34 of 36 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
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Published 2 months ago by geoff
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two very interesting voices,
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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voice that was denied when alive......,
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant,
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead Men Do Tell Tales,
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth as seen by two participants,
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards An Understanding of the History of Northern Ireland?,
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)This study of two combatants in the "Troubles" which spread over three decades of the twentieth century - and still simmer under the surface of Northern Irish politics - only makes sense if it is seen as an ongoing reconciliation of truth with history. Given that participants in the "Troubles" are politically active in the Province, their denials of past crimes are not surprising. It's probably why Gerry Adams denies membership of the IRA and the IRA itself refuses to admit responsibility for atrocities it committed including the Abercorn restaurant and Donegall Street bombings. Hughes believed the "suicide" of Paddy Joe Crawford in prison was the work of the IRA. In many of his interviews Hughes refers to Republican activists but a line appears where the name should be. Presumbly to protect the guilty.
Hughes came from a Republican family. He was an paramilitary operator rather than a strategist like Adams. He orchestrated the "Bloody Friday" outrage when several bombs were set off one after another. He had no qualms killing British soldiers and regarded the IRA as having the right to "arrest", "court marshal" and "execute" those it considered traitors to the cause. Hughes agreed with the killing of the "disappeared" and - although in hindsight he thinks it was "wrong, totally wrong" - no one should think of him as anything other than a man of violence regularly contributing to the Northern Ireland death list. His involvement in negotiations nails Noraid's lie that it did not provide money for weapons for the IRA.
Along with Adams he planned the London bombing campaign and was suspicious of the links between Republicans and the British government. Adams was a major player in the Belfast Brigade, which was constantly at odds with the Dublin based leadership who he eventually supplanted. Hughes's breach with Adams came over the latter's decision to pursue the political path to power rather than continue to rely on physical force and he accuses Adams of prolonging the second hunger strike for political purposes. Hughes instigated the first hunger strike and felt guilty when he called it off to prevent anyone dying. The second, during which ten starved themselves to death, most notably Bobby Sands, was equally as unsuccessful in making political progress towards a resolution of the conflict. The IRA saw themselves as soliders engaged in a long war with Britain. The British government regarded them as common criminals. The death of Sands entered the mythology of Irish martyrdom. It was a disaster leading to increased sectarian violence.
Adams and Hughes thought the bombing campaign in England would lead to a collapse of morale amongst the British people. It was a grave misjudgement which had the opposite effect. Similarly, successive British governments showed remarkable ignorance of the culture of the Nationalist community, adopting tactics which alienated local people. There was an atmosphere of mistrust throughout Northern Ireland which led to sectarian murders, intra-party killings and the creation of barriers to peace. The Troubles were not just a failure of politics, they were also an attack on politics, "big boys' games" replacing dialogue. Few come out of it with any credit, including Hughes. Hughes would regard himself as Republican rather than sectarian and there is irony in the fact that he was warned of a plot by Loyalist prisoners to kill him by Robert Bates, one of the notorious Shankhill Butchers.
Ervine's refusal to provide details of his paramilitary activity is one of the reasons why he receives less space. His parents were not regular churchgoers and his father had socialist leanings. He taught Ervine about the Protestant contribution to the early Republican movement and explained that Catholics had fought for Britain in the First World War. While serving his jail sentence Ervine found out that Willliam of Orange was supported by funds from Pope Innocent Xl who saw it as a way of undermining Louis XlV of France. This reviewer too was unaware of the connection which is not mentioned in Orange Order literature.
Whereas Catholics believed the British government was upholding the Protestant ascendancy, Protestants viewed it as an impotent bystander watching the IRA destroying the Protestant community. It was "Bloody Friday" which drew Ervine into the UVF which was led by Gusty Spence who became a folk hero in Protestant areas for taking the fight to the IRA. The UVF set out to terrorise the Nationalist community and stop it providing succour for Republican gunmen, setting off bombs without notice. To bring the consequences of Republican violence to the Irish government, they set off explosions in Dublin and Monaghan at the time of the Sunningdale Agreement. Between 1966 and 1999 the UVF killed 547 people - over 50% of all Protestant engendered violence. Over-lapping membership with the UDR led to exchanges of intelligence and charges of collusion. Ervine appears to regret what happened but does not apologise for it.
It is to be hoped this is the first of many books to fill gaps in knowledge which are currently hidden in participants' memories or suppressed for political convenience. Much is already known about the various strands of political thinking and paramilitary action in Northern Ireland thanks to Peter Taylor's extensive investigations. It is unlikely that a Northern Ireland "Truth and Reconciliation" project would succeed in providing answers. The uncompromising position held by Hughes and the political pragmatism of Ervine could only be reconciled within the framework of a United Ireland. Disagreement over the timing of such an event provides those committed to violence with an excuse to resort to anti-democratic means. Politics created the Northern Ireland problem in the first place and, for all its limitations, it is politics which will ultimately resolve it. Five stars for an excellent contribution to history.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant relay of two men's perspectives,
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)The negative reviews of this excellent work seem to miss the point: Moloney wasn't aiming to present new cast-iron evidence of incidents during the Troubles or provide a fully balanced account of this and he certainly doesn't put across personal views (anti-Republican or otherwise). Rather he relays the stories of Hughes and Ervine in their own words. His personal contributions merely add the facts and context necessary for a full reading these stories.
To the reader who suggested the Maloney is anti-Republican, I would suggest that you re-read the section on the appaling conditions in Long Kesh - it certainly does not portray the British government or the prison service in a good light.
Overall this is an excellent insight into the Troubles from the perspective of two men who were involved - from THEIR point of view. It's a fascinating read and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in Northern Ireland.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading,
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!!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book,
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Kindle Edition)One of the best books on the troubles I have read.get to hear both sides of the conflict good book
5.0 out of 5 stars voices from the grave,
This review is from: Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland (Paperback)my hubby was a soldier and spent time in northern ireland peace keeping. he could relate to the book in general. he was pleased with it.
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Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland by Ed Moloney (Paperback - 31 Mar 2010)
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