A candid analysis of the 25-year-old ""troubles"" in Northern Ireland, from the inception of the Provisional IRA in December...


"""WE WRECKED THE PLACE"": Contemplating an End to the Northern Irish Troubles"

A candid analysis of the 25-year-old ""troubles"" in Northern Ireland, from the inception of the Provisional IRA in December 1968 to the ceasefires of 1994. Stevenson, an American who lives in Belfast, argues that the American civil rights movement of the 1960s activated the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland to demand full economic and political rights. Stevenson's dramatis personae are Republican and Ulster Protestant paramilitary prisoners and veterans of the violence that has claimed some 3,000 lives. Most have matured in prison and regret their youthful violence, while many are now active in community service. At the peak of the bloodletting, active paramilitaries never numbered more than 1,000 on each side, but the attacks could not go on without support from sympathizers in the community. Ironically, Stevenson finds that religious differences are not as important as a cause of conflict as political orientation and the romantic lure of revolutionary activity. The vast majority of both Catholics and Protestants shunned the gunmen and abhorred the outrageous killings committed by both sides: The author cites as particularly outrageous the 40,000 Catholics driven out of homes burned by Protestant bombs and many IRA assassinations. The presence of British soldiers in the province worsened the conflict. In particular, the use of torture and other brutalities by the British, and the killing of 14 Catholics in Derry in January 1972 by British soldiers exacerbated the conflict. When the IRA struck back at the British military, they became folk heroes in the Catholic community. Stevenson is optimistic about the future, as he points out that the majority of both Ulster Protestants and Catholics want to live in peace and share similar economic challenges in an area in which unrest has prevented needed investment and job growth. Stevenson succeeds in providing a learned, evenhanded report that concludes with hope for a passionate people bedeviled by ancient rivalries.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1996


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996