THE IRISH TROUBLES by J. Bowyer Bell

THE IRISH TROUBLES

A Generation of Political Violence, 1967-1992
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A massive, often turgid history that shows how talks without resolution and the shadow of the gunman have become fixtures in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years. Though familiar with images of intermittent, brutal, often senseless murders such as that of Lord Mountbatten, Americans are only dimly aware of the background of Ireland's deadly patriot game. The stirrings of the Catholic civil-rights movement in six- county Ulster in the mid-60's, explains Bell (History/Columbia University), quickly sparked repression by the province's Protestant unionist majority and led to the introduction of British troops and the revival of the all-but-dead IRA through a new, more militant Provisional wing. Since then, the four major diplomatic players have become ensnared in ancient tribal grievances and/or illusions: Ulster's Catholics, still smarting over persistent discrimination, refuse to yield their dreams of unity with the Republic of Ireland; the province's Protestants, whining that Great Britain is ready to sell them out, adamantly refuse to share power with the Catholic minority; Dublin, powerless to gain the united Ireland it has always desired, pushes empty, symbolic pacts like the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement; and London, when not ignoring Ulster, regards the Irish of both faiths with condescension. Bell excels in describing key figures like fire-eating loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley and Whitehall's succession of genial, ignorant Northern Ireland secretaries, and he details well the inner workings of the IRA--not surprising, given his track record as a student of both terrorism and the IRA (Assassin!, 1979, etc.). But Bell mistakes windiness for eloquence, and simplistically attributes the conflict's lack of a solution to the psychological pleasure derived by history-haunted fanatics. Often powerful in illuminating the dynamics behind the diplomatic stalemate--but sluggish and sometimes muddled (e.g., in the treatment of the John Stalker controversy). (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08827-2
Page count: 944pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993