Tuesday 16 January 2018

Historical detective trail reveals 'ethnic cleansing' by IRA in Cork

Ghosts of the War of Independence are brought to life in a moving book, writes John-Paul McCarthy

Plato liked to insist to his students that we only read to remember what we always somehow knew. I never much cared for that insight -- Plato was not a priority for us North Mon boys in Nineties Cork -- but having read Dr Gerard Murphy's deeply moving new book about the experience of my home city during the War of Independence, I've changed my mind.

Murphy's book, The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork, 1921-22, published by Gill & Macmillan last week, brought me face to face with several old ghosts that first crossed my path in school. Murphy offers a painstaking and scrupulously restrained account of the Cork IRA's squalid campaign against the city's Protestant population as centred around the local YMCA, a campaign that involved, amongst other things, the abduction, torture and execution of helpless teenagers and Boy Scouts, as well as the secret burial of their remains.

Murphy reintroduced me to the Gray brothers in the course of his analysis -- two notoriously cruel IRA men from the city's trigger-happy south side battalion whose ample defects were still discussed at the drag-hunt meetings in Dripsey that gobbled up my childhood Sundays.

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