Researcher Publication Spotlight: No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry
Posted: 7 November, 2022
Back in 2020, we covered Owen O’Shea’s article in a new volume on history and society in County Kerry. An expert on political culture, electioneering and communication in Kerry, 1923-33, Owen has recently published No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry, cataloguing the tragedy and suffering of civil war in his native county.
Published by Merrion Press, the release reveals: “The violence and divisions of the Civil War in County Kerry were more vicious, bitter and prolonged than anywhere else in Ireland. For generations, the fratricide, murder and executions, and the widespread trauma in Kerry have been synonymous with the worst excesses of the brutality and mayhem which followed the split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.
In a newly published analysis of the conflict in his native county, historian and author, Owen O’Shea offers new insights into the misery and mayhem of 1922-23, from the perspectives not only of the combatants who were involved in the fighting but also their families and the wider civilian population.”
We interviewed Owen about his latest research, asking him about the connections between No Middle Path and his previous publications, the role of his journalistic experience in his research career, and the complexities of research about topics that can hit close to home.
How would you describe the connection between your work in ‘Party organisation, political engagement and electioneering in Kerry, 1927-1966’ (in Kerry: Kerry and Society) and that in the new book, No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry?
There is a very close connection between my various publications. My research on the Civil War for this book has greatly informed my understanding of politics and electioneering in my native county after the conflict. I have come to understand how the private silences and traumas of 1922-23 were reflected in the public and political silences about this terrible period in our history.
You have pursued your PhD through the IRC’s Employment-Based Programme, splitting your work between University College Dublin and Kerry County Council. Do you think that has impacted the way you conduct your research? Do you have any advice for those considering doing a history PhD through that programme?
The Employment-Based Programme enabled me to pursue a PhD which I probably would not have done otherwise. Having a supportive employer, as I do in my case, is hugely important and the skills and learnings from my research have been brought to bear in my work in communications with Kerry County Council. Anyone considering the Employment-Based Programme should talk to their employer in the first instance and discuss the mutual benefits of the programme.
You worked as a journalist before your PhD – do you think this skillset brought a different lens to your work?
Most definitely, I think that the inquisitive mind you need to have as a journalist is one which can be brought to historical research. Working to tight deadlines and a particular word count also helps to focus the mind when it comes to writing a dissertation. Moreover, the experience I have in communicating as a broadcast journalist has really helped me to communicate my current research to a wide audience.
Your author bio explains that you are from Kerry yourself – has your view of your home county changed considerably in the course of researching it?
Of all of my books and research on my native county, this research on the Civil War was certainly the most challenging. I was apprehensive about publishing accounts of trauma and, particularly, the physical and psychological damage of the conflict, because this is still a difficult subject, despite the passage of 100 years. But I believe that in order to fully understand the impact of the Civil War, we must confront and embrace the accounts of those involved and those who survived.
Owen’s doctoral research, at the School of History in University College Dublin, was supported by an Irish Research Council Employment-Based Postgraduate Scholarship.