On a sunlit evening in l882, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke, Chief Secretary and Undersecretary for Ireland, were ambushed and stabbed to death while strolling through Phoenix Park in Dublin. The murders were carried out by the Invincibles, a militant faction of republicans armed with specially-made surgeon’s blades. They ended what should have been a turning point in Anglo-Irish relations. A new spirit of goodwill had been burgeoning between Prime Minister William Gladstone and Ireland’s leader Charles Stewart Parnell, with both men forging in secret a pact to achieve peace and independence in Ireland – with the newly appointed Cavendish, Gladstone’s protégé, to play an instrumental role. The impact of the Phoenix Park murders was so cataclysmic that it destroyed the pact, almost brought down the government and set in motion repercussions that would last long into the twentieth century.
Julie Kavanagh is a renowned journalist, former New Yorker London editor, former arts editor of Harpers & Queen and Costa Biography Award finalist.
Roy Foster is a distinguished Irish historian and academic. He was the Carroll Professor of Irish History from 1991 until 2016 at Hertford College, Oxford.