TOO LONG A SACRIFICE: Life and Death in Northern Ireland Since 1969 by Jack Holland

TOO LONG A SACRIFICE: Life and Death in Northern Ireland Since 1969

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Ten years of politics and violence in Ulster, concisely retold and analyzed by a Belfast-born ex-BBC reporter--but really several books in one. At the basic level, Holland offers a clear chronological history--the Catholic civil rights movement, arrival of the British army, the start of internment, ""Bloody Sunday,"" abolition of the Stormont parliament, the failed power-sharing experiment, the increase in sectarian murder, the failed ""peace movement."" Against this backdrop Holland examines the rise of the two main terrorist organizations, the (Protestant) UDA and the (Catholic) Provisional IRA--with details on the guerrillas' own internal political jockeying and a grim interview with a UDA assassin (""Protestants seem to die easy. Catholics don't. Honest, I've shot them and bombed them, and it's very hard to kill them""). Nor does Holland shrink from political analysis of the decade's events, or from taking positions. England, he feels, made a key mistake in 1969 by going only halfway--sending in the army but not invoking direct rule--which left a political vacuum for the Unionist government to fill and provided time for the Protestant backlash to occur. The recent British ""Ulsterization"" policy (decreasing army involvement, entrusting more responsibility to the Royal Ulster Constabulary) is simply ""a compromised form of withdrawal. . . certain to continue antagonizing the Catholics without reassuring the Protestants."" The most disastrous compromise of all, Holland argues, was the creation of Northern Ireland in the first place. He advocates British withdrawal and a united Ireland with guarantees of civil and religious freedom for Ulster Protestants (though he doesn't adequately explain how this solution could be imposed on loyalists without heightened guerrilla warfare). Public events are balanced, meanwhile, with a description of Holland's own family background (mixed religion) and life in the Catholic Falls Road section of Belfast. Here, he is sensitive to the subtle effect of a decade of violence on people who characteristically avoid displays of emotion (in a letter from his father: ""Well, everything is quiet at home except for the assassinations which we are getting used to again""). A highly effective look at this last, inflamed decade of Ulster's history--and as reliable an overview as any in recent years.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Dodd, Mead