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

Data Protection Notice

Please read our updated Data Protection Notice.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy page

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone.