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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two very interesting voices
There's been a lot of press coverage and corresponding expectations connected to this book. I read a bit in both the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph and Tim Pat Coogan's review in the latter paper and what nobody seems to have done is write an expectation-free account of what the reader actually gets, so I'll try to do that here.
The first half of the book is...
Published on 28 April 2010 by Pablo

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Voices from the grave
The David Irvine park is a bit stretched out with history of well known event's. But a good read and eye opening
Published 4 months ago by Nigel Gribbon


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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two very interesting voices, 28 April 2010
By 
Pablo (Co. Down/ Navarra) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)
There's been a lot of press coverage and corresponding expectations connected to this book. I read a bit in both the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph and Tim Pat Coogan's review in the latter paper and what nobody seems to have done is write an expectation-free account of what the reader actually gets, so I'll try to do that here.
The first half of the book is devoted to material from interviews with the late IRA member Brendan Hughes and the second part to similar material from interviews with the late UVF member and later PUP politician David Ervine, both against a backdrop of Maloney's commentary which to his credit effectively gives the historical background without detracting from the voice of either protagonist.
Hughes' account provides graphic memories of growing up in sectarian inner-city Belfast with an abundance of telling detail. He provides wonderful details of the early provisionals in Belfast and detailed accounts of his own paramilitary activity. His accounts of Adams' involvement in the IRA confirm what everybody in N.Ireland already knows (and which Adams apparently doesn't admit for "legal" reasons). There are fascinating revelations on the people "disappeared" by the IRA where the story of Jean McConville is somehow outdone in terms of poignancy by that of Patrick Crawford: abandoned by his mother as a newborn, brought up in care and probably subjected to abuse, and then killed in prison at 22 by the IRA in a death dressed up as suicide. This section includes allegations of Adams having his own "personal squad" (Moloney) or "flying column" (Hughes). Hughes' narrative also gives a fascinating account of his escape from jail, inside details of divisions within the IRA and in-depth accounts of the hunger strikes and all that led up to them.
Hughes' narrative overshadows that of Ervine and this is at least partly due to Ervine's refusal to talk about his own paramilitary activity. What he does talk about is what led him into the UVF and he provides a fascinating account of growing up in East Belfast with a conformist mother and an intellectually curious father without formal education (but with the strength of character to tell a patronising Paisley where to get off). Ervine's critical exploration of the complexities and contradictions of Irish history should serve as a shining example to people of all persuasions to go beyond the ignorance and simplistic prejudices which even now sadly prevail in N.Ireland. He provides a brutally honest (UVF) perspective on sectarian killings and bombings including the massacre at Dublin and Monaghan, gives a clear (if well-known) loyalist perspective on Paisley and offers fascinating insights into protestant working-class consciousness and class antagonisms within the unionist camp. He has strong views on Billy Wright and gives a lot of inside detail on the complex maneuverings of the peace process.
In short, the two voices in this book have much of interest to say and it is encouraging that for all the strength of convictions of both Hughes and Ervine, both men show the intelligence and humanity to transcend sectarianism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth as seen by two participants, 17 Feb 2011
By 
P. A. Mitchell (Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a fascinating piece of recent history and of particular interest to anyone involved in the recent troubles in Ulster. The two participants are both now dead and seem to have unburdened themselves in the interviews and produced this revealing account of their involvement.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voice that was denied when alive......, 2 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)
Anyone who has a basic understanding of Irish Republicanism will know who Brendan Hughes was. They will know that he was denied a voice while alive and is now confirming many rumours and stories from his grave.

The Dark was a down to earth man. He had no interest in money or power and this comes through in this interview and anyone who knew him can hear his voice in their head while reading his interviews.

The book is bulked out with some background information into what he is talking about and this is needed for those who know little or nothing of the situation in Ireland in the 70's or 80's. Some background is needed to afford the interviews some sense and meaning to those of us who did not live through the height of the war. This therefore makes the book accessible to all. Irish and non. Those of us who are older and the young alike.

I saw that someone wanted to see interviews with the RUC and Gerry Adams in this book. I feel they have missed the point of this book and have probably slept through the last 30 odd years to make such a request. The RUC are still covering up and denying what happened pre 1969 and Gerry Adams is not known for his love of the Dark. So much so that he claimed the Dark actually "apologised" to him when in fact the Dark was in a coma and unable to speak.

Mr Adams' comments on the day this book was published also confirm WHY he wasn't included. His "Well we all know the Dark was very ill when he gave those interviews" is the latest in a long line of attempts to discredit not only Brendan but anyone who disagrees with the almighty Gerry. RUC and PSF interviews have no place in this book seeing as it is about the personal experiences of two well known people in the "Troubles"

The David Ervine section opened my eyes to some facts I wasn't aware of. And made me curious to deepen my knowledge on these. I did find it somewhat lacking compared to the Brendan Hughes section but this is probably due to the fact he was still a main player on the scene at the time and afraid of possible comebacks and political fallouts, even though the interviews could not be released until after his death.

I have also seen the documentary of the same name and found it just as interesting and sad hearing Brendan's voice once more.

This is a highly recommended book for anyone who wants to learn about one man's fight for Irish Independence and why he turned his back on Provisional Sinn Fein. This book holds more weight than any other before.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead Men Do Tell Tales, 23 Jun 2011
By 
F Henwood "The bookworm that turned" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)
Irish journalist Ed Moloney has provided a fascinating account of the troubles seen from the perspective of two of the leading paramilitary participants, Brendan Hughes and David Irvine, from the Republican and Loyalist sides, respectively. Hughes was a leading military operative in the IRA throughout the 1970s but became a marginal figure from the 1980s onwards, while Irvine transcended his paramilitary UVF origins and metamorphosised to become a leading political figure in the peace process in the 1990s.

Two-thirds of the book tells the story from Hughes' point-of-view, the remainder from Irvine's. Both men are now dead, so their stories can be told.

Hughes is much more candid about his paramilitary past, hence his story is longer. He made no secret of his desire to shoot British soldiers as soon as possible, and this during the brief honeymoon between nationalists and the British army in 1969/70, when it was safe for British soldiers to drink in nationalist bars. Hughes himself drank with the very soldiers whom he was itching to shoot. But Hughes is less than candid regarding his role in the death of Jean McConville, the mother-of-ten, `disappeared' and executed by the IRA in 1972, reportedly for being a British informer. Hughes upholds the official Republican version and claimed a transmitter was found in her house but his evidence is hearsay and it was not clear if he was present at her arrest and interrogation or not. (p129) Perhaps Maloney missed an opportunity here to clarify this. Hughes has taken this secret to the grave.

Hughes considered himself a soldier, not a politician, contrasting himself with Gerry Adams, with whom he once had a close relationship. Hughes portrays Adams as a ruthless, calculating political operator who has denied his paramilitary past to further his political advantage. Given that Adams's intimate involvement in the IRA's military hierarchy is one of Adams's worst-kept secrets, one can readily appreciate Hughes' gall. But Hughes it was clear had no vision. Hughes represents the peace posture of Adams and McGuinness is presented simply as a ploy to substitute the vicissitudes of the struggle for ease and comfort. But what would Hughes have proposed by way of an alternative - another 25 years of `armed struggle'? The fact was that the armed struggle had failed and a political solution was the only viable way forward.

Irvine is less candid about his paramilitary past so his story is shorter. The UVF was known for spectacular car bomb outrages, most notoriously the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. Irvine knew a lot about explosives and car bombs especially - so much so that a British bomb disposal officer forced Irvine to defuse a car bomb at gun point. To what extent was he involved and how much did he know? But Irvine is reticent on these points. Unless his former cohorts speak up, it is unlikely we will ever know. The older, thoughtful Irvine yields some insights into the Loyalist mind set and the manipulations of it by the likes of Paisley. His satisfaction with the peace process stems from the basic assurance that Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom is secure. The Unionists as the majority community will never vote for the dissolution of this tie and for Irvine that is democracy. But what if the demographic advantage slips away? Would he allow for a Catholic majority to revoke it on the same majoritarian principle? He doesn't say.

It was clear that the root cause of the conflict was a historical injustice in the denial of formal political and civic equality to the province's Catholic population. This was the kindle which presented the IRA with an opportunity and produced the likes of Hughes. British troops were initially welcomed by nationalist communities but this goodwill was soon squandered, as the Unionist demanded that the British treat the political problem as a criminal one. Did the Unionist tail wag the British dog? But the Republicans likewise failed to appraise their Unionist enemy, who were not vestigial stooges of British imperialism but movers of their own cause.

This is a fascinating, compelling book of oral history, which tells the story from the perspective of those who participated in it. By definition this cannot be exhaustive and impartial, for the participants will seek to exonerate themselves and the causes for which they fought. But that does not invalidate this book as a serious work of history, for the perspectives of the participants, which fuelled the conflict, need to be understood. This book helped me to do just that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 30 Aug 2011
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)
Great factual book that tells a true story of what really went on at this time, this story is told by a man that in many ways does not warrant much respect, but also there is a strong moral, message read carefully.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading, 15 Oct 2010
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)
Was a very interesting book. Looking back now over the past 30 years you realise through the news and newspapers that you were only told the bare basics of what was happening inside and outside the Maze. I found reading what prisoners went through in those days not just interesting but harrowing. The book describes both sides but I felt there information to read about in Brendan Hughes section. Don't get me wrong the section about David Irvine was good but I felt there was more meat in Brendan Hughes part. Would recommend this book!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 13 Jan 2014
By 
john moylan (dublin, ireland) - See all my reviews
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Best book on the troubles I have ready by far. Great insight into two fascinating people!
Would read it again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 9 Jan 2014
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These accounts really made me think. Brendan Hughes account was the better of the two as it was more revealing of the man. Possibly David Ervine felt he had more to lose by complete openness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 8 Jan 2014
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Having lived through this period in our history, I was thrilled by the unearthing of a new insight. When reading the first segment I found it hard to put the book down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding read, 5 Jan 2014
This book is a tremendous case study into how people can end-up involved in paramilitary organizations/insurgency. I view this as compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in how that happens, as well as "The Troubles" themselves. The stories of Brendan Hughes and David Ervine are fascinating, particularly as how they relate to the changing political scene in Northern Ireland towards the end of their lives.
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Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland
Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland by Ed Moloney (Paperback - 31 Mar 2010)
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