearances, Political Killings in Cork 1921-1922 ( Weekend Review, December 11th). It seems that your reviewer, Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid, believes I put too much detail in the book. However, when I went public with this material I knew it would be very controversial. Therefore, I felt it imperative that I lay it all out and let the reader make up his or her own mind on the various strands of the story.

If that leads to a “dizzying number of possibilities”, as your reviewer noted, then so be it. At least all the evidence that I could find is now out there. Far from being a “confusing muddle”, the findings of the book are only all too clear.

There are a few details that need to be addressed: She asks who comprised the “Anti-Sinn Féin League”, if it truly existed, and suggests I “passed over” this issue in the book. The “Anti-Sinn Féin League” certainly did exist and it consisted of undercover British officers and ex-officers, a “murder gang of renegade Auxiliaries”, if you like, who carried out unofficial killings in Cork and elsewhere. I devote six chapters to this very topic – some of these gentlemen are named and their careers described. I don’t think it’s fair to say I passed over the subject. Most of this material is new but I get no credit for it. The important point is that when Cork city IRA men say they shot members of this “League” they invariably refer to Cork Protestants, rather than military men. The implication is clear enough: an “Anti-Sinn Féin Society” consisting of renegade British officers carried out assassinations in Cork during 1920/21. But IRA men then used this as a blanket term to cover their own shootings of Protestants in the post-Truce period.

A more important point is the faint praise she gives me for identifying the migration of Protestants from the south eastern suburbs of Cork city “after 1923” with the suggestion that it fits into the “larger narrative of southern Protestant migration” from other parts of Ireland. However, as my book clearly points out, the exodus from Cork city took place in 1922 and Cork city Protestants were largely safe after 1923, if they made it that far. This is a subtle but important distinction.

Implying that this was mere “migration” is to duck the issue of the terror that forced these people to flee in the spring and summer of 1922. And it is no coincidence that they fled the areas where the most prominent IRA leaders were living – the killings and abductions along the Blackrock Road are evidence enough of that. Other areas of the city were largely untouched. The fact that people were putting their 10-year-old sons on the mail boat for England because it was too dangerous for them to remain in Cork says it all.

Since its publication, The Year of Disappearances has been subject to a concerted campaign of vilification via the internet in an effort to discredit it. One of the main planks of this campaign is that the book is a work of fiction. If it were a work of fiction, or if it were poorly researched and badly written, as Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid implies, then there would be no need for such a campaign.– Yours, etc,

School of Science and Health,
Institute of Technology, Carlow,

This was followed by:

The Irish Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Political killings in Cork

Madam, – Gerard Murphy objected to your reviewer considering his The Year of Disappearances a “confusing muddle” (December 11th, January 6th). His book alleges that republican forces in Cork city in 1921 targeted uninvolved Protestants. It is in the loose tradition of the “Ulsterisation” of the Irish War of Independence, one in which republican forces are portrayed as sectarian. It emerged from TCD’s history department in the 1990s.

Many of Mr Murphy’s disappeared victims are unnamed. They have no known prior existence. No relatives searched for them and no one cried wolf. In Mr Murphy’s view this is because southern Protestants acted like sheep.

In fact, southern Protestants spoke out. Ulster unionist propaganda rationalised sectarian attacks on northern Catholics on the basis that southern Protestants got it in the neck too. Representative southern Protestants, including unionists, spoke plainly, publicly and often to reject these allegations. Evidence is required to counter this Protestant view. Phantoms will not do.

Mr Murphy speculates that Josephine O’Donoghue, wife of IRA head of intelligence in Cork, Florence O’Donoghue, and a spy in her own right, abducted (even drowned) Protestant teenagers in 1921. One such speculative instance is sourced by Mr Murphy in the Times of London (May 18th, 1921). A “mysterious individual in a motor car” reportedly abducted “somebody’s child” near Cork city “on a calm Spring evening”.

I checked the reference. It is not an eyewitness report of the alleged abduction, it is not by a regular Times reporter and the date of the event was, as I later discovered, some weeks before May 18th (therefore before Mr Murphy’s assumed time-line). The article contains little concrete information and nothing as to the religion of the unnamed child. It was within the second of a five-part Times series entitled, “An English Officer’s Impressions”. Interestingly, the anonymous officer later published the series as A Journey through Ireland (1922, republished in 2008). For what it is worth, that book expanded on the Times account. As Wilfrid Ewart (the author) passed an agitated group he overheard a description of Mr Murphy’s “mysterious individual” as “some bastard of an Englishman”.

Nothing links the event, as described by Mr Murphy, to Josephine O’Donoghue. Other sectarian activities attributed to her are based on similar or no evidence.

Your reviewer considered the strengths and weaknesses of The Year of Disappearances fairly. – Yours, etc,


author by Emmanuel Kehoe - SUNDAY BUSINESS POSTpublication date Mon Jan 31, 2011 13:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sunday business Post 23 January 2011

By Emmanuel Kehoe

* Tom Barry – Guerrilla Days in Ireland (TG4) was a more substantial affair than the previous week’s offering, Dan Breen - My Fight for Irish Freedom (TG4).

This was largely because it dealt with well-publicised claims by the late historian Peter Hart that Barry had massacred auxiliaries in the Kilmichael ambush, and that he had concocted the story of a false surrender by the British (a ruse de guerre which led to the deaths of two of his flying column) to justify his actions.

The programme presented a tough critique of Hart’s work, to the point of questioning his claims as to the sources for his assertions.

The first episode, however, had been a largely uncritical look at Breen’s career. The series, each episode of which takes its title from books written by the leading characters, is clearly not a dramatisation of the works themselves.

These were hugely popular in their day - my hardback copy of My Fight for Irish Freedom (the cover announces proudly ‘Dan Breen’s Book’) is the Talbot Press’s third edition, printed in October 1924. The book was first published in August of that year.


Part 3 of the documentary (broadcast 19 January 2011) interviews Hart about his research, counter-posed with other interviewees who question the accuracy. or even believability, of Hart's sources.

Watch TG 4 documentary on the life of General Tom Barry, legendary IRA guerrilla leader of the Third West Cork Brigade:

Related Link: http://www.tg4.tv/main.aspx?cmd=search&search=tom%20barry
author by Britainpublication date Thu Mar 24, 2011 23:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i'm not view this documentary so, where we can view him?

And it is translate in french?

I discover Dan Breen with this books :

Mon combat pour l'Irlande.

Related Link: http://servijer.net/mediaoueg/Mon-combat-pour-l-Irlande
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