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The Disappeared: Forced Disappearances in Ireland 1798–1998

This is a valuable addition to the already-published directories of the lost lives of the Troubles and the War of Independence

The Disappeared: Forced Disappearances in Ireland 1798-1998
Author: Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc
ISBN-13: 978-1785375026
Publisher: Merrion Press
Guideline Price: €19.99

“He’s growing grass” was the reply that IRA intelligence officer Siobhán Lankford received from a fellow volunteer when she asked about the fate of an alleged bank robber who had disappeared after joining the Black and Tans when he returned from IRA-enforced exile during the War of Independence.

The callous reply accurately described the ultimate end of hundreds of people who were abducted, killed and secretly buried during the two centuries of sporadic political violence that preceded the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The victims, barring rare exceptions such as Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, were men, and the perpetrators most often were the War of Independence IRA and its successors.

All but one of the 18 chapters in this book cover forced disappearances on this island during the last century. Fifteen chapters cover the decades from the 1916 Rising to the Troubles, making it, in the words of its author, “the first record of all those who are known, at the time of writing, to have been disappeared as a result of political conflict in twentieth-century Ireland”.

Forced disappearances during the three-year War of Independence, when the IRA killed nearly 200 civilians for alleged spying or informing, far outnumber those of the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict. The book itemises the killings of crown forces, policemen, loyalists, former soldiers and suspected informers from 1919 to1922. More than 100 victims were buried locally in secret. A former RIC officer was believed to have been buried on the lands of a future long-serving Fianna Fáil TD.

Many victims’ bodies have never been recovered. The Clare-born author outlines his own role in the recovery and reburial of one long-lost body, and he accuses successive Irish governments of failing to search for other remains.

The United Irishmen killed and secretly buried suspected informers before the 1798 rebellion, but there were no forced disappearances during the 19th century. This book’s inclusion of nearly 250 pages of pen pictures of “disappeared” soldiers and civilians makes it an overdue and valuable addition to the already-published directories of the lost lives of the Troubles and the War of Independence.

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