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Book Review Living in an Armed Patriarchy by Lynda Walker

Essential reading on the women’s liberation struggle in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s on

THIS booklet by Lynda Walker goes back to the years from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, years that shook the north of Ireland profoundly in many ways.

In exploring the experience of the dispossessed from their own point of view, hers is the kind of writing about past events that departs from mainstream bourgeois history and she records aspects of their suffering and resistance with a compassion reflecting her personal involvement.

The people most likely to achieve lasting and real change in the north of Ireland are those who are the worst affected by the grotesque version of capitalism manifest in Britain’s strife-ridden colonial backwater. As Walker shows, civil rights were slow to arrive from the late 1960s on and, in glaring contrast to both Britain and the Republic of Ireland, in some instances have yet to be achieved.

The absence of women’s rights to choose and to same-sex marriage can be linked to the greatest handicap of this artificial statelet that is the north of Ireland — political sectarianism. It has been fuelled along contrived religious lines to divide a disempowered working class and those who then, as now, carry the greatest burden are its women.

Walker traces the evolution of the Northern Ireland women’s rights movement from the time of the wider political struggles fought by these women as their very existence and that of their families came under threat, referencing the roles played by women in the political movements and organisations as an aspect of Irish women from both traditions breaking free from their silencing and becoming aware of their powers.

Walker’s is not the haughty “objective” voice of one who comments from above and beyond the struggles of the ordinary people, a voice that is not actually objective but conceals the bourgeois view in verbal pomposity.

It is an account of the experience of working-class women in a political battle that propelled them forward to ensure their demands for civil rights also included equality for women and it shows that the long, hard struggles of working people for progressive change can lead to success.

Historians, after all, may interpret the world in different ways. But the important goal is to change it.

Published by Communist Party of Ireland and available from Unity Press, PO Box 85, Belfast, BT1 1SR, £5/£6.50 p&p; Unity Books, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA, £5/£6.50 p&p and inshore or online from Connolly Books, 43 East Essex Street, Dublin D02 Y306, connollybooks@eircon.net

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