There could have been no more fitting location to celebrate the publication of Maurice Walsh’s tome, titled ‘The News from Ireland’ than Carrick-on-Suir’s Heritage Centre on Thursday last.
Be it Clancy Brothers mementoes, the vestments of Cardinal Michael Browne or the hooter that sounded at the town’s Tannery between 1935 and 1985, the former Protestant church is truly a place of living history.
Maurice Walsh, who like this columnist had the good fortune of attending Carrick-on-Suir CBS, has produced a superbly scripted book focusing on foreign correspondents’ coverage of the Irish Revolution.
A little like the splendid centre where his book was snapped up by friends and old schoolmates alike, Walsh has, according to Colm Tóibín filled “an important gap in our understanding of the Irish revolutionary period”.
Others who have proudly associated themselves with the book’s launch and saluted it so heartily are part of this island’s political ‘who’s who’.
Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, whose father Desmond was in the GPO on Easter Sunday 1916 and went on to serve as Head of Dáil Éireann’s Propaganda Department, launched the book in Dublin.
Minister Martin Mansergh, perhaps the only sitting TD whose breadth of Irish political knowledge rivals that of Mr FitzGerald’s, braved the elements (and a few over 70s, I’d imagine) to deliver a lecture on Walsh’s book.
During his eloquent treatise, Minister Mansergh referred to “democracy with a vengeance” when illustrating the spirit that drove Ireland towards independence.
He wryly added that a similar spirit had been invoked by today’s pensioners in this post-Budget climate, many of whom were children of those who’d fought to see the tricolour raised at Dublin Castle.
The notion of all politics being local was also referenc-ed on the night by the author himself, who unfolded a piece of paper containing a diary entry of Nicholas Mansergh, the Minister’s father.
Dated September 13th 1938, following a trip to a mart in Cahir, the diarist wrote of “a power intoxicated Führer” as Adolf Hitler fixed his gaze upon the Sudetenland.
Given our own history, we’ve had reason aplenty to note the intentions of foreign powers toward other territories.
For example, that same curiosity surely led Irish journalists, including Maurice Walsh to Central America in the early 80s, where the Cold War was fought by proxy.
Mixing that traditional curiosity with religious overtones undoubtedly led many Irishmen into the trenches of World War I to defend Catholic Belgium, making the timing of our Revolution a greater curiosity to the outside world.
That FitzGerald and Mansergh have associated themselves with ‘The News from Ireland’ could surely afford the author no greater a source of commendation when it comes to the promotion of this heavily researched, finely written work.
FitzGerald’s signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement and Mansergh’s role in securing the peace deal in Northern Ireland (during one fraught period, he was the only communicative link between the IRA and John Bruton’s government) are justly lauded.
For they are themselves components of our living history, men that, irrespective of your political persuasion, we should all be proud of given what they did to secure peace on this island.
Those who turned out in such great numbers last Thursday night were clearly proud of the efforts of Maurice Walsh, one of their own.
Fellow Carrick scribe Michael Cody, who emceed the evening’s proceedings, spoke for all when describing Maurice’s book as “the story of our community and our country”.
The War of Independence began in County Tipperary while the Civil War’s final shot was fired into Liam Lynch’s body on the Knockmealdowns which straddle Tipp and Waterford.
That a man from South Tipperary came home to discuss his new book just yards from the Suir that separates those two great counties could hardly have been more apt. And through ‘The News From Ireland’, Maurice Walsh has truly done the state some service.