(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Irish Republican Army—the IRA—is one of the most controversial organizations of modern times. For many it carries the connotation of lawless murderers. For others, it represents romantic rebels, underdogs, willing to sacrifice all for a unified and republican Ireland. Tim Pat Coogan, respected Irish journalist and biographer, here relates the long and bloody history of the IRA.

This is not just a volume on the recent “troubles” in Northern Ireland, although Coogan carries his tale into 1993. The modern IRA is primarily the product of the years 1916-1922, from the Easter Rising against the British to the civil war between those Irish willing to accept considerable independence under the aegis of the Irish Free State and those demanding complete separation and an almost mystical socialist republic.

By the late 1960’s, the IRA was apparently a part of Ireland’s history, its day seemingly past. All that remained were a few middle-aged men and even fewer weapons and the remembered history. Yet in Ireland nothing is ever just history, and the recent controversies in Northern Ireland, part of the British crown, led to a revival of the IRA. Twenty-five years and more than three thousand deaths later, the IRA is still a deadly and dedicated organization.

This latest edition of THE IRA is the first to be published in the United States. It is overdue. Although long and detailed, it is well written and should appeal to many readers, not simply to Irish Americans. The book’s setting is Ireland, but its conclusions have implications for the many other ethnic, religious, and tribal struggles in the post-Cold War world.

Coogan does not believe that the IRA can win a military victory, but neither can the British. Eventually the politicians must have their say, and the United States, according to our author, has a role to play in what he predicts will ultimately become a united Ireland.