MY LIFE IN THE IRA: THE BOR­DER CAM­PAIGN MICHAEL RYAN, EDITED BY PÁDRAIG YEATES

Mercier Press, ¤19.99

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - BOOKS NEWEDITIONS - FRANK MacGABHANN

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.

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