Proud legacy concisely revealed
A Pocket History of Gaelic Culture
By Alan Titley
The O'Brien Press, Dublin
I'm very fond of books; I've had some books now for over 35 years. I am painfully aware of this because I have just moved house and put my back beyond use carting the bloody things to the new billet!
Suddenly, the portability of a book is important. I must say I'm particularly found of pocket books. My all time favourite republican publication is ``Notes For Revolutionaries'', which came out in the early 1980s. This little book reminded me of it. As books went, it was a great wee short. So is this one. Titley is head of the Irish department in St.Patrick's College, Dublin City University.
Although he has an academic's grasp of his subject, he gets it across like he was explaining it to you over a pint. That's quite a skill.
It is fitting that Titley chose the pocket book format to sketch a history of Gaelic culture. Monks of the celtic church, long before the printing press, invented the pocket book so that they could take their beloved words into Dark Age Europe. They walked as far as Krakow and Kiev, the real border of western Europe - beyond that lay Byzantium.
It is instructive to remember what our culture bequeathed to modern Europe. He brings the story right up to date with the establishment of the cross-border body Bord Na Gaeilge/An Foras Teanga.
He concludes: ``Whatever long list makes Ireland distinctive, all owe something to the Gaelic tradition. It is not just the ghost at the feast but the very shape of the room we live in.''
Every cumann in the country should own at least one copy of this wee book.
BY MICK DERRIG
The Garda Síochána
Policing Independent Ireland 1922-'82
By Gregory Allen
Gill & MacMillan
This book deals with the creation of a new policing service in the 26 Counties after the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) were put beyond use - therefore this book is timely.
On receipt of this tome, I went immediately to the index and looked up ``heavy gang''. It gets two mentions, on pages 193 & 196.
Allen states baldly that ``the mythical Garda `heavy gang' was a media invention''. After this, it was hard to take anything else in the book seriously. Perhaps, it shouldn't be too surprising when you get the scéal on the author.
Gregory Allen is a former member of the Garda Síochána; he was an archivist for the Gardaí and is Curator of the Garda Museum. He states at the start of the book that former RIC men in the south who, for one reason or another didn't joint the new unarmed force, ``were happy to advise their successors in the art of policing rural communities''.
The RIC? The art of policing rural communities?
Allen describes the RIC as ``setting exemplary social and professional standards''. He says of them that in the aftermath of the Tan War ``the ambiguity of their role determined their fate as casualties of peace''.
I'm not allowed to swear in this paper, but I feel like it.
In the stories I was reared with of the RIC in Mayo during those days, the last word that could be attached to the role of the peelers then was ``ambiguous''. They were colonial policemen established, trained, equipped and empowered to keep the natives in their place.
That's why the natives shot them.
The RIC were unacceptable to the Irish people; they had to go.
What succeeded them wasn't perfect, but they didn't burn houses or dump young boys on James Street in Westport at their own door with the face smashed off them.
This book is not worth your consideration, although the subject matter definitely is. Republicans tend to focus upon the problems of unacceptable policing in the Six Counties, and rightly so. However, all is not rosy in the contemporary Garda either.
Here in Donegal, there is currently a major probe into serious Garda corruption, including the possible faking of arms finds in the county. Recently, the chief executive of the Garda Complaints Board, Sean Hurley, stated that there was loss of faith by the public in the system of investigating complaints against members of the force.
There is an urgent need for a book dealing with our guardians (sic) in the 26 Counties - one that would look at the connections back to the RIC from certain ``police families'' to the years of harassment suffered by the current generation of republicans and of collusion with British Intelligence
There is a clear need for such a book. This isn't it.
BY MICK DERRIG