Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Fein

By Deaglan De Breadun

That knocking sound concentrating the minds of the leaders of the Republic’s main political parties right now is a growing number of Sinn Fein ministers at the doors of power, doors that were once insuperably closed to them.

Sinn Fein’s rise is perhaps the most remarkable political story of our generation, and in this masterful account longtime northern editor and political correspondent for The Irish Times Deaglan De Breadun presents the definitive account of the party’s long path to power north and south of the border.

Those who wish to halt Sinn Fein’s rise refuse to accept that they are no longer at war, no longer the political wing of the “armed struggle” carried out by the Provisional IRA.

But that long campaign was declared definitively over by the Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC) established by the Irish and British governments and confirmed by the commissioner of the Garda Siochana.

So from being what De Breadun calls “the Provo’s brass band” the party has turned into something altogether more unanticipated by Dublin, a left wing political model that has a real chance of wielding significant power on both sides of the border in this century, a key player.

Current polling suggests the party will give Fine Gael a serious run for its money in the next general election, but whether it has a prospect of entering government in a major way the Republic is still in play.

What is clear is that the old attacks on the party gain no traction as it recovers from every charge leveled at it. De Breadun advises us that we should countenance that fact in the coming elections.

Equally he contemplates the unforeseen effects its coming to power could have both north and south of the border. The party’s slogan is Tiocfaidh ar la (our day will come) and it appears to be finally coming true for them, but perhaps not quite in the way they originally expected.

Merrion Press, $24.99.

Battleground: The Battle for the General Post Office

By Paul O’Brien

Dublin's General Post Office, the GPO, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the 1916 Easter Rising as it served as the general headquarters of the Republican Army during Easter Week.

Fighting what was a symbolic battler against the overwhelming military power of the British Army the Rising itself was quickly and brutally suppressed.

Author Paul Daly sets the scene with a you-are-there account of that begins on the eve of the Rising and follows through to the risible show trials that inspired a wavering nation to take the rebels side.

Daly doesn’t belabor what inspired the principal leaders. He simply conveys their military aims and actions in a particularly clear-sighted way, making Battleground a terrific primer with which to understand how and why the most iconic building in Ireland became the launch site of the Irish revolution.

Dufour, $22.

Inside the GPO, 1916 – A First Hand Account

By Joe Good

As we slouch toward the centenary of 1916 it appears we have yet to fully grapple the Rising’s legacy north and south of the border. This wonderfully vivid account, written in 1946, recounts the on the ground experiences of Joe Good who became an Irish rebel while still just a boy.

Born in London, Good joined the Irish Volunteers on the same day as Michael Collins. When other men were being conscripted to fight the war in France he took the ferry to Dublin to fight instead for what he called “the land of his dreams.”

It took courage of a kind rarely witnessed to stand against the might of the Empire in Ireland in 1916. So his account of the lead up to the Rising is full of tales daring exploits that required steel nerves. He gets close to the leaders of the Rising and offers intimate portraits of Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, Fitzgerald, MacBride, MacDermott, Plunkett, Brugha and his close friend Michael Collins.

But he emerges on these pages as a kind of ideal observer of the whole bloody maelstrom, bringing a fine sense of irony to the proceedings and deflating the usual militaristic pieties. Good’s modesty makes him a terrific witness to history and his droll tone make this an indispensable volume on the rebellion.

Dufour, $17.

A look at books: Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising.