30 March 2000 Edition
New in print: Classic tale of struggle reissued
Ballymurphy and the Irish war
By Ciaran de Baroid
By Ciaran de Baroid
This classic work was first published in 1989 and has now been reissued in a quite excellent revised edition. .
The work that this book will be compared with is War and an Irish Town by Eamonn McCann. Although that work should be on every republican's bookshelf, if only because of the paucity of works on Derry, de Baroid's treatment of the Ballymurphy story is a far more impressive work.
He traces the history of Ballymurphy and its people from May 1947, when 59 acres were purchased by the local state to answer West Belfast's chronic housing problem.
He introduces the story of this remarkable community with a telling quote from James Connolly: ``Were history what it ought to be, an accurate literary reflex of the times with which it professes to deal, the pages of history would be almost entirely engrossed with a recital of the wrongs and struggles of the labouring people.''
In re-reading that, I was reminded of how Marx scolded that history was not - and should not be recorded as - a ``high sounding drama of states and princes''.
De Baroid's narration of the Ballymurphy story through 30 years of war against the Brits to the IRA cessation and the Peace Process constantly reminds the reader that this is the tale of a working class Irish community involved in a double struggle, against the sectarian class oppression of the Orange State and the military might of that state's British sponsors.
Some of the pages are simply shocking for the horror endured by this community. This is a harrowing tale of the costs of being a Risen People, but there is also humour in great amounts.
Like ``Bo'' the Provo pup, Bo because he had once gotten drunk on Strongbow cider.
The hound mercilessly savaged British soldiers and took on the much bigger hounds of the British Army, and he died for Ireland. Taking a full part in an early riot against the Brits, Bo enthusiastically chased a nail bomb as it sailed into the British ranks. He retrieved the bloody thing and brought it back to his master!
I'll spare you the details, but Bo was buried with full military honours.
This book should be bought by every cumann in the country and every new member should read it. I can't say any better than that. The community whose story de Baroid so faithfully tells deserves nothing less.
BY MICK DERRIG