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LETTER: More historical, less hysterical analysis

May 28th, 2017 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – I am pleased that West Cork is to have its first history festival in July. However, I am saddened that the speakers chosen to discuss the War of Independence period express a narrow range of opinions. 

It might more accurately be renamed the West Brit History Festival. Eoghan Harris and Kevin Myers require little introduction. They have expended acres of newspaper print extolling the merits of a historian who claimed he spoke to a participant in the November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush, six days after the last (97-year-old) veteran died. I refer to the late Peter Hart. 

Another participant, Eve Morrison, supported Hart’s claim and stated she was on the trail of the mystery man. That was five years ago. Appropriately, Ms Morrison is speaking on ‘Cork Ghosts of the Irish Revolution’.

The combined efforts of these four to undermine the standing of ambush commander Tom Barry, and of the IRA generally, reduced academic history (and ‘historical’ journalism) to a laughing stock for a considerable period. Roy Foster, who spoke for himself when he said in 1986, ‘We are all revisionists now,’ is giving the introductory lecture. He, presumably, will set the tone at this cosy get-together. 

The festival will resuscitate the sectarian theory that the IRA was sectarian during the War. Eoghan Harris will show his incompetent 2012 documentary, An Tost Fada. I hope festival-goers will be informed of at least one serious error, admitted by RTE after I complained.

The programme stated that two Protestant farmers, Matthew Connell and William Sweetnam, were killed in a sectarian attack in April 1922 after the Truce and Treaty, whereas they were actually killed beforehand, in February 1921, for reasons that were not sectarian. There are other howlers in the programme, which contemporary Protestants would have recognised as propaganda.The decade of remembrance needs broad discussion and a fair representation of opinion. This event is one-sided, with one partial exception: Andy Bielenberg. He was subject to a Harris-Myers mauling when his analysis, and that of John Borgonovo, on conflict deaths did not reproduce their imaginative views. 

I hope he is not subject to more trumped-up fake-history claims. I suggest that the organisers broaden out the discussion, even at this late stage, so that more historical and less hysterical analysis is advanced.

Yours sincerely,

 Tom Cooper, 

118, Templeville Road,

Dublin 6W.

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