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Biography of a struggle: history of the IRA

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Joseph O’Neill reviews the latest suppliment in an increasing cannon of histories trying to explain the phenomenon of the Provisional IRA – Armed Struggle: The history of the IRA (yet to be published).

On the whole O’Neill welcomes this book as a successful response to ‘an enormous challenge of narrative, historical research and tact’. But he has two important reservations. The first concerns what he sees as a lack of intellectual honesty:

there can be little question that the IRA consists of a collection of individuals who, however ethically motivated or clever, lack the intellectual honesty or capacity to recognise that their objective of unifying the island violates the very principles in which they profess to believe.


The second ‘area of doubt’ is:

that there is simply no instance of the unionist/loyalist political community making any unforced significant concession to nationalist aspirations of autonomy. This leads one to an ugly conclusion: but for the IRA’s campaign of violence, there would not have been a Good Friday agreement.

He is careful not to conclude that, in and of itself, this cannot justify the eponymous armed struggle of the book.

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About Mick Fealty