Book Reviews: Dublin Aide Shines Light on Anglo-Irish Identity Crisis; Lost Light by Michael Connolly. Published by Orion. Pounds 6.99 (Paperback)

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), December 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews: Dublin Aide Shines Light on Anglo-Irish Identity Crisis; Lost Light by Michael Connolly. Published by Orion. Pounds 6.99 (Paperback)


Byline: ROSS SMITH

IF the central point Martin Mansergh is trying to make by publishing this collection of lectures and speeches is the importance of history in shaping current political decisions, it is neither original, nor entirely selfless.

But as an eminent historian who has worked behind the scenes for several Fianna Fail taoiseachs, no one could argue he is not in a position to testify to that.

Mansergh can trace his own Anglo ancestry back as far as the 17th century. As the title to this anthology would suggest, then, he is clearly a man who believes where we have come from is vital to understanding where we are.

Precisely where he believed that is, is harder to fathom from this book. This is a collection of works put together over more than two decades, and not a personal mission statement. However, they have no doubt been carefully collated, so one can clearly identify certain threads of his thought.

One that stands out clearly is his reverence for the United Irishmen. As a Protestant republican, it is easy to see why they should have such a place in his affections. It is evidently a source of great disappointment to Mansergh that their ideas were never given the chance to come to fruition before being nipped in the bud.

Whether their fleeting prominence more than 200 years ago can be used as any kind of convincing evidence that a similar unity could be formed between the two traditions in Ulster now is highly doubtful, though.

One telling moment in this book which gives a clue to how Mansergh's mind works is when he reveals his sympathies in the early days of the Troubles, confirming to him he must make a decision on which half of his Anglo-Irish identity he wants to opt for.

The notion that a person can quite happily admit to holding more than one source of identity is one that has been stifled. …

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