Book reviews in brief

David Granville

The Troubles (O’Brien Press, 6.95 euro) by historian, writer and political commentator Brian Feeney is the latest instalment in O’Brien’s brief but informative pocket histories series.

Many a writer would have baulked at the prospect of having to compact 40 years of tortured and tortuous history of conflict into a mere 120-or-so pages pages.

Feeney not only succeeds in his task but has produced an end product that is both readable and remarkably fair --although plenty of unionists would no doubt disagree.

This excellent short account also includes a glossary of key terms and organisations -- always essential for the uninitiated at whom this is largely aimed -- and a handy timeline of key events stretching from the formal end of the IRA’s border campaign in 1962 to the start of the current Good Friday review process.

Part of Sutton’s ‘Britain in Old Photographs’ series, Irish Manchester (Alan Keegan, Sutton Publishing, £11.99 pbk) celebrates the everyday life, work and pastimes of one of the largest concentrations of people of Irish descent to be found anywhere in Britain.

Essentially a collection of around 200 black and white photographs, many previously unpublished, interspersed with recollections provided by members of the Irish community, this excellent book is both fascinating and unashamedly nostalgic.

One small gripe is the paucity of material, beyond a photograph of the defaced Manchester Martyrs monument in St Joseph’s cemetery, Moston and a passage about the IBRG, which relates to the community’s political life.

Sadly, there is nothing about participation in trade union activities or political organisations such as the the Connolly Association, which was capable of selling between 2,000 to 3,000 copies of the Irish Democrat monthly in the Manchester area throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s.

While military history may not everyone cup of proverbial tea, A Terrible Beauty: an illustrated history of Irish battles by Martin Marix Evans and David Lyons (Gill&Macmillan £24.99 hbk) is both remarkably accessible and beautifully illustrated.

A larger-format ‘coffee-table’ book, it combines detailed descriptions of battle scenes with Lyons’s outstanding photography and guides the reader through 1,000 years of Irish military history from the battle of Clontarf to the Easter rising of 1916.

Divided into geographical regions, the battles themselves appear in chronological order, placed in their historical, geographical and military context.

For those who enjoy a good reference book and found the price of the previous hardback edition too steep, the appearance of a revised paperback edition of The Oxford Companion to Irish History edited by S J Connolly (OUP, £16.99) will be greeted with qualified enthusiasm - at £17 is still not cheap.

First published in 1998 and revised in 2002, the new updated edition has been expanded to offer a fuller treatment of prehistoric and early Irish history and provides more comprehensive information on Irish literary history. Sections dealing with political developments in both Irish jurisdictions have been revised to take account of recent developments.

Public Transport: keep it public or lose it to private profit published as a discussion pamphlet by the Communist Party of Ireland (£3 inc. P&P) looks at the threat to jobs and quality of service posed by Irish government plans to privatise Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE), the main provider of public transport in the 26-county state.

You’d think the British experience would be enough to put off any responsible government. Then again, the pressing joint EU and euro currency requirements of an imposed free market economy and draconian constraints on public sector spending (a mere 3 per cent of GDP) point at why Bertie and his gang are keen to press ahead.

Copies of the pamphlet can be obtained from Connolly Books, 43 East Essex St, Temple Bar Dublin 2.

On the subject of public transport, Off the Rails: the story of ILDA by Brendan Ogle (Currach Press, £12.99 pbk) provides an in-depth account, from the perspective of one of the main protagonists of the bitter three-month lockout in 2000 of 118 train drivers employed the Irish national train service Iarnrod Eireann.

The dispute was to have serious implications for trade unionism on both sides of the Irish Sea and was to play a part in the sacking of the Irish regional secretary of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union, Mick O’Reilly by the British-based leadership of the T&G headed by the union’s former general secretary Bill Morris.

On a lighter note Take A Break in Ireland: short breaks for native and visitor by renowned travel writer Pat Preston (O’Brien Press, £10.99 pbk) is packed with up-to-date practical information and suggestions.

Aimed at the independent traveller, it is an excellent basic guide and includes numerous driving and walking tours, ideas for both short breaks and longer stays, details of useful web site addresses and Pat’s very own selections of favourite pub, restaurants and interesting digressions.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2004-05-23 14:47:38.
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