THE BITTER HARVEST by Albert Menendez


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Menendez deplores the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, distributing the blame even-handedly between Protestants and Catholics and insisting that, economic and social issues notwithstanding, it's primarily a religious war. This is a curious interpretation at best, since most observers, Irish and otherwise, see the fighting as a struggle between colonialists and colonized. In fact what the author most lacks is a historical sense -- religious wars, after all, belong to the 16th century. If indeed the Protestants of Northern Ireland are still fighting the Counter Reformation some explanation for this anomaly is surely called for. Menendez contents himself with damning the clergy on both sides for their insufficient efforts to cool the violence; for the sectarianism which manifests itself most explicitly in the dual school system; and for the Republic's willingness to let canon law impinge on education, divorce and censorship. Much of the book is given over to lengthy and rather pointless excerpts from official documents: the Irish Constitution of 1937; the bylaws of the Orangemen; partisan propaganda; and even the Republic's syllabus for religious instruction in the schools. Disconcertingly, though Menendez admits that Ulster's Protestants enjoy unwarranted advantages in jobs, housing and the civil service he seems to suggest that part of the blame for the war should be placed on Catholic civil rights organizations for pushing too hard, too quickly -- exactly the argument used in the U.S. by those who blamed racial violence in the South on the integrationists. Those unfamiliar with the course of events in Ulster can get a fair idea of the escalation of conflict from this book, but the author's vendetta against the priests colors his judgment unduly.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1974
Publisher: McKay