Breandán Ó hEithir and the 'gentle' Black and Tans

Féile na bhFlaitheartach 2020 to take place online this weekend and early September

A Black and Tan on duty in Dublin during the War of Independence.

A Black and Tan on duty in Dublin during the War of Independence.

THE ANNUAL Féile na bhFlaitheartach, which usually takes place on Inis Mór each August, has been re-imagined in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be an online event this year.

The festival is organised by The Liam & Tom O’Flaherty Society, and the 2020 event will include a lecture, a book launch, and a commemorative event.

While the society celebrates and examines the work of Aran Island born short story writer and novelist, Liam O'Flaherty, and his brother Tom, a socialist, journalist, trade unionist, and Irish language activist, this year's focus is on another Aran writer - Breandán Ó hÉithir, nephew of the O’Flaherty brothers.

'Gentle' Black and Tans?

Ó hÉithir is best known for the novel Lig Sinn í gCathú (1976 ), Over the Bar A Personal Relationship with the GAA (1984 ), and the classic The Begrudger’s Guide to Irish Politics (1986 ). He also penned the satiric and perceptive poem, 'The Gentle Black and Tan', which poked fun at the 'revisionist' trend in Irish historiography:

"Croke Park and Bloody Sunday/Was our hero’s greatest test./The spectators on the terraces/Nigh impossible to miss./With salt tears his eyes were blinded/And down his cheeks they ran,/So he only shot Mick HoganThe gentle Black and Tan."

Black and Tans Dublin 1921

This poem also seemed to anticipate the Fine Gael led government's ill-fated, and even more ill-advised attempt to commemorate the RIC and therefore the Black and Tans, earlier this year. Despite much mental gymnastics on the part of apologists for the commemoration, both entities were linked. The Black and Tans were recruited into the RIC as reinforcements during the Irish War of Independence. Some sources say they were officially named the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve. Others class them as recruits to the regular RIC or as 'enlisted as regular constabulary'.

Festival events

Breandan O hEithir

Breandán Ó hÉithir.

Ó hÉithir will be honoured this Sunday [August 30] at 7pm with the screening of the annual keynote lecture, via This presentation is by former RTÉ journalist, Póilín Ní Chiarán, will give a unique insight into Ó hÉithir’s life and include footage from the RTÉ archives.

On Sunday September 6, three further events will go online: former county councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig on O’Flaherty’s A Tourist’s Guide to Ireland; a commemoration for Aran Island man Laurence McDonagh, who was brutally killed by the Black and Tans on Inis Mór in 1920, and including a short talk, music, and a reading of Ó hÉithir’s ‘The Gentle Black and Tan’; while Éamon Ó Ciosáin will launch Mícheál Ó Conghaile’s translation into Irish of 30 of O'Flaherty’s English-language short stories.

Later in the autumn Máirín Mhic Lochlainn’s rendering of Breandán Ó hEithir’s radio adaptation of Jaroslav Hašek’s famous anti-war satire, The Good Soldier Švejk, will be launched.

For more see


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