Martin Doyle

The Irish Times books editor launches book about The Troubles

6:15am | Wed 18 Oct 2023

Martin Doyle, books editor of The Irish Times, releases his new book, Dirty Linen, today (Wednesday 18th October).

Writing about the book himself, Doyle says, “By focusing on a small community, John Healy’s No One Shouted Stop! captured the devastation of emigration and Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart the human cost of the Celtic Tiger’s collapse. Dirty Linen seeks to do the same for the Troubles.”

Dirty Linen is the story of where he grew up, teasing out threads of class, sectarianism and violence in rural Co Down during the Troubles. The parish of Bann was home to a derelict linen mill, once part of the Linen Triangle – heartland of the North’s defining industry – and now perhaps better known as part of the Murder Triangle – the Badlands devastated by paramilitary violence.

Dirty Linen by Martin Doyle

“A vital, potent and moving piece of work.’ – Fintan O’Toole

Neighbours and classmates who lost loved ones in the conflict, survivors maimed in bomb attacks and victims of sectarianism, both Catholic and Protestant, entrust Doyle with their stories. Doyle sees his homeplace with fresh eyes, walks with a neighbour through an abandoned farmhouse where two brothers and an uncle had been murdered while he was at Mass. He shares stories side by side of the victims of both republican and loyalist violence, recording in heartrending detail the terrible toll the conflict took – more than twenty violent deaths in a few square miles – and the long tail of trauma it has left behind.

“Brilliantly written, fully human, hard to read and harder to put down – everyone should read this book.” – Anne Enright

“Publishing your first book should be, and is, cause for celebration. However, my pride is tempered by a sobering regret. These are tragic stories, whose telling deeply moved me. But I also felt privileged to be in the presence of people whose resilience and undying love restored my faith in humanity.”

Sensitised to grief by the loss of his wife Nikki to cancer in 2013, he finds hope and humanity in the stories he shares: “I subconsciously sought and found such inspirational resilience, the best of humanity, among the survivors I spoke to. Their stories sometimes broke my heart but their spirit mended it too.”

You can preview a taster of the book online here. Martin will be at Dingle Lit, interviewed by award-winning author and playwright Belinda McKeon, on Saturday 18th November at 4.30pm in An Díseart. Reserve your ticket here.