1916 by Tim Pat Coogan


One Hundred Years of Irish Independence: From the Easter Rising to the Present
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Irish history from the Irish point of view.

That view comes from acclaimed historian Coogan (The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, 2012, etc.), a true take-no-prisoners writer. The story of Ireland is that of a country struggling against colonialism and the church. The men who fought on Easter 1916 knew they would die; it was their courage that allowed them to hold out for a week. The executions, William Butler Yeats’ poem “Sixteen Dead Men,” and the letter of outrage from Limerick’s bishop roused the country to true revolution. Then came the ugly times of the Black and Tans and Michael Collins’ pioneering urban guerrilla warfare. In 1932, Éamon de Valera, Collins’ true opposite, took charge of the government. It was the zenith of his power, and it continued through World War II, but new voices needed to be heard. The 1950s and ’60s brought a drive for economic expansion with hope of membership in the European Economic Community. The visit of American president John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the changes of the Second Vatican Council also had marked influences on the country. Tourism increased, and there was even a proposal to fund medical aid for women and children, which was powerfully opposed by the church. Here, Coogan throws off the gloves as he lays into the Catholic Church, which ran the schools, institutions, and hospitals—including industrial schools, reformatories, and the Magdalene laundries run by “fallen” girls. The abuses in those institutions are still coming out, and while some restitution has been made, it has been made by the state of Ireland rather than the convents and the diocese. The Celtic Tiger rise of the 1990s and 2000s and the economic collapse lead Coogan to his final plea for “ethical political oversight and…correct governance…that attends to more than short-term financial gain and personal enrichment.” The author also bemoans the departure from the 1916 promises of child care, women’s rights, and social health.

Not always easy reading but a book from which more than just Irish citizens can learn.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-11059-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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