North Kerry’s Civil War un­der spot­light in Fer­gal’s Wounds

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Con­tact Dónal Nolan dnolan@ker­ry­man.ie 066 7145522

BBC Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent Fer­gal Keane is re­turn­ing to his an­ces­tral Kerry home for the launch of a work that is be­ing an­tic­i­pated with rel­ish by his­tory fans.

Wounds is Keane’s deeply per­sonal his­tory of the War of In­de­pen­dence and the Civil War, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on the bloody way the lat­ter played out in North Kerry. It’s be­ing launched in Lis­towel in one of the high­lights of Cul­ture Night in the county - at the Lis­towel Arms at 7pm on Fri­day next, Septem­ber 22.

At the heart of the book is the fig­ure of his fa­ther Ea­monn’s mother Han­nah Pur­till, who took up arms against the Bri­tish in the War of In­de­pen­dence and those whom she fought along­side - in­clud­ing her brother Mick and their friend, Kerry foot­baller Con Bros­nan.

Few his­to­ri­ans of the pe­riod have been as qual­i­fied to write about the na­ture of war as Keane. As one of the BBC’s pre-em­i­nent for­eign cor­re­spon­dents he cov­ered some of the gris­li­est con­flicts of the late 20th Cen­tury in­clud­ing Rwanda and the Balkans - win­ning count­less ac­co­lades for his in­sight­ful re­port­ing, in­clud­ing the Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Press Awards in 1993 and, in 1994, Amnesty’s tele­vi­sion award for his ac­count of the Rwan­dan geno­cide Jour­ney into Dark­ness.

Keane has also gar­nered mas­sive ac­claim for his work as an his­to­rian of war - rather than first­hand re­porter - with his nar­ra­tive of the Siege of Koshima in WW2, Road of Bones, de­scribed as ‘ The equal of [An­thony] Beevor’s Stal­in­grad’ by Gen­eral David Richards.

Now, Keane brings his hard­won ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the evil men do and the re­silience of those who sur­vive it to bear on the dark­est pe­riod of mod­ern Ir­ish his­tory - in a county where it raged with par­tic­u­lar vi­cious­ness and where it might even con­tinue to be felt (wit­ness the sec­ond, re­cent de­fac­ing of the mon­u­ment to Free State ca­su­al­ties in Knock­nagoshel).

Wounds en­com­passes all sides of the con­flicts - with an­other of the cen­tral char­ac­ters ex­am­ined that of Tobias O’Sul­li­van; a dis­trict in­spec­tor of the RIC and fa­ther-of-three gunned down by the IRA on Jan­uary 20, 1921.

Keane of­fered very re­veal­ing in­sight into his mo­ti­va­tion in an in­ter­view with The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent at the week­end. “I was con­stantly see­ing the links be­tween the vi­o­lence of the rev­o­lu­tion and the wars I have spent my adult life re­port­ing on...Also I kept won­der­ing how I would have acted in 1920, the same year my grand­mother be­came fully ac­tive in the IRA. I am sure I would prob­a­bly have been swept up in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary fer­vour of the time,” Fer­gal Keane said.

His mother Maura Has­sett’s grand­fa­ther Pa­trick Has­sett was mean­while a sergeant in the RIC and he fig­ured large in Keane’s thoughts. “The past is com­plex, per­sonal and pub­lic.”

Ex­pect lit­tle room in the Lis­towel Arms as North Kerry pours in to hear the au­thor talk about it all in per­son.

Brenda Woulfe will be sell­ing copies in the Lis­towel Arms on the night and it will be avail­able in her Church Street book­shop from Fri­day, Septem­ber 22 on. It can only be hoped that the mem­oir will in­spire the county to think deeper and harder about its di­vi­sive strug­gles in the in­ter­ests of heal­ing the wounds.

BBC spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Fer­gal Keane pic­tured at McKenna’s Cas­tle in Ard­more, Co Water­ford, re­cently. Photo by Tony Gavin

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