Period photo of members of the West Cork Brigade.



THE controversial killing of 13 protestants in and around Dunmanway in 1922 were not, as has been portrayed, an act of sectarian violence.

That’s according to Cork history teacher Barry Keane and he says he has the evidence to prove it.


Thirteen Protestants were killed, was it retaliation for the killing of Commandant Michael O’Neill and the pogroms in Belfast?

Did British agents attempt to provoke a re-occupation of West Cork by the Essex regiment?

Was it an attempt ‘to exterminate and drive out all Protestants from the area’ as historian Peter Hart claimed?


“The online publication of the Bureau of Military History’s files provide startling new evidence about the murders,” said Mr Keane.

“The Bureau took War of Independence statements in the 1950s.

“Do two statements by Michael O’Donoghue from Lismore and Dunmanway IRA Captain Patrick O’Brien solve the great mysteries about the murders? I think they do.”


Later President of the GAA, Michael O’Donoghue was studying Engineering at UCC and was an engineering officer during the war.

He spent from December 1921 to the end of March 1922 stationed in Bandon working closely with Commandant Michael O’Neill of the IRA who was the first person shot on April 26th 1922.

His is the first comment from inside the IRA about these events. He had no involvement in the murders, but he saw nothing to apologise for despite the fact that they were a clear violation of the Truce.


O’Donoghue states,

‘Poor Mick O’Neill. A grand chivalrous warrior of the I.R.A. Less than two months later, he called at the house of a British loyalist, named Hornibrook, to get help for a broken-down motor. As he knocked on the door, he was treacherously shot dead without the slightest warning by a bidden hand from inside the house. The I.R.A in Bandon were alerted. The house was surrounded. Under threat of bombing and burning, the inmates surrendered. Three men, Hornibrook, his son and son-in-law, a Captain Woods. The latter, a British Secret Service agent, confessed to firing the fatal shot, Why? God alone knows…probably Woods got scared at seeing the strange young man in I.R.A. attire knocking,…and fired at him in a panic. The sequel was tragic. Several prominent loyalists- all active members of the anti-Sinn Féin Society in West Cork, and blacklisted as such in I.R.A. Intelligence Records -in Bandon, Clonakilty, Ballineen and Dunmanway, were seized at night by armed men, taken out and killed. All were Protestants. This gave the slaughter a sectarian appearance. Religious animosity had nothing whatever to do with it. These people were done to death as savage, wholesale, murderous reprisal for the murder of Mick O’Neill.


“O’Donoghue- writing in 1951 long before it became the source of any controversy- provides a simple, compelling motive for the murders,” said Mr Keane.


O’Brien’s statements shows that the IRA had direct evidence from the ‘Black and Tans’ as early as 1921.

‘The Auxiliaries’ C.0. was de Havilland and Brownie was the I.0. He instituted a very perfect intelligence system and…drew up lists of all the houses in the Dunmanway Battalion area, both friendly and hostile to the British régime. …However, any of his investigations…were with us just as soon, thanks, to Florence J. Crowley, the Clerk of the Union.’

“Michael O’Donoghue and Pat O’Brien present the simplest explanation for the killings.

“O’Donoghue flatly rejected sectarianism, and he is a verifiable, written, named source who has no reason to lie.

“The Irish state rightly apologised at the time for these events, and the minute Tom Hales returned to West Cork he ended the murders by threatening capital punishment for anyone found guilty.”




Pat O’Brien BMH.WS0812.pdf, on page 20 Michael O’Donoghue BMH.WS1741 PART 2.pdf, on page 43


See also Protestant Cork 1911-1926 by Barry Keane ©


This article was edited on Nov 20th 2012