Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Book reviews - two faces of Northern Ireland

Two books, one presenting an utterly hopeless view of a city gripped by collective madness and hatred and the other offering a glimpse of a better future. The double door and room metaphor providing this reader with too complex a metaphor.

Journalist Kevin Myers is not a sympathetic chronicler; neither does he seek your approval for his motives. Nevertheless, his selfish and needy character flaws lays bare an honest "as I saw it" account of 1970s Belfast with few concessions to the usual prejudices. He can also be quite funny at times. 

It makes the achievements of Jonathan Powell all the greater. As Tony Blair's right hand man he spent an enormous amount of time trying to solve the seemingly insoluble problem of the smallest part of the United Kingdom. This detailed diary of the protracted peace talks leaves you with massive amounts of respect for Blair and for a number of key players in Northern Irish politics. All the while there is the sense that Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, David Trimble and Ian Paisley wanted peace but had to bring the wilder warriors amongst their people with them. To do so needed patience from the British government side and a number of brave acts of faith in the goodwill of all sides.

Both books are a valuable contribution to understand divisions in society - but also for how they can be overcome. 

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