29 November 2005

All credit to the steadfast faithful of Kilmichael ambush

Daily Ireland


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Photo by Donal Buckley - The Wild Geese Today

The garda directing the traffic closed off the road through Kilmichael an hour before the 85th commemoration of Tom Barry’s famous victory over the feared Auxiliaries on Sunday last.
Indeed, so popular is the feting of our republican heroes becoming, that they’ll probably have to close Crossbarry down for a fortnight next spring when the Rebel County raises its hat again to the fabled Flying Column.
On Sunday last, Enda Kenny was toasting Arthur Griffith and the founders of Sinn Féin while down the road from Kilmichael in Kiskeam, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was addressing a commemoration for former agriculture minister and War of Independence leader Seán Moylam.
Keeping the faith over many years was a tough task for the faithful of Kilmichael when they were being lashed in the Sindo for celebrating a “serial killer” — as controversial historian Peter Hart, who has just penned a biography of Michael Collins, branded Barry.
Michael O’Connor, Seán Ó Ceilleachair and many others who kept the flag flying high over Kilmichael were smeared — as were the Rebel County’s republicans of all stripes — by the patently false British claims (recycled by the Indo et al) that Barry’s boys had mutiliated the Auxiliaries with axes.
As has been proven by Meda Ryan (author of Tom Barry Irish Freedom Fighter), Brian Murphy, Niall Meehan and other historians who have, in Barry’s words, “gone down into the mire” with the revisionists to expose their cant, the cream of Britain’s forces tricked the inexperienced volunteers by crying out “we surrender” — only to open up again with a withering fire which took the lives of three of the column.
Once bitten, twice shy, Barry, a former British soldier himself, gave the order to keep firing until all 18 of the enemy officers lay dead.
The biting cold at Dús a’ Bharraigh last Sunday as over a thousand people gathered to hear TD-in-waiting Mary Lou McDonald, only served to deepen the sense of awe at the courage of a handful of mountainy men who endured a bitter day and night of sleet and rain to wait in ambush for the Empire’s finest fighting men.
They had marched through the night, after having their confessions heard, and took up positions for the close-quarters battle in the knowledge that there could be no retreat.
As an outsider, invited in to address the after-speeches hooley at Creedon’s Hotel in Inchigeelagh on the success of Daily Ireland, it was a privilege to be part of what is still a community commemoration-cum-celebration; more akin to an parish wedding reception or a Basque ‘gastronomical society’ feast than a service of remembrance, if truth be told.
They’ll be hanging out their brightest colours in the Rebel County for some time to come for the Boys of Kilmichael “who conquered the red, white and blue”.
I suspect that the ending of the IRA campaign and the Taoiseach’s decision to greenlight a state commemoration of the Rising will ensure we have similar community celebrations of daring feats of IRA bravery and derring-do the length and breadth of the country.
Anyone for a Francis Hughes féile?

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