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history and heritage |
Monday August 27, 2012 14:03 by Justine McCarthy - Sunday Times
Son of a witness to a notorious 1920 IRA bloodbath is disputing claims about the attack
A SON of a war of independence veteran has accused a historian of publishing "untrue and unchecked claims" relating to a disputed IRA ambush in which his father participated 92 years ago.
Edward "Ned" Young was the last known survivor of the Kilmichael ambush, when the IRA killed 17 police auxiliaries on November 28, 1920. His son John Young has described as "palpably untrue" assertions made by Dr Eve Morrison about a phone conversation he had with her last month. Morrison's claims appear to contradict an affidavit Young signed five years ago, in which he denied that his father co-operated with a controversial book about the ambush.
'HIstorian Caught in Ambush Row' Justine McCarthy Sunday Times 26 August 2012
Young has requested that a statement by him disputing Morrison's version of the July 4 conversation be posted on the Reviews in History website, which is operated by the University of London's Institute of Historical Research.
On the site Morrison claims that John Young told her his father was healthy enough to be interviewed in 1988 when Peter Hart, an acclaimed revisionist historian, claimed to have done so. Hart's thesis in The IRA and its Enemies - a book he published in 1998 - was that Tom Barry, the ambush leader, concocted a story that the Auxiliaries faked a surrender in order to justify the IRA killing 17 of them.
Hart reported an interview with Young, who was not identified, which supported his theory that there had been no fake surrender. John Young signed an affidavit on December 14, 2007, describing Hart's claim to have interviewed his father as "totally untrue".
He swore his father was incapable of being interviewed in 1988, as he had suffered a stroke in 1986 and died aged 97 on November 13, 1989.
"At that stage [the time of Hart's claimed interview], Ned Young was wheelchair-bound, having suffered a stroke some time previously," John Young said in his affidavit.
"As a consequence, it made him incapable of giving an interview, having virtually lost the faculty of speech." Young said a man with "a foreign accent" called at his mother's house in the late 1980s and requested an interview with her husband. She refused, as he was sick in bed.
"If, as seems likely, the man in question was Peter Hart, it makes his subsequent behaviour all the more inexcusable and inexplicable."
Morrison states on the website: "Mr Young confirmed [by phone] that his father's mental faculties were not impaired, and he could speak perfectly clearly. I asked him this twice, and he said he was willing to go on the record on this point."
Morrison's essay Kilmichael Revisited was part of a collection entitled Terror in Ireland 1916-1921, edited by David Fitzpatrick, Hart's and Morrison's history professor at Trinity College in Dublin. In his replying statement, Young says: "I am surprised if Eve Morrison's behaviour is regarded as acceptable academic practice in Trinity College. Is a short, hurried and confused telephone call between strangers on a serious matter a proper basis for making historical claims? "Does Eve Morrison consider me so light-minded as to reverse a sworn statement about my own father in the course of a brief conversation on the telephone with someone I have never met? "Why did [she] not attempt to confirm with me in writing her mistaken interpretation of our conversation before publication? She had over 40 days prior to publication in which to do so."
Last week Morrison said she identified herself to Young when she phoned him last month, and put it to him that she did not believe Hart had lied about interviewing his father.
"I asked Mr Young how he could be so sure that Hart did not interview his father," Morrison said. "Mr Young stated that he had left instructions that no one was to be let into his parents' house without his permission and that no one had ever told him that Hart had visited the house."
In response to Young's request to publish his statement, Reviews in History said it "has a policy of simply allowing a review and a response from the authors and editors, so we wouldn't be able to publish any additional pieces".
The Sunday Times report (above) arises from Eve Morrison's response to a review by Niall Meehan of her contribution to Terror in Ireland 1916-1923, edited by Professor David Fitzpatrick (Lilliput 2012).
Original review and response at:
'HIstorian Caught in Ambush Row' Justine McCarthy Sunday Times 26 August 2012 text