Why Spinwatch is Publishing John Young’s Statement PDF Print E-mail
Niall Meehan, 28 August 2012

The statement below is from the son of an Irish War of Independence veteran who fought at the Kilmichael Ambush of 28 November 1920.

It arises from claims in a controversial 1998 Oxford University Press book, The IRA and its Enemies, Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-1923, by Peter Hart (who died suddenly in 2010 aged 46). That book was based on Hart’s 1993 Trinity College Dublin PhD thesis of the same name.

In the book Hart wrote that he spoke to thirteen Irish Republican Army veterans of the conflict, anonymously. Hart said he did this because some of the veterans he spoke to requested anonymity.

This created particular problems in Hart’s treatment of the 28 November 1920 West Cork Kilmichael Ambush. Seventeen of eighteen British soldiers were killed in action there (the last was left for dead). They were from the notorious counterinsurgency Auxiliary Division of the RIC.

In his Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949), Ambush commander Tom Barry asserted that the Auxiliaries had engaged in a ‘false surrender’ trick, resulting in two of three IRA fatalities. According to Barry the false surrender justified his decision to order that all the Auxiliaries be killed outright. Hart disputed this, calling Barry and liar and a ‘political serial killer’. Hart’s claims received media publicity in Ireland and Britain, as well as numerous academic accolades.

As evidence for his view, Hart claimed to have spoken to two Kilmichael Ambush veterans in 1988-89 when just one veteran, Edward, ‘Ned’, Young, was alive. Indeed, Hart claimed to have spoken to one of his two anonymous interviewees on 19 November 1989, six days after Ned Young died on 13 November 1989, aged 97. Ned Young’s death was reported in the widely read West Cork Southern Star newspaper on 18 November 1989, with the headline, Ned Young - last of ‘the Boys of Kilmichael’.

Troubled History, a 10th Anniversary Critique of The IRA and its Enemies (2008), by Niall Meehan and Brian Murphy, published a sworn affidavit by Ned Young’s son, John Young, in which John Young stated that his father suffered a stroke in late 1986.
1  It ‘made [Ned young] incapable of giving an interview, having virtually lost the faculty of speech’. Peter Hart did not respond to Troubled History, apart from stating in Times Higher Education that he had not acted improperly.2

In 2012 Eve Morrison, also a TCD PhD graduate, defended Hart’s Kilmichael analysis in her contribution to Terror in Ireland 1916-23, edited by Professor David Fitzpatrick. The book, a product of the TCD History Workshop, was dedicated to Peter Hart’s memory. Niall Meehan critiqued the work for Reviews in History. Fitzpatrick and Morrison responded. Morrison claimed in her response that she had telephoned John Young on 4 July 2012 and that he told her, ‘his father’s mental faculties were not impaired and that he could speak perfectly clearly’.

John Young rejects this account of the telephone call and asked Reviews in History to carry his statement to that effect. Reviews in History replied that as an academic journal they are not, after publishing a review and response, a forum for publishing ‘additional pieces’. Young’s statement was partially reported by Justine McCarthy in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times (26 August 2012).

For that reason, in the interests of transparency, Spinwatch reproduces John Young’s statement here in full.

Statement by John Young, son of Edward (‘Ned’) Young

22 August 2012

Dear Reviews in History,

I take very strong objection to Eve Morrison's claims published on your website, in which she reports entirely inaccurately a short confused telephone 4 July 2012 conversation with me. Her remarks were never checked with me for accuracy. I wish you to publish on your website after her remarks the following attached statement, dated 22 August 2012, which I am copying to Niall Meehan, to whom Eve Morrison took exception for accurately reporting the contents of an affidavit I swore in December 2007.

You may contact me to verify the contents of the statement if you wish, and for that purpose alone.

Yours sincerely,

John Young (son of Edward 'Ned' Young)

Address: West Green and Killbarry Road, Dunmanway, Co. Cork

Statement by John Young, son of Edward (‘Ned’) Young

(Edward, ‘Ned’, Young was the last surviving veteran of the 28 November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush. He died 13 November 1989, aged 97.)

22 August 2012

A response to claims by Dr Eve Morrison (TCD Modern history Department) at the Institute for Historical Research, Reviews in History website,

I am a son of Edward, ‘Ned’, Young, last surviving veteran of the 28 November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush. Ned Young died on 13 November 1989, aged 97.

In a response (16 August 2012) to a review by Niall Meehan of Terror in Ireland 1916-1921 (edited by Professor David Fitzpatrick), the author of a chapter on the Kilmichael Ambush, Dr Eve Morrison, reports a 4 July 2012 telephone conversation with me. I have not spoken to Eve Morrison before or since. I have never received any other communication of any kind from Eve Morrison.

I refute Eve Morrison’s report of that conversation in its entirety.

The telephone call lasted approximately five to ten minutes. I attempted at the outset to ascertain who or what Ms Morrison represented and the purpose of her call, without success. Members of my family witnessed my end of the conversation with Eve Morrison. After the somewhat puzzling telephone call I dismissed the subject from my mind.

That pales into insignificance in comparison to claims Eve Morrison makes in her recently published report of that conversation, brought to my attention by a family member.

Morrison defends the late Peter Hart’s analysis of [the 28 November 1920] Kilmichael Ambush in The IRA and its Enemies (OUP, 1998). That analysis was based on alleged anonymous interviews with two Kilmichael veterans in 1988 and 1989, at a time when my father was, I repeat for emphasis, the sole surviving ambush participant. Meehan noted in his review that Hart’s claim to have interviewed my father anonymously in April and June of 1988 was undermined by an affidavit signed by me on 21 August 2007, sworn with witnesses on 14 December 2007 (first published, in full, as an appendix to Troubled History, 2008, by Meehan and Brian Murphy). Peter Hart made no response to my affidavit that stated, inter alia,

If Peter Hart is referring to my father, Ned Young, with his made up reference (of “A.A.”), his claim that he interviewed my father in April and June of 1988 is totally untrue as, at that stage, Ned Young was wheelchair bound having suffered a stroke sometime previously (circa late 1986). As a consequence, it made him incapable of giving an interview, having virtually lost the faculty of speech. He was constantly attended day and night by family members and full-time professional carers. On my instructions to my mother and the carers, the only people allowed into my parents home were family members, i.e., his nephews and nieces, grandchildren his doctor, Dr. Jim Young (his nephew), and the priests of the parish.

Despite this, Eve Morrison claims in her response to Meehan that on 4 July 2012,

[John] Young confirmed that his father’s mental faculties were not impaired and that he could speak perfectly clearly. I asked him this twice, and he said he was willing to go on the record on this point.

This her statement is  - I repeat emphatically – palpably untrue.  I wish to go on record to refute Eve Morrison’s claim. My August 2007 affidavit stands in its entirety because it is true and immutable.

I am surprised if Eve Morrison’s behaviour is regarded as acceptable academic practice in Trinity College Dublin. Is a short, hurried, and confused telephone call between strangers on a serious matter a proper basis for making historical claims? Does Eve Morrison consider me so light minded as to reverse a sworn considered statement about my own father, in the course of a brief conversation on the telephone with someone I have never met? Why did Eve Morrison not attempt to confirm with me in writing her mistaken interpretation of our conversation before publication? She had over forty days prior to publication in which to do so.

Eve Morrison’s other claims with regard to how my father was cared for are equally without foundation and equally upsetting to me and to my family. Two carers under my direction were required to nurse my father after he suffered his stroke in late 1986. Ned Young rarely ventured out in public during the period in question, an exception being attendance at the annual Kilmichael commemoration. I was the family member in overall charge of my father’s care and well-being. I reiterate what is stated in my affidavit, that, apart from designated family members, his doctor and parish clergy, no one was permitted to speak to my father without my express permission. Eve Morrison’s insulting remarks to the effect that because I was not present 24-7 Peter Hart could have slipped through this mutually agreed family net is specious and unworthy of serious consideration.

I have a specific reason, not before revealed, why I am confident in making this assertion:

During the late 1980s a man with what my late mother described as a “foreign accent” called to her door asking to interview Ned Young. She reported to me that she explained to him directly that Ned Young was a sick man in bed who would not be granting interviews, not least because he was incapable of doing so. I do not know if the man was Peter Hart. However, I am aware that the late Jim O’Driscoll, SC (Orwell Road, Dublin), drove the then PhD researcher Peter Hart and deposited him at my mother and father’s address during that time frame. Jim O’Driscoll, who I knew well, was one of the witness signatories to my affidavit sworn on 14 December 2007, referred to above.
5  If, as seems likely, the man in question was Peter Hart, it makes his subsequent behaviour all the more inexcusable and inexplicable.

Eve Morrison’s suggestion that my father was not the last surviving veteran of the Kilmichael ambush is nonsense. Morrison makes this claim because Peter Hart reported interviewing a second anonymous ‘Kilmichael veteran’ six days after Edward, ‘Ned’, Young, my father, died.

My upset at being presented with Eve Morrison’s claims is only surpassed by my incredulity at the publication of untrue and unchecked claims by Morrison.

I am equally astonished by the revelation that Father John Chisholm possessed a forty-year-old tape-recorded interview with my father he released to Eve Morrison. I wrote to Fr Chisholm in 2008 asking if he had such a tape recording. He replied,

I greatly regret having to inform you I have no recording of an interview with your father, though I remember him with affection as a man of real character.

I agree with the suggestion that Fr Chisholm deposit tapes of interviews with War of Independence veterans (which he obtained on the basis of research for Liam Deasy’s 1973 book, Towards Ireland Free) in a public archive. That is the expressed view also of Liam Deasy’s eldest daughter, Maureen, who typed her father’s manuscript. I demand that a copy of Fr Chisolm’s interview with my father should be given to me without further delay.

John Young

22 August 2012

1Troubled History available at, http://gcd.academia.edu/NiallMeehan/Books/75341/
2John Gill, Troubles and strife as IRA historian draws peers' fire, available at,
3Meehan review and Fitzpatrick-Morrison response available at, http://gcd.academia.edu/NiallMeehan/Papers/1877653.
4Available at, http://www.indymedia.ie/article/102322.
5An article critical of Hart in the Southern Star of 5 July 2008, of which Jim O’Driscoll was aware, makes reference to that fact, http://www.southernstar.ie/News/Kilmichael-veterans-son-challenges-Hart-846.htm?id=846. Jim O’Driscoll died suddenly in 2009. His Irish Times obituary, 21 March 2009, refers to the controversy, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/obituaries/2009/0321/1224243193986.html).