The second half of the seventh century was a time of great change in Ireland, Scotland and northern Britain, and, as ninth Abbot of Iona and leader of the monastic federation founded by Columba, Adomnán was fully involved in the social and political upheavals taking place. He negotiated the release of Irish hostages held in Northumbria and accompanied them on their journey home to freedom. With great courage and resourcefulness, he sought to change the prevailing warlike culture of his day. His most outstanding achievement was the ‘promulgation’ of the Cáin Adomnáin, a revolutionary law designed to protect non-combatants, especially women, during wartime – a law which in its own day was as significant as the Geneva Conventions or the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and which deserves to take its place alongside those ground-breaking charters for human rights. An outstanding ecclesiastical statesman, theologian and scholar, Adomnán also wrote a biography of St Columba and a book of reference on ‘the holy places’. Adomnán was, supremely, a great human being – fully deserving of the title accorded to him by his contemporaries: ‘Adomnán, the illustrious’.
Against the Tide is an accessible, popular account of Adomnán’s life, with an emphasis on the contemporary significance of his Law of Innocents – a law which many justice and peace groups have recently invoked.
Warren Bardsley is a member of the Iona Community, a retired Methodist minister and a graduate of the Celtic Christianity programme at the University of Wales, Lampeter.