In this fascinating book, Richard Kirkland explores the
history of Northern Ireland
through the biography of one of its most unusual and talented performers the
legendary musician, IRA activist, poet, and Catholic mystic, Cathal O'Byrne.
Both gay and Catholic in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland, O'Byrne's circle
of friends included the renowned human rights campaigner Roger Casement, the
activist Maud Gonne, and the leader of the Easter Rising of 1916, Patrick
Pearse. Despite his outsider status, O'Byrne's work was indicative of major
shifts in public opinion, as he moved from Home Rule politics to an eventual
commitment to arms during the Irish War of Independence.
uses the story of O'Byrne's life to delve into that of his colleagues during the
Northern Irish cultural revival, making illuminating connections between the
Ulster Literary Theatre, Belfast's music hall
culture, the Casement trial and the devastating Belfast anti-Catholic pogroms of 1920 and
1921, for example. Just as importantly, Kirkland
brings to light the hidden history of gay Belfast
and the fate of Northern
Ireland's Catholics in this previously
neglected period after Partition but before the Troubles.