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Local Civil War battle part of the national story



JAMIE MOYNIHAN's memoirs give details for the first time, in book form at least, of the Civil War Battle of Ballyvourney in December 1922.

The book states that less than 3% of the IRA volunteers in the Muskerry Gaeltacht area supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty or joined the Free State side.

A meeting of 135 Baile Bhúirne company volunteers was held in farmyard at the Bóna Bán, overlooking St Gobnait's shrine, and a similar gathering of volunteers convened in the Cúil Aodha company area.

"There was unanimous support for the Republican stand (anti-Treaty)," says Jamie Moynihan in the book.

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The book relates how Moynihan took part in several Civil War operations in the Munster area during 1922-1923 period.

The mention of the Civil War anywhere in Ireland can be a sensitive subject, even in the present day, but there is more to reconcile than divide in this latest book. The book describes how the leader on the Republican side, Éamonn De Valera, was in Ballingeary on 20 August 1922, two days before Michael Collins was killed, and is quoted locally as saying: "If at all possible, I'm hoping to meet Michael Collins over the next two or three days." This is not a sinister suggestion in the book, as details of a proposed 'Collins-De Valera pact' are also outlined.

The meeting never took place, as Michael Collins was killed at Béal na Bláth on 22 August 1922.

A company of 125 Free State soldiers from County Carlow occupied Ballyvourney in late November 1922, and having taken prisoner a local Republican volunteer, they held him at the then named Hibernian Hotel in Ballymakeera village. He was to be executed in Cork the following day.

A force of Anti-Treaty volunteers, including Jamie Moynihan, decided to rescue their comrade, and the account of the ensuing battle is vivid and frightening, when one considers the streetscape described in the book is very recognisable in present day Ballymakeera.

Each side had an armoured car, the one on the Republican side, the 'Sliabh na mBan', having been hijacked from Free Sate barracks in Bandon the previous night. The armoured car was part of the convoy, of which General Michael Collins was killed three months earlier.

Free State soldiers rolled two grenades under the Sliabh na mBan in Ballymakeera; while the explosion lifted it off the ground, it was not put out of action.

Republican soldiers forced their way into the hotel, firing shots up through the ceiling. The book states that an army sergeant was killed and that 15 soldiers were wounded on the Free State side. While the local Republican prisoner was freed as a result of the attack, a local civilian was killed during the battle.

The Free State soldiers who surrendered, were escorted to the County Bounds, from where they walked to State barracks in Killarney.