Maurice Walsh is one of the most talented Irish journalists of his generation, and has travelled much of the world for the BBC. His latest project has taken him back to a vital time in Irish history, and to the British press coverage of the Troubles (à la J G Farrell, and still the most apposite term). Yet the book’s cover inadvertently reveals the crux of the matter: it bears a picture of an Irish army soldier on sentry duty, but after the period covered within. Clearly, pictorial imprecision didn’t worry the publishers too much: apparently, anything both ‘Irish’ and vaguely appropriate would do.
Quite so. For the general English vacuity about matters Irish contrasts steeply with the Irish obsession – itself often ill-informed – about the relationship between the two peoples. And the main protagonists of the work under review, who inhabited this strange, intellectually unbalanced world, were the British correspondents