cover image The IRA: A History

The IRA: A History

Tim Pat Coogan / Author Roberts Rinehart Publishers $27.95 (0p

Coogan ( The Man Who Made Ireland: The Life and Death of Michael Collins ) here presents a definitive history of an organization that has been equally romanticized and vilified. Considered by many to be the legitimate successor of the Fenians, the Irish Republican Army was founded during the war of independence (1916-1922). After the treaty signing, the leadership split over its ratification, dividing the IRA into Collins's pro-treaty side and Eamon de Valera's anti-treaty forces. Coogan relates the IRA's support of de Valera and his subsequent about-face on becoming Taoiseach (Prime Minister) when he introduced the Offences Against the State Act in 1939 in response to the IRA's bombing campaign in England. Some of the most interesting parts of this book surround the events of WW II when de Valera coyly played his neutrality card in favor of the British. Coogan reminds us that the present troubles in Northern Ireland began as a civil rights campaign and did not take on a truly militant character until the events of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, in which 13 unarmed marchers were killed, reviving a comatose IRA. The author relates atrocities on both sides as the IRA fought with arms, hunger strikes and funeral processions, while the British countered with prisons, torture and assassination squads. This first U.S. edition (the book was originally published in the U.K. in 1970) is updated with important information concerning the Special Air Services, a British hit-unit and the story of ``Maxwell,'' an Ulster Defense Regiment officer whose mission included the destruction of the Book of Kells. (Nov.)