A Political History of the Two Irelands

A Political History of the Two Irelands: from Partition to Peace

(Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan) £16.99


 Brian M. Walker

(Professor of Irish Studies, School of Politics, Queen’s University Belfast)


As we embark on a decade of commemorations no book is more fitting to read in preparation than Brian Walker’s recent publication.

This is a book in two parts. In part one this well researched and documented book takes us through our recent history, demonstrating how and why relationships deteriorated between the two parts of this island since its partition.

The question of majority and minority identities are examined from both a northern and southern perspective, as well as the fraught questions involving remembering and forgetting through commemorating. He does this by drawing our attention to the four annual commemorative events that have marked both Irelands from 1921 to 1960.  He comments:

Two of the events commemorated, the Battle of the Boyne and the Easter Rising, are single identity concerns relating to unionists and nationalists/republicans, respectively. St Patrick’s Day and Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday, however, were both originally part of a widespread shared identity in Ireland but this ceased to be the case as each became monopolised very largely by one side or the other.

In part two Walker argues that “at the core of the problem lay a conflict over identity”.  He demonstrates that this is not unique to Ireland, but is seen in many Western European countries. He argues that it was the change in identities which unlocked the door to peace.

Fundamentally this is a book about relationships – how they have destroyed the past. We would be wise not to let them destroy the future.


This review appeared in the Presbyterian Herald