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Image / Breaking Stories

New TG4 documentary shines a light on sexual violence during the Irish revolution


by Erin Lindsay
23rd Sep 2020
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Cogadh ar Mhná airs on TG4 tonight at 9 pm


A new documentary airing on TG4 tonight questions why stories of sexual violence against women are missing from the history of the Irish revolution.

Cogadh ar Mhná features new, ground-breaking research from people like historians Mary McAuliffe and Lindsey Earner-Byrne; sociologists Linda Connolly and Louise Ryan and writer-historian Ann Mathews. Taking a fresh look at old sources and new material, they uncovered many new and previously untold stories of violence against women during the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War.

The documentary aims to share stories from women that were previously “hidden and buried because of shame, fear of being excluded from their communities and because their chances of getting justice were small.”

The stories featured in the series are varied and upsetting, and TG4 stresses that “No side of the conflict is exempt – Crown Forces, Republicans and Free Staters – there are stories of violence against women committed by them all.”

Stories featured in Cogadh ar Mhná include Mary M, a Westmeath woman who was raped by a band of Republicans and became pregnant as a result. Her letters to the Archbishop of Dublin begging for help have been uncovered for the first time by UCD historian Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne.

A six-page letter from another woman, Norah Healy from Cork City, has also been uncovered. Healy was pregnant when she was raped by the Crown Forces. On reporting it to the RIC, she spotted one of her attackers in the police station and was told “Never mind, don’t say anything now” by the Sergeant in Charge.

Stories of violence against women during this period of history are not uncommon – women were often targeted by armed bands of men in their homes. While rape and sexual violence were not a sanctioned tactic on any side during the Irish revolution, the raids made on homes during the night, where often the male targets of the raids were absent, would give the opportunity for these crimes to occur. According to TG4, these crimes sent a message to men hiding in the hills – “you cannot protect your women or your homes.”

The documentary series uses first-hand accounts of the women affected by these crimes wherever possible, allowing “these women’s voices in their own words to be heard for the first time in a hundred years and it redresses the balance of the history of the period that has been largely focused on fighters and military tactics.”

You can watch the trailer in full for the series below. Cogadh ar Mhná is broadcast on TG4 Wednesday, September 23rd at 9.30 pm.


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