Tag: The Troubles

20200318_160039Discussions of the 1916 uprising in Ireland tend to focus on a select group of figures.  The names of Patrick Pearse (1897-1916) and James Connolly (1868-1916) are legend in Irish history and their actions part of the narrative of the Republican fight for a united Ireland.  In December, 1921, the British Government and Republican forces reached an agreement that officially partitioned Ireland into Unionist north and Republican south.   The southern part was established as the Free Irish State, to be led by Michael Collins (1890-1922)who became Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.  Collins is well-known in Irish history for his unwavering support of the Republican cause.  However, there was another figure who not only worked closely with Collins, but someone whose own story and actions are typically left out of the official narrative.  Pictured to the left General Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971), one of the founding members of the Irish Free State and staunch supporter of Irish independence.  When I saw this book for sale, I knew immediately that I had to read it and understand who the intriguing character on the cover of the book really was.

Dr. Maryann Gialanella Valiulis, is a Fellow Emeritus, Fellows Emeritii of Trinity College in Dublin, and has written several books regarding Irish history.  In this informative and beautifully written narrative, she explores the life of Richard Mulcahy and his role in the formation of what is known today as the Republic of Ireland. Admittedly, before reading this book, I had very little of him and do not recall any detailed mention of his life or actions in the other material that I have read.  As a result, I had no idea of who he was and what he stood for.  That has now changed and I am confident that after you have read this book, you will also feel the same way about him. I am also confident that if you have decided to read this book, it is because you are already familiar with Mulcahy or have deep interest in the subject matter.  With that being said, this book is deep and Valiulis takes us back in time as the battle for Irish independence is heating up.

As one would expect, the nexus of the book is formed by the treaty with Britain, the Irish Civil War and the founding of the Irish Free State.  Mulcahy’s role as Chief of Staff and later Minister of Defence of the Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) placed him firmly at the center of all three events as the future of Ireland was molded in ways some could have never imagined.  Incredibly, in spite of his importance, there is much about Mulcahy that has remained unsaid in discussions about the what became known as the “The Troubles”.   He comes off initially as a figure that remained hidden in the shadows.  But here, Maryann Valiulis makes him the focus, telling the story of his early life and his later role in the military and Irish politics.  She also gives him a platform to tell his own story, by including snippets of Mulcahy’s own words nearly 100 years ago as he spoke to the men and women of Ireland in favor of unification.  And as the book progresses, Mulcahy is transformed from a captivating figure on the cover to one of the most important figures in the movement for Irish independence.

The book is filled with a ton of factual information and exhaustively researched.  As a result, the complete picture is formed regarding the treaty with Britiain and the resulting Irish Civil War.  Following the assassination of Michael Collins in August, 1922, Mulcahy found himself in control as the battle between Republican forces became deadly.  The author details the tensions that brewed between pro-treaty and anti-treaty forces, who had been encouraged by the words of Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), the founder of Fianna Fáil and had become disillusioned with the IRA in the wake of the agreement.  The Civil War is without question the darkest period in the book and the assassinations and murders that took place, cast a dark cloud over both sides of a conflict that nearly evaporated the support of even the most pro-independence Irish public.   Mulcahy is firmly entrenched in all that happens and through the author’s words, we can see how his decision and actions, for better or worse, affected the future of Ireland.  At times while reading, I found myself in shock at the actions between Republican forces as one side remained committed to the treay with Britian and the other committed to a free Ireland by any means necessary, regardless of the body count.   Sadly, in some ways, the Irish Civil War was premonition for the conlict that erupted in 1969.

By 1924, the Civil War war had died down and eventually ceased as anti-treaty forces slowly realized that they could not keep going against the army.  Interestingly, no formal agreement to end the war was ever signed.  The army emerged from the confict as the victor but for Mulcahy the battle was far from over.  In fact, his troubles were just beginning and the work for the formal creation of the Irish Free State lay ahead and brought with it advancement and regression.  Quite frankly, his life was never the same again.  Although the Civil War had ended, bad blood still remained within Republican forces and there were those who were determined to see his removal.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, multiple entities play a role, including the Irish Republican Army, Old Irish Republican Army  (“Old IRA”) and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (“IRB”).  Ego, animosty and old jealousies rose to the surface as Mulcahy fougth to retain his place in the army he believed in and served with unwavering loyalty.   The story is explained clearly here, forming an easily readable narrative of how and why Mulcahy found himself an outsider looking in after many years on the front lines.  His rise and fall is a perfect example of the precarious nature that came with being a member of the Republican movement. Friends became enemies and enemies became allies and rivals switche sides and in some cases, resorted to violence when all else failed.  The suspense is gripping the author sets each stage perfectly, with a writing style that will keep readers glued to the book.

The only drawback about the book is that I had hoped to learn more about Mulcahy’s personal life.  We do learn that he married and fathered six children. However, there is much about his private life that is left out.  I surmise that because the book is focused on the Irish Free State, that it is not a biography in the traditional sense but an examination of Mulcahy’s role in the events that transpired. And the book does succeed in explaining who Mulcahy was in relation to the cause and his beliefs about his own actions and the future of Ireland.  Additionally, his relationship with Michael Collins is also explored and we come to learn how the two soliders became acquaintances and began to execute their plan to create an Irish Republic.

In the decades that followed Collins’ death and Mulcahy’s departure from the front lines, tensions between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland continued to increase and when “The Troubles” commenced, a wave of violence was unleashed, wreaking havoc across Nothern Ireland as the death toll continued to climb.  The history of the conflcit runs deep, but not discussion of it can take place without mention of the Irish Free State and one its prinicpal founders, General Richard Mulcahy.  For those who are looking for a great read on the Republic of Ireland and one of its unsung heroes, this is the place to start.  Highly recommended.

A nation cannot be fully free and which even a small section of its people have not freedom. A nation cannot be said to live in spirit, or materially, while there is denied to any section of its people a share of the wealth and the riches that God bestowed around them.”  – Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971), January 21, 1919

ISBN-10: 0813117917
ISBN-13: 978-0813117911

Northern Ireland

cooganThose of you who follow my blog probably know by now that I have covered quite a number of books regarding Northern Ireland the conflict known as “The Troubles”.   My curiousity with the conflict in Northern Ireland stems partly from my love of history and partly from my visit to Ireland in 2016.  I sought to fully understand the battle being waged by Republicans to unify the country and the opposition mounted by Loyalist who remain in support of British rule.  Author Tim Pat Coogan has written of the 1916 Easter uprising, the lives of Michael Collins (1890-1922) and his Twelve Apostles, and others who remained focuses on Irish independence from the Crown. This book is his own memoir of his life in Ireland, time as a member of the Irish press and author of several significant books one of the world’s longest running feuds.

Coogan opens the book by recounting his family’s involvement in the development of tensions between Republicans and Loyalist.   His grandfather once belonged to the Royal Irish Consabulary (RIC) and his father Edward worked on behalf of Republican forces even being tasked with organizing an unarmed police force during the Irish Civil war which erupted in the wake of the establishment of the Irish Free State.  As a child, he grew up in Monkstown, County Dublin, far removed from the dangers of the north.  However, fate would take him back to the Northern Ireland and land him right in the mix of the Troubles which would consume his writing material much later in his life.

Readers should be prepared to learn a lot about Irish history.  Coogan has written extensively on the conflict and in particular the life of Eamon de Valera (1882-1975).  As a journalist, he would form a working relationship with de Valera’s son Vivion (1910-1982), whose actions as owner of the Evening Press, played a critical role in the path Coogan’s life took over the years.   The Irish press, of which Coogan was a part, figures prominently throughout the story as the Troubles rage and Ireland finds itself in the middle of fierce debate over aborition, divorce and even contraception.  Coogan and other journalist walked fine lines as they tried to remain ahead of the competition and get the jump on new stories.  His experience and zest for journalism took him to foreign nations, including the United States and Vietnam, where he was able to witness the war in person to report back about what he saw in comparison to what politicans in Washington were being told from commanders in the field.

The story is a roller coaster ride that shows the organized chaos of journalism and printing.  Coogan is fully embroiled in this world while being married and the father of six children.  As the Troubles heat up, the press is forced to take notice and Coogan remarks in the book that:

another form of cancer that was to affect me profoundly during my career as editor, as it did the political life of the country as a whole, was the Northern Ireland situation“.

At the time the Troubles erupted, Coogan could have never imagined that one day he would be one of the most respected authors on the subject.  The book is a not mean to be a complete history of the Troubles but rather an explanation of key events that pushed the two sides in Ulster province to engage in violence.

Some have accused Coogan of being Republican friendly in his writings.  While his books do cover the Troubles mostly from the Republican view, I have found that in the books I have read to date by him, that he has so far provided balanced and detailed accounts of what actually happened.  What is clear in this book is that his relationship with Vivion de Valera was strained by the time it ended and he came to realize many truths about de Valera which he reveals here.  As part of his job, he was required to meet with the IRA which included figures such as Mairead Farrell (1957-1988), Joe Cahill (1920-2004) and Brendan Hughes (1948-2008).  His visits to Belfast and the prison maze at Long Kesh helped form the discussion of the Troubles that he wrote after his final parting of ways with de Valera.

The demise of the Evening Press and affiliated publications are also examined in detail, showing the mis-steps and complex nature of de Valera, who was unable to see the larger picture.  As one would expect, the long hours and story chasing proved to be a heavy burden on Coogan’s personal life.  This part of the book is tough to read but not completely unexpected. In fact, the stage is set early in the book as Coogan describes the different lifestyles he and his wife lead.  The entry of other figures into his life, helped seal the door on other parts and the complicated situation is explained by Coogan.

In spite of everything that happens, he did lead an incredible life which is sure to leave you with as much Irish history as any textbook on the market.  Coogan is a wealth of knowledge on the Troubles and the history of the Irish Republic.  He remains one of the best in the business and his books on on the conflict will surely stand the test of time. This is his story and that of Ireland, composed of the good, the bad and the tragic.  Highly recommended.

ASIN: B00GVG173Q

Biographies Northern Ireland

Collins The looming exit from the European Union by England will undoubtedly be watched by the whole world, which has been kept in suspense by the referendum in 2016 and failure of former British Prime Minster Theresa May to garner enough votes for a formal separation.  Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared it will happen and on January 31, 2020, he will be proven right or wrong on the matter.  In Northern Ireland, there is fear and uncertainty regarding how the move by England will affect Ulster County, the loyalist stronghold composed of majority that stands firmly behind the Crown.  The Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) will be following as well to see how the move will affect its goal for a united Ireland free of British interference.  Time will tell how the departure from the European Union will affect both Britain and other nations.  Recently, I decided to do some further reading on Northern Ireland and I came across this book by Tim Pat Coogan about an Irish revolutionary I was previously unfamiliar with.  His name was Michael Collins (1890-1922) and this is the story of his group of assassins known as the Twelve Apostles and their fight for freedom from Downing Street by famed author Tim Pat Coogan.

I believe that readers will find this book enjoyable if they have a sound base of knowledge regarding the conflict in Northern Ireland.  In fact, the author Tim Pat Coogan, has written extensively about the “Troubles”, and in his book “1916: The Easter Rising“, he explains the movements of the IRA and the seizure of the General Post Office and other critical facilities in Dublin.  That uprising is considered by many to be the defining moment in the Republican goal of a united Ireland and liberation from British rule.   The execution of IRA members in the wake of the uprising turned them into the martyrs and set the stage for the decades running battle between Loyalist and Republican forces.

Collins is the focus here and the author wastes no time in getting into the story.  From the beginning it is clear that Collins is man with strong convictions and had no repulsion to using violence as a tool of effecting change.  He was a complex character but firmly committed to the expulsion of the Crown.  I warn readers that this book does not have a happy ending. In fact, the story is gritty and acts of violence occur throughout.  But I do believe that if you choose to read this book, that is something you already know and have accepted. Collins and his group that are known as the Twelve Apostles carry out acts of aggression that will shock many readers.  The events in the book take place between the years 1916 and 1922 and their savagery rival violence seen even today.  As for Collins, Coogan remarks in the introduction that:

The Jewish leader Yitzhak Shamir both studied the methods of Michael Collins, and used the code name Michael as his own nom de guerre. And in the state of Israel which Shamir helped to form, I was made aware of a guilty foreboding on the part of those Israeli citizens who knew their history, that one day the Arabs too might produce a Michael Collins – and that if they did, there would not be a supermarket left standing in Israel“.

I completely agree and shudder to think of how the Gaza strip would be today if a Collins type figure had in fact existed and acted on behalf of the Palestinians.

In America, the murder of a policeman or elected official spurs outrage and swift action by law enforcement.  Nearly every criminal will tell you that no one wants to be charged with murdering a cop.  But for Collins and the Apostles, everyone was fair game.  No one escapes the wrath of the IRA and its band of enforcers are eerily similar to the mafia’s own Murder, Inc., based out of Brooklyn, New York.  The Apostles have a hit list and they go through it with deadly precision as part of their mission to obtain Ireland’s freedom.  Coogan tells the stories in all of their detail and at times, it felt as is a movie was being filmed. The assassinations and attacks are brazen and deadly, with an increasing body count that will cause some readers to sit in disbelief.

In December, 1921, the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, resulting in the creation of the Irish Free State, which was composed of 26 out of 32 counties in Ireland. The remaining six in Northern Ireland chose to leave and remain in firm support of England.  Collins became head of the Irish Free State and held the position until his own death in 1922.  The treaty was rejected by hardliners within the IRA and tensions led to the Irish Civil War of 1922, in which the IRA split into factions.  Collins now found himself at odds with those he had once stood next to in the fight for Ireland’s freedom including Éamon de Valera (1882-1975) who leaves and then re-enters the story at pivotal moments.  De Valera late formed Fianna Fáil in 1926 after separating from the anti-treaty Sinn Féin party.  Incredibly, he lived until the age of 92, when he died from complications of pneumonia and heart failure on August 19, 1975.

If you want to know more about the uprising in 1916 and the residual effects in the years that followed, this book is a must read.  However, it ends after Collins’ death, which comes after the Apostles have parted ways in the wake of the Irish Civil War.  Readers looking for a longer account of the conflict will be satisfied with Kevin Toolis’ “Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA’s Soul” and Peter Taylor’s “Provos: The IRA and Sinn Fein“. Both are highly informative and give excellent explanations about why the IRA continues to fight. And for a more personal story, I highly recommend Dennis O’ Hearn’s Nothing But an Unfinished Song: The Life and Times of Bobby Sands“, which is the definitive biography of the iconic IRA figure. Tim Pat Coogan has done it again with an excellent account of the activities of Michael Collins and the origins of the long running feud known as The “Troubles”.

ASIN: B073YFPTRR

Northern Ireland

Sands1The hunger strike at the HM Prison Maze in 1981, captured the attention of the British Government and earned the IRA sympathy around the world.  On May 5, news broke that IRA member Bobby Sands (1954-1981) had died after 66 days of refusing to eat.  Sands and his fellow strikers were determined to be recognized as political prisoners and earn several other concessions from Margaret Thatcher’s (1925-2013) government.  London had refused to give in and Thatcher had earned the nickname of “The Iron Lady”.  Today, the “Troubles” as they are known, continue in Northern Ireland.  The IRA remains committed to its goal of a unified Ireland and the removal of the British Crown from Ulster County.  Sands had risen among the ranks in the IRA and during his incarceration, his reputation as a leader and intellectual grew every day.  This book is a collection of his writings which were smuggled out in parts (The IRA prisoners at HM Prison Maze were engaged in a long running standoff with guards and were being kept in bare minimum cells with mainly a mattress and bucket to be used as waste disposal).

Gerry Adams, the former leader of Sinn Féin, provides a foreword in which he fondly remembers his friend and former fellow inmate Sands.  As the book moves on to Bobby’s words, we already know a bit of information about him.  However, for a more complete biography, I strongly recommend Dennis O’Hearn’s ‘Nothing But an Unfinished Song: The Life and Times of Bobby Sands‘. It is by far a thorough and highly engaging biography of Sands. The writings here begin after Sands has been incarcerated for quite some time. He is already well into the hunger strike, has stopped bathing and living in a cell that could only be described as hell on earth.  The day begins like most others with he and the guards having their daily battles.   Sands is frank and does not mince words when he describes what is happening.  It is graphic and it is gritty but he clearly intended for readers to truly understand the treatment he and other IRA members were receiving at the prison.  Other former prisoners and priests also sounded the alarms about the inhumane treatment at the prison, but officials within the Northern Ireland and British governments steadfastly denied the accusations.  What is clear from Sands’ writings is that there was no love lost between to the opposing groups with the IRA members routinely using the term “screws” to describe the guards.

It is hard to imagine just how extreme living conditions were at the prison.  Sands describes the lack of heat and sanitary conditions.  Some readers will be disgusted and repulsed by what he says.   Putting the hunger strike aside, living conditions at the jail were more than enough to induce psychosis in even the most rational individual.  In fact, at several points in the book, Sands questions his own sanity and realizes that his mind will never be the same again.  Yet, he never wavers from his cause and stays committed to the IRA beliefs. And whether you agree with the IRA or support the Crown, Sands’ stand is more than many of us would be willing to endure.

About mid-way through the book, we are able to read a series of poems that he wrote about his time inside and the IRA cause.   He was highly talented but as one would expect, the poems are all political and focused on the Troubles.  Regardless, they are good and showcase the many skills he developed that he was never able to use outside of prison.  And while I do believe he would have remained an IRA member, perhaps his time in prison and maturity would have resulted in a different approach to resolve the Troubles.

Later in the book, we shift back to Sands’ journal that was kept mostly on toilet paper due to the lack of any type of writing materials.  As we move on to the spring of 1981, Sands reports frequently and makes sure to note his weight which by that time had dropped to a shocking 127 lbs.  After several entries they stop, presumably as Sands entered the final stages of his fight.  Had he lived, I am sure he would have put together a book that would have contained far more than what we have here. However, what he did leave us is a trove of insightful notes that show the progression of his mind and why he believed in the Republican cause.

The book is a bit short but it is focused on the strike and is not an autobiography.  Readers who have been following the Troubles and are familiar with Sands’ life will appreciate this collection of his writings from the final months of his life.

ASIN: B07QPV3MGH

Northern Ireland

Rebel Hearts.jpgThe conflict in Northern Ireland between pro-British Protestants and Republic Catholics, is the longest running feud to date.  The planned exit by England from the European Union has resulted in suspense and apprehension throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.  The Irish have undoubtedly been watching closely as any movement by England will have a ripple effect that will eventually reach their shores.  Belfast remains a major tourist attraction in the north, similar to its southern counterpart Dublin, and receives millions of visitors each year.  History buffs may recall that Belfast is the city in which Harland and Wolff built the world-famous RMS Titanic for the White Star Line.   But behind the fame of the doomed ocean liner, lies a dark side that has taken more lives than anyone could have ever imagined.  Belfast and Londonberry (“Derry”) have served as the battlegrounds for the deadly war between Nationalists and Republicans forces.  Across Ulster province, six of the nine counties are protected by the British Crown (“the Crown”) and unofficially by the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defense Association.  The Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) stands firm as the opposition force founded to defend the minority Catholic population from what they believe to be the refusal of the Crown to let Ireland become a united country. Kevin Toolis is a journalist and screenwriter born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Irish parents.  In this eye-opening and chilling book, he travels back to the country of his ancestors, seeking to understand what drives the men and women of the IRA.

I believe that anyone interested in this book probably has a fair amount of knowledge regarding the IRA and “the troubles” as they are known by the Irish.  Toolis does not simply relay their well-known attacks but instead seeks to understand the mindset and conviction of those who have taken the pledge to see the Crown removed from Irish soil.  He interviewed many high-ranking members, some of whom are now deceased such as Martin McGuinnness (1950-2017), families of fallen IRA members and even those on the other side of the conflict.  And what he has come away with will shock readers who live outside of Ireland and are not of Irish ancestry.  To outsiders, the conflict seems surreal and the deaths of so many beyond needless.  It is a conflict that has no restrictions on violence and the ideology that fuels both sides is as strong as any found throughout the world.  However, as I read the book, I did find myself aghast at the ease in which so many accepted jail and death as part of the plan.  As the author shows,  to nearly all of the figures, taking up the IRA flag is seen as an act of honor, even if it means certain death and/or prison time.  It is a thought process that neither I nor many readers outside of the United Kingdom will be able to associate with.  But for those that remain in Northern Ireland, the troubles have never gone away.

The author provides a clear and thorough explanation for the origins of the conflict and the imposition of the Crown more than 400 years ago when Oliver Cromwell led the Crown in the War of Three Kingdoms, setting the stage for British rule.  As the book moves along, we are introduced to the IRA through polarizing and deadly figures.  The uprising of 1916 by Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) marked a new era in the Republic of Ireland.  His life and last moments are revisited here, showing the reader the level of conviction behind the Republican cause.  The IRA has been home to a large number of larger-than-life characters including the late Bobby Sands (1954-1981), whose hunger strike and death at HM Prison Maze, Long Kesh earned the IRA a major publicity coup against the administration of Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013).  Sands’ legacy and spirit are alive and well as a martyr in the cause for a united republic.  Toolis moves through IRA circles with bravado and fear, knowing full well just how dangerous the interviewees were.  But his journalist background, allowed him to continue his research as he descended deeper into the IRA’s soul.

The book is far more than just a collection of missions carried out by the IRA.  Here we learn the names and personal stories of several figures who became popular and infamous in IRA lore.  Some were heroes, others informers and the rest, tragically became casualties of war.  Regardless of their roles, each has their own story to tell about their life in Ireland and whey they feel that the Crown should no longer remain in power in the north.  One thing that did stand out is that in nearly every story, a common theme is terrible poverty and discrimination as a result of the majority Protestant rule.  In fact, not one person in the book that Toolis interviewed, came from a family of extreme wealth.  The opposite was more often than not true, and their prospects in life were grim.  But the IRA and the dream of a united Ireland, was enough to lure many into committing acts intended to drive the British away once and for all.  Frankie Ryan, Mairéad Farrell (1957-1988), Sean Savage (1965-1988), Daniel McCann(1957-1988), Joseph MacManus and Patricia Black (1972-1991) are just some of the names listed in the long register of IRA members who died tragically on behalf of the IRA.  Their goal to force the Crown to leave Ireland has not materialized but the IRA continues to stick to its core mission.

At first glance, it is easy to write off the voices in this book as delusional militants whose numbers were never any match for the Crown of the British military.  The six counties in Ulster province are still under the Crown but the IRA is recognized world-wide as the Catholic voice across the north.  As I read the stories of the figures being interviewed, I continued to ask myself if there was any possibility that they could have taken a different path in life.  For some, it almost seems that they were destined to join the IRA.  In fact, as a few explain, it is what they grew up with and a part of life that became accepted.  But those of us looking from the outside in may ask is the heartache and death truly worth it?  Those part of the IRA will undoubtedly say yes it is.  Even those that have been forced to bury siblings and even children, remain committed to the IRA’s cause: a British-free and unified Republic of Ireland.

Those who decide to read the book through pure fascination with the violence and gore that occurs will miss the point of the book.  What Toolis has done is to allow us to see how and why young men and women who could have led ordinary and long lives, made the decision to join a cause that many of them knew from the beginning would result in prison and death. Their rationale for answering the call to arms and joining the IRA will provoke a range of reaction in readers.  Some of us will be empathetic while others may dismiss them as nothing more than rebel hearts.  But regardless of our own personal opinions, these are their stories and the reasons behind their decisions and actions.  We do not have to agree with them but we can make the effort to understand their position. Furthermore, we are forced to ask ourselves what we would do in their place.

The British side of the question is not left out and the Crown does make an impact in the story through counter-intelligence missions spearheaded by MI5 and the Special Air Service (“SAS”), police action through the Royal Ulster Constabulary and informers within the IRA’s ranks. Deadly games of espionage, double-agents and collateral damage, turned Northern Ireland and even London in battlegrounds to force change to 10 Downing Street’s foreign policy toward its Irish neighbors.

Today there is a form of peace in Ireland but the Provisional IRA, which split for the traditional IRA in 1969, continues to operate.  Time will tell if peace will continue or if the troubles will once again be re-ignited.  As Britain struggles to find a suitable exit from the European Union, many eyes are on Ireland and the fears abound of the possible deadly impact of London’s final decision.  There may indeed come a day when the Crown is finally removed from Irish soil and the dream of a united Irish Republic becomes reality.  Protestants will have to make life changing decisions and for some that might include the use of violence.  We can only hope that cooler heads prevail and a British exit from Ireland will be done in an orderly and peaceful fashion.  But until that day comes, the IRA remains a force to be reckoned with and a voice for an oppressed minority seeking to change social conditions that have caused thousands of deaths. They are supported throughout Ireland and even here in the United States.  But if peace will have a chance of prevailing through a long term solution, we must first understand those that have served and died in their commitment to the IRA.   Some of those incredible and heartbreaking stories are captured here by Kevin Toolis in this breathtaking journey into the heart of the IRA.

ASIN: B00ZON5LIE

Northern Ireland