The Disappeared: Forced Disappearances in Ireland 1798-1998


Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc 

This book, the first of its kind, uncovers the extent to which ‘forced disappearances’ were part of the violent political conflicts that blighted Ireland for 200 years.

February 2024

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The spectre of ‘the Disappeared’, those abducted, secretly executed and their bodies buried in remote locations, has overshadowed the debate around the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland for the last two decades. Yet what most people don’t realise is that ‘forced disappearances’ have been part of violent political conflicts in Ireland for over 200 years.

This groundbreaking book, the first of its kind, looks at the history of this practice in Ireland and identifies all known victims over the last century, from the North King Street Massacre in 1916 right up to 2003. Ó Ruairc cuts through the exaggeration and myth that pervade the popular history of the ‘Good Old IRA’ to prove that this organisation was particularly ruthless in using this course of action during the War of Independence and Civil War, much more so than their successors in the Provisional IRA or the British forces in Ireland. The author also reveals how his research has helped locate several bodies of those long missing, one of which has already been recovered and given a proper burial.

Behind each disappearance there is the story of a life cut short and a family left searching for answers. Ó Ruairc deftly incorporates this human element, preserving the memory of those who were disappeared on both sides of the conflict.

Praise for The Disappeared:

‘Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc’s The Disappeared will be indispensable to students of Irish history for years to come’ – Eilis O’Hanlon, The Sunday Independent

‘brilliantly researched and highly unsettling’ – Andrew Lynch, Business Post

‘…a great and sometimes painful read, which confronts a long-neglected topic’ – John Downing, The Irish Independent
‘Excellent.’ – Fortnight Magazine



1. ‘Who fears to speak of ’98?’
2. The North King Street Massacre
3. Disappeared by British Forces
4. Spies and Informers
5. Women
6. Protestant Loyalists
7. Identifiers
8. Former Members of the Crown Forces
9. ‘Tramps’
10. ‘Deserters’
11. British Army Officers
12. The Royal Irish Constabulary
13. Knockraha
14. Other Cases
15. The Truce Period
16. Civil and Interwar Years
17. The Troubles


Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc
is the historian who literally ‘knows where the bodies are’. He has spent over a decade researching the fate of ‘The Disappeared’, the forgotten victims of the century’s long struggle for Irish freedom – the majority of whose bodies are still hidden deep in the Irish countryside. In 2018, Ó Ruairc’s research led to the recovery of the remains of Private George Chalmers, a British soldier who had been executed by the IRA in 1921 and secretly buried in a remote bog. Ó Ruairc has a PhD in History & a BA in Archaeology. This is his seventh book.