What is your latest book about?
“Irish-American Diaspora Nationalism” traces the emergence and history of the Friends of Irish Freedom, which was founded in New York in 1916. One might have expected a close working relationship between the Friends and the then radical Irish nationalist movement in Ireland, Sinn Fein. However, the leadership of the Friends, seeing themselves as Americans first, resented the dictation of Sinn Fein representatives in the United States. At one point, Bishop Gallagher, the president of the Friends, denounced the Sinn Fein leader Eamon de Valera, as a “foreign potentate.” I explain this conflict in the context of a clash between Irish and Irish-American nationalism.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
Writing is a solitary business so it is important to have a relatively peaceful and stress free environment to work in. I find the early morning best for creative thinking and late evenings best for editing.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep the end goal in mind. Make a contract with yourself to put a certain number of hours per week into your writing and then try and stick with it even if some weeks are more productive than others. A writing journal can be helpful in maintaining a good writing discipline. For me, a little, often, works better that a lot less frequently.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
Brian Keenan’s book “An Evil Cradling” (1992), a gripping account of his long captivity as a hostage in Lebanon; Eamon Mallie and David McKittrick’s book on the Northern Ireland peace process, “Endgame in Ireland” (2001); Bill Kissane’s, “The Politics of the Irish Civil War” (2005).
What book are you currently reading?
Owen McGee’s just published insightful book on the Irish Republican Brotherhood entitled “The IRB: from the Land League to Sinn Fein” (2005).
Is there a book you wish you had written?
James Donnelly’s book “The Great Irish Potato Famine” (2002) provides an accessible and comprehensive account of this tragic period and in my view is by far the best book on this topic.
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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
I am not usually drawn to books about exploration but I was really impressed by Michael Smith’s book “Tom Crean: An Unsung Hero.” Once I picked it up, I found it hard to put down. Crean, a native of Kerry, played a heroic role in both Scott and Shackleton’s expeditions to the Antarctic in the early decades of the 20th century.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
I enjoyed Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom” and would certainly like to meet him.
What book changed your life?
When I was a teenager, F.S.L Lyons’s “Ireland since the Famine” (1972) book provoked an awareness of the complexity of Irish history and, though now somewhat dated, still remains a seminal work on Modern Ireland, especially the revolutionary period.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
This has to be Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, where I now live. It is close to the many attractions of Dublin, but it still has its own distinctive character and identity. The appropriate motto of the local council in Irish is “O Chuan go Sliabh,” which literally means “from the mountains to the sea.” Taking a Sunday walk on Dun Laoghaire pier is still a favorite pastime and the views from the surrounding hills are unbeatable, especially from Killiney Hill and the Leadmines on Carrickgollagan.
You’re Irish if . . .you have an insatiable curiosity about the wider world, enjoy the company of others, even those who you may not always agree with you, and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Michael Doorley will speak at the American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Ave., NYC, on Wednesday, Nov. 16.