Ken Keable reviews The Politics of Northern Ireland: beyond the Belfast agreement by Arthur Aughey, Routledge, ISBN 0415327881 £17.99 pbk
The Politics of Northern Ireland is written by one of the leading authorities on contemporary Northern Ireland and provides an original, sophisticated and innovative examination of the post-Belfast agreement political landscape…. Dr Arthur Aughey is senior lecturer in politics at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown."
There, I've been fair and quoted some of what it says on the back cover. I found the book excessively wordy, full of opaque expressions used only by academics, mostly tedious, and lacking in any discernible conclusions on the part of the author. He says something trite and then gives a reference to another academic who has said the same thing. Lots of academics are quoted.
Those readers who begin with the belief that the six-county problem is incomprehensible and intractable will find nothing here to change that opinion.
Much of the book is taken up with describing the ambiguities of the situation and the different perceptions of these in the "two communities". This is of some interest, but you could read it all and be no nearer to seeing a way forward. There is no hint that Northern Ireland is essentially a colony, or even that it has a colonial past. It just is what it is, with no apparent cause.
Also lacking is any analysis of British attitudes to Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement, as though it has not occurred to the author that these might be relevant to 'The Politics of Northern Ireland'.
I found one source of amusement, though. He quotes (p180) the Ballymoney Free Press of 8 May 1912: "The statement of Unionist Ulster is that it merely wants to be let alone." He goes on to tell us that when David Trimble was once asked what he wanted for his people he replied: "To be left alone".
This total lack of vision at the heart of unionism is consistent with the tone of this book. The best that the author can hope for seems to be that things might not get worse.
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Copyright © 2006 Ken Keable