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The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork, 1920-1921 [Hardcover]

Gerard Murphy
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Nov 2010
Every spy who was shot in Cork was buried so that nothing was known about them. They just disappeared. These are the words of an IRA commander recalling the War of Independence in Cork city. The Year of Disappearances examines this claim and others like it. It uncovers a web of suspicion and paranoia that led to scores of men and boys, mostly Protestants, being abducted from their homes before being executed as enemies of the Republic and their bodies buried. While some of this took place during the War of Independence, most of it happened the following year, during the so-called Cork Republic . The net result was to change the demographic of the south-eastern corner of the city for ever, with hundreds of families fleeing and up to fifty individuals buried in unmarked graves in surrounding areas. Using a wide range of previously untapped sources, Murphy shines new light on one of the darker episodes of twentieth-century Irish history. The Year of Disappearances is a groundbreaking book that deepens our knowledge and understanding of the War of Independence. It subverts many myths and examines realities long hidden.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Gill & Macmillan Ltd (5 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0717147487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0717147489
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,115,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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An engagingly written text.. it is bound to stir up controversy. --Eunan O'Halpin, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College, Dublin

About the Author

Gerard Murphy was born in Cork in 1956. Educated at Sacred Heart College, Carrignavar and later at UCC, he graduated with a PhD in 1983. He subsequently worked in industry and academia and currently lectures at the Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland. He is the author of two critically-acclaimed novels. This is his first work of non-fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that needs to be told 8 Jan 2012
By Baxter
This is an informative book from Mr Murphy giving details of events from over 90 years ago which until recent times have remained untold. The IRA operated a killing field in the Cork area and intimidated the general public to such an extent that much of this was not spoken about, not passed down and eventually forgotten, until now.

From torture cells in church graveyards, to bodies buried in bogs and in farmer's fields, the story is told here of a sinister campaign waged by the Cork IRA to eliminate anyone who they deemed to be the enemy - in many cases if you were a Freemason, member of the YMCA or particularly a Methodist you were a target. Most disturbing of all is the number of children who either disappeared or were tortured and murdered - Martin Corry (later Fianna Fail TD) was responsible for several of these murders on his remote farm, where he tortured children to extract information and then butchered them. Many of these bodies remain buried in the corners of fields and behind ditches - modern day attempts to re-open files on these cases have been hindered by the establishment's reluctance to open old wounds, which would focus attention on a time Politicians in Ireland would rather we forget.

The dramatic decrease in the number of Protestants living in Southern Ireland and Cork in particular is dealt with here - the main reasons being intimidation and murder - many Protestants were given less than 24 hours to flee the country or face certain death - effectively a campaign of ethnic cleansing waged against this section of the community. Nowhere was this more true than in the South Cork area where under the command of Florrie O'Donoghue and Sean O'Hegarty, both Protestants (and Roman Catholics) were murdered in cold blood as the IRA's paranoia reached fever pitch.
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16 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corcaigh 14 Nov 2010
By Áine
What a pity An Sionnach did not actually read The Year of Disappearances before `reviewing' it. If he (or she) had read it he would have found a considerable amount of the book devoted to the activities of British intelligence in Ireland during the War of Independence. Most of this material is new and has not been analysed by historians prior to this. It contains details of the operation of undercover assassination squads and the activities of some of the actual spies employed by British military intelligence. If Gerard Murphy were a `neocolonial revisionist' putting out the line that British rule was `essentially benevolent and positive' as An Sionnach suggests then he would hardly have detailed the activities of British undercover hit squads, whose existence was barely acknowledged even by the British army. The book is, moreover, generous in its assessment of most of the leadership of the Cork IRA who had no truck with the killing of civilians based on dubious evidence. Indeed, it details at various points how figures as diverse as Tom Barry, Richard Mulcahy, Liam Lynch, Ernie O'Malley and Tom Hales tried to distance themselves from such activities and in the case of Mulcahy and Lynch tried to stop them altogether. What he does show is that a determined campaign against Protestants was waged by a small number of very committed activists in the south eastern corner of Cork city. This is obviously not going to go down well in certain quarters. But these are merely the facts, supported by a welter of documentation.

It is also by the way, a fabulous read and stands out from most history books because of its narrative structure as Murphy gradually uncovers the truth out of a mishmash of lies and half-truths that had been accepted as fact for eighty years.

If you're going to buy one book on Irish history for Christmas this year, this is the one to get.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the second edition and is worth the wait for the additional data. This is simply a superb book, excellently researched and well written. Murphy has analyzed a vast body of work to produce this book.

The end result goes a long way towards the final truth about what happened the innocent protestants of Cork during 1919 through 1923. The fact is, is that the IRA were on the last legs at the time of the truce. Persistent raids and vastly superior and adapted military strategies by the british army and RIC forced the old Cork IRA to alternative targets - civilians.

The fact that the HQ in Dublin regarded the city brigade as loose canons and did not approve or authorise these actions is an understatement. These murdered men, women and children were Cork people of my own city, and as innocents should not have lived in fear from IRA gangs. The murdering of these as easy targets is one that fills me with the utmost shame.

What is worse though, is the denial by modern historians to admit the truth of what happened. They only serve to continue the injustice and soil the memories of these people. One can only admire the courage and persistence of Gerard Murphy in the face of such aggression. Murphy is not a 'revisionist', this sorry story is firmly based on clear hsitorical data and meticulous research! In fact, the only revision, is on the part of commentators who deny this work, who spout the fictional presence of an 'anti-sinn fein society' in Cork at the time. This was clearly an invented group by the RIC murder gangs/auxiliaries in the city to strike paranoia and fear in those locals tempted to partake in the troubles. It worked! - but only lead to a murder spree based on whispers, old scores and rumours.
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