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Home Uncategorized Murder on the Bandon River

Murder on the Bandon River

Gerard Murphy
Massacre in West Cork: The Dunmanway and Ballygroman Killings, by Barry Keane, Mercier Press, 288 pp, €19.99, ISBN: 978-1781172032 Much that has been written on the Dunmanway massacre of some thirteen Protestants by the IRA in 1922 over the past fifteen years, and especially on the internet, has been little more than an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. The current Wikipedia page on the subject, for instance, states categorically that eight of those murdered were “suspected informers” and two more were relatives of same. Yet when you check the sources you find that there is no real evidence for this, other than some rather loose speculation. For this reason, I approached Barry Keane’s new book on the subject with some trepidation. Keane, you feel, is a brave man to take on this contentious topic, which of course is only contentious because some people have decided to make it so, largely for political reasons. The good news, however, is that Massacre in West Cork is better than I had feared it might be, and does not add to the growing mountain of bad-tempered material on the subject. First the facts. On the night of April 25th/26th, 1922 an IRA party broke into the house of Thomas Hornibrook at Ballygroman, Ovens, about seven miles west of Cork city. Hornibrook, a Protestant, had been the object of persistent intimidation over the previous few years because of his loyalism. In the house that night were Thomas Hornibrook, his son, Samuel, and his son-in-law’s nephew, Herbert Woods. Woods was an ex-British army captain with the reputation for recklessness. As the IRA men climbed the stairs Woods, who was armed, fired on them, fatally wounding Michael O’Neill, the leader of the IRA party. The following morning Woods and the Hornibrooks were arrested by the IRA, charged with the shooting of O’Neill, taken to “an unknown destination” and killed. Over the following few nights ten more Protestants were killed, mostly in the Dunmanway area, and several others were lucky to escape with their lives. Evidence now emerging suggests that the killers were the comrades of the dead Michael O’Neill stationed in the area, suggesting that that the motivation was mostly revenge. Barry Keane tells us at the outset that his aim is to “tell the story of what happened over the course of these events honestly and fairly”. The book adopts a conciliatory tone and…



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