Cookies on The Southern Star website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the The Southern Star website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time by amending your browser settings.
How does The Southern Star use cookies?
Cookies enable us to identify your device, or you when you have logged in. We use cookies that are strictly necessary to enable you to move around the site or to provide certain basic features. We use cookies to enhance the functionality of the website by storing your preferences, for example. We also use cookies to help us to improve the performance of our website to provide you with a better user experience.
We don’t sell the information collected by cookies, nor do we disclose the information to third parties, except where required by law (for example to government bodies and law enforcement agencies).
Hide Message
  • News

LETTER: Identification of IRA veteran interesting

Sunday, 18th June, 2017 8:00pm
LETTER: Identification of IRA veteran interesting

Send your letters to

SIR – Eve Morrison’s identification of an IRA veteran, interviewed anonymously by the late Peter Hart about the November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush, is of great interest (Letters, June 10th, 2017).

Controversy arose because the interview was dated six days after the last known Kilmichael veteran, Ned Young, died on November 13th, 1989. The discrepancy was first noted in Meda Ryan’s 2003 biography, Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter, on the ambush commander.

In 2008, I pointed out that Hart’s mysterious interviewee was presented as an ambush participant in Hart’s 1992 PhD thesis. He became an unarmed ‘scout’ in Hart’s 1998 book, The IRA and its Enemies. He was identified in the thesis as touring Hart around the ambush site, a claim the book withdrew. 

I indicated also a problem with words attributed by Hart to this interviewee. In 2012 Eve Morrison confirmed he did not utter them.

Eve Morrison now states that IRA veteran William Chambers is the individual in question. He confirmed to his son that he was, ‘an unarmed, secondary scout at Enniskeane Bridge during the Kilmichael ambush.’

In that case, Hart seems to have put further words into this man’s mouth. Hart cited him saying, ‘he saw several (British) Auxiliaries surrender’ during the fighting ‘and then heard further firing, some of which came from the Englishmen’ (Hart, 1998, p35).

Eve Morrison will surely concur that such an audiovisual feat is not possible on a bridge at Enniskeane, approximately 15km from the ambush location. 

In 2012 in the edited collection Terror in Ireland, Eve Morrison suggested that Hart’s errors resulted from muddle and not misrepresentation. I tend toward the latter view, explained in ‘Examining Peter Hart’ (Field Day Review 10, 2014).

Peter Hart claimed that ambush commander Tom Barry was a vainglorious serial killer, who falsely stated that IRA casualties at Kilmichael were caused by an Auxiliary false surrender. 

Had he named his interviewees, Hart’s claims would not have been possible.

Hart made further claims with regard to IRA sectarianism. Unfortunately, in what seems to have been a pattern, he censored and misrepresented archival sources in making them. 

It is possible to believe what Peter Hart asserted, but his research is not a reliable support. In effect, his muddle appears to have been his method.

I echo Eve Morrison’s call that relatives with veteran interviews and other archival material should make them available, I suggest to a public archive. 

In Munster, UCC’s History Department is one logical place for hosting such material. It may then be evaluated equally by all scholars and other interested members of the public.

Yours, etc,

Niall Meehan, 


Dublin 7.

Stay up-to-date with the latest West Cork news with a Southern Star digital subscription on your phone, tablet or computer. Click here for more.