Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Truth Commissioner by David Park


IT'S AN appealing idea for a novel: the stories of the people involved in the 'peace and reconciliation' process in Northern Ireland.

And David Park's book has gone down well in Britain, chosen as a Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 and reviewed approvingly in the quality newspapers.

Characters in The Truth Commissioners regard Ireland with dislike. The Truth Commissioner himself refers to the North, early on, as "a godforsaken land… where a ship that sank and an alcoholic footballer are considered holy icons".

Murder is not their fault, they feel - it's the fault of Ireland.

One of those who murdered a boy whose disappearance the commission is investigating - is building a new life in America.

The IRA send delegates to get him and coach him in his testimony. It'll be painless, they say. He replies: "Painless? To say what I did?"

Fenton, a policeman who was involved in the same boy's murder, now helps orphans in Romania.

When he's called on by his former superiors he says everyone knows who the murderer was: Francis Gilroy, now a government minister.

"It wouldn't look too good, even in this crazy country, if the Minister for Children had a child's blood on his suit," he says.

The book reads as if researched from within the security services. But the quality of the writing is fine, with a glowing interiority that at times lifts the stories off the pages.

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