THE IRISH REACHING OUT BOOK CLUB is a new publication. It has just emailed me a list of new books.
The one that arrested my attention and earned my derision is called “PEELER” and is set in West Cork in November 1920 and its central charaacter is Acting Detective Sergeant Sean O’Keefe of the RIC.
The body of a murdered woman is found dumped on a road and , like a good Peeler he tries to solve the case and bring the perpetrator or perpetrarors to justice. To be fair to its author. Kevin McCarthy, he doesn’t claim his work is history. In this he is several cuts above the academics, journalists and those charged with the commemoration of the struggle for independence who today recycle the lies peddled by Dublin Castle propagandists in 1920 and add some of their own.
One Jenni Kirby Ibrahim in Western Australia is quoted in the blurb “I read a lot of Irish authors. Kevin McCarthy brings great insight into the problems faced by Catholic police detectives and former soldiers in the British army now working in the largely Protestant force after the First World War.”
An acting RIC Sergeant in 1920 would have been over 20 years of age and would not have the name Sean, nor Liam. nor Cathal on his birth or Baptismal certificate.Nor would he have been sworn into the RIC under one of those names. When Cathal Brugha was arrested by the RIC, his refusal to answer to “Charles Burgess” was cited as an offence by the court. John Lemass, born 1898 was known by his family as Jack. The name Liam was a, circumcised version of William and would not have appeared anywhere before 1900. Brian, Donal, Dermot , traditional names among Kennedys had long given way to Bernard, Daniel and Jeremiah and were only reinstated in the 20th Century after the rise of the Gaelic League.
November 1st 1920 saw the deliberate shooting dead by Auxiliary RIC men of a seven months pregnant woman, an infant in her arms, in full daylight, by which time even THE TIMES of London had reported outrages by the Crown Forces., including many murders, looting and arson. On October 21 1920 , for instance, it reported “POLICE TERRORISM IN GALWAY.” Crown forces were committing, not investigating murder.
The Regular RIC rank and file were overwhelmingly Catholic but the most senior officers were largely Protestant, many of them former Senior Army Officers. When in June 1920 General Tudor, appointed head of the RIC by Churchill, and Colonel Smyth, addressed the assembled regular RIC garrison and provoked their instant resignation by saying they could shoot their neighbours dead with impunity, what little moral authority remained with the force evaporated. Incidentally leading the mutineers was Constable Jeremiah Mee. He next joined the Republican fight to defend the Irish people and the Government they had established in accordance with the principle of self-determination of nations preached by the victors of the Great War of 1914-1918. But ex-Constable Mee never Gaelicised his given name (Jeremiah) to Dermot or Diarmaid