Off the Shelf: The Border The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics, By Diaramaid Ferriter. Profile Books ISBN 978178816 1787. 2019. 184 pp. Review by Terry Kenneally
“The Irish Border is a Scar” is the title of a recent article which appeared in the March 31, 2019 New York Times, written by Patrick Radden Keefe, author most recently of “Say Nothing: ATrue Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.” For decades the border had been an open wound slicing across Ireland, with check-points, watchtowers and vehicle inspections.
This month’s Off the Shelf book review The Border traces the history of the partition of Ireland, which occurred in 1920, up to the present with the looming Brexit ramifications. Written by Diaramaid Ferriter, one of Ireland’s best-known historians, who is a Professor of Modern History at UCD and a columnist for the Irish times.
From the 1920 Government of Ireland Act that created the border, the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and its aftermath, through the Civil Rights Movement, Thatcher, the Troubles, and the Good Friday Agreement, up to the present Brexit negotiations, the border has been the bane of Ireland’s, both North and South, existence for almost a century now. People in this country are well aware of what the word ‘border’ means, in a different context, but nonetheless topical. People wishing to understand why Brexit is such an intractable issue and why it could reignite the Troubles in Northern Ireland should read this book.
Given the “soft” or “invisible” border arising out of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and before Brexit, there was reason to believe that the partition issue had been vindicated. “Brexit, however, rendered such optimism redundant and the bellicosity generated by the updated border debate inevitably brought a long history aggressively back into current affairs.”
One can only hope that these fears do not materialize. One can reflect on the words of Benedict Kiely, Irish author, born in county Tyrone the year before the partition of Ireland, who maintained, in 1945, the “most that can be hoped for is that all Irishmen who someday learn to view the past without passion, to approach the present in the practical way that the artist or craftsman approaches the material out of which he is to make something permanent and durable and essentially one.” This writer found TheBorderto be a Top Shelf read.
*Terrence J Kenneally is an attorney and owner of Terrence J. Kenneally & Assoc. in Rocky River, Ohio. He represents insured’s and insurance companies in insurance defense throughout the state of Ohio. Mr. Kenneally received his Master’s Degree in Irish Studies from John Carroll University and teaches Irish history and literature at Holy Name High School. He is also president of Holy Name High School for 2018-19.