SIR â The recent exchange of letters concerning different accounts of the whereabouts of a Kilmichael veteran, Dan Hourihan, at the actual time of the ambush is interesting. The debate might perhaps be extended to include his whereabouts during the rest of the War of Independence as well.
In a 1973 interview with Meda Ryan, Dan Hourihan related how he had gone on the run after Kilmichael and been captured by the British. He told her he was imprisoned on Spike Island, where he was beaten and tortured to the extent of losing fingernails, toenails and part of a finger. Details of the interview are on pages 66 and 67 of Meda Ryan's book Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter 2005 edition.
However, there is no such story of capture and torture in the records of his 1935 military pension application. In this version of events, Hourihan remained at liberty throughout the war.
He acted as Dunmanway Battalion Quarter Master continuously from early December 1920 until after the truce of July 1921.Â
He participated in many of the IRA engagements in the area against the British right up until the truce.Â
The only reference to any imprisonment in Hourihan's pension application is of a period of internment during the civil war after capture by Free State forces in late 1922. Both in his initial pension application and in his later unsuccessful claim to the military pensions board for a special allowance, he confirmed that he had never applied for or been granted a disability or wound allowance.
Of his two very conflicting accounts, I am inclined to believe Hourihan's pension application version of his war. It was subjected to scrutiny by the pensions board. Hourihan had listed Tom Barry, Liam Deasy, Paddy O'Brien and others as referees who could confirm his account. Paddy O'Brien did indeed confirm the details.Â
Being captured and tortured by the British would surely have enhanced his pension claim and award. So why would he leave it out?
Given Dan Hourihan's own apparent confusion about how his time was occupied during the war of independence, it is little wonder there are arguments almost a century later about where he might have been at any particular time,