Tom Barry and the Kilmichael ambush

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1 (Jan/Feb 2006), Letters, Letters, Volume 14


—Seamus Fox (HI 13.6, Nov./Dec. 2005) bases his letter on ‘theaftermath of the ambush’ and the killing of ‘unarmed Auxiliaryprisoners’. Owing to the editor’s note closing the debate, I’mrestricted in responding. Since a late amendment to my article (HI13.5, Sept./Oct. 2005) did not make it to the printing stage, theeditor, in recognition of this omission, has allowed me clarify thisadjustment, as it has a bearing on Fox’s interpretation.
In the paragraph dealing with Peter Hart’s use of anonymousinformants’ material (top of p. 18) I wrote: ‘I quote directly by namethe evidence of Volunteers in the same section who fought besideVolunteers shot after the false surrender and final ceasefire’. Thisshould have read ‘after ceasefire and false surrender’, because aftercalling surrender followed by (first) ceasefire the Auxiliariesreactivated the fight, thus falsifying their surrender call. Withoutany guarantee as to the outcome, Barry took up the challenge. Thereforeit was a fight to final ceasefire, and consequently there were noprisoners.
Contemporary British supporters—Crozier (Auxiliary O/C) and Curtis(adviser to Lloyd George)—acknowledged the false surrender, as didKilmichael section commander Stephen O’Neill and Jack Hennessy insection 2 (Bureau of Military History). So also did contemporarywriters—Beaslai, O’Malley and MacCann. Therefore Fox’s interpretationof ‘Auxiliary prisoners’ (all armed with revolvers and rifles) beingkilled in ‘the aftermath of the ambush’ is not valid. Logically, inthat ambush climate Fox’s interpretation of Barry’s quotation (TomBarry: IRA freedom fighter (pb edn), p. 76) is misinterpreted, as thefalse surrender nullified the possibility of the taking of prisoners.


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