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Response to Review

Dear Editors,
Gerard Murphy’s review of my book Massacre in West Cork contains many errors. The reviewer also engages in crass speculation regarding my motives. Please allow me to correct some of his errors. To list them all would be an unreasonable burden on your readers.

The review concludes with a bizarre speculation suggesting the book “is perhaps just another example of blaming Protestants for their own suffering”. Murphy goes on to ask whether the book is “A sincere and honest effort, or a piece of political playacting?” He then answers his own question: “We’ll find out if and when his more selective data appear as ‘fact’ in Wikipedia. By their fruits ye shall know them.”

What does he mean by “a piece of political playacting”? Why snidely suggest that I would contribute to the partisan “Dunmanway Killings” Wikipedia page? In Murphy’s view the jury is out on whether my work is honest! By any standards his remarks are mean-spirited and nasty. If “By their fruits ye shall know them” then the fruits in Murphy’s garden must be very bitter indeed.

Why would I blame Protestants for their own suffering? Throughout the book I express my view that the 1922 massacre was a wildly disproportionate and inexcusable reprisal for the shooting of Michael O’Neill (see for example pages 163,173). With the exception of Herbert Woods, even if all those shot in April 1922 had given information to the British (and there is little evidence of this) they were entirely blameless of O’Neill’s death and deserved protection, not murder. This is made clear on many occasions throughout the book.

Dr Murphy is attached to the view that the loyalist community in Bandon was not a source for intelligence on republicans. He claims disparagingly that I “resurrect the notion of the Anti-Sinn Fein League”, a group passing information to the Essex Regiment in Bandon. Murphy’s point is irrelevant. Essex Regiment intelligence officer at Bandon Major Percival told Staff College after the war that local loyalists provided him with most of his information. If the IRA suspected individuals they were likely to be shot so Percival visited them at night to reduce the risk, (p 94 and footnote 130 p 239). Whether there was an actual league or not does not matter. Loyalists were actively helping the British and the British admit some were shot for this active support. In early 1921 the RIC Commissioner at Bandon stated that local loyalists were providing information and some had been shot. These are British sources. What evidence does Murphy need?

I suspect Dr Murphy is more concerned with defending his own tenuous thesis than engaging with the book as it is. I have too much respect for the people living on our island to indulge him further.
Barry Keane

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