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Pardon and peace: a reflection on the making of peace in Ireland.

Canon Frayling is Anglican Rector of Liverpool--a city that has many links with Ireland and a large Irish population. Over the past decade he has been involved in efforts to build partnership and trust between its diverse communities--Anglican, Roman Catholic and Free Church leaders write a joint foreword to this book.

The murder of Earl Mountbatten by the IRA in 1979 prompted Frayling's conviction--which forms the book's central theme--that politics alone is not enough to end conflict in Ireland. `In a moment of heightened awareness and deep emotion which I have never been able to explain in rational terms, I realized that there would never be peace in Ireland until there was an expression of sorrow for all the hurt and injustice that had been done to the Irish people. I was equally certain that the primary obligation for that sorrow, and its public expression, lay first and foremost with Britain.'

In 1993, when an IRA bomb exploded in a shopping centre in Warrington, near Liverpool, killing two children and injuring 50 other people, he expressed his views in a letter to a newspaper. To his surprise, he received over 200 letters from all over Britain and from Ireland: all but six were positive. From this he concluded there must be a substantial body of opinion in the UK which is uneasy about Britain's role in Ireland, and that in Ireland there is `an amazing degree of gratitude for anyone who tries to understand the difficulties faced by people there'.

The early part of this book describes his own journey of discovery into Anglo-Irish relations, past and present. Three chapters record the views of Nationalists and Loyalists, Catholic and Presbyterian and Church of Ireland clergy. (`A listening Englishman is rarer than spring flowers in the Bogside,' one of them told Frayling.) Another chapter tackles English prejudice--the steroetype of the thick-headed Paddy which has been used to justify British control since Elizabeth I's time. An appendix provides a 24-page summary of Irish history.

Those who would seek out the roots of conflict in Northern Ireland will find this compact and accessible book a helpful introduction. Some of the author's questions may strike an informed reader as naive--but who does not feel out of depth when seeking to understand the complexities of Irish history and the powerful emotions they generate?

Canon Frayling holds fast to his belief that reconciliation cannot come about without repentance, and that Britain must lead the way with unequivocal apology for the evils suffered by Ireland's divided communities--both Nationalists and Loyalists--as a result of British policy down the centuries. He quotes Joan Tapsfield, an Englishwoman who went to live in Northern Ireland in order to learn more about her country's role there: `To face the past is not to forego our patriotism, but to enhance it.'
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Publication:For A Change
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1996
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