The Power Game - Fianna Fáil since Lemass
By Stephen Collins
Every year, at least one book on current Irish political affairs does very wellin the Christmas trade and this was obviously cooked up for the purpose. Stephen Collins is the political correspondent for the Sunday Tribune. His work is consistent in its banality and superficiality, qualities well represented in this tome.
Packing his pages with journalistic clichés and trite conclusions, Collins skips through the history of Fianna Fáil since its foundation, concentrating on the period after Lemass retired and Jack Lynch took over. There are some gems in the earlier part. Describing de Valera's policy of executing IRA Volunteers, Collins said he ``did what had to be done, including executing old republican comrades to ensure that liberal democratic values were preserved'' (!) In the same vein Jack Lynch saved the country from the ``forces of anarchy'' i.e. republicans. Collins is partitionist throughout. Even in his facile treatment of the Arms Crisis he dares not peek across the Border to look at the actual conditions which brought about the call for arms from beleagured nationalists who were being driven from their homes. He omits any mention of Bloody Sunday.
The treatment of the Haughey years is by now standard fare and here, as elsewhere, Collins displays not a scrap of originality. Fianna Fáil is the source of all evil and we are given no hint of the role of Fine Gael in political corruption. The latter part of the book relies heavily on Seán Duignan's `One Spin on the Merry-Go-Round' and Fergus Finlay's `Snakes and Ladders'. Collins crassly quotes huge chunks from these, even repeating their authors' amusing anecdotes. The rushed final section on `The Ahern Years' is the most trite of all (two and a half paragraphs on the peace process, including the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement) and reads like a Fine Gael backbencher's speech. Sadly, this stuff is typical of what passes for political analysis by many of the `pol corrs' who dominate media coverage of Leinster House. Don't buy it.
BY MÍCHEÁL MacDONNCHA
By Jackie Mills
It's a thriller and a love story
Ellie, Jackie Mills' first novel, is an easy novel for an idle day. From the first pages, as the main protagonist, Ellie describes her tiresome boiler and the numerous repairs she's had to make on her newly purchased home, the author draws the reader in to the point where it is impossible to put the book down (I know I didn't!).
Ellie is your typical, everyday librarian and mother. One day, however, she goes to work only to discover her boss's dead body hanging from the office ceiling. Ellie's unusual family support her while she deals with this possible murder as well as coping with an annoying ex-husband who calls her on the occasional whim, an uncertain job and library patrons who decide to go on strike after the authorities threaten to close it down.
This is not a heavy tome dealing with weighty issues but Mills has a talent for painting graphic word pictures of gestures, mannerisms, aspects and attitudes.
Packed with suspense, it also includes a love story and deals with how a single mother copes with being recently divorced, while an offbeat sense of humour adds relief throughout.
If you are looking for a light-hearted drama, suspense, love-story, and comedy you'll find it all packed in here.
BY JENNIFER POLINK
Scotland Not Only Free But Gaelic
A Tribute to Seamus Mac a'Ghobhainn.
By Peter Beresford Ellis.
Edited by Risnidh Mag Aoidh
(Order from Alba branch, Celtic League. (+44 131 337 0800)
I am a firm believer that every Sinn Féin cumann on the island should have a cache of books and pamphlets that new members should work through when they join. Here is one that is essential reading.
It contains four articles by Seamus himself on the Scottish language - Gaidhlig -and on Scottish independence. The concluding chapter is given by his longtime friend and collaborator Peter Beresford Ellis. He describes Seamus as a ``revolutionary fundamentalist''.
That is highly accurate.
As Scotland moves towards addressing the democratic deficit that English rule placed on it for centuries, Seamus Mac a'Ghobhainn's name may not figure in the list of major players who made this turnaround possible, but it should. This booklet is the least that the big man deserves.
Seamus Mac a'Ghobhainn's energy and contribution to a Scottish Scotland was immense and so should his memory be. Like many patriots in many oppressed nations, Seamus suffered dislocation from his homeland in childhood.
The wee Seamus was taken from his native Scotland to deepest, darkest South of England as a kid. There, he was old enough to know he was a Scot and was in a foreign land that disparaged who he was - that was the beginning.
By the time he died in 1987, at the tragically young age of 54, he had made his mark. This booklet is part of a process that his contribution does not disappear without trace.
Like all true Scots worthy of the name (in Seamus' generation it has to be said there were damn few of them) he was a solid Pan-Celt. At the height of the Northern war, England poured Scottish troops into the Six Counties.
Seamus published a poem in his beloved Gaidhlig in the Stornoway Gazette in 1971, shortly after three Scottish soldiers had been shot by the IRA in the same week that an IRA Volunteer died on active service.
The English translation indicates the bitterness Seamus felt about Scottish troops serving England:
``Four young gales
borne towards their graves
on comrades' broad shoulders
and the pipes play
one of them draped by Ireland's flag
the other three by the English red rag
the same tale
while the auld enemy
rub stainless hands
behind polished desks
far from the fray.''
The sad thing for both Scotland and Ireland is there were damn too few Scots felt the same way at the time. His collaboration with Peter in unearthing the hidden history of the 1820 Uprising in Scotland for which three men, Baird, Hardie and Wilson suffered the ``traitors death'' - hanged and then butchered - is a masterpiece of investigative historical research and literary activism.
It was fitting that his ashes were scattered at the memorial to the 1820 Martyrs in Sighthill in Glasgow in 1987.
I am glad that this Irish republican was there to pay his respects to this great Gael.
Gu ma fada beo a chuimnne.
BY MICK DERRIG