Sean Carey reviews The IRA and Armed Struggle by Rogelio Alonso, Routledge, ISBN 0 415 39611 5, £19.99 pbk
ROGELIO ALONSO'S book is a very welcome addition to the many books published on the IRA in recent decades.
Its strength is in letting us see how individual volunteers now view their experiences from both a personal as well as political aspect and Alonso's use of the interview format provides fresh insights into a very complex period in Irish history - one that is still unfolding.
Those interviewed look back on their years in the various groupings that evolved from the split in republicanism after the events, particularly in Belfast and Derry, of August 1969.
Myths have arisen concerning the linear account of the lead-up and aftermath of what the original split was all about in terms of tactics, methods, and policy differences.
However, while many of the personalities that loomed large in the original and later republican organisations have given their own accounts, or gave interviews to the media in their day, Alonso's book helps us to understand the complexity of the IRA from the perspective of the ordinary volunteers.
It also gives readers the chance to reflect on the reality of armed struggle from the perspective of both time and distance - we now have a better vantage point to assess the longest ever IRA campaign and to examine the impact the various IRA groupings made on Irish political life.
The volunteers interviewed by Alonso, whose accounts also cover the years between the IRA ceasefire of 1962 and the events of 1969, deserve particular credit for providing such detailed, honest and sincere accounts of their activities.
Their contributions make this book far more important than many others that have gone before which have over-relied on journalists or academia to paint an abstract picture of the IRA in the years from 1969 up to the 1997 ceasefire.
This book will help readers to understand the human dimension of guerrilla warfare as experienced by those individuals who were involved in the struggle from 1969 onwards and will appeal to anyone who is interested in the history of modern Ireland.
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Copyright © 2007 Sean Casey