Republican News · Thursday 4 September 1997

[An Phoblacht]


Pamphlet Review

Magazine reviews

Prisoners centre stage

2rd P J McGrory Lecture - Prisoners and the Negotiating Process
The South African Experience
By Paula McBride
Available from Féile an Phobail
Price 2.50

Saoirse has been relaunched, Sinn Féin delegations are visiting republican political prisoners to discuss the present political situation, even the Irish News is writing editorials calling for the need to move on the prisoners issue if the peace process is to be successful. It's a time of high hopes and expectations for relatives, families and friends as well as for the prisoners themselves.

But equally, it is a time for suspicion and scepticism. The experience of the last peace process has left many people with a `once bitten, twice shy' attitude when it comes to putting any faith or trust in a British government's willingness to move on the issue of political prisoners.

It is timely, therefore that the West Belfast Festival Discussion Group have published the proceedings of last year's 2nd P J McGrory Memorial Lecture, `Prisoners and the Negotiating Process - The South African Experience'. The talk was delivered by human rights activist Paula McBride and covered briefly some of the crucial issues which have developed in South Africa since the transition to democracy.

Of particular note is McBride's insistence on setting goals which are achievable. Equally important is her reflection on the fact that many political prisoners are still in jails several years after the ANC came to power. The reality of negotiating an end to political imprisonment is that it's a long and often slow process.

McBride also discussed the successes and failures of the Truth Commission which has been up and running for several years. She described the importance of opening up the process so that all people feel ownership of the commission, and highlighted the failures involved in the management of the commission by the judges who fail to see the importance of the participative aspect.

The lecture was chaired by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and the pamphlet includes his introductory remarks and a lively question and answer session. For anyone interested in political prisoners the pamphlet is essential reading. It not only highlights all that's possible in terms of advancing the release of our prisoners but identifies many of the pitfalls that we should avoid.

By Eoin O Broin

Not to be glossed over

Price 1.95

Without a doubt Magill in its heyday was the best mainstream current affairs magazine the country produced. It was investigative and challenging. Its most celebrated targets were Charlie Haughey, the Cosgrave Coalition and the Heavy Gang which framed Nicky Kelly. Its reporting on the Six Counties was often a lone voice in the censored Dublin media. Now Magill has been relaunched with its originator Vincent Browne at the helm. The original Magill declined sadly under his management from a hard hitting journal to a glossy mag for rugby types.

The first edition of the new Magill is something of a disappointment. There is no evidence of new young writers, and, disgracefully on the eve of historic talks, no coverage at all of the peace process. There is much trivia and space-filling. That said, the return of the magazine is welcome; it has the potential to make an important contribution and and we wish it well in its future development.

By Micheál MacDonncha

September/October 1997
Price 1.95

This new magazine is subtitled ``A review from the margins'' and its editorial states: ``We hope that those who are marginalised, who have not shared in the largesse dispensed by the Celtic Tiger, will find in the review intellectual and moral support.'' From that, the magazine is certainly to be welcomed.

Many of the contributors approach their subject from that not-quite-dissident wing of the Catholic Church which stands for social justice. It is an important and vibrant part of intellectual life in Ireland today, though if the magazine is to reach out to all the margins on the island, as it aspires to do, its future issues must move away from its particular Catholic milieu. A number of articles, some critical of the hierarchy, reviews and a photo essay (about climbing Craogh Patrick) which gives the magazine an in-house feel, though other articles do touch on wider issues. Céide's development should be watched with interest.

By Brian Campbell

History Ireland
Autumn 1997
Price 3.95

History Ireland is always worth reading and I would especially recommend this issue to Republicans. Its theme is Ireland's connection with Germany. Among the articles is one asking whether Frank Ryan was a collaborator. It favours the view that he wasn't - two months before his death in a German sanatorium in June 1944 a secret German intelligence report said, ``all that is known of him is that he is a Communist and stood in the Dáil elections of 1937''.

A fascinating article describes the impressions of German travel writers in Ireland from 1828-1850. They were amazed at the poverty of the people and their treatment by landlords. One of them, Jacob Venedy, had this to say after witnessing Orange marches: ``If the English had set out to invent an institution to keep alive forever the Irish people's memory of the wrong that English people had done against them and to perpetuate the idea that the one group were the vanquished, the other the victors, the one the slave, the other the masters, they could not have invented anything better than those Orange Lodges.''

other article of interest to Republicans is one that presents the evidence that Roger Casement's Black Diaries were forgeries.

History Ireland is quite expensive but a year's subscription at 14 is a present well worth persuading someone to buy you for Christmas.

By Brian Campbell

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