Echo's Jack Holland dead at 56

Holland, born Edward John Holland on June 4, 1947, was the author of a number of widely acclaimed books on the Northern Ireland Troubles and for the last 25 years was a reporter, editor and columnist for the Echo. He lived in Brooklyn Heights.

His column, "A View North," last appeared in the paper's April 21 issue. It was an analysis of the debate over a possible truth commission for Northern Ireland.

Holland is survived in the United States by Dr. Mary Hudson, his wife of 30 years, and his daughter, Jenny, a journalist with the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. He is also survived by his mother, Elizabeth Holland of Belfast, sisters Kathryn Kelly and Elizabeth Murray, also in Belfast, sister Eileen White in Redcar, England, and a brother, Thomas, in London.

In addition to politics, Holland's writing also included novels, short stories and poetry. He wrote 11 books in all, both fiction and non-fiction.

He studied poetry with Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and his verse was published in a number of leading periodicals and newspapers.

Holland's novels, "The Prisoner's Wife," "Druid Time" and "The Fire Queen," were published in 1981, '86 and '92, respectively.

The son of a boxer and ballroom dance teacher, and the first of his family to ever attend university, Holland was a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, where he earned a bachelor's degree in literature, and the University of Essex in England, where he graduated with a master's degree in linguistics.

Holland's academic work continued alongside his career in journalism and in recent years he taught journalism at New York University.

During the 1970s, Holland was an assistant editor of Hibernia Magazine in Ireland and during that decade he also worked with the BBC, the Sunday Times of London, the Daily News in New York, the Irish Times, and the Irish Press.

He also wrote during the 1980s for the Sunday Tribune in Dublin and Irish News in Belfast.

But it was his work published in the United States that was to most distinguish Jack Holland -- who came from a mixed religious family -- as a journalist with a unique appreciation of the cost that violence exacted from the people of his native Belfast, the rest of Northern Ireland and indeed the entire island of Ireland.

In 1998, the New York Times highlighted Holland's work in a profile headed "Wry, Pragmatic Chronicler of Irish Troubles."

"He is considered among the more prescient, pragmatic interpreters of Northern Ireland by readers in New York, Washington, Dublin, London and Belfast," the Times stated.

Asked to describe just how his Catholic and Protestant family background came through in his writing and reporting, Holland told the Times: "I have the Ulster Protestant virtues, frugality, honesty and stubbornness, combined with the Catholic ones, irony, sarcasm and the refusal to take oneself seriously, which comes from being told you're not worth anything."

That mixed religious background was the basis for Jack Holland's singular understanding of, and appreciation for, the dramatically opposite points of view that were the daily grist of the Troubles.

"If the atom were a political party," he told the Times, "the Irish would be the first to split it."

Holland's book writing went into a new gear in the late 1980s, a time that was to witness the first of a series of non-fiction works that would address the Troubles from a variety of new angles and carefully attained perspectives.

His first book on the Troubles was published in 1981. Entitled "Too Long a Sacrifice," it garnered instant praise from, among others, Paul O'Dwyer, who hailed it as a "classic" work.

The Denver Post described the book as having "a fine literary quality" combined with "a poetry and a deep sense of classic tragedy."

Holland's 1987 book, "The American Connection," was a groundbreaking expos

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