Peter Hart has accused his critics of criticizing him in an "objectionable way" - see Indymedia link above Reviewers of Ryan's Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter have remarked on the wealth of evidence that Ryan has unearthed. She removed the lynchpin of Hart's case, that Tom Barry did not mention the false surrender until the publication of his Guerilla Days in Ireland in , that he invented it many years after the battle.
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The apparent failure to mention it in a major article by Barry on Kilmichael for the Irish Press was promoted by Hart as a most significant item of evidence. However, Ryan quoted a contemporaneous letter from Barry to the Irish Press criticizing the paper for editing out the reference. Hart appears to have missed Barry's reference to the false surrender in a piece he wrote for the Irish defense forces magazine, An Cosantoir, in Of course, as Hart himself admits, the false surrender story was "circulating within the IRA as early as ", fn So why would Barry be required to invent it in ?
Ryan's interviews with Kilmichael veterans all elicited references to the false surrender.
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Down through the years, the only person to cast doubt on the false surrender is Peter Hart, arriving on the scene in If the false surrender story was a gigantic lie, it was one concocted by over 36 members of the ambush party and three scouts that stood the test of time until Peter Hart came along. It is surprising that during all that time no ambush participant, even in the anonymous and confidential accounts given to the Bureau of Military History in the s some years after the celebrated and world wide publishing sensation that was Tom Barry's Guerrilla Days in Ireland in blurted out that Barry's false surrender story was a tissue of lies.
Peter Hart's witness for the prosecution did not avail himself of the opportunity. Instead he silently nursed his grievance concerning the supposed monumental insult to those who fought at Kilmichael for another 30 years. If Peter Hart had not come along, the anonymous source might have taken the story to his grave and we would now know nothing about it.
In which case this opportunity to question the methods of revisionist historiography might also have been lost. Readers are left to judge for themselves where the incoherence lies. In fact it was a direct quotation from Hart, given to the Sunday Times April 19, : "Barry is still considered to be an idealistic figure, unlike the great majority of his comrades he was little more than a serial killer and thought of the revolution largely in terms of shooting people. His politics were very primitive. It is either a faulty memory or perhaps some other factor that caused Hart to fail to mention Tom Barry in that regard.
Reference to Tom Barry the peacemaker conflicts with the tabloid depiction of Tom Barry the "serial killer" or "hard man".
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Similarly the evidence that Tom Barry let British prisoners go does not gel with the story of the prisoner killer. Presumably that is why it is ignored. Taken with Brian Murphy's revelation on the use of archive material, perhaps we should not be surprised.
Author: John Stevens
It is but one example of new evidence produced by Ryan. Her relating of the list to the existence of the paramilitary loyalist gangs that operated with British forces is also new. Does Peter Hart still sit in dogged dismissal of this evidence? His book dismissed official references to the loyalist gangs for no apparent reason other than, again, it did not suit his argument that Protestants who were shot by the IRA were shot because of their religion.
In a sense Peter Hart's is a replay of British propaganda of the period.
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For example he emphasizes the Protestant religion of casualties of IRA violence and downplays or ignores the fact that religion was immaterial to Tom Barry, who was always careful to draw a distinction between 'loyalist' and 'Protestant'. Barry noted that "bigotry was not confined to the Protestants for the ignorant and petty-minded Catholics had their fair share of this ancient curse".
But then to see that would negate the central plank of his argument. More Roman Catholics than Protestants were found to have been and were exposed or shot as informers in West Cork. Left-wing veneer Another aspect of Peter Hart's work is the adoption of a sort of sociological history, which gives his analysis a left-wing veneer, evidenced by apparent concern for tramps and vagabonds being the object of IRA attentions.
Similarly a hierarchy of rank within the IRA is remarked upon in one of the many asides that clutter Peter Hart's account. As Meda Ryan has pointed out in one of her many lucid findings this observation bears no relationship whatever to the military situation at the time, to the important and highly exposed role played by scouts, or to the formal recognition afforded to them by Tom Barry and others. What does stand out from Hart's account is a consistently negative attitude to Tom Barry and attempts to undermine his historical standing, despite evidence to the contrary.
Negative view of unionism What is new in Peter Hart's interview is a more negative view of unionism and its role. Incidentally, I think that one of the big untold stories of this period is how Protestant churches behaved In the North - it's not a pretty picture. Nationalist rhetoric is recognized as having an anti-sectarian character and intent: "One key difference between North and south was that in the South it was not the Free State or the Catholic church that was responsible for anti-Protestant violence - they were largely blame free.
If true a blatantly sectarian act and one that Hart says was in keeping with the sectarian and ethnically based war carried out on the republican side which included those who were to lead the Free State.
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