Yeats wrote that “out of Ireland we come. Great hatred, little room.” The story of the Phoenix Park murders of 1882 is another of those grim markers of the hatred that has poisoned much of Anglo-Irish history.

In The Irish Assassins, Julie Kavanagh takes up the story of the murder of Thomas Burke, a leading civil servant of the Irish government, and Lord Frederick Cavendish, the chief secretary for Ireland, by a group of Irish revolutionaries known as the “Invincibles” as the two victims walked to their offices in Phoenix Park in May 1882.

Kavanagh’s motivation is interesting. Her father, the distinguished journalist Christopher Kavanagh, had become fascinated by the Phoenix Park murders. He had accumulated notes for a book but died before he could write his version of...

 

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