Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reply to Manus O'Riordan

The background to this letter is an article that Manus O’Riordan wrote for the Irish Political Review in which he suggested that I subscribe to the view that the IRA carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Protestants out of Cork. This was to link me to the work of the late Peter Hart in the hope that, because some inconsistencies were allegedly found in the latter's work, that I could be tarred with the same brush. I was accused of not replying to David Fitzpatrick’s review of my book on the basis that I agreed with it. Mr.O’Riordan also produced some private correspondence I had with him a few years back when I was looking for information on a Jewish JP who lived in Cork in the early 1920s and who I thought may have disappeared. O'Riordan claimed that I was taking my cue from Hart and was looking for evidence that the IRA targeted Jews on the basis that Hart supposedly claimed that they did, which is nothing more than a bit of cheap pseudo-extrapolation from a single letter that he quoted. I include this here because it illustrates perfectly the peculiar and often poisonous level at which ‘debate’ on Irish historical issues operates.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to submit the following reply to the letter by Manus O’Riordan on my book The Year of Disappearances, which appeared in the August edition of The Irish Political Review.

I suppose I should be grateful to Mr. O’Riordan for rallying to my defence for the ‘savaging’ I got from David Fitzpatrick (Letter to Irish Political Review, August 2011). However, I want to clarify one or two things.

I stayed out of the ethnic cleansing debate because I believe that the use of the term is inappropriate in the context of Cork city in 1921/22. As I pointed out, the Protestants who left the south eastern suburbs of the city were for the most part replaced by other Protestants. So the term is meaningless, which does not stop it being used to raise a hare to get people’s tempers up and their pulses racing.

The reason I was interested in the fate of Simon Spiro, a Cork Jew and JP who lived in Cork during the revolutionary period, was because I came across a missing persons file on him in Department of Justice records. I was also aware, from postal directories and valuation records that he had vacated his home on the Western Road in 1921/22. Initially, I thought the file was closed. I suspected something nasty may have happened to him – after all, three Cork JPs were assassinated by the IRA in 1921 and another half dozen or so were kidnapped. I contacted Manus O’Riordan who had written about the ill-treatment of Cork Jews at the hands of the Black and Tans. I also contacted several others on this matter. There was no trace of Spiro in subsequent Birth, Marriages and Deaths records for Cork, nor was there any record of him emigrating to Palestine. A few weeks later I was back in Dublin where I discovered that the Spiro file was in fact open and that the Civic Guard had checked up on his whereabouts and found that he was living over his shop on Bridge Street in 1924. I also found his name on a passenger list of a liner bound for the US in the late 1920s and that he was also an officer of residence at UCC until the mid-1920s. I contacted Manus O’Riordan out of courtesy to let him know that I had found my man. I tell this story merely to show that my search for Spiro had nothing to do with Peter Hart. I have never come across any evidence, from Peter Hart or from anyone else, that Cork Jews were targeted by the IRA. Of course, Manus is correct in one thing: if Spiro had disappeared he would of course have been included in The Year of Disappearances. But he didn’t, so he wasn’t.  This is another canard, like the ethnic cleansing issue.

I am surprised to learn that Manus would not have tried to help me if he had known I had an ‘agenda’. I would have thought that the fate of disappeared persons from a conflict almost 100 years in the past would be a legitimate historical subject. Would he object to a study on disappeared persons from the Spanish Civil War for instance? It is ironic that in a book of over 300 pages in which a lot of controversial material is uncovered that Manus should focus instead on a couple of (private) emails sent to him on a subject (Simon Spiro) and a topic (Cork Jews) that do not even come up in the book. Extraordinary! But this is the level at which much of Irish historical debate operates. This is a place where, to quote the cop shows, ‘anything you say, can and will be taken down and used against you’, a point neatly proven by Manus O’Riordan’s letter. As for Prof Fitzpatrick, I will be responding to his article in due course. In the meantime, perhaps Manus can assure the good professor that I do actually carry out some research. Hey, I even ‘dip into’ Births, Marriages and Deaths records from time to time.  

Yours etc

Gerard Murphy

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Reply to John Borgonovo

Reply to John Borgonovo’s review of The Year of Disappearances (History Ireland Jan/Feb, 2011).

I was a little disappointed with John Borgonovo’s review of my book The Year of Disappearances that appeared in the January/February edition of HI. I would have expected more in the line of constructive criticism rather than the dismissal that the book received. My book, he asserts ‘cannot be presented as serious scholarship; it is a work in which ‘speculation replaces sound historic methodology’. Borgonovo’s method of criticism was to quickly run through the various elements of the book while asserting that I produce no evidence to support any of them. In each instance he ignored the evidence that I did provide. It is not possible to go through all his assertions in a letter of this length, so a few examples will have to suffice.

He states that Martin Corry is an unreliable witness who frequently exaggerated his War of Independence experiences and that I don’t question his credibility. Yet the first eight chapters of my book are spent in doing precisely that. Corry’s claims that a large number of people were shot out of the brigade prison at Knockraha are substantiated by other members of the 1st Cork Brigade, including his own commanding officer, Michael Leahy. As for the actual number killed, Corry himself in his IRA pension application form claimed that his group executed 27 prisoners during the War of Independence. It is well known that IRA pension applications were vetted by having their claims authenticated by senior veterans of the conflict. It is fair to assume that if Corry claimed to have executed 27 people that this number was agreed by his superiors in the Old IRA. 35 might have been an exaggeration, 27 is not.

Another example of Mr. Borgonovo’s method is his statement that the only evidence I produce on the abduction of half a dozen Cork city merchants on St Patrick’s Day 1922 are three newspaper reports. In fact, this story was carried by no less than six newspapers and was even picked up by the Press Association and ran, off and on, in these newspapers for the next week – though the men are not named. It is also supported by the accounts of IRA veterans who predated it to make it look as if it occurred a year earlier. John Borgonovo knows this as well as I do. After all, he wrote a whole book trying to prove that these men were killed in the spring of 1921, something he failed to prove. Based on Liam de Roiste’s diary entry of 23 March 1922, he then states that the men abducted on 17 March 1922 were in fact two local IRA officers arrested for joining the Gardai. It is true that two IRA men called Hallinan and Kelleher were arrested around that date after making a visit to Dublin to join the Civic Guard but these were not the six ‘prominent citizens’ taken on St Patrick’s Day. (Kidnappings were almost a daily occurrence during those weeks.) Mrs Parsons, inquiring about the fate of her son (a fifteen-year old) who disappeared the same week was told at IRA HQ in Union Quay barracks to hold out no hope as 'a lot' had been shot around that time.

Mr. Borgonovo stated that I could not uncover ‘blatant anti-Masonic and anti-Protestant sentiments amid thousands of pages of O’Donoghue material’. I think the reasons for that are fairly obvious. Maybe he should spread his wings a little and have another look at the correspondence emanating from the 1st Southern Division in the Mulcahy and indeed the Lankford papers. There’s plenty anti-Masonic stuff in there. Besides, what was O’Donoghue doing ‘updating’ his lists of Freemasons as late as 1930 when he was no longer a member of the IRA? Mr. Borgonovo’s review is full of such examples of partial reporting of the evidence presented in my book. To rebut them all would require me writing the book all over again.

As I have said previously, my book is a book of evidence, not a book of conclusions. I work from the standpoint of scientific methodology. What evidence I have, I put out there on the basis that it is falsifiable. (In other words that it can be proven wrong, if it is wrong - for those who don't understand what the word 'falsifiable' means.) My hope is to provide stimulus to others to further investigate the subject as new information becomes available. I was surprised at the tenor of John Borgonovo’s review, considering that my work augments his own and explains a lot of the puzzling ambiguities that his data, based largely on the accounts of Old IRA veterans, throws up. Suggesting that this is not a work of serious scholarship, when I use considerably more sources than he does, is not just being disingenuous, it is also plain wrong.

Gerard Murphy
Updated 23 October 2011

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Response (1) to Padraig Og O'Ruairc

Response (1) to Pádraig Óg O’Ruairc
I have to say I was delighted at Pádraig Óg O’Ruairc’s forensic analysis of my book because it provides an answer to something that had puzzled me since the book came out. In the interests of those who have only a passing familiarity with the topic it is necessary to provide a little more detail than Mr O’Ruairc presents in his review.
All the evidence that I had been able to find, from British army telegram transcripts to local historians, suggested that three teenagers were shot by members of the 2nd Battalion of the Cork city IRA and buried near Douglas outside Cork city around the time of the Truce (July 1921) and that these were Protestants. (Two Catholic teenagers, Begley and Nolan, who were around seventeen, were also captured on the day of the Truce and shot as spies, one by the 1st Battalion and the other by E Company of the 2nd Battalion operating in the Friar’s Walk area.[1])
In his review, Mr O’Ruairc contends, or at least appears to contend, that I am mistaken about the three teenagers shot and buried in the Frankfield area and that this refers to these two young ‘spies’ mentioned above. He analyses my transcription of Connie Neenan’s account to Ernie O’Malley[2] before coming to the conclusion that ‘it is clear from the original that Neenan was referring to two suspected spies executed before the Truce and therefore could not have been referring to ‘Three Protestant Boys’ killed afterwards.’ His basic contention revolves around one line from Neenan’s account which I transcribed as ‘Three were friends, they confessed their tracking and they were killed’ and which he reckons reads ‘Both kids confessed their trackings and they were killed.’
In order to see whether two or three were killed or indeed whether or not they were Protestants we need to quote a little more of Neenan’s account than what Mr O’Ruairc provides.
We did not know then that the British had organised the youngsters of the YMCA to trail our men. They were mostly from good families. It was only then, after 15 months after the murder of Tomas MacCurtain that we learned that a kid of 15 had tracked him home that night. [Both kids?] confessed their trackings and they were killed. We thought that this [finished?] their YMCA organization [as it was?], and it was just before the Truce.[3]
Anyone who had ever had the honour of attempting to read Ernie O’Malley’s handwriting  - and it is an honour – agrees that it poses significant problems for historians. In that short piece there are three sections that are very difficult to decipher. I transcribed the line beginning with ‘Both kids’ as ‘3 were friends’ on the basis that Ernie O’Malley tended to use numericals when writing numbers, and the first letter was clearly a ‘3’ rather than a ‘B’. Mr O’Ruairc kindly sent an electronic copy of a page and a half long sample of Connie Neenan’s account to Ernie O’Malley to my publisher just after Christmas to prove how wrong I was. In that sample alone, there are fifteen (15 if you like) capital ‘B’s. All but one has the down stroke. And all the numbers are written as numericals. So on statistics alone, and on Ernie O’Malley’s way of writing ‘B’s and numbers I think I could be forgiven for believing that that ‘B’, if it was a ‘B’ might have been a ‘3’.
Also the rules governing access to the O’Malley notebooks stipulate that researchers are not allowed to make copies. So it is not possible to take away copies of the originals for independent analysis by handwriting experts, something Mr O’Ruairc suggested I should have done. Nor did I have the luxury at that stage – the paper copies were still available – of magnifying or isolating sections of text. So most scholars – Mr. O’Ruairc is obviously the exception – are at the mercy of whatever he or she takes down in pencil on the day (or days) when one manages to visit UCD.
But this is beside the point. What the account unambiguously shows is that the ‘kids’ in question, be they two or three, were members of the YMCA, and therefore Protestants. This is confirmed by Neenan’s own memoirs and other interviews he gave (all of which are typed, so there’s no room for ambiguity there) and have been available in Cork City and County Archives (formerly the Cork Archives Institute) since the end of 2007 and which I’m sure Mr O’Ruairc must have studied. In these, Neenan states that these kids were Protestants.
But there is another piece of information in Connie Neenan’s account to Ernie O’Malley that Mr O’Ruairc does not provide us with either. Talking of the so-called Anti Sinn Fein League, Neenan states that ‘one of the group broke down in June 1921 when he was caught outside Douglas.... This was a young kid, a nondescript type and we shot him.’ Neenan goes on to say that this may have been ‘Begley, one of Shields’s crowd.’ There is no question that Dan Shields, an undercover army operative, was running spies around Cork. One of them, the brother of a well-known IRA man, referred to as ‘Saunders’, was caught and shot in Carrignavar at the end of May. Indeed, the whole tracking of Shields and Saunders occurred north of the city, even into the 2nd Brigade area around Mallow. Moreover, Begley was caught on the morning of the Truce, 11 July, not in June, and executed a few days later by the 1st, rather than the 2nd Battalion. Begley does appear to have been one of Shield’s operatives (see below). Considering that when IRA men referred to the Anti-Sinn League they invariably meant Protestants the alleged Anti-Sinn Fein League ‘spy’, the ‘nondescript’ kid who broke down outside Douglas in June must have been a Protestant. For what it’s worth, and for the benefit of the uninitiated, Mick Murphy, commandant of the 2nd battalion of the city IRA, also left accounts of the killing of Protestant teenagers out of the YMCA, as did Martin Corry, all of which are covered in my book.
But I was puzzled by my own interpretation of the contentious line above. Because if I were right and the line read ‘3 were friends’ then that could only mean that there were four Protestant teenagers executed near Douglas at that time, rather than three. Yet all the supporting evidence suggested that the number was three. And there is supporting evidence, something Mr O’Ruairc is very well aware of, seeing he was passed on what in my naivety I believed was my confidential (and sometimes dismissive) reply to the review which he first submitted for publication at the Sunday Tribune where it seems it failed to find an outlet.
In that reply I detailed how a telegram exiting British army HQ in Cork on 25 August 1921 read: ‘With reference to the three cases of chicken broth, relating to children. Are they children? Say children then in the report.’ Considering that subsequent telegrams exiting Victoria Barracks, as it was then, deal with the capturing of teenagers and express concern about Boy Scout troops, I think it’s fair to suggest that the three cases of chicken broth refer to children taken in the summer of 1921. It is very doubtful if seventeen year olds such as Nolan and Begley would have been referred to as children, especially in those days.
Mr O’Ruairc goes on to state that the only source I have for the fate of the ‘Three Protestant Boys’ is one anonymous source. As must surely be clear by this stage, this is simply not true. An elderly local historian with a vast knowledge of the period told me – this was unsolicited; we were just having a general chit-chat about the conflict – of three Protestant boys who were shot and buried in Frankfield  – ‘they talked, you see’. Considering that he was accurate in all the other things he told me on events on the south side of the city, I think his account has to be given credibility. He even told me where they are buried. And he is not anonymous, as Mr O’Ruairc also knows, especially since my reply to the Tribune was leaked to him.
So the question arising from the above quotation is not whether it was two or three teenagers who were shot outside Douglas around the time of the Truce but whether it was three or four. Since all the other evidence points to the number being three, I am grateful to Mr O’Ruairc for the enormous trouble he must have taken to point this out. The most likely scenario is that the three boys were shot together.
I was surprised with his knowledge of the O’Malley notebooks that Mr O’Ruairc has to ask who ‘Duggan’ was, because Connie Neenan also mentions him. ‘Begley was the last of the spies, or Duggan maybe, he was associated with Shields...’   I don’t have a problem with people coming up with new information or indeed finding errors in my book. These can all be hoovered up and put into a subsequent edition of the book, if such there be. And I don’t have a problem if further evidence proves I am sometimes wrong. History, after all, is not watertight and proceeds by the process of correction.
To give him credit, however, Mr O’Ruairc does engage with the text and, in contrast to some reviewers, has actually read the book. You cannot even begin to deal with those who ascribe things to you that you never wrote or who partially quote pieces of evidence while deliberately ignoring other pieces. Only yesterday I was handed a review which stated that I had proven that William Parsons did not exist! However much this exercise in mind-numbing pedantry is a pain-in-the-neck, at least one cannot accuse Mr O’Ruairc of dishonesty.
I’m not sure, however, if I agree with his analysis of my position on what happened between the IRA and the YMCA in 1921/22. I’m not so sure if there is a seamless connection between the events of the summer of 1921 and the spring of 1922 when I believe the targeting of Freemasons and the YMCA began in earnest. There is no question that the YMCA was also targeted in the spring and early summer of 1921. However, Brigade IRA intelligence reports suggest they had not come under suspicion by the time of the Truce. The killings described above may well have been a once-off. The tracking down of teenagers in the last months of 1921 may simply have been the hunting down of suspected informers or at least of kids associated with the police. Compensation files suggest that a surprisingly large number of RIC men were also shot and wounded during those months. This could be viewed as merely the inevitable fall-out of post-conflict situations. There is nothing to suggest that any kind of witchhunt along sectarian lines was taking place prior to March 1922.  My gut feeling is to agree with the accounts of the Old IRA men who stated that the hunting down of ‘spies’ from the YMCA began with the capture and torture of William Parsons in March 1922 – which ultimately come out of the hunting down of civilians associated with the RIC in the High Street area.[4] My intention was to put all the evidence I could find down on paper and let people draw their own conclusions. In some cases, it is impossible to draw conclusions and this may be one such instance. This issue can only be resolved if considerable amounts of new information become available, which may happen whenever the IRA pensions application forms are made public – though I suspect that even in those the officers may have very little to say on individual killings.

Trivial Pursuit
On a lighter note, Mr O’Ruairc lets himself down in the rest of his review when he conflates trivial issues into major ones. Again, these have been dealt with before and were the subject of the ambush I blindly walked into courtesy of Mr O’Ruairc in January. Anybody who is interested can read the headline. ‘Author Owns up to Errors in IRA Death Book’(Sunday Tribune 16/1/2011) before going on to read that the two errors reported were little more than typographical ones. I suppose from Mr O’Ruairc’s point of view the exercise did have some propaganda value, if only for the headline. In the interests of clarity, however, let’s examine these issues which, according to Mr O’Ruairc, make the value of my work as historical fact ‘seriously questionable’.
According to him, ‘Murphy’s definition of what constitutes a teenager is problematic’. His evidence for this is that I inadvertently referred to four young soldiers who were shot on the eve of the Truce after going out unarmed to buy sweets as ‘teenage soldiers’. Now thanks to Mr O’Ruairc’s diligent digging we find out that they were over 20, two of them barely so. As this was merely a passing comment it does not have the slightest bearing on the fact that the IRA did in fact execute fifteen-year-old civilians. Nor does it have any bearing on the contents of the book as a whole which concerns itself with the deaths of civilians rather than soldiers. As I stated in my reply to the Tribune this was merely an oversight on my part. Incidentally, this event was viewed with such horror in Cork that there was even pressure from some within Sinn Fein to have an inquiry into the killing.
His final point, which presumably is his coup de gras, is that I accidently left out ‘three key words’ when transcribing an IRA intelligence circular issued in late 1920 which he says completely changes the meaning of the sentence. The key words are ‘locally do not’. Indeed they do change the meaning of the sentence, from saying that IRA intelligence should keep an eye on businesses where people do not generally deal, to saying that they should keep an eye on business where people generally do deal. But they do not change the meaning of the paragraph in which the sentence is found, nor indeed the circular as a whole which in its original form runs to four pages. Nor do they change in the slightest the meaning the chapter in which it is quoted. Again the suggestion that this minor error has any bearing on the contents of the book is risible. I would challenge anyone to read the chapter in question and come to the conclusion that Mr O’Ruairc comes to. In a book of this length I would hope I would be given some bit of leeway for the occasional typo. But from the likes of Mr O’Ruairc, evidently not.
Perhaps I should take it as a compliment that someone with Mr O’Ruairc’s considerable scholarly skills could only find three relatively minor errors in a book of 141,000 words – one of them based upon the transcription of a single letter. To write a book of 335 plus pages and make no mistakes is surely a superhuman feat – even with the best editorial help. But I would not be naive enough to think we have heard the last of Mr O’Ruairc and his friends on this. I’d imagine there must be other errors in the text. It’s probably only a matter of time before Mr O’Ruairc comes back on these with all guns blazing. The above points are real of course. But they are so trivial that the temptation is not to bother to defend them – with obvious results.
May I finish up with another pertinent quotation from the O’Malley notebooks in which Florence O’Donoghue describes the possible use of loyalists as sources of intelligence by the British military in Cork and in which the issue of handwriting comes up.
‘From something he let drop I was under the impression that the army men of the SS [Secret Service] thought that intelligence could really be organized and that either Kelly of the 6th Division was not competent enough, or that he was not making sufficient effort to organize himself. The British really thought they could organize an intelligence system. They had not learned the difficulties or they certainly did not know their own weaknesses. Compton-Smith thought either Kelly was fooling them or that he was incompetent. As a result, they may have organized Loyalists.’[5]
This says a lot about British military intelligence in Cork at the time and substantially agrees with what the British army intelligence reports themselves state. It also shows how shrewd an operator Florrie O’Donoghue was. However, one historian, in an effort to explain away the last line, stated that the ‘may have’ was an error on O’Malley’s part. O’Malley ‘roughly transcribed his interviews and was hardly a stenographer.’ These are the words of John Borgonovo. Nobody’s perfect. The field of history is a big one, in which all kinds of people can make hay.

[1] Activity Report of 1st Cork Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade, July/August 1921, Mulcahy P7/A/23: Pa Scannell IRA Pension Application form. Incidentally, the equivalent report for the 2nd Battalion is not in the Mulcahy papers – which itself may be of significance. Also see The Year of Disappearances, pp152-5. Begley was shot on July 16th. It is clear from Pa Scannell’s account, which is the only IRA account I have been able to find of Nolan’s abduction, that he was executed by E Company of the 2nd Battalion and that he was one of three alleged ‘spies’ the company had long been on the look out for. (The others were John Good who was wounded on Tower Street in February 1921 and Michael O’Brien (alias Ahern) who disappeared in April. Interestingly, even in that account, the word ‘spies’ is in inverted commas suggesting the men of E Coy were not fully convinced of their guilt.)
[2] Connie Neenan in O’Malley, P17b/112.
[3] Connie Neenan in O’Malley, P17 b/112.
[4] One of the RIC men stationed there may also have disappeared.
[5] John Borgonovo, Spies, Informers and the Anti-Sinn Fein Society, 2007, p132. For the record, the above quotation is from Borgonovo’s own book so if there are errors in it they are not due to my failing eyesight.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Response to James Fitzgerald’s letter on the Irish Political Review

Sing Sing - Official Brigade Prison of the Cork No 1 Brigade

In his letter published in the most recent edition of the Irish Political Review, James Fitzgerald makes some very important points which have been overlooked in the melee of controversy which followed the publication of my book The Year of Disappearances. He is quite correct to state that Martin Corry was merely the captain of the Knockraha company of the IRA. As such, he was a minor figure in the conflict in Cork. He is also correct to state that the Company had a special status in the Brigade as it operated two bomb factories and rang Sing Sing, the ‘official Brigade prison’, as Martin Corry called it in his IRA pension application form. And he is correct to say that Ned Moloney, the ‘Governor of Sing Sing’ was directly answerable to Sean O’Hegarty on the operation of the prison. Indeed, it is clear from Connie Neenan’s accounts that Mike Canavan, the local company lieutenant was probably the most important liaison between the Knockraha Company and the battalions in Cork city. Sing Sing was run by the Brigade and the fate of prisoners was decided by Brigade officers, not by Martin Corry. None of this is contradicted in my work. Many of those involved in the running of Sing Sing, ordinary everyday Volunteers, were traumatized by their experiences of executions at night in the Rea and lived with their nightmares for the rest of their lives. Unlike them, Corry does not appear to have been so affected.
Yet James Fitzgerald claims that I tried to demonize Martin Corry in my book. Corry, however, is as minor figure in the book as he was in the conflict itself. In fact, I was extremely restrained in my portrayal of Corry, considering the archival material I had at my disposal. It is true that no survivor of the Company left an account with the Bureau of Military History so you could say that no account in the BMH said that Martin Corry shot anyone. However, it is not true to say that Knockraha is not mentioned in the BMH submissions. Sean Healy in his submission referred to Knockraha as the ‘unknown destination’ from which people did not return. If I had wanted to demonize Martin Corry, I would have reported how Corry himself gloated to Ernie O’Malley about the patriotic activities of ‘Corry’s Mauser’, or how Mick Leahy described the treatment of prisoners by the men who operated Sing Sing. If I referred to Corry as the Chief Executioner of the Brigade then that was what Mick Leahy, his own commanding officer, called him. If I wanted to demonize Corry I would have reported what Sean Culhane thought of him and I could have quoted any number of outrageous comments he made himself in the Dail and County Council chambers. Far from demonizing Corry, I downplayed the more lurid of the material relating to him because he was well down in the chain of command and because decisions as to who to execute were taken elsewhere.
The other reason for not dwelling on Corry’s role and that of the Knockraha Company is that James Fitzgerald himself had already written in detail about it. His book is one of the best pieces of local history written about the War of Independence – largely because he went to the trouble of interviewing survivors from both sides of the political divide to produce a book which is a true account of what took place. The daring and the bravery of these men is not in question nor is the ingenuity of those who ran the bomb factories. I think the book should be required reading for anyone interested in the period.
Jim Fitzgerald further claims that I say in my book that Corry was involved in ethnic cleansing. I said no such thing. The only reference to ethnic cleansing in my book is my belief that the departure of Protestants from parts of Cork city could not be regarded as ethnic cleansing if only because they were largely replaced by other Protestants.  And I would agree with James Fitzgerald’s assessment of Corry as being non-sectarian. There is no evidence that Corry was sectarian, nor do I claim that he was in my book. The only instance of Corry being involved in the execution of Protestants was the killing of Edward Parsons when he stated that other YMCA members were executed on foot of information extracted from Parsons. It is clear from that that account – Jim Fitzgerald’s own – that Corry had very little idea what the YMCA was, let alone that he had any personal animosity against Protestants. In fact, years later, he was in the best of terms with Brooke Brazier, his Protestant Fine Gael TD electoral rival. And Corry got on perfectly well with his Protestant neighbours. But then, I never said that he did not.
James Fitzgerald also states that ‘we had no prayer session’ at the unveiling of the plaque to Sing Sing for those who were buried in the bogs. This is a matter of semantics. The priest who officiated at the unveiling asked us to remember in our prayers all the participants in the conflict locally, including the victims. My memory is that a decade of the Rosary was said for the souls of all those involved. I have checked with several others who were there that evening and they agree with this version of events. It may not have been a prayer session as such, but prayers were said and the victims were included in the prayers. Indeed, to do otherwise would have been profoundly unchristian.
James Fitzgerald seems to be under the impression that he is the only one to have left an account of the operation of Sing Sing. He is not. The accounts of Mick Leahy, Sean Culhane, Edmond Desmond and others are all in the Ernie O’Malley notebooks in UCD, if Mr. Fitzgerald is interested in looking them up. I also spoke to many others in the Knockraha area – several of my own relatives were members of the Company, so I’m not exactly an outsider in this regard – though I was not aware of Sing Sing myself until 1994. As James Fitzgerald stated, a Mrs. Prendergast raised questions about the human remains found by Tim Driscoll on his land in the early 1960s. When she inquired about the matter she found that there was no record of the find in Watergrasshill Garda station. James Fitzgerald states that she did this in 2001 but I was told about the original episode in 1994. Her inquiries had nothing to do with the cover-up, which took place in the early 1960s. Whether Corry quashed it or not is largely beside the point. Since my book came out I have been told about several other instances of skeletons turning up in fields in the area – and in one instance in a quarry. In each case, the bones were quietly reburied.
It is inevitable that the media will focus on the more lurid details of an underground cavern in a graveyard from which prisoners were taken at night for execution. As far as I am concerned Sing Sing was merely the starting point for the process of inquiry that resulted in The Year of Disappearances. I cannot be held responsible for what others write on the subject. I was reluctant to get into this as Jim Fitzgerald is a decent upright man and is portrayed as such in my book. However, for the record, it is important to distinguish between what I wrote and what he thinks I wrote.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Second test post

Second post with link



This website came about in response to attacks on The Year of Disappearances since its publication. I began to notice that negative commentary was, by some mysterious process, always able to get a much higher profile in internet searches than were my replies. The aim of this website is merely to gather my replies under one roof and give interested readers the opportunity to see another side of the story - as well as occasionally posting documents on the period covered by the book.