Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Book Report - Sinn Fein: A Hundred Turbulent Years

the scribe is reporting back to you regarding this book he just read on the Sinn Féin. Going into the job highwayscribery knew the Sein Féin to be the political arm of the Irish Republican Army about which he knew little.

This book, "Sinn Fein: A Hundred Turbulent Years,"goes back to the late 19th century when the group was formed under the moniker which translates to “Ourselves Alone.”

Prime movers of the early formation were one Arthur Griffith who did the heavy "Sinn Fein: A Hundred Turbulent Years," goes back to the late 19th century when the group was formed under the moniker which translates to "Ourselves Alone."

Primary movers of the early formation were one Arthur Griffith who did the heavy intellectual lifting, and Eamon de Valera who turned out to be the natural politician of a bunch that included Michael Collins, about whom Hollywood made a movie starring Liam-whatever-his-name-is some 14 years ago.

The group became the crucible for a push toward a republican and Irish state independent of Great Britain around the end of World War I. Since this was something of a leisure read (!) the scribe doesn't have it all ordered perfectly in his mind, but the upshot was one of heavy repression and finally a partition, granting a new Irish state to most of the island, but leaving the northern part which has, to complicate life for everyone involved, a protestant and unionist (pro-Britain) majority, outside it.

De Valera moved toward the center when the "Free State" of Ireland, separated from the North, was born and the republican movement, and Sinn Féin in particular, got lost in a netherworld of self-generated "theology" as per author Brian Feeney's choice of word.

The result was years out on the margins debating whether or not to participate in politics, or stay on the outside of things, because neither the Irish Republic nor Westminster in London were recognized as legitimate rulers of Ireland (which they were doing anyway).

By mid-century Sinn Féin had practically disappeared, reduced to a club for a few keepers of the free, republican, Irish state flame. The "armed struggle," which was both a noble effort to defend Catholics from Protestant pogroms and a stupid campaign that killed many innocent people, took center stage.

The IRA found Sinn Féin's credentials useful and decided to take it over and make use of the party for its own purposes.

Sometime in the 1980s, a young bearded fellow named Gerry Adams, who hailed from a family with strong roots in the Republican movement, began a slow campaign to "run down" the armed struggle and modernize the political wing into a legitimate and independent mass electoral party.

Feeney, whose prose are typical for a historian (okay), does a good job of connecting the dots, interviewing survivors of that time, and detailing the daunting task that Adams faced in seeking to, surreptitiously and slowly, divest the IRA of relevance.

It makes a good and easy read, the 442-page length notwithstanding. Like many historical works, it does a fine job of cutting and pasting events according to the dates they happen and producing documents to support it all.

highwayscribery rented "The Boxer" with Daniel Day Lewis, to get a sense of what the atmosphere in which all of this transpired was like.

The film, shot through a graying blue lens, essays a Northern Ireland stunted economically and spiritually by poverty and violence since the beginning of "The Troubles," as the IRA's last, longest and most deadly campaign was known. It brings to life the hardliners, who resisted political participation and the decommissioning of arms, while capturing the desperation and exhaustion everyone doing a daily dance with violence felt.

The movie fills in the facts with some sentiment and rounds out the portrait, for those interested in a deeper understanding.

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