Tuesday, September 13, 2022

the last book I ever read (We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, excerpt seven)

from We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland by Fintan O'Toole:

The night we got back from England, a sixty-seven-year-old man, Francis McCloskey, was found lying on the roadside in Dungiven. He had been struck by a police baton. He died next day. Two days after that, Samuel Devenney died in hospital in Derry city. On 19 April, eight policemen from the Royal Ulster Constabulary who were pursuing fleeing rioters smashed their way into a small house on William Street in the Catholic Bogside area. Four of them surrounded Devenney, a forty-two-year-old taxi driver, and kicked him and battered him with their batons. His daughter Anne, who was eighteen, threw herself across his body but the policemen grabbed her by her dress and threw her off so they could keep beating him. When she again lay across him, they grabbed her by the hair and pushed her against the fireplace. He suffered severe internal injuries and died of a heart attack on 17 July. Half an hour before the police burst in, he had been watching an opera on television. The inquest later returned a verdict of death by natural causes.

McCloskey and Devenney were the first two fatalities of what was not yet called the Troubles – a euphemism that still applied to the revolutionary period between 1916 and 1924. Before Devenney’s funeral, his widow Phyllis, mother of their nine children, pleaded for an end to violence: ‘Sammy was a peaceful man. All his life he hated violence and would have been appalled at the thought of any violence now committed in his name.’ Even at this point, her wish did not seem like a fantasy.

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