19 August 1999 Edition
New in print: Passionless politics
Political Issues in Ireland today
Edited by Neil Collins
Published by Manchester University Press
When your children are young, you monitor their television and their books. Some parents are now even checking their children's Internet access to ensure that in between the endless sites on Brittany Spears, David Beckham and the Blair Witch Project, they are not downloading something more sinister, perverted or just plain old corrupting.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have had to endure Northern comrades' tales of woe on how their parents censored their access to British comics and books. The endless sob stories about life without Lion, Tiger, Warlord and even Noddy have left me nonplussed but it does show that someone at least was watching what they read.
So how come when they grow up and go to school and college it seems that no one is watching? Over the years, An Phoblacht has often dipped into the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate courses to have a look at what young minds are being taught.
Now, a new textbook aimed at third level students studying Irish politics called Political Issues in Ireland Today has been published by Manchester University Press.
Edited by Neil Collins, the book promises to ``fill a major gap in the academic literature on Irish politics, providing students with a comprehensive introduction to the issues dominating political debates in both parts of Ireland''.
The book deals with issues such as the 26-Country constitution, local government in the Six and 26 Counties, the EU, corruption in Ireland, health, housing and environmental policies as well as the peace process.
Collins has brought together a range of accomplished academics who do provide a comprehensive analyis. There is good detail, good concise background and explanation of difficult technical subjects.
However there is one problem with the text. Huge parts of it are boring. Irish politics over the past 20 years has been in state of huge flux with substantial changes in government, in the economy, in the amount of corruption exposed. It has been an exciting time period to have lived in.
This book gives absolutely no feel for any of this.
The chapters on housing, corruption and the peace process are all prime examples of this failing.
They all share a common theme in that the authors talk of all these events in the form of a very remote third person. They should include the quotes from those involved, the context, the background needed to make the events real.
For example, take Collins' chapter on corruption. He writes on the Irish Sugar and Telecom debacles in 1991 and the role of Michael Smurfit. He doesn't mention that when the Telecom story first appeared in February 1991, the Irish Independent had to publish a front page retraction.
Why doesn't the chapter on housing have a reference to the familes actually affected by the crisis or some of the community organisations involved.
Instead, we get well written paragraphs laying out the basic details. In this context the book is excellent and will help students, but it needs a lot more colour and zest to be a true reflection of real political issues in Ireland today.
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN