Bandon Valley Massacre: Many in Republic of Ireland still loyal to GB but must keep their heads down, says man whose grandfather survived IRA atrocity

A Co Cork man whose grandfather narrowly escaped a notorious massacre by the IRA says many people in the republic are still quietly loyal to the UK but are unable to speak openly about it.

By Philip Bradfield
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 11:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 7:07 pm

Ian Beamish contacted the News Letter after reading the story of Neale Jagoe, who now lives in Ballycastle.

In last week’s News Letter Mr Jagoe called on the Irish government to give official recognition to the IRA’s sectarian massacre of 13 Protestant boys and men in the Bandon Valley Massacre of 1922 - and the subsequent exodus of hundreds of terrified others.

Neale Jagoe’s great grandfather William and great grandmother Elizabeth Jagoe were among those who fled the area after he was tipped off he was to be shot. They later found safe refuge in Belfast.

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Ian Beamish from Co Cork says his grandfather narrowly escaped being shot by the IRA in the Bandon Valley Massacre.

After reading the story Ian Beamish, who now lives in Limerick but who is from the Bandon valley area, contacted the News Letter.

“I am originally from Dunmanway, Co Cork, and I fully identify with and understand his feelings,” he told the News Letter. “My grandfather and grandmother also lived through those times. “They too, had to escape across the fields trying to keep my father, then an infant, quiet after being tipped off that my grandfather was to be shot.”

They returned home several days later when the bloodshed ended.

Ian Beamish from Co Cork says his grandfather narrowly escaped being shot by the IRA in the Bandon Valley Massacre.

“They would have known Mr Jagoe’s relatives, they would have done to the same church.”

Mr Beamish said he attended Bandon Grammar School in the early 1980s, which was originally Church of Ireland, and as such faced regular sectarian abuse on the school bus.

“We used to get it on the school bus. You would have abuse hurled at you like ‘black b******s’ and spat at. And there would have been slogans on the wall, ‘Brits Out’ and things like that.

Neale Jagoe pictured with a photo of his great grandparents Willam and Elizabeth Jagoe from Co Cork and the wreath he laid in memory of the 13 boys and men murdered in the Bandon Valley Massacre they escaped. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

“If you said anything supportive of Britain you would have been looked on with suspicion really. The day Bobby Sands died [in 1981] the headmaster brought us in for a special assembly and said that if parents wanted to collect us and bring us home, they could; because if they saw the school badge downtown they would automatically look at you as a Prod or a Brit.”

His family name, Beamish, is French-Norman and his forebears arrived in Ireland some 450 years ago via England, but growing up he was regularly told he was not Irish.

“People in Northern Ireland need to understand that this is the type of thing they will face if they enter a united Ireland,” he added. 

As a result, he still sees himself as British. “What exactly constitutes being Irish anyway?” he asked. “There would still be many people in the south who hold this identity [British] but they keep it very couched. You have to be true to yourself, your heritage and your conviction.” 

Neale Jagoe's great grandparents Willam and Elizabeth Jagoe, who narrowly escaped death in the Bandon Valley Massacre after a tip-off. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

His family was one of the first 80 to settle in the Bandon area 450 years ago. “So when some people tell us that you are not Irish, that is like saying people in north America aren’t American, as we were here in Ireland before America was founded.”

The hosility would particularly come from “hardcore older republican families” and be focussed on “anyone from a Protestant background” he says.

There are “many good people” from Irish Catholic backgrounds who previously served in the UK armed forces and would frequent British Legion branches in the south, which has become more acceptable since the 1980s, he said. “But anyone who joins up now would still stay away, they wouldn’t come back, or if they did they wouldn’t say publicly [what they are doing]. People want a quiet life and - if you are in business for example - you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.”

He agrees with Neale that the Irish state should have visibly taken part in the recent centenary commemoration of the Bandon Valley Massacre which was organised by the Church of Ireland.

“As Neale said, a great wrong was done. If the state was genuine then the President should have attended. [Taoiseach] Michael Martin should have been there too. The big fear that I see is that people in Northern Ireland should just look at what happened in the Republic because it will happen to you too if people can’t be bothered voting. It is going to affect you one way or another. Down here your identity - everything - is just taken over.” 

The two men are to meet up this week as Mr Beamish was making a trip to Coleraine. Mr Jagoe said the contact from Mr Beamish left him feeling “quite emotional” and that he was “delighted” to be meeting Mr Beamish.

The Taoiseach’s office has not responded to several requests for comment in the past week.

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