Free State Revisionism of Irish history

Guest writer Martin Longwill of the Sydney Branch James Connolly Association, Australia, with a piece on revisionism.

It was recently publicised that plans are in the making to redevelop the Kilmichael ambush site in West Cork. It was at this site in November 1920 that a flying column of the IRA ambushed and inflicted heavy casualties on a unit of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC. The Auxiliaries earned their fearsome reputation as a ruthless, blood thirsty terror gang due to their conduct during the Tan War. In response to IRA military action against the British war machine in Ireland, the Auxiliaries often retaliated against the civilian population by destroying property and murdering members of the public.

The proposed redevelopment of the ambush site includes a plan to list the names and ranks of the Auxiliaries who were killed in the ambush, effectively acknowledging as legitimate the role of the British forces in the Tan War and to a large extent equating it with the efforts of Irish Republicans who fought against British imperialism.

This occurrence is one of a number of similar instances of recent times. At the end of last month there occurred in Dublin, for the second consecutive year, a commemoration for the Black and Tans. As with the Auxiliaries, the Black and Tans were the armed representatives of the British state who acted in the same manner and were responsible for terrorising and murdering ordinary people. This commemoration was attended by twenty-six county minister Brian Hayes, among others.

In a further and more recent development from earlier this month Eamon Gilmore, on behalf of the twenty-six county administration, issued an invite to members of the British government and the British royal family to participate in the state's centenary commemorative events of the 1916 Easter Rising in three years' time.

These developments should be recognised for what they are - attempts to rewrite Irish history, to give the impression that both sides in this conflict are equals (albeit opposites), and to normalise the existence of British rule in the north eastern six counties of Ireland. As Irish Republicans we need to reject the revisionism of our history and oppose the notion that British involvement in Ireland is either normal or acceptable. We are at the beginning of a decade of commemorating the 1913 - 1923 era and it is our responsibility to take charge and to ensure that the memory of our patriots who have gone before us is not sullied by those in constitutional nationalism who have traditionally sided with the enemies of Republicanism.


  1. Am I right in thinking that the Auxiliaries were worse than the regular Black and Tans when it came to terror? I read in a few books that this was the case. But I am sure the revisionists will soon have many believing they were misunderstood philanthropists.

    Also, with the relatively recent revisionist tracts describing the Kilmichael ambush as one which didn't consist of a false surrender by the Auxiliaries are we to expect some reference to this at the monument unveiling? Perhaps it wasn't Auxiliaries at all who were killed but little kittens and puppies?

    Martin is absolutely correct with his analysis. The Queen's visit and all the flirting with the British establishment is all choreographed so that there is as little trouble as possible around the 1916 centenary celebrations.

    The Queens visit was also to distance the PIRA from the 1916-1922 IRA and paint the PIRA as terrorists with no redeeming features.

    Likewise, the visit North by the Queen was to distance the armed groups of today from the PIRA and consequently move them another step away from the original people 100 years ago.

    I can't agree with violence today as we know how much heartbreak and loss was involved in the recent Troubles. Fighting for something ethereal with so much death, imprisonment and agents is just not worth it. A peaceful campaign is worth a try since a violent one left such a bitter taste.

  2. Martin a chara,
    I recently read a book about Frank Ryan (“In Green and Red - the Lives of Frank Ryan” -by Adrian Hoar)

    In the book it describes an episode during the Spanish Civil War when Ryan came upon a member of the British contingent of the International Brigade, a Captain Nathan, who had been an assassin for the British Army as an enlisted man following orders in the Ireland of the time, yet now a free man fighting for the Spanish Republic.

    The Auxies and The Tans were truly ruthless enemies and I used to think of them as you and then I read about that encounter between a giant in the Republican Pantheon and a former Auxie and now ...............

    Our enemies are deserving of remembrance, and I do not say that as a criticism mo chara.
    Lenin once said that a bayonet was a tool with a worker at each end. We were all workers at each end of the tool comrade.

  3. that might be a misquote on lenin about the bayonet and the worker. something tells me it was somebody else's comment ...... or a line from a poem.

    but true nevertheless.up the rebels. oiche mhaith.

  4. Gerard- "Our enemies are deserving of remembrance". That is true but not with a monument in places near where they burned, pillaged and murdered. Perhaps we should remember them for what they were? The British can remember them in the same way in which many of them have a semi over Cromwell.