Spotlight on Research: Owen O’Shea
Posted: 29 July, 2021
A new book written by an Irish Research Council-funded researcher tells the story of one of the most significant engagements during the War of Independence in his native County Kerry.
‘Ballymacandy: the Story of a Kerry Ambush,’ published by Merrion Press, presents the research of Owen O’Shea on a violent episode in his own community which took place just six weeks before the Truce brought an end to hostilities a century ago.
Owen is currently completing a PhD at the School of History in University College Dublin with the support of the IRC Employment-Based Programme. His research is focussed on electioneering and political communication in County Kerry in the decade after the Civil War and how that conflict impacted on voter behaviour and politics generally in the 1923-1933 period.
The book on the Ballymacandy ambush of 1 June 1921 provides a strong foundation for Owen’s PhD current research on politics in Kerry in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Owen, who grew up close to where the ambush occurred, has long been fascinated by what happened when dozens of IRA men from mid-Kerry killed five members of a police party which was cycling from Tralee to their barracks in Killorglin.
The ambush, which took place between the villages of Milltown and Castlemaine claimed the lives of the last Black and Tans to die in the county as well as that of an RIC constable who lived in Milltown with his wife and eight children.
The story featured recently on a special broadcast by RTÉ’s Nationwide programme and saw descendants from both sides of the conflict coming together to share their stories and commemorate the events of a century ago.
‘To understand the politics of the decade after the War of Independence and the Civil War, which I am currently researching under the supervision of Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, it is necessary to consider the popular experience of those conflicts and how they coloured politics and elections in my native county for many years afterwards.
‘My study of the Ballymacandy ambush has very much informed my analysis of the political and electoral ramifications of the events of this turbulent period in the years after Independence,’ said Owen.
Ballymacandy: The Story of a Kerry Ambush, published by Merrion Press, is the definitive account of one of the most important events in the Anglo-Irish War in Kerry and includes extracts from diaries, IRA pension applications, private correspondence and previously unpublished accounts from local IRA leaders.
The book is available now at www.owenoshea.ie