Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

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Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

Postby bannerman on Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:24 am

Hello all,
I thought this piecemight be of interest. Its about the use of unsubstantiated statistics and misuse of quotes out of context in the ongoing debate about the execution of suspected spies by the I.R.A. and the alleged secterianism of the IRA in West Cork during the War of Independence. I tried to get it published as a letter in History Ireland magazine a few months back - but unfortunately it didnt make the cut. Its been published this week 9 - 8- 10 in the Clare Champion Newspaper. I contacted Osprey the publisher of Peter Cottrells book which I quote from here and sent this to them as a query by e-mail a few weeks ago but so far have had no response. So anyway here it is:

In recent years revisionist historians and media commentators such as Eoghan Harris and Kevin Myers have made repeated accusations that the IRA was motivated by secterianism during the Irish War of Independence and that Irish Republicans used the issue of Spies and Informers as a cloak for the secterian killing and ethnic cleansing of Protestants in West Cork betweek 1919 and 1921.
This unsubstantiated and highly contraversial claim has recently been repeated by the historian Peter Cottrell his recent publications “The Anglo-Irish War. The Troubles of 1913 - 1922.” and “The War For Ireland 1913 -1923”
Cottrell states; “of the 122 people shot as spies by the I.R.A.
[in Cork] between 1919 and 1923, only 38 actually passed information
to the British. That means that 84 of those killed were entirely innocent
of having done anything except attracting the suspicion of the IRA.”
Cottrell does not provide a reference for this statistic - It is
apparently based on Peter Hart’s research published in “The I.R.A. &
Its Enemies. Violence and Community in Cork 1916 -1923”. Table 37 in
Hart’s book states that of the 122 individuals shot by the IRA in Cork
only 38 ‘Informed on the IRA’ Hart admits that “The figures for those who
informed are small and partial, and therefore not definitive.” However
Cottrell accepts them as definitive figures and extrapolates
from them that “84 of those killed were entirely innocent.”
One of those killed by the IRA whom Cotrell apparently considers to
have been entirely innocent was Tom Bradfield.
According to Cottrell “One vocal Cork Protestant Loyalist by the name
of Tom Bradfield commented that he was not like the rest of them round
here’, indicating that most Munster Protestants were painfully aware
of their vulnerability and were unwilling to put their heads above the
parapet. The IRA killed Bradfield for his vocal unionism.”
Cottrell apparently based his account on Peter Harts book “The I.R.A.
at War 1916 -1923” which makes the following reference to Bradfield’s
killing “Tom Bradfield, another devout unionist (shot by the I.R.A.), declared
that he was ‘not like the rest of them round here.’ ” Hart gives the reference
for this quote as being “Ó Brion, 177”
The quote from page 177 of León Ó Broin’s book “Protestant
Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland - The Stopford Connection.” as
cited by Hart and later referenced by Cottrell is taken out
of its full and original context as it appeared in Ó Brion’s book.
According to Ó Broin, Bradfield encountered a group of IRA Volunteers
near a Protestant home during the War for Independence. Bradfield
struck up a conversation with I.R.A. Volunteer ‘Peter Monaghan’ a
Scottish deserter from the British Army. Assuming from his accent
that ’Monaghan’ was an RIC Auxiliary, Bradfield told the IRA Volunteers
present that he had discovered an IRA ‘dugout’ on his land and claimed
to be a British spy, offering further information about IRA movements
and membership in the area. The full quote from Bradfield which both
Cottrell and Hart have referred to is, according to Ó Broin: “Im not
like the rest of them round here at all. The Reverend Mr Lord is my
man, and I give him the information. You fellows should come round at
night I’d show you round.”
Far from being shot by the IRA merely for “vocal unionism” the
complete quote makes it clear that Bradfield was in fact killed after
he had personally indicated to his I.R.A. executioners that he was a
British spy.
The current debate surrounding the role of spies and informers in the
War of Independence and its alleged use by the I.R.A. to carry out a
supposed campaign of sectarian and ethic cleansing against Protestants
is one of the most important and controversial debates in the field of
current Irish historical research. Unfortunately the misuse of
Bradfield’s quote, either deliberately or by accident, is misleading
and has not contributed to this debate. It also calls into question the
statistics used by Hart and Cottrell, and, in particular, Cottrell’s claim that
“84 of those killed were entirely innocent of having done anything except
attracting the suspicion of the IRA.”
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
Jim Larkin 1913
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Re: Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

Postby thepremier on Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:56 pm

That's a nice find, bannerman, maith thú. It doesn't reflect very well on the methods of the late Peter Hart, but I suspect future research is going to make his early work pretty much redundant anyway - not that imperialist historians and journalists will take any notice. I was impressed by some of his work on Michael Collins, especially the fact that he veered away from standard interpretations of the respective merits of Collins and de Valera and the like. (I suspect he was influenced by John Regan here although I doubt he'd have admitted it.)

I can almost understand History Ireland not wanting to publish it given the huge debates on Kilmichael and Coolacrease, but I don't agree with it.
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Re: Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

Postby bannerman on Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:26 am

Thanks Premier,
Yes Peter Hart did some great work: for example his essay on the "Thompson Machine Gun in Ireland" and his articles about I.R.A. units in Britain during the War Of Independence, both of which appear in his book "The I.R.A. at War" were really good - however his rather poor work on the issue of secterianism based mainly on the misuse of quotes and unsubstantiated statistics and his account of the Kilmichael Ambush based on unpublished anonymous interviews with alleged survivors of the ambush have been completely discredited.
The problem now - as shown above - is that other revisionist historians now quote Harts work verbatum and take his rather contraversial and somewhat dubious conclusions as unquestionable historical fact without checking his sources or examining the work of his critics. Believe it or not Harts completely unsubstantiated work on the Kilmichael Ambush has even made it onto the Leaving Cert History sylabus...

Padraig
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
Jim Larkin 1913
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Re: Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

Postby Jd66 on Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:48 am

A couple of pieces in The Irish Story on this question of sectarianism in the WoI.

First, a piece reflecting on Peter hart (who sadly died recently) life's work.
http://www.theirishstory.com/2010/08/09 ... -a-legacy/

Also, the first in a three part audio series on the question of sectarianism in the period.
http://www.theirishstory.com/2010/08/16 ... ar-part-i/
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Re: Tom Bradfield Spy or 'entirely innocent'?

Postby thepremier on Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:50 pm

bannerman wrote:Thanks Premier,
Yes Peter Hart did some great work: for example his essay on the "Thompson Machine Gun in Ireland" and his articles about I.R.A. units in Britain during the War Of Independence, both of which appear in his book "The I.R.A. at War" were really good - however his rather poor work on the issue of secterianism based mainly on the misuse of quotes and unsubstantiated statistics and his account of the Kilmichael Ambush based on unpublished anonymous interviews with alleged survivors of the ambush have been completely discredited.


I remember, and it is a little sad that this good work will be overshadowed by his poor form in 'The IRA and its Enemies', but really there's little excuse for breaking of the most fundamental rules of academic integrity.
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