From the man widely regarded as Ireland's greatest living journalist comes this enlightening chronicle of the causes, effects, and dimensions of 25 years of violent struggle in Northern Ireland. Through research, interviews, and never-before-published data, Tim Pat Coogan illuminates a generation of warfare.
Coogan, biographer of Michael Collins and Eamon DeValera who has written the definitive history The IRA, here tackles the "troubles" that have plagued Ulster since 1966. After looking at the roots of Catholic discrimination of the Northern Irish state, which was created in 1922 at the same time as the Free State, Coogan points to Orange prejudice in housing, education and jobs and the lack of a Catholic outlet for peaceful protest. He also argues that the war in the North started as a civil rights demonstration in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., but that radical Orange response soon turned protest into war. He takes a close look at Ian Paisley ("the great pornographer" because of his habit of interjecting sexual metaphor into his sermons); John Hume, the quiet peacemaker; Bernadette Devlin, one of the first to put a "face" on the struggle in the North; Gerry Adams, gunman turned peacemaker; and Albert Reynolds, the Irish Taoiseach who was the first prime minister to insist on peace. Coogan looks at all parts of the war, from Bloody Sunday in 1972 and the Bobby Sands hunger strike to the current peace initiative. Although he has written from the nationalist viewpoint, Coogan has also taken a very complicated history and explained it simply, with grace and wit. A primer for those looking to understand the religious bloodshed in the North. Photos. (May)
Coogan, a journalist for the Irish Press and a historian (The IRA: A History, LJ 11/15/1992), has written a readable political history of "the Troubles" (the sectarian war in Northern Ireland) and the varying peace efforts since 1969. Coogan examines all parties to the struggle. Having an excellent vantage point from which to watch and reflect, he reconstructs the past 30 years, from the 1969 marching and riots to the H-Block protests, the MacBride Principles, the Anglo-Irish agreement, and the recent paramilitary cease-fire. Coogan traces the current peace process, stalled by Great Britain's insistence that the IRA hand in its weapons, to the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II. Coogan fills his book with quotes, personal reportage, and wry wit even as he shows that the Troubles turned Ulster into a battleground, embroiled the Republic and Great Britain, and created a generation of children in a war zone. He finishes on a cautiously optimistic note. This title should be part of any history or current events collection. [Following the recent IRA bombings in London, the author added an epilog bringing his book up-to-date. The epilog was not available for review.-Ed.]-Robert Moore, Information Srvcs., Dupont Merck Pharmaceuticals N. Billerica, Mass.