M. R. Hamilton, U.K. Review

A must-read for everyone on either side of the Irish political divide

Having been brought up in Northern Ireland in the 1950s and ‘60s, with grandparents and great-grandparents as blacksmiths and shopkeepers on both sides of the border between North and South, I learned so much’. Prior to reading this book, I had been informed – if that’s the right word – by tales of Irish history charged with an element of romance, legend – and, inevitably, the bias that accompanied the story-teller’s background and religion.

This book cuts to the chase and reveals the sad and frequently frustrating (to read) acts of wanton death and destruction that have marred Irish history for a longer and a more consistent period than I had ever imagined. It is painfully clear there are faults on all sides – enough reason for anyone of a closed nationalistic view (of whatever colour) to make this essential reading.

Although told through her eyes as a descendent of an Anglo-Irish family, Sara Day maintains a thoroughly even-handed course throughout, aided considerably by a prodigious amount of research. (The ‘Notes’ alone run to 67 pages.) Despite the vastness of the subject and detail, the book is eminently readable, even if you come away with a feeling of frustration over the underlying irony of a nation continually tearing apart (and burning) a heritage it is supposedly trying to protect. The author sums it up best in the Epilogue when she talks about the warm and generous people and yet the Island of Ireland can also be capable of ‘visceral hatred, violence and shameful deceit.’ It’s a feeling many of us have had without really understanding why. ‘Not Irish Enough’ helps answer that question.