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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book
A great book
Published 13 months ago by JORDI BELTRAN GILI

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book is neither fair, objective or balanced!
Reviews have described this book as objective and balanced. It is nothing of the sort. Some people believe it is because it treats the IRA as an interesting phenomenon which it then evaluates without negative moral judgement. This is not objectivity, in fact an objective academic would look at a violent paramilitary group with a critical eye, holding it's claims up to...
Published 1 month ago by Stuart


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book is neither fair, objective or balanced!, 1 Oct 2014
This review is from: Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Paperback)
Reviews have described this book as objective and balanced. It is nothing of the sort. Some people believe it is because it treats the IRA as an interesting phenomenon which it then evaluates without negative moral judgement. This is not objectivity, in fact an objective academic would look at a violent paramilitary group with a critical eye, holding it's claims up to scrutiny. This is something English signally fails to do.

The book is well-written and easy to read. A reader my learn some of the facts but the book is so heavily skewed to the republican viewpoint that it is overwhelmingly a negative contribution to this subject. The IRA is analysed with little short of obeisance. The section on the hunger strikes is almost entirely from the republican perspective.

English's whole attitude and way of describing the IRA and it's leaders is one of deference. He uses words like "able" and "gifted" to describe it's leaders even calling the IRA's chief propagandist Danny Morrison a "gifted publicist". Such a deferential attitude is not conductive to giving the viewer an accurate and truthful picture of the IRA.

English states "public attention on IRA victims shouldn't blind us to the suffering republicans themselves endured". Would English say that public attention on the victims of 7/7 shouldn't blind us to the suffering of the suicide bombers? . This is not objectivity it is taking a position of moral equivalence that has no rational moral basis.

English's analysis of why the IRA campaign ended is wrong and pretty much in line with what Sinn fein want us to believe. The IRA ended it's campaign because they realised they couldn't win and gave up. He says that republicans came to the realisation that they could achieve their objectives better through politics than violence. The success of the security forces in creating this opinion is crucially left out of the analysis!

English at times lapses into blatant IRA propaganda. He states that republican pride in the IRA is "understandable", going on to quote Gerry Adams praising it. This isn't objectivity in an author but an author acting as a propagandist.

English states that he's not entirely convinced the IRA were justified but he doesn't believe in myopic condemnation of them. The killing of over 600 civilians to overthrow a state they are now jointly running seems worthy of clear-sighted condemnation to me. English also appears to have no problem with punishment squads which he states can be explained by problems of policing.

In conclusion this is a disappointing book. It lacks objectivity and treats with deference a violent paramilitary group responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths. Not a book I would recommend to anybody seeking to understand the IRA!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Paperback)
A great book
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5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Across The Irish Sea, 13 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Paperback)
In July 1927 the Vice President of the Irish Republic, Kevin O'Higgins, was walking to Mass when he was spotted by three IRA men who shot and killed him 'in hate-filled rage'. Such rage was endemic to Irish Republicanism and was used as an excuse for murder. Republican philosophy was best summarised as, 'We want a 32 county Ireland based on socialist principles and we'll kill anyone who opposes what we want.' This combination of nationalism and socialism led to support for the Nazis during world war two and Libyan dictator Gaddafi later. In 1988 the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume accused the Provisional IRA (PIRA) as having 'contempt for the views and opinions of Irish people'. He claimed their self-portrait as 'the pure master race of Irish' represented a 'deep-seated attitude, married to their method, (that) has all the hallmarks of undiluted fascism. They also have the other hallmarks of the fascist - the scapegoat - the British are to blame for everything even (PIRA) atrocities'. Hume said, 'they take onto themselves the right, without consultation with anyone, to dispense death and destruction.'

Sinn Fein's tactic was to play the role of the heroic underdog being unfairly chased by those who had 'not moved on'. Thus when in December 2000 Patrick Magee came face to face with the daughter of Anthony Berry who had been killed by Magee's Brighton bomb, he acknowledged Berry was a human being but did not recognise the pain his actions had caused. Tommy McKearney was a rare IRA man who admitted he 'did not understand the actual, brutal damage that we were doing to the Protestant community by killing UDR and RUC men'. Most IRA volunteers lacked the morality to weigh up the consequences of what they did and evaluate it in human terms. This made Sinn Fein's 'sincere apologies and condolences' to the families of non-combatants killed during the troubles cynical and dishonest, as some bombs had been placed to kill civilians.

When the Real IRA (RIRA) committed the Omagh atrocity Senator George Mitchell spoke of, 'the brutality, the senselessness, the utter insanity of political violence in Northern Ireland'. Republicans consistently followed their crimes with lies and propaganda to divert attention away from their actions and shift responsibility onto others. Jean McConville, a widow with ten children, was abducted from her home, tortured and shot. It was falsely claimed she had helped a wounded British soldier and was an informer for the British. Her real crime was that she was a Protestant who had married a Catholic. Dolours Price admitted driving the vehicle in which McConville was taken away and accused Gerry Adams of ordering the killing. Whereas Sinn Fein repeatedly called for inquiries into "Bloody Sunday' and the murder of Pat Finucane they were silent where the murder of Jean McConville was concerned.

The contrast with the response of Gordon Wilson to the murder of his daughter at Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987 could not have been more marked. Wilson said, "I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge". When he eventually met IRA volunteers he realised human considerations were foreign to their way of thinking. A much larger bomb planted at Tullyhommom failed to detonate during a Remembrance service attended by Boys' and Girls' Brigades. The IRA stood the Enniskillen killers down but continued to kill elsewhere including Britain itself. The IRA policy was to force Britain out of Northern Ireland and in the early seventies repeatedly claimed Britain was on its knees and would soon leave. They were out of touch with political reality. Bombing mainland Britain strengthened the hand of the British government and stiffened popular opinion against the bombers. It was not the IRA which broke the power of the Ulster Unionists it was Willie Whitelaw.

The IRA was not the only paramilitary group involved in murder, although they were responsible for 48.5 per cent of all killings between 1966 and 2001. Many killings were carried out on the basis of rumour, specifically targeted Protestants and tried to provoke a military response. They failed because they did not understand British attitudes towards the Irish or Ulster Unionists. The IRA's ideology justified violence as an acceptable part of political activity. They were deluded in thinking the British government would give in to the hunger strikers. Bobby Sands's death added to the mythology of Irish heroism but was politically inept. The IRA was instrumental in establishing the Northern Irish civil rights movement to address equal rights for Catholics. By under-estimating Unionist fears of an IRA uprising, the movement 'unintentionally helped to produce a descent into awful and lasting violence', initially perpetrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The UVF announced, 'we declare war against the IRA and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation' and launched a campaign to force Catholics out of Protestant areas. Dissident IRA members formed the PIRA to defend Catholics against perceived threats from the police and Protestant paramilitaries. That Catholics in Ulster had been regarded as fifth columnists and discriminated against is historically true. Whether this justified political violence is debatable.

The IRA refused to accept Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and wanted to reunite it with the rest of Ireland. They did not understand that the majority in Northern Ireland regarded reunification as unacceptable. The PIRA did not start violence in Ulster but extended it by avoiding political solutions until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The lack of trust between Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein on decommissioning delayed the establishment of a power-sharing executive until 2007, since when violence has been restricted to dissident republican groups. The pragmatic nature of British politics leads to compromise. The deterministic nature of the IRA did not. By adopting British pragmatism Sinn Fein obtained political influence their bombs could never achieve. Five stars for this even-handed treatment of Irish politics.
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Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA
Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA by Richard English (Paperback - 26 April 2012)
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