Republican tone?

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 1 (Jan/Feb 2006), Letters, Letters, Volume 14

Sir,

—Anyone who was worried after Hiram Morgan left his position as joint editor of History Ireland that the magazine would lose its objectivity under the sole editorship of Tommy Graham and become much more Republican in tone should be alarmed by the last issue (HI 13.6, Nov./Dec. 2005).
Graham takes a full paragraph in the letters page to reply to John Draper’s letter where Mr Draper questions the popular mandate given to the IRA campaign of 1919–21. Unless Mr Draper made some factual errors (which he didn’t) I don’t see why his letter shouldn’t be left to stand as an opinion of a reader. (What else is a letters page for?) Graham’s response simply berates him for holding an opinion that conflicts with his own.
The selection of Tim Pat Coogan to review Peter Hart’s book on Michael Collins is hardly an objective choice. Coogan prides himself on writing what I’m sure he regards as the definitive book on Collins some years ago, and is not likely to take kindly to Hart’s (rather immodest) claim that his new biography will be the ‘first book from which future historians can work’ and that he ‘has found things that other biographers wouldn’t’. I’ve read Coogan’s book on Collins (and de Valera) and they’re well-researched and unbiased works, but in recent years Coogan has put himself forward as a fire-breathing opponent of so-called ‘revisionist’ historians and has increasingly fallen under the spell of militant Republicanism. Any credibility he had as an objective historian is now surely gone as a result of his decision to write the foreword to the biography of the truly appalling Martin Ferris. The selection of Coogan to review Hart’s biography of Collins guaranteed a critical thrashing for the book and gave Coogan another chance to rant on against revisionism. You could have chosen a reviewer with less axes to grind. (And you could at least have mentioned that Coogan had written a previous biography of Collins.)
Laurence McKeown’s piece on Long Kesh was simply unforgiveable. Maudlin, sentimental drivel such as ‘the young men wrapped in blankets defied the creators of this place of incarceration; the singsongs we once had in these wings, the quizzes and the banter between friends . . . the words of Bobby Sands: “Let our revenge be the laughter of our children”’. Even in a Wolfe Tones song such rubbish would make one blush with embarrassment. The fact that it’s in a supposedly serious history magazine is mind-boggling.
History Ireland holds an important position as Ireland’s only history magazine. As such, it has a responsibility to take an objective and fair-minded line on Ireland’s troubled past. Graham seems increasingly unable or unwilling to do this.

—Yours etc.,
EAMONN ROSS
Rathfarnham
Dublin 16

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