I AM OF IRELAND by Richard Brown


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Intoxicated on Irish nationalism, Brown tries to explain how the bug bit him -- only on his mother's side and then only a fraction, was he Irish. Early on he was mesmerized by all those stories about Michael Collins and his Flying Column, those sentimental songs of Kevin Barry and the Fenians. In the U.S. Brown lives the life of a sedate, suburban businessman and he knows he shouldn't believe in all this romantic claptrap, that it's really no part of his inheritance, but he's sucked in nevertheless. One day he meets an IRA man at a fund-raising event who taunts him with: ""What have you ever done for Ireland?"" and challenged thus, Brown gets involved -- just a little -- with some people who are smuggling guns to Ulster. And when he finally makes it to the bullet-scarred tenements of Derry where he helps a gunman on the run to cross the border, he's just about giddy with the vicarious thrill of being allowed to play with the big boys. The fact that Brown realizes that his self-chosen identification with this internecine warfare is neither legitimate nor authentic doesn't help at all: his posturing goes on. Admittedly, he doesn't care about the economics of the struggle or about James Connolly's Worker's Republic; what matters to him is the atavistic fanaticism -- ""the simple fact of conflict"" and ""the relevance to the past"" -- that accursed past which the Irish themselves wish they could forget. A self-indulgent voyeur, Brown does manage to describe the frightening mentality of those who feed the war in Ulster from the safety of the U.S., sipping a martini and funneling in thousands of dollars for guns and bombs. He really should grow up.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Harper & Row