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.”