MY LIFE IN THE IRA: THE BORDER CAMPAIGN MICHAEL RYAN, EDITED BY PÁDRAIG YEATES
Mercier Press, ¤19.99
If anyone believes that the IRA’s “Border campaign” of 1956-1962 was heroic, this is a must-read book. As Pádraig Yeates puts it in his perceptive introduction, this is a story of “suffering, hardship, frustration and constant disappointment”. He could have added rain, mud and freezing cold. Mick Ryan, from East Wall in Dublin, left school at the age of 13 and joined the IRA at 18 just in time to participate in the Border campaign. Like many a young man of his generation, he dreamed of being in the GPO in 1916 with Pearse and Connolly and believed that their sacrifice, along with that of Tone, Emmett, Mitchell and others sustained his own. A vivid storyteller, Ryan describes in detail the tragicomic attacks with hopelessly antiquated weapons mounted against the Northern state, punctuated by grateful stays at nationalist safe houses, with people gladly sharing what little food they had, sometimes only bread and tea. The book is also a poignant social history of Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.