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Dirty Linen: The Troubles in My Home Place

Martin Doyle

A personal, intimate history of the Troubles seen through the microcosm of a single rural parish, the author’s own, part of both the Linen Triangle – heartland of the North’s defining industry – and the Murder Triangle – the Badlands devastated by paramilitary violence.

Shortlisted for the An Post Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2023

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Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, offers a personal, intimate history of the Troubles seen through the microcosm of a single rural parish, his own, part of both the Linen Triangle – heartland of the North’s defining industry – and the Murder Triangle – the Badlands devastated by paramilitary violence. He lifts the veil of silence drawn over the horrors of the past, 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.

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. Writing with a literary sensibility, he skillfully shows how the once dominant local linen industry serves as a metaphor for communal division but also for the solidarity that transcended the sectarian divide. To those who might ask why you would want to reopen old wounds, the answer might be that some wounds have never been allowed to heal.


Praise for Dirty Linen

Dirty Linen is a powerfully affecting read, an encapsulation of the terror, the trauma, the hatred, the injustice, the terrible sadness and loss. But there is also the bravery and courage, and the very human struggles in these stories of individuals living their everyday lives. It’s a kind and personal book, bringing it right down to the individual and hearing their voice and their truth. I underlined so much in it. The writing itself is wonderful, full of compassion and intelligence and revelation… facing up to the reality of pain and yet bearing hope as well.’ – Anna Burns

‘This is the finest memoir of the conflict I’ve ever read.’ – Fergal Keane

Dirty Linen is shocking, riveting, and compassionate.’ – Roddy Doyle

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

‘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

‘Doyle offers us a personal history of the Troubles that is as exacting as it is humane. An elegant, haunting book.’ – Patrick Radden Keefe

‘All of us with Ulster family, and everyone who cares about Ireland, needs to read this fascinating, powerful, utterly moving book.’ – Joseph O’Connor

‘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 nothing short of superb.  How hard it must have been at times to write, but how important a book. – Wendy Erskine

Dirty Linen is an impeccably researched and incredibly moving hybrid memoir/social history of The Troubles in his home parish of Tullylish, Co. Down. Laden with devastating personal testimonies from neighbours who lost loved ones, this is an important book that commemorates the all too often anonymised victims of The Troubles.’ – Edel Coffey

‘…an extraordinary, beautifully written and vitally necessary intimate history of all the murders in a parish in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’. Lost Lives for Tullylish, Co. Down.’ – Catriona Crowe

‘Martin Doyle’s moving conflict memoir, Dirty Linen, resonated powerfully with me’ – Conor O’Clery

‘Harrowing.’ – Roy Foster

‘This is an important, humane book, stunning in its sweep and power. It will prove to be a classic.’ – The Irish Times

‘Among the most moving works on the conflict.’ – Ian Cobain, The Observer 

‘A powerful elegy, suffused with pity, humanity and authenticity, and a deep sense of place and time.’ – Eilis O’Hanlon, Sunday Independent

‘Compassionate … remarkable.’ – The Sunday Times


1. Brothers Murdered on a Birthday
2. ‘It was a really scary time’
3. Bigotry on the Bann
4. A Booby-Trapped Playhouse
5. A Bomb at the Border
6. Dreadful Symmetry
7. Protecting a Killer
8. ‘Dad missed out on so much’
9 .‘They kill us for their sport’
10. What Light Could Be Darker?
11. The Showband and the Silencer
12. Republican Roulette or Loyalist Lottery
13. ‘You blank it out, you know’
14. A Ghost Estate
15. An Empty Grave
16. A Soldier, a Musician, a Policeman, a Nurse
17. A Cold House for Catholics
18. All Traders are Targets
19. Women as Victims of Man’s Stupidity
20. ‘Why couldn’t it have been me?’
21. Delinquent Juvenilia
22. ‘You’d not get a softer target than Pat’
23. ‘Our children were cheated of those years’


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Doyle is the Books Editor of The Irish Times. A former Editor of the Irish Post, he has worked in journalism for over three decades and is a regular contributor to the media and arts programming.