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Book review: The Defeat of Ireland’s Civil Rights Movement, John McAnulty (2018)

Reviewed by Gerry Ruddy

21 May 2024

It shows its age in that much has happened since and not all as the writer predicted. However, it is worth bring it up to date since its essential message is the continuing failure of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to solve the problems of the north of Ireland. (Northern Ireland if you wish)

It is still a sectarian state. The benefits of the GFA have not filtered down to the working classes no matter how they self-identify. The beneficiaries have been the usual suspects, the political elites, the middles classes and big business. There has been a sectarian carve-up of the political structures agreed between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The gains forced on the British Government by the civil rights movement in the 1970s have been pushed back. There is now more inequality for the working class than even then. And still the spectre of sectarianism hovers over all decisions on housing, health, the economy, jobs, marches, funerals and nearly every decision of the administration currently working. And let’s be very clear. It is an administration, not a Government. Stormont is beholding to the British Treasury for its finances. It has limited flexibility in what it can impose. But in the pursuit of populism, it does nothing.

All their negotiations by the leaders of Sinn Fein, and there has been very many, have produced very little. Political violence has been greatly reduced to the relief of many. But success? Hardly They agreed to a referendum but only when the British Secretary of State agrees the conditions are right for it.  Any sign of that happening soon?

“The Defeat of Ireland’s Civil Rights Movement” also shows the limitations of a purely militarist approach to the national question. Perhaps it should’ve added ‘The Armed Struggle” to the title.

All in all, while it may have a limited reading audience it is worth the time to revise this pamphlet with a more comprehensive outline of our sectarian history and more focus on the various chapters.

On a factual point the PD was formed on the Wednesday following the previous Saturday’s October the 5th Derry March. So, PD was formed on October the 9th 1968.

The defeat of Ireland's Civil Rights movement: From prehistory to postscript (2018)
By John McAnulty

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