A New Ireland: Memories and Reflections of Cardinal Cahal B. Daly
edited by Gemma Loughran, foreword by Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Veritas, €12.99 / £11.50)
This little book was edited by Northern Ireland barrister Gemma Loughlan, who knew Cahal Daly from her days as a student. To mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement she was invited to edit together some of the cardinal’s writings over the years relevant to the theme of war, peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
In doing this she had the help of his former secretary who had worked with the cardinal over the years. Though the occasions of their original composition, often for a funeral homily, have long past, the general theme is one which is still burningly relevant.
Those who already have read Cardinal Daly’s Steps on my Pilgrim Journey (1998) this will be a very relevant addition. Emphasising once again the very ancient truth that words of wisdom and empathy never go out of date.
Balancing Acts: Conversations with Gerald Dawe on a Life in Poetry
edited by Frank Ferguson (Irish Academic Press, €19.99 / £17.99)
This is a collection of conversations and interviews with Belfast poet Gerald Dawe. It has been put together by Frank Patterson, an academic at Ulster University in Belfast.
Dawe was born in that city in 1952 and so grew with the communities that came into conflict in the 1970s. In a sense this book is a literary counterpart to Cardinal Daly’s, showcasing another point of view. Here two astute and insightful men struggle to make sense of what human beings, from what they see as the highest of motives, can do to each other.
But just as the cardinal attempted to impart to his audiences a true sense of religion, so the poet sought to make literary sense of a society divided by languages, even by simple words. See for instance his remarks on page 41. Both in their different modes provide, according to their different vocations, in a society divided by words as a force for evil, a more effective sense of words as a force for good through prayer and poetry.
Wild Musings: A Celebration of the Natural World
by Éanna Ní Lamhna (Beehive, €14.99 / £12.99)
The author of this book will be known to many for her appearances on television and radio, and writings in The Irish Times. As a biologist her focus is on wildlife as a key to environmental survival. The book deals with the cycle of the natural year and is just the sort of book that an older school student (and indeed their even older parents and grandparents) will love to read.
Oddly however that annual round in a curious way follows the calendar of faith as well. Take chapter eight, for example, called “Called after the Saints – What’s in a name” where the association of plants is often fixed in the memory of the past by the fact they first appeared in or about that saint’s day. All through these pages these allusions to human life and the use and love of plants and animals are brought together. A most attractive little book.