A documentary made by Newcestown born producer/ presenter Jerry O'Callaghan, which examines the murders of 13 Protestant men shot dead across three nights across the Bandon Valley in April in 1922 airs tonight on TG4.
'Marú in Iarthar Chorcaí (Murder in West Cork)' examines these murders with contributions from leading academics including Andy Bielenberg and John Borgonovo from the School of History in UCC as well as descendants of the victims and other commentators from West Cork.
At the time the Bandon Valley murders attracted widespread condemnation, but the memory faded with the passing years. It fell to a young Canadian historian to bring it back into the limelight seventy-five years later. According to Peter Hart’s 1998 book, ‘The IRA and its Enemies,’ the thirteen men were shot because they were Protestants, sectarian killings carried out by members of the anti-Treaty IRA. Hart concluded that the gunmen, ‘did not seek merely to punish Protestants but to drive them out altogether.’ He said, ‘the nationalist revolution had also been a sectarian one.’
In 1998, these conclusions exploded like a bombshell in the history fraternity and set off a history war that continues to this day. Historians, commentators, politicians take sides with claim and counterclaim and allegations of war crimes and sectarian killings against the IRA in West Cork during and after the War of Independence. This documentary picks up on that debate leading on to a wider debate on the fundamental nature of the Irish revolution itself. Was it simply a war of liberation from the British empire? Or was it also a sectarian war, ‘a final reckoning of the ancient conflict between settlers and natives,’ a war to drive out the British by force along with the Irish Protestant minority?
Jerry O’Callaghan, grew up at the epicenter of the West Cork killings and his father, Denis O’Callaghan, was an active member of Tom Barry’s West Cork flying column and a member of the anti-Treaty IRA’s police force set up during the Truce to protect the local Protestant population at a time of lawless uncertainty.
Parts of a last long interview Peter Hart did a few months before his untimely death is featured, intercut with recorded debates in the history war over several years.
TG4 Wednesday 7th December 9.30pm