BITTER FREEDOM by Maurice Walsh
Kirkus Star


Ireland in a Revolutionary World
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Walsh (Journalism/Kingston Coll.; The News from Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution, 2008) digs into the heart of the fight to establish an Irish Republic.

In 1914, British Parliament passed the Home Rule Act, but it was suspended until after World War I, and during a period of 10 years, the English bought 12 million acres from large estates for purchase by the tenants. Home Rule was not enough for the “small but insuppressible island.” Walsh provides an eye-opening look at one of many new countries emerging after the war and their similar struggles. The Easter Uprising of 1916 was the beginning, and it produced enough martyrs to build the small army of volunteers who picked up the cause. The election of 1918, with women voting for the first time, returned a majority for Sinn Féin, who didn’t wait for permission to rule themselves and established a government in Dublin. This Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, took power from the British government, but Britain paid little attention until 1919, when it was outlawed, forcing it underground. Walsh’s narrative is really about the toughness of the Irish people, the enormous role of the Catholic Church, the end of the landed gentry, and how the Irish Republican Army led what the author calls a flawed revolution. The Royal Irish Constabulary was the model for colonial police, and they were the symbol of British rule and the prime Irish Republican Army target for assassination. It was murderous and cruel on both sides, a conflict with vendetta the only rule. Anarchy was the order of the day as the IRA robbed banks, stole cars, and shot anyone in their way. They were not the only beasts in this game, however. Ultimately, writes the author, the “sense that the revolution was a failure because it did not create a new country was the bitterest feeling of all.”

An excellent history, but more importantly, a sharply written portrait of a people and their long struggle to survive.

Pub Date: May 17th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63149-195-5
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Liveright/Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2016


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