The Irish Troubles
A Generation of Violence, 1967-92
This book is a combination of history, current affairs and political analysis is the definitive account of the Northern Ireland troubles. It examines both the background and the events themselves with an historical understanding and a psychological sympathy. Beginning with a short historical anaylsis before proceeding to a detailed account of life both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic in the 1950s and early 1960s. The violence, when it came in 1968, took everything by surprise and found nobody prepared. This was true equally of the Stormont government, the governments in London and Dublin and the principal religious and social organizations within Northern Ireland itself.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
A massive, often turgid history that shows how talks without resolution and the shadow of the gunman have become fixtures in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years. Though familiar with images of intermittent, brutal, often senseless murders such as that of Lord Mountbatten, Americans are only dimly aware of the background of Ireland's deadly patriot game. The stirrings of the Catholic civil-rights movement in six-county Ulster in the mid-60's, explains Bell (History/Columbia University), quickly sparked repression by the province's Protestant unionist majority and led to the introduction of British troops and the revival of the all-but-dead IRA through a new, more militant Provisional wing. Since then, the four major diplomatic players have become ensnared in ancient tribal grievances and/or illusions: Ulster's Catholics, still smarting over persistent discrimination, refuse to yield their dreams of unity with the Republic of Ireland; the province's Protestants, whining that Great Britain is ready to sell them out, adamantly refuse to share power with the Catholic minority; Dublin, powerless to gain the united Ireland it has always desired, pushes empty, symbolic pacts like the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement; and London, when not ignoring Ulster, regards the Irish of both faiths with condescension. Bell excels in describing key figures like fire-eating loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley and Whitehall's succession of genial, ignorant Northern Ireland secretaries, and he details well the inner workings of the IRA - not surprising, given his track record as a student of both terrorism and the IRA (Assassin!, 1979, etc.). But Bell mistakes windiness for eloquence, and simplistically attributes the conflict's lack of a solution to the psychological pleasure derived by history-haunted fanatics. Often powerful in illuminating the dynamics behind the diplomatic stalemate - but sluggish and sometimes muddled (e.g., in the treatment of the John Stalker controversy). (Kirkus Reviews)