Rebels and Informers

Oliver Knox, Author Palgrave MacMillan $85 (322p) ISBN 978-0-312-21097-7
Next year will mark the bicentennial of the Irish Rising of 1798. Knox, an adviser to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, does not concentrate on the Rising itself, however, but rather on the participants. After 200 years of Irish insurrection, he notes, the seeds of modern Irish nationalism were sown by the Protestant gentry with the creation in 1791 of the United Irishmen movement. We're shown the movement's leaders: Wolfe Tone, ""personally magnanimous and delightful,"" and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a utopian and a hard-edged revolutionary. Knox discusses how the American and French revolutions influenced both Tone and Fitzgerald; how they strove for a ""union of the sects"" of Ireland; and their separate visits to America as tourists, which Fitzgerald liked and Tone abhorred (""I have no great talent for the tomahawk""). We see the influence of the American agitator Thomas Paine on Fitzgerald and learn that Tone was something of a dandy who wore a toupee. As revolution broke out in Ireland, both revolutionaries died, Fitzgerald from a gunshot wound and Tone, in prison, by his own hand. The most prominent informer of the United Irishmen, according to Knox, was a man named Thomas Collins, a money-grubbing opportunist. One of the ironies of this erudite book is that 120 years later another Collins--Michael--would lead Ireland's 1916-1921 revolution against the British. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 02/16/1998
Release date: 02/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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