SIR – Simon Kingston’s letter last week (August 15th) said Eve Morrison’s West Cork History Festival talk, ‘sifts the facts’ on the November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush.
Morrison discussed Peter Hart’s claim to have interviewed, anonymously, an ambush veteran six days after the last survivor died. Hart used his interviews to portray ambush commander Tom Barry as a vainglorious lying ‘serial killer.’
Hart linked what he portrayed as unjustified IRA savagery at Kilmichael to alleged sectarian killing of Protestant civilians near Bandon in April 1922. The claims reinforced Hart’s view of the War of Independence as an ethno-sectarian squabble.
Morrison claimed that previous debates with me and with John Regan were a ‘waste of time’ because ‘people are interested in smearing people.’ The remark is itself a smear. It insults The Southern Star and Dublin Review of Books, which hosted our differing views, and those who read them. Morrison now wants the stage, provided by Simon Kingston, to herself.
Morrison is emphatic in asserting that Hart interviewed an anonymous Kilmichael ‘unarmed scout’ on November 19th, 1989. The man she identifies, William Chambers, stated that he was on a bridge 15km away at the time of the ambush.
Morrison finds this ‘confusing’ because she has difficulty with a contradiction in terms. A person cannot be in two places at once.
Ned Young, the publicly-acknowledged last surviving participant, died on November 13th, 1989. Morrison developed her view that a 96-year-old Ned Young was also ‘interviewed’ by Hart, after suffering a severe stroke.
Morrison now informs us that, in Hart‘s ‘interview,’ Ned Young ‘does not talk about Kilmichael or Tom Barry very much at all.’ She is ‘not even sure if Kilmichael comes up.’ Was Ned Young incapable of addressing the subject or did Hart forget to ask?
Hart’s Kilmichael research approaches farce: he interviewed a veteran who did not speak about the ambush and someone not there who did. Hart’s TCD examiners and his Oxford University Press publishers are also to blame. They allowed Hart to hide his failures behind unverified and unprecedented wholesale anonymous sourcing.
Coincidentally, I spoke the same day as Morrison, at Belfast’s Féile an Phobail festival. ‘She is a Protestant as well’ addresses the IRA killing of Kate Carroll in Monaghan in April 1921. Just as Hart got it wrong in Cork, historians with a similar outlook did so as well in Monaghan, spectacularly. The talk and an accompanying essay are available online.
Journalism & Media,
Griffith College, Dublin.