does a reviewer tackle what essentially amounts to
a chronology? Cast a suspicious eye for what its author
omits; or deconstruct whatever narrative, if any,
happens to accompany the jumble of dates, events and
reports of who said what to whom about which? It has
been said that if we do not know what happened then
we shall never find out why it happened. With that
in mind chronologies are indispensable short cuts.
But truth is not, as Foucault points out, a mere matter
of thought conforming to things. Thought has its own
way of producing things, choosing what to prioritise,
what weight to give particular inflexions and so on.
Subsequently, no chronology is a simple value free
construction. This is as true of Brian Rowans
The Armed Peace as it is of similar endeavours.
Rowan, a long time security correspondent with the
BBC, has sat down to put together a book that covers
the post 1994 years is a credit to him. One either
needs to be brain dead and thus immune to the tedium
of the peace process, or possessed of a commitment
to their line of work, which would allow some deep
digging into the reserves of motivation, that otherwise
remain beyond the ability of those equipped with more
mortal constitutions. Rowans commitment places
him in the motivational category. How he has held
his sanity after years of listening to the garbage
bins that pass as politicians and players, while they
spew out their endless rubbish, beggars belief. In
the peace process where the same lies are told with
tautological monotony, where one event slips into
another, and one years speech seems the same
as any other; where endless talk of the greatest crisis
ever, or the most important summit yet, or the most
serious election witnessed in the history of the British
Isles, erodes the grey cells which sustain our interest,
Rowan has survived and has managed to leave us something
that will be flicked through by students of the conflict
for years to come as they seek to ground events.
as Rowan by dint of his job title is expected to have
access to the type of sources and contacts that most
researchers would give their eye tooth for, he seems
not to have produced the big aces that readers would
hope for. On the contrary, the book comes in the form
of one long rally after another, with little to puncture
the predictability of serve, return, return again
ad infinitum. If you report what the political equivalent
of boring Belgium businessmen tell you, your report
is hardly going to scale the dizzying heights of titillation.
many ways, this is a book that Sinn Fein more than
most will be happy with. Perhaps this is why so many
turned up for the launch. And it is not as if they
can be found rushing off to greet every book that
examines their party. They were all conspicuously
absent from the launch of Ed Moloneys book on
Gerry Adams' management of the IRA.
give away that the author of The Armed Peace had succumbed
to the charms of Sinn Fein, which he clearly regards
as an establishment party, comes when the reader contrasts
his approach to the loyalists with that of republicans.
Rowan simply accuses the UDA of lying when it said
it had ordered the Red Hand Defenders to stand down:
this was nonsense: the UDA was the Red Hand
Defenders. But nothing so direct when it comes
to putting names and faces on the IRA army council.
Yet the security correspondent for the BBC knows better.
And if he doesnt he should join the sports team.
Armed Peace By Brian Rowan. Mainstream. £15.99
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