A book I greatly enjoyed this year was Fergal Keane’s “Wounds, A Memoir of War and Love”(William Collins).
It is a story of the Troubles of 100 years ago in North Kerry, and is built around the killing of RIC inspector, Tobias O Sullivan, on Church Street in Listowel of 30th January 1921.
O Sulllivan was from Connemara and his wife was from near Westport and she had worked in Gibbons’ grocery in the town before she married Tobias in 1915.
His family were farmers on the shores of Lough Corrib and family had it that an ancestor had fought on the Jacobite side at the Battle of Aughrim.
Tobias joined the RIC in 1899, shortly after the GAA had banned RIC from GAA membership in 1897.
He was talented and came second in Ireland in the sergeant’s exam. He was an effective and brave policeman.
He was a Catholic, as were the men who killed him, when, unarmed, he walked home for his lunch.
The killing of members of the RIC was one of the methods used by the IRA to undermine the authority of UK institutions in Ireland.
It is only now that the story of RIC victims of this war is being heard, thanks to books like this one.
Tobias O Sullivan’s wife died of tuberculosis shortly after Tobias was killed. Some of his orphaned children stayed in Ireland, and one of his grandsons was in the FCA guard of honour outside the GPO on Easter Sunday in 1966.
Fergal Keane’s family are from Listowel, and some of them were involved in the IRA in the locality, and their side of the story is told with sympathy too.
One of those involved in the killing of O Sullivan said he prayed for him every day he lived, but felt he had done what had to be done.
This well written book shows that the War of Independence of 1919-1921 was almost as much an Irish Civil War, as was the subsequent fighting between pro and anti Treaty forces in the 1922-23 period.