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11 November 1999 Edition

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Not your average publisher

One Publisher's War

By Steve MacDonogh
Brandon Press

We have a saying in the gaeltacht - ``diabhal an scéal mar a bhfuil scéal agat fhéin!'' - which is used to slap down someone who will spread stories about other people in a malicious way.

It translates as: ``Devil the story! For you have no story of your own!'' Well, Steve MacDonagh has been spreading stories for a long time - and he has very much his own story to tell.

This is a timely and well-written book. It should find a place on any republican's bookshelf beside Liz Curtis's ``Ireland, the Propaganda War''. However, it is a fundamentally different book to Curtis's work.

This is the personal story of a major player in Irish publishing. MacDonogh was a major figure in the sub-plot of the Northern War - how the British, through their Free State proxies, sought to restrict this movement by denying the people access to republican ideas, be they in politcal tracts, television interviews or in novels.

His account of the days of Section 31, when he took on the 26-County Fatwa against the movement and those within it who wished to put their ideas and beliefs into print.

His own personal story, before he became a rebel publisher is, quite simply, fascinating. This guy has a family background that would give the Stickies in the Irish Times wet dreams.

They're wannabes - MacDonogh is the genuine article - a real bona fide West Brit. Despite his impeccable ``to the manor born'' background at Rugby School - the heart of the empire - he was derided as a bogwog and a Paddy.

He harboured a discrete and subversive Irishness in those days in the uniform of the junior British Army. He tells us he became handy with a .303 (whatever one of those are?). He remembers enjoying a secret smile at the unfolding colonial troubles of the dying British Empire. He recalls that the thickest of the thick at Rugby were earmarked for a career in the military.

Mark Philips - later to be cavalry officer and in-law of the Windsor tribe - was a school friend. With that background, MacDonogh could have run what was left of the empire. Instead, he decided to go to Dingle and take on the big boys in the publishing world.

His vision was fashioned as he observed the endless diversity of humanity as he crossed America in a Greyhound Bus. He came back with a vision that has never dimmed. He slates the corporate book business which, he trenchantly argues, will result in only meaningless and safe pap being published.

Great writing is about pushing out the boundaries of the human condition and that is risky. MacDonogh passionately believes that those risks must be taken if we are to improve the human condition. These are issues that wouldn't enter the head of the average publishing mogul.

But MacDonogh isn't average. Under his leadership, Brandon took on the British Intelligence Community, and won. He took on Official Ireland over the Kerry Babies case and supported Salman Rushdie's inalienable to publish when many ran for cover.

Like all small businesses, Brandon had its bad times, and it nearly went under a few years ago. However, MacDonogh is a strong character and he survived. The partnership with Bernie Goggin, which had became increasingly fraught, was dissolved and MacDonogh is now totally in control.

Financially, MacDonogh's vision has never had a stronger business base.

Out of the ashes arose Mount Eagle.

Publish and be famed!


A breath of fresh air

Magazine Review

Price £2.50

Very rarely does any new publication from the realms of the Irish media impress. Source, `Ireland's social, environmental and holistic magazine', is a new and significant exception to that rule.

From cover to cover there is an air of quality and independence about it which is both compelling and ambitious. The alternative aspect of the magazine manifests itself in the abundance of articles on alternative lifestyles and alternative medicine but also in the usually murky world of advertising - no pathetic ``where would you be without McDonald's - possibly in Burgerking'' ads. Source ``will only accept advertising from companies and individuals whose products and services are of real assistance to sustainable, healthy living''. Strangely ethical for these cynical final days of the century.

The first issue of Source is out now and is packed with interesting articles you're not likely to find in other magazines. There are some strong arguments made against EU moves to bring in prescriptions for alternative medicines. There is also a good article by Liam Fay on the characteristics of your average environmentalist. The `eco-bores', he says, ``babble like drunks at a student party. Ironically, the worst of these drones are so dull they can wither all plant life within a ten mile radius by merely clearing their throats''. Good to see the tree huggers can take this on the chin.

Even the fashion pages have been subverted by the `eco-bores'. A new generation of designers exhibit their stuff, made from natural organic fibres, recycled materials and handcraft or green production methods - brilliant.

An intriguing article on eco-villages exhorts the possibility of affodable housing within a tranquil and environmentally friendly setting. This ideal of sustainable living will become more of a reality no doubt in the future.

Other articles on wildlife, food, recreation, astrology and music have a sincerity and accessibility about them. Colm '' Snodaighís bilingual column on music is a good example of this.

One of the real attractions of source is the quality of its illustrations. An article of six paragraphs on the Glen of the Downs tells it all with four pages of excellent phtography. This magazine exudes quality and is a mus for anyone vaguely interested in the environment and sustainable living.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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