These are, in my biased opinion, the best non-academic books someone interested in Irish politics should read, primarily because of their mix of information and readability.
The Clann by Kevin Rafter. A concise, sharp history of Clann na Poblachta. Fascinating stuff in terms of how a new party appears, and then struggles to beat the established parties. Written in Rafter’s easily accessible style, it’s a bit tricky to get, so best have a look in the second-hand shops.
Hiding Behind a Face: Fine Gael Under Fitzgerald, by Stephen O’Byrnes. The story of Garrett’s time as FG leader is a well crafted tale, written in 1986, of how a party was transformed from being a gang of losers (The story of the 1977 FG campaign is hilarious in its incompetence.) to become the most advanced political machine in the country by November 1982, where they won 70 seats. The fact that FG now regard 50 seats as a good result says everything about Garrett’s achievement. Another second hand bookshop looker.
The Naked Politician, By Katie Hannon. Possibly the best book ever written by a non politician on Irish politics, in terms of recognising that not everyone in politics is a cynical me-feiner. Also one of the first books to recognise that the Irish electorate aren’t up to much, either.
Labour: The Price of Power, by John Horgan. Published in 1986, and very difficult to get. In fact, my copy is being held hostage at the moment. (You know who you are, blondie.) Again, very readable from a former labour TD, MEP and senator, on the divisions in Labour in the seventies and eighties between wanting to be socialist AND actually get elected, and how the two often clashed. Some good stories.
Straight Left, by Ruairi Quinn. Quite a dense read, but worth a look for the simple reason that Quinn is one of the few serving politicians who actually put down on paper what he believes.
Anything by Stephen Collins. There are a lot of people who don’t like his style, and of late he’s as much a polemicist as a pol corr, but he writes well, and his books on FF (The Power Game), the Labour party (Dick Spring and the Labour Story) and the PDs (Breaking the Mould.) are all worth buying.