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Tom Barry vs Frank Aiken: A Feud through the Media, 1935

Éireann_Ascendant

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An article on the public feud between Tom Barry and Frank Aiken, fought out in their letters to several newspapers, in June 1935.

An Unclean Scab: The Public Feud between Tom Barry and Frank Aiken, 1935

The trouble began when Aiken was attending a Fianna Fáil-organised ceilidhe in Dundalk, May 1935. Some youths heckled him with cries of 'Up the Republic' and 'Up Tom Barry.' Aiken retorted that if they knew more about their hero, they would not be cheering his name. While the other Anti-Treatyites had been fighting and dying in the Civil War, Barry had been running around the country, trying to make peace.

The incident made the papers, prompting Barry to write, complaining of his former comrade's "vicious and lying attack on me," denying that he had ever tried to make peace with the Free State during the Civil War, and daring Aiken to explain himself or else withdraw his statements.

In the proceeding war of worlds between the two, Aiken accused the Corkonian of:

1) Making unauthorised peace offers to the Free State.
2) Poor discipline as a soldier.
3) Driving the then-IRA Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch, to the point of distraction.
4) Only resuming his IRA service when Fianna Fail entered power.

It was those reasons, Aiken said, that he had insisted on Barry resigning from the IRA Executive in the 11th July 1923.

110.jpg

In return, Barry said that Aiken:

1) Had previously been with the Free State Army and only joined the anti-Treaty side after escaping arrest in Dundalk.
2) Avoided all fighting except for that one time in Dundalk.
3) Helped contribute to the defeat of the Anti-Treatyites with his flaky attitude.
4) Vetoed Barry's plan for a commando attack on Leinster House with the Free State Government inside which might have won the war.

The dispute played out against the turmoil and uncertainty in Ireland at the time. Having been elected as a Republican party, Fianna Fáil - for whom Aiken served as its Minister of Defence - was cracking down on Republican organisations like the IRA and their newspapers. Barry was facing a trial for assaulting a Blueshirt in Cork, and had already been convicted of seditious behavior with time in the Curragh to be served.

tombarrycrossbarry.jpg

The feud fizzled out after Barry's third letter on the subject. Both had made legitimate, albeit often overstated points against the other.

Barry had spent a considerable amount of time and effort on peace initiatives, even if it meant going behind his superiors' backs, however much he denied it later. Aiken had moved against Republican orthodoxy since the end of the Civil War, however much he argued that his actions were logical and consistent.

The two had much in common. Both had tried to do the right thing as they saw it at the time, however awkward it was for them afterwards. Both were strong-minded, independent and willing to go against the grain with their peers. Perhaps they simply had too much in common to be anything other than adversaries in the end.
 
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Malcolm Redfellow

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Aiken and Barry had one thing (almost) in common: Barry ran his campaign of protestant assassination, and Aiken used protestant hostages at Creggan in April 1921. The difference being that Aiken's IRA unit released the protestant civilian congregation.

A further difference is that Aiken, for all of his narrow-mindedness, his stiffness of neck and manner, for all of his life-long poodling to de Valera, his Anglophobic blindness, was committed to the cause of his country. Aiken's real legacy was to give Ireland a foreign policy and a positive engagement with the world.
 

Patrick Ronayne

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Aiken and Barry had one thing (almost) in common: Barry ran his campaign of protestant assassination, and Aiken used protestant hostages at Creggan in April 1921. The difference being that Aiken's IRA unit released the protestant civilian congregation.

A further difference is that Aiken, for all of his narrow-mindedness, his stiffness of neck and manner, for all of his life-long poodling to de Valera, his Anglophobic blindness, was committed to the cause of his country. Aiken's real legacy was to give Ireland a foreign policy and a positive engagement with the world.
Aren't you sliding by Aiken's alleged orchestration of events at Altnaveigh in June 1922, there?
 

fontenoy

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Aiken and Barry had one thing (almost) in common: Barry ran his campaign of protestant assassination, and Aiken used protestant hostages at Creggan in April 1921. The difference being that Aiken's IRA unit released the protestant civilian congregation.

A further difference is that Aiken, for all of his narrow-mindedness, his stiffness of neck and manner, for all of his life-long poodling to de Valera, his Anglophobic blindness, was committed to the cause of his country. Aiken's real legacy was to give Ireland a foreign policy and a positive engagement with the world.
A perfect example of a backhanded compliment if ever I seen one.
 

RasherHash

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An article on the public feud between Tom Barry and Frank Aiken, fought out in their letters to several newspapers, in June 1935.

An Unclean Scab: The Public Feud between Tom Barry and Frank Aiken, 1935

The trouble began when Aiken was attending a Fianna Fáil-organised ceilidhe in Dundalk, May 1935. Some youths heckled him with cries of 'Up the Republic' and 'Up Tom Barry.' Aiekn retorted that if they knew more about their hero, they would not be cheering his name. While the other Treatyites had been fighting and dying in the Civil War, Barry had been running around the country, trying to make peace.

The incident made the papers, prompting Barry to write, complaining of his former comrade's "vicious and lying attack on me," denying that he had ever tried to make peace with the Free State during the Civil War, and daring Aiken to explain himself or else withdraw his statements.

In the proceeding war of worlds between the two, Aiken accused the Corkonian of:

1) Making unauthorised peace offers to the Free State.
2) Poor discipline as a soldier.
3) Driving the then-IRA Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch, to the point of distraction.
4) Only resuming his IRA service when Fianna Fail entered power.

It was those reasons, Aiken said, that he had insisted on Barry resigning from the IRA Executive in the 11th July 1923.

110.jpg

In return, Barry said that Aiken:

1) Had previously been with the Free State Army and only joined the anti-Treaty side after escaping arrest in Dundalk.
2) Avoided all fighting except for that one time in Dundalk.
3) Helped contribute to the defeat of the Anti-Treatyites with his flaky attitude.
4) Vetoed Barry's plan for a commando attack on Leinster House with the Free State Government inside which might have won the war.

The dispute played out against the turmoil and uncertainty in Ireland at the time. Having been elected as a Republican party, Fianna Fáil - for whom Aiken served as its Minister of Defence - was cracking down on Republican organisations like the IRA and their newspapers. Barry was facing a trial for assaulting a Blueshirt in Cork, and had already been convicted of seditious behavior with time in the Curragh to be served.

tombarrycrossbarry.jpg

The feud fizzled out after Barry's third letter on the subject. Both had made legitimate, albeit often overstated points against the other.

Barry had spent a considerable amount of time and effort on peace initiatives, even if it meant going behind his superiors' backs, however much he denied it later. Aiken had moved against Republican orthodoxy since the end of the Civil War, however much he argued that his actions were logical and consistent.

The two had much in common. Both had tried to do the right thing as they saw it at the time, however awkward it was for them afterwards. Both were strong-minded, independent and willing to go against the grain with their peers. Perhaps they simply had too much in common to be anything other than adversaries in the end.
Barry and Aiken were two great heroes of our proud fight for freedom, this was a mere petty squabble from the 40s.
 

Patrick Ronayne

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Barry had spent a considerable amount of time and effort on peace initiatives, even if it meant going behind his superiors' backs, however much he denied it later.....
That almost reads as if you're suggesting that Barry was some kind of peacenik - he was anything but. His efforts to halt the internecine conflict between former comrades was predicated on his belief that they'd be better off putting aside their differences and uniting for an attack on the North. He wasn't for putting away the guns, he was for turning them all in a particular direction. His later urging for a ceasefire was based on a reasonable assessment of military realities - the I.R.A. was on the ropes and had no chance of achieving victory in the field.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Aren't you sliding by Aiken's alleged orchestration of events at Altnaveigh in June 1922, there?
No: read my post again. It specifically (and almost) exculpates Aiken over Creggan in April 1921.

A week (pace Harold Wilson) is a long time in politics. Fifteen months between Creggan and Altnaveigh was an horrendous distance, but one we should recognise.

I'm not doing a Basil Fawlty "You started it" (which could only take us back to Diarmaid Mac Murchadha or beyond); but there is a natural and poisonous progression:
  • from Clones (11 February 1922);
  • among some four dozen other violent Belfast deaths, to the schoolyard bombing of Weaver Street (13 February — "the worst thing that has happened in Ireland in the last three years", said Churchill) and the brutal clubbing to death of James Rice (that same evening);
  • to the MacMahon killings (22 March 1922) and the Arnon Street murders (1 April) — both of those, of course, involving "officials" and allegedly machinated by RIC D.I. Nixon ...
  • I suppose, compared to the wholesale attrition in Belfast, what was happening in Dunmanway (26-28 April — Daniel O'Neill, prime suspect) was small beer.
By which stage, it was reasonless war-to-the-knife. All-comers were channelling their inner Macbeths:
For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er...
 

Patrick Ronayne

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No: read my post again.
I read it carefully. 'Snowjobbing' Aiken, who was arguably more 'casual' about actual sectarian killings, while inferring that Barry was anti-Protestant is neither an honest nor an accurate reading of the two men.

The Dunmanway killings were nothing to do with Tom Barry.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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The Dunmanway killings were nothing to do with Tom Barry.
I'll trust Mr Ronayne to prove that "nothing to do with". For my part, that is why I tentatively fingered Daniel O'Neill (based upon the comments in the official record, when he applied for a pension as an IRA veteran).

There are enough straws in the wind to suggest that Tom Barry, unlike local commanders — e.g. Cornelius Connolly in Skibbereen and Gibbs Ross in Bantry — did not consistently have total control in his patch. Things would seem to go particularly awry whenever Barry betook himself to Dublin. Whether that expiates Barry is a matter of judgement.
 

Patrick Ronayne

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Things would seem to go particularly awry whenever Barry betook himself to Dublin. Whether that expiates Barry is a matter of judgement.
Your evident agenda is showing. Why use a phrase like that? Surely you know perfectly well the reason why Barry was in Dublin and who else from the area was with him?

And where does Brigade Commandant Tom Hales fit into your scheme of things? Where was he - and the bulk of the Third and Fourth Brigades of the Cork I.R.A., come to that?

You appear to be familiar with the published work of Barry Keane but for some reason, unlike him, you seem to want to attach a culpability to Barry that no historical evidence exists for.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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That almost reads as if you're suggesting that Barry was some kind of peacenik - he was anything but. His efforts to halt the internecine conflict between former comrades was predicated on his belief that they'd be better off putting aside their differences and uniting for an attack on the North. He wasn't for putting away the guns, he was for turning them all in a particular direction. His later urging for a ceasefire was based on a reasonable assessment of military realities - the I.R.A. was on the ropes and had no chance of achieving victory in the field.
That was essentially his own argument - they had lost their chance of winning and their priority was to save as many Republican lives as they could.

He did, however, to be the most committed towards a peaceful solution of some kind, at least when defeat became obvious, to the point of falling out with Lynch and then Aiken over it, and eventually resigning from the IRA Executive.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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A further difference is that Aiken, for all of his narrow-mindedness, his stiffness of neck and manner, for all of his life-long poodling to de Valera, his Anglophobic blindness, was committed to the cause of his country. Aiken's real legacy was to give Ireland a foreign policy and a positive engagement with the world.
Talk about damning with faint praise! :rolleyes:

There was a bit in the book, Frank Aiken: Nationalist and Internationalist (unfortunately, I've forgotten in which article and by who), that said that Aiken would never tell you to do something that he wouldn't do himself. So it's easy to see how he earned the respect he had.
 

callas

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An article on the public feud between Tom Barry and Frank Aiken, fought out in their letters to several newspapers, in June 1935.
Such was the carry on, while Fianna Fáil were in the process of executing a highly damaging economic war with Britain.

Britain hardly felt a thing , of course, but the people of Ireland suffered immensely and they continued to do so until the 60's. Emigration, as usual, was the response of the people to the misfortunes visited upon them by the malign influence of this party. Due to the current arangment between FF and FG, I predict a fresh wave of emigration, circa 2022. It is as sure as rain.
 

Patrick Ronayne

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That was essentially his own argument - they had lost their chance of winning and their priority was to save as many Republican lives as they could.

He did, however, to be the most committed towards a peaceful solution of some kind, at least when defeat became obvious, to the point of falling out with Lynch and then Aiken over it, and eventually resigning from the IRA Executive.
Barry wasn't a lone voice on the pre-'dump arms' I.R.A. Executive. In late March, 1923, his motion proposing that the Executive adopt the position that further armed resistance was essentially futile was defeated by six votes to five. Around a month later Aiken declared an end to I.R.A. operations.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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Barry wasn't a lone voice on the pre-'dump arms' I.R.A. Executive.
He began with a reasonable level of support on the Executive when Aiken took over, but ended up becoming the lone voice and was the only one to be forced to resign on the peace issue.


In late March, 1923, his motion proposing that the Executive adopt the position that further armed resistance was essentially futile was defeated by six votes to five. Around a month later Aiken declared an end to I.R.A. operations.
Before that, and in the same meeting, he had proposed an amendment (to the resolution allowing for the possibility of peace talks) that all armed resistance to the Free State be called off pronto, with only him and Tom Crofts - his main ally on the Executive - voting for it.

After that, he and three other Executive members circulated a letter - seemingly a threat to renew fighting if the IRA guns were not put beyond use - that Aiken read out at the Executive meeting on the 11th July and confronted the signatories about.

The other two present, Crofts and Liam Pilkington (the fourth, unnamed man seems not to have been present), agreed to withdrew their letter. Only Barry stuck to his guns, so to speak, even when threatened with forced resignation, and resigned (though Aiken seems to have made some effort to induce him to stay).

Barry's resignation letter alone tells of how he had become seen as the peacenik of the IRA, rightly or wrongly

I also want to state that the rumours propagated in some cases by Republicans as to my negotiations for peace with the Free State, are absolutely false. Lies, suspicion and distrust are broadcasted, and I have no option but to remove myself from a position wherein I can be suspected of compromising the position. I have never entered into negotiations for peace by compromise with the Free State.
 


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