IRA, spies and west Cork killings

 

Sir, – Barry Roche noted that, following my complaint, the 2012 Gerry Gregg and Eoghan Harris RTÉ documentary An Tost Fada (The Long Silence) was “corrected for some errors since its first screening” (Home News, July 31st). The programme was re-edited for the recent West Cork History Festival, after I alerted RTÉ of the intention to screen it.

RTÉ admitted to two errors. In one, the programme got the date wrong in relation to the killing of two Protestant farmers by a factor of 14 months.

The significance of the date of the killings is crucial. Gregg and Harris claim the killings took place in April 1922, when the War of Independence was over, implying that the killings were sectarian, when in fact they had taken place in February 1921, at the height of the war.

Images were screened from the graveyard in which the two men, Mathew Sweetnam  and William Connell, were laid to rest.

It puzzled me as to how the mistake occurred, particularly as the camera lingered over the gravestone surname of one of the victims, Mathew Sweetnam. The puzzle was resolved last week when I examined some West Cork Graveyard Database, Aughadown burial ground, photographs.

The An Tost Fada camera shots were not of Mathew Sweetnam’s grave. They were of a Winnie Sweetnam’s gravestone. She was laid to rest in April 1939.

Barry Roche reported Eoghan Harris stating that Irish Protestants “must feel free to talk about their past’. So they must. And we all must listen.

A good start would be if alleged professional communicators who purport to assist them left their personal agendas at the door. They should check evidence thoroughly. It is time-consuming but rewarding.

I suggested to RTÉ that they should reintroduce historical advisers for such programmes. The value of considered judgments is evident in Barry Roche’s report of Andy Bielenberg’s festival talk.

Bielenberg’s research, as distinct from Mr Harris’s imagination, suggested an absence of republican sectarianism during the course of the War of Independence. – Yours, etc,

TOM COOPER,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.