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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999
Sydney Elliott and W.D. Flackes with John Coulter

Belfast: Blackstaff Press
730 pp, index, hb, 30.00, ISBN 0-85640-628-7



Since its first edition in 1980, this directory has been an essential reference tool for anyone interested in the politics of Northern Ireland. The fourth edition was published early in 1994, just before the paramilitary ceasefires. It was exhaustive, authoritative and definitive - up to that point. However it contained little information on the new groups and personalities that came to prominence in the six dynamic years that followed. The new fifth edition, completed during a pause in the peace process in summer 1999, therefore has a tough act to follow. It does not completely succeed. This is particularly true in the "Dictionary of Northern Ireland Politics" section which lists key personalities, themes and events of the Troubles in alphabetical order. One of the joys of previous editions was their wealth of detail on obscure politicians who won an election sometime in the 1970s (or earlier). For the new edition, this should have been judiciously pruned. More space should have been given to those who were elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 and the new Assembly in 1998, some of whom have entries only two lines long. The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition gets only a short entry, and the Northern Ireland Labour group which also participated in the 1996-98 talks has no entry at all. A leading supporter of the Orange Order's "right to march" is listed, but the leaders of the residents groups opposed to her are not. There are a number of inaccuracies relating to the most recent period - John Alderdice was not a candidate in the 1994 European election (p. 155); names such as Glendinning (p. 211) and Ramaphosa (p. 443) are misspelt. Besides the "dictionary" section, the other parts of the new edition - a chronology, lists of office holders, notes on security and systems of government - have been updated as necessary. One high point: in the section listing election results, the descriptions of the most recent campaigns are vivid and accurate. This book is still essential, but the new edition is merely useful rather than excellent. I am looking forward to the seventh edition.


Nicholas Whyte, Centre for European Policy Studies



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