Discovering the Troubles through Print

By Jacob L. Snizik

This book is medium in size but heavier than one might think it is when you pick it up. It contains 417 pages within the covers. When I pick it up, I see the author, Gerry Adams, and think of why he wrote this book. For those who don’t know, from 1983 to 2018, Gerry Adams was the President of the Sinn Fein political party in Northern Ireland. Their goals as a party were, and still are to a degree, to unite the Emerald Isle into a single republic, free from the influence of the United Kingdom. Since the 1920s, the north of Ireland as been part of the UK while the “south” has maintained its freedom, first as the Irish Free State and later as the Republic of Ireland.

From 1969 to 1998, there was a sectarian war raging in the North that occasionally spilled over into the south of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European continent; it was known as The Troubles, a rather nonchalant name for such a violent time. Adams lived through that time, dodging bullets and having to speak at political functions hours after bombs had gone off. As I flip through the book, I see pictures from the conflict; pictures of him with political leaders like Bill Clinton, Albert Reynolds the Irish Prime Minister and Senator Ted Kennedy. There are images of dilapidated buildings littered with bullet holes, bombed out homes, and people running from gunfire at cemeteries when forces loyal to the British would pull drive byes at Irish Republican Army (IRA) funerals. The text is small and black, it’s very too the point, just like the contents it reveals. On the back, the book is praised by reviewers from The Tampa Tribune, The New York Times, and The Richmond Times Dispatch. The quote on the front from The New York Times Review that is seen at the top of the article is profoundly true. From the Hunger Strikes of 1981 where the book begins to The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that ended The Troubles, Adams and his people are always focused on ending the conflict, talking to the British and the British loyalists, to try and find a middle ground that will suffice all parties involved, especially those in the IRA, who seek to take Ireland back from the British by force.

When I found this book over Spring Break this past semester when I was visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, I had already written an historiography on the IRA and the Troubles. The book grabbed me, I knew of Adams but I had no idea how involved he was in the peace process. I see the Irish Flag in the background, which was illegal to fly in the North during the conflict, as a symbol of hope and as a goal, one that melds in very well with the title, A Farther Shore.

If one was ever wondered why there is a border in Ireland, they should read this book.

2 thoughts on “Discovering the Troubles through Print”

  1. Excellent – you capture how effectively the book-as-object delivers us to the author as a site of authority in this historical context: “When I pick it up, I see the author, Gerry Adams, and think of why he wrote this book.” As I study the cover myself, I’m interested in this photograph, his penetrating gaze at something out-of-frame (something he can see that we can’t), the green and orange color palette which calls to mind the Irish flag, and the lofty promise of the front-and-center NYT Book Review blurb – that this book will teach the reader how to ‘construct peace.’ I’m glad that you brought your historian-mind into this post!

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  2. I like that you start by saying how the book is heavier than one might think. Whether intentional or not, the first sentence has a great double meaning that suggests the heavy nature of the conflict presented in your book. I like that you went into details about the book – you manage to cover a variety of aspects about the content.

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