In This Review

Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
By David Mckittrick and David Mcvea
New Amsterdam Books, 2002, 368 pp

Known in the region simply as "the Troubles," the clashes between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland have taken more than 3,600 lives since 1969, bogged down tens of thousands of British troops, and ruined more than one political career. In this admirably balanced account, McKittrick (a journalist) and McVea (an educator) show how Ireland's independence in 1921 never really resolved the sectarian issues in the island's north. They explain why those fissures sparked the worst recurring violence that Europe has experienced for decades. Irish Republican Army atrocities get all the detailed attention they deserve, but so do the errors and provocations of the Unionist side, which never really made a place in politics or society for Catholic residents and produced its own share of bigotry and violence. As this intelligent narrative demonstrates, the current peace process has had too many setbacks for anyone to have confidence that it will succeed. But it also shows how constructive outside intervention and a few courageous individuals can make a difference and provide at least some hope.