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City of Books Podcast with Diarmaid Ferriter


Michael Collins is the most famous casualty of the Civil War but there is a lot of “what if-ery”about him, Ireland’s best-known historian Diarmaid Ferriter says in the latest episode of City of Books.

“Some “very fanciful” claims were about the kind of leader he would have become if he had survived, he tells the podcast’s presenter Martina Devlin.

“We have to be careful of investing too much in the idea of the lost leader because Collins shared many of the limitations and the prejudices, as well as the considerable abilities, of his generation.”

Professor Ferriter notes that Michael Collins was “a serious celebrity” at the time of his death in 1922, and was known internationally. He calls some of the conspiracy theories about his shooting at Béal na Bláth in Co Cork “far-fetched”.

Also in his latest book, Between Two Hells: The Irish Civil War, which is the focus of the podcast, he says: “There’s a deep misogyny that emerges during the civil war that endures for decades. There’s a turning against women.” They are called “furies” to dehumanise them, according to Professor Ferriter. “These are hysterical irrational screaming creatures who are not amenable in any sense to reason.”

More than 500 women were imprisoned during the Civil War, many more than during War of Independence. “The State really turns against them and they are depicted in a particular way and that’s a deliberate attempt to try and push women out of public life,” he says. Many emigrated as a result.

When civil war pensions were allocated, women were only eligible to apply for lower grade ones, despite doing dangerous work including sheltering wanted men, and the trauma of burying the dead. “There were women who greatly resented that reductionism and that tendency to disparage their efforts,” says Prof Ferriter.

Between Two Hells: The Irish Civil War is published by Profile Books. More here:

City of Books is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature


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