Death before Dishonour, by Martin O'Dwyer

Death before Dishonour, by Martin O'Dwyer
Published by Cashel Folk Village in 2010, 312 pages. Hardback with Dust Jacket (N7580)

From the introduction: 'Death Before Dishonour' - three very powerful words that are the reason for 124 men and women being murdered by the Free State forces between August 1922 and December 1923. Much has been written on the Irish Civil War, one of the darkest, if not the darkest chapter in our country's history. However, there are still many aspects of the Civil War that are difficult to discuss, most notably, the executions and even more controversially, the murders that were committed by the army of the Free State.

Martin O'Dwyer has already successfully approached the subject of the official executions carried out by the Free State government in his book 'Seventy-Seven of Mine said Ireland.' Now, in his next venture he broaches the subject of the murders that were brutally committed during this time. This is a hard subject to look at. The book may come across as extremely one-sided, however, there is a very good reason for this. When the Cumann na Gaedheal gov­ernment was leaving office in 1932, it was decided that all material relating to Intelligence, executions, etc. was to be destroyed, as this letter from the Minister for Defence clearly shows:

"The Secretary.
(a) Intelligence Reports - including Reports and particulars supplied by Agents and other persons.
(b) Secret Service Vouchers, etc.
(c) Proceedings of Military Courts, including Committee of Officers. Reports on and details of Executions 1922-1923 period.
(d) As the above-mentioned documents contain information which may lead - if disclosed to unauthorised persons - to loss of life, you are hereby ordered to destroy same by fire, extracting there from previous to such destruction such par­ticulars as you consider might be required hereafter in the conduct of the business of the Department of Defence.
Minister for Defence, 7th March, 1932"

So when researching for this book, Martin was immediately faced with an almost impossible task of finding unbiased accounts of the murders. Whereas there is an ample amount of Republican material in relation to the murders, there are little or no official statements from the Government Forces, with the exception of the atrocities carried out in Kerry in March 1923, or the murder of Noel Lemass, to counter what was said. However, in many cases, there were inquest reports that were published in the newspapers. By looking at both sources, it has been possible for Martin to give a more balanced view of these tragic events.

'Death Before Dishonour' is indeed a sad book, but in order to understand the futility and ultimately the tragedy of the Civil War, it is a necessary publication. For too long, the men and women who suffered terribly at the hands of their former comrades have been forgotten. Maybe now, however painful these events may be, it is time for these men and women to be remembered. In not remember­ing them, their memory has been dishonoured, Martin O'Dwyer has sought to change that, and in doing so he has given them the honour that they truly deserve.

The condition of the book is generally very good. The dust jacket is clean and bright, with only very minor wear along the edges and corners, the spine is intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.