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Making Sense of the Troubles: A History of the Northern Ireland Conflict Paperback – 29 Nov 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141003057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141003054
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Compellingly written and very even-handed. By far the clearest account of what happened in the Northern Ireland conflict and more importantly why it happened (Irish News)

Extraordinarily well-balanced, sane, comprehensive and rich in sober understatement (Cal McCrystal Glasgow Herald)

Even-handed, clearly written, and set to become one of the definitive works on the subject (Scotland on Sunday)

For those looking for a pragmatic understanding of the country known as Northern Ireland it is essential reading (John Coulter Sunday Business Post) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

David McKittrick is the Ireland correspondent for the Independent. He received the Orwell Prize for Journalism in April 2000. In 1999 he was named Correspondent of the Year by the BBC's What the Papers Say. He was also co-author of the bestselling LOST LIVES, published by Mainstream in 1999. David McVea was head of the politics department at a Belfast grammar school for many years and has researched and written widely on the troubles.

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111 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Betsy Everett on 20 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story of the Northern Ireland troubles has its roots deep in Irish history. It is one of grief and loss, power, pride, murderous hatred, missed opportunities, contradictions, political double-dealing, some brave - if frequently doomed - efforts at a solution, and often just mind-boggling stupidity. Above all, though, it is one of terrible, heartbreaking sadness. It is impossible to read "Making Sense of the Troubles" by journalist David McKittrick and historian David McVea, without tears in the eyes.
It is an ambitious title. How can anyone make sense of the deaths of more than 3,500 people; many of them civilians, lots of them children or babies - even unborn babies?... and amid the carnage the terrible toll of grief-stricken families, Protestant and Catholic alike, whose lives would never be the same again.
And yet as the 'straightforward and accessible account' promised by the authors, the book is an unqualified success.
It tells the story chronologically, packing 43 years of history - from the 1920 Government of Ireland Act which established the province with its own government (supposedly subordinate to Westminster: in reality allowed to set its own, often corrupt, agenda) to the start of the O'Neill era in 1963 - into just 25 pages. And in that first chapter the authors show how early the seeds of a discontented state that could never be fully at peace with itself, were sown.
It was not just that the state was "born in violence" (428 people killed in the first two years of its existence); it wasn't even that the system itself was inherently flawed (how could it have been otherwise when the boundaries were set by Westminster and the Unionists with the precise aim of ensuring Protestant supremacy?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Loraine Connor on 16 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
I have read many books about the troubles in the past and as I come from Belfast I can honestly say that this book is the closest to reality that I have ever read and is written in a way that is easy for someone who is not a native of Northern Ireland to understand. If you really want to understand about the troubles of Northern Ireland this is a "must read".
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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Mr Ulster USA on 1 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Making Sense of the Troubles
_Making Sense_ stays true to its objective, to tell 'a straightforward and gripping story ... in an accessible way'. It is a straightforward read.
But is it a good read? Yes, if you don't want to be bogged down with pre-Troubles history (too simplistically outlined in the book) or don't need to understand the ideologies of unionism and nationalism per se. In this way, _Making Sense_ feels written for a general English/benign foreign audience.
However, if you know some Irish history and/or can appreciate the ethno-nationalist competition in Northern Ireland, then you may very well be let down.
The factual reportage in _Making Sense_ is flawless, but the story told is not neutral. Of course, no account of the Troubles can be. Yet after reading _Making Sense_, one leaves with a sense that: a) Northern Protestants really don't like Catholics; b) republican violence stems from a ideological struggle while loyalist violence is just sectarian hatred; c) the British government could have done more from 1921 forward, but were frustrated by intransigent unionists. All entirely acceptable to believe if one wishes, but by no means a neutral or fair position.
Thus, I was disappointed that _Making Sense_ didn't try harder to place the Troubles in an all-Ireland context. This would require more history, but would help explain some unionist perspective as well as the sometimes variable relationship between the Irish Republican government and Northern nationalists.
For the general reader, I would recommend _A Pocket History of Ulster_, by Brian Bardon (ISBN 086278428x). For more detail, try _A History of Northern Ireland 1920-1996_, by Thomas Hennessey (ISBN 0717124002), who has also written a book on the Northern Ireland peace process (ISBN 0717129462).
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Jan. 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a useful source for those who didn't live through the Troubles. It is scrupulously fair in its judgements, as one would expect from such distinguished authors, and offers some fresh insights even to those who were there. For example, I had forgotten quite how long drawn out the O'Neill years were and was unaware of the narrow limits he set on his reformist ambitions.
For the most part, however, its insights will be confined to those who know little and want to understand, insofar as it is possible to do so, why the slaughter began and why it lasted for 25 years. For those who have already reached this plane of enlightenment, I would recommend Tony Geraghty's "The Irish War" and Peter Taylor's twin texts, "Provos" and "Loyalists".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JMG on 19 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I was there at the time - a student in Northern Ireland in the early days of the Troubles. For many years afterwards I tried to blank much out, but I also wanted a 'reality check'. Were things really as bad as I'd remembered? What was the sequence of events? Had I imagined some things? This book gives a very fair and unbiased account of events, sequentially as they unfolded. Inevitably, perhaps, I've concentrated so far on the chapters covering the years I was there. It's quite heavy going, but it's a heavy subject and some of it is still quite painful to me. What I appreciate about this book is the dispassionate and even-handed telling of the facts in a non-judgmental way. It's given me a lot to think about.
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