In the early years of the twentieth century, simmering discontent began to boil over on the island of Ireland as the nascent IRA took its guerrilla campaign against British rule to the streets. By 1921, Britain had beaten a retreat from all but a small portion of the country – and thus Northern Ireland was born. Kevin Meagher argues that partition has been an unmitigated disaster for Nationalists and Unionists alike.
As the long and fraught history of British rule in Ireland staggered to a close, a better future was there for the taking but was lost amid political paralysis, while the resulting fifty years of devolution succeeded only in creating a brooding sectarian stalemate that exploded into the Troubles. In a stark but reasoned critique, Meagher traces the landmark events in Northern Ireland’s century of existence, exploring the missed signals, the turning points, the principled decisions that at various stages should have been taken, as well as the raw realpolitik of how Northern Ireland has been governed over the past 100 years. Thoughtful and sometimes provocative, What a Bloody Awful Country reflects on how both Loyalists and Republicans might have played their cards differently and, ultimately, how the actions of successive British governments have amounted to a masterclass in failed statecraft.