A bag of books.... a cache of CDs
Mícheál MacDonncha reviews highlights of this year's reading and
- The Committee - Political Assassination in Northern Ireland by Sean
McPhilemy. Published by Roberts Rinehart.
- Birth of a Republic by Eoin Neeson. Published by Prestige.
- The Blueshirts and Irish Politics by Mike Cronin. Published by Four
- The Living Note - Heartbeat of Irish Music by Christy McNamara
(photographs) and Peter Woods (text) published by O'Brien Press.
- Jimmy Crowley Uncorked. Free State Records. Cd Cro. 007.
- Sean Tyrrell - The Orchard. Long Walk Music. LM CD002.
- The Croppy's Complaint - Music and Songs of 1798. Craft Records. CRC
- Cran - Black, Black, Black. Claddagh Records. CC63 CD.
- Binn Blasta - the Irish Traditional Music Special. Gael Linn.
Book of the Year is undoubtedly Sean McPhilemy's The Committee which
exposes the complicity of leading business people, top-ranking RUC
men and unionist politicians in the campaigns of loyalist death
squads. The book is currently mired in legal battles and fear of
further action has kept it off the shelves of bookshops in Ireland
and Britain but it is available under the counter courtesy of
conscientious US citizens who have dispatched copies to this country.
The book received some initial publicity when it was published but it
has slipped from view since then. I would not claim that all the
assertions of McPhilemy's main informant are correct, but it raises
so many explosive questions and exposes so many facts about the
RUC/loyalist collusion that it is likely to have profound
consequences for the future of that force.
other blow against anti-nationalist revisionism was struck by
historian Eoin Neeson with the publication this year of his book
Birth of a Republic. The sub-title The Republican Thrust for Liberty
in Ireland 1798 to 1923 tells you that it restores the republican
narrative of 19th century history, a necessary anti-dote to the likes
of Roy Foster. The book was lambasted on RTE radio by Professor John
A. Murphy, Cork's representative in that Coterie of Cranks which
includes the Cruiser and Ruth Dudley Edwards. No higher
recommendation could be given.
Not strictly speaking a 1998 book - it was published last year - Mike
Cronin's history of the Blueshirts is a must for political junkies.
It is far better than Fine Gael Senator Maurice Manning's apologia
for the Blueshirts which, up to this, was the standard work. Cronin,
while not unsympathetic to the Blueshirts, shows up this gang to have
been both fascistic and farcical. It is fashionable to lambast Dev
for his conservatism but an Eoin O'Duffy dictatorship would have made
Dev's comely maidens look like the Spice Girls.
The Living Note is a work of art in words and pictures and captures
the magic of Irish traditional music. It transcends the coffee table
because of the quality of McNamara's photos and the offbeat, almost
mystical quality of Peter Woods' writing. It's been available in
paperback since the start of the year and would make a great
This brings us neatly to our CDs and I start with Jimmy Crowley. His
latest album was recorded live in Cork and features 14 classic songs
from that city and county sung in Crowley's inimitable style. Hear
the passion in his singing of the Boys of Kilmichael to which poet
Patrick Galvin has added a new anti-revisionist verse. Other
favourites include Johnny Jump Up, The Boys of Fairhill and The
Bantry Girl's Lament. Jimmy has done a great job with this CD and you
should put it at the top of your seasonal list.
In contrast to Jimmy's album is that of Sean Tyrell, a very different
style of singing but with equal integrity. The Orchard has depth and
subtlety that will endure.
Sean Tyrell crops up again on The Croppy's Complaint. This is the
best of the many CDs marking the 1798 bicentenary. The songs are
well-reasearched and sung by some of the country's best - Tyrell,
Sean Garvey, Frank Harte, Aine Uí Cheallaigh.
Trio Seán Corcoran, Ronan Browne and Desi Wilkinson make up the group
Cran. With their combination of the finest traditional playing on
flute, pipes and guitar/bouzoki, imaginative arrangements and
powerful singing, Cran's 1998 CD Black, Black, Black gets my vote for
best traditional group of the year.
The best compilation album of traditional music in 1998 was Gael
Linn's Binn Blasta which features some of the best traditional
singers and musicians, solo and groups, over the past 20 years. A
great introduction to Irish music.