A Thousand Years of Ireland's Heroes
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Readable, introductory survey of the popular Irish personalities whose ideals, rhetoric, and stubborn courage culminated in

the 1999 Peace Accords.

Although he's an American, Golway (Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America's Fight for Irish Freedom, 1998) lets enough

indignation, anguish, and sly humor slip into his cavalcade of Irish heroes to reveal pretty clearly where his sympathies lie. Of

course, it's difficult for any fair-minded person not to be sympathetic (if not depressed) when faced with a history of the Irish

people—whose ordinary human urges to be safe, secure, and well-fed (or merely left alone) have been thwarted by so many

centuries of religious strife, British exploitation, regional enslavement, bad government, treachery, famine, and a climate more

suited to frogs than people. Golway finds nobility in so much strife as he celebrates the heroic achievements of Irish men and

women of all classes, religions, and political sympathies, whose only common trait was a belief that their nation deserved better

than the status quo. Beginning with Brian Boru, who gathered the island's squabbling clans and routed the Vikings in 1014,

Golway jumps to Hugh O'Neill, the 16th-century Irish earl who rebelled against Elizabeth I's persecution of Catholics. Famous

writers such as Jonathan Swift and W.B. Yeats take their bows as nationalist and anti-British brotherhoods spring up in the

countryside, led by the likes of Michael Collins and Gerry Adams. Though Golway isn't afraid to point out occasions in which

the Irish were their own worst enemy, he blames almost all of Ireland's problems on the British. He concludes that its statehood

would not have occurred without the financial and political support of Irish-Americans.

History is far more than the deeds of heroes, but by defining Ireland's past in terms of its salient personalities, Golway

reveals how the violent, factionalized Irish would rather see themselves: as willing participants in a heroic struggle that has yet

to be resolved. (30 b&w maps and photos)

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-85556-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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