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BOOK REVIEWS Free Ireland: Towards a Lasting Peace, by Gerry Adams, pp. 224, Niwot, CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 1994, $11.95. Gerry Adams’s Free Ireland is a revision and expansion of his earlier political statements , especially The Politics of Irish Freedom (1986), in light of the Sinn Féin and SDLP “Irish Peace Initiative” of 1993. This book provides a survey of Northern Ireland since 1968, combined with occasional references to the hagiography of Irish Republicanism. Certain parts of Adams’s narrative are of particular interest. His descriptions of his political coming-of-age, of the ambiguities of Loyalism, “Sinn Fein Today,” his remarks concerning the reality that both the Republic and Britain will have to provide compelling reasons to Loyalists in order to gain their assent to a united Ireland, as well as his delineation of the “Irish Peace Initiative” process are all cogent and absorbing. Most of the various, sometimes contradictory, strands of historic Irish Republican ideology manifest themselves in Free Ireland. Adams neatly summarizes these origins, among “republicans and socialists, Irish language enthusiasts, and communists” in describing the individuals attracted to the Wolfe Tone Societies in the 1960s. His survey neglects to include the reactionary exclusionist Gaelic, Catholic, nationalist strain in Irish Republicanism, which is curious given his ready and accurate recognition of the quasi-fascist element among Northern Protestants. The traditional Republican view of Irish history is once again evoked, beginning with Wolf Tone, the initial purported uniWer of Ireland’s disparate religious traditions. Adams describes Tone as a Protestant, which is superWcially true. In actuality , he had little religion of any kind, other than eighteenth-century republicanism , which is perhaps why modern Republicans Wnd him so appealing. Adams notes that “Republicanism is nothing if it is not resolutely anti-sectarian,” which is correct, if by this is meant practical indiVerence to religion. A certain religious myopia is evident throughout the book. Northern Protestants are not Loyalists simply because the “union has, to date, guaranteed them their privileges and their ascendancy.” The union also has protected Protestants from the political and social inXuence of Irish Catholicism, until recently one of the most rigid manifestations of Roman Catholicism in the world. It is incredible to read Adams’s assertion that “Loyalism . . . has nothing to do with the Protestant religion,” when one knows that within a Wfty kilometer radius of Belfast there is a higher concentration of evangelical churches than anywhere in the world. BOOK REVIEWS 182 The contemporary sympathy of some elements in Sinn Féin for Marxist-Leninism is implicit—Mao and Ché Guevara are evoked—but soft-pedaled. Adams most often speaks in vague terms of a “democratic socialist” republic as his eventual goal. While Adams is correct in noting the importance of Northern Ireland to Britain as a cold-war outpost, his insistence that Britain somehow has gained something of practical economic substance—either from Northern Ireland or Ireland generally , through “subjugation” of a truncated Ulster—seems strained. The costs of maintaining a military presence in Northern Ireland over the past quarter century , and of supporting a welfare state and depressed economy in the northern statelet since long before that, can hardly be seen as clever capitalist “investments” in nurturing a proWtable colonial economic relationship—except, of course, by an ideologue . Adams tacitly admits as much in recounting elsewhere the cost to Britain of its presence in the North. The economy of Ireland, united or not, from the early-modern period onward always has been dependent on, or interrelated with, Britain’s, and it probably always will be, unless Ireland at some future point aspires to an “independent” economy like that of contemporary Cuba—perhaps Adams’s ultimate goal, despite of his jibe at the “right-wing Tory Monday Club” in this regard. A signiWcant problem with much of Adams’s analysis is his unwillingness to recognize and understand the northern Protestants view of themselves as a separate nation, much like, for instance, the Bosnian Serbs. This is not to say, of course, that diVerent nationalities cannot coexist equitably in the same state, as do, for instance , the Flemings and Walloons of Belgium, or the Germans, French, Italians, and Rheto-Romans of Switzerland...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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