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20 February 1997 Edition

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Sure that was shocking



Tales for the Telling: True Life Stories of Irish Scandals
By Padraic O'Farrell
Published by The Collins Press


If you have already seen the television series on RTE, your appetite will be well whetted for Padraic O'Farrell's collection of true life Irish scandals, Tales for the Telling. His book is chock full of deceit, doing-downs, lies, small town mentalities and good old-fashioned barneys.

Should the reader imagine that scandals and their attendant inquiries and tribunals were a modern phenomenon, this small but riveting assortment will soon scotch that theory. This is no nostalgic Alice Taylor-like romp through a countryside made softer and warmer by the passage of years. O'Farrell instead is a digger of dirt, presenting us with less savoury attitudes from the land of the céad míle fáiltes - infamous episodes all, such as the furore in his home village of Delvin caused by Brinsley MacNamara's classic novel, The Valley of the Squinting Windows.

Another story, The Rose Tattoo Affair, centres on a play of the same name, outlawed in 1957, an era when Catholic Stormtroopers led witchhunts to root out indecency and blasphemy. The Rose Tattoo's breach of the decency dam lay in a veiled reference to contraception contained in the play, when a condom (which is never seen) falls from the pocket of one of the characters. Small beer today, but a major scandal at the time.

More serious affairs, such as the famous Shanahan Stamp Auctions collapse whch resulted in many prominent Irish politicians and celebrities losing fortunes, also feature but republicans will be most interested in O'Farrell's account of the deportation of Leitrim communist and republican James Gralton, an incredible episode in which an Irish citizen ended up being deported from his own country to the US.

If nothing else, this short collection of true tales is entertaining, but if there is one overriding theme for me it was one of thankfulness for the modern separation of church and state. And amen to that.

BY LIAM O COILEAIN


A criminal system



Hard Cases: True Stories of Irish Crime
By Gene Kerrigan
Published by Gill & Macmillan

Price £7.99

Gene Kerrigan's natural investigative expertise presents a varied insight into an Irish criminal system, a system that is rotten to the core, bursting at its seams and ready for rapid change. In `Hard Cases' Kerrigan pulls no punches on a discredited Garda force, a force that covered up the beating to death of Peter Matthews in Garda custody and the `relentless psychological battering' of a man in Irishtown.

From Dessie O'Hare's last stand, laws for the wealthy and not so wealthy, aging and raging Church of Ireland landowners, this book has everything. Defiant spoon-eating characters, Ronnie Reagan and the Phoenix Park affairs, Greencore, Elvis fans, brutal incest and drunken judges, `Hard Cases' will not disappoint.

`Caught in the Crossfire' on page 228 will certainly give republicans the courage and strength to continue our struggle for peace. This inspiring story tells of how a defenceless Michael Lynagh (brother of Loughall Martyr Jim) was hounded to an early grave by the cowardly, vicious onslaught of harassment by Special Branch thugs. At £7.99, I found great value in it.

By Gerry Woods

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