Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The IRA: They’re Not Quite Dead Yet, Apparently

Adrian McKinty suggested over on Detectives Beyond Borders last week that Martin McGuinness’s autobiography, if it ever appears, will be a key text for anyone planning to write the great post-Troubles Northern Ireland novel. In the meantime, Anthony McIntyre’s GOOD FRIDAY: THE DEATH OF IRISH REPUBLICANISM, published last week, is as authentic an IRA voice as you’ll need – not that we’re suggesting, of course, that Martin McGuinness had anything at all to do with the IRA, ever.
  Anyhoo, Liam Clarke wrote about the book yesterday in the Sunday Times, under the headline ‘Why the IRA lost its long and futile battle’, with snippets running thusly:
  “Last week McIntyre trumped him with a tome entitled THE DEATH OF IRISH REPUBLICANISM, published as the Irish and British governments commissioned a report from the International Monitoring Commission (IMC), designed to ascertain if the IRA army council is still in existence. The fact that they need to ask, and need three weeks to consider the evidence and weigh up the reported sightings, speaks for itself …

  “McIntyre, a former IRA commander who served 18 years for murder and then did a PhD in republican history, is right. The Provisional IRA — and the army council that plotted its campaign — is on its death bed. It may thrash around like a headless chicken for a few years, but it is past reviving. If the IRA ever re-emerges, it will be a new organisation with new people …

  “McIntyre paints a picture of a republican leadership who were reformists from the outset, being secretly protected, groomed and eventually steered into Stormont by the British forces they claimed to be fighting. All the while, a supine membership cheered them on from the sidelines, easily fooled by symbolism and rhetoric …

  “To his credit, McIntyre doesn’t dodge this awkward dilemma: “The major question historians will ask is not why the republicans surrendered, but why they fought such a futile long war,” he writes. “It has not been unconditional surrender. And it has been infinitely better than continuing to fight a futile war for the sake of honouring Ireland’s dead, yet producing only more of them. But let us not labour under any illusions that the conditions were good.”
  It’s a terrific piece, and well worth reading in full.


adrian mckinty said...


I just linked and read. Its all together brilliant. Everyone should stop reading this and go there now.

There have been rumours for years that M15 had TWO agents on the army council, as well "Steaknife" and several well known others in the IRA's Belfast Brigade. If allegedly, McGuinness, allegedly is/was in the AC and did write a tell all book, it would be very interesting reading. I might even find that he's my next door neighbour here in Australia. Allegedly.

Thanks for the link Dec, great stuff.


Conduit said...

An interesting piece, thanks for the link. While I always take such books with a pinch of salt, I think McIntyre's basic argument has merit. The covert agenda has been Northern Ireland's curse for decades. While paramilitary groups may have publicly stated specific objectives, the personal agendas of individual players must also be considered, whether it was political power or money they really craved. There has long been speculation that a certain Republican leader manipulated events, holding back information meant to be passed between the opposing sides, during the hunger strikes so as to prolong the agony and milk it for more headlines. One could also argue that Paisley needlessly held back the final settlement by a decade until he could dig his way into the First Minister's position.

And I could go on. McIntyre is correct in asserting how futile the whole thing was. One can only wonder how many lives might not have been lost if it weren't for those men who steered history to suit their own personal ends. I point the finger at Unionist, Loyalist, Nationalist and Republican alike.

Colin said...

Don't forget the Albinos.