THE VALUE of Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement, victims, grievance and blame by Mike Morrissey and Marie Smyth (Pluto Press, £14.99 pbk), interim, partial and partisan as it can only be, is that it enables those interested in the northern crisis to immediately discount facile condemnations of ‘both sides’ by those seeking political capital in the mythic middle ground.
The book comprises a sequence of statistical data presentations, introduced and explained, which document numerous aspects of the scale and nature of the conflict since the late 1960s.
A strong effort has been made to factor social and economic questions into the origins, which, while commendable and undoubtedly relevant, can encourage the denigration of the myriad processes of politicisation.
Similarly, the analysis of questionnaire data is so problematic in such terms as conditioned responses and the impact of propaganda that it calls the validity of the attempt into question.
Morrissey and Smyth, nonetheless, have probably produced as fair a survey of post-Good Friday agreement perceptions as can be published.
Modern Ireland, a very short introduction by Senia Paseta (Oxford University Press, £6.99 pbk) serves up a succinct overview of the central themes of Irish history, politics and culture since the Act of Union
The author’s achievement is not so much to condense 200-odd years of Irish history into a mere 146 pages, though that in itself is no mean feat, as to do so in a coherent, informative and eminently readable fashion.
While not for the initiated, this accessible and moderately priced book will be of particular use as an introduction for secondary school students and undergraduates -- or indeed anyone wishing to dip their toe into the pond of modern Irish history.
You can always tell the summer hols are not far away when a new batch of guide books pitches up for review.
Three new titles from the excellent O’Brien Press will suit a variety of tastes and requirements. The 800 or so entries in Dublin for Kids by Jane Suiter and Louise Trehy (£8.99, 12.95 euros pbk) covers everything from outdoor activities, sports, museums and visitor centres to dancing, scuba-diving, computers and cookery classes.
Catering for a wide range of tastes, interests and age ranges, this pocket-sized and easy-to-use guide, could prove to be a worthwhile investment for any parent planning to visit Dublin.
Kieran McCarthy’s Discover Cork (£9.99, 12.95 euros) is the latest in O’Brien’s excellent series of illustrated city guides.
A local historian, McCarthy first explores the history of the city through its famous characters and key events from the earliest times to the present. This is followed by a guide through historic Cork, focusing on the city’s most interesting buildings and landmarks.
A taste of the Gaelic culture and the wild, stark beauty of Inis Mór, Inis Meán and Inis Oírr off the coast of Galway is captured in ,em>The Aran Islands, a world of stone (£6.99, 9.95 euros pbk).
Originally researched and edited by Paul O’Sullivan, with revisions by Nora Godwin, the text has been further revised and updated by Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald.
In addition to providing information about island place names, the natural landscape, history, details of 19th century daily life, famine, emigration and the changes brought about by the era of modern tourism, this well-illustrated guide also includes a number of poems by Seamus Heaney.
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