Terror in Ireland 1916 − 1923 (II) October 4, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.
For the original thread on the book please go here.
This isn’t a review, because I haven’t finished the book, which I borrowed from the Central Library a couple of weeks back. But it is an appraisal, I guess. Got to admit away from the more controversial aspects it’s great reading. Some fascinating material in here. Not least Jane Leonard’s piece on “‘English Dogs’ or ‘Poor Devils’? The Dead of Bloody Sunday Morning”, which lists those who died who were British intelligence and other officers and service men and those who were shot by accident.
Brian Hanley’s piece ‘Terror in Twentieth-Century Ireland’ brings a necessary overview of the fundamental nature of the term ‘terror’ and puts it into an equally necessary historical context.
And Fearghal McGarry’s ‘Violence and the Easter Rising’ is a very useful investigation of the use of violence during the Rising which notes odd statistics such as how few of those who instigated it were actually killed during those days. It also suggests that in large part those who fought in the Rising on the Irish side were scrupulous about waging conflict as cleanly as possible – though he also references instances where that standard was not adhered to.
David Fitzpatrick’s Introduction is also very interesting, as it seeks to contextualise the scope of the book. Some oddities though, and not least in the following:
Thought this book cannot claim to encompass the entire terrain of its title, it deploys documentary evidence, often recently released, to confront major unsettled questions about the legacy of terror…
And it continues:
Hovering in the background is another question, requiring a broader political analysis outside the scope of this book. Could a mutually acceptable Irish settlement have been achieved without the widespread use of terror? If so, how much was lost as the result of an unpredictable chain of events, instigated by the perverse determination of a few hundred rebels to challenge the British government in Ireland in 1916? What, then, was the ultimate cost of terror?
The odd thing is that in McGarry’s chapter on the Easter Rising it is very clear that 1916 was not some irruption that appeared as from nowhere. McGarry doesn’t mention the failure of Home Rule as a political project, nor its essential delegitimisation in the fields of France and on this island. But he has one telling anecdote.
Members of the Irish Citizen’s Army, in particular, were involved in dubious killings around St. Stephen’s Green. By his own account, Frank Robbins was prevented from shooting civilians, policemen and unarmed soldiers by his officer… The ICA’s relative ruthlessness may have stemmed from bitter memories of the 1913 Lock-Out. Asked how they should treat the police, James Connolly told his mean: ‘Remember how they treated you in 1913’. Patrick Kelly, a Volunteer, was initially angered when his officer prevented him from shooting an unarmed policeman outside Broadstone station: ‘I remarked that I was unarmed in 1913’.
1916 had roots that stretched far back into the past and into unpredictable places.
But all that aside a very very interesting book and well worth a read.