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The IRA and Sinn Fein
Irish Republican Army

The violent struggles of Northern Ireland have consumed journalist Peter Taylor since his first assignment there in 1972.  One fateful day, "Bloody Sunday," 14 unarmed men were gunned down by British paratroopers; this was the turning point in Taylor's journalistic career, inspiring him to make 50 documentaries and write five books on the troubled nation.   Behind the Mask, his sixth, is a provocative foray into the organization so synonymous with violence: the Irish Republican Army and its political wing of Sinn Fein.  Based on one of Taylor's television documentaries shown in both the United Kingdom and the United States, he was given unprecedented access to members of the Republican movement -- a rare journalistic feat. Taylor describes the interviews as "intense, often emotional and remarkably frank."

From Kirkus Reviews , February 1, 1996
Small societies with big troubles often spawn remarkable books, and this one on the IRA by Toolis, a British journalist of Irish descent, is one of the best. The unequal dimensions of the adversaries are extraordinary enough.  The IRA consists of about 600 volunteers and has a budget of less that $8 million a year.  By comparison, the British government has 30,000 combat troops in Northern Ireland and spends œ1 billion a year in attempting to suppress its opponents.   Since 1973 the war has been taken to England itself in an attempt ``to sap the will of the British Government.''    The IRA came close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher and a number of her colleagues in Brighton, and more recently John Major and his War Cabinet while they were meeting at Downing Street.   The strength of Toolis's book is that he communicates the personal dimension of this dedication and cruelty: a once apolitical family whose sons became leaders in the IRA or lawyers defending it; Paddy Flood, who was executed by the IRA as a traitor; Frankie Ryan, who blew himself and his girlfriend up while trying to set off a bomb; Joe MacManus, who died trying to murder a Protestant dog-catcher; and Martin McGuinness, who is probably the head of the IRA.    Toolis believes the ``the long horror of Ulster's troubles is dwindling away to a whimpering conclusion,'' an opinion surprising in light of the evidence of polarization that he deploys.   Despite the ``final bitter contradiction'' that
``the justice of the political cause was invalidated by the cruelty of the murders carried out in its name,'' he believes that ``there will be peace in Ireland and it will be a republican peace.''   One can argue with his conclusions, but it would be hard to find another book that looks as
dispassionately into the soul of the IRA and its influence on the future of Northern Ireland. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

I want my readers to have a fresh picture of the north.    When I began work on this book two years ago I was not sure whether I would end up an "IRA man" in spirit or someone committed to opposing those who were being called terrorists in the world press.   I think I did manage to learn for myself what were the factors involved in the violence.  What I hope is that by sharing what I have learned, my readers will come to understand what must be done to bring about a just peace.   I want you to understand what can end the violence.    When I began this book two years ago I was not at all sure where I would end up.   Would I be a supporter of the Irish republican movement or would I be a critic of it.   With the assistance of many in Sinn Fein and others with varying degrees of closeness to the men and women known as "volunteers," I think I did come to see a picture of the north quite different from the one allowed readers in both the United States and England.  To some extent I did become "an IRA man" in spirit, although I do not want this to be construed as accepting all levels of violence.    Now, as the situation worsens in the north, I want my readers to understand for themselves just what the fighting
is about on both sides.  The author, Douglass McFerran

This book is the best institutional history of the IRA and the Republican movement I have come across.   It illuminates very clearly the dynamics of the conflict and the fundamental differences in perception and misreading of the other sides by all parties that has made this such a long war.

Handbook for Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army:
Notes of Guerrilla Warfare

by Irish Republican Army Ireland Staff
Paperback (1956)

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