Who Burnt Cork City?

The evidence bristles with statements which in themselves constitute most serious charges against portions of the armed forces of the Crown. Residents of some of the burned buildings, and members of the Fire Brigade all gave testimony under oath… As far as possible the witnesses sought were men and women of independence and standing and without bias in favour Sinn Fein – ex-officers, ex-service men, Americans, Englishmen, Unionists, substantial business men, and professional gentlemen.” (Freemans Journal, 20 January 1921).

On the night of 11th-12th December 1920, the Royal Irish Constabulary’s Auxiliary Division (the ‘Auxies’) and the Special Reserve (‘Black and Tans’) carried out a major reprisal against Cork city after a number of successful IRA actions.  Over the course of that night the Auxies and Black and Tans set a significant portion of the city centre on fire causing £3m worth of damage (roughly £150m today). In the face of an attempted cover-up, to prove that the Auxies and Black and Tans were responsible for the burning of Cork eye-witness evidence and statements were collected. These were used to prepare a pamphlet believed to have been largely written by Alfred O’Rahilly (then Registrar of University College Cork).

This was then published in January 1921 under the name of the Irish Labour Party and Trade Unions Congress and called ‘Who Burnt Cork City?’. The text and images included in the 1921 edition are reproduced in full in this volume.

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Who Burnt Cork City? Paperback, 118 pages. ISBN: 978-1698672588

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