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Pension pot for IRA man in shadow of pogrom

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Pictured seated at the rear of the open top car at the Munster Arms Hotel at Oliver Plunkett street Bandon Co Cork hours before the ambush at Beal Na Blath was General Michael Collins. Inset, Denis Sonny O'Neill

Pictured seated at the rear of the open top car at the Munster Arms Hotel at Oliver Plunkett street Bandon Co Cork hours before the ambush at Beal Na Blath was General Michael Collins. Inset, Denis Sonny O'Neill

Pictured seated at the rear of the open top car at the Munster Arms Hotel at Oliver Plunkett street Bandon Co Cork hours before the ambush at Beal Na Blath was General Michael Collins. Inset, Denis Sonny O'Neill

A FORMER IRA man accused of murdering Protestants in West Cork in 1922 received a military service pension, records reveal.

Daniel O'Neill was a brother of Denis "Sonny" O'Neill who is believed to have shot Michael Collins. Denis O'Neill also received a military pension.

When Daniel O'Neill, from Enniskean, Co Cork, first applied for a pension in 1925 he was turned down. An army intelligence report had described him as "an unscrupulous individual" who "took part in the murder of several Protestants in West Cork".

However, despite the murder allegation, he successfully applied in 1953 for a pension based on his IRA service, according to the latest records released by Military Archives.

The murder of the Protestants followed the killing of Daniel's brother Michael O'Neill, a local IRA commander, during the truce period that followed the War of Independence.

Michael O'Neill was shot dead in late April 1922 after he broke into the home of a Protestant, Loyalist family at Ovens, in the early hours of the morning, to commandeer a car.

One of the occupants of Ballygroman House, a former British Army officer, Captain Herbert Woods, is believed to have fired the shot that killed him.

Woods may have panicked when the intruder broke in. Nevertheless he and the other occupants of the house, the elderly Thomas Hornibrook and his son Samuel, were taken away by armed men and executed. Their bodies were never found.

Over the following nights, gunmen murdered nine Protestants in their homes in West Cork. The victims ranged in age from 16 to 82 and terrified Protestants fled their homes.

The republican movement had split over the Treaty, and both sides condemned the atrocity. A local anti-Treaty IRA leader Tom Hales threatened reprisals on anybody breaking military discipline.

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A former member of the IRA, Michael V. O'Donoghue, later said that the killings "were a reprisal for the murder of Mick O'Neill".

O'Donoghue, a President of the GAA in the 1950s, insisted in a statement to the Bureau of Military History that the victims were "aiders and abettors of the British Secret Service" though gave no evidence. Others see the killings as a "hate crime" against members of a vulnerable minority community.

A few weeks after the atrocity, the Civil War broke out and the two O'Neill brothers, ex-members of the RIC, were firmly on the anti-Treaty republican side, fighting the Free State forces led by Michael Collins.

In an ambush at Beal na Blath, Co Cork on August 22 1922, Collins was shot dead, and many believe he was killed by Denis O'Neill, an expert marksman who had served in France with the British Army in World War I.


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