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Martin Doyle

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Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle has worked for three decades as a journalist in Ireland and Britain. He was editor of the Irish Post in London before spending five years with the Times in London. He joined the Irish Times in 2007 and has been books editor there since 2018.

Martin grew up in Laurencetown, in the parish of Tullylish, County Down, at the centre of what had once been the linen industry. A Catholic from a working-class family, he saw at first-hand how the constant stress and anguish of the Troubles tore a hole in his community. In the space of just a few short years, more than 20 people were to die in his area, a tragic litany of lives cut short, families left without loved ones and often the only wage earner in the house.

In 2022 Martin’s memoir Dirty Linen was acquired in four-way auction by the Merrion Press.

Dirty Linen builds on two long essays published in the Irish Times in 2021, developing the accounts into a moving and detailed portrait of one community. Martin chronicles the lives lost and the long tail of trauma endured by those people, speaking to friends and relatives who lost their loved ones, from the family of a lorry driver blown up by an IRA bomb at a Border customs post in 1972 to two young brothers murdered by Loyalists in front of their sister in 1993, just one hour after her 11th birthday party. He also looks at the impact of the Troubles in his own life and that of his close family as they struggled to live ordinary lives in the midst of chaos.

He also makes it clear that the act of forgetting, the ‘moving on’, which so many are urged to do, isn’t possible when the scars of the Troubles have not healed, and some truths have not been told. When people have not been allowed to remember their dead and when a code of silence about the past is allowed to fester. As the author says, ‘It is by sharing our stories that we build a ridge of common ground from which good things can grow. The Troubles were a blight on all our lives and while things are so much better now, the spores are sadly still in the air.’ At once memoir, social history and cultural study, Dirty Linen examines the physical and psychological impact of a long war of attrition on a people, pays tribute to those who lost their lives and shows the lessons that can be learned for future generations.

Dirty Linen: The Troubles in My Home Place was published by Merrion Press in October 2023

Praise for Dirty Linen

“Epic in impact and domestic in its details: the devastating thing aboutDirty Linen is how Doyle gets into the grain and texture of people’s livesto honour their damage and bring it close. Brilliantly written, fully human,hard to read and harder to put down – everyone should read this book.”

Anne Enright

"I thought nothing about the Troubles could shock me but this book has me floored. Doyle evokes the sinister machinations of state collusion, the grim predictability of tit for tat killings and the everyday anxiety of the inhabitants of his small community with humanity and compassion. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the way we lived then."

Louise Kennedy

“Superb, a really important and moving work that brings the reality of the Troubles to life and restores the human tragedy to its proper place in public memory … a vital, potent and moving piece of work.”

Fintan O’Toole

“Dirty Linen is shocking, riveting, and compassionate.”

Roddy Doyle

“I have read many books about Northern Ireland, but I’ve never read anything like this; it’s electrifying … historical, political, artistic, Dirty Linen is a phenomenal work.”

Martina Evans

“Forensically researched, deeply felt, compelling and moving – Martin

Doyle’s book … knits together the personal and political, the historical and the here-and-now. Sensitive and urgent, Dirty Linen is a must-read that gives readers a shocking insight into what lies beneath the surface of life and death in a conflict zone.”

Michelle Gallen

“I was deeply moved by this work and by the … disproportionate suffering of that part of rural Armagh and Down … The account of what happened to the Feeneys left me shattered. I had to move away from reading the book for three or four days. And yet there is still the enduring grace of so many of the people spoken to – regardless of their faith or political allegiance. Like the buried flax at the bottom of the hole. It’s such a beautiful metaphor and

a poignant end to a really worthwhile and important book.”

Cathal Goan

“This is the finest memoir of the conflict I’ve ever read. But it is more than the story of the Troubles as they shattered lives in a small place. It is a story of all wars and how they haunt generations. Beautifully written and scrupulously fair-minded, this is an outstanding book.”

Fergal Keane

“Sometimes the best way to perceive the broader truths of a conflict is to narrow your aperture, and Martin Doyle has done that, brilliantly, in Dirty Linen. By measuring the awful toll of violence on the lives of ordinary people in his own home parish, Doyle offers us a personal history of the Troubles that is as exacting as it is humane. An elegant, haunting book.”

Patrick Radden Keefe

“I have to admit that I’m finding Dirty Linen almost unbearably painful to read. The injustice, the loss of life, the broken families, it’s agonising … [Martin’s] writing is beautiful and unbearably affecting.”

Marian Keyes

“Dirty Linen will be a landmark book on life and death when violence becomes familiar … Doyle’s melding of his own life story with stories of the lost lives of the Troubles and the afterlives of those left behind will transform how readers engage, intellectually and emotionally, with the reality of violence in our recent past.”

Breandán Mac Suibhne

“All of us with Ulster family, and everyone who cares about Ireland, needs to read this fascinating, powerful, utterly moving book.”

Joseph O’Connor

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