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Bandit Country: The IRA and South Armagh [Paperback]

Toby Harnden
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh 4.9 out of 5 stars (32)
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Book Description

6 July 2000

'Tremendous ... If you are to read only one book about the modern IRA, this should be it'

Irish Times

South Armagh was described as 'Bandit Country' by Merlyn Rees when he was Northern Ireland Secretary and for nearly three decades it has been the most dangerous posting in the world for a British soldier.

Toby Harnden has stripped away the myth and propaganda associated with South Armagh to produce one of the most compelling and important books of the Troubles. Drawing on secret documents and interviews in South Armagh's recent history, he tells the inside story of how the IRA came close to bringing the British state to its knees. For the first time, the identities of the men behind the South Quay and Manchester bombings are revealed. Packed with new information, 'BANDIT COUNTRY' penetrates the IRA and the security forces in South Armagh.

Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340717378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340717370
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 10.8 x 17.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toby Harnden is the author of Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Reality of Britain's War in Afghanistan (Quercus, 2011) and 'Bandit Country': The IRA and South Armagh (Hodder, 1999).

He has been the US Editor of The Daily Telegraph of London since 2006, overseeing all aspects of the Telegraph Media Group's American coverage. He is a weekly columnist on American politics for The Sunday Telegraph and has reported from all 50 US states.

As The Sunday Telegraph's Chief Foreign Correspondent from 2005 to 2006, he reported from all over the world. In 2005, he was imprisoned in Zimbabwe for 14 days after being arrested and charged with "practicing journalism without accreditation".

From 2003, he was Middle East Correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, based in Jerusalem. He spent much of 2004 and 2005 covering the war in Iraq and and was embedded with the US Army's Task Force 2-2 during the Battle of Fallujah in November 2004.

He was in Washington on September 11th 2001. He joined The Daily Telegraph in 1994 as a home news reporter before being posted to Belfast as the newspaper's Ireland Correspondent in 1996. He subsequently covered the Good Friday Agreement and the Omagh bombing of 1998.

Born in 1966, he hails originally from Manchester and took his degree at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, being awarded a First in Modern History in 1988. He served as an officer in the Royal Navy from 1985 to 1994 and now lives with his wife Cheryl and their young children Tessa and Miles in McLean, Virginia.

Product Description

Book Description

The huge bestseller now updated with new material

From the Author

A terrifying and intimate portrait of the IRA's heartland
I have attempted to strip away the myth and propaganda of both sides to produce what I hope will be recognised as one of the most compelling and important books of the Troubles. During four years as a journalist working in Northern Ireland, I carried out interviews with members of the IRA, RUC, Irish police and British Army (including SAS), building up an intimate picture of the IRA in South Armagh from the protagonists themselves. I also had access to secret Army and RUC documents which contained previously-undisclosed details of undercover operations. The book links the IRA's success during the Troubles to the history of lawlessness and rebellion in the area - which is referred to by republican's as "God's Country". The reader will find out the identities of the IRA men who bombed England in the 1990s (the Docklands, Baltic Exchange, Bishopsgate and Manchester bombs were all mixed in barns in South Armagh before being transported across the Irish Sea on ferries of by freight). My aim was to provide answers to a series of questions: Why is South Armagh such a place apart? What sort of people have joined the IRA and how do they live their lives? What has driven these men to the point where the end will justify any means? What has it been like for the outsider to be pitted against such men? Why has the South Armagh Brigade been consistently more effective than the IRA in any other area? What has been the human cost of this fight for Irish freedom? Very few books about the Troubles focus on an area and bring the conflict down to the level of families, farmhouses and fields. I have not spared the reader the horrors of what has happened and there are pictures of bodies and the aftermath of incidents that some people might find distressing.The full story of the death of Captain Robert Nairac, an undercover Army officer, is told. There is also an account of how the SAS captured the IRA's elite sniper unit in April 1997. There are chapters on arms buying in America, the interrogations of informers, sniper attacks, bombs in England, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy. Among the important new stories contained in the book is the tale of how an Irish police officer working for the IRA betrayed the most senior RUC officer to be killed during the Troubles. But there are also details of how loyalist paramilitaries were assisted by RUC members - I want this book to be read by both 'sides' in the conflict rather than seen as a polemical work pushing a particular political agenda. I believe that on of its overall strengths is the amount of new detail contained throughout - the book is not just a collection of what is already in the public domain. It is also written in an accessible way, aimed not just at the Northern Ireland aficionado but also at the general reader who wants to find out what the IRA is about. What more can I say? If you buy this book (which is 400 pages plus and 16 pages of pictures for just £9.99 - £7.99 from Amazon)then I can say with my hand on my heart that you will not be disappointed. I welcome communication by email from any readers or potential readers. I now work in Washington DC. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENTLY RESEARCHED 26 Jun 2003
Having read alot of books about the troubles in Northern Ireland, never have I come across one as good as this. The raeson for this being how well it has been researched, Toby Harnden obviously devoted so much effort in trying to find out what went on South Armagh over the 25 year period this book spans. Yet he has included only the neccasery details to keep the reader interested unlike some others books which can bore you with such detailed accounts of dates, times and places etc. This book gets across the facts you need to know to be able to understand how the most efficient and ruthless brigade of the I.R.A operated and was organised.
I would definately reccomend this book to anyone, even somebody who is not interested Northern Ireland terrorism, because this book is so interesting you will be afterwards.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and balanced 12 Jan 2000
Over the last 30 years a veritable cottage industry has developed producing books, articles and papers about the troubles. Unfortunately much of the produce is a waste of book-self space. 'Bandit Country' is one of the exceptions, containing a great deal of detail, much of which as far as I know has not been published before, at least in book form. It is also unusually accessible for the casual reader, as well as being extremely valuable to anyone with a particular interest in Northern Ireland.
Having said that the book is excellent, I do have three small criticisms, the main one being that for me the book does not answer the one of Mr Harnden's own questions that I was most interested in - "What has driven these men to the point where the end will justify any means?". But then I am from Northern Ireland, and so have my own biases, one of them being that is that there is and was no justification for violence. Perhaps others will find the answer to that question more easily.
Having followed and admired Mr Harnden's newspaper articles over the years, the style of writing was a little unexpected. It is almost breathless in pace, and at times the book reads like a thriller - albeit a very well written one. At first I found this a shade off-putting, and suspect that it may have the same effect on many people who have read a lot of 'troubles literature', most of which is written in a more academic style. That would be a pity, since there is a great deal of factual content here. For the general reader, the fast pace and racy style should make the large amount of information highly digestible.
My only other slight criticism is that I would have liked more analysis, mainly because I have found the author's journalistic commentary useful and often convincing in the past. On the other hand, 'Bandit Country is well balanced, and too much commentary would probably have spoiled that balance.
Highly Recommended.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and fascinating book 11 Oct 2003
By Darren Simons TOP 500 REVIEWER
For a long time I’ve looked for a book that gives a fair description of the history of the IRA and the “Troubles” – this book described itself as that and is certainly not far off the mark. The subject area is not the whole history of the IRA but instead is focussed on South Armagh, the home of the IRA’s South Armagh Brigade. Famous for being the toughest posting for a soldier from the British Army, South Armagh sits on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the forefront of the modern-day Troubles.
The book is incredibly well-researched with extensive quotes from members of the IRA, British Army, politicians from both Ireland and Britain, as well as locals who have lived throughout events that have so often led the news.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to get an insight into the roots of what has happened in South Armagh in the past 30 years, without being overburderned with the author’s political opinion – the author Toby Harnden does an excellent job in my view in remaining completely impartial.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Anyone who wants to know what has been going on in N.Ireland should read this book. I am an ex-soldier but I found Bandit Country very impartial. I was also shocked at the breadth and detail of the information. Superbly written too - very gripping.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As a soldier working in Crossmaglen this book is can only be described as STUNNING.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably good read. 29 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having visited Crossmaglen, Jonesborough and surrounding areas down on the Irish Land Border ( Boundary) this book makes fascinating reading. I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the history of this area.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These times in the past, thank God 21 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I worked as a telephone engineer in South Armagh during the period and this book brings back some terrible times but thankfully things have changed and the aera is a place of outstanding beauty, Oliver
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A totally absorbing read 29 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This is a beautifully written book which is well-balanced and sets the reasons for such strong resistance to authority within South Armagh in its historical context. Although it tackles an area which would be seen as a heavy subject, the style and content make it an extremely absorbing book to read ..... it is certainly a necessary book if you wish to understand the reasons for conflict in Ireland. It comes with very full Appendices which are extremely valuable for pursuing research in this area. Once I started it, I found it extremely difficult to put down and have bored everyone over Christmas about the need to buy and read this book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant overview of the IRA and South Armagh
Toby Harnden has written an excellent book here. It is thorough and encyclopaedic and rockets along at a great pace. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mike Obermaier
4.0 out of 5 stars great!
Delivered very quickly and my grandfather loved the book. Was in great condition even though it was not new. Will be back again to purchase more.
Published 19 months ago by Emma Doherty
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful
Definitley one of the best, if not the best book on the modern IRA and the troubles. Obviously painstakingly researched and given the subject, very well put together making it... Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have Book
1 of my all time fave books and an excellent read. I find myself constantly reading it all the time.
Published on 20 Mar 2011 by Miss Keady
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
brilliantly readable and very balanced. enjoyed this poignant and sometimes funny story of this Irish province and the people. essential reading
Published on 6 Feb 2010 by Mr. Pj Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Bandit Country
This book is a must for anyone interested in the South Armagh PIRA,every major incident is recorded here-from Robert Nairacs grizzly end through to the infamous sniper... Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2009 by Douglas george hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible and Accurate
Anyone interested in the Irish conflict simply must read this book. From start to finish the book accuarately details the plans, movements and attacks carried out by the most... Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2009 by Ryan Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars ?
I do not read many books so tend to stick to historic or autobiographical books.

I found this book to be the best book I have ever read. Read more
Published on 18 Aug 2008 by Raymond Darling
5.0 out of 5 stars I hate terrorism even more after it. GREAT book.
I had already read 'The Informer' by Sean O' Callaghan and 'Killing Rage' by Eamon Collins (both former IRA men and both excellent books) and this was a great book too. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2008 by former republican
5.0 out of 5 stars "The only 'bandits' we ever saw in South Armagh wore British...
I often make a mental note to write reviews for numerous items I've purchased from Amazon, but lazyness usually get the better of me, but, alas, for Toby Harnden's 'Bandit Country'... Read more
Published on 31 May 2007 by A. Fitzgerald
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