Sunday, December 9, 2012

Benbulben Civil War Deaths

On Monday evening, 10 December, at 9.35 RTE 1 will screen a documentary about the deaths of six anti-Treaty soldiers on Benbulben, County Sligo during the Civil War in 1922.

It will focus especially on Brian MacNeill, son of the Free State government minister Eoin MacNeill, who came to Sligo during the Truce, took the anti-Treaty side and was one of the Benbulben victims.

I was interviewed for this as a historian who has researched the period though I have no particular insight into the actual incident. I'm interested to see how they will cut and use what I did say.

To a large extent you are at the mercy of the editors whose priority may be to tell a good story rather than reflect all the nuances of a particular incident. I have been told by someone who is an expert on the incident that he has seen the programme and is very pleased with it.

From the RTE website:

One of the victims was Brian MacNeill. His nephew, former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell now wants to discover what happened on that day in September 1922. Did Brian and his comrades really die in an ambush, as the official version goes, or were they killed in cold blood? Why was Brian MacNeill, the son of a minister in the Free State government, fighting on the Republican side? What were the forces, events and ideologies that drove him and other Irish men to take up arms against their former comrades – and in Brian's case, members of his own family?

Filmed in Sligo and Dublin, the documentary will follow Michael's investigation. Piecing together accounts from the military archives, IRA papers, interviews with descendants, and family letters Michael will paint a compelling picture of a family divided and a country riven apart. At its core will be the story of Brian MacNeill, the brilliant young medical student whose death goes to the heart of one of Ireland's greatest historical traumas. 

Sligo Champion report of the making of the documentary.
A Herald piece on the documentary.

Picture above of Brian MacNeill (right) and Sligo IRA leader Frank O'Beirne from my Sligo: The Irish Revolution 1912-1923.

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