Declan Daly, Borderline: An Oral History of the Brexit wars 2020-2022, (Declan Daly, 17 September 2020, 144 pages)
Irish Air Corps veteran, Declan Daly, delivers a detailed and dark political thriller about revived violence along the “new” post-Brexit border between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom in Ireland. He set the story in the fictional near future and is a reminder that political changes can have sudden and unexpected echoes. This character-driven account uses the unusual narrative style of oral history to drive the story with a blend of retrospection, immediacy, and human interest. Recommended read for anyone interested in military operations, counterinsurgency, political tension, or an intimate peek inside the Irish Defense Force (IDF).
This book is a novel account of a border war fought by the IDF against incursions, raids, and other mischief by various sectarian militias in and around the north of Ireland. The general situation is a destabilized land and sea frontier as the United Kingdom exits the EU. References to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreements, the Troubles, and other historical events add color and structure throughout. A basic understanding of these is helpful. With its strong and progressive plot development, the story flows well. Readers outside Ireland may wish to learn the political context and geography for fuller immersion in the drama.
The various first-person accounts give background gradually while keeping tension and surprise in the story, harmonizing the different voices. This format makes it seem much more real and historical, even though it is not. Using both Irish and English names created a delightful sense of the place and its complex history. The author lovingly describes various sites–especially the central Sliabh Bloom Mountains and the rugged northwest. This story goes well beyond the command and staff course training brief, which was its origin.
Themes, concepts, and timeless maxims tie the book together, in ways familiar to any reader of military history or political thrillers. Ireland’s historical neutrality is no defense against violence; state-sponsored, criminal, or both. There are poor actors willing to manipulate tensions from the shadows. The IDF goes to war with what it has, learns hard lessons, and the value of friends. Finally, it serves as a subtle reminder of why every nation needs the capability to police its own borders, airspace, and territory–or else.
This book will appeal to readers interested in small unit operations, military aviation, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism. Character development opens military perspectives to casual readers. The gallows humor that often goes with dangerous professions is plain throughout–relieving tension with a human touch.
Further reading and viewing for those interested in the IDF should include Daly’s non-fiction volume “Medevac” (2019), films like “The Siege of Jadotville” (2016), and the ongoing IDF Oral History Project (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfk3f5ec3-Q). This self-published gem is clearly a labor of love and has all the charm, style, heart, and rough edges one would expect from oral history. A quick, enjoyable, and informative read. Thanks to the author for this story and for getting it out and into the world.