Kevin Barry and the Anglo-Irish Propaganda War

Doherty, M.A. 2000. Kevin Barry and the Anglo-Irish Propaganda War. Irish Historical Studies. 32 (126), pp. 217-231. doi:10.1017/S0021121400014851

TitleKevin Barry and the Anglo-Irish Propaganda War
AuthorsDoherty, M.A.
Abstract

Most Irish people, when asked what they know of the life and death of Kevin Barry, will pause for a moment while they recall the words of a famously maudlin ballad. A few points will emerge: ‘a lad of eighteen summers’ … ‘British soldiers tortured Barry’ … ‘refused to turn informer’ … ‘hanged him like a dog’ … ‘another martyr for old Ireland, another murder for the crown’. That they know anything at all about Kevin Barry is testimony, among other things, to the power of popular music for the making of political propaganda. Along with Father Murphy, Seán South and Fergal O’Hanlon, Kevin Barry figures in the pantheon of nationalist Ireland’s popular historical heroes, largely because somebody happened to write a good song about him. In many ways this is unfortunate, for Barry and the rest were once living people, and the process of iconographifying them in popular balladry, like all forms of political propaganda, serves not to clarify their roles in the historical events in which they played a part, but rather to obscure and distort them. So it is worth reconsidering the story of Kevin Barry, for a number of reasons. To begin with, his short life reached its climax at a vital moment in the long struggle for Irish self-government, a moment when the violence unleashed in 1916 burst forth again with renewed savagery on both British and Irish sides, involving in the Barry case the deaths of four young men aged between fifteen and twenty.

JournalIrish Historical Studies
Journal citation32 (126), pp. 217-231
ISSN0021-1214
Year2000
PublisherCambridge University Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1017/S0021121400014851
Web address (URL)http://www.jstor.org/stable/30006997?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Publication dates
PublishedNov 2000

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