BOOK REVIEW | The Time Has Come

by Malachy McCourt

Best Selling Author of A Monk Swimming, Actor, Musician

Ireland’s history is nothing if not turbulent, unoccupied for centuries until a variety of pagan settlers arrived and cultivated it. Turbulence was the order of the day when St. Patrick, himself enslaved for years, arrived to convert the Irish to Catholicism, and turbulence has continued throughout Britain’s ceaseless efforts to control the land, religion, politics and language of the Irish people.

In 1922 the Brit’s withdrew to the north of Ireland, settling a Protestant majority to rule 6 counties, which led to more rebellions and uprising and affecting and uprooting the Irish, including my own family, and the subjects of the book in this review – the O’Hara family of Derry.  “The Time Has Come,” authored by Tony O’Hara, is a chronicle of what it was like to grow up in Derry in the 1960s, and live in a war-torn city for decades. It  details what “normal” life was like for a family struggling to survive in the midst of constant violence and attack. It goes beyond the entertainment version of 1990’s sectarianism depicted in “Derry Girls,” and gives the reader a real feel of the horrors of war as Tony describes, with almost chilling detachment, being pulled from his bed by British Soldiers, his family’s pub being blown up, his brothers’ internment, his involvement in armed struggle, being imprisoned with his brother Patsy, and watching him die on Hunger Strike.

“The Time Has Come” is not a glorification of violence. It is a matter-of-fact recitation of the sometimes brutal conflict between various groups fighting against a common enemy, and the realities of everyday existence in that world.  O’Hara writes about his own imprisonment in very graphic terms, painting a stark and ugly picture of the brutality inflicted on Irish people in British prisons.  After the mental and physical torture, the struggle of living outside the prison is almost as hard as it was inside.   O’Hara is heartbreakingly honest as he questioned his choices. Was the armed struggle and death of his brother worth the cost? Would he chose the same path again, knowing what he now knows?

At one point, in the book, O’Hara notes that he was living in two different worlds, the war and the music.  It’s clear that music is what kept him going through the traumas and their reverberating aftermath. He now devotes himself to his musical career playing with various bands in Ireland, and working tirelessly to help the plight of the homeless.  Given the layer upon layer of trauma he has experienced what a testament to human spirit. If you want to know more about Irish history, the Hunger Strike, and life as it was in Derry, read this book to get the picture!

Malachy McCourt, 2022