A unique dramatised account of one of the darkest days of the Civil War in Kerry will be screened at Siamsa Tíre in February as part of the programme of events for the three-day Kerry Civil War Conference, which marks the centenary of the conflict.
Ballyseedy, which was written and presented by the well-known broadcaster and journalist, Pat Butler, will be shown at Siamsa Tíre on Friday, 24 February at 8.00pm.
The dramatised documentary tells the story of the execution of eight anti-Treaty IRA prisoners near Tralee on 7 March 1923 as the war in Kerry reached new depths of violence and barbarity. It was first broadcast on RTÉ One television in 1997 and repeated in March 1998 and has not been shown publicly since then.
The upcoming screening has been arranged by the organisers of the Kerry Civil War Conference which runs from 23 to 25 February and which features over twenty historians, experts and academics in discussion about the war in Kerry and beyond and its legacy a century later. The conference is supported by the Department of Culture under the Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2023.
Before the screening on 24 February, Pat Butler will be interviewed by Jerry O’Sullivan of Radio Kerry about how and why he researched and produced the programme, and why it is so important as a historical resource. Admission to the event is free of charge but pre-booking is required through the Siamsa Tíre Box Office.
Owen O’Shea, one of the organisers of the Kerry Civil War Conference, said that the forthcoming conference is an appropriate time to present the 90-minute docudrama.
‘We are extremely grateful to RTÉ for agreeing to share the programme with us and to Pat Butler who spent so many years researching and writing the piece. As the only televisual representation of events at Ballyseedy, it is a hugely important resource which contains interviews with eyewitnesses who are no longer with us,’ he said.
‘Ballyseedy is synonymous with the darkest days of the Civil War in Kerry and Pat’s work sets the events of 7 March 1923 in the context of the trip mine explosion at Knocknagoshel the previous night and the wider story of how and why the war in Kerry became so visceral and violent,’ he added.
Pat Butler said that the programme had its origins in the smoke-infused front room of his parents’ house in Cork, in 1957, when, as a nine-year-old, he heard whispered references to ‘the birds eating the flesh off the trees at Ballyseedy Wood’.
‘No one would explain to me what that meant. Forty years later, dark deeds hinted at in an early draft of Niall C. Harrington’s Civil War memoir, A Kerry Landing, sparked my old curiosity. Six years of research in Kerry led to the Ballyseedy documentary. The film explores the dark night of the national soul – the slaughter that was the Civil War in Kerry. The national silence about the Irish Civil War was finally broken,’ Pat explained.
The screening of Ballyseedy takes place on Friday, 24 February at 8.00pm at Siamsa Tíre in Tralee. While admission to the event is free, tickets must be pre-booked through the Siamsa Tíre box office on www.siamsatire.com or on 066 7123055, or at www.kerrycivilwarconference.ie.