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.

James Moran

Not Quite at Home

Dark-skinned people have lived in Britain for a very long time, according to some researchers from the Mesolithic era. Nevertheless, today’s black population remains disadvantaged and is not universally accepted. What is called ‘The Question’ – where are you from? – is never far away.

Faith of Our Fathers

A history of Catholicism in Britain and Ireland written by a non-believer gives a broadly sympathetic view, through a fast-paced narrative that begins with the Reformation and continues until the twenty-first century, full of clear-eyed judgments about a cast of heroes and villains.

We Know Nothing

A new book on Irish immigrants in Manchester raises wider issues of anti-immigrant prejudice and racism while helping us to reconceive the geographies of Irishness and the locations and spaces in which a migrant Irish identity has been articulated and sustained.

Laughing Matters

The outstanding English comic novelist of his generation, David Lodge has managed to extract humour in book after book from two main subjects: the competitiveness and egoism of academic life and the follies of the Catholic Church’s attempts to instruct its flock on how to conduct their sex lives.

Enemies Within

Irish names crop up with a fair degree of regularity among the promoters of xenophobia in contemporary Britain. A study of the interwar period demonstrates that Irish migrants were then the subject of similar unsound suspicions and fears of being ‘swamped’ by ‘scroungers’.

A Place in the Sun

Catherine O’Flynn’s new novel, which focuses on two generations of a Birmingham-Irish family and their distinct and contrasting experiences of dislocation, manages to be consistently comic yet also sad and moving.

Concrete Proof

Built in 1974, it was put up by Robert McAlpine, who relied on many of those “fusiliers” who had come to Birmingham from Ireland and who played such a key role in constructing the culture and identity of the modern city. And yet, despite all of these reasons to applaud, the Central Library will be entirely ripped out by 2013 a move that suggests the extraction of a massive, and perfectly healthy, tooth.

New York Diary

The resourceful street-hawkers of Manhattan were taking part in a race of their own that evening, desperately trying to offload an assortment of soon-to-be-superannuated novelty goods: “Palin, McCain and Obama condoms … get screwed by both parties!” one vendor cried out. “Why no Biden?” I inquired. The entrepreneur shook his head, then offered: “I’ve got McCain ones … old but not expired!”

Swallowed by the Shopping Centre

What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn, Tindal Street Press, 242 pp, £8.99, ISBN: 978-0955138416 Of all British cities Birmingham has perhaps best reason to feel...