A call by a Sinn Féin councillor in Kerry for “an open apology” from Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for executions carried out by the National Army in the Civil War has been rejected as too divisive.
Leading members of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have described the move as inappropriate, saying the way forward was “to move on” from historical division.
Kerry experienced some of the worst of atrocities in the Civil War and this still resonates in communities and families. As the 100th anniversary of executions at Ballyseedy; Countess Bridge, Killarney and Bahaghs, Cahersiveen approaches in March, a number of commemorative events are planned including a concert.
An academic conference at the end of February, will provide “a neutral space” to discuss the Civil War in Kerry, one of the main conference organisers said.
However, the January monthly meeting of Kerry County Council where mention was made of the commemorative events heard a call from Sinn Féin councillor Robert Beasley for “an open apology” from the Taoiseach for the three successive atrocities by the National Army in March 1923. These together saw 17 anti-Treaty prisoners being executed, some having been tied to landmines and others machine-gunned.
The Ballyseedy executions were seen as a reprisal for the deaths of five National Army personnel blown to death by a trip mine in Knocknagoshel on March 6th.
“An open apology from the Taoiseach for the atrocities at Ballyseedy, Countess Bridge, and Bahaghs Cahersiveen would be very welcome and it is very necessary before the anniversary,” Mr Beasley said.
Speaking afterwards, Tralee Fianna Fáil councillor Fionán Fitzgerald, from Ballymacelligott, which is next to Ballyseedy, felt apologies for deeds committed by one side would be too divisive.
“A lot of things happened 100 years ago in the development of the State. It was very difficult for everyone and things happened on both sides.”
Mr Fitzgerald whose grandmother was in Cuman na mBan, said he would not single out Mr Varadakar to make an apology. Moving forward in the healing process and “remembering the past as a nation and as a totality,” was the way forward, Mr Fitzgerald believed.
Chair of the meeting, Fine Gael’s Bobby O’Connell, also speaking afterwards, said there was no appetite for such a call.
“It would be entirely inappropriate. We could all be bringing up things. This is what happens in a civil war. We are moving on, " Mr O’Connell said.
It is estimated about 1,600 people died in the Civil War, and about half of the casualties were members of the National Army which had been led by Michael Collins until his assassination in August 1922.
The three-day conference in Tralee before the anniversaries will discuss the conflict and its legacy and will hear from local, national, as well as international historians and forms part of the State’s programme on the centenary.
It is to provide a neutral space to look at the complexities as well as the legacy of this extremely turbulent time, historian and communications officer with Kerry County Council Owen O’Shea, one of the organisers said.
Speakers at the The History, Memory and Legacy conference will include Prof Diarmaid Ferriter of UCD, Prof Bill Kissane of the London School of Economics and Dr Leeann Lane of DCU.
A special commemorative concert, including poetry and drama, marking the centenary of the Civil War in Kerry will take place on Saturday, 25th February at 8pm. Further details: www.kerrycivilwarconference.ie