The Blanket

Exposing Adams' secrets to the light of day
Ed Moloney's insider account of the IRA is superb. Throw away
all others, writes Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack • The Sunday Independent

IF WE are to believe Gerry Adams, he has been a leading republican for 30 years but never a member of the IRA and has never had hand, act or part in any act of IRA terrorism. His most recent version of himself, in a clay-brained profile in VIP magazine, reveals a craving to be seen as a happy-go-lucky kinda modern guy who enjoys simple pleasures, a glass of red wine and listening to lite jazz.

So it may come as a shock to VIP readers and others who have been buying into the Mr Nice Guy thing, that Gerry was, er, a "terrorist". Oops, there go the B List party invitations. Sorry Gerry.

Moloney's book raises a scenario that has largely been covered up in the media coverage of the "peace process" years in Northern Ireland: that Adams has been at the centre of the IRA's campaign of terrorism since the outset; that he was present in key positions when some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles took place, and that he is cunning, manipulative and power-hungry.

The book, it must be said, is more about Gerry Adams than the IRA. It is an important book in that it seriously addresses and exposes the issues of Adams's early involvement in terrorism. This is then balanced with Moloney crediting Adams's tremendous commitment in turning the IRA away from that path.

Adams may gripe about being associated in the book with Bloody Friday and the kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville. But he surely cannot carp about the gripping account in the last chapters about his struggles with the IRA hard cases, in which he is cast as the hero in pursuit of a peace deal. Moloney is brilliant at capturing the edgy world of IRA and Sinn Fein internal politics, something he observed at close quarters for 20 years.

Not unsurprisingly, however, the main controversy over the book is its contention that Gerry Adams was the man in charge of the IRA in west Belfast when it kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried Jean McConville, and that he was also in charge of the IRA in Belfast on Bloody Friday.

These are not really contentious issues in the North, where much of this is known or has been suspected for decades. The issues have only become contentious because Adams and his party have been engaged in a comprehensive campaign of historical revisionism, casting themselves as guilty only of a love of Ireland and a passionate pursuit of peace and justice. Just as Johnny Adair of the UDA proclaims his only crime is loyalty to Ulster.

The sycophantic treatment of the Sinn Fein leader by much of the domestic and foreign media during the past decade hasn't helped him and his party reach a sense of perspective yet, either. Journalists, like Moloney, who dared cast aspersions during the "peace process" found themselves marginalised and castigated. One particularly slimy figure came up with the term JAPPs (journalists against the peace process) to brand those few journalists in Ireland who tried to maintain objective standards.

Questions remain over Adams's role as commander of the west Belfast IRA in events such as Bloody Friday and the murder of Jean McConville. A Secret History of the IRA, unfortunately, does not offer conclusive proof on either issue.

Bloody Friday was one of the most exceptionally vicious acts of terrorism perpetrated in a period when the IRA really surpassed itself for evil deeds.

Before it came the Abercorn restaurant attack, in which an IRA bomb exploded among women shoppers, and a series of no-warning car bombs in Belfast and other towns. The intention was to subject an entire population to pure terror.

Bloody Friday, when 20 bombs were detonated almost imultaneously in the city centre causing mayhem and terror on a huge scale, ranks alongside some of the vilest acts of 20th-century terrorism. Children, women and the elderly were the main victims in a day of truly awful horror.

The Provos were clearly pre-empting the publication of Moloney's book when they issued a retrospective apology last July for Bloody Friday and the deaths of "non-combatants".

The family of Jean McConville have already disputed Moloney's claim that their mother, a widow trying to bring up a family of 10 young children, was, as he claims, an active informant for the British army. Other people from west Belfast also dispute Moloney's assertion of Mrs McConville's position in this respect. She would seem a most unlikely army agent, struggling as she was in extreme poverty to raise her large family.

It is more likely that she was one of several victims of an IRA campaign in Belfast at the time to stop fraternisation with the army. Remember, the women of the Falls Road and Ardoyne brought cups of tea to soldiers manning the barricades to thank them for holding back the loyalist mobs. This was during the period when the IRA was being accused of abandoning Catholic areas in the face of loyalist assault. Graffiti such as "IRA I Ran Away" appeared on walls at the time.

In response the IRA set up people's committees, of women and men, who targeted any poor woman who continued to show any kind of friendship to the soldiers. More than a dozen were beaten up, tarred and feathered or kidnapped and threatened with murder. Jean McConville, a Protestant who married a Catholic, was in a particularly vulnerable category. Republican sources on the Falls say she was killed as a lesson, pour encourager les autres.

Some former republicans also don't believe the IRA's claim that she was taken to a beach in the Cooley Peninsula and shot dead. They believe she was shot dead in west Belfast and buried in a hole dug for foundations in a local housing estate. A real cloak of secrecy has been pulled around Mrs McConville's disappearance and death. It is evidence that the IRA really has something to hide on this one.

Elsewhere there are really excellent accounts of the IRA and the internal forces directing it. Moloney has very, very good sources who were able to supply him with minutes of army convention meetings, particularly the 1997 one in Donegal where the people who formed the "Real" IRA broke away.

He exposes many of the backroom boys who have played crucial roles in the peace process. There are a couple of curious omissions. There is little or no account of the effect of the loyalist assassination attempt on Adams in 1984. It was about this time that Adams began to become more interested in some kind of peace process did he hear the fluttering of angels' wings as he lay in hospital recovering?

The Warrington bomb in March 1993, in which three-year-old Jonathan Ball and 12-year-old Timothy Parry were killed, had a massive impact in the Republic and thousands attended rallies. The book is too tightly focused on the secret diplomacy between the Provos and both governments, which is all very interesting but very insider. Warrington was an important turning point.

Otherwise this is a superb piece of work and ranks alongside Toby Harnden's Bandit Country as the best insider account of the IRA. Throw the rest out.


This article was first published in The Sunday Independent and is carried with permission from the author.



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The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.
- Ayn Rand

Index: Current Articles

10 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Managing the Strategy
Breandán ó Muirthile


Remembrance Day
Billy Mitchell


Going Back To The Start
Eamonn McCann


Suffer Little Children

Anthony McIntyre


Exposing Adams' Secrets To The Light Of Day
Jim Cusack


Pinnocchio, Oh, Oh!

Brian Mór


98th Death on Hunger Strike in Turkish Prisons


The Letters page has been updated.


7 November 2002


Our Community
Liam O Ruairc


Billy Mitchell


To The Beat of a Different Drum
Anthony McIntyre


Bring Back Stormont and Political Status

Brian Mór



Brian Mór


Pinnocchio Redux

Brian Mór




The Blanket




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