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Response to a Review

Robert W White
Thomas Fitzgerald’s review of Out of the Ashes by Robert W White appeared in the October issue of the Dublin Review of Books and is available here. Prof White’s response to that review appears below. Readers are invited to read both pieces to make up their minds on the issues involved. Dear editors, In his review of Out of the Ashes: An Oral History of the Provisional Irish Republican Movement (Social Movements versus Terrorism), Thomas Fitzgerald unfairly damages my reputation as a scholar and undermines the book’s message by suggesting that I consider the ongoing violence of anti-Good Friday Agreement Republicans to be “legitimate”. He actually praises my argument that “through talking to ‘terrorists’ or non-state insurgents it is easier to understand or evaluate their point of view, rather than simply denouncing and demonising it” and then hypocritically condemns me for presenting the perspective of anti-GFA Republicans. In reality, Out of the Ashes is unique and important because it presents oral histories from Provisional and anti-GFA Irish Republicans. Fitzgerald describes the end of my chapter on anti-GFA Republicans as “overtly emotional and inappropriate”. He complains that I describe “Wolfe Tone, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Patrick Pearse, and so on” as people who “cannot be co-opted” and then quote from Patrick Pearse’s famous statement, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” Thus, Is White suggesting that the only solution in Northern Ireland is a return to violence, or that violence is inevitable? Certainly the sentiments he expressed could give succour to those who take this position. It is up to the reader to decide whether they consider this to be a socially responsible attitude for any historian/sociologist to take. Fitzgerald conveniently ignores the context of my presentation. The final paragraph of that chapter shows that some Irish Republicans are remarkably committed to their beliefs. I quote an oral history from John Hunt, who was born in 1920, interned by the de Valera government in 1940, and, at ninety-six years of age, spoke at a Republican Sinn Féin event associated with the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Hunt’s remarks outside of the GPO included a quotation from Pearse’s famous oration in 1915 over the grave of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, “the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead.” After quoting Hunt’s remarks, I wrote that Ireland is filled with people the authorities consider “dangerous” because of their unending commitment to physical force — “Wolfe…

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