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on 27 March 2001
I sat down to read the book with only a vague understanding of the Troubles. Living on the other side of the world and only quite young throughout most of the violence, I only had a general impression that the IRA were bad people to be feared. Although I don't think this was Eamon Collins' intention when writing the book I found myself feeling an empathy for some of the people involved. I could understand them wanting to stand up for what they believed in and gain freedom for themselves or at least their children. Although of course the way they went about this could never be condoned I now think that within the IRA there were most certainly honourable people who were fighting for what they believe in as much as any soldier in any war does. I'm glad I read this book - I feel that I understand the struggles now - what they were fighting for and at least how one man among them felt throughout. I'd recommend this book to anyone who would like a better understanding of the war between the British and the IRA.
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on 1 March 2014
I found this book to be one long excuse for a very arrogant man's involvement with terrorism. Because he felt he had to keep the 'tradition' of the Armed Struggle alive rather than engage in the democratic but peaceful politics he despised to fight for the legitimate rights of the Nationalists he claimed to represent, he decided he had the right to cause the deaths of other people he lived next door to in a small area of a small island, even Catholics. Depriving wife's of husbands, children of fathers and preserving the cycle of hate didn't seem to occur to him.

Being let off a major crime that he certainly knew of in the planning on a technicality caused him to praise British justice, as though 'Justice' was only good when it fitted what suited him, and then he has the nerve to expect to be left alone by the very terrorist organisation he had betrayed to save his own skin.

It is truly an insight behind the rationale of a small minority of people to use violence to try and achieve a result that they KNOW is not representative of the wishes of the vast majority, and using the Nationalist people's legitimate desire for a somewhat romantic ideal of a United Ireland to get it.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 March 2004
I have read probably too many books on NI but this is the one I would recommend above all others since it is an amazing insight into how a terrorist(there is no other word that does Collins actions justice)mind evolved in that environment.
It is easy to criticise what the man did or the widespread pain and horror his deeds created (or might have if they had all succeeded!) but that is to miss the point as to why this book is so powerful. It is a unique and well documented "inside" biography of how an educated RC working in a trusted position for the Customs Service in NI used that position driven by his own personal experiences to set up people to be executed or property destroyed(Collins never fired a gun or set off a bomb)and in large part was driven by a very naive peronal socialist revolutionary view of Ireland's future, given the innate conservatism of the RC and Protestant cultures.
The book is just a gripping read helped by Collins honesty, even if on occasions he comes across to a distant observer who was not caught up in the emotion of these events as a little self justifying.
The one abiding message learnt is that the IRA is an organisation without a cohesive strategy but due to ongoing local community support can be weakened but never destroyed in full by the Government and Army. This situation has worsened especially since Sinn Fein started using the popular vote at the ballot box after the 1980s Hunger Strike deaths to allow leaders like Gerry Adams to distance itself from them. That to keep it's grip on the RC community the IRA is as crude as their opposites the UVF and their whole approach to any threat is a violent reaction ("knee capping" or "nutting")is well known, but what Collins conveys very well is their continual usage of people who by their actions and attitude created risk and dangers for many including Collins. How a person in such a unique and sensitive position as Collins was then let sell IRA newspapers every weekend is just one of the many sad examples.
This book is a true and memorable record of both the personal tragedy for Collins who the IRA were quick to disown after he escaped being sent to jail at trial and who was killed by the IRA several years after the book was finished and Northern Ireland as a country devastated by such actions.
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on 11 July 1999
This book is a first-hand account of what the zealots on either side of the conflict in Northern Ireland have tried to deny: the terrorist outrages were often caused by humane people pushed into irrationality by the lies created by their leaders.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly as a disturbing account of the brutality a man created for a cause he mistakenly believed in. It is written from the human perspective of a person who later realised he was wrong...
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on 22 October 1999
I purchased this book after reading of Eamon Collin's own demise earlier this year. On buying the book I felt intense anger as I started to read of the atrocities committed by Eamon and his fellow provos. He displayed such barbaric cruelty in his choice of victims and how they would die you wondered whether there was an ounce of human decency in him, but as I continued to read, I grew less angry and more understanding of the reasons for this republicanism. In the end Eamon had realised the depths of his depravity and attempted to extricate himself out of it... but alas, as events this year were to prove, you never leave the IRA. A compelling read and one anyone who has ever felt the IRA had a "true cause" should read. May peace stop this soon....
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on 30 July 2000
Collins starts the book referring to his harsh upbringing and his depression as a youth. This them is continued throughout the book where he refers to his feelings of despair and although he supposedly succumbs to this by confessing to the police in reality this depression is underlying self pity. Indeed one chapter is devoted to this topic "none take pity". The tragedy is that collins never used these feelings to help any of his victims. Had he been courageous enough in his youth to prevent these appalling murders there would be many people in his support and lives later could have been saved. Alas he discovered that he had some courage in later life and tried to stitch up the most evil of IRA men through the judicial system not for any terrorist activity but for tax evasion. This is in my belief what led to his death and sadly the lack of sympathy which followed is a reflection of the callous way in which he viewed his victims. Let us hope that many people in the Newry/ South Armagh area read this book and make a concious decision to do what is morally right rather than some enforced ideology.
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on 7 November 1999
I learnt of the book via an extract published in a Sunday Newspaper. I bought it to see if Eammon Collins would be as reprehensible as I thought. Having lived through his eyes I now start to understand the problems of living in a sectarian society. You do not get a choice the religion you are born with decides your future. A greater point bought home to me is that once you confirm that choice you can never escape it. A great read and one that any one facing a conflict should read, if possible before deciding your course of action.
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on 28 April 2000
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on 3 February 2001
Collins brings to the reader a certain truth that is never seen through the media or through the political preachings of the governments. he will engage you with things that will help to better inform you of what the truth is and to help transform or re-inforce your beliefs. Collins is a Modern Day Martyr that stands as a ghost to show us the true ways of the world as lived in Northern Ireland.
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on 10 June 2013
Great book, unputdownable. Read it in one day, reminded me of Ellroy's 'My Dark Places' it is that good. Written by an intellectual who begins to discover his emotional side aided and abetted by a stirring conscience that comes with increasing self-honesty. It's this personal struggle that takes hold of the story. The cleverer one is the greater the capacity for rationalising and justifying behaviour. Collins' fight is primarily with himself. His insight into the changing strategy of the war made me think of the Daniel Day-Lewis film 'The Boxer'. The scene in the death-house is memorable. Collins details his heightened sense of awareness as he waits for the Nutting Squad to arrive. I was impressed by the figure of Gerry Adams. The killing of Hanna was very hard to read. After this book I don't feel the need to dwell anymore on 'The Troubles'. Really the last word for me.
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