Dunmanway massacre sectarian?

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2018), Letters, Volume 26

Sir,—Twenty-five years on, the latest argument between Prof. David Fitzpatrick and Dr Andy Bielenberg about Peter Hart’s research identifying high levels of sectarianism in Cork during the War of Independence and its aftermath is disquieting and disappointing. Fitzpatrick ignores the volumes of evidence uncovered since the publication of Hart’s The IRA and its enemies. His ‘murder by numbers’ analysis is rightly dismissed by Bielenberg. Yet both men agree that the April 1922 reprisals for shooting IRA commander Michael O’Neill were sectarian. Aside from the obvious fact that all those killed were Protestant, these murders had more than one likely trigger. But as the killers have never been correctly identified, how can either man be certain as to the motives? I am not, and I have now written two ‘scrupulously fair’ books on the subject, to quote Oxford’s Prof. Ian McBride.

While Peter Hart claimed that there was no evidence against the victims in Irish or British archives, there is, in fact, a large body of information about them even in files he researched. Of the three Dunmanway victims, Francis Fitzmaurice provided information to the British during the War of Independence, while David Grey, it is claimed, was suspected of trying to extract information from local children. James Buttimer was the uncle of an alleged spy (J. Buttimer) living in Clonakilty and of James Buttimer from Manch, Ballineen, whose name appears in the infamous ‘Dunmanway Diary’, a copy of which is in Military Archives in Dublin. At Ballineen, John Chinnery was identified as a spy by Kate Nyhan of Castletown-Kinneigh in her Military Service Pensions application. She also identifies a [Robert] Howe and a Buttimer as spies before stating that they had been shot. Her information is a possible source for their killing. However, it is just as likely that the home of John Buttimer in Manch was attacked because it was next to Sunlodge House where James Buttimer lived. James Greenfield was shot as ‘collateral damage’. Kate Nyhan’s application was strongly supported by Tom Barry and Liam Deasy for her activities as a spy-hunter. Another Ballineen victim, Alexander Gerald McKinley, was the son of an RIC officer but there is no evidence that he was passing information to the British. His name did appear (misspelled) on a 1922 IRA Southern Command list of ‘hostile’ suspects. In Clonakilty, Robert Nagle was shot in place of his father, Tom, who was hiding behind a cupboard in the kitchen when the house was attacked. Tom’s name was on the same list as J. Buttimer (Clonakilty) above. Finally, John Bradfield was shot in place of his brother William, who had been in the British Army and who had been providing information to the British. The survivors had all admitted that they were providing information to the British, were all former members of the British forces or, like R.J. Helen, had been previously identified as ‘enemy agents’. George ‘Appy’ Bryan, in an interview in 1923, admitted that he gave information. According to David Fitzpatrick, William Jagoe’s post-war compensation commission claim states that he and Francis Fitzmaurice provided information to the British.

I am more than happy to provide anyone interested with the location of the source documents for this if they want them. I am simply bemused that this argument has broken out now after all this information is available. It’s time to give it a rest.—Yours etc.,



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