Ian McKeane reviews Republican Voices, Kevin Bean and Mark Hayes (eds.), Seesyu Press, £5.00 pbk ISBN 0-9534019-4-4
THIS IS a most interesting book. The editors’ objective is to record some ‘Republican Voices’ as they sounded in the last few years of the twentieth century, voices of a selection of six republican activists as they look back over thirty years of struggle in Northern Ireland.
In this way the editors hope to provide a not quite primary source for future historians while revealing aspects of the divergence of thinking in the republican community for present political analysts to mull over.
They have been able to add to the material they have recorded with a foreword by Bernadette McAliskey, which is value in its own right.
The book has a useful introduction followed by five chapters, each made up of a sequence of comments by each of the contributors on a particular theme. Finally there is a thoughtful conclusion by the editors.
The contributors are Eamonn MacDermott, Brendan Hughes, Tommy McKearney, Mickey McMullen, Tommy Gorman and Anthony McIntyre, all of whom were imprisoned during the ‘Troubles’ and who are now academics, community workers or writers. They provide considered reflections on their experiences and on the political development of republicanism as they see it.
The book lies on the cusp between history and politics. To this reader’s mind at least it succeeds absolutely in its carefully stated objectives and, on occasion, reveals more about republican thinking at various points during the struggle than perhaps its contributors intended.
Such is the skill of the editors that the reader is guided by their own contributions rather than dictated to. The result is a careful and profound piece of work.
This small volume is essential reading to anyone interested in Northern Irish history or politics in the last three decades. Would that we could look forward to a similar volume of ‘Loyalist Voices’.
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