Historians oppose plan for motorway


A GROUP of prominent Irish historians has urged Bord Pleanála to divert a proposed section of motorway linking Cork and Kerry away from the site of a historic ambush during the War of Independence.

The group of nine historians has written to the planning authority to express their concern about the planned routing of the N22 from Macroom to Ballyvourney through the site of a major ambush at Coolnacaheragh in 1921.

The historians, who include Dr Michael Hopkinson, Dr Peter Hart, Prof Diarmaid Ferriter, Dr Donal O Drisceoil and Dr Ruan O’Donnell, point out that Coolnacaheraghy was “one of the largest and longest encounters of the War of Independence”. Nearly 200 combatants exchanged fire for four hours on February 25th, 1921, and then continued a six-hour running fight across miles of rough terrain. The encounter reflected the IRA’s growing guerilla sophistication in early 1921, said the historians. “Coolnacaheragh should thus be classified as one of the IRA’s most ambitious operations of the entire conflict. The British response at Coolnacaherage was also notable in its use of combined arms tactics with the deployment of infantry, armour and air units to the scene.”

The IRA 1st Cork Brigade under the command of Seán O Hegarty suffered no casualties, while the number of casualties on the British side has been disputed with the British claiming that only Major James Seafield Grant was killed and two others died later from their wounds.

According to the Irish historians, the IRA’s damage to the strong Auxiliary force made the Crown forces unwilling to enter the region except in huge numbers and it resulted in the area becoming a safe haven for the IRA and a republican bastion in the Civil War. According to Dr Diarmuid Ó Grada, a planning consultant hired by a local heritage group, An Daimh Staire, Acadamh Fodhla, the proposed route of the N22 will involve the construction of an 8m high embankment right through the scene of the ambush.