Friday, 21 January 2011

Political Killings in Cork

The following letter apeared in the Irish Times (19 January 2011)
The subject of the fate of southern Protestants during the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War has featured again recently in your columns.
For those who wish to learn more baout this matter, I would like to recommend an important contemporary source  to which all have easy access (for a very modest fee!)  I refer to the excellent historical archive of The Irish Times.  This is available now on the web and can be searched easily for subjects or individuals, by date.
A valuable insight into the position of southern Protestants in this early period is provided by the reports of Church of Ireland diocesan synods which were usually held annually and which covered the whole country.  Thanks to your web search facility these can be found quickly.
These reports in The Irish Times reveal a harrowing picture of what many members of the Protestant community experienced at this time.  On June 14th 1923 the paper recorded that at the Cork diocesan synod, Bishop Dr Charles Dowse spoke of how: 'many of our people have gone.  Neither we nor their country could afford to lose them.  Their homes have been burned.  Destruction has marched through the land.'  At the Kilmore synod, reported on July 6th, 1923, Bishop Dr William Moore described how: 'One of the saddest features of the situation is that so many of our communion have been driven from the country.  By their expulsion such citizens ... are now much fewer than they were'.   Another insight can be found in the frank and courageous condemnation of these events contained in pastoral letters and speeches of various Catholic bishops.
The paper reported on February 17th 1923 that the Bishop of Cork, Dr Daniel Colohan, described how 'Protestants have suffered severely during the period of civil war in the south' and urged that 'charity knows no exclusion of creed'.  On May 8th 1923, it recorded an appeal from the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Michael Fogarty, to a higher sense of patriotism, noting that 'their Protestant fellow countrymen - he regretted to have to say it - were persecuted and dealt with in a cruel and coarse manner.'
Thanks to your excellent website, people can now investigate our history for themselves.'
Yours etc.
School of Politics
Queen's University of Belfast
For too long this period of Irish history has been largely ignored.  In recent years there has been a growing acknowledgement of the persecution of Protestant in southern Ireland in the 1920s but there is much more that needs to be done to research this era.  A lot of attention has been focussed on the situation of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland but much less on the plight of the Protestant minority in southern Ireland and the sectarian persecution directed against them by Irish republicans. 



    Review by Eoghan Harris of RTE programme (2009) Cork's Bloody Secret on the ‘Dunmanway massacre’ - the IRA killings of 10 Protestants, and the disappearance of 3 others, in the Bandon valley in April 1922:

    "It begins on the night of April 25th, 1922, four months after the Treaty, when an IRA group broke into the home of Thomas Hornibrook, his son Samuel and son-in-law, Captain Herbert Woods. Faced by armed intruders at dead of night, Captain Woods fired at them and shot dead the IRA group's leader, Michael O'Neill.

    The three Protestants surrendered. The IRA group took them away to the hills and killed them in dire circumstances. Their bodies have never been found. In Blood-Dark Track, Joseph O'Neill gives them the only epitaph they have ever received: 'These three dead Protestants were multiply entombed. Their violent deaths were not reported in the Irish newspapers; their bodies were buried in secret somewhere in West Cork; and their remains, unlike those of Northern Catholics, shot dead as informers, were never officially missed.'

    But it did not stop there. Over the following nights, the IRA shot 10 ordinary Protestant shopkeepers, farmers and clergymen. Hundreds of terrified Cork Protestants packed the trains and sought refuge in England and Northern Ireland. Similar scenes were taking place all over Ireland. At least 40,000 southern Protestants left."

  2. I used the Irish Times archive very extensively while researching my Master's thesis and found that the coverage of Presbyterian matters is also excellent.

    The Presbyterian community didn't suffer as badly as the CofI in the south simply because there were few Presbyterians outside Ulster and Dublin but meeting houses were burned and many people were murdered, robbed or otherwise intimidated by republicans.

    Anyone who doubts the sectarian fury of the IRA against Protestants might search the index for 'Dean John Finlay, June 13, 1921' for instruction.

  3. One other piece of good news for anyone interested in this period is that Dennis Kenndy's work 'The Widening Gulf: northern attitudes to the independent Irish State' has been reissued for Kindle.

    I remember stumbling upon it first, back in the late eighties and wondering why none of the other history books I had read mentioned the suffering of southern Protestants at the hands of the IRA during the twenties. Still worth reading and it costs less than three pounds!


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