Washing out the unwanted narratives of history

At the weekend Gerry Moriarty did an interview with Drew Nelson (subs needed), grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (although Nelson is not in the least bit scary, the photographer clearly had ‘Hammer House of Horror’ in mind when he set up the shoot). Not unusually for an Orangeman, it turns out he has relations in West Cork. In terms of history, it is redolent with memories of the War of Independence. But one series of incidents seems to have been dropped from the public consciousness, the so-called massacre of Protestants in and around Dumanway in April 1922. Although the reasons for it taking place are hotly disputed, as historical fact it is not.Nelson takes up the story:

“About two years ago I visited a local history group in an old converted shop in the town,” he recalls. “On the wall I saw a timeline of all the events that had happened around the War of Independence in west Cork, for instance the killing of Michael Collins and the killing of a priest – that was a famous incident down there. But what was obviously missing was the massacre of Protestants that took place – on that very street – on the main street of Dunmanway, in April 1922.”

He had gleaned this information from Peter Hart’s book The IRA and its Enemies which some nationalist historians have challenged. “I went out to the car, brought in the book and said to the girl, ‘This happened in April 1922. There were a lot of Protestants murdered here and that’s not on your timeline.’ The girl said, ‘I never heard of that.'”

“The point of the story is that this has been written out of the history down there,” concludes Nelson. “As I go around towns in the Republic of Ireland, I see monuments to the people who committed these murders but I never see any memorials to the people who were murdered.”

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  • pith

    Is everything to do with the Orange grand? They have a grand lodge with a grand master in it and a grand secretary. Do they have a grand doorman, for example or is he just alright?

  • Drew’s general point is excellent, even if the Dunmanway murders turned out never to have occurred.

    To mix metaphors of colour, Irish republicans have a habit of creating black holes in history and of applying whitewash to their own overtly shameful activities. Dennis Kennedy’s “The Widening Gulf” also showed, in some detail, the horrors of the IRA’s sectarian campaign in the 1920’s.

    The IRA of that time did nothing that their grandchildren did not do half a century later. And yet, the myth is still of the Brave Boyos fighting the Black and Tans, when they happily murdered anyone British and Protestant who got in their way. In the same way, Irish republicans will never admit that they have practised ethnic cleansing during their present “conflict” to clear Protestants out of what they consider to be “their own areas”.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “And yet, the myth is still of the Brave Boyos fighting the Black and Tans, when they happily murdered anyone British and Protestant who got in their way.”

    If we exclude the words “British” and “Protestant” and change the word “murder” for “kill” then I agree with you. The IRA during the Tan War did kill those who stood in their way.

    But what I don’t understand is, what is your principled objection?

    The same thing happened in Britain during that country’s many wars. The same thing happens in all countries, as far as I know. During wartime, spies are shot. Many people, Protestant and Catholic, were shot as spies and informers during the Tan War.

    West Cork, uniquely in the south of the country, has a large Protestant minority and a strong republican tradition. We know that throughout history, most Protestants in Ireland have tended to have a greater affiliation with Britain than Catholics have, so it was logical that there would be substantial numbers of people in west Cork who would align themselves with the RIC/army – and substantial numbers of people who would consider this to be treason.

    And so on one hand you had the RIC assassinating republicans and supporting the Tans as they burned Cork city centre to the ground; on the other you had the IRA executing informers – many of whom were Protestants.

    Whatever of the rights and wrongs, the situation wasn’t hard to understand. The question of legitimacy is central – history, like the Irish electorate of 1918, has bestowed legitimacy on the republicans, and not on the imperialist dead-enders and their collaborators.

    Are you a pacifist?

    If not, then I don’t understand what your principled objection to the actions of the IRA during the Tan War are?

  • Garibaldy


    Certainly there was a streak of sectarianism in the IRA in the 1919-21 period. But it did not characterise the campaign, even in Cork, which had a tradition of aggressive loyalism going back hundreds of years.

    Unfortunately for Peter Hart, he has been exposed as having been guilty of some very slipshod practices which have completely undercut two of his main arguments, on Kilmichael and Dunmanaway. Not that he cares – his money and reputation, and academic career, are already made. I’ll not go into the ins and outs of it but the evidence for protestants being happily murdered across the country just isn’t there.

    I do draw a distinction between 1919-21 and the Provos, who have been guilty of concerted sectarian acts, and who do seek to rewrite their history, be it claiming credit for NICRA or denying their sectarian murders.

  • elfinto

    Dear Watchman,

    I prescribe a trip to the cinema to see ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ by the highly regarded British film director Ken Loach.

    Get well soon

    dr. elfinto

  • Greenflag

    ‘Irish republicans have a habit of creating black holes in history and of applying whitewash to their own overtly shameful activities. ‘

    No doubt . But if we look at the overall numbers of ethnically cleansed in Irish history the amount of whitewash used by Her Majesty’s Forces in Ireland could be representred by an oil tanker full as compared to the IRA’s oil drum.
    Some 685,000 Irish people were ‘ethnically’ cleansed during England’s Second Conquest of Ireland 1550 through 1700 and hundreds of thousands of others died through war induced famine or were forced into slavery to the West Indies . When you add up the total number of victims of British/English imperialism in Ireland due to war, famine and forced emigration the number is close to 3,000,000 . Not quite a holocaust but close .

    We Irish have no apologies to make to England as regards ethnic cleansing . The reverse is the case.

    As for Drew Nelson’s

    ‘but I never see any memorials to the people who were murdered.’

    Absolutely brilliant insight from another cerebrally challenged Orangeman . Just look at all the memorials the Orange Order and UUP have erected to the memory of the hundreds/thousands of Northern Catholics who were burned out of their homes and/or killed during the War of Independence .

    Can anyone name one ?

  • Prince Eoghan

    A trip to many parts of the 26 counties will reveal countless Protestant churches, with congregations and everything. These slippery Prods managed to escape the massacres and gulags then.

    I think these braindeaders repeat so much shite to each other that they begin to believe it.

  • Objectivist

    I am surprised at you,as board moderator making what is essentially a partisan statement about a controversial event:
    [i]Although the reasons for it taking place are hotly disputed, as historical fact it is not.[/i]

    Undisputed it definitely is not:


    The extent to which the Dunmanway sectarian massacre myth has taken root is proof positive of the following dictum:
    [i]”If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it… the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    — Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, 1933-1945[/i]

  • Garibaldy


    I thought Mick meant nobody disputed that the people were shot, although the reasons why are massively disupted. isn’t that accurate?

  • Objectivist


  • barnshee

    murdering scumbags kill prods
    years later more murdering scumbags kill more prods.

    Prods turn nasty and kill micks

    Its all their fault you see if they just sat done and got extermibated all would be well.

    ach sue it didnt happen, it was a lomg time ago and sure they deserved it anyway

  • Pete Baker
  • Objectivist,

    I reserve the right as a blogger to be proved wrong. As a moderator, my task is to keep the debate civil and engaged. It is no more objective than that.

    In an effort to bring some clarity, let me re-phrase slightly. The reasons for the killings are in dispute (hence the link to Indymedia). That they took place are a fact.

    Now in truth I did not claim it was sectarian. In fact, neither did Nelson. It seems to have been yourself who inserted the word that is the subject of the dispute you’ve so comprehensively linked to.

  • Garibaldy

    A series of relevant stuff from History Ireland that responds to the article pete linked is listed here


    Hart has been seriously damaged. A reaction against his work was inevitable given the canonical status it achieved. Much of it remains useful, but on the more controversial issues he’s taken heavy hits, and he can no longer claim his opponents haven’t looked at the original sources.
    Should be fun to see what happens next.

  • Garibaldy


    Just saw your contribution to Indymedia too. I can understand that this is a difficult issue, and some on the comments here have taken the issue less than seriously. As I’ve said, there were sectarian elements within the IRA at this time, but I maintain that the ethos of the organisation was very different to that of the Provos, who sought, and seek, explicitly to represent Catholics.

    I don’t know if your statement that protestant sectarian violence was reactive is serious or not, but the same period that saw the Dunmanaway murders saw a lot of nasty things in the north too. Neither side has clean hands.

  • Betty Boo

    Creating black holes in history is the complete removal of an event from its original surroundings, leaving mentioned black hole in the timeline and planting extracted event in the middle of nowhere.

  • There was an IRA commander in Cork City at the time of the Tan war who was very good at shooting Protestant fifth columnists. He shot one old Protestant “lady” and her Catholic butler. She went to her Protestant god like a soldier but the servawnt shat himself. George Bunby? The IRA got rid of him.

    This thread sounds like a cross between Kevin Myers and Willie Frazer. These people were no great loss. They got off lightly.

  • Shay Begorrah

    Wow Garibaldy, that History Ireland selection of letters about the Dumaway ‘massacre’ and Hart’s reliability was thrilling excoriating stuff.

    Unfortunately Foster and Fergusson are a little less likely to be found fabricating evidence but this is still a welcome antidote to the the present neo-colonialist historical consensus in the English speaking world.

  • Garibaldy


    I doubt very much Hart fabricated evidence. I think that someone lied to him. You don’t have to agree with Roy Foster to recognise that he is simply streets ahead of virtually every other historian working on Irish history. There are a few who are close, but he is the outstanding Irish historian.

    Hart’s ‘IRA and its Enemies’ does tend to save all its pathos for one side, but much of it remains extremely valuable, particularly the sociological stuff, and the stuff on generational tensions and the effect of the impossibility of emigration.

    As for neo-colonial historiography, I wouldn’t go that far. I think much of the revisionist work is much better and more balanced, and even soft nationalist in tone, than it’s given credit for. As for people like Ruth Dudley Edwards etc, I don’t take them seriously, so their yappings don’t bother me in the slightest. It’s not so much the historiography as the misuse of it by others like Myers that is the problem.

  • Shay Begorrah

    Garibaldy said:

    “you don’t have to agree with Roy Foster to recognise that he is simply streets ahead of virtually every other historian working on Irish history.”

    I can not argue with you about Foster’s skill and
    I have to confess that I will not be reading Hart’s work, interesting as some of it might be.

    I do think it is fair to include Hart with Foster (and Fergusson) as part of a wider colonization (I have it on the brain) of modern history by the right which has as part of its project an attempt to brand much of the resistance to imperial powers (or great powers if you want) as misguided, brutal and against the common good.

    Foster himself has acknowledged how he was in a way recasting Irish history in the mould of the troubles. Fergusson makes no secret of his right wing credentials (he penned a nauseating article on how the US was ineptly ‘losing’ south america).

    I think that these individuals can not just be judged on their art, they also have be examined in light of their narrative intent.

  • Garibaldy

    Ferguson is definitely near the top – not quite the very top – of my historians’ hate list, and he is an admitted imperialist, both in the historical and current political sense. He called for a new imperialism to defeat ‘Islamo-bolshevism’ shortly after the Twin Towers attack. I think it was in the guardian or daily telegraph, but can’t remember. Someone once said to me he stressed the importance of the cash nexus in his early work because he was so obsessed with money himself.

    I know Tom Dunne has acknowledged he was influenced by the Troubles. Everyone interested in history should read his ‘Rebellions’. Fascinating stuff, mixing the personal and historical. Great at puncturing some of the more ridiculous stuff produced about 1798, even if Dunne’s work is flawed itself.

    Haven’t seen where Foster said this about the Troubles. I know that his main thing is to recover the varieties of Irishness that have existed over the centuries. He himself is a southern Protestant, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if he sought to puncture the myths of Catholic nationalism, an agenda I have sympathy with, even if from a different viewpoint. In fairness, I don’t think his intentions are anywhere close to those of Ferguson.

  • Shay Begorrah

    Perhaps I should give Mr Foster another read Giuseppe.

    Also, who is further up your hate list than Niall Fergusson?

  • Garibaldy

    Mostly historians of the French Revolution, particularly Francois Furet (now late and unlamented) and Keith Michael Baker. The first was an anti-Communist political progagandist masquerading as a historian. The second is his main acolyte. Neither had/has the range of knowledge, interests or talents of the previous most important historians of the Revolution they denigrated.

    There’s probably one or two others if I thought about it hard enough as well. Alan Bullock maybe too for example.

  • Garibaldy

    While I remember, Foster’s polemical essays are less balanced than his actual historical writing I would say, for obvious reasons, so if you are going to re-read him, I’d recommend Modern Ireland before the essays. I found Hart’s book well worth a read too, although obviously it requires a critical eye.

  • Harry Flashman

    Forgive me I come new to this discussion and it seems that the rest of you have all discussed it previously in some other forum and decided for yourselves that everything was a-ok, but I’d appreciate if you could help me out.

    Are you all saying that these protestants were not actually murdered? Or are you saying, yes a lot of protestant civilians were murdered over a period of three days in one small town but they deserved it because they were “informers”?

    I’m not sure about how these things were sorted out in the 1920’s but I do know how it looks today and if for example in the town of Larne over a period of three days thirteen Catholic men and boys were systematically executed one of whom was a member of the clergy there would be no doubt as to the reaction of Republicans in this forum. If someone like Fair_Deal then came on and said that the murdered men were known “terrorists” I’m pretty certain he would get howled down in righteous indignation.

    So it’s double standards all round then when it comes to killing the Prods is it?

  • Garribaldy: Ruth DE is not superfluous. Her “biography” on Pearse is used to denigrate the man and the cause and is cited in Wikipedia [removed]. These people have all moved the collective goalposts down the years. The fact is the IRA of the Tan war fought a terrorist regime, backed by active militias in the North (John Nixon’s death squads) and settlers and Crown Catholics in the south.

    The argument is that the British near monopoly on weapons of mass Mick destruction down the years makes all resistance immoral. They quote each other and elevate each other, along with Corkmen like Eoin Harris and John A Murphy. Maybe Eoin O’Malley was right: a 31 co republic.

    There is no doubt these people have the public ear very much to themselves

  • JAY 119

    Flashman, you should know that it is the victor that enjoys writing the history, at least until sufficient time has passed for a more studied approach. Now it is hardly likely that Irish historians of the War of Independence are going to record atrocities by the people who fought for, and won, independence from Britain. A seminal moment in Ireland’s history.

    The IRA of 1919-1921 are the heroes of the Republic and it is only natural that people would not want their name sullied by deeds they see as exclusive to British men under arms.

    So for the time being all the prods were informers and fifth columnists who deserved to die.

    It reminds me of my Mam, who when walking through the park in Ipswich saw a monument to 9 Protestants who had been burned at the stake by Queen Mary. She was palpably shocked at such an outrageous lie. The Catholic schools we attended had air-brushed the atrocities of Mary out of our history lessons. Even when persuaded of the truth like some of the correspondents on this thread she continued to regard “protestant martrys” as an oxymoron.

  • Carsonite

    I think until we all agree that there is vast levels of revisionism in Irish history from the Republicans and the Loyalists, we won’t be able to fully acknowledge the past and move on from it. Throwing off the old mind-set of myth making can only be postive to the future of this island.

  • Carsonite: Great name for someone who wants to forget (some) history. The Munster Tan war (not a war of Independence) was used as an excuse by Carson to launch the Belfast pogroms from his Orange day 1920 speech. The Protestantr Unionists of Munster got off much too lightly, all things considered.

  • andy

    I haven’t seen any primary evidence, but the claims are that the individuals killed were named in a document found in an Auxiliaries barracks as informers. Such is the claims and I haven’t seen that rebutted by Hart or his admirers.
    So your comparison isn’t exactly accurate…..

  • andy

    I should have added – its fairly close.

  • Garibaldy


    I understand your point about RDE. I was just saying I ignored her and her ilk. They did catch the public mood in the south in the 1980s but I think the public mood has moved well beyond them, as demonstrated by the 1916 commemorations. There will be a much more sympathetic book on 1916 produced in the next while that will become the favourite one of the public before 2016. RDE and her ilk have had their day I think.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s an interesting line andy.

    One of the distinctive features of at least some of the first world war memorials in the Alsace region of France is the absence of the words ‘Pro Patria’ that’s common in other parts of the country. At the time I presumed this was because some or all of the locals did not fight on the side of France.

    If such were the case, it seems a useful way of enabling locals to remember their loss, even if they were on the ‘losing’ side.

  • Greenflag

    ‘So it’s double standards all round then when it comes to killing the Prods is it? ‘

    Not at all . It’s just that in Ireland -North or South – informers on either side /lundies/touts /traitors etc etc etc tend to get shot or worse -more frequently in times of actual conflict . Along with the above innocent people tend also to become victims either by association or for other and no reason. And yes there are ‘psychopaths ‘ on both sides but if memory serves me right they have tended to ‘predominate’ on the Loyalist side .

    The Irish have no problem in honouring and holding in high esteem Irish Protestants such as Wolfe Tone , Thomas Davis , Charles Stuart Parnell , Erskine Childers, Ernest Blythe all of whom supported Irish national independence . Those protestants AND catholics who supported the Union were of course held in less esteem . In many respects that situation has’nt changed in the past 100 years despite the much lauding of ‘parity of esteeem’.

    No different than anywhere else in the world where we have seen the former colonial empire packing it’s bags or being forced to leave . The USA had it’s despised ‘loyalist’ Tories. Revolutionary France had it’s despised aristocracy. Ireland has it’s ‘unionists’.

    To be blunt Protestantism as such is not a political problem in modern Ireland . Unionism is. Given the irreconcilable division between both British Unionism and Irish Nationalism in Northern Ireland the only practical and fair solution is Repartition of the 6 counties administered by a neutral international agency such as the UN or EU supported by both British and Irish Governments .

    The alternative is to have the present unstable situation continue for another 100, 200, or 1,000 years ?

  • Rory

    Wow! Now this is a discussion to get one’s teeth into. But, if I may mix metaphors, I would be reluctant to test the depth of the river with both feet lest I wind up over my head.

    I had not heard of Hart’s biography of Michael Collins, MICK, ,The Real Michael Collin’s,(publisher’s emphasis), until it turned up in my Christmas stocking. My delight was a bit diluted by my disappointment that my none-too-subtle lobbying for Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men had gone unheeded, but I dived in with enthusiasm.

    My overriding impression was that, for all the new “hidden-till-now” facts promised therein, there was nothing more than speculation based on flimsy evidence of Collins’s romantic and sexual dalliances of the “perhaps the reader might be forgiven for assuming…” variety.

    It did not bother me that author was clearly of the revisionist school -so long as they present the evidence well and tell a good story then I can agree or disagree with their interpretation as I choose- but I was left with a curious feeling of unease after finishing, a suspicion, no stronger than that, that something was not quite right. But,rather than let it bother me, I acquiesced in my dear English wife’s suggestion that it might be my own pro-Republican bias that was the cause and for the sake of peace I left it at that and thought “Why fuss? It’s only an oul’ bit of academic vanity publishing after all, I’ll read something else and forget about it”. Which I did – I sneaked off and bought meself a copy of McCarthy’s book and thereafter was in a different land for while and happy to be there.

    But not any more. I’ll be watching this Hart fellow like a hawk from now on.

  • Garibaldy


    haven’t read the Collins book, but it clearly has had nothing like the impact that the publisher and Hart hoped it would have. His collection of essays, ‘The IRA at War’ I think likewise. The tide of public opinion I think has turned.

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Not at all . It’s just that in Ireland -North or South – informers on either side /lundies/touts /traitors etc etc etc tend to get shot or worse -more frequently in times of actual conflict .
    That doesn’t answer the charge of double standards, though, does it? Are civilain informers Legitimate Targets? Are civilian informers Innocent Civilians?
    Do you need to know which side they were on before you can answer the questions? How should a responsible historian address that issue?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d add that Nelson’s orginal observation still holds: this event has been washed from local public consciousness, even amongst those who take an interest in such things.

    I’ve not read Hart so I can’t offer a view on his work. But surely Irish history is better served by such contention than passive acceptance of orthodox narrative?

  • Rory

    “…history is better served by such contention than passive acceptance of orthodox narrative”.

    Really, Mick? THat sounds suspiciously similar to the defence line proffered by David Irving at the libel trial.

    To suggest that a deliberate distortion of some facts and manipulation of others because it serves the good purpose of rousing those with the more plausible account to bring that account to public attention has somewhat dubious merit it seems to me. But given that the whole furore is wildly enjoyable it is an attractive proposition and one belovedly adhered to by newspaper editors everywhere.

  • Nathan

    “West Cork, uniquely in the south of the country, has a large Protestant minority”

    Incorrect – West Cork, uniquely in the south of the country, HAD a large Protestant minority – had being the operative word.

    West Cork is largely a Protestant-free zone according to the 2002 census – Dublin and Co.Wicklow has the highest proportion of Protestants in the Irish Republic (Greystones being the Protestant capital of the Irish Republic), in contrast with places like Bandon which only has a mere 4.7% of Church of Irelanders. Since when does 4.7% constitute a large Protestant minority??


    As for this thread, I cannot for the life of me see what beneficial purpose is served by regurgitating distasteful events such as these when the community affected by them has long since drawn a line under them and is living in harmony with its neighbours.

    For the record, I do believe that some West Cork Protestants were disposed of by maverick IRA members, on religious grounds certainly, for a short period of time (no more than 2 days of military action), and without any indication that the victims were culpable for their untimely deaths.

    That’s because I believe, and I’m sure southern Protestants back then would have believed, the words of Dr Gregg, the Archbishop of Dublin, who took a stand and expressed in April 1922:

    “It is no matter for wonder if the members of our church feel deep uneasiness and positive alarm in view of these horrible events. What a tale of savage blood lust is disclosed in the murder of eight (and it may prove to be more) members of a political and religious minority living quietly among their neighbours! The reason for this organised massacre I cannot conceive, unless it be, indeed, as has been suggested by way of reprisal. But I fail to see what is the connection between these residents in the west of County Cork and the troubles in the North. No; I cannot see any intelligible cause for this declaration of war upon a defenceless community.

    “I call upon the Government of this country to take the necessary steps to protect a grievously wounded minority, and to defend the Protestants of West Cork from a repetition of these atrocities, and to save the Protestants there and in other parts of the South from threatened violence and expulsion from their homes.”

    However, what Dr Gregg was not aware of, and could not have being aware of when he voiced his opinions in the comfort zone of Dublin, was that the whole issue of murdering Protestants on grounds of religion had already been nipped in the bud by the IRA leadership in the county by the end of April 1922.

    For this reason, I believe that the multi-denominational IRA back then contained a multiplicity of honest and decent visionaries, many of whom later went on to pursue constitutional politics.

    I’m certainly not willing to judge a whole organisation and its members past and present, by the maniacal actions of a few moral degenerates in West Cork. Indeed, I’ll leave that for those who are willing to engage in such judgements.

  • Proud

    During wartime, spies are shot…

    …West Cork has a large Protestant minority and a strong republican tradition. We know that throughout history, most Protestants in Ireland have tended to have a greater affiliation with Britain than Catholics have, so it was logical that there would be substantial numbers of people in west Cork who would align themselves with the RIC/army – and substantial numbers of people who would consider this to be treason.

    Dangerous logic there, BP – by this reasoning, would the British Government have been justified in executing on a charge of treason NI citizens who passed on information to the PIRA? After all, the parallels between NI and West Cork are there – large minority, some of whom who sided with the ‘army’, and a large number of people who would consider this to be treason. After all, PIRA were fighting a war, and in wartime, spies are shot…

    Obviously this is a ridiculous idea, but the point remains that we cannot apply the same logic to the War of Independence, even allowing for the vagaries of post-War Britain and Ireland.

  • hovetwo

    Apologies for going off-topic, but having read Peter Hart’s book on Michael Collins, I didn’t feel he was trying to show that Michael Collins had feet of clay. From Collins’ mythical status you would wonder whether he had feet at all…..

    I got the sense that Hart had been a Collins groupie who was now trying to apply a more critical framework to his former hero, perhaps erring on the side of being overly critical – he suggests that Collins was perhaps the most talented politician Ireland has produced, but he didn’t develop that aspect sufficiently IMO.

    Hart acknowledges the brilliance of the Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence operation run by Collins, while suggesting that Collins was far too ready to trust people and had to be rescued by his team from secret agents masquerading as civilian sympathisers on more than one occasion.

    I was interested to learn that Collins was, at best, a mediocre scholar and civil servant with a poor grasp of mathematics, but it didn’t stop him being a superb administrator and delegator – reminded me of the story of Ulysses Grant, a drunken shopkeeper who graduated bottom of his class at West Point, until the Civil War revealed his genius for logistics and topography – peacetime failure turned wartime hero, leader of the Union Army and two term President of the United States.

    Hart is fond of making inferences about Collins’ love life, as Rory said, although he does rubbish the reliability of some of the alleged mistresses. He also makes the interesting point that Collins’ love life has been reinvented by each generation to fit prevailing mores – thus the austere, virginal hero of the twenties makes way for the boyo who shagged half of Clonakilty and Belgravia.

    For some reason Harts “conventional English” mistranslation of Sinn Fein as Ourselves Alone annoyed me no end. We Ourselves, Ourselves or Us, at a stretch, but Alone just isn’t in the title. Sorry about that (retreats into anorak).

  • Mick Fealty

    Rory, that’s the second Nazi inference in this thread. But let’s press on, regardless of what Godwin’s Law has to say on such matters.

    I said:

    …history is better served by such contention than passive acceptance of orthodox narrative.

    Which, in your view, reduces to:

    …the good purpose of rousing those with the more plausible account.

    Notwithstanding Nathan’s entirely proper allusion to the currently harmonious state of community relations in west Cork today, Nelson’s only salient point here is that these events have been forgotten locally. This has nothing to do with interpretation of the events.

    My understanding is that Irving was attempting to obscure and deny the existence of certain well documented events: as such, he was not even remotely contending over the meaning or intrepretation of those events.

  • Greenflag

    ‘That doesn’t answer the charge of double standards, though, does it?

    In the long history of English imperialist conflict against Ireland the Irish learned how double ‘double standards’ could be . A case of that which being but taught has returned to plague the teacher perhaps.

    ‘Are civilain informers Legitimate Targets? Are civilian informers Innocent Civilians?’

    Good question Reader and the only answer is it depends on the 11th commandment . Dont’ get caught and whatever you do don’t believe those agents of HMG who promise you safe conduct /new identity etc etc .

    Part of the problem in NI today as well as the period 1916-1922 is that whether someone is a terrorist or freedom fighter -a patriotic minded republican or a traitorous rebel depends on whose side the observer is on, either Britian or Ireland . As an Irishman I have no hesitation in supporting Ireland’s right to full national independence . But as an Irishman I have no desire to force 800,000 British Unionists into a UI against their will . I’m quite sure the vast majority of English people today have no interest in forcing the Irish Republic back into the UK against the former’s will .

    As I see no prospect of the majority of British Unionists in NI changing their ‘nationality’ to Irish, or even being prepared to live in a UI political entity as a minority I tend to see all of the ‘who is most to blame’ arguments ‘themun’s etc etc , as being at the end of the day a waste of time .

    ‘Do you need to know which side they were on before you can answer the questions?’

    No. I’m sure these unfortunate people whether or not they were ‘informers’ or just loyal citizens protecting what they saw was the ‘legitimate government ‘ were victims of the times they lived, in just as the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who were victims of the time Englands Second conquest.

    ‘How should a responsible historian address that issue? ‘

    Historians ? Responsible ? If you have ever read any history’s of Britian published in the latter part of the 19th century you would know that the attempts of historians to be objective was simply not the case in those days and even today it’s a continuing work in progress 🙂

    What is called ‘revisionist’ history as regards Ireland is/was a passing phase. Yes it was necessary to broaden Irish history into something more than the simplistic Irish good and English bad -800 years oppression etc etc . But the attempt of recent revisionists to downgrade the achievements of the long struggle for Irish political independence has only had the effect of reaffirming to most Irish people the simple fact that without that ‘independence’ Ireland today would most likley be another and probably poorer Scotland or Wales .

    In a not unusual reversal of history we Irish have to thank those British Unionists in Ireland in the North and in earlier times in the South who resisted the Irish people’s demands for even the limited demand for Home Rule . Without their resistance would we have our Republic ?

    The English and later British Empire was built for one purpose only and that was without a foreign Empire England/Britian would have remained a cold ,wet, offshore island forever at the mercy of the larger and more populous European States . To that extent the Empire made England and to a lesser extent Scotland and Ireland

  • Garibaldy


    I agree entirely that contention rather than acceptance of orthodox narrative is essential for the history not just of Ireland, but of any country. In Ireland, I feel it has been particularly beneficial in contributing to the modernisation of Irish society that it was partly a reflection of.

    I don’t know whether these events have been forgotten in the west Cork region. They certainly shouldn’t have been. Having said that, the way we remember them is entirely dictated by how we interpret them. Wasn’t this Jeb Bush’s point in banning revisionist history in Florida, that he wanted to pick which events were remembered, and how they were interpreted?

    Roy Foster has, albeit tongue in cheek, recommended theraputic forgetting of much of our past. I’m not so sure.

  • Objectivist

    I believe that the 1919-1921 WOI was a legitimate war fought on behalf of a legitimate govt. by a legitimate army against what had effectively become an occupying power.This contrasts starkly with the recent PIRA campaign.Factor in also that the West Cork area more than any other bore the brunt of the Black and Tan einzgruppen activities (BTW anyone who wants to drag up Godwin’s law can go jump).Taking all this into consideration , by generally accepted rules of war, anyone caught giving information to occupying forces and placing the lives of local resistance fighters ,supported by the local population, in danger was not likely to be gently treated.
    From my reading of that period suspected informers were given a chance to account for themselves and if doubt existed were given its benefit.By the standards of conflicts of this nature the IRA of that period was actually relatively restrained.
    For Hart’s contention to wash he would have to prove that different standards were applied to suspected Protestant (as opposed to Catholic) informers.This he has manifestly failed to do.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Godwin only has advisory status here. But that is the third time. 🙂

  • Objectivist

    I would enunciate what I would call ‘counter-Godwin’s law’:
    If point is illustrated by a relevant and apposite allusion to Nazi Germany some smart alec will invariably drag up Godwin’s law in the smug but deluded belief in their own sagacity.

  • Garibaldy

    I think Nazi comparisons here are over the top. Comparisons with the violence being indulged in in other parts of Europe for similar reasons, and comparisons between groups of organised ex-soldiers there and in Ireland might well not be though.

  • JAY119

    “I’m certainly not willing to judge a whole organisation and its members past and present, by the maniacal actions of a few moral degenerates in West Cork.”

    Would this include the Tans then?

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “That doesn’t answer the charge of double standards, though, does it? Are civilian informers Legitimate Targets? Are civilian informers Innocent Civilians?”

    What on earth is a “civilian informer”?

    I would think that, in a war situation, a person who passes information relating to one of the belligerents to the enemy, or gives support or succour to the enemy, can be regarded as having made a choice, as having chosen sides. Now, whatever the rights and wrongs of a given case, surely no-one can be in any doubt that such a choice is likely to involve consequences in a war situation? I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, just that it’s a fact of life. You make your choices and you take responsibility for the consequences. People in west Cork who sided with the RIC/Tans might have honestly considered this the right thing to do, but they cannot have been in any doubt that many people around them would not only have disagreed with this analysis, but were actually at war with this analysis. As I said, one makes choices. Such is life.


    “Dangerous logic there, BP – by this reasoning, would the British Government have been justified in executing on a charge of treason NI citizens who passed on information to the PIRA?”

    But the British government DID execute, both judicially and mainly extra-judicially, people who assisted the IRA in this period. During the more recent troubles, which happened in the post-capital punishment era, the British government judicially imprisoned and extra-judicially executed many IRA members and supporters, and even lawyers who represented republicans. Only four years ago the British government even collapsed a democratically-elected government in Belfast on the basis of a “republican spy-ring”. All of which I point out, simply for the purposes of pointing it out. I think it’s wrong, but it goes on. You really think this stuff doesn’t? The British government wasn’t about the bring back capital punishment for the sake of NI – it didn’t have to.

    (And yes, I know treason and, I believe, piracy on the high seas, still technically carry the death penalty, but that’s just trivia. A pub quiz question. It’s been half a century since anyone was hanged. Besides, the UK might even be expelled from the EU for hanging someone.)

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “I would enunciate what I would call ‘counter-Godwin’s law’: If point is illustrated by a relevant and apposite allusion to Nazi Germany some smart alec will invariably drag up Godwin’s law in the smug but deluded belief in their own sagacity.”

    Interesting contribution – it might be worthwhile to have a debate on Godwin’s Law. I for one am a strong supporter of GL. Allusions to the Nazis/Hitler/fascism/Holocaust etc are just too easy a knee-jerk reaction. It’s the first weapon of historical choice that virtually everyone reaches for. And let’s be honest here – it’s an exercise in name-calling, first and foremost.

    It’s also mind-numbingly boring. I’ve never seen a single thread yet that was enriched by invocation of Nazi Germany and its many associated crimes. Not once.

    Invoking the Nazis is always going to be overblown in an NI context – a bit like when you hear, for example, Willie Frazer talking about the “genocide” of Protestants in south Armagh, when at most it was a campaign of sectarian murders. Or when you hear Gregory Campbell talking about how Protestants were the victims of “ethnic cleansing” in Derry – a phrase coined in the genuinely genocidal context of the former Yugoslavia, used to refer to a more prosaic demographic shift prompted, yes by low-level sectarian attacks (returned with interest) but more pertinently, by the loss of minority hegemony in the area.

    Such talk is profoundly unintelligent. It is depressing. It is boring. It is manna for the morons.

    So God Save Godwin, bulwark against the moronification of debate.

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: Now, whatever the rights and wrongs of a given case, surely no-one can be in any doubt that such a choice is likely to involve consequences in a war situation?
    Banging bin-lids? Rioting? Leaving a route through a house open for getaways? Giving a cup of water to a dying soldier?
    Are you sure you can manage without double standards? How much of your argument only applies once you have picked a side?

  • http://tinyurl.com/3mddp : Here is a good read on the Hitler take.

    Although killing people is “wrong”, it sends out a message. Fuck with the IRA and they waste you, a la Tom Oliver and John Corcoran. But when does “wrong” become wrong. If the PIRA were right, are RIRA now right. Or does Gerry et al decide when it is wrong. Thus, the Dunmanway killings are wrong now but were they wrong then? Why, per the IRA, was it right to waste informers up to a fe w years ago and not officially waste touts today? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Take the situation in Iraq. Now there is a king sized fuck up. Or Palestine where Israelis slaughter at will. But if a Palestinean suicide bomber gets through, we are all supposed to go into contortions of contrition and never never mention Israeil provocation.

    Same in Iraq. Few here would support the Iraqi resistance or their methods. But can we agree they have a point? Abd that perfidious America is not there to spread democracy?

  • Nathan

    “…Nelson’s only salient point here is that these events have been forgotten locally. This has nothing to do with interpretation of the events.”

    Dealing with Nelson’s point, perhaps the local West Cork IRA leadership were acquitted of any responsibility for the killing of innocent Protestant civilians (i.e. the ones who were not thought to be colluding with agents of the Crown) in the eyes of those Protestants who did stay on in West Cork after these unfortunate events.

    Indeed, according to COI archives – on May 12th, 1922, two weeks after the so-called West Cork ‘pogroms’, the presiding COI Bishop of Killaloe and 31 representative dignitaries of the Protestant Churches, including the High Sheriff of Dublin, signed the following resolution on behalf of a Convention of Protestant Churches:

    “We place on record that, until the recent tragedies in the County Cork, hostility to Protestants by reason of their religion has been almost, if not wholly, unknown in the Twenty six counties in which Protestants are in a minority.”

    I believe this to be a remarkable tribute, after three harrowing years of unavoidable warfare by the anti-Treaty brigade!

    I’m not from West Cork so I speak only for my self here, but I nevertheless salute those who were in a position of leadership in the IRA at the time, particularly Sean Buckley who later engaged in constitutional politics for FF http://www.electionsireland.org/candidate.cfm?ID=1197, for stamping out any sectarian activity that its members were initially a party to. I think Sean Buckley’s electoral success in the West Cork region (which had a large Protestant population up until recently), indicates that many Protestants must have given him their personal vote, not because they necessarily supported FF, but as a marker of respect for stamping out the minute episode of IRA sectarianism which occurred in April 1922.

    So back to my point about West Cork Protestants forgetting about the past – I think they do that because the political identity that they now embrace (i.e. nationalism if not republicanism) is uncomfortable in accepting that many past misdeeds were inflicted upon individual southern Protestants. For as long as this continues, most West Cork Protestants will refrain from fully acknowledging the past. Sadly, no matter what the truth of anything people will only accept what they want to accept – and that goes for West Cork Protestants as much as anyone else.

  • JAY119

    I was thinking about this thread today and it came to me that for all the arguments we see here there is an underlying theme. I often wondered why I couldn’t connect with Republicanism/Nationalism because my father was a republican to the depths of his soul and could recite every harm done by every Brit to every Irishman from the arrival of the Normans in 1169 until his own death. I have been educated on this thread.

    The killing of these protestants cannot be accepted as unjust by republicans/nationalists because it will deny them the status of victims. So all sorts of justifications and equivocations come in the thread, lest these people somehow take away the victimhood from the Irish people.

    Although I didn’t know it then I now realise why I didn’t connect with my Dad’s republicanism, it’s because I didn’t want the Irish people to be victims, I wanted them to be admired and even envied by the rest of humanity. I never saw them as the underdogs to the British/English, but their equals.

    The admission that these killings were unjust dilutes the victim status yearned for by the republican/nationalists, and so we hear that they were informers who deserved it, yet, no one from this distance has the evidence to support that fact.

    Let’s stop being victims.

  • JAY119

    Taig, have you ever killed anyone? Were you there when Denis Donaldson face his last moments? We shouldn’t glorify people who can kill without conscience whether they are Brits or Irishmen.

  • Garibaldy


    The type of attitude you outline, that the Irish were as good if not better than everybody else, was prevalent amongst large numbers of people at the time of Tan War. There is a good examination of it in Fearghal Mc garry’s recent biography of Eoin O’Duffy. In his case at least, it went the wrong direction, as it did in other countries at the same time.

    Your victim argument is perceptive. I think though it has become more prominent as the main area of nationalism shifted to the North, where the victim rhetoric seemed more reflective of reality, and worked well in seeking sympathy from around the globe. It is though I think disappearing. Look at the shift in PSF rhetoric, and the comments of people like Kensei here.

    A very interesting theme indeed

  • JAY119

    Garibaldy, I agree with you about the shift to the North, in fact the South has been moving away from the victim theme for many years in my view. Where it is most prevalent is, in the North of course, and amongst emigres, like my Dad, who are stuck in the time they, or their parents left Ireland. I take your point about the shift, but have a different view on the rhetoric. Look how many people on this blog can list reams and reams of ill done to the Irish people by the Brits, when the thread is discussing whether to introduce phonics into reading in Irish schools. I lived in Britain, and you never hear the Brits harking back to historical wrongs committed against them. With the possible exception of trade unionists, which my father also was. Maybe we have found a personality type here!

  • Jay: Exageration like you do is one of the old tricks of the ancients. Britain was a colonial, terrorist power. While conducting its campaign of terrorism against the people of Cork, Tipperary and Kerry, they were helped by a number of local lackeys. They were also committing a shameful pogrom on Belfast Catholics and trade unionists (Jews, Protestants and atheists included). It was also slaughtering Iraqis, Afghans, Egyptians and anyone else with the bad luck to live within their odious empire. The bulldog breed – Orangies, football hooligans, the self styled Royal Family – think all of that was good and jolly good fun, something like Abo and fox hunting. And indeed part of the “Brithness” tradition of repression which trade unionists had suffered in mother England.

    As regards the demise of Denis Donaldson, my presence of otherwise at the “happy” event is not of import. What matters is Gerry, Martin and the bhoys have not reverse the signalling process. Killing “touts” is now “wrong”. Not so long ago it was “right”. Pre Omagh, blowing up civilians was “right”. Post Omagh it is “wrong”. And these people with the mixed signals are now to lead the place.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “but the claims are that the individuals killed were named in a document found in an Auxiliaries barracks as informers. Such is the claims and I haven’t seen that rebutted by Hart or his admirers.”

    Do we really need to give credence to Meda Ryan’s execrable hagiography? Amongst other sources she cites the statement of someone who, as a child, rememebered that everyone knew that a septuagenarian retired solicitors’clerk was an informer. So that’s alright then. Blimey- Mrs Lindsay was an OAP too. It’s those crumblies you have to watch, eh? The greatest Empire in the world ruled through a reign of terror underpinned by..er pensioners and little old ladies.