A Tyrone thriller
By Gerry McGeough
Published by Seesvu Press
This fast-paced thriller is set against the backdrop of the
escalating conflict in the six counties and the two hunger
strikes at the beginning of the 1980s.
Gerry McGeough scores a first in producing a modern story based
on the historic events of that period written from the
perspective of an OC of a local Tyrone IRA ASU.
The beginning of the story finds Tyrone man Turlough Gallagher
and his unit lying behind the bank of a ditch training their
AR-15 semi-automatic rifles on the road. Beside them is a box
linked to a command wire attached to one of four milk churns
packed with home-made explosives in a culvert.
The ambush becomes known as the `Cregoe incident' and triggers a
tense cat and mouse tale of highly motivated volunteers and their
families pitched against the full force of the British army and
As in a well directed film, events pile rapidly on top of one
another, so vivid is McGeough's descriptive power.
He achieves a fine balance between fast moving scenes and gentler
cameos with the women involved.
The occasional philosophical and religious discussion extends the
book's dimensions beyond the intricate story of military
operations and counter intelligence. The long narrative
incorporated into the storyline presenting Ireland's history was
risky but it works.
The reader is gripped by the patriotism, love, espionage and
betrayal, eager to turn the page. Who could not be intrigued by
this charismatic yet ruthless young Irishman, ``consumed by the
belief that for Ireland to fulfill her historic role in human
destiny, the British must be driven from her shores no matter
what the cost''? The cost for him is high.
At the book launch Danny Morrison remarked that readers will be
seeking similarities between the author and Turlough. There are
no similarities. They are identical.
A cracking book, not to be missed.
Everyone's a republican
The Republican Ideal: Current Perspectives
Edited by and with an introduction by Norman Porter
Published by the Blackstaff Press
There is a story that in 1939 Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice
was performed in both Nazi Germany and the beleaguered Jewish
ghetto of Krakow. The Nazi regime believed that the character of
Shylock confirmed their own grotesque prejudices and thus that
Shakespeare was validation of their persecution of the Jews.
Those same persecuted Jews simultaneously believed that the play
was a prime exemplar of the noble Jew, the outsider, victimised
by those around him. Both groups genuinely believed they
understood the play and were conveying its true meaning.
The play does not, of course, simply offer one or other of these
readings (although it could well do both), but the point of the
story is that Shakespeare was and remains utterly ambiguous and,
like the Bible, can be appropriated to underpin whatever agenda
one happens to be pushing.
One could be forgiven, however, for believing that Wolfe Tone was
singularly unambiguous about his vision and how it was to be
achieved, but this collection of essays suggests that his
writings are almost as open to interpretation as a Shakespearean
Apart from Mitchel McLaughlin, contributions to this debate about
republicanism include Des O'Hagan, Eamon Hanna, David Cook and
Monica McWilliams. All claim that they understand and represent
the true meaning of Wolfe Tone's brand of Republicanism but what
they all, with the exception of McLaughlin and - maybe - Hanna,
overlook or avoid discussing properly, is Rule Number One: in
order to realise a republic one must first remove the monarchy.
There is absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever about this, whether
one looks to America, France or Ireland. To pretend that one can
fully incorporate republican ideals into a society whilst its
inhabitants still labour under the status of subject rather than
citizen is to wilfully misunderstand republicanism's most
Certainly, the vision of many of the contributors is laudable
but, again with the exception of McLaughlin, all propose a form
of `republicanism' which legitimises the British presence in
Ireland and retains our status as subjects, albeit with the civic
rights and responsibilities of citizens.
But whatever one chooses to call this, it is not anything that
Wolfe Tone would have recognised as Republicanism. It's like
writing a recipe for an omelette which doesn't include eggs: you
may end up with something edible, but it sure as hell won't be an
Nevertheless, the book is fascinating and Norman Porter's efforts
to get to grips with republicanism in his reflective introduction
should be congratulated. This seems like a genuine effort to, as
he says himself, open lines of communication which have
previously been closed off. Porter lays bare his own thought
processes in considering the ideology of Irish Republicanism and
concludes that Unionism ``often proceeds to peddle Republicanism's
ultimate distortion; its reduction to a synonym of violent,
sectarian nationalism'', a distortion which Porter himself calls
For all that, there is much to disagree with. Porter's opening
paragraphs goes; ``Republicanism inspires. And it terrifies. Maybe
it no longer does both in most Western societies. But it does in
Northern Ireland where the terrified appear to have little
interest in hearing from the inspired.'' Very cute, no? But, as
Danny Morrison recently observed, in Unionist history the play
always opens with Republican violence. Well, like the Jews in
Krakow, we see the play differently.
Ultimately, not even a liberal Unionist like Porter can bring
himself to fully engage with or admit to the terror which
By Fern Lane