Paul Bew

Life
b.1950 [Paul Anthony Elliott Bew; Baron Bew of Dunagore]; b. Belfast; ed. Campbell College; ed. Pembroke College, Cambridge; iss. Land and the National Question in Ireland, 1858-82 (1979), a Marxist reading; participated in Civil Rights marches in N. Ireland and member of Workers’ Association, advocating Two Nations theory; appt. lect. QUB 1979; appt. Professor of Irish Politics, QUB, 1991; joined Henry Jackson Society, a neo-conservative formation; acted as adviser to David Trimble ; made a life peer for his part in Peace Agreement; m. Greta Jones, with one son; received attention as proposer of Boston College ‘aural history’ interviews, publicised in 2014.

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Works
  • Land and the National Question in Ireland, 1858-82 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979);
  • The State in Northern Ireland, 1921-72: Political Forces and Social Class (Manchester UP 1979);
  • C.S. Parnell [Irish lives ser.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1980);
  • Sean Lemass and the Making of Modern Ireland, 1945-66 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1982);
    with Henry Patterson, The British State and the Ulster Crisis: From Wilson to Thatcher (London: Verso Books 1985);
  • with Henry Patterson, Conflict and Conciliation in Ireland, 1890-1910: Parnellites and Radical Agrarians (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1987);
  • The Dynamics of Irish Politics (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1989);
  • with Henry Patterson & Ellen Hazelkorn, Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1997);
  • Northern Ireland 1921-2001: Political Power and Social Classes (London: Serif 2002);
  • Ideology and the Irish Question: Ulster Unionism and Irish Nationalism, 1912-1916 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994);
  • John Redmond (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press 1996);
  • Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-99 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1999);
  • with Gordon Gillespie, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (Dublin: The Liffey Press 2007);
  • Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006 (Oxford UP 2007), 613pp.;
  • Enigma: A New Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2011), 272pp. [?rep. of 1980].
See also:
  • ‘The role of the historical adviser and the Bloody Sunday Tribunal’, in Historical Research, Vol. 78, No. 199 (Feb. 2005), pp.113-27 [available at Wiley, online].

Criticism
See ‘Belfast academic becomes lord’, in The Irish Times (15 Feb. 2007)

Internet sources
Queen’s University, Belfast [online]; Wikipedia [online].

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Commentary
Roy Foster, review of Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006, in London Review of Books (13 Dec. 2007): “Nothing Dr Bew writes is without interest.” The wearily Olympian judgment was delivered by a distinctly peeved F.S.L. Lyons, doyen of historians of modern Ireland, when faced 27 years ago with a short life of Charles Stewart Parnell which took implicit but cheeky issue with his own magnum opus on the Chief. The young Bew – Belfast-born and a graduate of People’s Democracy marches as well as of the Cambridge history faculty – had already published a radical marxisant version of the 1879-82 Irish Land War, stressing the only partly suppressed war of interests between large and small tenants as much as the struggle against the landlord oppressor, and casting a cold eye on the cloak of unity that nationalist historiography tried to throw over the enterprise. He would go on to write critiques both of the modern Irish state in the Sean Lemass era and of power relations in Northern Ireland (in collaboration with other figures from Northern Ireland’s leftist intelligentsia), to redefine the attempted politics of reconciliation in the Edwardian era and to continue the story of land struggle in the years just before World War One. But he would be most publicly known as a sane and sceptical voice on many aspects of the Northern conflict, having returned to a chair at Queen’s University at a precocious age. Here he moved from a loose identification with the Workers’ Party to becoming a behind-the-scenes adviser to David Trimble in his brave attempt to bring Unionism to the middle ground of power-sharing with a domesticated Sinn Féin. Bew is allegedly the originator of the pithy identification of Trimble’s desired power base as “the Prod in the garden centre”; the latest stage of his progress is as a “people’s peer”, entering the Lords as Baron Bew of Donegore (where there is, it so happens, a large and thriving garden centre). It is a pity F.S.L. Lyons isn’t around to see. [...]’ (For full-text version of this review, see RICORSO, Library, “Criticism Reviews” - via index or attached.)

Further remarks: ‘his new survey of Ireland over the longue durée stresses the home-grown varieties of hatred between various entities within the island.’ Also: ‘he has followed Mary-Lou Legg’s pioneering work, Newspapers and Nationalism, in tracing how immediately the insights of Benedict Anderson can be mapped onto the growth and form of Irish nationalist consciousness in imagining a community. But his overall preoccupation is with disunion rather than Union.’ (See online; accessed 6.11.2011.)

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Fintan O’Toole [writing on the Boston tapes in which allegations that Gerry Adams was in charge of the Belfast IRA when Jean McConville was murdered and “disappeared” by that organisation in 1972] ‘Gerry Adams made a great deal of the fact that the Belfast Project was “conceived by Paul Bew, university lecturer and a former advisor to former unionist leader David Trimble”. The implication is that Bew’s suggestion, in 2000, that Boston College should start an oral archive of the Troubles was a unionist plot. But Bew is hugely respected as a historian of modern Ireland: there is not a shred of evidence that his work has ever been to anything but the highest professional and ethical standards. Insidious suggestions that he was part of a political conspiracy are not just wrong in themselves but are an attack on academic and intellectual freedom. / Bew’s suggestion was a very good one. It is somewhat ironic that, even while the Belfast Project is imploding, the understanding of the Irish conflicts whose centenaries we are now marking has been revolutionised by the fruits of a similar project: the Bureau of Military History’s records of interviews with participants in those conflicts. Testimonies from people directly involved in violent acts are not unimpeachable: such people usually have personal or political agendas. But used collectively, by careful researchers, they are invaluable. They counterbalance the tendency to write history from the limited perspective of the official records.’

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