Tuesday 28 February 2017

Eoghan Harris: In memory of Peter Hart, honorary Irish man of history

Although we are not nowadays on good terms, John A Murphy did not hesitate to contact me last Friday with the shocking news that the Canadian historian Peter Hart, author of that classic of modern Irish scholarship, The IRA and its Enemies, Political Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-1923, was prematurely dead at the age of 46. Because Hart was a hero to both of us.

By some sad serendipity, when Murphy called I was leafing through a beautifully produced book A Great Sacrifice, Cork Servicemen who died in the Great War, by Gerry White and Brendan O'Shea, published by the Evening Echo, which, with a wealth of information and pictures, lists the name of every Cork serviceman who died in that conflict. To Peter Hart fell the grim task of telling us what the IRA did to some of these servicemen's comrades after they came home.

I can still recall clearly the night in 1998 I began to read The IRA and its Enemies. As soon as I saw the heading on the first chapter, 'The Killing of Sergeant O'Donoghue', the hair rose on my head. It concerned the IRA's shooting on Wednesday, November 17, 1920, of Sergeant James O'Donoghue of the RIC, who never carried a carbine, on his way home from Tuckey Street barracks to Tower Street.

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