Thomas E. Hachey,
Britain & Irish Separatism:
From the Fenians to
the Free State 1867-1922

(Catholic University of America, 1984)

The period of Irish history covered by this book relates very accurately the events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in British/Irish relations. Thomas E. Hachey opens with a Reader's Digest condensed history of Ireland in his introduction which, while thoroughly appropriate in its brevity, leaves the beginner sometimes at a loss. It does cover the important points, however, especially those needed as a foundation for the events occurring in the body of the book.

He makes up for his scarcity of introductory verbiage by closely examining separatism in ten chapters that begin with the Liberalism in Britain and the Home Rule Movement in Ireland (1867-1900). His chapters are divided into smaller segments covering specific topics like "The Policies of Prime Minister Gladstone," "The Founding of the Irish Parliamentary Party" and "The Founding of the Fenians." Significant persons are also given their own sections as mini-biographies that help place personalities to the names. Isaac Butts and Charles Stuart Parnell are each given a cameo, but one wonders at the omission of Gladstone to this august assembly.

The second chapter follows suit in form and explores the various "flavors" of separatism in Ireland from 1890 to 1911, including the Literary Revival, the Gaelic League and Sinn-Fein. Legal activities of Parliament are also closely scrutinized for effects on the situation in Ireland.

The chapters following cover the struggles with Westminster for Home Rule and the struggles in Ireland between the Nationalists and the Unionists. Britain's actions, inactions, attitudes and growing consternation as World War I neared are clearly outlined. The mishaps, fumbles and foibles that led to the tragedy of the Easter Rebellion are also listed one after the other. The aftermath of the Rebellion and the ensuing efforts for freedom are just as meticulously expounded upon.

This book elicits a sadness of great depth. The ill-timed efforts, missteps and miscalculations are presented in stark, bare prose that leaves the level of reaction of it contents to the reader. The end of the story (the Easter Rebellion) is known, but reading the events that lead up to it, make it seem even more tragic. The author strives with a fair amount of success to remain objective and neutral. It is worth reading for those with interest in Irish history regardless of the inspiration of such curiosity.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]
Rambles: 1 July 1999

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