Martin Corry served in the Dáil for 40 years before his death in 1979, but old interview tapes unearthed in a TV3 series reveal how he relished his role as chief IRA executioner in a medieval torture vault named Sing Sing outside the village of Knockraha in Cork.
During the programme In the Name of the Republic, the veteran Dáil deputy is heard recalling capturing, killing, and burying countless bodies in a nearby bog known as The Rea in previously unheard recordings obtained by investigating historian Eunan O’Halpin.
Throughout the tapes made by a local historian, Jim Fitzgerald, the former TD is heard chuckling as he speaks about brutal shootings and the burial of bodies of the forgotten victims of the War of Independence.
Mr Corry, who is described in the documentary as the chief executioner for the Cork IRA brigade from 1920 to 1922, described bringing alleged spies to the damp graveyard vault where they were imprisoned for hours or days before being killed.
He told how local men who had been used as grave diggers called “reaks” protested about how many bodies were being buried in the nearby bog, but it was laughed off by him and another IRA gunman, Daithí Ó Sé, when two more victims were shot in front of the protesting men.
“Daithí [Ó Sé] delivered the two prisoners into Sing Sing himself and brought me up that night to shoot them,” Mr Corry recalled.
“All the reaks were outside and they were laying down the law to us. [They were saying] there will be ghosts found around this place now. There’ll be no more men shot here. ‘Will I make bacon of them?’ says Daithí.
“And all of a sudden the skit [gun] came out of the pocket and bang bang. He shot two of them. Just like that. ‘C’mon we’re home, Corry’.”
In the documentary, Prof O’Halpin discovers that there could be up to 90 people buried in the Rea bog.
The TV3 series also reveals that the British forces never discovered the whereabouts of the vault.
“I’d say it was the most powerful jail in the 26 counties,” Mr Corry said of the underground graveyard vault.
In the programme, Mr Fitzgerald said the TD was quite happy to tell stories about his time in charge of the “horror chamber” shortly before he died.
“He was delighted that, before he died, someone was interested enough, and had no objection to being recorded,” said Mr Fitzgerald from Knockraha Historical Society.
In the documentary, Mr Corry is heard saying on the tapes that his IRA comrade Ned Moloney was known as the so-called governor of Sing Sing as he had the keys to the vault’s door but the pair kept a detailed account of their victims.
“[Ned Moloney] had the name of every fella who were duly executed out of Sing Sing. He had seven Tans. He had 17 or 18 Camerons [British soldiers].
“When you round them all up, I think I had over 60 dead even.”
Mr Corry described meeting two IRA men on their way to the Sing Sing vault, in Knockraha graveyard in Co Cork, as they delivered two Black and Tan soldiers they had just abducted from Cork City.
“Christ bejasus, the two Tans, the look they gave one another,” he said, laughing.
“So the two buckos were thrown into Sing Sing anyway. And they got their last hours there.”
Prof O’Halpin, from Trinity College Dublin, who probes the deaths of Ireland’s forgotten war victims, is calling for justice for the list of 56 known disappeared victims of the War of Independence.
The list of victims, which includes 31 civilians, one 15-year-old boy, and an elderly woman, mainly vanished from Cork in the last year of the war after an amnesty was declared.
“The list includes only people we know with certainty were disappeared by the IRA and were never found,” he said. “The true figure is significantly higher.
“With war comes an inevitable loss of life, but the sad fact here is that many civilians were wrongly killed.
“It is now time to seek truth and justice for the disappeared. Where is their memorial?
“These victims have been forgotten for far too long.”
lIn The Name Of The Republic — Episode 2 airs next Monday at 9pm on TV3.