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Alan Stanley's book: "I Met Murder on the Way"

category offaly | history and heritage | opinion/analysis author Tuesday May 30, 2006 17:03author by Pat Muldowney Report this post to the editors

Alan Stanley’s book describes the death of the Pearson brothers using a variety of sources:
(1) The contemporary (July 7 1921) account in the Unionist newspaper “The King’s County Chronicle, Parsonstown” (King’s County and Parsonstown are, respectively, Co. Offaly and Birr) which quotes their sister Matilda Pearson on her brothers’ death and the burning of their house;
(2) A 1983 description by a surviving Pearson brother David Pearson in Australia;
(3) A summary of descriptions of those events by William Stanley who was with the Pearson brothers when they were arrested and who subsequently lived in Carlow until his death in 1981;
(4) A number of comments gathered by Alan Stanley, mostly from Protestant neighbours and relatives of the Pearsons after 1981, and principally from Tom Mitchell of Kinnitty near Coolacrease.

The page numbers refer to the edition of Stanley's book published July 2005.

Editors Note: This article originally refered back to the indymedia feature at: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/74400

The basic facts of the Pearson case, on which all accounts essentially agree, are as follows. On Thursday June 30 1921, Richard and Abraham Pearson (aged 24 and 19) were saving hay in a field on their estate at Coolacrease with their younger brother David (aged 14) and their close friend and distant relative William Stanley. When a group of 30 or so members of the Irish Republican Army arrived, William Stanley escaped by running away. The Pearson brothers were brought back to the house, where an IRA death sentence was read to them. They were shot by a firing party, and their house and outhouses were burnt down. Prior to this, all accounts refer to some trouble between the Pearsons and local Catholics, in which the three older Pearson brothers (Richard, Abraham and Sydney) and their father William sought to prevent the use of a traditional mass path through their estate. And all accounts agree that a couple of weeks before the brothers’ death there was a clash with the IRA near Coolacrease House when the IRA were engaged a road-blocking manoeuvre. (According to Patrick Heaney, the purpose of the road-block was to facilitate an IRA ambush on the British forces near Birr, preventing British reinforcements from getting through from Tullamore on the other side of Coolacrease and Cadamstown.)

Stanley’s book maintains (pages 12, 13, 72, 97) that, like other Protestants in the area, the Pearsons’ social credentials were established, and that a repetition of the naked sectarian conflict that opened up in 1798, in the Orange terror of that time, was completely unexpected (page 31). According to him (page 67), the Pearsons bought the farm in 1912, at a time when the large Coolacrease estate was expected to be divided up among the locals, thereby causing resentment against the Pearsons.

In contrast to Alan Stanley, Patrick Heaney reports unfavourably on the Pearsons’ social attitudes at this time. The mass path incident is an indicator of an actively sectarian hostility towards the people among whom they lived, which was demonstrated in many additional ways. In potent displays of threat and contempt they would gallop on horseback through the groups of Sunday Mass-goers to force them off the roads. When the local Cadamstown IRA were arrested and imprisoned, they triumphantly erected white flags around their estate. Whether or not the Pearsons were instrumental in these arrests, it is hardly possible to misread this kind of thing as being anything other than age-old Orange Croppy-Lie-Down supremacism, not different from the routine humiliation that white settlers in Africa liked to inflict on the natives.

Stanley reflects (page 72) on whether the Pearsons were estranged or alienated from their Catholic and Protestant neighbours, and concludes they were not. But, as we shall see, his own account tells us a very different story. The Pearsons were not the simple, quaint, rustic Bible-folk, full of Christian humility and charity towards all, portrayed by Alan Stanley and Eoghan Harris; and the War of Independence brought out their Orange predilections.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue May 30, 2006 17:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Stanley’s book: Fact or Humbug?
How reliable is Alan Stanley’s account? He began to visit the Coolacrease-Cadamstown-Kinnitty area to investigate the Pearson case after the death of his father William Stanley in 1981, because, he says (page 35), he thought his father might have withheld some information. He does not say why he suspected his father was less than truthful. But after speaking to a number of people – but not, it seems, to any of the IRA men who were involved and who were still alive at that time – he says that he came to the conclusion that his father had indeed told him the truth (page 35).

But he says (page 69) that his father never mentioned a “security people” attack on the IRA road-block near Coolacrease House in which two IRA men were shot. This was the crucial incident which sealed the fate of the Pearson brothers, and William Stanley was in residence with the Pearsons in Coolacrease House at the time.

Alan Stanley says (page 18) that William told him he had got in trouble with the IRA at his home place about forty miles away in Carlow. But amazingly, he also says (page 103) that he had been misled by his father about what the nature of that trouble was. In pages 101-103 he describes the late 19th century evictions of many Catholic families from their homes on the estates of Lord Lansdowne around Luggacurran, Co. Laois, and the grabbing of their land by four Stanley brothers, including his grandfather, William Stanley’s father who was a member of the Orange Order (page 108). Alan says (page 103) that after William’s death in 1982, he found out from his father’s first cousin in Carlow that William was part of an armed loyalist paramilitary group there, which engaged in hostile militaristic displays to intimidate the community, and that he was part of a plot with local Auxiliaries to “lift” (ambush and kill, presumably, since arrest was the business of the British military and police forces) an IRA man with whom William had been friendly prior to the Troubles. The IRA discovered the plot and ordered William out. But instead of retiring to refuge with relatives in Ulster as he did later, he took refuge with the Pearsons in Coolacrease House not too far away in Co. Offaly, where according to Patrick Heaney he made himself known under the bogus name Jimmy Bradley.

Can we rely on the truth of this account of William Stanley’s paramilitary activities by his cousin? Perhaps it was a malicious invention of someone who did not like him? Unlike most of the other salient points in Alan Stanley’s book, it is not corroborated by the accounts of Patrick Heaney and Michael Cordial (Witness Statement, Bureau of Military History), who provide no information on this matter. But it is accepted as fact by William Stanley’s son Alan, even though it blows out of the water the case he is trying to make about the innocence of the Pearsons. And this was not the reason why William Stanley was ordered out by the Carlow IRA, then what was the reason?

Alan Stanley makes great play (page 71) of Patrick Heaney’s description (as “a British Army officer”) of the third adult in the hayfield – his father, the mysterious William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley who made his escape by running away when the Pearson brothers were arrested by the IRA. As if sheltering a loyalist paramilitary rather than a British Army officer adds to the case for the innocence of the Pearsons!

It is most unlikely that the Pearsons were unaware of the paramilitary activities which led William Stanley to their door looking for refuge and using the false name Jimmy Bradley. They did not have to give him refuge as an obligation of friendship. It was not as if he had nowhere else to go. He could easily have withdrawn completely from the local arena to relatives in Ulster as he did later. What reason did he have to stay, if not to continue his paramilitary activities? To help the Pearsons with hay-making? There is no doubt but that William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley spelt trouble. Can we really believe that the Pearsons would have continued to shelter him under a false name in those circumstances if they were unsympathetic to his loyalist paramilitary commitment?

And what if the Pearsons were even more partisan and committed to the British terror than William Stanley himself was? Such conclusions of Pearson sympathy or complicity with loyalist paramilitarism are inescapable, not from any Republican account, but from Alan Stanley’s own account.

The next question is whether or not the Pearsons themselves actually get involved in loyalist paramilitarism. What can we deduce from Stanley’s own account of the road-block incident?

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue May 30, 2006 17:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Attack on the Road-block
Alan Stanley gives several different versions. Significantly, he says (page 69) that his father never mentioned anything about the IRA being taken by surprise by British security forces, but instead described several shooting incidents outside Coolacrease House in the evenings while the Pearsons were indoors, shootings which according to him were intended to intimidate the Pearsons. True or not, neither Stanley’s nor any other account describe any such treatment of any other Protestant household (or any other household at all) in that part of Offaly. So we must conclude from Stanley’s account that the Pearsons were exceptional. What was so different about them? Resentment over land is mentioned (pages 48, 67). But that, if true, was unexceptional, and even today is not unknown, among and between people of every religious persuasion and of none. Anyway, Stanley’s interpretation of the events is based, not on this, but on an assumption of religious bigotry or sectarianism (pages 41, 42), and he relies (page 99) on a forced analogy with the 1969-94 war in Northern Ireland. Which leaves the problem of explaining why other Protestants (landed or otherwise) in the Cadamstown/Coolacrease area were unaffected.

Stanley reports (page 68) that a Carlow cousin of his fathers told him that the IRA were surprised at the road-block by British forces, probably police and Auxiliaries he said; that there was a brief gun battle leaving one man of each side wounded; that the IRA believed it was the Pearsons and William Stanley that attacked them; and that the Pearsons were killed because of that. All the other accounts mention such a skirmish. Why did William Stanley not mention this crucial incident to Alan in those terms?

The closest that William comes to describing such an incident (according to Alan Stanley’s book, page 35) is as follows: Shortly before he was killed by the IRA, Richard Pearson challenged a group of IRA men sawing down a tree on his land for a road-block. Then he went back to the house to get a shotgun, which he fired over the heads of the IRA men at the road-block. Michael Cordial’s account in his Witness Statement (Bureau of Military History) also says that shotguns were used in the attack. Shotguns are a civilian weapon, not a military one, and their sound and effect are easily recognisable and distinguishable from military weapons.

What are we to make of all this? Is this a separate and distinct incident from the supposed security forces’ attack on the road-block which inflicted IRA casualties? Hardly. And if the Pearsons fired a warning shot only, how do we explain the IRA casualties? Did they inflict them on each other? The most credible versions of this incident are provided by Michael Cordial and, curiously, William Stanley himself, as reported by Alan Stanley. Putting together the various accounts, most likely what actually happened is that the IRA road-block activity was observed by the Pearsons and William Stanley and they fired on the IRA men, wounding one of them seriously and another lightly.

So in effect, William Stanley’s account as reported in Alan Stanley’s book actually confirms the account given in the formal IRA report by Michael Cordial. The Pearsons and William Stanley attacked the IRA at the road-block and shot two of them.

Could the recognised, official British forces as such also have been involved in the same attack along with the paramilitary Pearsons and William Stanley? These forces would have had some difficulty in taking the IRA by surprise if they had to travel the thirteen miles or so through open country from their bases in Birr and Tullamore along routes blocked by a number of IRA barriers because of the attack planned at Birr. It would have been difficult – unless some British soldiers were present in Coolacrease House, a possibility which cannot be ruled out in the light of the evidence provided by Alan Stanley himself of toing-and-froing by British army personnel at Coolacrease House, and in the light of the reports of other witnesses. (See Patrick Heaney’s account of surveillance of the Pearsons (page 308) and his description below, of information about them provided by a British Army deserter to the IRA.)

Patrick Heaney’s account says the IRA thought they might have wounded one of their attackers. This may have been wishful thinking on their part. Alan Stanley makes a point (page 69) that none of the Pearsons, nor William Stanley, suffered any gunshot wounds prior to the executions. But Cordial does not mention any casualties inflicted by the IRA in their response to the attack. So Alan Stanley’s point may be a red herring.

After the road-block incident in which all of the Cadamstown IRA were involved, the seriously injured man was secretly treated for his injuries in an undercover ward in Tullamore Hospital, but the others were arrested and jailed. According to Alan Stanley (page 36), prior to returning to the road-block with a shotgun to fire “over the heads” of the IRA, Richard Pearson went to the road-block, challenged the Cadamstown IRA party, and exchanged words with them. Whether or not this is true, we can be reasonably certain that the Pearsons and William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley observed the IRA men at the road-block before attacking them with shotgun fire. And it is quite likely that on the following day they reported the names and addresses of the IRA men (all of whom were their immediate neighbours in the Cadamstown/Coolacrease area) to the British, causing their arrest and capture in a clean sweep.

If this is the case then the Pearsons took out the whole of the Cadamstown IRA – disabling one, and putting the rest in jail. This was no small feat, and would explain why a party of 30 of the Offaly IRA came after them.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue May 30, 2006 17:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Spies and Informers
Michael Cordial’s account states that the Pearsons were shot because they were involved in the attack on the IRA at the road-block. Alan Stanley’s book confirms that. Patrick Heaney’s account, gleaned from many interviews with survivors and contemporaries, says that they were spies and informers – deadly, secret accomplices of the British terror which was causing death and mayhem across Ireland. Alan Stanley relates (page 31) that this is a widespread view in the area, including among some Protestants who said that “They brought it on themselves”.

Other Protestants, he says (page 31), felt incomprehension; which is not surprising since for several generations the balm of oblivion had been applied to these events until they were resurrected last year by Stanley and given national publicity in bitterly partisan newspaper articles by Eoghan Harris. Comments on page 94 indicate that the Pearsons themselves chose never to speak of the events, not even among themselves. In 1983 David Pearson himself said in his single, brief, written statement, that he “would like to forget this sordid affair” (page 48). Forget his murdered brothers? A tellingly incongruous form of words if the Pearsons were blameless. But not incongruous if “they brought it on themselves”.

In support of the espionage verdict, Patrick Heaney’s book says that incriminating correspondence between the Pearsons and the British military was intercepted. Alan Stanley’s only comment on this is “They would say that, wouldn’t they” (page 70), and for support refers to Peter Hart’s views in “The IRA and its Enemies”, a book which has been discredited by Meda Ryan in her book “Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter”, Mercier Press 2003. In fact Alan Stanley’s attitude to the mass of evidence against the Pearsons, much of it provided by himself, is blanket denial. The problem with Stanley and Eoghan Harris is their uncritical belief in British virtue in every time and place, and their acceptance of British propaganda which portrays as the personification of evil whoever Britain happens to select as its current enemy.

But blind faith was not in evidence in the Pearsons’ hour of need. It would appear that the only assistance that the Pearsons could obtain after the June 30 shootings, apart from a visit by a local doctor to attend to the two brothers (page 49), was from the R.I.C. and the British Army. After the shootings, 14-year-old David Pearson cycled thirteen miles to the R.I.C. barracks in Tullamore to seek help. Coolacrease is about half way between Birr and Tullamore, with the village of Kinnitty about four miles away in the direction of Birr.

A doctor from Kinnitty was summoned to Coolacrease (by “a civilian”, page 26, perhaps a Pearson sister) to attend to the two Pearson brothers who survived for a number of hours and who were removed by the Birr police (page 25) to Birr Military Hospital where they died during the night from blood loss and shock (page 28). Stanley’s book does not explain how the Birr police were contacted. Telephones would have been rare in those days, and would have depended on vulnerable wire connections. It may still have been possible to send a telegram to Birr from a Post Office in Kinnitty, if the telegraph wires were uncut. Anyway, by the time David Pearson returned from Tullamore in a Crossley tender the Pearson brothers had been removed to Birr military hospital (page 47), and, presumably, the Pearson women had also been taken to their relative’s house in Birr (page 25). His father William Pearson and brother Sydney were away from home that day (page 46) and were not informed of what had happened until the following day (page 25).

What is amazing is that David Pearson and his mother and sisters seem to have been unable to obtain local assistance except from the police and military in Birr and Tullamore, each nearly fifteen miles away in opposite directions from Coolacrease. According to Patrick Heaney there were about half a dozen Protestant families near Coolacrease. At least some of these must have been wealthy, possessing a lively hunter or fast pony and trap, if not a motor car. Motor transport was not uncommon in 1921. (The Pearsons themselves had a tractor (page 47), disabled during the IRA raid.) The absence of their father William and brother Sydney meant that only the women (mother and three sisters) with two female cousins (page 24) and the 14-year-old David were at home. Why did no local person come to the assistance of such non-belligerents?

William Stanley was fleeing on foot in the direction of Tullamore that afternoon and evening; and was refused refuge at the house of his friends the Bryants only a mile from Tullamore town according to Alan Stanley (page 38), but actually much closer to Coolacrease. Alan Stanley implies that the refusal was due to fear of the IRA. It is hard to believe that this is sufficient explanation for total withdrawal of community support from the Pearson women at such a time. The Pearson brothers died overnight, some hours later, not from injuries to any vital organs, but from shock and blood loss (Stanley, page 27). So perhaps prompt surgical measures could have stopped the bleeding and saved their lives. Yet the Kinnitty doctor who attended them, three to four hours after they had been shot (pages 26-27, 47-49), had to cycle the four miles from Kinnitty to Coolacrease. If sympathetic neighbours had gone round to the traumatised Pearson women and children immediately, fast horse or motor transport could have been quickly organised to get medical assistance or to move the brothers to a hospital.

It is not believable that young David Pearson did not call frantically at the houses of neighbours as he cycled towards Tullamore that afternoon. Why did not some of them relieve young David, send a fast message on to Tullamore, and make all haste to Coolacrease to see what could be done? After any form of military action has ended, seeing to the dead and wounded is normal practice; most especially if any of the casualties (among whom we might count the surviving, traumatised, Pearson women and children) are thought to be innocent or uninvolved.

The burial (pages 29 to 34) of the Pearson brothers took place on the following Sunday morning. The bodies were brought to a cemetery by Crossley tenders, escorted by a large party of military, with dogs. Graves had already been dug (by British soldiers presumably). No religious ceremonial took place at the cemetery, and Alan Stanley could not report any evidence of any other rites. (He speculates about the Pearsons’ particular form of religious practice to explain away this strange conduct.) Soldiers performed the burial, without military honours or salute or religious ritual or prayer. Only two sisters were at the graveside. Their mother and female cousin stayed in a Crossley tender outside the graveyard. The whole thing was over in minutes. Stanley says (page 30) that a congregation was present at the Sunday morning religious service when the burial took place. Yet apparently even these people did not participate in any way in the interment of the Pearsons; there is nothing in Stanley’s account to indicate that any of them even came forward to offer condolences. Surrounded on all sides by armed British soldiers and Crossley tenders, in a Protestant churchyard, fear of the IRA does not explain the apparent ostracism of the Pearsons.

Alan Stanley (pages 33-34) uses the military presence at the burial to dispose of two charges against the Pearsons. The presence of the military implies they could not have been spies or informers, he says, because no power acknowledges its spies whenever they are exposed. On the other hand he says they could not have been attached to the military in hostile military action against the IRA while in civilian disguise (like, for instance, Captain Nairac in Northern Ireland in the early 1970’s). Otherwise military honours (rifle volleys or the like) would have been given by the British.

In other words, because the military were present the Pearsons could not have been spies or informers against the IRA. And because the military were present, but did not provide a military salute, the Pearsons could not have been part of the official British military forces. Stanley is stretching credulity in his use of the same fact, in contradictory ways, to refute two distinct hypotheses.

But the significant facts are the total absence of any civil involvement with the Pearsons from the shootings on Thursday until, at least, the burial on Sunday; and the overwhelming involvement of the British state forces. Even the registration of the burials at the attached church was neglected. This was not finally done until Alan Stanley himself saw to it in 1981.

The two Pearson brothers were dead, by Sunday their father and other adult brother were presumably taking refuge with the British military and, according to Alan Stanley’s book, apparently did not attend the burials even though the event was under the total control of the British Army. William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley had fled. So why did the community withdraw the most basic social support from the Pearson women and children, now all alone, their home destroyed, suffering fearsome trauma?

A reasonable explanation is that the Pearsons by their conduct had placed themselves beyond the pale, and there was no sympathy for them in any quarter. In other words, “They brought it on themselves”.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue May 30, 2006 17:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Alan Stanley’s book is written in a very confusing way, and numerous factual errors have been pointed out by Patrick Heaney. So it is unreliable. Whatever the underlying truth of the matter may be, the basic story is itself a relatively uncomplicated series of facts. But Stanley manages to chop up the narrative and scatter his facts all over the place, like a jigsaw. On careful examination, however, the accounts of Stanley, Heaney and Cordial reinforce each other. This was inadvertent on the part of Stanley. His actual intention was to refute Patrick Heaney’s account, but instead the story related by Heaney and Cordial is confirmed by William Stanley’s evasions and contradictions. So in a curious and inadvertent manner, Alan Stanley has actually contributed to our understanding of these events.

Is there any reasonable explanation for such a large party, 30 or so, of IRA men in the attack on the Pearsons? If, as Stanley alleges, their purpose was sectarian assassination of innocent, defenceless people, then that would have been more easily and efficiently accomplished by one or two assassins at the hayfield. The arrival of a large party actually alerted William Stanley and saved his life. If, on the other hand the Pearsons, like William Stanley, were active paramilitaries, perhaps supported by members of the British Army, a military engagement might have been expected.

Six weeks earlier (see Michael Cordial’s Witness Statement) a party of no more than five of the Cadamstown IRA had successfully ambushed a party of seven RIC and Black & Tans in Kinnitty. If the IRA had reason to expect substantial military opposition in Coolacrease, then a large party may have been called for in order to carry out their mission. Patrick Heaney says Coolacrease House may have been prepared for armed defence, with holes knocked through walls – possible firing positions – which are still visible in the ruins. Michael Cordial reports ammunition explosions as the house burned. So putting in a relatively large force may have been militarily prudent.

Alan Stanley’s informants include two eye-witnesses, David Pearson who provided a brief statement in 1983 and William Stanley (Jimmy Bradley) whose story as reported by Alan is evasive and unreliable. From about 1981, sixty years after the event, Alan Stanley occasionally visited the Cadamstown area to investigate; but he did not interview any of the participating IRA members who were still alive then, so his investigation was not serious. The other sources on which his account is based are the contemporary local newspaper story; supplemented by scraps of apparently unreliable local information. The most striking feature of his story is what his father William Stanley chose not to tell him, but which he found out from another relative after his father’s death.

On the other hand, Michael Cordial was an eye-witness and participant. And Patrick Heaney lived all his life in the area and interviewed everyone concerned over a period of thirty years. He is evidently a leading authority on this subject. Michael Cordial’s account is brisk, matter-of-fact and military. Patrick Heaney is objective and even-handed. Searching around for something good to say, he gives credit to the Pearson brothers for at least facing death bravely, and shows a forgive-and-forget attitude towards the Pearsons though they caused death and trouble at that time by their active and voluntary involvement in the British government terror. No doubt Heaney’s tolerant spirit reflects local attitudes. The contrast with the strident, inflammatory tone of Eoghan Harris and Alan Stanley is striking.

“I met murder on the way” is the book-title chosen by Alan Stanley. The next line of Shelley’s poem is: “It had a mask like Castlereagh”. Lord Castlereagh was the architect of the 1801 Act of Union between Ireland and Britain. Shelley supported the French Revolution and the 1798 Rising in Ireland. He visited Ireland to pay his respects to the 1798 Rebels, and at least one of his poems is written in a traditional Irish style. So maybe Stanley’s title is an apt choice after all.

Bureau of Military History, 1913-21.
Statement by Witness.
Document No. W.S. 1712.

Witness: Michael Cordial, Kinnitty, Co. Offaly.
Identity: Q/M, 3rd Battalion, Offaly No. 2 Brigade.
Subject: “C” (Kinnitty) Coy., 3rd Battalion, Offaly No. 2 Bgde., I.R.A.

Conditions, if any, stipulated by Witness: Nil
File No. S.3024


Formerly Quartermaster, 3rd Battalion, Offaly No. 2 Brigade.

The attack on Pearson’s.
The Pearsons were a family who lived on an extensive farm or estate about one mile from Cadamstown and about three miles from Kinnitty. They were – particularly so, the male members of the family, father and three sons – violently opposed to the National Movement and they looked with contempt on local Volunteers or I.R.A. men.

Things reached a climax some time before the Truce when they fired with shotguns on a small party of Volunteers who were blocking a road. One Volunteer, a man named Heaney, was seriously wounded. A full report on the matter was made to the Brigade staff who after serious deliberation ordered that the four male members of the Pearson family should be executed and their house burned down.

On 30th June, 1921, a party of about thirty men were mobilised to implement the order. The house was surrounded and all women folk were removed from the scene. Fortunately for themselves, the father and one son were away from home that day. The other two sons, Richard and Abraham, were captured in a hay field. They were brought into the yard and informed of the order. A firing party was appointed and the executions were there and then duly carried out. Next, the house and out-offices were set on fire. Heavy explosions were heard while the house was burning which indicated that a large amount of ammunition was stored in it.

The remaining members of the Pearson family left the district and did not return. Years later, the Irish Land Commission acquired their estate and divided it up amongst the local people.

SIGNED: Michael Cordial
DATE: 13th December 1957

[Courtesy of the Bureau of Military History, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6.]

author by Shane M. Haydenpublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 22:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Alan Stanley and Sunday Independent Discredited

Pat Muldowney must be complemented on his historical scholarship and for his determination to uncover the real truth behind the Pearson killings. Those who have read Alan Stanley’s book ‘I Met Murder on the Way’ know that it a blatant partisan account of revisionist mischief making. Unfortunately Stanley has chosen to rehash rabid British propaganda whose insidious lies he is determined will contaminate the wider historical narrative. Stanley’s distorted version of events surrounding the deaths of the two Pearson loyalists first came to a wide public knowledge thanks to the Sunday Independent. Stanley’s findings were relentlessly promoted by Eoghan Harris who gave prominent coverage to Stanley’s book. Many gullible readers were duped by Stanley’s sloppy, inaccurate and ultimately unreliable research peddled by the Sunday Independent, renowned for their virulent anti-republicanism. It is yet another example of the litany of false news stories and lies masquerading as factual accounts which has become the hallmark of the Sunday Independent. The newspaper’s degenerate decline of any semblance of reliability is further confirmed by Harris recycling of British propaganda put forward by Stanley. The later manipulates and distorts history whereas Harris uses the pretense of ‘journalism’ to put forward his repugnant imperialist views. The Sunday Independent is not content with poisoning the present media debate in today’s Ireland with their trademark unreliability, slipshod and derisory ‘reporting.’ It also wishes to maliciously invent Irish history as well. On a more serious level is the Sunday Independent policy of not just attempting to criminalise the present republican movement but those who participated in the War of Independence.

Criminalising the Republican Struggle During the War of Independence
The underlying aim of Stanley and Harris is to vilify and criminalise the republican struggle during the War of Independence. This is clear in Dr. John Carter’s forward of ‘I Met Murder on the Way.’ Carter contemptuously dismisses the War of Independence as a series of ‘criminal events’ and accuses the I.R.A. of ‘spurning Pearse’s plea against rebel inhumanity.’ In propaganda terminology typical of the contemporary Crown Forces, Stanley depicts the War of Independence as an ‘armed conspiracy’ (p.93). Carter’s reputation is tarnished by lauding what he terms as Stanley’s ‘considerable historian’s skills.’ Objective analysis based on empirical research is a critical skill not employed by Stanley. Carter further states the book is a ‘valuable publication’ praising Stanley for bringing ‘a mature desire to look into the truth of Coolacrease.’ Carter has the arrogant audacity to state: ‘We shall never recapture the past, and it is not for the historian to invent.’ This hypocrisy is sickening considering his enthusiastic backing of Stanley’s vindictive invention of the past, which had little if any concern for the truth. Stanley’s book is littered with embittered prejudice, factual errors and gross inaccuracies. Local historian Paddy Heaney has highlighted the numerous factual errors and inaccuracies in an article recently published in ‘Offaly Heritage,’ the 2006 edition of the annual journal of the Offaly Historical and Archeological Society. Stanley’s partisan book has now been completely discredited leaving most of its contentious findings historically worthless. Stanley clumsily seeks to refute the evidence presented in Paddy Heaney’s ‘At the foot of the Slieve Bloom, History & Folklore of Cadamstown (Kilcormac Historical Society, 2000). Evidence put forward by Heaney, who conducted extensive interviews with I.R.A. men involved in the affair, are contemptuously dismissed by Stanley as ‘nationalist myth’ and an ‘insidious trap’ (p.30). Stanley never interviewed any I.R.A. men involved in spite of opportunities to do so. Objective analysis and a genuine concern for the truth are evidently not Stanley’s strong points. A quest for the truth is sidelined in favor of black propaganda. Stanley engages in an underhand and disingenuous tactic of not properly acknowledging Heaney’s book by refusing to give its title in his own book. He states that ‘More recently, an account from a nationalist point of view has appeared in a book dealing with the history and folklore of the area. It is worthy of some comment’ (p.54). Heaney’s book is apparently worthy of comment but the author and title of the book are not evidently worthy enough to be clearly stated. Stanley denies readers the opportunity to find an alternative version of events. Is this the ‘balanced work of historical illumination’ trumpeted by Dr. Jack Carter? As with the revisionist Peter Hart if evidence does not fit suppression and censorship will suffice.

Brainwashed by British Imperialism
Brainwashed by British propaganda, Stanley goes as far as to contend ‘the British military was not at war with the I.R.A.’ (p.55) and the bizarre claim that ‘They [British army] never went on the offensive’ (p.34). What about reprisals? Torture and ill-treatment of republican suspects and civilians? Extra judicial killings? For Stanley, British imperialism is sacrosanct and above any suggestion that systematic brutality and oppression led to I.R.A. resistance. Stanley lambastes the ‘myopic policy’ of Britain for not ‘using full military strength to put down’ the War of Independence (p.90). He argues the ‘British Government felt restrained by public opinion’ (p.90) and bemoans how the British did not enforce more severe oppression. As if the British oppression was not bad enough during the War of Independence, Stanley suggests it should have been escalated. Thus Stanly emerges as an outspoken apologist for British imperialism lamenting how British state violence was not severe enough. His imperialist predjudice is particularly acute when he complains that with the formation of the Free State his father William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley, a loyalist paramilitary, lost ‘a large portion of his identity.’ He continues by stating his father ‘was an Irishman, who had been born a Briton. An armed conspiracy had robbed him of that privilege, still enjoyed by his English, Welsh and Scottish former compatriots’ (p. 93). The main thesis of his book, as put forward by numerous revisionists, is that the I.R.A. was motivated by sectarianism. Stanley maintains ‘Their spokesman insist that they are not sectarian but clearly they were then, and remain so’ (p.41). For his sectarian allegations Stanley is dependent on Peter Hart’s ‘The I.R.A. and its Enemies.’ At least four times throughout his short book he refers to Hart. His sole reliance on the discredited research of Hart to back up his maligned falsehoods utterly collapses the validity of his arguments. Hart is now in disarray over his arguments and he has yet to convince his growing number of skeptics and critics. Hart’s claim that there was no false surrender at Kilmichael and that the I.R.A. orchestrated sectarian killing in Cork (Hart calls them massacres) have now been thoroughly debunked. His dishonest method of scholarship manifested itself in is his deliberate selectivity of evidence, as with Stanley, to support his arguments that the IRA were sectarian. Alarmingly Hart's work has contaminated other professional academic historians such as Diarmaid Ferritter in ‘The Transformation of Ireland, 1900-2000’ (London,2004) where he describes the Kilmichael ambush as a ‘cowardly massacre’. It is a powerful indictment against revisionism and the extent of damage it has caused, and with Stanley, continues to cause. Stanley’s desperate attempt to gain a sense of creditability by relying solely on Hart has left 'I Met Murder on the Way' of little value other than a distorted polemic against republicans that bears all the signs of contemporary British atrocity propaganda.

Muldowney and Heaney to be commended
Historiography owes Pat Muldowney and Paddy Heaney a dept of gratitude for their rigorous research based on a critical examination of the evidence. It is essential to challenge revisionists who attempt to criminalise the events of the War of Independence by recycling British propaganda in their narratives. ‘I Met Murder on the Way’ is warning of the devious deception employed by many of the revisionists. The public reaction on Indymedia , politics.ie and eleswhere should be a wake up call to any partisan individual such as Stanley that they will not get away with poor, distorted research purporting to be a 'balanced’ historical work when in reality it only reflects their inherent political prejudice of its author. The Sunday Independent by peddling partisan tripe masquerading as history has sunk to a level lower than their gutter style ‘journalism’ it has for so long been infamous for. There is at least one positive result from the Sunday Independent decision to blindly rely on Stanley’s imperialist account. The killing of the Pearson loyalists has received a critical analysis that it may not otherwise have received and has been exposed for the revisionist rubbish it is. This lessens the prospect of gullible individuals being deceived by the cheap charlatan tactics of Stanley and his cohorts in the Sunday Independent.


For an account of the numerous falsehoods and inaccurcies in Alan Stanley’s ‘I Met Murder on the Way,’ see Paddy Heaney’s article in Offaly Heritage, Vol. 4, 2006, published by the Offaly Historical and Archaolical Society. www.offalyhistory.ie Email: ohas@iol.ie

For an alternative version of events which is not acknowledged in 'I Met Murder on the Way' by Alan Stanley see
Paddy Heaney, At the foot of the Slieve Bloom, History & Folklore of Cadamstown (Kilcormac Historical Society, 2000)

For examples of the degenerate journalism and false news stories of the Sunday Independeant see Village Magazine.
http://www.villagemagazine.ie/article.asp?aid=673&iid=6...ud=36 http://www.villagemagazine.ie/article.asp?aid=1602&iid=...ud=36

For the debate over Peter Hart’s discredited findings.
History Ireland 2005, Vol. 13, Nos 2 to 5 (www.historyireland.com/magazine/features/featlist.html), www.Indymedia.ie, Irish Political Review,
Meda Ryan, Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter (2003)

For an alternative debate on the Sunday Independent's promotion of 'I Met Murder on its way’ see www.politics.ie

author by Ned Youngpublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 23:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

War Of Independence Debate On Sectarianism Descends On Unassuming Offaly

It was an Indymedia feature.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/74400
author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Wed Jun 07, 2006 14:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Patrick Heaney on Discrepancies, Errors, Misinformation and Disinformation

A lot of the truth about the Pearsons can be deduced from the evasions and contradictions in Alan Stanley account. But there is a great deal of sheer inaccuracy in it. Among a great many errors and other misinformation in Stanley’s book, Patrick Heaney notes in particular the following:

Page 12: “The problem [over the mass-path] arose because of damage being caused to crops”.
Crops did not come into it, because the mass-path, visible to this day, passed through shrubbery.

Page 22: “They [Pearsons and Jimmy Bradley/William Stanley] were surrounded [in the hayfield] by about forty armed and masked men.”
They were not masked; there were thirty, of whom ten took part in the executions.

Pages 36, 37 and 68: “The postman [Delahunty, page 68] came to deliver the mail. ... he said he had attended an [IRA] meeting at which the decision had been made to kill Richard, Abe and [William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley].”
Jim Delahunty was Quartermaster of the Cadamstown IRA and was one of the IRA party attacked by the Pearsons-Stanley/Bradley at the road-block two weeks earlier. He was arrested and jailed in the round-up following the attack on the road-block, before the Pearsons were executed. His father Tim Delahunty had been postman; he died in 1919. Tim’s sister Bess Grennan was the acting postman during 1919-24. No letters were delivered to the Pearsons’ house; they collected their post themselves from McAllister’s Post Office. (If they were engaged in communication with the British military, this would be a more secure way of dealing with correspondence. The statement in question is by William Stanley; a similar statement was made by David Pearson in 1983 (pages 46, 48). He said that his father William Pearson and brother Sydney left Coolacrease House after this information was received as “they felt they had done nothing to provoke the IRA,” and he argues that if they really were spies and informers they would have gone to the police. But spying/informing are quite different from seeking protection against a death threat. If they were innocent they can hardly be criticised now for seeking out whatever protection that could be provided, from any source, against an unwarranted threat. – P.M.) Jim Delahunty became postman in 1924. From 1982 Alan Stanley consulted Tom Mitchell of Kinnitty, who lived next door to Jim Delahunty, still alive at that time. Yet Stanley neglected to interview this crucial witness. Just as he did not publish his version until all the volunteer soldiers who defended the democratically elected government against military dictatorship were dead and safely out of the way, unable to contradict him or to defend their reputations against slander. (For details see Stanley, page 68.)

Page 37: “[William Stanley, in the hayfield] shouted a second time ‘Run for your lives’.”
If they were innocent why run?

Pages 39-40: [Account of William Stanley, on the run from the hayfield.]
He was captured in Mountbolus by the local IRA and was held at the Mahons’ house. He also was under IRA sentence of death. The Mahons released him after holding him for one day.

Page 44: [Account of William Hogg, ex-RIC.]
Tom Donnelly (IRA man wounded at the road-block) tried to shoot William Hogg, but his revolver jammed.

Page 46: “A Roman Catholic man from Cadamstown (J. White) told us the IRA had allocated a quota for each district, to be eliminated by a certain date. This may have applied to us [the Pearsons].”
Jim White [son of RIC man] and William Hogg were frequent visitors to the Pearsons. Jim White was close to one of the Pearson girls. Jack White (mentioned by Stanley on page 72) was a brother of Jim White and had already left Cadamstown at that time, to join the New York police.

Page 46: “A man by the name of Hoban or Honen arrived in the hay paddock and asked us if we had seen his horses which had strayed. In actual fact this was to pinpoint our position.” [David Pearson’s 1983 statement.]
John Joe Horan was arrested after the Pearson-Stanley/Bradley attack on the road-block. Since he was in jail he could not have been in the hayfield.

Page 47: “About 40 armed men burst into the paddock firing ... The Rebels came back next day and stole cattle, horses and harness.” [Statement by David Pearson.]
The military arrived four hours after the executions. They camped in the grounds of Coolacrease House, and remained there for over six weeks. (David Pearson made his statement about 1983. See page 48: 1921 + 62 years. Stanley’s book is remarkably free of dates, or attention even to the sequence of events. According to the contemporary newspaper report quoted by Stanley (page 25), after their house was burned down the surviving family members, including 14-year-old David, were brought to the house of a relative, Mrs Odlum, at Newbridge Street, Birr, where they stayed for some days. (According to David Pearson’s 1983 statement they were “taken into protective custody at Birr Military Barracks”.) So only the British Army was present at Coolacrease the day after the execution of the Pearsons, and David Pearson is unlikely to have witnessed what he alleged. - P.M.)

Page 70: “There is an extraordinary claim [in P. Heaney’s account] that after the incident it was discovered that British army officers were with the Pearsons on the particular night [of the attack on the IRA at the road-block].”
Charlie Chidley was a member of the British army who used to drive staff officers to the Pearsons’ place. He deserted, joined the IRA, and gave vital information about the British army’s involvement with the Pearsons.

Page 73: “... four days after the event, Mrs Susan Pearson [mother] was brought to a house in Kinnitty where a number of men was paraded before her for identification. It should come as no surprise that, as the raiders were masked, she failed to identify any of the men.”
Mrs Pearson was brought from Birr to Cadamstown and everybody, young and old, was placed along the bridge. She could not identify anybody. All of the local IRA were in jail at the time. (If it is true that the IRA execution party wore masks, what would induce Mrs Pearson, knowing this, to go to the trouble of travelling out to Cadamstown on a wild-goose chase on Monday, the day after the burials? – P.M.)

Page 98: “... the police sergeant [at Rathdowney, Co. Laois] had been one of those who made the raid on Coolacrease.”
Not one of the men who took part on that day ever joined the Gardai, and I knew them all. – Patrick Heaney.

Page 99: “[In 1981 or 1982], an elderly [Kinnitty] man called Donnelly ... became emotional and spoke loudly. He condemned the ‘Provisionals’, who shamed all decent Irishmen, and whose campaign was one of heartless murder. He then recalled the shooting of the Pearson boys, and declared this to be no less heinous. It was understood that this man had never been a member of the IRA, though he had a brother who was active.”
Tom Donnelly [one of the two IRA men wounded by the Pearsons-Stanley/Bradley at the road-block] passed away in 1976, so could not have made these statements. He did not have a brother.

Page 101: [Story of a lorryload of people jeering at the burnt-out Pearson house, the lorry then careering out of control, killing them all.]
Three people were killed in a car crash in 1982, coming from a wedding. They were from the Tullamore area and had nothing to do with the Pearsons.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Jun 08, 2006 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In the contribution headed "Conclusion" above, the following sentence appears, in relation to the arrest of the Pearson brothers by the IRA:
"The arrival of a large party actually alerted William Stanley and saved his life."
Patrick Heaney has pointed out that, unlike the Pearson father and sons, the role of William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley in the British war against the democratically elected Irish government had not been considered by the responsible authorities in the Offaly IRA, and he was not in fact under sentence of death. The quoted statement was based on the following statement in Alan Stanley's book (pages 36-7): "The postman admitted his IRA membership and said he had attended a meeting at which the decision had been made to kill Richard, Abe and my father" [that is, the Pearson brothers and William Stanley]. The difficulty with taking this at face value is the demonstrable contradictions and unreliability evident throughout Alan Stanley's book. So nothing in that book can be taken at face value, and everything must be checked for corroboration or verification. (Compare the quoted statement with the description (pages 37-40) of William Stanley's escape, capture and release (rather than execution); which should in turn be contrasted with Patrick Heaney's description of the same events.) With that proviso, Stanley's book sheds much light on those events. To illustrate: On pages 70 and 71 respectively, the following statements appear: "There is an extraordinary claim that after the incident [attack on IRA at the roadblock] it was discovered that British army officers were with the Pearsons on the particular night", and "A known "British army officer" is described fleeing the scene [of the IRA arrest of the Pearson brothers in the hayfield] and making his get-away". Since we now know that the latter "British army officer" was really the loyalist paramilitary William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley who was hiding out with the Pearsons at Coolacrease, it may be that this is the same stranger observed with the Pearsons a week or so earlier at the time of the attack on the roadblock.

author by Solas Nuapublication date Sun Jul 23, 2006 17:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

RE : The Cordial interview extract

It is not a capital crime to be contemptuous of the IRA. I am not aware of any act of the first Dail Eireann which made it so . It is alleged that the Pearson family were violently opposed to the National Movement but nothing is provided to substantiate the statement. Did they mobilise an army and put Cadamstown under siege ? Did they subject Kinnity to bombardment with field artillery ???

Re the road block saga, the case is that the IRA party had cut down a tree - Pearson property - on the property of the Pearson family. This was done without permission. If you see someone cutting down your property at dusk without your permission, it is possible for you to come to the conclusion that you are beset by theives doing their worst under cover of darkness and you might wish to challenge them

Re the wounded volunteer, others report a fatality. Which is it ? And if it was a fatalty, why does Mr. Cordial not report it .

With regard to the "heavy explosions", it is a fact that parafin explodes. It is amazing that the property would not seem to have been properly searched for arms and ammunition which were allegedly in short supply with the IRA . In the light of the serious allegations that have been subsequently made against the Pearsons, it would seem to be just that : justification after the event. Innuedo and character assassination.

With reference to comment re the departure of the Pearsons and the Irish Land Commission acquiring the farm and dividing it up amongst the local people, we clearly have the prime motivation here : Land - Land to be divided up amongst the local people and outsiders to depart (with the aid of death and arson)

author by Barra McCaillepublication date Sun Jul 23, 2006 18:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eoghan Harris is a classic case of the authoritarian personality. His purpose is to distort the memory of the great struggle for liberty of the Irish people, and to sustain the system of power and privelege which exists in contemporary Ireland. Ireland's long fight for freedom continues to animate many a struggle for liberty. Harris is a propagandist for the powerful of this world. His ignorant comments on the working class show him to be an elitist working to maintain the power of the dominant class.

author by Seanachaipublication date Mon Jul 24, 2006 02:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In response to Mr. Muldowney and Mr Heaney on the Pearsons

The Pearsons were outsiders, socially, religiously, culturally.- to use an Irish rural term "blow-ins" They acquired their property - a significant holding of circa 300 acres - prior to the First World War. Their arrival would have been resented by small farmers in the locality who would have coveted the said acres and who would have viewed them as foreign and alien : Protestant, of English ancestry (Ireland must be the only country where you are viewed as "English" even though your family settled here 300 years ago!).

The Pearsons, like others in the "strong farmer" caste had a strong proprietal sense. Their property was theirs and they did not like others to trespass on it or to cut down their trees. The well known and still very prevalent Irish rural expression "Get off our land", a favourite of Irish farmers both big and small, explains why in comparison with England you will not find too many rights of ways or public footpaths on Irish farmland. The Pearsons, as outsiders to Cadamstown, would not have been well acquainted with prevailing rights of ways, including mass paths. All parties agree that there was tension on the matter. Alan Stanley suggests that the mass path issue had been resolved well before 1921. But the small minded Irish Catholic republican fundamentalists, like the Bourbons, never forget. Even after 300 years of living in the country, you are still "English" and 85 years after the Pearson tragedy, the mass path issue is alive and well. Cutting a tree across the mass path - a crime for all eternity!!! Some of us on encountering a tree blocking a footpath would walk around or over it but in County Offaly, this is a declaration of HOLY War. An insult to the only true Faith. And we are also told that the Pearsons galloped at speed through groups of Mass goers on public roads. Oh the horror of it. No respect. I suppose one could have reported them to the police and have them cautioned on the matter but no doubt in County Offaly interacting with the police in this way would have been tantamount to informing.

We are told that Protestants were never molested in the Cadamstown area during the war of Independence (a letter to that effect was sent to the Sunday Independent). Yet according to local historians including I believe Mr. Heaney, several Protestant families, including the Pearsons, was accosted in their homes by armed IRA men seeking arms. And they say that Protestants were never molested! I suppose Mr. Muldowney and Mr. Heaney would have no objections to being accosted in their own homes by armed men seeking arms; it's probably a County Offaly tradition and not at all intimidating. Clearly the Pearsons in finding this intimidating and wrong were crying wolf. Sure wasn't it only the neighbours trying to get to know you better.

But then those Pearsons were a bad lot as Mr. Muldowney and Mr. Heaney would have us believe. After all, they gave refuge to that William Stanley . And we know all about him. When he wasn't masquerading as a "loyalist paramilitary" (i.e running about in Luggacurran on a motor bike with his friend Frank Mullins playing with a handgun and thus "engaged in hostile militaristic displays to intimidate the community "(Mr. Muldowney , he was clearly a British officer, rank and regiment unknown, but clearly a British officer (after all, he wore a collar and tie to Church on Sunday!). Of course, the IRA Volunteers were never like that. They never engaged in militaristic displays and would certainly never have intimidated Protestants. Except for loyalists croppies of course. The conquest was to be undone. And the Pearsons were clearly loyalists. And when the IRA came for them they ran. Now if they were blameless, they would not have run (Mr. Heaney). After all, when a party of 30 armed men invade your meadow, they are merely there to admire your haymaking. No ill will intended. Why, even when that well known "British officer and Loyalist paramilitary" , William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley (sic)is captured, the IRA let him go again. After all, he clearly knew nothing about the Pearsons and their informing racket or Mrs. Pearsons' bomb and ammunition making factory (shades of Annie Maguire here).

And we all know why the locals did not help the Pearsons in their time of trouble. The Mass path issue ?. No - all forgiven. Fear of the IRA ? - how can you say that! Perhaps the Pearsons should have trusted their neighbours. After all, when the local Neighbourhood Watch Vigilante group (trading as the IRA) have just visited you, where better to seek assistance but from the same neighbours. No the Pearsons brough it all on themselves. As non conformists, they were not part of the local Church of Ireland community and of course, the brave local Church of Ireland community had nothing to fear from the IRA. Of course, they too might have decided that it was best not to interact with the Pearsons in their hour of tragedy. After all, you would not want "to bring it upon yourself". With the IRA about, loyalist croppies should lie down if they know what's good for them.

The story had a happy ending after all. The Pearsons departed and the 300 acres was acquired by the Land Commission and divided amongst the local small farmers. The English conquest had been undone and Murder went on his way unheeded. And so ends this wonderful Irish republican fairytale where they all lived happily ever after..........


author by PMCCpublication date Wed Jul 26, 2006 22:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A Quest for the truth, not historical myths.

The plethora of factual errors and the major shortcomings of ‘I met Murder on the Way’ have been well documented by local historian Paddy Heaney in the latest Offaly Heritage annual journal and Pat Muldowney on Indymedia. Stanley’s account has been comprehensively discredited. Despite this individuals continue to be misled and duped by his spurious allegations. A recent example of this is a letter by Tom Carew (Irish Independent, July 8) surrounding the IRA in Offaly during the War of Independence which gave a wider currency to Stanley’s distorted findings. Carew alleged that a sectarian “massacre” occurred in Cadamstown, Kinnity, Co.Offaly on the 30 June 1921. For the sake of historical accuracy I feel compelled to challenge the revisionist account.

A detailed examination of all the available evidence is a prerequisite for an accurate understanding to the tragic events at Cadamstown. The available evidence completely debunks the revisionist account. The source material available indicates the Pearsons were informers, collaborators with the British military, and militant loyalists. As a result of information passed by the Pearsons to the Crown Forces numerous local IRA men were arrested. The IRA were waging a war against Crown forces and seized numerous firearms from all sections of the community. In the vast majority of cases such arms were voluntarily handed over. It was rare for loyalists such as Pearsons to violently resist the IRA during an arms raid. The Pearson received several warnings to desist from their highly provocative activities. Richard Pearson threatened to burn down the house of an IRA Volunteer who issued a warning. The family had an unsavoury record of staunch militant loyalism. They harboured a militant loyalist fugitive William Stanley who operated under the alias “Jimmy Bradley.” Stanley was ordered out of Laois by the local IRA after being implicated in a plot with the Auxiliaries to arrest an IRA Volunteer. Given the sinister record of the Auxiliaries it is not implausible that they may have intended kill the IRA Volunteer.

The leniency, hesitancy and remarkable restraint by the local IRA towards the Pearsons almost had fatal results for its members. The Pearson brothers attempted to kill local IRA Volunteers manning a roadblock. They fired with shotguns wounding two Volunteers. As a result the Offaly No.2 Brigade IRA ordered the execution of the three eldest brothers and father of the Pearson family. The father and other son were away at a religious function and escaped execution. A monthly report by the Brigade O/C sent to IRA GHQ stated: “Two hostile Unionists executed for levying War on members of this Coy when operating on road blockade a week previous. Also the house and its contents were destroyed.” At the Court of Inquiry at Crinkle Military Barracks an RIC County Inspector reported than the firing and wounding of two IRA men was the reason why the two Pearson brothers were executed. Documentary evidence in the form of local newspapers, RIC County Inspector report and the inquest does not mention any sectarianism or land as a motive for the killing. Nor is there documentary evidence that “dum dum” bullets were used.

author by Jeremy Windlepublication date Thu Jul 27, 2006 13:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The original critique of the Alan Stanley account and of its promotion in the Sunday independent by Eoghan Harris is here:


Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/74400
author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Fri Aug 04, 2006 12:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In response to “Solas Nua” and “Seanachie”:

When the Pearsons fired on the IRA roadblock they hit Tom Donnelly and Mick Heaney. Donnelly was wounded in the head, and though he recovered he carried the scar for the rest of his life. He was arrested the following day with the others. Heaney, who evaded arrest, received a serious stomach injury for which he was secretly treated in Tullamore Hospital. But he never fully recovered and his injury caused his premature death.

Paraffin is mentioned as a possible cause of the explosion in the Pearson’s house. It is true that fuel of that type was used in tractors in those days. But unlike petrol, in an ordinary fire that kind of lower-grade fuel burns strongly but does not explode. Anyway, drums or tanks of fuel would have been stored in an outhouse for ease of use and to avoid fire and health hazards. Whatever else the Pearsons might have been, there is no reason to suggest that they were stupid, dirty or incompetent.

The defence forces of the democratically elected government requisitioned – from those citizens that possessed them – the arms needed to resist an army of occupation. Before their attack on the roadblock, no measures had been taken against the Pearsons even though they were known to be supporters of the occupation. On the issue of the community standing of people such as the Pearsons, the real question is why, even after the passage of several centuries during which this stratum enjoyed overwhelming, exclusive and unchallengeable power to mould Ireland in any way it chose, it had failed in most cases to establish constructive and harmonious relations with the communities out of which its members made a living as traders, lawyers, professionals, farmers and landlords; but instead, aloof and disdainful to the end, it had sought to replicate the Home Counties behind the hundreds of miles of high stone walls which are its lasting imprint on town and countryside, and which are symptomatic of the psychology of the British colonial movement and its stance towards indigenous peoples.

"Solas Nua" implies that it was reasonable that irate property owners should open fire on local hooligans and desperadoes who had trespassed on and damaged their property. These hooligans being evil, lawless people. As Britain projects its violence around the globe its leaders and partisans – from Cromwell to Blair – denounce any and all resistance as the personification of evil. But apart from a minority of loyalists such as the Pearsons, no strand of opinion regarded British rule in Ireland as legitimate, or based on anything other than overwhelming force and violence.

For instance, in a speech in the Mansion House on September 4 1907, John Redmond said: “The Act of Union has no binding or moral force. We regard it as our fathers before us regarded it, as a great criminal act of usurpation carried by violence and fraud. And we say that no lapse of time and no mitigation of its details can ever make it binding on our honour or our conscience. Resistance to the Act of Union will always remain for us, as long as that Act lasts, a sacred duty; and the methods of resistance will remain for us merely a question of expediency. There are men today, perfectly honourable and honest men, for whose convictions I have the utmost respect, who think that the method we ought to adopt is force of arms. Such resistance I say here, as I have said more than once upon the floor of the House of Commons, would be perfectly justifiable if it were possible.”

But the Ulster Unionist rebellion of 1912-14 demonstrated that the invocation of force could actually succeed against the British government. And when – after more than 10 million people had been killed in a war won by Britain in the name of national self-determination and the freedom of small nations – the British government dismissed the overwhelming Irish vote for independence in 1918, the Irish had to decide whether they took democracy in earnest. The democratically elected Irish government was defended by its volunteer defence force, the IRA. Without the IRA, Dail Eireann could be treated as a bunch of impractical ideologues who were incapable of dealing with the real, grown-up world; and who could be thrown in jail for sedition or treason if and when anyone began to take any notice of them. Without the IRA, democracy in Ireland was an empty shell.

This is the context in which the Pearsons opened fire on the IRA causing several casualties, for which a sentence of death was executed on them. On the other hand if the British government had acknowledged the results of the 1918 elections and opened negotiations with the democratically elected Irish government, it is likely that hundreds of lives would have been saved, probably including the Pearsons.

But the British government chose to suppress democracy in favour of death-dealing military dictatorship. Evidently, that is the policy that “Solas Nua” and “Seanachie” now endorse.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 18:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article below by Patrick Heaney was published in Offaly Heritage vol. 4 2006, pages 220-225. This is the journal of the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly,
The journal costs 25 euro inc post and packaging.

A Place with a Tragic History

By Paddy Heaney

Coolacrease is a border townland which extends from the village of Cadamstown to the county river which is the border between Laois and Offaly. This ancient boundary river had many names. The Annals refer to it as the “Abha Dine” or “Deep River”. It was also known by the beautiful name of “Glasheensheorna” – The Little Stram of the Barley. Coolacrease or Cúl a’ Chraois is thought to mean The Hill Back of the Gluttony. There are many Gaelic placenames in the townland: Knockroe, Glendolan, Ardora, Cushuaid, Canncora, and the old town of Baile Mac Adam was also situated there.

The area is also rich in archaeological remains, such as two souterrains, and there was a mass-rock situated near one of them which was perhaps used during Penal times.

Coolacrease townland was part of the lands of the O’Carrolls of Baile Mac Adam Castle. Domhnall O’Carroll settled in Leitir Lughna, Cadamstown, in 1227 according to O’Riordan, and was descended from Fionn O’Carroll, styled as the King of Ely in 1205. He was also tenth in descent from the O’Carroll who led the troops of Ely at the battle of Clontarf in 1014 according to Dr. Lanigan. The castle was situated half a mile west of Cadamstown village and is still known as Castlefield.

In the following centuries the area was steeped in history, with notable hostilities between the O’Carrolls and the Le Fays until the O’Carrolls were dispossessed of their entire lands in 1611. They refused to take an oath of allegiance or conform to the established church.

Baile Mac Adam Castle and 8,463 acres were regranted to Adam Loftus, the first Protestant Archbishop of Dublin. He never came to live there. Coolacrease changed hands several times, and the immediate area was the scene of several well-documented atrocities. In the 19th century some notable archaeological discoveries were made by the owner John Benwell who died around 1890.

His sister was left to run the farm. She eventually sold the farm to William Pearson who came from Queen’s County (now Laois). The Pearsons were good farmers and good neighbours. The Pearson children attended the local school in Cadamstown village. Dick Pearson was a member of the school hurling team during his schooldays.

When the War of Independence was in progress the second half-company of the Offaly Brigade [of the IRA] was formed. Twenty four men from Cadamstown joined, and they drilled and paraded openly. A branch of Cumann na mBan was also formed, comprising of twelve local girls.

It was during this period that the Pearsons of Coolacrease began to distance themselves from the local people. The people knew that they were in sympathy with the establishment. Prior to that the Pearson boys, Dick and Abe, attended house dances all over the area. In the early Spring of 1921 a young stranger came to live at Pearsons, and he socialised with the locals. He introduced himself as Jimmy Bradley and was the Pearsons’ workman.

During that time the local people noticed that the police from Birr often visited the Pearson house, as well as the military from Crinkle Army Barracks [a couple of miles south of Birr]. Three local men who were also frequent visitors to Coolacrease were warned by the local IRA: two heeded the warning, the third continued to visit the house.

In the Spring of 1921 the first confrontation took place between the local people and the Pearsons. A mass-path came down from the mountain to the local church, and it passes through part of Pearsons’ land. This path had been used since 1842 when the local church was built in the village. On a Sunday morning as the people came to mass they found the mass-path closed. Trees had been felled across the stile, the path was completely blocked, and there were about twenty mass-goers present. The men returned to their homes and later returned to the site and began removing the obstacles. William Pearson arrived and accused the men of trespassing. Nobody replied to his remarks. He returned later with his three sons, and his workman Jimmy Bradley, and a stranger with an English accent. As the people were leaving the church after mass they heard of the incident, and one hundred men, women and children came to help clear the pathway. Words were exchanged between the two parties as the work progressed. At one stage Dick Pearson and John Dillon threatened one another with revolvers. Eventually peace was restored and a pathway was cleared and the Pearsons returned home. On the following day the police and army arrived in Cadamstown and arrested J.J. Horan of Coolacrease and John Dillon of Seskin. Both were conveyed under heavy armed escort to Tullamore jail.

A month later the local company of the IRA received orders to block the road between Cadamstown village and Coolacrease House. Six men arrived at the appointed place and they selected a beech tree near the roadway. At midnight they commenced operations. Mick Heaney and Tom Donnelly were armed with revolvers. They took up their positions on the roadway while Tom Horan, Joe Carroll, Joe Manifold and Jim English began the operation of cutting the tree. At half past twelve footsteps were heard approaching from the direction of Pearsons. Mick Heaney cried out “Halt, who goes there”. Shots rang out from the direction of Pearsons, Mick Heaney was shot in the stomach, a rifle bullet passed through his left side, a shotgun was discharged at close range and he received pellets in the face and arms. He was wearing a heavy scarf around his neck and but for that the wounds would have been even more severe.

Tom Donnelly was on guard one hundred yards away on the Cadamstown side of the roadblock. He arrested Bert Hogg, who was on his way to Pearsons. [Bert Hogg’s father was RIC Sergeant William Hogg.] The firing started as he marched him down the road to hand him over to Mick Heaney on the Coolacrease/Tullamore side. Hogg received gunshot wounds in the legs, from the direction of Pearsons, and also back wounds (from which he lost a lung) as he attempted to flee. Tom Donnelly fired towards the attackers and had the satisfaction of hearing somebody shout “I am hit”. A bullet grazed Tom Donnelly’s head as he went to the aid of Mick Heaney. The roadblock party departed, Mick was carried to a local house and was later brought by pony and trap to a secret ward in Tullamore hospital. After six months he recovered and returned home. Bill Hogg also received medical attention. This incident, and many more, came to the attention of the O.C. of the Offaly Brigade, and action was taken against the Pearsons on 30th June 1921.

The Flying Column of the Offaly Brigade was in a training camp at Dowras in Eglish parish near Birr. The O.C. selected nine men and told them to be ready in one hour. In the meantime two motor cars arrived. The men got on board and the O.C. rode in front on a motorcycle. On arriving in Kilcormac the men dismounted and some of them smoked or walked around. They then headed up the road for Lackaroe. John Grogan who was working on Cush Bog described to me what he saw, in the following terms: “At about 10.30 I saw a motor bike and two cars travelling up the road for Lackaroe just opposite where I was working. The convoy halted and the first car stalled. The men dismounted. After some time the second car hauled the first car away, with the motor bike positioned behind one of the cars. The men came across the bog. There were nine men and an officer in front. All the men had rifles slung over their shoulders. The officer carried a revolver. The officer was dressed in a green jacket, knee breeches and leggings, and all the men wore ordinary coats, collars and ties.” John Grogan also said: “I knew the commanding officer and he spoke to me. I did not know any of the men. It was later on in the afternoon I saw smoke rising in the Coolacrease area, and I knew what had taken place.”

In later years the commanding officer gave a full account to me of what happened on the day: “We were informed that the Pearsons were making hay in a field, not far from the house. We approached and observed two men making hay. They were Dick and Abe Pearson, and another man was working a horse. He was known locally as Jimmy Bradley.” His real name was William Stanley, a relation of the Pearsons, and a native of Carlow. When he saw the column entering the field he began running towards a stile, a hundred yards away. The CO fired as he ran in a stooped zigzag fashion, and he was shot in the arm. Several shots were fired at him as he ran. He escaped but was captured at Mountbolus where he was held overnight. He was released the following morning and made his way to the RIC Barracks in Tullamore.

The Column, consisting of nine men and their Commanding Officer, brought the Pearson brothers to Coolacrease House. A court martial verdict was read out to them and they were executed by firing squad. A further twenty local IRA members were deployed in the surrounding area to provide look-out and cover for the Flying Column operation, and these did not go onto the Pearson property.

The townland of Coolacrease is peaceful once more. The ruins of Coolacrease House stand on the hill of Knockroe, a symbol of years of oppression and hate. Now peace reigns supreme. Many young people are building houses and settling in the area. Tourists come to the area to take part in walks; as the Offaly Way and Slieve Bloom Way pass near the townland of Coolacrease. The tragic events of 30th June 1921 are now part of the history and folklore of bygone years.

But there is another version of this event, written by Alan Stanley and entitled “I Met Murder on the Way: the Story of the Pearsons of Coolacrease”. In this book the author received his information from his late father William Stanley, who lived at Pearsons – under an assumed name – during the episode mentioned above. He was also related to the Pearson family. I have met the author on several occasions during the past two years, and he informed me that he would like to write his version of the story. I have read his book which is well researched, but has, I feel, some notable inaccuracies. I have already published my version of the episode both here and in “At the Foot of Slieve Bloom”.

My own information was gleaned from the men and women who took part in the War of Independence, and who gave their information willingly to me. Since the publication of the book “I Met Murder on the Way” I have received phone calls and letters from people all over Ireland and overseas whose fathers or grandfathers were involved during that period. I was fortunate to have met and interviewed many of the men and women before they passed away, including the OC of the Offaly Brigade on that day. Mr Jack Carter, who wrote the Foreword for the book, ends his column with the following: “We shall never recapture the past and it is not for the historian to invent. Alan has brought a mature desire to look into the truth of Coolacrease and, before it faded into the mists of time, has revealed it as something far less than patriotic idealism. He may not win much affection – lack of reverence for sacred cows can cause resentment, and others may give a different and sanitised account of the same events. Yet Alan has deployed original material from those with intimate knowledge of the sordid episode in June 1921, and has written a balanced work of historical illumination.”

The people of Cadamstown would not agree with Carter’s idea that Alan Stanley wrote a balanced account of the events. They do not have a “sanitised account of the same events”. They lived through that period, and they did not invent history as stated above. There were six Protestant families living in a two-mile radius of the village of Cadamstown during that period. Not one of them was ever molested; they were held in high esteem by everyone. The families were the Jacksons of Kilnaparson, McAllisters of Cadamstown village, Hoggs of Lackroe, Ashtons of Pigeonstown, Droughts of Lettybrook, and Biddulphs of Moneyguineen. I was asked by the people of Cadamstown to address some of the questionable parts of the book so that future generations will know a more complete version.

Here are some of the inaccuracies which deserve mention:

Page 12: “… a dispute with some neighbours who claimed a “mass-path” … damage being caused to crops …”. There were no crops involved as the mass-path passed through shrubbery and uncultivated land.

Page 13: “… on 30th June 1921 a band of thirty, perhaps forty, armed and masked men descended on the house, torched it, then … shot the two eldest sons …”. There were not thirty or forty armed and masked men involved in the actual executions. Nine men and the CO were involved.

Page 21: “… at 4 o’clock while the two men were making hay in a field … they were surrounded by about forty armed and masked men …”. There were three men in the field: the Pearson brothers and William Stanley alias Jimmy Bradley. There were not thirty or forty masked men involved. There was no need for the men to be masked. They were mostly unknown to the Pearsons. Two of them were from the North Tipperary Brigade.

Page 33: “A variant of the myth suggests that they were actively engaged, on the side of the authorities …”. The shooting of Mick Heaney and Tom Donnelly when the local battalion were cutting a tree to block the road could not have been a myth. Both men carried their wounds to their dying day.

Page 36: “My father said that Dick was somewhat hotheaded …”. John Dillon warned Dick on two occasions in regard to his conduct. Dick threatened to burn his house. During that period there was IRA intelligence to the effect that six local houses were planned to be burned by the police and the military: Donnellys of Curragh, Nolans of Deerpark, Dillons, Ryans and Dalys of Seskin, Heaneys of Glenlitter.

Pages 36 and 53 (page 68 in 2nd edition): I have been approached by nephews and a niece of the late James Delahunty to state that James Delahunty was not a postman. He did not join the Postal Service until 1926 and he was a prisoner during the dates mentioned, and was also imprisoned during the Civil War.

As a matter of interest no postman ever delivered letters during those years – for certain reasons. [The Pearsons collected their own letters from the post office, so their mail was less likely to be intercepted. In fact their post was intercepted by the IRA and they were found to be passing information to the British authorities.] There was no official postman in Cadamstown at that period (cf. page 46). Pearsons collected their mail at McAllisters Post Office in the village. Bess Grennan, who was a young girl at the time, delivered the letters to various houses, although she was not officially sanctioned.

Page 46: Jim White was the son of an RIC sergeant. He was warned on several occasions to keep away from Pearsons. Also on page 46 the following appears: “At approximately 11 a.m. a man by the name of Hoban or Honen arrived in the hay paddock and asked us if we had seen his horses …”. This statement is also inaccurate. J.J. Horan farmed land beside Pearsons. They were not on speaking terms. J.J. Horan and John Dillon were in Tullamore Jail during that period as they had been arrested by the Birr police after the mass-path incident. The information leading to these arrests can only have been provided by the Pearsons.

Page 47: “The Rebels came back back next day and stole cattle, horses and harness.” The afternoon of the incident the military arrived from Birr. They set up camp on the lawn and kept a round-the-clock guard on the property until the Pearsons returned some days later. After the surviving Pearsons returned to Coolacrease two pigs were stolen and sold in Roscrea and an iron gate was taken from the property. The man who stole the gate was made to leave it back; the two men who stole the pigs were brought before a Sinn Fein court and were made to compensate the Pearson family.

Page 48: “When Syd [Pearson] came back to the farm 12 months later and started ploughing, next morning he found a note on the plough advising him to stop or he would be shot. So it is evident their main object was to take over our land.” I have never heard of this incident. We have to understand that there were myths on both sides. It may or may not have happened.

Page 53 (67 in 2nd edition): The author mentions Tom Mitchell. Once more there are inaccuracies with regard to James Delahunty, attributed to Tom Mitchell. Tom Mitchell would have known that he was not a postman during that period. James Delahunty also held the rank of Quartermaster in the second half company of the Offaly Brigade.

I was a personal friend of Tom Mitchell and we often discussed the Pearson episode. He told me his father advised the Pearson family on many occasions to keep a low profile. Tom had a balanced view of the situation at the time. The Mitchells were Protestants, and his uncle, also Tom Mitchell – a soldier trained who served in the British army – trained the local IRA battalion during the War of Independence; and their house in Roscomroe was used as a safe house for men on the run.

Page 55 (69 in 2nd edition): I will not go into detail in regard to the author’s comments regarding the felling of the tree. He might consider interviewing the people of Cadamstown and the surrounding areas, and they will provide the details. The day after the mass-path incident an Crossley Tender and two army lorries arrived in the village and proceeded to Pearsons that afternoon. J.J. Horan and John Dillon were arrested. It is reasonable to ask who was in a position to identify them and point out where they lived. Dillon’s house was situated three miles up the mountainside.

Another element of the local intelligence struggle: Two RIC officers used to come on their bicycles from Birr on alternate Sundays, to attend mass in Cadamstown Church. After mass they proceeded to Pearsons. They received a warning that they would be shot. They never came afterwards.

Page 56 (71 in 2nd edition): The author claims the IRA used dum-dum bullets. The same accusation was falsely levelled at General Tom Barry, IRA commander in the ambush at Crossbarry where a whole English unit was wiped out.

Page 73: “Susan Pearson was brought to a house in Kinnitty where a number of men were paraded before her … she failed to identify any of the men.” This is not correct. After the Pearsons were executed, the police and military arrived in Cadamstown (not Kinnitty) at 7 o’clock in the morning. They arrested everyone in the village and placed them along the bridge in the village, where names were taken. The women were allowed to return home, and the men and boys as young as 10 years old were held until Mrs Pearson arrived from Birr. She failed to identify anybody.

That was the morning my late mother Bridget Dillon, aged 17 years, was fired on by British soldiers while she was bringing in cows to be milked. She carried a head wound till the day she died.

Page 85 (99 in 2nd edition): Tom Donnelly is mentioned as having been interviewed by Tom Mitchell in 1981. But Tom Mitchell passed away in 1976.

Page 86 (101 in 2nd edition): [A story of a lorry careering over a ditch at Coolacrease, the occupants –supposedly the Pearson execution party – all killed.] Those people were killed at Coolacrease in 1948, they were guests returning from a wedding and had nothing whatever to do with the execution of the Pearsons.

Page 90 (105 in 2nd edition): [The shooting at the police in Kinnitty. The attackers were said to have hidden behind the Catholic church building.] The police were ambushed from the ruins of the police barracks one hundred yards from Giltrap’s public house, and from the corner of the grounds of the Catholic church building.

These are not all the errors I have been asked to correct by numerous people. Alan Stanley has written an account sympathetic to the Unionist views of that time, as well as a revisionist perspective. I have revealed and recorded the incident as told by those who actually participated in the events.

Related Link: http://www.offalyhistory.com
author by Seosamh O Galunach - Nonepublication date Mon Oct 09, 2006 20:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can anyone shed light on the motivation for the unrelenting efforts of the Sunday Independent to discredit those who fought against the British terrorist forces in the War of Independence?Could it be Tony paying off the instalments on his knighthood?

author by Solas Eilepublication date Mon Oct 23, 2006 18:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In response to Mr. Heaney's latest article and Mr. Muldoiwney's musings

Mr Heaney writes : ”The Pearsons were good farmers and good neighbours. The Pearson children attended the local school in Cadamstown village. Dick Pearson was a member of the school hurling team during his schooldays ……. the Pearson boys, Dick and Abe, attended house dances all over the area ….. “
So what happened in Paradise ? Why did it all end and what caused the fracture between the Pearsons and their neighbours ? Mr. Heaney has asserted that Protestant families in the locality went unmolested during the period of the War of Independence but in an earlier published contribution tells us of an IRA raid on the Pearson household in a quest for arms : “On a particular day three local volunteers approached Pearsons' house at Coolacrease. They were armed, and when admitted they requested that any guns which were in the house should be handed over. This the Pearsons refused to do. Placing one volunteer on guard, the remaining two searched the house and found two guns which they took away with them.”. Who were these 3 brave volunteers who violate the sanctity of an Irish family home ? Were they well behaved or did they issue threats ? Did they hold guns to womens’ heads and threaten harm if they did not get there way ? Did they threaten to burn the house if they did not get what they wanted ? And what was to be the natural response of a family in such circumstances ? Fear ? Anger ? A sense of violation ? Mr. Heaney has seen fit to omit this episode from his riposte to Alan Stanley . Why ? Can Mr. Heaney name the 3 brave fellows ? Did they too deposit witness statements of their brave escapade in the Military Archives ?
Mr. Heaney accuses the Pearsons of being ”in sympathy with the establishment” . What exactly does he mean ? It is not as if the Pearsons were landlords or magistrates, the epitome of an Ascendancy family. They were farmers, they tilled the soil with their own hands as did their neighbours. They had feelings and liked to be left in peace. But the IRA came calling and unfortunately as many Southern Irish Protestant families were to learn in that period , not all IRA men were gentlemen. Many were bigots with violent class and religious/race hatreds.
In his “Quest for the truth, not historical myths” comment, the contributer PMCC writes : The available evidence completely debunks the revisionist account. The source material available indicates the Pearsons were informers, collaborators with the British military, and militant loyalists . What is this available evidence and source material ? And please can we have something more substantial that Michael Cordial’s witness statement made 36 years after the event. According to Mr. Muldowney, “incriminating correspondence between the Pearsons and the British military was intercepted”. Where is this incriminating evidence – is it on deposit in the Military Archives ? Why not publish it or is it “Top Secret” ? Are the Pearsons to be convicted on the basis of “Guantanamo style” evidence ?
In an earlier contribution , it is asserted : “No letters were delivered to the Pearsons’ house; they collected their post themselves from McAllister’s Post Office. (If they were engaged in communication with the British military, this would be a more secure way of dealing with correspondence)”. In his latst contribution, we are told : As a matter of interest no postman ever delivered letters during those years – for certain reasons. ……..There was no official postman in Cadamstown at that period (cf. page 46). Pearsons collected their mail at McAllisters Post Office in the village. Bess Grennan, who was a young girl at the time, delivered the letters to various houses, although she was not officially sanctioned.” Perhaps Mr. Heaney would care to clarify ? In the absence of a postman, people collect their mail from the post office but obviously if you are an Irish Protestant, this is suspicious and confirms that you are an informer ? And as for the alleged intercepted correspondence with Dublin Castle, please let us know where it can be inspected ?
With reference to the mass path confrontation which now appears to have taken place within weeks of the final IRA visit, we are now told “ Words were exchanged between the two parties …..at one stage Dick Pearson and John Dillon threatened one another with revolvers”. This raises the interesting question as to the identity of the 3 volunteers who raided the Pearson household in a quest for arms ? Was one of them John Dillon ? Mr. Heaney writes re Dick Pearson’s hotheadness : “John Dillon warned Dick on two occasions in regard to his conduct. Dick threatened to burn his house.” What was the nature of the warning ? A threat of a bullet or a threat to burn the Pearson’s house ? Of course, we know the IRA never made threats. They never killed anyone and never burnt down people’s houses. That ‘s what Black & Tans did and the IRA would never stoop so low.
With reference to the cutting down of trees, we find ourselves in a quandary. Who cut down the tree which blocked the mass path ? The allegation seems to be that it must have been the Pearsons since it was on their land but as we know, the IRA were quite good at cutting down trees. We also know that trouble came about when the Pearsons came upon a large group of people cutting up the said tree. If the Pearsons had not cut the tree, would it not be logical to accuse those now cutting it of trespass and possibly theft (try cutting down a tree on your neighbour’s land and see what the reaction will be!).
WE are also told : “On the following day the police and army arrived in Cadamstown and arrested J.J. Horan of Coolacrease and John Dillon of Seskin. Both were conveyed under heavy armed escort to Tullamore jail…. The information leading to these arrests can only have been provided by the Pearsons..” Really ? Why were they arrested and with what were they charged ? One gathers that the mass path issue was widely reported within the community and news of it could quite easily have passed to Kinnity. Perhaps John Dillon was in the habit of issuing threats (or should one say warnings?) to too many people. And perhaps good news travels fast as anyone who lives in an Irish rural community can attest .
With regard to the alleged attack on the IRA roadblock, who identified the Pearsons as the culprits in the piece. Can we have their names and witness statements ? Mr. Heaney informs us of “footsteps … heard approaching from the direction of Pearsons” and “shots …. from the direction of Pearsons”. But who actually identified the Pearsons ? Names are required once again bearing in mind that this was half past midnight. Mr. Heaney, give us their names please as unidentified footsteps and shots do not a prosecution case make. If for example the footsteps and shots had come from the direction of Horans, would the Horan family have been court-martialed and shot as a result ?
Mr. Heaney ends : The townland of Coolacrease is peaceful once more. The ruins of Coolacrease House stand on the hill of Knockroe, a symbol of years of oppression and hate. Perhaps he would care to explain how Coolacrease House was a symbol of oppression and hate ? And what does he mean when he says : “We have to understand that there were myths on both sides. It may or may not have happened”. What are these myths because Mr. Muldowney does not believe there are any myths on his side of the fence.

Mr Muldowney refutes the suggestion that paraffin lamps or heaters can explode. As a self appointed expert in arson of Protestant homesteads, perhaps we should defer to his superior knowledge in such matters.
He accuses the Pearsons of “ an actively sectarian hostility towards the people among whom they lived … age-old Orange Croppy-Lie-Down supremacism….Orange predilections….”and of being “ … committed to the British terror… supporters of the occupation. He speaks of evidence provided by a British Army deserter but in that context declines to supply either name, rang or witness statement. At least it’s nice to know that them neither stupid, dirty or incompetent!.
He further asserts : On the issue of the community standing of people such as the Pearsons, the real question is why, even after the passage of several centuries during which this stratum enjoyed overwhelming, exclusive and unchallengeable power to mould Ireland in any way it chose, it had failed in most cases to establish constructive and harmonious relations with the communities out of which its members made a living . Even Mr. Heaney’s evidence contradicts that but as Mr. Mukdowney is clearly an obsessive ideologue overwrought by “the psychology of the British colonial movement and its stance towards indigenous peoples”, we should make allowances and hope that Mary Harney can introduce some medical treatment that can alleviate his condition. .

As for his denunciation of the First Dail Eireann as “a bunch of impractical ideologues who were incapable of dealing with the real, grown-up world; and who could be thrown in jail for sedition or treason if and when anyone began to take any notice of them” and his claim that “Without the IRA, democracy in Ireland was an empty shell.”, one can only say that in a democracy the defence forces of a state do not dictate state policy and do not have the right to indulge in and give vent to their own sectarian and class hatreds which run counter to the proclaimed policies of the state.

It should also be noted that when the Pearsons were killed, the British was in the process of negotiations with the democratically elected Irish government and a truce in the offing. But as the Civil War proves, many in the IRA did not believe in the right of a majority of the electorate to make decisions contrary to what the IRA perceived to be right The Black and Tans brought terror to Ireland but many in the IRA were perfectly capable of perfecting Black and Tan methods and making those their own.

author by Dermot Ryanpublication date Thu Nov 02, 2006 00:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The comments by ‘Solas Eile,’ ‘Solas Nua’ and ‘Seanachai’ appear suspiciously interlinked. Gut instinct would tell me it is Alan Stanley himself who is behind these comments. What is particularly disturbing is the sarcasm, snide cynicism and the overwhelming bitterness. There is no serious effort to engage in constructive debate. There is little substance to Stanley’s points, just a repetition of his tired old diatribes. His conspiracy of blanket denial is as strong as ever. Judging by his latest remarks, Stanley seems keen to emulate his alter ego Eoghan Harris, by taking over the mantle of a deluded crank who has lost the plot.

Unlike Stanley, Pat Muldowney is not financially motivated and should be applauded for his passionate concern for the full story and the truth. Stanley has turned the Pearsons ‘tragedy’ into a cynical profit making exercise. Stanley allowed Eoghan Harris to hijack the story to boost flagging sales of the Sunday Independent. Harris and the hidden hand of the Reform Movement are just as culpable for this crude con that passes for ‘history.’

It is encouraging to see Stanley and the Sindo challenged over their duplicity, bias and extreme prejudice. Stanley and the Sindo are commercially driven. There never was any concern for a factual and objective account. Stanley went out to shatter ‘myths.’ The only myths that have been shattered are those of his own creation.

author by Solas Eilepublication date Fri Nov 03, 2006 18:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In response to Duplicity and Denial by Dermot Ryan Wed Nov 01, 2006

Whilst my comments and those of ‘Solas Nua’ and ‘Seanachai’ are interlinked, Mr. Ryan's "gut instinct " is wide of the mark. Indeed he would be best advised putting his "gut instinct" in cold storage, if not killing it off . I am not Alan Stanley and do not know the man.

I offer no apologies for my alleged sarcasm and bitterness. I have posed a series of hard hitting questions and have yet to receive valid answers. It is Mr Ryan and people of his mindset who are in blanket denial and that is why there is no serious effort to engage in constructive debate. I believe people should be convicted on the proven facts, especially when on trial for their lives - not on hearsay and "gut instinct". It is "gut instinct" which gave us the miscarriages of justice in the Birmingham 6 and Maguire family cases and it is the base foundation behind Qunatanamo Bay and Abu Gharib.

I suppose I should be flattered by Mr. Ryan's description of me as "a deluded crank who has lost the plot." He could have done worse. He could have suggested I was his alter ego Eoghan Harris!

Much as I dislike the Sunday Independent - a trash rag for the parvenu - its sales are regrettably not flagging as Mr. Ryan suggests. Eoghan Harris may haver hijacked the story for his own ends but then what should one expect from one who was an "Irish republican" of the blank denial tendency for a large part of his life. You can take the man from the bog but you can never take the bog mentality and mindset approach from the man. Same tendency as Mr. Ryan and co.

As for Alan Stanley, Mr Stanley has written a book from a different perspective, that of the victim community. It is a far from perfect work but it has started a very valid debate and has exposed the duplicity, bias and extreme prejudice found in some contributors to Indymedia, especially those of the republican "we are whiter than white, we can do no wrong" brigade.

Let's have a factual and objective account and debate on the issues, even if that means that myths will be shattered. I have asked for facts and documentary evidence. Perhaps Mr. Ryan should explain why faulty "gut instinct" should triumph instead.

author by Dermot Ryanpublication date Tue Nov 07, 2006 17:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1. It was Eoghan Harris not Solas Eile I was referring to as a deluded crank. Harris is grossly irresponsible and abuses his position as a journalist to fan the politics of hate. Just one of numerous examples is his vendetta against Martin Mansergh, the ‘posh Protestant.’ Harris sneered at Mansegh for his ‘posh English accent, has the air of an English gentleman’ and was a ‘rotten role model for any young Protestant Irishman.’ Solas Eile criticises the Sunday Independent as ‘a trash rag for the parvenu’ but his arguments bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Harris. Solas Eile accepts the word of one of the foremost bigots of the Sunday Independent that crude sectarianism existed in Offaly without a shred of evidence to back up this explosive allegation. Harris suggests the Pearsons ‘suffered in silence,’ were killed in an ‘appalling atrocity’ and were ‘innocent victims of the IRA.’ These are essentially the same arguments put forward by Solus Eile. Perhaps he might clarify this double speak?

2. The ‘proven facts’ are that the Pearsons were killed for trying to murder IRA members at a roadblock. Documentary evidence is contained in Michael Cordial’s statement and in Paddy Heaney’s book At the Foot of the Sliemh Bloom. All this information is available on Indymedia. Heaney interviewed those involved in the execution of the Pearson brothers. Solas Eile can demand as much additional ‘facts and documentary evidence’ as he wishes. It will hardly make much of a difference to his argument when he refuses to accept the substantial amount of existing evidence.

3. Solus Eile’s comment that ‘They [Pearsons] had feelings and liked to be left in peace’ is a classic example of blanket denial. Three points must be considered: (a) The Pearson’s supported a loyalist paramilitary William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley by giving him refuge. He was ordered out of his native area after being implicated in a plot with the Auxiliaries to ‘arrest’ an IRA man. (b) If the Pearsons were concerned about being ‘left in peace’ they would not have gone out of their way to inform British authorities about republicans. This action resulted in the arrests and imprisonment of IRA men. (c) Nor would the Pearsons have tried to murder republicans. The Pearsons were certainly not innocent victims. They brought terror and suffering to their community.

4. When I refer to the Solas Eile’s prejudice and bias I had in mind comments such as ‘Many [republicans] were bigots with violent class and religious/race hatreds.’ Where is the supporting evidence for this sweeping statement on those who executed the Pearsons? Until Solas Eile brings forth new evidence of alleged sectarianism in Offaly he should respect Paddy Heaney and Pat Muldowney’s assertion that religious hatred did not occur. There were other Protestant families in Cadamstown who were never harmed or targeted. It is alleged that the IRA in Offaly were primitive, sectarian savages who mercilessly butchered innocent defenceless Protestants. Yet there was no precedent in Offaly for such mindless sectarianism and no other similar cases of alleged sectarian butchery have ever surfaced.

5. Stanley said he was researching the Pearsons since the early 1980’s. Yet he did not interview any former IRA members despite having the opportunity to so. He made no effort to understand the genuine motives of contemporary republicans. Instead he waited until they were all dead to engage in character assassination and vilification. He also blindly relied on the contentious and discredited findings of Peter Hart. This was at a time when historians cast serious doubts on Hart’s allegations about IRA sectarianism. The Irish Times stated Hart was ‘disingenuous’ over his claim that Protestants and ‘those who supported the government rarely gave much information because, except by chance, they had not got it to give.’ In his book The IRA and its Enemies, Hart omitted crucial sentences from the original British source, ‘A Record of the Rebellion in Ireland.’ The source stated ‘an exception to this rule was in the Bandon area where there were many Protestant farmers who gave information.’ This is what I mean when I refer to the duplicity of Stanley and his apologists over the alleged sectarianism of republicanism. There is an alarming level of dishonesty, bias and prejudice in the arguments of people like Stanley and Harris. Solas Eile’s attempt to attain the high moral ground by his ‘series of hard hitting questions’ is misplaced. It is the likes of Harris and Stanley who should be answering ‘hard hitting questions.’

6. As to the comment that republicans were “whiter than white, we can do no wrong" brigade’ it was never suggested by me or others that the IRA were saintly figures beyond reproach. Solus Nua is perfectly correct when he says that ‘not all IRA men were gentlemen.’ There were disreputable individuals on all sides. But to suggest that the IRA in Offaly were sectarian savages is unfair and unfounded. Many were decent, honourable individuals, held in high esteem in their communities. It was the same people, as IRA members, who executed the Pearsons after the imprisonment and then the attempted murder of their comrades. Without supporting evidence such people do not deserve to be labelled as sectarian monsters and callous criminals.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Sat Nov 11, 2006 21:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Pearsons and their Prosecutors???

Solas Eile has got it wrong. It is not the Pearsons who are on trial but the people who killed them on June 30 1921. Two years ago, apart from a few history-minded locals, which of us had ever heard of either side, and who cared which was the guilty party? Even David Pearson, brother of the executed Richard and Abraham, wanted only to consign the whole episode to oblivion. Then Alan Stanley’s book appeared, followed by Eoghan Harris’s Sunday Independent articles, indicting the IRA. So the cat is out of the bag, the die is cast, and the grim logic of facts must now be applied no matter where it may lead.

As far as national publicity goes that is where the matter rests at present, apart from a brief note in the Sindo in which Patrick Heaney pointed out that a different account of the Pearson episode could be found in his book of local history, At the Foot of Slieve Bloom.

The IRA, the local community of Kinnitty/Cadamstown, and the Irish independence movement are now in the dock. And all that has happened since the Stanley/Harris publicity is that a very small number of people have debated the issue among themselves, and noticed that Alan Stanley’s case for the prosecution does not achieve what it claims. But the chances of this discovery breaking into the columns of the newspapers of Sir Anthony O’Reilly or Major McDowell/Madame Kennedy are nil. See http://www.indymedia.ie/article/64231 and http://www.indymedia.ie/article/79495

The editorial offices, newsrooms, studios and academic history and politics departments of Ireland are thoroughly hegemonised by the viewpoint of Solas Eile, Solas Nua and Seanachai. But the mere existence of dissenting opinion, no matter how marginal, seems to be anathema to them, spurring them on to their foam-flecked denunciations of obscure heresies.

In June 1921 Irish democracy was engaged in a life or death struggle for survival. Solas Eile has raised a variety of red herrings – paraffin room-heaters exploding and blowing the roof off an estate house the size of a substantial modern hotel, fanatical Republicans blockading mass-paths, etc etc. But the issue which decided the fate of the Pearsons was their armed attack on the IRA roadblock. The responsible authorities judged that the Pearsons were guilty of engaging in armed action, allied to the occupation army, against the defence forces of the democratically elected Irish government, and they acted against the Pearsons in the appropriate manner. Irish democracy had been forced underground by the British terror regime. So only a limited amount of material has come down to us in the form of records on the Irish side, supplemented by the industry of Patrick Heaney.

It is disingenuous of the anonymous Solas Eile to demand names and other information that (s)he is unable to provide by his own efforts, information which is probably lost forever, and the absence of which he conveniently adduces as evidence for his case. What has actually come into the public domain since the Stanley/Harris publicity is a wealth of ancillary detail fortuitously collected by Patrick Heaney from participants and observers. The effect of this new information is to refute the attempt of Stanley/Harris to whitewash the Pearsons and blacken the IRA, the community, and the independence movement as a whole. The chances of other new information turning up are small, no doubt. But the chances of righteous indignation-fuelled zealots such as Solas Eile turning up any real information are practically nil.

So Solas Eile’s case, such as it is, must rest entirely on Alan Stanley’s book. Remember, the issue is this: if the Pearsons were involved in the attack on the roadblock they were justifiably executed. What does Stanley tell us about the crucial roadblock incident?

Since the participants are all dead we cannot try their case now. But we can seek to assess what Alan Stanley adds to our current understanding of the matter. Stanley says that his father William told him that Richard Pearson observed the roadblock, went back to his house, returned to the roadblock with a shotgun, and fired “over the heads” of the IRA manning the roadblock. But according to Patrick Heaney, several people at the roadblock were hit by gunfire.

So if we decide that the Pearsons did not attack the roadblock to inflict casualties, we have to believe that, independently of the Pearsons firing “over their heads”, somebody else – nobody knows who – attacked the men at the roadblock. But there is no report of two separate attacks on the roadblock, one where the attackers fired to miss, the other where the attackers fired to kill. It is as if a burglar admits forced entry, but claims that the missing goods were stolen by a completely different burglar of whom there is absolutely no trace.

Was William Stanley, alias Jimmy Bradley, partial to duplicity and subterfuge, the kind of man who would conceal the whole truth from his son Alan? Well, Alan Stanley had to wait until his father’s death before he found out the whole story about his father’s loyalist exploits which caused the IRA to order him out of Carlow. I think that tells us what William Stanley was.

Thus, insofar as it is possible to gain confirmation of the guilty verdict on the Pearsons, William Stanley provides it from beyond the grave. It is ironic that the most significant new witness for the defence of the Offaly IRA, the Cadamstown community and the independence movement, is the deceased loyalist William Stanley/Jimmy Bradley.

Most of the other issues raised by Solas Eile are red herrings, probably intended to distract attention from the key issue. Nonetheless, some of his points are interesting in themselves.

He asks how it came about that the Pearsons, who appeared to be settling down well as part of the local community (which did not display any religious or other prejudice against the Pearsons participating in their common social life), ended up at the wrong end of a firing squad. We are indebted to Patrick Heaney for providing unusual detail of the Pearsons’ social trajectory. He reports a complex, nuanced situation into which political factors entered, not a black-and-white picture in which the Pearsons were never anything but congenital bigots who shunned and despised their neighbours from the beginning. If his purpose was to denigrate the Pearsons, then all he had to do was keep silent about this complexity, and nobody would have been any the wiser. In fact he sought conscientiously to complete the historical picture as far as possible,

So what happened in Paradise, as Solas Eile puts it? It is asking too much, even of a historian as industrious and reliable as Heaney, to provide us with details of the mental processes which set the Pearsons at odds with the community. It is interesting to read Annabelle Davis-Goff’s book, Walled Gardens, to get a sense of the inner life of southern Protestants, and their internal community divisions and dynamics. But we must also look into the broader historical context.

In the American War of Independence, the rebels tolerated neutrals such as the Quakers, but did not tolerate loyalists, who were burnt out and expelled in large numbers. Many of them were killed in the fighting, or ended up in Upper Canada (Ontario), the West Indies, or starving on the streets of London. But the Americans do not now entertain any form of historical revisionism which cultivates disabling feelings of guilt about the fate of British loyalists in their independence struggle. They do not tolerate infringement of their sovereignty such as acceptance of British knighthoods or other foreign honours by their citizens. Loyalism survived in the USA for a few generations – but only as a private, underground, shameful thing, a love that dare not speak its name. In recent memory a claim was brought to the US Supreme Court by British nationals for restoration of title to an area of New York city including Wall Street. The Court ruled that their title was valid under the 1783 Treaty of Paris, but could not and would not be implemented in practice. In contrast, from 1921 to 1931 compensation to loyalists by the Irish Distress Committee (later the Irish Grants Committee) in London was funded by the Irish Free State.

Colonials who were born in India, such as the Orange Reform Movement leader Robin Bury, might have been expected to consider staying on there after independence to work for their native land, the country which nurtured them. But independent India was none too keen on activities of the colonials such as their opium plantations. So for many of them it was a clear case of On Your Bike – in Bury’s case to reside in Ireland (he was white British, after all) where, after independence, no such stark choice was forced on the British loyalist minority, who retained their wealth, status and property and were allowed to carry on more or less as before.

As late as 1969 or thereabouts, an Irish Lord (i.e. a British Lord whose lordship was located on conquered Irish territory) chose to make a public display of tearing up his British passport, as a token of rejection of his British citizenship, in protest at the British government’s response to the Northern troubles. All of which indicates a rather relaxed and tolerant Irish attitude towards loyalist remnants.

Historically most Protestants in Ireland identified themselves as British, while most Catholics did not. In effect this means that the nationality of the Protestant community was British. It means just that, it does not mean they were inherently any better or worse than the native Irish. From the late 18th century a minority of thoughtful Protestants came to regard British colonial rule as a disaster for everyone, and many of them provided leadership to the Irish independence movement. The uncle of Tom Mitchell, Alan Stanley’s contact in Kinnity, appears to have been such a person.

In this broader view of colonialism and loyalism, Solas Eile’s question about Paradise might be re-phrased: how did Paradise come about in the first place? These days many of the new Unionists are vaguely aware of the lost Paradise for which they are now vainly beating the air; a Paradise in which the native Irish, after centuries of dogged antagonism to British colonialism, became reconciled to the British Empire, even if only briefly; identifying with Britain and volunteering in their hundreds of thousands to fight Britain’s Great War.

Understandably perhaps, Republicans have neglected investigation of the currents which, during the decade of 1905-1915, brought Ireland within a hair’s breadth of settling down finally as West Britain. But this fascinating decade is dissected meticulously by Pat Walsh in his book The Rise and Fall of Imperial Ireland (Athol Books, www.atholbooks.org); and I suggest that the social harmony described by Patrick Heaney should be viewed in this political context.

But there was Trouble in Paradise. British Orangemen in Ireland could not tolerate the prospect of the admission of native inferiors to equal standing in the British Empire, and the armed revolt of Unionism against Parliament and the rule of law brought down the Redmondite house of cards, and ultimately, I suggest, placed the Pearsons at the business end of a firing squad.

A couple of other points from Solas Eile. Did the first democratically elected government of Ireland consist of mere ineffectual ideologues? The members of Dail Eireann were largely 1916 veterans whose stand against the Empire was given massive popular support in the 1918 and subsequent elections, and who organised and led an army of volunteers to defend in arms their democratic mandate. Nothing ineffectual there.

He talks of the Truce as if, after 30 months of military terror, Britain had a change of heart and was organising the implementation of the democratic Irish vote for independence. After all, the victorious champion of democracy and freedom for small nations had created independent Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (remember them?) out of the rubble of its European rivals. The oil-wells of the Ottoman empire bestrode the coveted Middle Eastern land route to British India via Persia and Afghanistan. And lo and behold! out of the wreckage of Turkey Britain built other monuments to the future peace, tranquility and well-being of the world. It created Iraq. It created a Jewish protectorate in Palestine – a little loyal Ulster in the Middle East, as it was described. It even put General Pilsudski (who had fought on the opposite side in the Great War) in charge of a newly independent Poland. After all, an eastern European buffer was needed against the great new Soviet threat to the British Empire. So surely in the end Britain would do right by Ireland who had given hundreds of thousands of volunteers, at home and abroad, to its Great War?

Not a bit of it. What Britain offered to Ireland in the Truce was immediate and terrible war – block-houses, concentration camps, slaughter and yet another re-conquest – if the independence mandate, the democratic decision of the people, was not overturned and reneged upon by the Irish themselves. The so-called civil war caused by this threat of overwhelming violence did not reflect a division between proponents of independence and submission. It was a war, engineered by Britain in order to subvert the independence mandate after its initial terror campaign against it had failed, between republicans who adhered respectively to policies of caution and defiance in response to the prospect of re-conquest. Remarkably the defiant side quickly overcame the setback of the treaty war, and by political and democratic methods restored the independence position within twenty years. Not only that, as they did so they brought the cautious side on board with them.

Here is a selection of views (some objective, others doctrinally hostile) of the religious faith to which the Pearsons subscribed.





author by Solas Eilepublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 18:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1. My arguments have nothing to do with Eoghan Harris and his willingness to jump on any bandwagon to further his latest whim. I have merely asked for hard facts i.e. facts that would stand up in a court of law where you are trying people for their lives

2. Regardless of the musings of Mr. Harris whom I do not defend, crude sectarianism (and more subtle forms)is and has been a feature of Irish life, both historically and even today (see Mr. Muldowney's latest regrets above that Irish loyalists were not subjected to genocide and ethnic cleansing). Is Mr. Ryan saying that Offaly has always been a sectarian free zone, unlike any other county in Ireland ? Sectarianism is and has always been a factor in how people perceive the 'other' in an Irish context just as it was a factor in European anti-semitism. As a result people throw common humanity to one side and people get killed more easily as a result.

3. RE "The ‘proven facts’ are that the Pearsons were killed for trying to murder IRA members at a roadblock", please let us know the names of those volunteers who identified the Pearsons as the culprits on the night in question. We need more than hearsay. WE also need to know which Pearsons were identified.

4. As for 'blanket denial', which loyalist paramilitary group did William Stanley belong to ? I am not aware of any loyalist paramilitary groups operating in the midlands or indeed any part of the Republic at that time. Perhaps you should give us the benefit of your knowledge in this sphere. It seems to have escaped historians so far.

5. What is your evidence for the Pearsons as informers and as for your allegation that the Pearsons have tried to murder republicans, which Pearsons are you referring to and what is the evidence ?

6. In making the comment that ‘Many [republicans] were bigots with violent class and religious/race hatreds.’ I was not specifically speaking about those those who executed the Pearsons. I was talking about the IRA in general. I have never alleged that the IRA in Offaly were primitive, sectarian savages who mercilessly butchered innocent defenceless Protestants. I have merely asked for hard evidence which convicts the Pearsons. I have not seen any to date unless you are a believer in lynch law where facts don't matter.

7. As for Peter Hart, his findings might be contentious but not quite discredited . If one is to believe Meda Ryan in her book on Tom Barry, Tom spent most of his time after the Truce and before the outbreak of civil war attempting to contain sectarianism in County Cork (and that is putting to one side the populist sectarianism with which Tom himself shows signs of infection).

8. It is gratifying to learn that Dermot Ryan is not one of the “whiter than white, we can do no wrong" republican brigade and that he accepts that not all IRA men were saintly figures beyond reproach. I do not allege that that the IRA in Offaly were out-and-out sectarian savages. I accept that many were decent, honourable individuals. The point I am trying to make is a) we need to see hard evidence against the Pearsons and not hearsay and character assassination after the facts and b) if as Alan Stanley has alleged Dick Pearson was a hothead who may have returned fire with fire (and the emphasis is on 'may' in the absence of hard evidence), that fact does not make him a loyalist paramilitary or a government agent. It may be the case of a young Irishman resenting the molestation and intimidation of his family at the hands of people who should have known better. Given the circumstances of Ireland in June 1921, people got killed because they rubbed others up the wrong way (and this is a two way process - it takes two to tango). The Pearsons may have died not because of what they did but because of how people perceived them however mistakenly (with class and sectarian prejudice however low key (or not) playing a role) and when emotions are aroused common sense and common humanity go out the door.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Mon Nov 20, 2006 10:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Solas Eile is not convinced that the Pearsons were the ones who opened fire on the IRA roadblock. There is a doubt in his mind, and therefore he believes the Pearsons may have been executed unjustly. In effect he wants to summon all the witnesses and listen to their testimony to see whether they can convince him that the Pearsons did indeed shoot the IRA men. The implication is that he would accept that the execution of the Pearsons was justified in that case.

But the actual testimony available to us, both from the side of the Pearsons (William Stanley, as reported by his son Alan Stanley) and from the IRA side, concurs with the judgement made by the responsible authorities at the time – that the Pearsons did actually attack the roadblock. (The assertion that the Pearsons fired “over the heads” of the IRA as a kind of prank is not tenable.)

Perhaps this is not an adequate statement of Solas Eile’s position. It is also possible to interpret his remarks as implying that it is understandable, perhaps even justifiable, for the Pearsons to attack the roadblock because of the provocation they endured at the hands of the IRA. Put it like this: a sectarian paramilitary gang breaks into your house, holds your mother and father and sisters at gunpoint, ransacks your house and steals your property. The rational thing to do is to report the matter to the legitimate authorities and let them deal with the culprits. But law and order has been destroyed by the IRA; provocations multiply; and hot young blood overcomes caution, prudence and forethought.

Among these provocations was the requisitioning of arms by the IRA. But according to Paddy Heaney, the IRA requisitioned arms from everyone in the area who had them, without distinction. So the Pearsons were not discriminated against. The issue then is, whether the IRA were justified in requisitioning arms from the community at large. A Great War for democracy and the freedom of small nations had been fought and won. In the democratic elections held at the end of the War, a small nation had voted overwhelmingly for independence. In the pioneering instance of post-War fascism, the imperial power over-ruled the election results and imposed military government and terror. But the Irish electorate took their democratic decision seriously and defended their democratically elected government. In those circumstances, the Irish defence forces had a democratic obligation to obtain arms by any means possible wherever they could be obtained, including seizure from the population at large. Therefore by any standard of democracy the Pearsons had no cause for complaint when their weapons were requisitioned.

But perhaps sectarian animosity was manifested against the Pearsons in other ways, provoking them into their armed attack on the IRA? There is no doubt that British rule in Ireland had a sectarian basis. The ideology of the first conquest was the imposition of an extreme papal version of Christianity on Ireland. By the 16th century the Irish had adapted and accepted this, even if in a rather loose and relaxed manner. But then Henry VIII declared himself Pope in his own realm, and Britain went on a centuries-long orgy of religious dissension and conflict, into which Ireland was dragged, even though the Irish had no religious, territorial or other ambitions against their neighbours. The resulting conquests led to a form of government of Ireland which was predicated on sectarian bigotry and sectarian domination.

One of the theorists of Britain’s policy for the government of Ireland was John Toland, the son of a Donegal Catholic priest, who became a fanatical Protestant and was instrumental in establishing the Hanoverian regime when Queen Anne died childless. Toland argued that the antagonism of Protestant against Catholic was something which all wise statesmen should promote. This was the anti-Catholic penal regime on which church establishment, land tenure and many other forms of colonial oppression were based.

So whenever the Catholics were tormented beyond endurance into revolt, as in Wexford 1798, a retaliatory massacre of Protestants might be feared. Thousands of Protestant non-combatants and prisoners were slaughtered in Wexford and every Protestant church in the county was burnt down. The loyalist militias, on the other hand, burned down only one Catholic chapel and killed only a couple of hundred prisoners. No, sorry, scrub that! It was the other way round. The loyalist side, in the name of justice and the rule of law, burnt about thirty Catholic churches and slaughtered between ten and thirty thousand people of whom actual rebel fighters were only a small proportion. The insurgents, on the other hand, were responsible for the burning of a single Protestant church at Old Ross, and the killing of two to three hundred prisoners at Scullabogue, Wexford Bridge and Vinegar Hill.

The century-long unpicking of the British regime in Ireland inevitably pitted Catholics against Protestants because the regime itself was founded on sectarian antagonism and sectarian domination. But from the end of the 18th century many thoughtful Protestants opposed the colonial system because it was obvious that it was bad for everyone, those dishing it out as well as those on the receiving end. Such Protestants were attracted to the Republican ideology of the independence movement because it put citizenship above religion. As Solas Eile has pointed out, Republicans such as Tom Barry were to the fore in combatting the sectarian residue of British rule. And sectarian acrimony had practically died out in independent Ireland until the Reform Movement’s campaign to revive it as part and parcel of their re-Anglicising project.

Now to Solas Eile’s jibe about American genocide and ethnic cleansing of British loyalists. If one had to choose sides between the American rebels and their British loyalist opponents on the basis of their propensity to genocide and ethnic cleansing, it is arguable that the British side is slightly less repulsive. Both sides espoused African slavery and the ethnic cleansing/genocide of the indigenous peoples of the American continent. But the British gave up commercial slavery before the Americans did, and they were slightly less ferocious towards the Indians – killing them could be quite expensive, and Britain at that time was more interested in the fortunes to be made from the West Indian death camps.

author by Solas Eilepublication date Fri Nov 24, 2006 15:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mr. Muldowney has a strange concept of democracy and "democratic obligations". A bit like that of Adolf and Lenin and Uncle Joe. And it is true that you reap what you sow. The Pearsons reaped death on the basis of Dick Pearson' s alleged attack on an IRA roadblock and the IRA will reap too on the basis of what they did and sowed. In a democracy the actions of the defence forces are subject to the law. In Muldowney land law does not exist and one does not need to heed it.

Mr. Muldowney talks of the ideology of the first conquest as the imposition of an extreme papal version of Christianity and clearly misses the point. One point concerns the nature of true Christianity which Mr. Muldowney obviously rejects. No loving your enemy and turning the other cheek with him. Yes to killing and lies. The second point concerns the nature of Papal Catholicism which is a totally different matter and was clearly not designed to encourage human freedom and liberty of conscience. In so far as the bulk of Gaelic & Norman Ireland stood by Papal Catholicism, they reaped the rewards, rightly or wrongly, of their choice. In North Western Europe Protestantism triumphed and Catholics suffered penal legislation modeled on the same principles as that which was the bedrock of anti-Protestant legislation in Catholic countries. If you proclaim loyalty to a faith which persecutes others should you not expect to be persecuted in turn ? The Irish experience in that matter is not unique. It was and is replicated the world over. Welcome to the real world !

No community has a monopoly on sectarian bigotry, especially in an Irish context. And Mr. Muldowney clearly exaggerates the historical role of John Toland. Antagonism of Protestant against Catholic is not a one way street. It is hardly as if Catholicism was snow white pure. Because alas until quite recently Catholicism was quite an antagonistic religion which argued that it was the only true church and that there was no salvation outside it. Catholics suffered as a result just as Germany suffered in 1945 for its adherence to an aggressive and antagonistic political-racist philosophy of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Muldowney speaks of retaliatory massacres of Protestants and Cathoilcs during 1798 and therein lies the danger - the infectious nature of tit for tat killings which Mr. Muldowney does not seek to stem but instead seeks to encourage. Sectarian acrimony is alive and well as this debate illustrates and it did not need the existence of Reform - an inept non entity - to bring it to light. It was always there. But as in a Stalinist paradise it was not to be mentioned. Mr. Muldowney talks of Republican ideology putting citizenship before religion but ignores the fact that many IRA men did not quite see it in those terms. After all, most of the great ideologues of the Irish independence movement were Protestant. The Irish are a great people for paying lip service.

My jibe about genocide and ethnic cleansing is a serious one since Mr. Muldowney clearly lets us know that he approves of it as a political and social modus operandi. That is his choice but clearly exposes him for what he is.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Nov 30, 2006 12:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What a turn up for the books! The native Irish and hibernicised English got what was coming to them for backing the wrong horse in Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical coup! These people could not compel their consciences to change their fundamental beliefs – in an age when people thought the fate of their immortal souls depended on getting such things right – in order to accommodate a foreign head of state’s need for a divorce. So hell rub it up them, says Solas Eile! And here was I, thinking Solas Eile stood for tolerance, forgiveness and turning the other cheek!

Like Ian Paisley, Solas Eile likens historic Catholicism to Nazism because it claimed a monopoly on pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. As if Calvinism, Cooneyism (the faith of the Pearsons) and almost every other ism you care to mention did not claim the same. I thought that was the main attraction of most religions!

Permitting religious freedom and full civil rights to minorities who do not subscribe to an official, national religion is a relatively modern phenomenon due in the main to the after-effects of the French Revolution. But suppressing the religion of a whole nation has almost always been regarded as criminal lunacy. Even Britain did not usually attempt this; for instance, in the case of French Canada whose religious practice was permitted to carry on more or less normally.

So now the holier-than-thou Solas Eile urges us to embrace the real world of sectarian domination, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide trumpeted by John Toland. If Toland is not sufficiently mainstream, try out the Rev. Hugh Peters, spiritual and political adviser to Cromwell who cut his teeth in the North American genocide before bringing his know-how to bear on the Irish: “The wilde Irish and the Indian doe not much differ”, and therefore “would be handled alike”; that is, by means of an inexpensive system of extermination that would not “spend time about Castles and Forts” but would “burne up the Enemies provisions every where”. In fact this system had already been elaborated in Edmund Spenser’s “View of the Present State of Ireland” for the previous Elizabethan conquest.

Some of the ideas of Edmund Spenser and the Rev. Peters worked themselves out in the supply of Irish slaves to the West Indian death camps. But the troublesome Irish slaves were literate and knew about firearms, and made common cause in rebellions with the African slaves. Then the sugar lords found a new inexhaustible supply of bodies in the British monopoly of African slavery won in the Asiento clause of the Treaty of Utrecht 1713. But the enslaved Irish, duly Africanised, found a satirical memorial a century later in Tom Moore’s verses:

About fifty years since, in the days of our daddies,
That plan was commenced which the wise now applaud,
Of shipping off Ireland’s most turbulent Paddies,
As good raw material for settlers, abroad.

Some West-Indian island, whose name I forget,
Was the region then chosen for this scheme so romantic;
And such the success the first colony met,
That a second, soon after, set sail o’er the Atlantic.

Behold them now safe at the long looked-for shore,
Settling in between banks that the Shannon might greet,
And thinking of friends whom, but two years before,
They had sorrowed to lose, but would soon meet again.

And, hark! From the shore a glad welcome there came –
“Arrah, Paddy from Cork, is it you, my sweet boy?”
While Pat stood astounded, to hear his own name
Thus hailed by black devils, who capered for joy!

Can it possibly be? – half amazement – half doubt,
Pat listens again – rubs his eyes and looks steady;
Then heaves a deep sigh, and in horror yells out,
“Good Lord! Only think – black and curly already!”

Deceived by that well-mimicked brogue in his ears,
Pat read his own doom in these wool-headed figures,
And thought, what a climate, in less than two years,
To turn a whole cargo of Pats into niggers!
(Paddy’s Metamorphosis, 1833)

But perhaps Solas Eile is onto something when he spotlights the significance of underlying religious values in the conduct of nations. Northern Europe, location of the Lutheran religious reformation, has some of the most peaceful and tranquil countries of the world. Could this be because they simply followed their own conscientious beliefs about right and wrong and were satisfied with the result? Sweden on the other hand has been at war in more than 200 of the past 300 years, and the graves of its soldiers are located in about 200 of the world’s 300 or so countries. This is not self-defence; in nearly a thousand years the closest Sweden came to being invaded was the Spanish Armada which never actually landed. Did I say Sweden? Sorry, I meant something else.

Today British belligerence and war-mongering are increasing, not decreasing. I sometimes think that Remembrance Sunday could just as well be celebrated as Foresight Sunday, since we have no reason to suppose that Britain’s next 300 years will not be as bloodsoaked as the past. So why wait around for the cannon fodder to actually be killed, why not start Remembering them right away and be done with it?

This awesome belligerence is the elephant in the world’s parlour that nobody seems prepared to draw attention to. It is like a destructive force of nature that everybody accepts as an inescapable reality. Welcome to the real world, as Solas Eile puts it. This is national delinquency and pathology on a mind-boggling scale. What is the explanation of it?

I cannot answer this. Perhaps Britain (now, it seems, joined by the USA) has a fundamental spiritual angst, an itch it cannot scratch; an emptiness which can only be relieved by going to war against interminable foreign evils. Could this be the result of the bogus religious reformation of Henry VIII which had nothing to do with actual religious belief but which kicked off an obsession with inner evil and treachery, leading to interminable civil conflict which could only be relieved by displacement of the obsession onto a long succession of foreign devils, from the Papacy down the centuries to Saddam Hussein, which everyone was invited to hate in order to stop them hating each other?


Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/79753
author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue Oct 09, 2007 20:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This discussion has resumed at

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Apr 03, 2008 21:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More information at

author by Bandopublication date Fri Apr 04, 2008 15:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat Muldowney wrote elsewhere...

"A critique of the Broadasting Complaints Commission adjudication can be read at http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease where further documents will be made available, exposing the methods of RTÉ and BCC".

Had a look through this. Pat, it's a joke. That you'd write...

"RTE denied the accusation that no Consultant Historian was used in the documentary to ensure professional historical standards. It was subsequently proven that RTE's claim that a Consultant Historian had been employed in the documentary was a lie".

...is hilarious in its stupidity.

The contributors to the documentary were Pr. Richard English (Historian) - {words parenthesised are yours Pat, see "RTÉ Atrocity Propaganda and Censorship, Part 9"}, Dr. Raymond Gillespie (Dept. History Maynooth), Dr. Terence Dooley [Author:”The land for the people”], and Dr. Will Murphy, Dept. of Irish Studies, Mater Dei Institute of Education.
From this one can conclude that they are....stenographers?? Oh no, they were historians...like you said (and then, it seems, didn't say).

And wasn't your own Philip McConway [local IRA historian..1919/1922] part of the "research", as mentioned in the credits of the documentary?

Do you not consider Philip McConway worthy of the title "Consultant Historian"?

"It was subsequently proven that RTE's claim that a Consultant Historian had been employed in the documentary was a lie. The reader can search the BCC website Broadcasting Complaints. It will be a fruitless search".

Why would one bother looking to see if it was mentioned on the BCC website? It was self-evident from watching the programme (though obviously not to you).

That you'd write...

"The BCC's prejudice was expressed in its opening remark: that the subject of the documentary was the "murder" of two brothers in Coolacrease during the war of Independence in 1921".

or as you wrote elsewhere:

"In other words, the foundation and starting point of the Commission’s deliberations is that what happened at Coolacrease was murder, and not legitimate war-time punishment for taking up arms against the elected government".

That was remiss of you not to mention it in your 60 letter page of complaint, wasn't it? There were seven of you making formal complaints and between the lot of you, you forgot to mention it! Doesn't sound like sound historical research to me.

But sure it doesn't really matter. The courts at the time concluded that it was murder and everyone watching the documentary concluded that it was murder, so one might conclude from that conclusion that it was murder.

author by Pinochiopublication date Fri Apr 04, 2008 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Banda should be blameless in his stupidity, since it clearly stems from ignorance.

It is standard RTE practice to have one (just one) 'Consultant Historian' who has final veto over matters of historical fact al all RTE historical documentaries. That is irrespective of how many other researchers or historians are credited.

The position of Consultant Historian supersedes and overrides all others on an RTE historical programme, including the producer/director, with regard to matters of historical fact. The reason is simple. Programme makers are not historians and are not competent to make final historical judgements. A historian with veto powers would not have allowed crazy Senator Harris to make his wild allegation about the Pearsons being shot in the balls. He would have said it was balls.

RTE said there was a Consultant Historian in their response to the Complaints Commission, because it is mandatory on such programmes. Someone told whoever wrote the original RTE response a porky.


Presumably Mr/Ms Porky thought it would be believed, and that no one would check. Someone did.

The BCCI covered up the fact.


Porkier and porkier.

author by Dempseypublication date Fri Apr 04, 2008 21:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"It is standard RTE practice to have one (just one) 'Consultant Historian' who has final veto over matters of historical fact al all RTE historical documentaries".

Do you have any link (rte website/broadcast regulations etc) where that point is clarified?

author by Jokerpublication date Fri Apr 04, 2008 22:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems to be a big enough issue that RTÉ felt it needed to lie its way out of it.
And when the RTÉ lie was exposed, it was important enough, and embarrassing enough, to induce Niamh to try to bluster her way around it!

author by Reel Journalistpublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 09:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Seven Complainants stepped up to the plate and made their pitch.

Niamh (sorry, Bando) is now saying that she had, not one, not two, but FIVE Consultant Historians (English, Gillespie, Dooley, McConway, and the other one). Even though, according to the BCC website (www.bcc.ie) she admitted she had NONE.

The Magnificent Seven went into the lions' den and gave it their best shot.

But what about the Famous Five? Surely Niamh's Gang of Five consultant historians should come forward to defend her honour?

Well, it seems they are dumbstruck! Now, why might that be, I wonder?

But wait a minute!! One of the Gang of Five is ALSO one of the Magnificen Seven!

The only one of Niamh's Five Consultant Historians to actually speak up about her programme has roundly condemned it!

author by Dempseypublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 09:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Could someone clarify the question I asked earlier? Does anyone have any link (rte website/broadcast regulations etc) to back up Pinochio's statement that "It is standard RTE practice to have one (just one) 'Consultant Historian' who has final veto over matters of historical fact al all RTE historical documentaries"?

author by Pinochiopublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 10:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dempsey, the proof is in RTE's lie. Why did RTE say, untruthfully, that a researcher was the consultant historian? Because it was expected, a standard practice. It is a reasonable procedure. TV producers are incompetent historians, or amateurs if you like. RTE is the national Broadcasters and creates an archive of historical information. A professional historian as 'Consultant Historian' has a veto on speculative nonsense (for instance, Eoghan Harris and his balls). If Eoghan had been told his ill-considered views were not necessary, he would have had more time to defend Bertie Ahern or Cathal O Searcaigh - then again, perhaps the latter would have been better off if Eoghan took his eye of those balls more.

Who told RTE a porky pie? I asked my question (just to be childish about it) first. Raise all the smokescreens you want, the wind will soon blow through them.

author by Jokerpublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 11:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a good point. RTÉ should come clean. Are its historical products to be taken seriously, or is it in the business of producing sensationalist garbage, with chancers, posers and propagandists like Harris and Sammon deciding the content, in the place of a responsible, professional historian?

author by zemhrapublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 11:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More lies from Muldowney.

Looking at the comments above I wonder has anyone bothered reading the complaints and the responses on the BCC website: http://www.bcc.ie/decisions/feb_08_decisions.html

First of all, the BCC stated that "the complainant (Pat Muldowney) further takes issue with the fact that there was no consultant historian assigned to the programme. It is not within the remit of the Commission to comment on who participated in the making of the programme".

Elsewhere it says:

"...he (Pat Muldowney) noted the highly significant fact that there was no Consultant Historian listed in the credits of the programme. Therefore there was no professional historian charged with overall responsibility for the historical accuracy of the programme. His understanding is that this was a serious breach of RTÉ guidelines".

In response, the programme makers said:

"Consultant Historian
Dr. Paul Rouse was the programme’s researcher. Dr. Rouse is a native of Tullamore and therefore he was extremely knowledgeable about the story of the Pearsons. Given his extensive knowledge of this period, and his academic credentials, Dr. Rouse informally provided advice and relevant historical information to the programme team. Dr. Muldowney is incorrect in stating that Dr. Rouse is simply a sports historian.

The documentary makers were under no obligation to have an official, designated consultant historian on the programme. Instead, the programme team drew on a wide range of historical analysis provided by Dr. Terence Dooley, Professor Richard English, Dr. Will Murphy, and Dr. Rouse".

Obviously Muldowney's "understanding" was wrong. And unless someone can prove otherwise (RTE guidelines, as Dempsey mentioned earlier), it's a fairly watery argument.

author by Reel Journalistpublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 12:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

From the mistress of exotic handles:

"More lies from Muldowney.

Looking at the comments above I wonder has anyone bothered reading the complaints and the responses on the BCC website: http://www.bcc.ie/decisions/feb_08_decisions.html "

Do that. And then, for relief from RTÉ/BCC propaganda, check out: http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease

author by Jokerpublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 12:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Let's not be distracted by Niamh's diversionary tactics and misdirection.

If it makes no difference whether or not the programme had a consultant historian, why did RTÉ lie about it?

author by Dempseypublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 13:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm confused. What exactly did RTE lie about? Where can I see the evidence on this point?

author by Dempseypublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 19:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Muldowney wrote,

"My complaint highlighted the absence of a Consultant Historian, a standard form of historical quality control which would have been especially useful in a programme about a contentious subject like this one. RTÉ's reply to my complaint was published in the BCC report - but only partially. The RTÉ reply consists of seven pages. In its report on my complaint the BCC quotes five and a half pages of this reply, then skips a page. That is the page dealing specifically with the complaint of Philip Mc Conway, and in the course of it, RTÉ slips in the following: "... on the advice of Mr Paul Rouse, the programme’s researcher and historical consultant ...".

So there you have it. A piece of junk history gets produced, without professional quality control. RTÉ lies about it. The lie is exposed. The independent producer fumes and blusters. And the BCC covers it up".

I've read this quite a few times now and I'm not coming to the same conclusions as Muldowney. There seems to be gaps in whatever he's trying to say. Where does the line "... on the advice of Mr Paul Rouse, the programme’s researcher and historical consultant ..." come from? I've looked through the BCC reports and can't find it. And what does that line prove? Where is the lie?
Apologies if I'm missing the obvious.

author by Jokerpublication date Sat Apr 05, 2008 20:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

RTÉ's bogus claim, censored from the BCC report, can be read on page 13 of:
(link from http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease )

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This passage from Farrel Corcoran's RTE and the Globalisation of Irish Television (Intellect Books, 2004: 85) indicates that the appointment of historical consultant was standard practice on RTE programmes of a historical nature. In the case referred to by Corcoran, the RTE Authority changed the policy in 1998. In future a programme participant could not occupy that position, so as to avoid the possibility of bias.

The role of adviser and historical consultant are distinct. The HC has a final say on matters of a historical nature broadcast. It is quality control.

It is indicated that the role of historical consultant is still in place, as RTE named the only person eligible for the position of historical consultant (apart from, ironically, Dr Pat Muldowney) - as a result of the RTE Authority decision in 1998. Paul Rouse was not interviewed on the programme, while the others named as advisors did participate. But, it seems, he did not have the position RTE bestowed on him retrospectively.

Whatever about the merits of the dispute, it seems that all are agreed that, despite RTE's original claim, there was no historical consultant attached to the programme. This seems a pity, as the issues being thrashed about now might have been resolved prior to broadcast, if one had been appointed.

Has anyone thought of writing directly to RTE, asking how it was that Dr Rouse was mistakenly appointed to a position he did not occupy, and how it was that this normal practice of quality control was not monitored by RTE itself? Also, how does the blameless Dr Rouse feel about all this? A bit bemused or irritated possibly.

Is the subsequent mess one result of the globalisation of Irish television?

RTE and the Globalisation of Irish Television, page 85, on RTE's new historical consultant policy
RTE and the Globalisation of Irish Television, page 85, on RTE's new historical consultant policy

Farrel Corcoran chaired the RTE AUthority from 1995-2000
Farrel Corcoran chaired the RTE AUthority from 1995-2000

author by Dempseypublication date Sun Apr 06, 2008 21:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Could you put up the page that actually says that the RTE Authority changed the policy in 1998.

The excerpt you've uploaded from page 85 doesn't say much except that there was a "feeling...that these roles should in future be separated".

author by Dimpseypublication date Sun Apr 06, 2008 21:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would say, as a matter of strong probability, that once the authority expressed its feeling on the matter, the rest of the organisation followed suit. Certainly, the separate role of the historical consultant or adviser appears settled. Wouldn't you agree? Otherwise, why would RTE say there was one? I bet they regret there was a failure to appoint one, and I bet they regret being made to look foolish. I wonder who is to blame?

author by Dempseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 00:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dimpsey (!) wrote

"I would say, as a matter of strong probability, that once the authority expressed its feeling on the matter, the rest of the organisation followed suit Certainly, the separate role of the historical consultant or adviser appears settled. Wouldn't you agree?".

I certaintly wouldn't say that "as a matter of probability" the rest of the organisation followed suit, and I certainly wouldn't agree that the separate role of the historical consultant or adviser "appears settled" . . .

That is why I asked:

"Could you (Niall Meehan) put up the page that actually says that the RTE Authority changed the policy in 1998".

author by Niall Meehanpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 08:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I suggest, if you want that degree of definition, that you write directly to RTE ( I think I suggested that already). It seems straightforward. The author, Farrel Corcoran, chaired the Authority from 1995-2000 and wrote that after January 1998 a person interviewed in a historical documentary should not also be that programme's 'historical consultant'. It therefore makes a kind of sense that Dr Rouse was nominated for that position, and a kind of nonsense that he never occupied it. That seems to me to me the more curious and intriguing event. Perhaps you do not. I suggest (again) you contact RTE.

author by Reel Journalistpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 08:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

RTÉ flogs a dodgy car :"Low Price for Quick Sale, perfect working order, guaranteed by Independent Mechanic".

Turns out there was no Independent Mechanic.

RTÉ's PR agency the BCC ("Buy Cars Carefully"?) says:
"RTÉ bought this outstanding car from a highly reputable salvage company. We saw a photo of it and it didn't need an Independent Mechanic.
In fact RTÉ never said anything about any Independent Mechanic."

RTÉ's lawyer above says: "Show me the small print!".

author by Dempseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 09:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Niall Meehan said

"I suggest, if you want that degree of definition, that you write directly to RTE..."

Sensible suggestion, though I would direct that straight to Pat Muldowney who is making this claim. As the issue currently stands, it's as clear as mud.

Reel Journalist's "Buyer Beware!" contribution, pretty poor I thought.

author by Jokerpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 09:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You have all missed the point.

RTÉ claimed there was a Consultant Historian, when there was none.

Therefore RTÉ is guilty of lying.

RTÉ is ALSO guilty of professional malpractice, UNLESS it can point to a clause in the Small Print which says it does NOT require a Consultant Historian for its historical products.

That is, UNLESS it can PROVE that it possesses a licence to broadcast Junk History.

author by Reel Journalistpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good point, Joker.

So if RTÉ does not have an exemption clause, it is in trouble.

But if it DOES have such a clause, it is in even bigger trouble!

author by Dempseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...and despite all the opinions being thrown around here, we still don't have any concrete clarification on this issue.

We don't know for sure what RTE's policy is (the passage from Farrel Corcoran's RTE and the Globalisation of Irish Television book didn't clear up anything), the documentary makers say in the BCC report that they were under no obligation to have an official, designated consultant historian on the programme.

Loose statements like: "RTÉ claimed there was a Consultant Historian, when there was none. Therefore RTÉ is guilty of lying" are being made without much foundation or concrete evidence.

As I said earlier this issue is as clear as mud.

author by Humpty Dumpseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eh, Dempsey:

RTE said Dr Paul Rouse was the historical consultant.

He was not, there was none.

RTE is, at the very least, guilty of misinformation, or of itself being misinformed (by whom?).

Perhaps you could wrap your head around that . Us mere mortals have got the message from RTE (and from the former RTE authority Chairperson) that there is such a thing as a historical consultant, that RTE said there was one appointed on the The killings at Coolacrease, when there was not.

Shall we move on?

(I have every suspicion, Dempsey, that you have a fool for a client. But it is only a suspicion, don't ask me for definitive proof.)

author by Dempseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"RTE said Dr Paul Rouse was the historical consultant. He was not, there was none".

How do we know that?

author by Niamh Troutpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We know that from RTE's response to the complaint . It referred to "Mr Paul Rouse, the programme’s... historical consultant".

author by Jokerpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/RTEcomme...y.pdf (page 13)
Verification: Peter Feeney, Head of Public Affairs Policy, RTÉ, phone 01 208 3122

author by Jokerpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/Ireplyto...C.pdf (page 1)
Verification: Dr. Paul Rouse

author by Reel Journalistpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Further confirmation:
(page 17)
Verification: Ms Niamh Sammon

author by Plot spotterpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While Dempsey may be a troll. It may be also that s/he wants to create space on the page, with dopey questions and exasperated replies, between readers and this fairly definitive info:

RTE's policy on historical consultants

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76350&comment_limit=0&condense_comments=false#comment225316
author by Dempseypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 14:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...and still we don't know for sure what RTE's policy is on the issue of "Historical Consultant" except Farrel Corcoran's statement that there was a "feeling...that these roles (Historical Consultant and participant) should in future be separated".

A point which the bloggers here have taken to be "truth".

The truth is nobody here knows what RTE's policy is on this issue.

author by Jokerpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 14:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The "feeling" is that certain roles should be separated, not whether these roles exist.

The "fact", or truth, is that the roles exist.

What roles? (1) participant, (2) Historical Consultant.

Otherwise why would RTÉ lie about it?

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 19:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Niamh Sammon's comments on my broadcasting complaint are at pages 11-17 of:

My reply to her comments is at: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/PMul_Rep...r.pdf
My annotation of her comments is at: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/PMul_Ann...t.pdf

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 20:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The annotated transcript of the Niamh Sammon/Eoghan Harris documentary can be read in full at:
(link from: http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease )

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More documents now available at http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease :
IRA commander Thomas Burke's report on the Pearsons: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/Burke.pdf
British Military Courts of Inquiry into Pearsons, including RIC report concurring with Burke: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/V_Britis...y.pdf
Statement by Sidney Pearson to Grants Committee: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/GC-Sidne...P.pdf
Statement by William Pearson to Grants Committee: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/GC-WmP.pdf

author by Philpublication date Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"British Military Courts of Inquiry into Pearsons, including RIC report "

Not once is there mention of an RIC report in that document.

author by Jokerpublication date Wed Apr 16, 2008 18:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We don't have to take your word for it, Niamh. We can now check it out for ourselves - no thanks to your junk history programme.
Not once was there a mention of the British Courts of Enquiry in it.
And that was your downfall.

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 21:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Another of the Seven Complainants was Offaly Historian Paddy Heaney.

Paddy Heaney's knowledge of all aspects of the history of the area is unrivalled. He wrote the first published account of the Pearson executions in his 2002 book "At the Foot of Slieve Bloom".
He is the rock on which the Hidden History propaganda foundered, in spite of the professorial rabble who cravenly did the bidding of Harris and Sammon..

The Kafkaesque Release Form linked below was the fig-leaf quoted by Niamh Sammon to justify the doctoring of Paddy Heaney's interview.

Links from: http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Main/CoolaCrease

Paddy Heaney's complaint to BCC: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/Complain...y.pdf
RTÉ's reply totally ignored this complaint: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/RTEReply.pdf
Paddy Heaney's comments on RTÉ's non-response: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/PHeaneyR...E.pdf
Niamh Sammon's comments on Paddy Heaney's complaint: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/Producer...H.pdf
Paddy Heaney's reply to Niamh Sammon: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/PHreplyP...r.pdf
The Release Form signed by interviewees for the programme: http://docs.indymedia.org/pub/Main/CoolaCrease/RELEASEF...M.pdf

This documentation demonstrates RTÉ chicanery in its most acute form.

Is it any wonder that the Broadcasting Complaints Commission is being abolished, along with the RTÉ Authority?

author by Televisionpublication date Wed Apr 30, 2008 22:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice to see that "The Killings at Coolacrease" documentary has picked up an International Hugo Television Award.

"The Killings At Coolacrease" won the "Gold Plaque in the Documentary: History and Biography" category.

Run as part of the 44th Chicago International Film Festival, the Hugo Television Awards recognise "outstanding productions that achieve both technical excellence and creativity and are competed for by 35 countries across six continents. Entries to the competition are judged by a jury of leading media professionals".

The ever-reliable cohorts will dismiss it as "broadcasting" not history; nevertheless, it's still another kick in the groin (or is it genitals? Does it matter?) for Muldowney and Co.


author by Reel Journalistpublication date Tue May 06, 2008 08:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, nobody could possibly deny that it was creative!! Haven't we be saying that here for months?
Good to hear that our message has got through!

author by Reeling Journalistpublication date Tue May 06, 2008 22:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Good to hear that our message has got through!"

Eh...think that should read "Good to hear that their message has got through"

author by A dentistpublication date Sat Oct 04, 2008 12:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Belated correction of "Pearsons go Abroad", which says that the programme won 'THE' Gold Plaque at the 2008 Hugo Awards, implying that it won first place. In fact the 'Documentary: History/Biography' category was won with a 'Silver Hugo' by Thirteen/WNET New York, with 'Les Paul: Chasing Sound'. There were four Gold Plaques and two Certiicates of merit. The Pearsons programme won one of the plaques.

Appropriate really, as the only plaque I associate the programme with is the stuff on my teeth. If I leave it there long enough it goes go a kind of greeny-goldy colour.

author by The Palepublication date Sat Jan 03, 2009 09:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A less than flattering review of Pat Muldowney’s twitterings on the subject of Coolacrease can be found below. Having read the book, it’s hard to disagree with the synopsis of the Sunday Business Post


author by Maura Keating - Informpublication date Wed Mar 18, 2009 18:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sunday Independent, October 2, 2007

“This is the history we are not taught and this is another side that maybe we don't want to look at. ….”

“But even today the ruin of Coolacrease is there, it still stands there. It's this reminder, but it won't be there forever."

‘Coolacrease – the True Story’ exposes and “genuinely uncovers” Niamh Sammon, the con artist extraordinaire. Her slimy side that maybe RTE don't want to look at. “But maybe we should. I would hope so.”

‘Coolacrease – The True Story’ is a reminder, and it WILL be there forever. Get your copy today!

author by Pat Muldowneypublication date Fri Jun 19, 2009 19:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Documents relating to the Coolacrease executions and the RTÉ Hidden History documentary can be read at

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