In the name of ... a selective rewriting of history?

Considering that I appeared only briefly in last Monday night’s documentary, In the Name of the Republic, about the War of Independence in Cork, I was surprised to find that John Borgonovo had so much to say about me in his response to the programme (Examiner, 27/3/2013).

Also, it’s strange that he would mention the targeting of Protestants by the Old IRA, seeing as it was not mentioned in the programme, and why he would bother relating the story of a dog, which was not mentioned either. I can only conclude that his article was aimed at me, as much as at the programme.

Mr Borgonovo’s argument is that we should ignore the accounts of IRA veterans such as Martin Corry, in terms of killings during the revolutionary period. Yet he knows that Corry’s is only one of many accounts that refer to the events carried out at Sing Sing.

Mr Borgonovo also says there is no governmental archival evidence to support my claims for the disappearance of significant numbers of people during the year of the ‘Cork Republic’. But that is to ignore the evidence — and there is an awful lot of it — of the effective government of Cork during that year, the IRA men themselves. This would be like trying to write a history of the Soviet Union based on external perceptions of it, while ignoring actual Soviet records.

But he is wrong to state that there are no governmental archival records to support such claims. There are more than 80 missing-persons files in the Department of Justice records, many of which have not been released. A good many of these refer to people who lived in Cork. Similarly, the papers of the Irish Grants Commission make many references to the targeting of freemasons in Cork City; some of these references are specific.

Mr Borgonovo also implies that we should ignore the records of non-governmental agencies, such as the freemasons, the YMCA and various church records, even the newspapers. So, if he says his “extensive” research has found no evidence of any of this, all it means is that he has not looked hard enough, or else that he is turning a blind eye to what does not suit him.

Much of the “overwhelmingly negative” reception which, says Mr Borgonovo, The Year of Disappearances received, came from people who shared his view that the Irish revolution was a noble exercise, with all the nasty work carried out by one side. Much of this commentary consisted of what I call ‘pseudo-pedantry’, highlighting minor, even typographical errors, while ignoring the main findings of the book. More recent comments have been little more than an exercise in name-calling. I’m afraid Mr Borgonovo’s article falls into the latter category, consisting of a combination of personal attack (“the sight of Murphy”), sly innuendo (“an eminent zoologist”) and factual errors. (For the record, my book was published in 2010, not 2011, am I not a zoologist, eminent or otherwise, and he misrepresents what I claim about the freemasons. Also, I’m not sure that archaeologists would like to be referred to as “paranormal investigators”.)

How is he in a position to question any of my findings if he can’t get right even the simplest facts about me? He even has the audacity to claim that it was his research that revealed the identity of the Protestants known publicly to have been shot by the IRA in the city, when the majority of them were found by me.

Similarly, who carried out all the footwork to establish the discrepancy between Martin Corry’s claims on ‘missing’ Cameron Highlanders and regimental records? Who found the unreleased ‘missing persons’ files?

None other than your ‘eminent zoologist’. I would have thought that the first, and most basic rule, of academic work in any field is to give credit where credit is due.

As for my evidence for the killing of Protestants in Cork City: everything that I have uncovered since the book came out suggests that it stands up. Of course, I am not going to be forgiven in some circles for unearthing such uncomfortable truths. But such is life.

Gerard Murphy

Institute of Technology Carlow

Carlow

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