Subject: Kevin Barry
Kevin Barry asks about his namesake Kevin Barry who was executed
by the British, and about whom a well-known song was composed.
My recollection of his story was that he was a teenager who
bungled his first mission for the IRA, got caught and was executed.
(This was during the Irish war against the British, 1920 or
Kevin and a colleague (who escaped, I think) shot and killed two
unarmed British soldiers who were delivering milk.
Since such incidents were fairly common during this period,
I'm not sure why Kevin should have been singled out to have a
song written about him, except that he was quite young.
The British slant on the incident would have been that killing
unarmed milk-deliverers was an unprovoked murder. The IRA
reply would have been that as a member of the armed forces of a
country whose democratically elected government was at war with
an occupying power, an attack on uniformed soldiers of the hostile
nation (regardless of their activity) was permitted under the Geneva
Convention, and Barry should have been treated as a prisoner of war.
The Irish rebellion was an early example of guerrilla warfare as it is
known today, and the debate about "freedom fighters" and "terrorists"
has remained much the same also.