Review - To Keep a Bird Singing, a novel by Kevin Doyle


A man adrift in the doldrums of the last great crisis finds his stolen punk records. Noelie Sullivan by simply reclaiming his discs sets off a chain of events which quickly unravels his life and puts him and all who know him in danger.

What Kevin Doyle - a founding member of the WSM - has done with this tale is lifted the rock on the old machinations of the sick state that was Ireland. Under that rock there lies all sorts of creeps, crawlers, and brokers who maintain their control over people through a web of patronage, power and ultimately violence. So what happens when an individual just decides that he won’t take it anymore.

The novel takes us back to a time when Ireland is effectively a theocracy, which is run in the interests of those in power by all the institutions of church, and state working closely with each other. Noelie has been in trouble and tangled with these people before, he has a history. But this time what he uncovers is deeply disturbing and sets him on a path to lift the lid on that time and to seek some form of justice, or it not that, then at least closure.

Effectively Noelie assembles a team of people who believe him, and therefore assist him in his search. Something has changed. The time is right to do something about the past. Perhaps it’s the fact that he is both older and wiser having returned here from the United States. Perhaps it is the fact that he is running out of options - like getting out again, leaving would be admitting defeat for a second and possibly final time. He decides to stand and fight his ground and break the omerta that exists by doggedly pursuing the truth of what took place.

This story works on so many levels. Just as a straight up detective story, or for anyone who has placed themselves on the left or within the protest movements, or from the point of view of anyone who has lived in those times, and been ‘lifted’ by the guards for whatever reason they saw fit to do so. Culture is fluid, it is always moving, and To Keep A Bird Singing - is a book of our time. It speaks of the murky origins of this republic, of what we will continue to struggle to process. Noelie Sullivan takes on as his mission some of the informal and formal powers that underpins our society. It is changing, and collectively we are enabling and speeding up that change.

We have yet to tackle the structures, but this punks story is one that will resonate and ring true for many. His journey is one that should be read by all who dream of better days to come for this republic.