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December 11, 2004

News 12/11/04 - Ahern & Adams Meet To Save Talks

Monthly Table of Contents 01/05
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

TO 12/12/04 Ahern And Adams Meet To Save Talks
TO 12/12/04 Comment: Paisley & IRA Must Both Accept 'Humiliation'
TO 12/12/04 Leading Article: Prepare For Purgatory
TE 12/12/04 No, No, No, No... NO!
DJ 12/12/04 No Londonderry On New City Street Map
SM 12/12/04 Book Review: Delirium Of The Brave

TV 11/16/04 The Play: Pilgrims In The Park –VO
TV 11/16/04 The Book: Sean O'Casey: Writer At Work -VO

The Play: Pilgrims In The Park - 'Pilgrims in the Park' is Jim
O'Hanlon's new play for Fishamble Theatre, set during the Pope's
visit to Ireland in 1979. As the Pope travels around Ireland in his
Popemobile, the Wood Quay debate about building work on the site of
a Viking settlement rages, and U2 release their first single 'Out
of Control'. Ireland is caught at a crossroads between tradition
and progress and the Foley family is at a similar place. Nothing
will be the same after this weekend. The play is directed by Jim
Culleton, and the cast includes Barry Barnes, Steve Blount,
Catherine Byrne, Neili Conroy, Enda Oates and Paul Reid. It runs at
the Pavilion Theatre from 15 to 20 November, and then goes to the
Helix, the Civic and Draíocht. The Panel discusses 'Pilgrims in the

The Book: Sean O'Casey: Writer At Work - 'Sean O'Casey: Writer at
Work' is a new biography of O'Casey, which draws on a unique access
to the O'Casey archive. It provides a social and political context
for his great Dublin Trilogy, 'The Shadow of a Gunman', 'Juno and
the Paycock' and 'The Plough and the Stars'. It is written by
Christopher Murray of UCD's English Department. The Panel
discusses Christopher Murray's 'Sean O'Casey: Writer at Work'


Ahern And Adams Meet To Save Talks

Liam Clarke and Stephen O'Brien

SINN FEIN will hold talks with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern tomorrow
in a bid to get the peace deal back on track.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness will meet the taoiseach, Dermot
Ahern, the foreign minister, and Michael McDowell, the justice
minister, in Government Buildings tomorrow before travelling to
Downing Street.

The British and Irish government leaders are hoping Adams can bring
them proposals from Sinn Fein and IRA meetings held over the

There was still evidence yesterday of tensions within the Irish
government over the precise demands being made of the IRA, with the
Progressive Democrats insisting that the republican movement
promise to give up all criminality. Ahern, the foreign affairs
minister, said that the PDs did not have "a monopoly" on concern
over IRA criminality.

A government spokesman insisted that Dublin's position was clear,
that the IRA is "required" to issue the full draft statement
published on Wednesday by the prime ministers including the key
phrase on recognising individuals' "personal rights and safety".

Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist party leader, says he intends
to give Blair "an ultimatum" this week on overcoming the obstacles
to return to power sharing in Northern Ireland. But a spokesman for
the prime minister said: "We have no plans for a meeting with Ian
Paisley. We are in contact with the DUP through officials."

It has emerged that Mitchell Reiss, George W Bush's special envoy
to Northern Ireland, was a key player in the talks that led to last
Wednesday's publication of an outline deal.

Paisley had proposed that a video be made of the IRA's
decommissioning process but last month reduced this demand to
photographs. Republicans still objected, saying that the DUP could
use the photographs to humiliate them.

The American government then proposed that decommissioning be
photographed and the pictures shown to Paisley but not published
until he entered government with Sinn Fein. Reiss proposed the deal
in a phone call to Paisley, and Bush rang both Adams and Paisley to
urge them to accept it.

Tauno Nieminen, a Finnish brigadier on the decommissioning body and
a keen photographer, was nominated to take the pictures.

On Wednesday, Reiss will take part in talks with the DUP and Sinn
Fein at Hillsborough Castle, near Belfast, aimed at breaking the
impasse. While not agreeing to Reiss's compromise, republicans did
allow it to remain on the table until last Tuesday when, following
an IRA meeting in Co Louth, they said the deal was unacceptable
because of the pictures.

"It came as a complete bolt from the blue. We were pinning down a
few final issues with the government," said Peter Robinson, the
DUP's deputy leader.

His party has said it would accept the deal, provided the American
compromise on photographs is included. Sinn Fein accepts all
aspects of the deal except the photographs, citing speeches by
Paisley in which he spoke of humiliating the IRA.

The narrowness of the issue on which talks broke down has raised
suspicion that the IRA has deeper problems. The Irish government is
seeking assurances that the IRA will give up racketeering and
punishment attacks. However, the taoiseach said last week that the
problem of criminality could have been resolved by the IRA.


Comment: Liam Clarke: Paisley And The IRA Must Both Accept

The first time I saw Ian Paisley, I was carrying a camera. He kept
shaking his fist and grimacing at me every time I lifted it from my

Paisley was leading a demonstration against a civic visit by Dublin
councillors to Belfast in the early 1980s. I was getting
increasingly worried about his behaviour until one of his aides
explained that the Doc, as Paisley is known to his followers, "just
wants you to take a picture of him like that".

It has stayed with me as a kind of key to his character. He is a
showman - he can't resist a crowd, or a camera - and he is
immensely proud of his image.

It's like the business of the doctorate that gives the DUP leader
his nickname. Paisley has two of them, one bought from a notorious
American degree mill, and another honorary one conferred by Bob
Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian institution in South
Carolina. Most politicians with honorary degrees are modest about
it, like John Hume, who could paper the walls with them. But "Dr"
Paisley lets everybody know.

He is no team player and is seldom a member of an organisation he
does not lead. Paisley has his own political party, he dominates
the Independent Orange Order, and he has his own Free Presbyterian
Church. Mainstream Presbyterianism has a democratic structure,
electing its leader or moderator every year. Paisley, on the other
hand, has been the moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church since
he founded it in 1951, a longer run in power than most popes.

It all adds up to a curiously vain man who claims credit for
everything and accepts blame for nothing. There is, one suspects, a
mass of insecurity hidden behind the self-confident, extrovert,
Bible-thumping exterior. Here is a man who counts it a virtue to be
inflexible and to hold firm in the face of changing circumstances.
He has denounced others who attempted to reach accommodation with
nationalism and publicly thanked God when they failed.

It has earned him a reputation for integrity, and gained him trust
among unionists fearful of change. And of course it has made him
the leader of the largest party in the province.

Now, however, that vanity has begun to fail him. In the delicate
peace negotiations of the past few weeks, he has been reacting with
all the dull predictability of a bull in a ring.

His inability to keep control in front of an approving audience or
a camera is legendary, and he is probably aware of it as a
weakness. He kept in the background of the negotiations, still in
control but willing to allow his team of MPs to handle the details
and the presentation.

All went well until Paisley lost it in front of an adoring home
crowd at a DUP dinner in Ballymena. The event was orchestrated by
his son, Ian Jr, who is not in the first rank of party leadership
and is regarded as a hardliner.

For weeks Sinn Fein had been insisting that Paisley was out to
humiliate them with his demands for photographs of IRA
decommissioning. Until the Ballymena dinner he had kept his
counsel, but now, reading from a script written by Ian Jr, he
decided to have some fun at the Shinners' expense.

"Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams says we want to humiliate it; there
is nothing wrong with that," he thundered. "It is a very noble
thing." Much of the rest of the speech was about his desire to
reach a deal and to bring peace, but that was the soundbite that
counted. Sinn Fein had a nugget to replay, exaggerate and hold as
an ace up its sleeve until it needed a deal-breaker in the talks.

Having said it, Paisley could not bring himself to take it back. He
made things worse whenever he had a solo run at the cameras. He
called on the IRA to wear "sackcloth and ashes". He talked of
republicans as "bloodthirsty monsters" and "bloody and deceitful

But it was the word "humiliate" to which Sinn Fein and the IRA
clung, even though Paisley had not quite said he wanted to
humiliate them. It was a word which, as the quote from his
Ballymena speech shows, they had offered to him and he adopted.

There must be at least a suspicion that factions of both the DUP
and Sinn Fein/IRA did not want the deal to proceed for other
reasons and that they used the humiliation issue to close
negotiations. Ian Paisley Jr talked of it having "smoked out" Sinn
Fein, seeming to see the debacle as a positive thing. In truth, it
was convenient for hardliners on both sides.

For Sinn Fein and the IRA it meant avoiding hard issues such as
IRA-linked criminality. The deal would have meant normal police
patrolling in areas such as South Armagh where members of the IRA
army council, men such as Slab Murphy, have racketeering and
smuggling interests that they defend by force. It would have meant
an end to punishment beatings, which some IRA leaders use to
control their areas, and a beginning of Sinn Fein support for the
police and criminal justice system.

None of these features would be easy to sell to everybody in the
IRA, but they are not easy problems to explain to the public or
voters either. Refusal to be humilitated is a better soundbite than
refusal to give up smuggling, fraud and assault.

Among some in the DUP there is a reluctance to share power with
nationalists, much less Sinn Fein, but that cannot be openly stated
without losing political ground and alienating the large number of
first-time voters the DUP has taken from the UUP. It is easier to
make out that the IRA is refusing to decommission under any
circumstances, as Ian Paisley Jr did after Wednesday's fiasco.

The situation is now starting to drift and if Sinn Fein and the DUP
don't want the deal to slip through their fingers, they need to
pull back their hardliners.

The DUP stands to lose the most, including the leadership of
unionism. If it fluffs this, the party will not have fulfilled the
pledge it made at the last election to negotiate a new and better

Failure for the DUP is also the beginning of failure for Northern
Ireland as a state, a message that it cannot be governed by its own
politicians and a push for the British government in the direction
of joint authority.

And yet the DUP has got total decommissioning of all IRA weapons if
the deal is closed. It has also gained a lot on such issues as the
accountability of ministers, the details of which are hidden deep
in the fine print of the agreement presented by Tony Blair and
Bertie Ahern last week.

Sinn Fein talks of humiliation at the visible destruction of IRA
weapons, but sometimes it is the task of a political leader to put
a brave face on the unpalatable and to accept necessity. Ahern was
humiliated when he had to appear in front of the Dail and say he
had no choice but to release the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. The
two prime ministers were humiliated in the Waterfront Hall when
they had to stand up and make the best of failure, to keep on
smiling as they resisted the temptation to lash out and attribute
blame. They acted like leaders.

Marty Linsky, a public policy lecturer at Harvard University, has
been conducting leadership and negotiation courses for Northern
Ireland parties for the past five years and has a knack of putting
things simply. "Leadership," he says, "is often about distributing
loss. It can be about making a list of the 10 things you'd be
prepared to die for and cutting it down to five."

Addressing the current situation he says "people on senior
authority positions on both sides of this debate have a very
difficult time reaching an agreement while satisfying their core
constituencies. The only way this will be successful is if each
side can tolerate the other's behaviour".

The last time Linsky gave a course for a northern party was a
three-day session for the DUP in June. Senior figures, including
Nigel Dodds and Peter Robinson, attended. It's a pity they didn't
bring Ian Paisley Sr and Jr along too.


Leading Article: Prepare For Purgatory

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were right to publish details of the
failed peace deal this week. The people of Northern Ireland, of the
republic and of Britain have a right to see just how little divides
the DUP and Sinn Fein.

They have a right to marvel at the intransigence and ineptitude of
politicians who have let slip through their hands a settlement, not
to mention the £1 billion (€1.45 billion) promised peace dividend.
And all because of a dispute over whether pictures should be taken
of weapons that both agree must be destroyed.

Both sides are to blame for the current impasse. Paisley played to
the gallery by making a song and dance about humiliating the IRA.
While he was within his rights to ask for visible proof of the
extent of decommissioning, he should have avoided the temptation to
use inflammatory language before the matter was resolved .
Republicans, meanwhile, need to get on with finding a way to meet
the not unreasonable demand that decommissioning be made
transparent. If they don't like the idea of photographs, then a
detailed inventory might do the trick.

Instead, they have let this fundamental issue fester since 1998
when the Good Friday agreement was signed. The agreement envisaged
that the decommissioning of IRA weapons would be completed within
two years in return for the release of prisoners and Sinn Fein
seats in government. It was considered a necessary confidence-
building measure; a guarantee that republicans would not reserve
the right to return to violence as a fall-back position or, for
that matter, use illegal force while in government.

All parties were committed to do their best to achieve
decommissioning and the population believed it would happen when
they gave their stamp of approval to the historic peace deal.
Instead, Sinn Fein argued that, despite its best efforts,
decommissioning could not in fact be achieved. Even when some
weapons were put beyond use under pressure from David Trimble, the
IRA refused to say how many had been involved or how it had been
done. Meanwhile, arms smuggling, spying and so-called punishment
attacks continued, sapping confidence in the peace process. In such
circumstances, it was difficult for any unionist leader to sustain
an administration in which Sinn Fein had seats.

Each time during the protracted process there was a crisis,
republicans talked of stretching themselves, of making huge
contributions to peace, but each time what they offered fell short
of what was required. Last year, we are told, they performed a
massive act of decommissioning but they refused to give the
decommissioning body permission to release the details of what had
been put beyond use. Why? Because they knew that David Trimble
required more than a general assurance to retain the support of his
party for power-sharing? In the event, the IRA gained nothing for
its decommissioning gesture and Trimble's party was supplanted by
Paisley's DUP at the next election.

Republicans paved the way for the DUP's victory in the most
predictable of ways. Now they are faced with Ian Paisley, a
curmudgeonly hardliner who has elevated triumphalism into an art
form. It is hard to feel much sympathy for them. They won Paisley's
battle within unionism for him and now they must deal with the
consequences. They must learn to shrug off his bluster if they want
to share power with his party.

Paisley said last week: "I am the only person now that can deliver
a deal that the people are going to believe in." There is some
truth in his claim. He is the only man alive who can bring the
whole unionist population on board for power-sharing with Sinn Fein
without being accused of sell-out.

History will not remember Paisley as a statesman or a diplomat.
Government with him would be, as Gerry Adams put it last week,
"purgatory" but, like purgatory, it might not last indefinitely. At
78, Paisley cannot hope to be first minister for long and, if he
cuts a deal, the British government would be well advised to offer
him the seat in the Lords which would take him out of assembly


No, No, No, No... NO!

(Filed: 12/12/2004)

Profile: Ian Paisley

After the collapse of the latest, hotly trailed "historic Northern
Ireland peace deal" last week, one photograph appeared in almost
all the newspapers: that of Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, aged 78, eyes
blazing with conviction and mouth ajar, the better to deliver a
stream of rhetoric inspired by the livelier passages of the Old

It was a familiar picture, but not the one for which Dr Paisley had
hoped. In negotiations, he had demanded photographic evidence of
the comprehensive destruction of IRA arms to be publicised as proof
that the IRA's campaign was over.

Sinn Fein refused, and accused him of seeking the IRA's humil-
iation. A reporter put the charge to Dr Paisley, who responded with
his characteristic bluntness. Why should the IRA not be humiliated?
he asked, adding: "They need to wear sackcloth and ashes to express
sorrow for what they did."

Gerry Adams has been loudly complaining about Paisley's proposed
sackcloth and ashes ever since. In fact, he should have been
soothed: by Paisley's standards, it was a verbal flick with a
feather duster. This is, after all, the man who called Margaret
Thatcher "a Jezebel" for her part in the 1985 Anglo-Irish
Agreement, and who demonstrated against the Pope's 1988 visit to
the European Parliament with a banner that proclaimed: "Pope John

As he unveiled that starkly unambiguous banner, Paisley shouted out
the words of Archbishop Cranmer when he was burnt at the stake: "I
refuse you as Christ's enemy and Antichrist with all your false
doctrine", before he was set upon, beaten up and booted out by a
clutch of furious Euro-MPs. He emerged from the affray, however,
with spirits high. As he later recounted with tangible contentment
before an approving congregation at his Martyrs' Memorial Free
Presbyterian Church in Belfast: "That vast Assembly erupted, and
the books started to fly and the punches started to be thrown, and
the kicking started, but I held my ground and maintained my

Maintaining his testimony is still what Dr Paisley does best,
although his once-booming voice has mellowed to a supercharged
rasp. But history, like Paisley himself, is full of the little
surprises that can turn the hair of urbane English civil servants
white overnight. In his old age, the politician whom Ulster wags
dub "Dr No" has finally won the status that he was never able to
seize in his turbulent youth: he is now the political spokesman for
a majority of Ulster Unionists.

Few could have imagined such an outcome in the Sixties, when the
young, uncouth firebrand first led dissident working-class
Protestants in vociferous opposition to the more genteel,
establishment Unionism of Terence O'Neill, the then prime minister
of Northern Ireland. His fiery blend of sectarian preaching and
political oratory proved highly potent during the 1974 Ulster
Workers' Strike, when loyalists - enraged by plans for an all-
Ireland dimension to their government - collapsed the power-sharing
Sunningdale administration.

His language - whether in the pulpit or the street - was marinaded
in the thunderous cadences and unforgiving metaphors of the Old
Testament, and his theological opposition to the tenets of the
Catholic Church was unrelenting.

To an increasingly secular Britain, Paisley appeared to have been
summarily plucked from the roaring ranks of 16th-century Lutheran
Protestants and deposited by some great cosmic accident in the
latter half of the 20th century. His anachronistic quality
fascinated and appalled English observers, among whom the name
"Paisley" was rarely spoken without the precursor "that dreadful

In Northern Ireland, however, the view of Paisley - among both
Protestants and Catholics - was and is considerably more complex.
In his earlier years, there is little doubt that his tireless
production of inflammatory rhetoric seriously damaged the image of
Unionism abroad, and drove worried Catholics closer to the IRA. A
Protestant minister once asked the IRA leader Daithi O Conaill
about a rumour that the IRA was planning to assassinate Paisley,
and was told it would never happen, because "Paisley is the best
recruiting sergeant we've got".

Paisley has condemned loyalist attacks upon Catholics thoughout his
career, and become more contemptuous of loyalist paramilitaries
with age. Yet in the Eighties he ill-advisedly flirted with the
incendiary prospect of Protestant "people's militias", which -
although they never amounted to much militarily - served to
undermine his moral authority. On one occasion he conveyed
journalists to a County Antrim hillside late at night to witness
the disturbing spectacle of 500 men in military formation
brandishing firearms licences. Although he has always maintained
that this was merely a show of defensive force against a
prospective IRA attack, loyalist paramilitaries later complained
that his theatrical stunts and sectarian speeches whipped them up
to action - action which Paisley then roundly censured.

And yet, as even his most diehard opponents will admit, Paisley has
long had an excellent reputation as an MP who works as hard for his
Catholic constitutents as his Protestant ones. He inhabits both his
party and Northern Irish politics with the instinctive guile of an
elderly alligator in an enclosed pool: in the European Parliament,
he long co-operated amiably on Northern Ireland matters with his
fellow Euro-MP, the nationalist John Hume.

Those who know him say that Paisley possesses a quick-witted humour
and expansive personal kindness. One acquaintance, who had spent a
long day with him on Church business, recalls accompanying Paisley
home, where his wife Eileen (whom he calls "The Boss") told him
that an elderly woman in his congregation was dying and had only an
exhausted neighbour for company. Paisley left immediately to
relieve the neighbour and stayed at the woman's bedside until dawn.

In both political and religious matters, dissent and schisms run in
his blood. His father was a Baptist pastor who quit the Baptist
Union and established his own independent church in Ballymena,
County Antrim. Paisley himself, aged 20, was ordained at the
Ravenhill Evangelical Church, formed after the secession of 70
families from the local Irish Presbyterian Church. He does,
however, strike a clear distinction between his political and
theological disputes. While the manifesto of his party, the
Democratic Unionist Party, states that "any agreement must command
the support of both Nationalists and Unionists", Paisley's
personal, religious website fulminates against the "superstition,
tyranny and deceit of Romanism".

As a political leader, Paisley might be termed the Antiblair: the
polar opposite of our emollient Prime Minister. Where Blair
superficially agrees with everyone, Paisley disagrees. Where Blair
courts popularity, Paisley repels it. When necessary, he is
unafraid to take a harsh line with his own followers: a few years
ago, for example, "The Big Man" had to clamp down on the craze for
line-dancing, which had proved strangely appealing to Northern
Ireland Protestants.

The Free Presbyterian Church issued an edict reminding folk that
line-dancing would not be permitted at weddings, because "it was as
sinful as any other type of dancing with its sexual gestures and
touching". A number of chastened Free Presbyterians quietly resumed
their seats.

Once, the bulk of Unionists felt alienated from the rigidity of
Paisley's massive certainties. Now, that very intransigence has
become a rare source of reassurance. Unionists have voted for him
recently not because they care about Sunday opening or theological
niceties, but because they believed that, with a political hide
toughened by a lifetime of opposition, Paisley was sufficiently
impervious to the blandishments of the wider world not to
compromise their interests. About that at least - in the glaring
absence of photographs, sackcloth or a deal last week - it would
appear they were right.


No Londonderry On New City Street Map

Friday 10th December 2004

A new city street map to be printed next year will have the name
Derry attached to it instead of Londonderry.From next April, locals
and visitors will be able to get their hands on a copy, the first
of its kind to be printed since 1994

Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland has agreed to produce the map
following discussions with senior officials from Derry City

It will feature the new roads, streets and developments which have
sprung up in a rapidly expanding Derry over the last decade.

John Meenan, Derry City Council's Chief Environmental Office,
outlined details of the city street map at a meeting of local
councillors on Tuesday.

He said the OSNI would begin to produce the Council's order of 5000
maps in April 2005

Welcoming the development, Sinn FÈin's Barney O'Hagan took the
opportunity to insist the name on the map be Derry.

"The name that goes on the map is the name which we've already
agreed in this Council," Colr. O'Hagan said.

"The official name is and should be Derry and we have strong legal
opinion which suggests that is already the case. That will be
proven in the courts before this map is drawn up."

The DUP's Joe Miller said he was opposed to Derry being put on the
map. He said while the majority of people may want to call the city
Derry, its official title is Londonderry.

In a bid to offer a compromise, Colr. Miller said he would,
however, have no problem in accepting a Derry City Council area
street map.

Ulster Unionist councillor, Mary Hamilton, also spoke out against
printing Derry on the name of the map.

But, in what were the most tame discussions on the name change row
yet, Colr. O'Hagan said his party would simply not support the
publication of any street map if it was not called Derry.

High Court The High Court is set to rule sometime next year whether
or not the name of the city switched from Londonderry to Derry when
the Council's name changed in 1984

Colr. O'Hagan, who initially proposed the city's name change, said
if the judge decides the city's name did not officially change the
Council would continue to seek the switch.

The SDLP's Mary Bradley who earlier hailed the new city street map
proposed that Council welcome the development of the map and that
the name attached to it be Derry.

While unionists refused to vote in favour of the proposal it was
carried with support from Sinn FÈin and the SDLP.


Book Review: Delirium Of The Brave

Gerard DeGroot

In Red and Green: The Lives of Frank Ryan
Adrian Hoar
Brandon, £16.99

THE young Frank Ryan was an outstanding student; a boy who excelled
at English, history and French and was also a gifted athlete.
Despite these strengths, he was not a favourite among his teachers
in Ireland, where he grew up in the early years of the 20th

He was flogged regularly for smoking, truancy and fighting. At his
final school, he led a protest against the poor quality of the food
and regularly escaped at night to drill with his local IRA
battalion. Though some of his teachers shared his Republican
sympathies, they were not impressed when his revolver was found
hidden in the school toilets.

The Irish have always had a fondness for rebels - especially dead
ones who can be admired without having to be tolerated. No wonder,
then, that the popularity of revolutionary firebrand Ryan has
steadily increased since his death in 1944. Ryan was both genius
and gangster, messiah and outlaw. The various facets of his
character occasionally complemented his ambition and ideals, but
more often resulted in confusing contradiction. If most of Irish
society at the time considered him a pariah, it was because
ordinary people found his intensity frightening and his radicalism
too exclusive. Yet he now occupies a place on the Irish pantheon
next to his heroes Padraig Pearse and James Connolly.

To be an effective historian of Ireland requires two qualities:
bravery and a sense of irony. The bravery is needed because any
foray into Ireland's past will inevitably result in stepping on the
toes of her beloved heroes. A sense of irony is needed because
those heroes are often the architects of their own demise. This
splendid little book about the life of Frank Ryan demonstrates that
Adrian Hoar is a brave man who understands irony. It would have
been easy for him to write a rousingly romantic biography which
glossed over the enormous contradictions of Ryan's career.

Such a book would have sold well in Ireland among the martyr-
worshippers, and would also have enjoyed a healthy readership in
the United States among the starry-eyed misfits who give generously
to Noraid. Hoar, to his credit, has resisted playing to the crowd.
His is a sober but no less entertaining biography, which cuts
through the bloated mass of romance and myth. By bravely taking on
Ryan, he's been able to expose the convolutions and contradictions
of the man's life. Instead of a cardboard cutout of an Irish hero,
we get a hugely complex and beautifully written portrait of a man
who struggled against his own marginality.

RYAN'S HEROES, Pearse and Connolly, were executed after the Easter
Rising in 1916 and therefore avoided the difficult task of
converting the Irish Republican spirit into practical politics.
That conversion proved the undoing of many would-be heroes,
including Eamonn de Valera. Coming from a younger generation, Ryan
(who was born in 1902) resisted the pragmatism which drove many of
his older comrades into acceptance of the Irish Free State.

Unfortunately, however, his steadfast loyalty to one ideal - Irish
Republicanism - eventually necessitated compromising so many
others. As Hoar eloquently explains, to understand Ryan, "the
dismal consequences of the Irish Civil War must always be borne in
mind as a colossal influence".

All that cruelty and bloodshed had produced nothing; the Free State
was, according to Ryan, worse than English servitude. "His
subsequent years were spent fighting the war that in his mind never
finished." The Free State was popular because it meant peace, which
is precisely why Ryan rejected it. He was a street fighter whose
attraction to violence bordered on the pathological.

He never craved peace - nor did he respect the popular will. Though
he had fine words to say about democracy, in truth he doubted the
ability of the people to act wisely. He believed in "the
prerogative of a righteous minority to ignore the wishes of the
majority". At times, Ryan's minority was so small that the only
people reading his revolutionary pamphlets were the censors and the
police. As his following shrank, his contempt for the people grew.
Ryan's fanaticism and love of violence eventually took him to Spain
to fight Franco. This seems a logical move, in keeping with the
romantic nationalism he learned from Pearse. But in truth, his
decision had more to do with Ireland than with Spain. The Irish
government and the Catholic Church were both pro-Franco, and for
that reason Ryan supported the Republicans. He went to Spain to
fight a war he could no longer fight in Ireland.

Spain brought more contradiction. His tiny band of Irish irregulars
was too small to exist on its own. The Spanish, who had little
concern for the intricacies of Anglo-Irish politics, forced Ryan to
amalgamate with English volunteers, some of whom had once fought
Irishmen. Ryan quickly found a way to turn bitter enemies into
comrades: their shared ideal, he decided, was international
socialism; their common enemy imperialism. Ryan was never happier
than when he was shooting at an enemy. It would be easy to conclude
that his politics were merely window dressing for mayhem. But that
would be a superficial judgment. While many of his followers were
undoubtedly violent men who wrapped their sadism in a cloak of
political respectability, Ryan believed devoutly in the ideals he
professed. That said, he also believed that the best way to achieve
his ends was by knocking heads.

Spain provided further opportunities for martyrdom. After a serious
wound, Ryan managed to return for one last fight with his dwindling
band of romantics. He was captured but, unlike most nationalist
officers, was not summarily executed. Instead, after interventions
from de Valera, Franco commuted his sentence to 30 years'
imprisonment. After a series of convoluted manoeuvres, Ryan was
allowed to escape to France, and from there to Nazi Germany.

By a combination of fate and reason, he acted out his final and
most profound contradiction. The man who called himself a socialist
and who had fought so bravely against Franco, spent the last four
years of his life working for German intelligence. His denouement
in Germany has always troubled his admirers. Hoar, who understands
Ryan better than anyone, provides a logical explanation, but it is
logic of Ryan's peculiarly warped variety.

He decided in 1940 that the Germans would eventually overrun
Britain. Getting cosy with the Germans, he reasoned, might
eventually allow him to fulfil his dream for Ireland. As the war
progressed, he gradually realised that his gamble had no hope of
success. He died in Dresden in 1944, a lonely, bitter man smothered
by his own inconsistencies.

After his capture in Spain, Ryan was interrogated by an Italian
officer. "I suppose you are a Communist," his captor remarked. "I
am an Irish Republican," Ryan replied in defiance. He was indeed an
Irish Republican, but that is the only constant thread in his
tortuous life. As Hoar so admirably demonstrates, he was also, at
various times, an autocrat, a democrat, a collaborator, a
socialist, a bully and a fool.

Gerard DeGroot is professor of modern history at St Andrews

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