SIR – Niall Meehan’s letter (June 17th) distracts from core issues relating to Hart’s interviews.
In my 2012 chapter in Terror in Ireland, I identified all the Kilmichael veterans interviewed by Hart or by Father John Chisholm bar one, the ‘unarmed scout’. I subsequently discovered that the only two anonymous quotes I couldn’t identify at the time were from Hart's interview with Willie Chambers (November 19th, 1989), whom I then realised was the unarmed scout.
Meehan’s contributions to the Hart interview controversy are characterised by misstatements of fact as well as of interpretation. To give one example from your own newspaper, in July 2008 you published Meehan’s assertion that the late Jim O’Driscoll, SC, was ‘one of the signatories’ to John Young’s affidavit claiming Hart could not have interviewed Ned Young, his father.
O’Driscoll’s Irish Times obituary in 2009 repeated this erroneous claim based on ‘internet sources’. In reality, O’Driscoll had merely witnessed Young’s signature, and had not endorsed Young’s claims.
Marion O’Driscoll confirmed that her husband had introduced Hart to Ned Young and, contrary to what was being said, had flatly refused to attack Hart when asked to do so. In 2013, she and I wrote a letter to History Ireland (published online) requesting, in the strongest terms, that people stop associating Jim O’Driscoll with these allegations against Hart.
Hart used Willie Chambers’ interview in good faith. Witness accounts collected decades after the events discussed in them often contain inconsistencies. For example, in 1973 Meda Ryan’s interviewee Dan Hourihan said he witnessed the ‘false surrender.’ Yet in December 1937, he told the Military Service Pension board that, as the column moved into position, Tom Barry ordered him to return to his area to arrange billets in Ballinacarriga, which is even farther from the ambush site than Enniskeane Bridge.
There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for the discrepancies in the cases of both Hourihan and Chambers. All we can do is wait for more evidence to emerge.
In the meantime, Ryan should release her Kilmichael interviews, and Meehan should make more effort to get his own facts right.