Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

30 July 1998 Edition

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The relevant revolution

1798 - 200 years of Resonance

Edited by Mary Cullen

Published by Irish Reporter Publications

Price: £7.95

This is a collection of eighteen essays exploring the threads which made the tapestry of the Republican revolution in Ireland two centuries ago.

The topics covered include the origins of the Defenders, who joined with the United Irish in the Revolution, the Orange Order, the role of women in `98, the establishment of the short lived Wexford Republic and Marxism's debt to the ideals of the United Irishmen.

Most of the articles are written by academics and journalists who are suffiently professional to explode many of the myths peddled by their peers and contemporaries over the last two hundred years.

Three essays deserve special mention, but for very different reasons.

``United in our common interest'' by Jim McVeigh, who is a Sinn Fein member in the H Blocks, explains how the social deprivation and discrimination of18th century Ireland are still with us in the1990s. And he warns that the ``comfortable classes'' of Wolfe Tone's day, who refused to support the Revolution, are also still here, within the business community, Church, trade unions and political parties only paying ``lip service'' to the injustices in Ireland today.

Sean O'Bradaigh, a Republican Sinn Fein member, gives an interesting potted history of the `98 revolution as well as all the major Republican developments since in his essay ``The Rising of1798''. However he cannot resist a bit of party politics near the end by taking an oblique swipe at Sinn Fein, and including a long quote from Patrick Pearse which emphasised the need for ``continuity''!

``The significance of the 1798 Commemoration'' is by Martin Mansergh, a `special advisor' to 26 county Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy seem to be his forte. Mansergh sings the praises of the United Irishmen whilst similtaneously berating their modern day Republican successors. He, quite rightly, mourns the failure of the `98 revolution but adds that a ``successful revolution'' took place ``120 years'' later. Presumably he is refering to 1920 when his intellectual contemporaries gained a measure of freedom by selling the liberty of their countrymen in the North. He concludes by asserting that the sectarianism in the Six Counties is perpetuated solely by the people who live here; apparently occupation and partition have had nothing to do with it.

Despite Mansergh's contribution the rest of this collection is enlightening and insightful. This volume is definitely one to return to again and again.

By Sean O Tuama

Yeats for toddlers

Myths and Magic of the Yeats Country
By Eily Kilgannon
Published by Mercier Press
Price £4.99

I don't know about you, but I don't know many five-year olds who read Yeats. So I am at a loss to understand why someone would want to write a book which may just have well have been subtitled, Yeats's use of Irish Mythology for Dimwitted Infants and the Terminally Feeble-Minded.

The book is a short explanation, in big writing and small words, of the folktales and myths from which Yeats gained inspiration for his poetry. Who on earth it is meant to appeal to I simply cannot work out; even if it is aimed at slightly older children and teenagers any self-respecting child bright enough to read the man who, in The Second Coming, produced arguably one of the greatest poems of the 20th century, will be properly repelled by the infantile language of this essentially pointless effort.

By Fern Lane

Oh baby

Plain Tales from the Labour Ward
by Rose Driscol
Published by Minerva Press
Price £7.99

Oh God, the agony, the torture, the endless hours of excrutiating pain unrelieved even by the excessive use of intravenously administered drugs, the crazed ramblings about why you ever got into this situation in the first place, of not knowing when it will end and the overwhelming ,joyous relief when it does.

Yes, having to listen to another long and unnecessarily detailed account of someone else's 95-hour nightmare labour is only marginally less traumatic and horrible than going through it yourself, particularly when said account is accompanied by a dewy-eyed new father eager to tell you what innovative new forms of verbal abuse he endured from his loved one, how much it really did hurt when she pulled his hair and just how far back she bent his fingers.

With this in mind I approached this book with trepidation; even the title evokes distressing memories of being backed into a corner at some social gathering, wine glass clutched with ever whitening knuckles and getting warmer by the minute, rictus smile in place and head nodding in a reflex motion to indicate interest as the above scenario slowly, terrifyingly, unfolds.

What transpired was an intriguing and often moving collection of stories from individual women of all ages, told in their own words, about the circumstances in which they gave birth. The section called The Irish Women reveals some of the intense social and ecomonic pressures which many Irish women, married and unmarried, have had to overcome when giving birth in the recent past.

Then there is the tale of the woman who gave birth to a daughter just outside Mauthausen concentration camp after the Nazis had sent her from Auchwitz as a fit person able to work - Mengele called her a fine specimen. Her baby, Eva, weighed 3lbs, she weighed four stone, with a shaved head and dressed in the striped clothes we have all come to recognise as the uniform forced on us by the Nazis. Powerful and inspirational stuff and well worth the read. I take it all back.

By Fern Lane

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1