Dr William Sheehan discovers new evidence on beginnings of Irish Civil War

Arts Senior Faculty Manager and Associate Lecturer Dr William Sheehan’s discovery of a key memoir sheds new light on the start of the Irish Civil War, providing contradictory evidence to the version of events accepted for almost a century.

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Document programme, Dr Sheehan outlines his discovery.

The revelation contradicts near century-old official accounts that Michael Collins refused British offers of soldiers to end the three-month occupation of the Four Courts by anti-Treaty forces. The memoir of Lance Bombardier Percy Creek, Royal Field Artillery, held by the Imperial War Museum, recounts how his unit of howitzer artillery was sent to Fermanagh, and the Four Courts, then held by Rory O’Connor, who opposed the 1921 Treaty with Britain. Creek was under the impression that the building had been occupied by Black and Tans, rather than anti-Treaty forces.Creek’s unit waited until they were given the orders to fire, before unleashing two heavy rounds.

In response to rumours at the time, the Irish National Army vehemently denied that British soldiers had been involved in the Four Courts bombardment, issuing a detailed statement to The Irish Times. In his records, Gen Nevil Macready had recorded that Michael Collins had refused offers of British help.

Speaking to the Irish Times, William Sheehan noted that the Creek memoir is significant because it shows “that the agenda was being driven by the British cabinet in London”.

Listen to the Document programme on the BBC iPlayer here.

Read the Irish Times article here.

Considering studying history? Take a look at our undergraduate degrees here, and our postgraduate MA in History here.

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