Book Review: The Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement by Siobhan Fenton, 2018, Biteback Publishing

Pros: Quick and Easy read

Provides needed context on women’s and LGBTQ issues in Ireland

A great overview of what’s happened in Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement

Cons: Lacking in deep analysis on any issues

This book is a breezy and easy read of North Ireland, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement. When I initially bought the book, I was hoping there would have been a little more analysis done on how the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated and signed, but still found this book incredibly interesting. Interestingly, a lot of topics covered in this book are also discussed in Patrick Radden Keefe’s book Say Nothing.

Siobhan focuses on how the Good Friday Agreement affected minorities in Ireland, the efforts to deal with the missing people and trauma of the war, the breakdown of government in North Ireland, and how Brexit looms large on the horizon. The most interesting chapters are the ones that discuss domestic violence during and after the Troubles, how the various political parties use LGBTQ issues to push their own agendas, and the government’s refusal to properly address the war’s trauma. I found this chapter particularly interesting since I learned about the many different approaches communities can take to heal after a mass genocide or war while in grad school, and Ireland hasn’t done anything. There are the governmental trials to investigate into the many missing person’s cases, but they are half-hearted attempts and it is clear that the government would rather do nothing than risk the fragile peace that was earned by the agreement.

Siobhan’s book is a good and quick read with moments of interesting analysis. It’s definitely something I would recommend to a person who knew little about North Ireland and wanted a primer on what’s happened since the Troubles. However, I found the book shallow in its analysis in many places and found myself wanting to know more. I think Say Nothing covers the trauma side of things much better than Siobhan’s book, but Siobhan provided desperately needed context on women’s and LGBTQ issues.

Overall, this was a good read, if a little light in deep analysis.

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