GERARD Murphy’s ‘The Year Of Disappearances — Political Killings In Cork 1921-22’ is very properly causing a major stir. Even more than Peter Hart’s account of the IRA in the county, this book is revealing the terrible horror that befell the Protestants of Cork.
Moreover, it finally destroys any claim that a non-sectarian Republic could have resulted from the violence of 1916 onwards. In a society as confessionally divided as Ireland then was, with the general Catholic-nationalist and Protestant-unionist divide, political violence would inevitably lead to sectarian war.
Yet not merely does this State still celebrate the 1916 Rising as if it were a fine and noble thing, it is planning a swaggering bonanza in 2016 — just as the remains of this pathetic, broken Republic are divided up between German banks and Chinese property dealers. I’ve been writing a dissenting narrative about this period for most of my life and the response has been for me to be largely ignored by Official Ireland. No matter. I can truthfully say that I invented the entire subject of historical journalism for the period 1914-23. Yet despite my work on the Irish and the Great War, I was not (of course) invited to participate in Sean O Mordha’s acclaimed television series ‘Seven Ages’. Indeed, my exclusion by the ‘Irish Times’ from its supplement to mark the 90th anniversary of the Rising was one of several reasons why I resigned from that newspaper. I say all this to establish my credentials here.
Despite my knowledge, I’ve been astounded by Gerard Murphy’s revelations, which clearly show that the campaign in Cork against Protestants and non-republicans was on a truly vast scale. Most Belfast nationalists know of the terrible things that befell Catholics in the city in 1922.
What happened in Cork was actually worse because it was accompanied by almost no chaotic street violence. It was a planned assault on a unionist community and executed with abominable method. This villainy has been matched by the supine silence of Irish historians, to match their previous silence on Ireland the Great War. For Irish historiography has long been the academic wing of party-political republicanism, even though the main villains in Cork — Corry, O’Donoghue and O’Hegarty — who are at the centre of Gerard Murphy’s book, should be well known to historians of the period.
The most sobering revelations concern Martin Corry, Fianna Fail TD for 40 years, a cheery psychopath and much-loved killer. How much the people of Cork knew about this vile Leeside Robespierre I cannot say. Many men — and it is impossible to say what number — were shot and buried at Corry’s farm after being imprisoned in a nearby vault in Kilquane graveyard, which Corry called Sing Sing. As TD in the 1930s, he even jeered at James Dillon TD in Dail Eireann: “Come down and I will show you. I will show you a lot of things you never saw before. I would nearly show you Sing Sing. I am sure the Deputy would have to be very fascinating before he’d get out of it.”
On St Patrick’s Night in 1922 — ie after the Truce and before the Civil War — six members of the Young Men’s Christian Association in Cork were abducted and executed at Corry’s farm. That same week, half a dozen loyalist farmers were similarly disappeared in west Cork. OVERALL, from the summer of 1920 to the start of the Civil War, 33 Protestants were shot in Cork city proper, while another 40 were killed nearby — a total of 73 Protestant victims from a small minority community. From around 1921, IRA units murdered or “disappeared” at least 85 civilians. Some 26 were killed after the Truce, thereby making a mockery of the date that this State now chooses to commemorate the dead of all our wars — July 11. As chilling as anything has been the toxic legacy amongst middle-class Cork Catholics, who until recently thought it chic to make jibes about a Protestant community which has never properly recovered from these terrible days. What you might call An Interim Solution.
We might have learnt all this long ago. A farmer bought some of Corry’s land in the 1960s and dug up several skeletons in a mass grave. These were handed over to the local gardai at Watergrasshill, after which they vanished without trace. What a surprise. Look. You cannot use violence in a divided society without militarising politics, after which, society’s psychos and zealots feel authorised to kill their political opponents. The fundamental issue is not the dead of Cork or west Belfast: it is the use of violence to achieve political ends. It doesn’t work. It kills people, but it doesn’t get you what you want.
Moreover, killing innocents is not some aberration that only occurs at the end of a prolonged period of violence. The first victims in the opening minutes of 1916 — which this Republic is dementedly determined to pretend was a poetry festival and for which it is preparing another grisly jamboree in 2016 — were all innocent unarmed Irish people, killed in their native city. But then why not? Killing Irish people in their native cities is, after all, what our “republicans” do best of all. Step forward, Cork, 1921-22.