The Men Will Talk to Me review
Ernie O' Malley standing outside the Four Courts, June 1922
The Men Will Talk to Me: Ernie O’Malley’s Interviews with the Northern Divisions
Edited by Síobhra Aiken, Fearghal MacBhloscaidh, Liam Ó Duibhir and Diarmuid Ó Tuama
This is the latest installment in a series of books incorporating interviews and notes taken mostly in the 1940s by Ernie O’Malley, the famous IRA commander during the “Tan War”, as the War of Independence is referred to in this book, of IRA members of their recollections of that momentous period from 1913 to 1924. Most, but not all, of the men interviewed eventually took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and did not make statements to the Bureau of Military History. This book attempts to avoid duplication of those statements and thereby fill in lacunae in the narrative. The joint anti-Treaty and pro-Treaty IRA offensive that never materialised against the new northern state in 1922 is a central consideration. The specifically northern problem of sectarianism and the pogroms in and around Belfast inevitably loom large. There is an interesting, if somewhat contentious, introduction by one of the editors. The sketch of Frank Aiken leaves out key episodes of his role as IRA commander. However, the recollections are valuable contributions to our understanding of the complicated situation of Ulster during those tumultuous times.