Republican News · Thursday 03 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Jack Higgins' return

Pay the Devil
By Jack Higgins
Harper Collins

Maybe we wrote Higgins off too soon: he has rewritten Pay the Devil, first published in 1962 (as by Harry Patterson), and given us a good rattling story with the hero - at the wrong side of the American Civil War - (being a Georgia man, surgeon, soldier and landowner) inheriting an estate west of County Galway to which he repairs in 1865.

Here, he is inexorably drawn in to take sides with the local tenants of a brutal landlord - the set pieces involving the more brutal agent are vintage Higgins - tenants who are also the local IRB (misnamed Fenian here) circle.

The rising planned is doomed and he with two local leaders and a lovely lass, niece of the brutal landlord of course, escapes via a French schooner to the USA.

It would be worth comparing both editions and maybe to look at Myrtle Johnston's The Rising, set in Kerry at the same time: she, being a northerner, may have influenced him.

One wonders if current events too have influenced the following comments - or were they there all the time:

``Joanna gave a tiny moan and her fingers dug into his arm. `Oh, Clay, it's so futile. So horribly pointless. It won't gain them anything.'''

``He shook his head and his voice was sombre. `I'm not so sure. What else is there left for people like these? They accept degradation and brutality for year after year, but finally there comes a time when a man must turn and fight. His final and ultimate protest against any tyrant is to give his life in open defiance, and that can never be futile. One day it will achieve something, one day all the dead and the petty little insurrections over the years will be seen to form part of a pattern. Perhaps then the thing they died for will be achieved.'

```I've never heard you talk like that before,' she said, and she looked up at him, a frown on her face.

``He laughed grimly. `Perhaps I've never felt quite like this before.'''


Cruising for a Bruising

My Life and Themes
By Conor Cruise O'Brien

To be honest, I viewed the prospect of reading and reviewing the Cruiser's memoirs as yet another unpleasant task for the socialist republic.

ything from Conor Cruise O'Brien, I thought, is going to be (a) Off the wall and (b) Virulently anti-republican.

Well, it was both of those, but it was also (c) Well written and (d) Simply fascinating as an historical sketch.

O'Brien's earliest memory is being shaken by the noise of the Four Courts being shelled by the Free Staters - he was all of four years old. His dad told him not to worry and he didn't. Fifty years later, his Garda minders told him how they were beating information out of republicans - he tells us that didn't worry him either!

He sketches a valuable insider story on what happened to the Irish Left, cut adrift from the moorings that Connolly had given it on the national question.

Indeed, the Cruiser devotes a considerable number of pages to explaining why Connolly had ceased to be a socialist - a preposterous notion - arguing that he had succumbed to the type of nationalism that had corrupted the Second International. His view is that Connolly became a revolutionary nationalist in 1914 and stopped being an advocate of class politics.

Given his view on our movement, his position on the national question, the border and the use of force, he HAS to believe that about Connolly. If he doesn't, then he has to find another ideological basis to hate republicans other than his ``Socialism''.

Like his recent hilarious views on Dostoevsky, you can't say that the Cruiser ever let the facts get in the way of his ``analysis ``. For the record, he wrote that the Russian novelist (who died in 1881) had supported Czarist pogroms of the Jews later on.

When the fact was pointed out to him by Vincent Browne that the bould Fyosor Mikhailovich couldn't have supported anything, as he was dead, the Cruiser's response was wonderfully typical. Basically, his position was that if Dostoevsky HAD been alive he WOULD have supported the anti-Semitic policy of the Romanovs.

There isn't anything that complicated about the Cruiser when you come down to it. He struggles with his family's Parnell period nationalism and the fact that his uncle by marriage was killed by the British in Easter week.

The Cruiser - and there are many like him - has a problem about being Irish. He doesn't think that's good enough for him. This is not a problem unique to Ireland; you find it in many nations that have been through the colonialisation process.

He wants to be British because he thinks that's better - higher up the food chain than being a Paddy. He boasts of his O'Brien lineage that they had been faithful servants of the British crown as far back as the 1200s.

There is an accepted wisdom that the Cruiser is some great, flawed, unfathomable intellectual. He was born into a monied family with good connections. He attended Trinity College Dublin, which gave him access to a network that would allow him access to power and influence for the rest of his days.

He took full advantage of his privileged background and then used that as a springboard to cosy up to his ethnic betters. There is no great mystery in the Cruiser's life. He thought himself above being one of the mere Irish. When it suited his career, he was quite happy to write spin for Fianna Fáil pistolero Frank Aiken.

Towards the end of the book, when he is sketching events as they happen and not recounting past decades, he loses his own plot. He pastes in a recent article that he wrote about the Disappeared. He confidently predicts that this is the end for Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties.

He asserts that Sinn Féin wouldn't have any elected representatives in the 26 Counties and that Bob McCartney would take the third Euro seat in the Six Counties.

You may recall, comrades, that we doubled our representation in the 26 Counties at County Council level. McCartney did not get the third Euro seat in the Six Counties. Mitchel McLaughlin's showing was excellent. The Epilogue is dated July 1999, with the Cruiser stating that the Peace Process is doomed with no chance of forming an Executive.

These days, the Octogenarian sage of Howth is a Friend of the Union. This Friend of the Union has now swung his considerable intellect to advocate a united Ireland to protect the civil and religious liberty of Protestants in the Six Counties and to put us bad Sinn Féin boys out of business.

Yes totally Off The Wall, but never boring.


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