Mercier Press (£9.99)
'The Chosen Fews: Exploding Myths in South Armagh' charts the history of the region from 1870s Crossmaglen to the Bobby Sands hunger strike of the early 1980s. Author Darach MacDonald tries to dispel the title 'bandit country' bestowed on the area in the early ‘70s by the Northern Secretary Merlyn Rees as it became synonymous with the term 'killing fields' for British soldiers.
Without ignoring the impact the Northern Ireland troubles has had on the area, MacDonald juxtaposes this with the history and culture of the Fews region and the efforts to build cross-community bridges and develop rural tourism and farming. Examining the British security presence and local hostility to it MacDonald explores events like the kidnapping of Robert Nairac in 1977, the Kingsmill Massacre, the killing of John Patrick Green – which threatened to crack the 1975 IRA ceasefire and Cardinal O’Fiach’s intervention in the 1980s 'dirty protest'. A journalist by trade, MacDonald also relates how he personally was refused permission to visit prisoners in the H-Blocks, who were willing to 'sacrifice a family visit so the outside world would know what was happening'.
MacDonald mixes political analysis with a series of personal profiles: of a church of Ireland clergyman; the son of a murdered RUC sergeant; a Sinn Féin poet; along with other ordinary people whose daily lives are overshadowed by the huge British Army presence in South Armagh. Political, cultural and sociological, an interesting read on many levels.