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Feminism, the arts, and madness in everyday life

Brief reviews of Máirín de Burca; Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of Cork; Encounters with Everyday Madness

Máirín de Burca: Activist, Feminist, Socialist by Brian Kenny (€15)

During her extensive activism, Máirín de Burca was joint general secretary of Sinn Féin, a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, a leading member of the Dublin Housing Action Committee, the Prisoners’ Rights Organisation, participated in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and campaigned against the Vietnam War. Initially flirting with violence in Sinn Féin, by the early 1960s she opposed it, and looking back concerning Northern Ireland, she said: “Anything that was achieved – and what was achieved? – could have been achieved without one death.” Most of all she was a feminist, which probably stemmed from her feeling “a second-class citizen”, even within her own family, and her proudest achievement was bringing about the 1976 Juries Act which ended discrimination against women and propertyless people. A fitting tribute to a life of fearless commitment. Brian Maye

Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of Cork: A Son’s Perspective by David Goldberg (Oak Tree Press, €19.95)

Gerald Goldberg, an Orthodox Jew, practised criminal law in Cork for 63 years, was the first Jewish president of the Law Society of Ireland, was an Independent and Fianna Fáil member of Cork Corporation and became the first Jewish lord mayor of Cork in 1977. He married Sheila Beth Smith, from a well-known Belfast Jewish family, in 1937 and they lived on Rochestown Road in Cork. Deeply involved in Cork’s artistic life, they assisted, among others, Aloys Fleischmann and Joan Denise Moriarty, and were patrons of the Crawford Gallery and Cork Orchestral Society. A very active philanthropist, Sheila fundraised for Meals on Wheels, Cork Spastic Society, Abode (centre for disabled people) and Cooperation North. Their son’s tribute is informative, loving, admiring and, in his father’s case, critically insightful. Brian Maye

Encounters with Everyday Madness by Charlie Hill (Roman Books, £12.99)

These stylistically varied stories concern people suffering from grief, paranoia, stress, obsessive love, social awkwardness etc, – “everyday” experiences indeed but are they forms of “madness”? A woman leaves her partner and children who’ve gone out kayaking and walks along a river; the story’s initial light and airy tone changes to ominous and frightening as a “formless dread” possesses her. Two stories about loss are naturally very sad but what stand out most are the imaginative narrative structure and different perspectives. Temping is a truly scary story, all the better for being told in an understated way. Paranoia affirms the old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Two other stories comprise only eight lines each but raise all sorts of interesting issues. Brian Maye