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A history of “the Troubles”: the radical politics of Republicanism The conflict in Northern Ireland was one of the most devastating in post-war Europe, claiming the lives of 3,500 people and injuring many more. This book is a riveting new history of the radical politics that drove a unique insurgency that emerged from the crucible of 1968. Based on extensive archival resear A history of “the Troubles”: the radical politics of Republicanism The conflict in Northern Ireland was one of the most devastating in post-war Europe, claiming the lives of 3,500 people and injuring many more. This book is a riveting new history of the radical politics that drove a unique insurgency that emerged from the crucible of 1968. Based on extensive archival research, One Man’s Terrorist explores the relationship between the IRA, a clandestine army described as ‘one of the most ruthless and capable insurgent forces in modern history’, and the political movement that developed alongside it to challenge British rule. From Wilson and Heath to Thatcher and Blair, a generation of British politicians had to face an unprecedented subversive threat whose reach extended from West Belfast to Westminster. Finn shows how Republicans fought a war on several fronts, making use of every weapon available to achieve their goal of a united Ireland, from car bombs to election campaigns, street marches to hunger strikes. Though driven by an uncompromising revolutionary politics that blended militant nationalism with left-wing ideology, their movement was never monolithic, its history punctuated by splits and internal conflicts. The IRA’s war ultimately ended in stalemate, with the peace process of the 1990s and the Good Friday Agreement that has maintained an uneasy balance ever since.


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A history of “the Troubles”: the radical politics of Republicanism The conflict in Northern Ireland was one of the most devastating in post-war Europe, claiming the lives of 3,500 people and injuring many more. This book is a riveting new history of the radical politics that drove a unique insurgency that emerged from the crucible of 1968. Based on extensive archival resear A history of “the Troubles”: the radical politics of Republicanism The conflict in Northern Ireland was one of the most devastating in post-war Europe, claiming the lives of 3,500 people and injuring many more. This book is a riveting new history of the radical politics that drove a unique insurgency that emerged from the crucible of 1968. Based on extensive archival research, One Man’s Terrorist explores the relationship between the IRA, a clandestine army described as ‘one of the most ruthless and capable insurgent forces in modern history’, and the political movement that developed alongside it to challenge British rule. From Wilson and Heath to Thatcher and Blair, a generation of British politicians had to face an unprecedented subversive threat whose reach extended from West Belfast to Westminster. Finn shows how Republicans fought a war on several fronts, making use of every weapon available to achieve their goal of a united Ireland, from car bombs to election campaigns, street marches to hunger strikes. Though driven by an uncompromising revolutionary politics that blended militant nationalism with left-wing ideology, their movement was never monolithic, its history punctuated by splits and internal conflicts. The IRA’s war ultimately ended in stalemate, with the peace process of the 1990s and the Good Friday Agreement that has maintained an uneasy balance ever since.

30 review for One Man’s Terrorist: A Political History of the IRA

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julia Damphou

    Very good and very dense, impressively brief given the complexity of the subject matter. I would definitely recommend it as an introduction for someone looking to get into the topic more, but maybe not to someone who only has a casual interest or mainly an interest in some specific period/figures. I read it in two bouts a few weeks apart which in hindsight was a mistake, during the second half I lost the thread a little since he rarely re-explains/introduces figures (on the other hand this helps Very good and very dense, impressively brief given the complexity of the subject matter. I would definitely recommend it as an introduction for someone looking to get into the topic more, but maybe not to someone who only has a casual interest or mainly an interest in some specific period/figures. I read it in two bouts a few weeks apart which in hindsight was a mistake, during the second half I lost the thread a little since he rarely re-explains/introduces figures (on the other hand this helps with the overall brevity). Besides that, I would say it's very well written, often entertaining, honest in its sympathies, very convincing, and doesn't leave the reader wondering about anything really.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Padraic

    A clear, well written history of the IRA. The first time that I have read a book which focused so little on the military aspect, but that's in the title and I guess is the point of this book. The clarity of the writing makes for quick reading and I can't say it's plodding or boring but it could have done with a bit more narrative, fleshing out, or possibly going down a few rabbit holes. If you are new to the subject then a companion volume, or Wikipedia on your phone might be useful - events and A clear, well written history of the IRA. The first time that I have read a book which focused so little on the military aspect, but that's in the title and I guess is the point of this book. The clarity of the writing makes for quick reading and I can't say it's plodding or boring but it could have done with a bit more narrative, fleshing out, or possibly going down a few rabbit holes. If you are new to the subject then a companion volume, or Wikipedia on your phone might be useful - events and people are introduced quickly and succinctly and the reader must then keep up. I found it insightful, expect to reread and refer to it in the future and would certainly recommend it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe O'Donnell

    Many histories of the Northern Ireland Troubles don’t delve too deeply into the political thought motivating the paramilitary groups on either side of the conflict. Too often histories of armed-struggle republicanism or loyalist paramilitarism offer little more than litany of atrocities by way of analysis. “One Man’s Terrorist” is historian Daniel Finn’s attempt to provide a history of the development of the political ideology underpinning one side of the armed conflict: the Provisional I.R.A. a Many histories of the Northern Ireland Troubles don’t delve too deeply into the political thought motivating the paramilitary groups on either side of the conflict. Too often histories of armed-struggle republicanism or loyalist paramilitarism offer little more than litany of atrocities by way of analysis. “One Man’s Terrorist” is historian Daniel Finn’s attempt to provide a history of the development of the political ideology underpinning one side of the armed conflict: the Provisional I.R.A. and their political wing Sinn Feín. The main focus of “One Man’s Terrorist” is the half-century since the outbreak of the Troubles in 1968/9. Finn is excellent on the (then-peaceable) IRA’s attempt to gain influence within the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association during the late 1960s. At the outset of The Troubles, republicans were seeking to challenge the Northern Ireland state on the grounds of equality (rather than on the grounds of traditional narrow nationalism) as a way of exposing the true repressive nature of the Stormont state. This approach would change, however, with the arrival of the British Army into the province in 1969/70 and the disastrous decision by the Stormont authorities to introduce internment without trial in 1971. Finn charts the transition of Irish Republicanism during this period, characterising it as a shift “from Civil Rights to Civil Resistance”. Where “One Man’s Terrorist” is quite strong is in explaining the internecine feuds and divisions that typified Irish Republicanism during the 1960s and 1970s. If you’ve ever pondered what separated the Provisionals from the Officials, and what divided them politically from the IRSP/INLA, this book is a good place for you to start. “One Man’s Terrorist” explains the philosophical and ideological development of the IRA and the wider Republican movement in an accessible way and without getting bogged down in arcane academic arguments. Daniel Finn’s book lacks the sources, contacts and depth of analysis of a historian of Irish Republicanism such as, say, Ed Moloney and Brian Hanley. Certainly, any reader familiar with the latter’s work won’t find much that is new or original in “One Man’s Terrorist”. The later chapters also seem a little rushed, as Finn ploughs through the Republican Movement’s acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement and Decommissioning with undue haste. But, if you’re looking for an introduction or primer on this period of Irish history, then “One Man’s Terrorist” is a useful account of how Irish Republicanism, over the course of the last half-century, has shifted from a militant, ‘physical force’ revolutionary movement to a ‘slightly-constitutional’ flank of the political establishment.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Petey

    Finn's thrust is that leftish politics strongly motivated many of the actors in the period 1967 (founding of NICRA) - 1998 (The Good Friday Agreement). He's right, though this fact has not been totally ignored by other writers. Also, the reader needs to have a good grounding in the events of that time, as some people, groups, and incidents are referred to without much explanation. But at 226 pages it's a swift read, worth the time, and I did learn from it. (Oops, I read the hardcover not the Kind Finn's thrust is that leftish politics strongly motivated many of the actors in the period 1967 (founding of NICRA) - 1998 (The Good Friday Agreement). He's right, though this fact has not been totally ignored by other writers. Also, the reader needs to have a good grounding in the events of that time, as some people, groups, and incidents are referred to without much explanation. But at 226 pages it's a swift read, worth the time, and I did learn from it. (Oops, I read the hardcover not the Kindle. Same book anyway!)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew McCarthy

    A great book on a complex subject, unique in its focus on the spirit of '68 and political strategy in the IRA - the various splits and splinter cells, and their fates - rather than the lurid and shadowy intrigue of the movement's violence; no book on this period can avoid the latter, but the balancing act, and ultimate triumph (arguable?), of the former merits significant discussion. Also, Finn avoids a moralizing tone, too prevalent in histories of Irish republicanism, and does not assume a his A great book on a complex subject, unique in its focus on the spirit of '68 and political strategy in the IRA - the various splits and splinter cells, and their fates - rather than the lurid and shadowy intrigue of the movement's violence; no book on this period can avoid the latter, but the balancing act, and ultimate triumph (arguable?), of the former merits significant discussion. Also, Finn avoids a moralizing tone, too prevalent in histories of Irish republicanism, and does not assume a historical dialogue with an uninitiated reader - again, all too common. Yes, some sense of the period and characters is recommended, but not required. A good primer on the period and a useful read following SF's recent triumph in the South. For further context, Finn's articles "Irish Politics Since the Crash" and "The Adaptable Sinn Féin" are worth reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leif

    Daniel Finn has given us a very straightfoward, left-leaning history of the Irish Republican Army in its various permutations, alongside its companions, antagonists, and fellow-travellers in Irish politics from the Democratic Unionist Party who recently rose to fame by propping up Teresa May's brief, ineffectual government to Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, and People's Democracy, all of whom are marked by the strong characters and personalities of the politicians, activists, militants, and victims of t Daniel Finn has given us a very straightfoward, left-leaning history of the Irish Republican Army in its various permutations, alongside its companions, antagonists, and fellow-travellers in Irish politics from the Democratic Unionist Party who recently rose to fame by propping up Teresa May's brief, ineffectual government to Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, and People's Democracy, all of whom are marked by the strong characters and personalities of the politicians, activists, militants, and victims of the second wave of the Irish "troubles". From the fascinating efforts of Bernadette Devlin to Gerry Adams, who are still with us, to the host of those who are not, the cast of Finn's story is varied and complex, and if the telling seems particularist to parties such as People's Democracy, so be it. Once the brusque, alienating first chapter is over and the reader is brought up to speed with Irish political history from the first half of the twentieth century - which almost turned me off the book, I have to say; it is not very welcoming - Finn sinks into his subject with discernable relish, and if the pages do not fly by, that is because of the density of the material and not the writing itself. Finn is clear, jargon-free, and precise. I learned much.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Redpoet

    I have long been interested and supportive of the Irish struggle and especially that of the people of Northern Ireland. I have often written about it and tried to find ways to give real support. At the same time, the relative indifference of the American left has bewildered me. To finally find a book with at least a leftward slant and that deals with the political history and many of the intricacies and complexities of it all was great. I would have to say there are many places where the author I have long been interested and supportive of the Irish struggle and especially that of the people of Northern Ireland. I have often written about it and tried to find ways to give real support. At the same time, the relative indifference of the American left has bewildered me. To finally find a book with at least a leftward slant and that deals with the political history and many of the intricacies and complexities of it all was great. I would have to say there are many places where the author and I would diverge, but who cares. I learned a lot that I did not know. I would have given this book a different title.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kwong

    Enjoyable enough. This book definitely requires the reader to have a decent grasp of The Troubles prior to diving in. This book is exactly what its title describes - A Political History of The IRA. It just barely references and skims over huge events assuming the reader is already ofay with their social+historical significance. The most fascinating element of this book was discovering the Republican movement's history as a mass civil rights movement before turning in to the militant and then poli Enjoyable enough. This book definitely requires the reader to have a decent grasp of The Troubles prior to diving in. This book is exactly what its title describes - A Political History of The IRA. It just barely references and skims over huge events assuming the reader is already ofay with their social+historical significance. The most fascinating element of this book was discovering the Republican movement's history as a mass civil rights movement before turning in to the militant and then political IRA that we are more familiar with.

  9. 5 out of 5

    El

    A dense and comprehensive account of the politics of the Irish Republican movement from the late 19th century to around 2007, and then a brief recollection from 2007 to 2017. Really objective and well researched, not a fully introductory book but great for anyone who knows the basics of Irish politics of the 20th century.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sølvi Goard

    Clear and useful, fairly devoid of moralism and therefore able to be incisive about the quandaries and strengths of armed guerrilla struggle against a more powerful state, how it relates to mass movements etc. I felt like the end was a bit flat but maybe I was expecting a grand political call...and that's not what the aim of the book was. Favourite history book for a good while.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura Cunningham

    A very readable primer on the political ideologies and groups that have surrounded Irish Republicanism. Daniel Finn writes with both moral and stylistic clarity and is an important voice on the Irish Left.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam Becket

    Excellent history of the politics of the IRA/Sinn Fein, and by extension, the peace process

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Finally, the IRA as written from the left!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Fascinating insights into a history often only superficially understood

  15. 5 out of 5

    Darragh

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jan Wężyk

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  18. 5 out of 5

    cara

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ben Conway

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dara Brady

  21. 4 out of 5

    Graham

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Braigen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kyle J

  25. 4 out of 5

    Salt344

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike McCarty

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sispyphusrock

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul Manning

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lena B

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pat Gannon

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