IRELAND'S HOLY WARS: The Struggle for a Nation's Soul, 1500–2000

Linda Bierds, Author . Putnam $29.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-399-14786-9

Tanner chronicles the conflict between Protestants and Catholics from the 12th century Old English who first settled the Pale up to the "New Ireland" of the past decade in this intriguing unorthodox history. The heart of the volume is a consideration of the Unionist and Nationalist movements of the last century, as the author (Croatia: A Nation Forged in War) attempts to demonstrate that it was "Ireland's religious struggle that forged the political and national identities" of its people. He examines the Rising of 1916 from the unusual perspective of the alleged homosexuality of Padraig Pearse, the "President" of the Provisional Government. (Pearse, a schoolmaster who liked to write poetry about the limbs of young boys, was selected as president largely on his writing and oratorical skills.) Tanner investigates the Church's domination in the new nation, touching on the banning of books, which became a source of pride for Irish writers, and the anti-Semitism of the bishops. He also looks at the founder of Northern Ireland, Sir Edward Carson, whose résumé includes the prosecution of Oscar Wilde, and the cooperative arrangement between the two states during WWII. The turning point for the modern country, Tanner argues, was the election of Mary Robinson as president of the republic in 1990—when "liberal, agnostic Ireland [beat] Catholic Ireland." Some readers may object to Tanner's insistence that political movements be viewed as religiously motivated instead of independent, secular events, or his tendency to blame the Church's media problems on liberals and gays getting even for years of persecution. Still, salient points in a coherent history make this a provocative read. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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Paperback - 88 pages - 978-0-399-14797-5
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