Gerard Murphy’s The year of disappearances

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Book Reviews, General, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 19

Gerard Murphy’s The year of disappearances 1Sir,—As chairman of the Knockraha History and Heritage Society, I read with horror Gerard Murphy’s The year of disappearances: political killings in Cork 1920–1922 (reviewed in HI 19.1, Jan./Feb. 2011), which seeks to demonise the late Martin Corry TD for his role in the fight for Irish freedom. The author quotes my writings as a source for his information in relation to Martin Corry and Knockraha. He states that Martin Corry was the executioner for the Cork no.1 brigade and that he was involved in ethnic cleansing. That is totally false and as my name is cited I have no choice but to set the record straight.    Despite his long life, including 42 years in the Dáil, and having taken an active part in the War of Independence, neither Martin Corry nor any other member of the IRA’s Knockraha company submitted sworn witness statements to the Bureau of Military History. However, other members of the Cork no.1 brigade who did submit statements did not link Martin Corry to Murphy’s allegations. In the Knockraha History Society in the early 1970s we decided that it was very important to record for posterity what happened during the War of Independence in our area. We conducted detailed research, including many interviews with Martin Corry. For the purposes of ensuring accuracy, he had two other members of his old IRA company present. These interviews were taped. We also spoke to the other 26 members of the company alive at that time. They all spoke freely to us, and anyone who knew Martin Corry will recall how happy he was to talk of his involvement in the war as it happened. He would state the facts with no apology or cover-up. When our research was finished we presented it in book form as The history of Knockraha Parish (still available from 087-9864177). Yet Gerard Murphy claims that Martin Corry tried to block its publication—totally false. Martin Corry in no way tried to influence what we wrote. This book was launched in Knockraha on 11 July 1976, attended by all living members of the company. Martin Corry spoke at the launch and welcomed the publication. The old veterans accepted it as a reasonable record of the war in our parish as it happened. I subsequently allowed Mr Murphy full access to my research and tapes, believing that he would give an accurate account of my findings. I am disgusted at how he misused this privilege, from false statements to conclusions not warranted by the facts.During the War of Independence Martin Corry was the captain of the Knockraha company, and he had no role either in the battalion or the brigade except as a back-up to other companies, such as in the attack on Carrigtwohill RIC barracks. To suggest that he was the brigade executioner shows a lack of knowledge of how the brigade worked. Knockraha had a special status in the brigade, with two operating bomb factories and ‘Sing-Sing prison’ [the IRA’s detention centre], which the book states was ‘Corry’s prison’. Not so—it was under the control of the Cork brigade; its governor, Ned Maloney, was answerable to Seán Hegarty and not to Martin Corry. The figures given by Martin Corry for Sing-Sing were not his own figures, but ones given by Ned Maloney before a board when he was applying for a military pension in 1940. How many were executed from it is pure speculation. No Knockraha member brought prisoners to Sing-Sing. There were no women put into Sing-Sing, nor were any prisoners in the jail tortured as Mr Murphy asserts. They were brought from the entire brigade area. Their fate was already decided by the brigade officers, but in the odd case where the local company had to make a decision it was made with regard to the brigade policy. In several parts of the book Mr Murphy states that Martin Corry says that he shot a number of people (in Sing-Sing). Corry never said that he shot anyone. Neither is there any evidence in the Bureau of Military History that he shot anyone. None of the members of the company that I spoke to could ever remember Martin Corry being a member of such a firing party, even though later in life many of those were his political enemies. Gerard Murphy claims that a body was dug up under Corry’s floorboards—false. There are no anti-Sinn Féin members buried on his farm. We had no prayer session at the unveiling of the plaque at Sing-Sing for those Mr Murphy said were buried in the bogs. He further states that Martin Corry used his influence to stop enquiries after bones were discovered in the Rea in 1963—false. There was a Mrs Prendergast who raised questions but that was in 2001, 22 years after Corry’s death. Mr Murphy insists that Corry was involved in ethnic cleansing in the brigade area—wrong; he had no role outside his own company. In his farm at Sunville, Glounthaune, many of his neighbours were Protestants. None were ever intimidated by Corry or any of his company in any way. Indeed, he was the best of friends with his minority religion neighbours before, during and after the War of Independence. Martin Corry was working for the ideals of the Protestant patriot Wolfe Tone to create a republic of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. Indeed, the descendants of these Protestants still living in the area near Corry’s are appalled by the suggestion that they were at loggerheads with Corry 90 years ago.In the War of Independence spies gave information that was responsible for the wiping out of the flying column at Clonmult, in which twelve volunteers lost their lives. In the Dripsey ambush spies again had given information that led to a number being executed. When the brigade was satisfied that people were informers, they could not expect much sympathy. Spies were not shot for their religion but rather for their deeds, and to suggest that their religious background was responsible for their end is irresponsible, mischievous and an insult to the Protestant population. It is as if Mr Murphy has airbrushed out the history, the atrocities perpetrated by the Black-and-Tans, Auxiliaries, etc. Don’t forget that they pulled three people out of their houses in Carrigtwohill, one a cripple, and executed them. They burned our city, they took two Delaneys from their beds in Dublin Hill and shot them—not forgetting what was done to our lord mayor, Tomas MacCurtin. And it was not unusual for the Black-and-Tans as they drove along the road to take a pot-shot at people working in the fields. Some died in this way. So the IRA terror campaign was in response to the enemy’s tactics. And today if the tricolour floats majestically over the GPO with no British gunboat shelling it from the Liffey, it is due to the efforts of people like Tomás MacCurtin, Martin Corry and Michael Collins.—Yours etc.,JAMES FITZGERALDKnockraha History and Heritage SocietyCo. Cork

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