Dunmanway murders

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 2(March/April 2012), Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 20

Between 26 and 29 April 1922 the murder of thirteen Protestant civilians in and around Dunmanway, West Cork, raised fears among the Southern unionist community that the situation was descending into a conflict aimed at driving them out. Both sides of the treaty debates condemned the killings, and immediate steps were taken by the local IRA to protect the vulnerable by placing guards on their houses. The British were equally troubled. A House of Commons debate on 1 May heard calls for the British Army to restore order, and the commander of the British Navy in Cork Harbour on 29 April stated that ‘in view of what looks like the beginnings of a pogrom against the Protestants in the South, it may become necessary to send ships to evacuate Protestant loyalists from Southern sea ports’. In The IRA and its enemies (1998) the late Peter Hart suggested that the motive was sectarian and an example of what could be described as ‘ethnic cleansing’. The accuracy of his thesis dominates debate to this day, particularly in the face of counter-arguments that the victims may have been informers.

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