Friday 2 December 2016

Bloody fable of Kilmichael's dead

Published 26/11/2000 | 00:11

John A Murphy on conflicting versions of the 1920 West Cork ambush in which 17 Auxiliaries died at the hands of Tom Barry's flying column

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ON TUESDAY next, the 80th anniversary of the Kilmichael ambush, the consistently high-quality television programme Léargas will deal with that major episode in the independence struggle. I was one of those asked by presenter Pat Butler to comment on its historical significance and in this article I give my views more fully, as well as adding a local and personal dimension.

Only a week after Michael Collins's squad had devastated British intelligence with the Bloody Sunday assassinations in Dublin, 17 Auxiliary "cadets" were wiped out in an ambush on a bleak roadside at Kilmichael, between Macroom and Dunmanway, by a 40-strong flying column of the West Cork Brigade under its 22-year-old commander, Tom Barry. Three members of the column died in the encounter. The term "cadet", used extensively in British reports, is misleading: The men of "C" company were ex-army and RAF officers, experienced and decorated Great War veterans whose average age was 27. They comprised a crack unit of a force specially recruited to deal with the IRA.

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