Seoid atá idir lámha againn sa leabhar mhíorúilteach seo as peann an Ghael-Mheiriceánaigh Pádraig Ó Mathúna is é ag tabhairt chothrom na féinne ar deireadh do sheanchaí as a phobal féin, Eoin Ua Cathail.
The Making of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 by David Goodall (National University of Ireland, £17.50) One of the false assumptions by historians who should know better and political commentators who know so very little is that the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) was a stepping stone on the path to peace in the north of Ireland. In fact, it was nothing more than a naïve, misguided and futile device designed to bring the IRA to heel and to frustrate Sinn Féin’s nascent embrace of electoral politics while promoting the prospects of the SDLP. It therefore failed on all counts. John Bowman’s assertion, on the book’s back cover, that the AIA “changed the tectonic plates of the Irish-British relationship” is hyperbolic nonsense. But that does not mean that this memoir by one of the agreement’s key negotiators, the British diplomat Sir David Goodall, is without merit. Indeed, once we dismiss the notion that the November 1985 treaty signed by the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald was of historical significance, there is much to appreciate. His insider account of the protracted negotiations from a Whitehall perspective is utterly fascinating.
When Professor Bill Rolston and Dr Robbie McVeigh set about researching their newly published book on colonialism in Ireland, they often felt they were ploughing a lonely furrow, with little credence given to the centrality of our colonial experience. Intervening circumstances, including the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, have ensured that colonialism now enjoys a prominent position in discussions about our current political climate.
Former IRA volunteer Pat Magee identified "contact and dialogue" as cornerstones of the peace process in a Féile discussion last night moderated by author and filmmaker Timothy O'Grady at Áras Uí Chonghaile.
The Queen v Patrick O’Donnell: The Man Who Shot the Informer James Carey by Seán Ó Cuirreáin (Four Courts Press, £17.95) and The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Murders that Stunned an Empire by Julie Kavanagh (Grove Press, £18.99) The assassinations of Lord Frederick Cavendish, chief secretary of Ireland, and Thomas Burke, the under-secretary, have been scrutinised many times by historians down the years. The fatal attack in Phoenix Park in 1882 by the Invincibles, a radical splinter group of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), is regarded, at least by some, as one of the major reasons for the failure of the British parliament to grant Home Rule to Ireland. Whether it played such a crucial role or not, it certainly upset Queen Victoria and convinced her prime minister, William Gladstone, that yet more repression was necessary in Ireland. But, as I say, there is little new to explore in both the details of the killings and their seismic political aftermath.
Ballymacandy: The Story of a Kerry Ambush by Owen O’Shea (Merrion Press, £10.99) In outline, this is a simple story. Just one ambush among many by the IRA during the Tan War in which five men were killed. It was unusual in only one respect, the absence of reprisals. Otherwise, the fatal shooting of three Royal Irish Constabulary officers and two Black and Tans was, given the times that were in it, unremarkable.
Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger by Christine Kinealy, Jason King and Gerard Moran (Quinnipiac University Press, £21.95) It was several years after the Holocaust that we discovered the secret heroes who risked their lives to help Jews avoid capture by the Nazis. Now, 170 years after the Great Hunger, comes a book recording the achievements of people who were willing to sacrifice their lives to help the starving, powerless poor of Ireland. They are a diverse group, ranging from kindly landlords to pioneering doctors. They include visitors to these shores – among them, Quaker philanthropists, a Polish explorer and an American missionary – and others for whom Ireland was a country far across the ocean, such as native Americans and Canadian nuns. What linked them was their compassionate response to an unspeakable tragedy. Page upon page, story upon story, this is an uplifting anthology of altruism. The British government may have abandoned millions of people it regarded as its citizens to their fate, but, amid death and disease, here were individuals who refused to turn their backs. No laissez-faire for them. Rejecting the principles of political economy, they chose the principles of humanitarianism. Although historians of An Gorta Mór have known about some of these good Samaritans for years, their contributions have not been accorded the recognition they undoubtedly deserve. James Hack Tuke is an excellent example. His writings have proved to be valuable source material for academic studies, but his efforts on behalf of the victims of what should be known as the “fake famine” cry out for broader public attention.
Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground. Susan McKay, Blackstaff Press (2021) Susan McKay is no stranger to trauma. Growing up in Derry as the Troubles broke out, she later became a founder member of the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre. A social affairs journalist for over 30 years, she understands the pain and grief inflicted by the North’s long conflict, as demonstrated most notably her 2008 book 'Bear in Mind These Dead'. Her insight and empathy is put to good use in her latest work 'Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground'. In the course of almost 100 interviews, McKay brings together a rich mix of ages, backgrounds, identities, genders and beliefs. Each person recounts their individual stories, but the unifying thread that weaves its way through the narrative is the enduring trauma that pervades our society. Two decades have passed since the Good Friday Agreement yet we still encounter the paramilitary-run estates in Larne, Carrick and Belfast. It is a story of declining prosperity, lack of amenity, and educational under-achievement. There has been no peace dividend in these forgotten places with a “tinpot mafia” controlling communities and carving out their drug dealing fiefs. Several contributors suggest Protestants in these areas now fear their own side more than the other.