Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours (or live outside of this emerald isle) you could hardly be unaware of the release of thousands of documents from the Department of Defence’s Military Archives relating to pension applications by those who participated in the 1916-23 Revolution. The first tranche of heretofore secret files has been made available online in Phase 1 of the Military Service Pensions Collection (MSPC) release, specifically relating to those who were active during the Easter Rising of 1916. The 3200 documents are fully searchable though expect delays and crashes. The site has been inundated with users from around the world since its launch seeking out the revolutionary records of their relatives. The collection’s homepage is here or you can skip straight to the search options here. The archives are a treasure trove of information, from the dramatic to the mundane, and shed a light on the less than glorious aftermath of every revolution no matter how great or how small.
The always fascinating Dublin history and culture blog Come Here To Me has another excellent article on the capital’s recent past, this time an overview of the most prominent members of the city’s Jewish community who fought in or supported the Irish revolution of 1916-1923. Included in the list is Michael Noyk, the leading Sinn Féin lawyer of the period, and Bob Briscoe TD, officer of the Irish Republican Army and later Lord Mayor of Dublin. Also worthy of mention is Estella Solomons, the noted portrait and landscape artist who was active with the Cumann na mBan (CnamB) throughout the War of Independence and beyond.
You can read more on this subject here, “Brothers In Arms? Ireland And Israel“.
There is huge controversy in France at the moment after it was revealed in a local newspaper that a monument to be erected at the site of a famous WWII clash between the French Resistance and the Waffen SS (part of the German Occupation Forces) was to commemorate the sacrifices of both the Resistance fighters and the German troops. Shockingly a number of leading journalists in France’s “revisionist” media have supported the idea, following their traditional role as apologists for the German presence in their country and defenders of those French men and women who collaborated with the Occupation, including members of the Vichy regime and the French police and judiciary.
Actually no, the above paragraph is not true. In fact the controversy is about Ireland and the plans to place a memorial at the site of the Battle of Kilmichael, one of the defining military engagements of Ireland’s War of Independence, that will treat the Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army and the British paramilitary police of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the ADRIC or Auxies) as equal combatants. The revelation of this seemingly covert move by a local historical group to give quasi-legitimacy to British colonial policing in Ireland has come from the Southern Star newspaper and its famous columnist Archon:
“ALTHOUGH not quite like the eerie silence that descended on Kilmichael minutes after General Tom Barry gave the order to cease firing, the muteness of the two organisations involved in ‘enhancing’ the ambush site where the IRA exterminated a company of RIC Auxiliaries is unnerving.
After outrage was expressed nationally at plans to give the terrorist Auxiliaries equality of status with the IRA Volunteers, and that a replica of a Crossley Tender was to be placed on the ambush site, critics demanded that the Kilmichael Historical Society and the Kilmichael-Crossbarry Commemorative Committee provide clarification of what was going on.
But the only information to drip into the public domain came from a very short interview in a Cork newspaper with Seán Kelleher, the secretary of the Kilmichael- Crossbarry Commemorative Committee.
Mr Kelleher categorically denied that the Auxiliaries would be commemorated – ‘this is not going to happen.’ He added that a replica of a Crossley Tender would not be included. ‘We can understand people’s upset when we saw a photograph of the Crossley Tender submitted with the plans,’ he said.
This column has no hesitation in accepting that Mr Kelleher stated nothing but the facts, as far he was aware of them. However, according to the approved planning application (File 13307; Introduction to Proposals Drawing No. L201) specific reference is made to ‘Suitable Commemoration for both IRA Volunteers and Auxiliaries.’ In another section, Landscape Development Package, a site map refers to the ‘Skeleton of a 1920 Crossley Tender (metal 2.2m High; Drawing A).’
Clearly some confusion is at play. Hence the need for a full explanation from the Kilmichael Historical Society and the Kilmichael-Crossbarry Commemorative Committee if for no other reason than that the approved planning application indicates something other than what Mr Kelleher says.
All of which raises this question: to what extent was the Kilmichael-Crossbarry Commemorative Committee involved in drawing up the development plan for the ambush site, if at all?
The Kilmichael battle site has great national significance – it is the place where the British government realised it was facing a deadly foe and was locked into a war that its army could not win.
It is imbedded in our historical consciousness and helped create the Republic. Indeed, many of our institutions, including Dáil Éireann, the Defence Forces and An Garda Sióchana ultimately owe their origins to the type of military success that General Tom Barry and his comrades had at Kilmichael.
For that reason, historian Pádraig Ó Ruairc presents an interesting argument against any memorial to British soldiers at Kilmichael. He says it would be wrong to spend public funds commemorating those who fought to prevent Irish independence. Indeed it would be a ridiculous situation ‘whereby the Irish state undermined its own legitimacy by paying homage to those who fought to prevent the establishment of the state.’
Another eminent historian and author, Peter Beresford Ellis, in a letter to this newspaper, reminded readers of the ferocity of the Auxiliaries in West Cork. He himself remembered elderly people telling him of the nightmares they suffered about the sound and the sight of Crossley Tenders bringing death and destruction into towns and villages.
General Tom Barry described in his book, Guerilla Days in Ireland, how the lorries had a special technique. They came speeding into a village. The Auxiliaries jumped out, firing shots and ordering all the inhabitants out of doors. They lined up men, women, old and young, searching and interrogating them, stripping the men naked and beating them mercilessly with belts and rifles.
The Auxiliary reign of terror sapped the morale of the people and, indeed, that of the IRA. The terrorists seemed invincible. As Barry says, ‘There could be no further delay in challenging them … they (the British) had gone down in the mire to destroy us and down after them we had to go.
That they did and with such success that it now seems bizarre that some people in West Cork should be considering commemorating members of a military force that assaulted, terrorised and murdered their forefathers. But then, maybe the idea is not bizarre at all when under the heading of ‘Practical Measures,’ there is this memorable recommendation in the planning application: the ambush site should be a place that would help ‘educate the youth to continue the folklore’!
Folklore! So, in the final analysis, that’s what they think Kilmichael is about! As well as being ‘under-used’ and ‘under-interpreted,’ the ambush site is perceived as an entertainment area where ‘the youth’ will be able to pick up a bagful of popular myths, tall tales, ballads and seanchaí stuff that in adulthood they can spin while sitting around the fire! And, dear reader, that says it all!”
The Irish Times has a series of articles on the Irish Revolution roughly divided between even-handed accounts of those who fought for Irish self-determination and democracy and quite uneven apologias for those who opposed both in the name of British colonial rule in Ireland. Worth a read despite the caveats.
From the Irish Times:
“Campaigners have called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to take urgent steps to save the buildings that housed the last headquarters of the Provisional Government established in the 1916 Rising.
Relatives of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic expressed their shock and anger today at the condition of the buildings on Dublin’s Moore Street following a visit to the site.
James Connolly-Heron, great grandson of Citizen Army leader James Connolly, Helen Litton, great niece of the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Tom Clarke and Lucille Redmond, grand-daughter of The Irish Volunteer’s Thomas McDonough visited each of the buildings at 14-16 Moore Street this morning. It was the first time the campaigners were given permission to enter the buildings which have been closed to the public since 2008.
The buildings, which date back to 1763, were designated national monuments in 2007 but now face an uncertain future after development company Chartered Land, was granted permission for an 800,000sq ft development on the nearby 2.7-hectare site of the old Carlton Cinema on O’Connell Street in 2010.
A special advisory committee of Dublin City Council recommended recently that Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan withhold the ministerial consent required for development of the site.
Speaking after this morning’s extensive tour James Connolly-Heron expressed his outrage at the “shameful” and “shocking” condition of the buildings.
“I am staggered, I am shocked, I am appalled,” he said.
“These buildings have been abandoned. A cursory glance from the outside would tell you that. But if you walk through them they are in a shocking condition. It’s actually shameful at this stage how they have been allowed to deteriorate.”
Number 16, which he described as “the most important house in the terrace,” is in the “worst condition imaginable”.
Calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene, Mr Connolly-Heron said securing the future of the historic buildings is now “a political decision”.
“We’ve been now waiting for two years for a meeting with the taoiseach about this and that meeting is now imperative.”
“It’s imperative that we meet the taoiseach. It’s imperative that Minister Deenihan takes action. And that action needs to be immediate action. There can no longer be any delay in this – it’s too important.”
Proinsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly) who died on a street adjacent Moore St after leading a sortie from the GPO in an attempt to break free said he was “horrified” at the condition of the buildings.”
Given the neo-colonial impulses of the Irish political establishment I fully expect ordinary Irish citizens to go on being “horrified” at the deliberate destruction of our non-British heritage. In fact those impulses are perfectly summed up by one of the Comments left beneath the article:
”Noel Walsh: The G.P.O. is memorial enough for any number of republican insurrections.
[a better memorial would be] … a pluralistic democracy with freedom and equality for all in accordance with the basis our Christian traditions and in peace with our siblings on these British Isles. Our culture would blend with our Anglo Irish heritage in the languages and traditions of Ireland augmented by the status of our Irish nationhood.
What did we get? Rome Rule, Irish Aristocracy (self appointed ones lacking the good manners of their colonial forebears), and random self appointed elites…”
As opposed to the old Anglo-Irish colonial elites chosen by bloodline and the barrel of a gun? Sometimes one wonders if this is 21st century Ireland or 19th century? Honestly, the twisted world-view of the British Apologists on this island-nation never cease to amaze. For more information on the campaign to save the 1916 Battlefield Quarter you can listen to some audio interviews by Newstalk radio.
In the wake of TV3′s much criticized drama-documentary “In the Name of the Republic” I argued that the intent of the Neo-Unionist fringe in Ireland (and their apologists elsewhere) is to falsify and corrupt the Irish people’s understanding of their own history, in particular the period surrounding the War of Independence. This weekend that intent has been given physical form by the true-believers of the revisionist movement. On Saturday historic graves belonging to a number of prominent revolutionaries who fought or died during the 1916-1923 struggle for Irish freedom were desecrated at St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. From the Irish Examiner newspaper:
“Graffiti was daubed on some of the headstones, with slogans including ‘IRA scumbags’ and ‘Fuck the IRA’ painted on others.
Local gardaí and members of the special branch are currently investigating.
Amongst those buried in the plot are former Lord Mayor Tomas MacCurtain, whose headstone was vandalised.
…Tom Barry’s headstone, which isn’t at the plot, was also vandalised – indicating that vandalism was deliberately carried out…”
For those who need reminding Tomás Mac Curtain was the elected Lord Mayor of Cork City who was assassinated in his home on the 20th March 1920 in front of his wife and son by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He was just 36 years of age.
So it begins…
Last Monday I watched the second part of TV3’s drama-documentary series, “In the Name of the Republic”, where once again Eunan O’Halpin claimed to offer an analysis of the alleged actions of the Irish Republican Army during the Revolution of 1916-1923. Despite a few days of thinking it over and trying to see some historical value in the whole exercise it is hard to escape the impression that the programme (like the one before it) was anything other than some weirdly anachronistic anti-Irish Republican propaganda film. If fact it could have come straight from the film archives of the British Imperial War Museum, stamped 1921.
Stripped of the shallow pretence of balance it was obvious that the documentary makers had set out to “prove” that the men and women who fought to defend Irish democracy at the start of the 20th century were simply “terrorists” and “murderers” lacking in any sort of electoral mandate or support. In fact, going further, the programme all but justified British colonial rule in Ireland by taking the point of view of the country’s British paramilitary police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British judicial system, the British Occupation Forces and individual members of the Irish population who actively supported or collaborated with British rule.
I suppose if the Revisionist fringe of academia in the southern United States can produce books and movies to “prove” that the Confederacy was actually a paragon of democracy and morality with hundreds of thousands of happy-go-lucky slaves then why not a “reform” of Colonial Ireland? What is it that the Neo-Confederates in the United States now demand as the proper title of the internecine conflict that scarred the nation during the mid-1800s? It’s no longer the American Civil War, it’s now the War Between the States. Or should that be the War of Northern Aggression?
So what’s next for our own Irish Revisionist tendency? Will the Irish War of Independence become the War of Irish Aggression? Some Neo-Unionists in Ireland are already half-way there with their favoured meme of the moment: the Irish Terror. Not as in the Irish being terrorized by their then colonial rulers from Britain. Oh no. It’s the other way around. The Irish terrorized the British – and the Irish terrorized the Irish. Or so they would have us believe. And sure, if the facts of history don’t fit that interpretation don’t worry, they will be ignored or replaced with some home-made ones of their own. It worked before. Just ask Peter Hart.
“In the first episode, viewers met an aged Co Laois man who related his boyhood encounter with a neighbouring farmer, who claimed he had dug up a body while ploughing his field, one of three corpses supposedly buried there by the IRA.
Series host Prof Eunan O’Halpin (of Trinity College Dublin) told the audience his research had uncovered two civilians abducted by the Tipperary IRA and “never seen again”. The rest of the episode attempted to prove his theory that they were interred in this Laois field.
At considerable expense, a team of forensic archaeologists dug up the fine pasture, before informing O’Halpin that no corpses could be located. Meanwhile, O’Halpin travelled to Dublin to request the release of Department of Justice files relating to his two missing men.
The episode concluded with O’Halpin opening the sealed files, only to learn that both had survived the conflict. They were never killed by the IRA, much less secretly buried in Laois. The obvious lesson here is: Finish your research before you rent the JCB.
Undeterred, in the second episode, O’Halpin moves to more fertile ground in Cork City and Knockraha, a village a few miles east of Cork. In recent years, the area has attracted considerable speculation about the killing of alleged informers, especially Protestants.
Much interest stems from Gerard Murphy’s 2011 book, The Year of Disappearances, which received overwhelmingly negative reviews from historians concerned by his over-reliance on folklore and supposition. Murphy’s unlikely theories of covert revolutionary activity in Cork included the IRA’s unrecorded killing of up to 30 Freemasons in the spring of 1922, and the drowning of Protestant schoolchildren by IRA intelligence agent Josephine Brown.
The absence of such dramatic events in contemporary and later records (civilian, military, governmental, and religious) leads me to conclude that they did not occur. I was surprised, therefore, by the sight of Murphy relating additional theories for In the Name of the Republic.”
Surprise is one way of putting it. But then birds of a feather an’ all that.
Meanwhile historian John Dorney, who’s truly excellent website The Irish Story has gone to great lengths to present a dispassionate and fair evaluation of the revolutionary period, examines the issue of the 200 “murders” Eunan O’Halpin alleges were carried out by the Irish Republican Army:
“Immediately this set alarm bells ringing. In 2012, O’Halpin published the first results of his and Daithí Ó Corráin’s research, which revealed that the IRA in the War of Independence, was responsible for 281 of the 898 civilian fatalities, with British forces being responsible for 381. A further 236 deaths could not be confidently attributed to any party (the IRA, loyalist, rioters, undercover Crown forces).
This brings up two questions – first of all, where did all the extra ‘disappeared’ victims come from? There was no effort made in the programme to verify this figure of 200 secret killings by the IRA. Secondly, given that state forces actually killed more civilians, why was this not given greater prominence in the programme?
Even worse was the programme quoting the Royal Irish Constabulary as an impartial witness to events. An RIC DI was quoted saying, ‘People are afraid to be associated with the forces of the crown’, by an IRA – ‘system of universal terrorism’, and called for the ‘extermination of these bandits’. What else would a party to a counter insurgency campaign say?
In the second part, looking at County Cork, it was alleged that the IRA Cork Number 1 Brigade, which covered north Cork and the city, abducted and killed up to 90 victims and secretly buried them on the farm of one Martin Corry.
Corry claimed in his IRA pension that 27 bodies were buried on his farm and in a bog (now forest) called Knockraha. In recordings in the 1970s he claimed that there were ’60 even’. The problem with this testimony is that there does not seem to have been 60, 90 or even 30 victims missing that could fit into the alleged mass graves. Corry for instance told local historian Jim Fitzgerald that 17 ‘Camerons’ (of the Highland Cameron regiment) were buried there. In fact, John Borgonovo tells us, the regiment had only 3 men missing in its time in Cork.
I am informed that Jim Fitzgerald himself estimates that between Corry’s farm and Knockraha there may be 15 bodies buried. The figure of 90 secret deaths comes from Gerard Murphy, whose book, the Year of the Disappearances, was rightly savaged here on the Irish Story by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc for presenting supposition as evidence.
But there was no evidence presented for scores of disappeared civilians. Nor for tendentious talk about the Cork IRA’s campaign of ‘extortion’ and ‘torture’. The casual viewer would never have guessed that the IRA represented a political movement with overwhelming electoral support in the elections of 1918 and 1920.
…this was a bafflingly biased programme. It presented and inflated all the bad things the IRA did, shorn of context while proposing a thesis of hundreds of disappeared which was never even remotely proved.
So why the sensational anti-republican tone of ‘In the Name of the Republic’?
There is nothing to be gained by treating nationalist history as a sacred cow but nothing either by making radical claims unsupported by evidence.”
But that begs the question, is there nothing to be gained by the falsification of Irish history as it relates to the War of Independence? Or are there in fact real political gains to be made by inflicting untold damage on the Irish people’s understanding of their own history? Are we seeing in Ireland a larger “culture war”, as has been witnessed in the United States, over the nation’s past, present and future? A war played out in the pages of our national newspapers every week, and on our radios and TVs? The United States has Glenn Beck or Fox News. We have Kevin Myers or the Sunday Independent. In the struggle between Progressives and Regressives in Ireland the Irish Revolution represents the greatest loss of status and influence for the latter. Is it any wonder that they wish to contest it, even in retrospect?
And what about Ireland’s British-owned television channel TV3? Some more analysis and dramatic re-enactments of supposed events from world history in a series of exciting new TV programmes? Perhaps the “truth” about Anne Frank? Or a sympathetic examination of the Lost Cause? But after the farce of the last two weeks will anyone be watching?
What other nation in Europe would have such little regard for its history? What other nation in Europe would be so willing, so eager, to destroy the physical embodiments of its identity?
The community campaign to thwart the destruction of the 1916 Battlefield Quarter of Dublin City centre continues, as it has done for the last several years, with no end in sight as it struggles against the unrelenting nihilism of Ireland’s political and business cabals. Now a new documentary from TG4, Iniúchadh – Oidhreacht na Cásca, investigates allegations that Dublin City Council abused its powers to procure the site for the development company Treasury Holdings and more incredibly that an unprecedented secret agreement was signed between Dublin City Council management and the developer Joe O’ Reilly of Chartered Land, an agreement made without the knowledge of the city’s elected councillors.
From the Irish Times:
“Dublin City Council should be the first to investigate allegations of wrongdoing between the council and developers of the historic 1916 site in Moore Street, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has told the Dáil.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald called for Government action following allegations of what she called “backstairs deals” between officials in the council and a developer, to the advantage of that builder.
The allegations were made last night in a TG4 documentary, Iniúchadh – Oidhreacht na Cásca, about the proposed development of the Moore Street area, where the leaders of the 1916 Rising met for the last time and signed the surrender.
Calling for Government action, Ms McDonald described the allegations in the programme as “one of the biggest planning scandals” in the State.
The “vandalism” of the site through the development of a shopping centre could not go ahead without the say so of Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, and she said the matter had been on his desk for months.”
Two excellent articles debunking the recent attempts by Pro-British and Neo-Unionist apologist-historians and journalists to rewrite Irish history with the aim of “rehabilitating” the memory of Britain’s colonial police force in Ireland, the detested Royal Irish Constabulary.
Below are the photographs of the bodies of Patrick and Harry Loughnane, aged 29 and 22, both Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, detained, tortured and murdered by members of the RIC’s Auxiliary Division in November 1920. From Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc’s article with The Irish Story:
“The Loughnane brothers were arrested in daylight at their family home at Shanaglish, Co. Galway on the 26th November 1920. Their partially burned and mutilated bodies were discovered in a pond near Ardrahan on 5th December that year. The two brothers had been tied to the back of an R.I.C. lorry and forced to run behind it until they collapsed from exhaustion and were dragged along the road. Both of Pat’s wrists, legs and arms were broken. His skull was fractured and there were diamond shaped wounds, resembling the cap badge worn by the RIC Auxiliaries, carved into his torso. Harry’s body was missing two fingers; his right arm was broken and nearly severed from his body. Nothing was left of Harry’s face except for his chin and lips. A doctor who examined the Loughnane’s bodies stated that the cause of death was “laceration of the skull and the brain.” The attached photographs of the brothers’ bodies at the time of their discovery show some of the horrific injuries they suffered. The same month that the Loughnane brothers were killed, members of the RIC in Galway also killed a pregnant woman and a Catholic priest.”
And these are the people certain Irish journalists, including former members of the Gardaí, wish to celebrate?
A few weeks ago I linked to a review by the historian John M. Regan on the new publication “Terror in Ireland 1916-1923”, a collection of essays on various aspects of the Irish Revolution edited by David Fitzpatrick, where Dr. Regan expressed some concern at the number of inaccuracies or misinterpretations contained in the book. This has now been taken up by the writer and lecturer Niall Meehan in an article for the online Reviews In History where he meticulously analyses the compilation and finds some of it severely wanting. Meehan also questions the tone in parts of the work which he regards as being decidedly hostile to any form of “violence” emanating from Irish combatants in the conflict while exhibiting a peculiarly indifferent or neutral attitude towards the “violence” of the British, be they state or state-backed participants.
“Terror in Ireland, 1916–23 is the fifth Trinity College Dublin History Workshop publication. Edited by Professor David Fitzpatrick, who also contributes a chapter, this well-presented volume publishes research from 14 undergraduate and postgraduate students, doctoral researchers and established historians.
The book examines British and Irish violence (mainly the latter) from the 1916 Easter Rising through the Civil War. The terms ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’ are loosely, often selectively, applied. According to Fitzpatrick, ‘Terrorists are those who perpetuate any form of terror; Terrorism implies a sustained and systematic attempt to generate terror’ (p. 5). This conceptualisation is not so much taut as tautological. It is difficult to envisage military or quasi-military activity that does not induce terror among combatants and an affected civilian population. Brian Hanley’s compelling first chapter exposes the problems in Fitzpatrick’s construct. Hanley notes that even under current US State Department categorisations, IRA attacks on Bloody Sunday (21 November 1920) and at Kilmichael (28 November 1920) cannot be defined as terrorist (p. 11). Nevertheless, two chapters are devoted to Bloody Sunday and one to Kilmichael.
Throughout the collection republican forces are often ‘Irish terrorists’ or simply ‘the terrorists’. Their British opponents are not similarly identified, suggesting that the words have a pejorative rather than descriptive function. Drawing upon the work of the late Peter Hart (who died in 2010 at the age of 46), whose analysis ‘called into question the morality and sincerity of the republican movement’, the editor asserts that republicans set out ‘to threaten and marginalize “deviants” within the community that the terrorists claim to represent’ (p. 6). Their suspicions were ‘based on categorical assumptions’ (p. 4). As the volume is dedicated to Hart’s memory, Fitzpatrick is intent on defending his reputation from ‘outraged readers’ for whom ‘the integrity of the revolutionaries from 1916–21 was an article of faith’ (pp. 4, 6). The ‘article of faith’ formulation is carefully chosen.”
A significant part of “Terror in Ireland 1916-1923” is dedicated to defending the latterly discredited research and writing of the controversial Anglo-Canadian academic Peter Hart whose works have become central to the ideology of a hardline rump of Neo-Unionist and Pro-British apologist writers and journalists in Ireland. Niall Meehan effectively demolishes the scant evidence clung on to by Hart’s supporters in his review of the chapter “Kilmichael Revisited: Tom Barry and the “False Surrender”” where the allegations made by Hart in his 1998 ideologue publication “The IRA and its Enemies, Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-23” are restated by the researcher Eve Morrison.
Interestingly Morrison now finds herself at the centre of an academic storm with accusations being made against her by John Young, the son of Edward Young, an eyewitness participant in the Kilmichael Ambush named in her essay. In an interview with the Irish edition of the Sunday Times newspaper (28th August, 2012) Young accuses Morrison of misrepresenting a phone conversation with him while researching the evidence given by Peter Hart in his original 1998 book and that her claims (made in Fitzpatrick’s publication and online in a response piece for Reviews In History) are inaccurate. He has demanded a retraction or opportunity to correct the claims with an affidavit of his own to Reviews In History, so far without success.
It would seem that the curse of Peter Hart has stuck the academic world once again.
Rewriting Irish history?
That seems to be the main concern of the contemporary Pro-British faction in modern Ireland. These anachronistic, post-colonial throwbacks are currently engaged in a long-running campaign to rehabilitate the memory of the Royal Irish Constabulary or RIC, Britain’s paramilitary police force in Ireland during the colonial occupation.
Like the Far Right and Neo-Nazi revisionists in France who are trying to repackage the record of the the Vichy Regime and the infamous Milice française, the Neo-Unionist extreme here are engaged in the political whitewashing of our collective history and the attempted brainwashing of an entire generation of Irish people. A generation who will never know the ever-present fear of the RIC that our great-grandparents and those before them knew. Unless one was raised in the North of Ireland, where the RIC’s direct successor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, continued to operate as Britain’s colonial enforcers in Ireland, the dread of the British terror machine is but a fact in the pages of a history book. Not the reality of everyday life.
This “revisionist” censorship is no more evident than in the columns of our national newspapers where the media elite, shaped by the views and politics of the British apologists amongst them, beat a steady drum roll of Neo-Unionist propaganda. From the Herald:
“THE 90th anniversary of the disbandment of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary takes place this week.
Nearly 500 — mostly native Irishmen, Catholic and Protestant — were murdered during the War of Independence by the IRA, writes Gerry O’Carroll.
Some were shot dead as they left mass with their families, others ambushed while outnumbered.
But why does the State still refuse to recognise the men of the RIC and DMP who died in the War of Independence and 1916? Most were innocent policemen doing their duty.
Is it not time to honour those who gave their lives while serving to uphold the law, even if it was administered by a colonial British government?”
Innocent policemen? Innocent policemen who enforced, through violence and the threat of violence, British colonial rule in Ireland. Innocent policemen based in fortified barracks across our island nation, organised and trained in infantry formations and tactics, armed with revolvers and rifles, bribed with money and status, who garrisoned and terrorised entire communities. Innocent policemen who corrupted thousands of men, women and children, turning them into spies and informers in a web of treachery and deceit unknown outside of some Middle East dictatorship. As well celebrate the Stasi of the former East Germany or the Mukhabarat of Saddam Hussein.
And notice the terminology? “Murdered”. “Outnumbered”. What an utter distortion and abuse of history, of historical truths unpalatable to the Pro-British (pro-colonial?) mindset.
These people do not wish to simply rewrite Irish history. They wish to reverse it too.
An Garda Síochána or “The Peace Guard” is Ireland’s national police service; a largely unarmed, civilian police force carefully regulated by law and democratically mandated by the people of Ireland through their parliament, Dáil Éireann.
The Garda is the direct successor of the Irish Republican Police, the law enforcement arm of Dáil Éireann during Ireland’s War of Independence, an organisation some of whose members, like their Garda descendants, never carried weapons.
The Royal Irish Constabulary (or RIC), on the other hand, was Britain’s colonial police force in Ireland. It was a heavily armed paramilitary organisation quartered in fortified bases or stations throughout the island of Ireland, enforcing British rule and British laws in the country. As well as infantry training and tactics drawn from the British Armed Forces it was equipped with the best of weapons, modern rifles and handguns, motorcars and lorries, telephones and telegraph systems, at a time when such things were not widely available to the wider population.
It’s prime purpose was not simply keeping the peace or tackling crime but rather fighting a constant counter-insurgency struggle against Irish Nationalism and Republicanism. As a consequence of this forever war against the democratic wishes or aspirations of the Irish people the RIC maintained a vast network of paid spies and informers throughout Irish society. Dublin Castle, the formal seat of British colonial rule for centuries, was regarded as the spider at the centre of the RIC web that stretched across the entire island of Ireland, one that was feared, loathed and hated.
One would think then that contemporary Ireland would regard those Irishmen who served in the RIC as misguided at best, traitors at worse. And that indeed is the case. However, there exists a post-colonial, pro-British faction who wish to rewrite Ireland’s history, who believe that they can censor and delete those aspects of British rule in Ireland that most sane or right-thinking people would disdain and instead present a sanitised, purified version. They exist in the same cultural milieu as those British historians who are currently rewriting the history of the British Empire, presenting it as a force of good in global affairs not, as it demonstrably was, a force of great evil, pain and suffering. These apologists have permeated Ireland’s media and now they are reaching their tentacles into An Garda Síochána, using its image in a desperate attempt to rehabilitate the memory of the RIC by associating that detested paramilitary police force in the mind of the general public with our respected civilian police service, a patently false and anti-historical act.
The Irish Independent and Sunday Independent are the two “newspapers” that are most readily identifiable with the modern manifestation of the pro-British faction and predictably they are cheerleading the repackaging of Ireland’s very own Milice.
“An unofficial and low-key ceremony looks set to take place in Glasnevin Cemetery next weekend to commemorate the 493 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary killed during the War of Independence.
A number of retired gardai along with the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation, whose patron is Prince Charles, sought permission earlier this year to formally commemorate the anniversary of the disbandment with an ecumenical service at the cemetery. Despite not getting official approval, the group decided to go ahead with the ceremony.
Two years ago the Garda Síochána Retired Members Association adopted a motion at its annual conference to specifically commemorate the disbandment of the RIC. Talks had taken place with the RUC’s retired members’ association and, it is understood, with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the British government’s Home Office which has responsibility for the upkeep of the RIC plots in Glasnevin Cemetery.
The association adopted a motion at its annual delegate meeting in 2010 stating: “That the ADM directs the central committee to use all the means and influence at its disposal to have a monument or plaque erected at a suitable site in the Republic of Ireland to commemorate the 493 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who lost their lives between 1st January 1, 1919, and June 30, 1922.””
I am proud of An Garda Síochána. But I am disgusted by those who would damage the reputation of that organisation by associating it with Britain’s colonial police force in Ireland or the Neo-Unionist cabal who wish to rewrite the history of their political antecedents, Ireland’s Vichy faction.
- Reading The Irish Revolution (ansionnachfionn.com)
Just a quick post to highlight Protestant Cork 1911-1926, one of the best resources I’ve seen so far on the issue of the alleged decline in the numbers of Protestants living in the region of Cork City and County in the closing years and aftermath of the Irish Revolution. The reason this issue is so important is because of the claims made in relation to it by apologist historians and journalists on behalf of British rule in Ireland (the misnamed “revisionists”). This site is no simple Irish Nationalist or Republican one but follows a neutral line between both sides in order to maintain objectivity and scholarly standing. Meticulously researched, analytical, and with a host of primary sources both old and new, it is essential reading for anyone interested in this artificially contentious subject.
“It has been claimed that the Irish War of Independence from Britain in Cork turned into an ethnic pogrom driven by fear of mostly Protestant outsiders.
This site shows that the story is far more complex and nuanced that this simplistic view.
The Population declined by 14470 in 15 years, but 10,714 non-Irish-born Protestants lived in Cork in 1911.
Most were military, or government. Has this story been told properly?”
The conclusion is fair and balanced – even to a Republican:
“This article aims to correct our understanding of the issue through using new resources online to improve older research. As much written about this topic has either been incompletely researched, unverifiable, or supposition dressed up as fact, it is difficult to winnow out the fact from the fiction. It has often been necessary to return to the original source to examine its accuracy. To their credit those who have followed standard academic referencing to a verifiable source allowed this process to happen; the unverifiable sources should not be treated as being anything other than hearsay.
The War of Independence was driven by nationalism, and as 1921 continued it descended into the mire of a bloody war of reprisals. While this may revolt some people, and others may question the need for it, the people involved at the time had no idea if they were going to win or lose. If they had known the outcome they may have stayed their hand. Equally, if they had not pursued the savage course they took would the British have offered a truce? Was the impetus for truce the fact that the Ulster Unionists had secured partition? These are the questions that need answering.
The Dunmanway killings are different in that they occurred after independence. The Irish State failed to protect its citizens. No evidence has been produced to suggest that the IRA garrison attempted to leave the barracks and take control of the town, and at the very least this was a dereliction of duty. All we do know for certain is that 16 Protestants, and one Catholic, were shot or disappeared in West Cork over a three day period. Others of both main faiths were shot at or targeted for shooting. We know who shot four of them in Macroom, and we can suspect who may have shot the others. However, there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with the killings. The murders were denounced by both sides of Sinn Féin, and vulnerable citizens were protected by the local Anti-Treaty IRA. Civilians and military were warned they would be shot if they didn’t hand in all guns to the local IRA commanders throughout the area. The killings resulted in the emigration of a small number of native Church of Ireland and other Protestant members from the county, but the contemporary Protestant sources stubbornly refuse to suggest a sectarian pogrom: Bolshevik certainly, agrarian definitely, nationalist undoubtedly but sectarian exceptionally.
There is no justification for the actual Dunmanway killings. Even if each and every one of the men shot were informers they had been granted amnesty by the Truce. If they had breached the Truce then they should have been brought before a court of law and tried. Whatever the reason for their killings, if the IRA were involved then it was a betrayal of their oath to the Republic. However to use this event to argue that there was a sustained campaign against Protestants because of their religion is not supported by any of the evidence from the time: Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter.
It is important neither to understate nor overstate what happened in the revolutionary period. This was a savage period in Irish history. A vicious war, using methods which eschewed the norms of war up to that point, was fought to a draw in July 1921. This was followed by an even more savage Civil War which led to a complete breakdown of law. Those with property, and known Treaty supporters were most at risk, and ex-Unionists fell into both these categories. The new Irish state did its best to protect all of its citizens, and yet there were appalling atrocities committed. The evidence does not support the theory that Protestants were targeted because of their religion. Historians are entitled to speculate, but in this case has the speculation run away with the story? Is it time to stop this pointless debate, and write true history?”
Some more analysis below.
Irish Political Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, February 2012, ‘The Further One Gets From Belfast’, a second reply to Jeff Dudgeon
Irish Political Review, Vol. 26 No 11, November 2011, Reply to Jeffrey Dudgeon on Peter Hart
History Ireland, November-December 2011, Vol. 19 No 6 History Ireland letter on second edition of Gerard Murphy’s The Year of Disappearances
Spinwatch November 2010, Distorting Irish History, the stubborn facts of Kilmichael: Peter Hart and Irish Historiography
Irish Times Monday, October 12, 2009, Sectarian gloss on State’s early years is flawed
Dublin Review of Books, Issue Number 11 – Autumn 2009, Frank Gallagher and land agitation – A response to Tom Wall’s ‘Getting Them Out, Southern Loyalists in the War of Independence’ (drb, Issue 9 Spring 2009)
History Ireland, Vol 17 No 4 July August 2009, A response on use (and non-use) of sources to Professor David Fitzpatrick (TCD)
Irish Political Review, Vol 23, No3, March 2008, After the War of Independence, some further questions about West Cork, April 27-29 1922
Counterpunch, November 11/12, 2006, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” Sends Revisionists Yapping at History’s Heels
Dublin Review of Books (DRB): History In A Hurry
History Ireland, Book Review: Gerard Murphy, the Year of Disappearances
Reviews in History: Gerard Murphy, the Year of Disappearances
Three very short book reviews of my own:
A national newspaper in Ireland carrying an article praising an Irish Republican and Revolutionary hero? Or in this case, a heroine. Whatever next?
But then again – what a heroine!
Professor Declan Kiberd reviews the biography “Alice Milligan and the Irish Cultural Revival” by Catherine Morris in the Irish Times, a study of the only woman to my knowledge to have been sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB):
“‘[Alice Milligan] …believed that the greatest sin a people could commit was to bring the work of the dead to nothing. Her lifelong project, in novels, poems, plays, journalism and tableaux, was to liberate the still-unused energies buried in the Irish past and to demonstrate their rich potential for her generation.
Hence, for her, the importance of “the memory of the dead” kept forever green in song, story, gardens of remembrance and that ultimate repository of all that is recalled by the underlings of history, “tradition” (or the passing down of felt experience in oral lore).
The fate of her writings after her death, in 1953, is an even bleaker illustration of the ways in which authors can join the ranks of the disappeared. Although artists as distinguished as Brian Friel and Benedict Kiely and politicians from Eamon de Valera to Seán MacBride have celebrated her writing, most of it was journalism and is no longer of easy access.
…Yet Catherine Morris has challenged this neglect, sifting through hundreds of archives to narrate the astonishing life of a gifted woman who was arguably one of the greatest of all inventors of modern Ireland.
Milligan came from a family of Methodist unionists, advanced enough to encourage her education, her study of Irish and her involvement in field naturalists’ clubs. (It was through an intense study of the national landscape that many Protestants of her generation impatriated themselves to the point at which they wished also to study Irish history.) She remained on good terms with her siblings, even though Morris, whom I advised on this project, inclines to the opinion that she was recruited eventually into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. (In 1919 she told Sinéad de Valera she had been “sworn in”.)
… the experience of Irish-language classes in Dublin soon converted her into a republican. With her Catholic friend Anna Johnston, she edited a paper, the Shan Van Vocht, that had a truly global distribution and that gave an early publishing opportunity to many soon-to-be-famous Irish revivalists.
Morris reminds us that it was in ordinary journals, pamphlets and newspapers – rather than in more expensive arts-and-crafts volumes of high modernism – that the agenda of the Irish revival was carried forward.
…Looking back in 1926 George Russell found something momentous as well as mysterious about it all: “Thirty years ago there did not seem a people in Europe less visited by the creative fire. Then a girl of genius, Miss Milligan, began to have premonitions . . .”
Milligan was a genuine republican, self-reliant and keen to promote self-reliance in others. …Yet when members of her own family suffered prolonged illness in the later decades of her life, she selflessly returned north to nurse them. This entailed living as a kind of “internee” (her word) in a state whose very existence embarrassed and disappointed her, but she provided care and comfort with the same love, practicality and imagination that characterised everything she did. She was one of those rare souls who can embrace radical politics without ever lapsing into fanaticism or intolerance.”
Catherine Morris’ new book is available from the Four Court Press and in the video below she gives a tour of the National Library of Ireland exhibition, “Alice Milligan and the Irish Cultural Revival”. For more on Alice Milligan see this article from the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and this excellent review on the history-site, The Irish Story.
- Irish Republican Army – The History Of A Name (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Horrible Histories With The Sunday Independent (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fantasy Troubles – Part Two! “Proud Of Being Irish Is Like Being Proud Of Having Leprosy” (ansionnachfionn.com)
- One Man’s Terrorist – You Know The Rest… (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Lets Speak The Truth: Those Who Hate Irish Speakers Do So Because They Are Racists… (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Irish In America (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The State Of Irish – In The Irish State (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Ann Marie Hourihane – Carrying The Torch For The English Language In Ireland! (ansionnachfionn.com)