I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Dream of Justice

A Dream of Justice

Ian Doherty
A Shared Home Place, by Seamus Mallon with Andy Pollak, Lilliput Press, 272 pp, €20, ISBN: 9781843517634 There is a dichotomy in this book. Its core consists of a personal and political memoir and covers Chapters 1 to 11. This is encased in an introduction by Andy Pollak and the final three chapters (12-15), which together make up a political pamphlet, largely concerned with future options. The reader will judge whether these sit comfortably together. This reviewer thinks not, on balance. Mallon is not offering us a history of Northern Ireland in recent times. While his account is strictly true to the facts and broadly chronological what we get is an informed commentary on the period since 1968 from the standpoint of one of the central participants. Of profound value are the insights provided into the fundamental themes and issues of the past fifty years in the North. The voice is utterly authentic. It is grounded in the author’s scholarly understanding of the antiquity of the conflict and his intimate knowledge of its practical outworkings in his own time. Seamus Mallon would not claim to be impartial. His core beliefs are honestly and clearly stated. He can, however, claim to be fair-minded, with a capacity and a willingness to go to great lengths to understand the cultural and political outlook of those who don’t agree with him. Nowhere is this more evident than in his relations with the Unionist people and with their political leaders. He has some very harsh things to say but he says them in ways that are entirely free from sectarian bigotry. He also demonstrates a degree of empathy and humanity rarely found in our political leaders. The second key characteristic is signalled in the book’s title. Mallon has a profound sense of place. His understanding of Armagh in particular and of the North in general is comprehensive. Frequent references to the history of his locality go back as far as Plantation times. There is also depth – displayed not least in his references to his Protestant neighbours, their families, their lives and their fundamental beliefs. On several occasions he quotes Seamus Heaney to help understand a heartbreaking situation yet Mallon himself actually mirrors Heaney in the way his grounded understanding of the local illustrates universal values. These values are timeless and are rooted in his essential humanity. They emerge and take shape in the way…

Advertisement

booksupstairs.ie

Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide