‘Rebel Hearts’ by Kevin Toolis

My Review (5 stars out of 5)

Recounting the investigation by journalist Kevin Toolis into the lives of men and women who were part of the IRA’s efforts to oust the British Army from Ireland during the infamous ‘troubles’. Exploring the history of the cause and the republican (and loyalist) interpretations of it, Toolis uses interviews with IRA members, their families and their victims to paint a searing portrait of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

As an eight-year-old back in 1969, I remember a cousin of mine staying at our house one Christmas before going off to Ireland as a member of the British armed forces. Aside from the bombings in Britain, I can’t claim to know much about the atrocities perpetuated by the IRA and other militant factions but have long been interested in understanding the motives behind such behaviour. As a starting point, this book may be a bit ‘heavy’ for some readers, as the many and varied political standpoints of some of the interviewees isn’t always easy to get to grips with. Though from Irish roots himself, the author strives to keep his investigation objective, preferring to let the main protagonists speak for themselves. Through interviews with IRA members and their families, he allows them to air their views without imposing his own ideas. However, it is clear from many of the accounts that the overriding conclusion is one of a group of people who would stop at nothing to get what they wanted.

Including interviews with infamous former leader of the Provisional IRA, Martin McGuinness, Toolis has written a fascinating and meticulous account that sheds light on the methods, motives and thinking behind the IRA and its activities.

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