For more than 800 years, Ireland has had to define itself politically in relation to its next-door neighbor and sometime occupier, England. That fact has fueled generations of Irish revolutionary activity--and given rise to countless heroes, ordinary men and women who suffered and died in the cause of freedom.
One person's hero is, of course, another's criminal, and Irish American journalist Terry Golway takes pains not to paint too saintly a portrait of men such as Daniel O'Connell, a Catholic emancipator who loathed rebellion but loathed oppression even more; Michael Collins, the soldier and politician who helped bring about the modern Irish state; Gusty Spence, the Ulster Protestant militant who, while in prison, became a convert to the cause of nonsectarian peacebuilding; and Gerry Adams, who helped bring militant Catholics into negotiations with their Protestant counterparts and the English government. While striving for balance, For the Cause of Liberty takes an overwhelmingly pro-Irish stand vis-à-vis England, which may not please some readers, as he charts the lives and accomplishments of dozens of historical figures major and minor. Those heroes of old may soon belong to a fading past; as Golway notes, approvingly, Northern Ireland seems well along on its path to peace, while the Republic is rapidly becoming "post-nationalist," with one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, "outpacing Britain and even Germany." His vivid history reminds readers well, however, of the cost of that newfound wealth and harmony. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Golway, an historian (Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America's Fight for Ireland's Freedom, etc.) and political columnist at the New York Observer, offers an essential short course in Irish history, spanning 1,000 years and encompassing events familiar to every Irish high school student but not well-known outside the Emerald Isle. Golway crafts a dramatic tale, placing various episodes in a broad context that will enlighten an audience familiar with, say, the founding of Ireland's Abbey Theatre but not with the theater's role in Irish revolution. The focus is on the people who risked life and limb in defense of their homeland. Readers will meet the full spectrum of well-known heroes, such as Wolfe Tone, Daniel O'Connel and Michael Collins. They will also be introduced to a bevy of courageous unknowns, including the late 18th century's Father Murphy of Boolavogue, who initially urged rebellious parishioners to disarm but then, when faced with British violence, became a rebel leader, telling his followers it would be better "to die like men than to be butchered like dogs in the ditches." Ireland's nationalist heroes include a significant number of women, whose tales are recounted here in admirable terms. Those who are familiar with modern Irish history may question the inclusion of certain persons in this gallery; politician Gerry Adams, for instance, remains a controversial figure, and the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, may strike some as decidedly unheroic. Yet, on the whole, this is an energetic and deeply informative work whose author makes a strong plea for a new type of heroism dedicated to preserving peace in Ireland. (Mar.)
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