Hindsight ‘Virtual’ Festival

Welcome to our Virtual Hindsight 2020 Festival

Sadly, we've had to cancel our first Hindsight History Festival - instead here's a very truncated sample of some of the things that might have happened over the weekend of 20-22 March in the Courthouse in Kells. We'll try and keep adding stuff until we run out of ideas. If you've anything you want to ask or to add you can contact us on Twitter @HinterlandKells or if you're not very Twittery you can email heather@hinterland.ie and Heather will pass on your question.

Our sincere thanks to Meath Decade of Centenaries for making this Virtual Festival possible.

Hindsight takes you through some of the steps that will help you identify the activities of family members during the War of Independence, using freely accessible online aids.

Myles Dungan on spies, informers and IRA executions in County Meath in the first half of 1921.

Dr Liam McNiffe on an IRA execution

Meath-based, Leitrim-born historian Dr. Liam McNiffe looks at some of the realities of the War of Independence in rural Ireland, as seen through the prism of the IRA killing, in Leitrim, of John Harrison. Among the questions being posed … was John Harrison an informer? Was his murder sectarian? Did it contribute to the halving of the Methodist population in Leitrim, 1911-26? Did he bring his misfortune on himself? What was the local reaction to his killing? In conversation on The History Show with Myles Dungan.

With thanks to Meath Co. Library and Meath Decade of Centenaries

Witnesses to Revolution 1919-1921

The audio files below are part of an RTE History Show collaboration with the Irish Military Archives in 2019 where we selected and edited material from the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements of a number of Anglo-Irish War Veterans. We then got actors to 'voice' the material. Some of it was used in our 2019 10-part History Show series on the War of Independence. The ultimate intention is to make around thirty recordings available on www.militaryarchives.ie website. We would like to thank Captain Daniel Ayottis of the Military Archives in Rathmines for permission to include this material in 'Virtual Hindsight'.

Here are some voices from the War of Independence (not the actual voices obviously – though some of those are in the RTE Archives and can be heard online - but actors reading from Bureau of Military History Witness Statements).


Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan was one of the leading IRA men in County Clare, a leader of the East Clare Flying Column who participated in numerous offensive actions, most notably the Glenwood ambush in which six members of the RIC and the Black and Tans were killed. Brennan was also involved in a number of raids and ambushes in Dublin.

Download Witness Statement


Cahir Davitt

Cahir Davitt was a young barrister who never fired a shot in anger. However, through his involvement with the parallel Sinn Fein court system he did much to undermine British rule in Ireland while the shooting war was going on. Davitt was the son of the Land League founder Michael Davitt, and would go on to become a justice of the High Court in the 1950s. He was working on the Connaught circuit during the War of Independence, finding that briefs were few and far between thanks to the establishment of Republican Arbitration courts, established to settle civil cases, when he became a judge himself.

Download Witness Statement


Lily Mernin

From 1914-1922 Lily Mernin, a cousin of leading IRA propagandist, Piaras Beaslai, was employed as a typist in the Dublin District Garrison Adjutant’s office in the Lower Castle Yard. When Beaslai became aware of the precise nature of her work he spoke to Michael Collins about her. Mernin proved extremely useful to Collins when it came to the identification of the Dublin accommodation of British agents, information that was to prove crucial to the assassinations on Bloody Sunday, 21st November, 1920.

Download Witness Statement


David Neligan

David Neligan joined the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1918 and worked in G Division, the detective and ‘anti-terrorist’ unit of the DMP. He did not like the nature of the work or the implications of what he was being asked to do, so he offered his services to Sinn Fein. Somewhat bizarrely he was advised simply to resign. He did so in March 1920 and went to Kerry to spend time with his brother. Word was passed to him in June 1920 that Collins wanted to see him. Collins asked him to apply to return to the DMP. To add to this credibility of this application the IRA arranged for threatening letters to be sent to him warning him to get out of Kerry.

Download Witness Statement


Josephine O’Donoghue

Josephine O’Donoghue, as Josephine Brown, went to work in early 1917 as a clerk and typist at Cork Military Barracks and in late 1919 managed to contact officers of the Cork Brigade of the IRA and offer her services. From then, until the Truce, she collected and transmitted original documents, copies of documents, and information relating to British personnel, equipment and troop movements. She had access to extremely valuable information, which included the correspondence of Major General Sir Peter Strickland, OC of the 6th Division, and military governor of the Munster martial law district.

Download Witness Statement


Vinnie Byrne

Vinnie Byrne was one of the so-called ‘Twelve Apostles’, one of the dozen members of the infamous Dublin IRA assassination Squad working to Collins, as Director of Intelligence. In his Witness Statement Byrne talked about his induction into the Squad. He was involved in a number of Squad operations, most significantly on 21 November 1920, ‘Bloody Sunday’.

Download Witness Statement

Meath Bureau of Military History Witness Statements

Sean Boylan

Sean Boylan, from Dunboyne, was the commanding officer of the Meath Brigade of the IRA. He was a 1916 veteran, a member of the IRB, and was very close to Michael Collins. In 1921, when the IRA adopted a divisional system, Boylan was put in charge of the 1st Eastern Division, which Included Louth, Meath and parts of Cavan, Westmeath and north Kildare.

Download Witness Statement


Sean Farrelly

Sean Farrelly, based in Carnaross, near the Cavan/Meath border, was one of seven brothers, all of whom were members of the IRA during the War of Independence. His brother Patrick was the most senior IRA officer in the family. Sean Farrelly, and most of his brothers, took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War.

Download Witness Statement


Seamus Finn

Seamus Finn was based in Athboy and was Sean Boylan’s second in command for much of the War of Independence.

Download Witness Statement