April 2013        

A modest exposure

Jack Mitchell, Gib: A Modest Exposure: An Epic Poem by Jack Mitchell. Dublin: Nuascéalta, 2013. Available as traditional print (€5.99) or e-book (€2.99) from Amazon.

Twenty-five years ago an unarmed trio of IRA volunteers—Mairéad Farrell, Dan McCann, and Seán Savage—were murdered by a British death squad in Gibraltar. The European Court of Human Rights found the British government to be guilty of “unlawful killing.”

     The murders caused widespread popular revulsion. They moved the Scottish academic and critic Jack Mitchell to write Gib: A Modest Exposure, which, according to an introduction to this third printing of the poem by Gerry Adams TD, “follows in a fine tradition of satirical writing and epic poetry which over the centuries has drawn attention to the disastrous consequences for the Irish people of British occupation of Ireland.” Adams cites Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” in this regard.
     The significance of Gib: A Modest Exposure extends beyond the time and circumstances of the Gibraltar murders. The literary critic Séamus Deane, in his preface to the first edition of the poem, says it generates “a renewed sense of the manner in which, at the political level, the law and order represented by courts and governments can generate more powerfully than any other force the savagery that marked that day in Gibraltar and the hypocrisy that tried thereafter to conceal it. The poem . . . makes us gaze at the real face that hides behind the curtain both in the courtroom and in the centres of power.”
     An afterword by Niall Farrell, brother of Mairéad, reflects on the political situation twenty-five years later. “The IRA’s guns have fallen silent,” but not those of the British. “Together with fellow imperialist powers its bloodlust has become more brazen. From Afghanistan to Yugoslavia, especially from Asia to Africa, imperialism of assorted nationalities has joined forces to kill and conquer.”
     Jack Mitchell—literary critic, teacher, translator, writer, and political activist—was born in Glasgow in 1932 of Ulster unionist stock. He taught English and Irish literature at Humboldt University, Berlin, German Democratic Republic, and retired to Galway, where he died in 1997.

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