Ping-Ko Chiu


Software Engineer,
Location Technologies @ Apple
pingkochiu [at]

12 April 2022

Say Nothing

by Ping-Ko Chiu

— Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

For a revolutionary fighter, what means are justified for the eventual end?

How about bombing public infrastructure and inflicting civilian casualties to make their demands known? What about killing dissidents and spies to uphold the organization’s values and reputation? Sending soldiers to die for an operation? Prolonging a deadly prison hunger strike? Honey trap operations?

What if all these sacrifices seemed to have amounted to nothing? As a revolutionary fighter, to what end will you continue to believe in the ideology and justify the means if the demands are not met? Or worse, how will you respond if the organization seems to have softened their tone and reduced their demands?

Say Nothings explores how key members of the IRA struggled with these questions as the organization evolved over the period of The Troubles from 1960s to the 2000s. Keefe brings in multiple perspectives of the conflict — from foot soldiers, IRA leaders, victims, to government agents. The non-fiction narrative paints a picture of a pervasive atmosphere of fear and distrust that was not only limited to the members of the organization and its opponents but extended to the ordinary civilians of Northern Ireland. There were escape and smuggling routes that were supported by the civilians. To refuse to be involved can be seen as siding with the enemies. To help a wounded enemy soldier can result in a death sentence. This fear and distrust led to a lack of recorded history of the IRA. A large part of the book was based on the Boston Tapes, a project aimed to record an oral history of the IRA. The project interviewed top IRA leaders with the condition that the tapes would only be released after their death. The tapes recorded very personal accounts of the conflict as well as the evolution of the organization through The Troubles.

tags: Book