wasn't much to laugh at in this plodding compilation
of lies, damned lies, and clichés, but one
scene briefly lifted my gloom. It was March 1998,
the negotiations that would culminate the following
month in the Good Friday Agreement were intensifying,
and, like several other Irish politicians, Gerry Adams
was in Washington for St. Patrick's Day. President
Clinton, explains Adams, who is a master of the euphemism,
"was going through a difficult time in his personal
life and looked a little drawn," yet somehow
he found the time and energy to have a meeting with
Adams in the Oval Office. "While most of our
discussions were about Ireland," says Adams,
"I also raised the Middle East situation with
him, as well as the question of Cuba and the huge
problems suffered by Third World countries crippled
by debt. I urged him to cancel Third World debt and
I asked him to use his influence to get other countries
to do the same." So there we have the Leader
of the Free World - in trouble for fibbing - sitting
in his own office being unctuously lectured on foreign
policy by a terrorist and mass murderer who lies for
The effrontery of Adams's lies is truly breathtaking.
In this book, just as in his first volume of autobiography,
he insists he was never in the Irish Republican Army
(IRA), an organization he claims is completely separate
from Sinn Fein, the political party of which he is
president. Yet the truth is that for more than 30
years, Adams has been a senior figure in the IRA.
In 1972, it was Adams who was in charge in Belfast
on what became known as Bloody Friday, when 20 bombs
killed nine people and injured 130. It was on Adams's
watch that Jean McConville, a Protestant widow of
a Catholic man and a mother of ten, was kidnapped,
tortured and murdered..
In his decades on the seven-man IRA Army Council,
Adams has authorized bombings and shootings that have
killed around 1,700 people and have maimed and desolated
tens of thousands more. In this grisly business his
closest IRA colleagues have been Martin McGuinness
and Pat Doherty, both of whom, like Adams, run Sinn
Fein as well as the IRA and are non-attending members
of the British House of Commons. When the Sinn Fein
leadership announces it is off to consult the IRA
leadership, it is largely talking to itself.
telling the story of the Irish peace process,"
says Adams. "I can only tell my experience of
it, my role in it. It is not my business to offer
an objective account of events or see through someone
else's eyes. My intention is to tell a story. It is
my story. My truth. My reality." Well, it certainly
isn't any normal person's reality. Quite apart from
the glaring lies, there are his grotesque distortions
of Irish history.
Ireland has two tribes, whose main distinguishing
feature is religion. When the ruling British government
partitioned the island in 1921, the largely Roman
Catholic 26 counties became a confessional state.
Protestants were perceived by violent republicans
as British and disloyal; those not murdered or terrorized
out of the country by the IRA saw their numbers further
diminished because in religiously mixed marriages
children had to be brought up Catholic. Being a tiny
minority, the Protestants accepted defeat, kept their
heads down and their opinions to themselves: Only
now is the story of what they endured becoming well
The very substantial Catholic minority in the six
counties that became Northern Ireland and stayed part
of the United Kingdom expressed their alienation from
the state by refusing to participate in the political
system and by insisting on segregated education; periodically,
the IRA would do some bombing and shooting. Terrified
of the enemy within, Unionists resorted to gerrymandering
and discrimination to maintain power. What developed
was what David Trimble - the most intelligent and
articulate Unionist politician since partition and,
unlike Adams, a good man - described in the speech
in which he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as "a
cold house for Catholics."
In 1968, civil rights marches began in Northern Ireland;
tribal violence followed, and the IRA came into its
own. By 1972, after the British government had become
reluctantly involved, all legitimate minority demands
were met, but the IRA continued a terrorist campaign
to force Ulster Protestants into a united socialist
Ireland, while their loyalist counterparts murdered
Catholics in order to keep Northern Ireland British.
The IRA campaign failed dramatically: These days,
most people in the Republic of Ireland as well as
in Northern Ireland want to keep the island partitioned.
You will not learn this from Gerry Adams's book, since
- in his reality - all this mayhem has been a struggle
for justice and equality. (Since he wants to sell
this book in the U.S., socialism doesn't get mentioned.)
You also will not learn that Sinn Fein, the richest
political party in Ireland, is largely financed by
IRA racketeering and has friendly links with terrorists
in many parts of the world.
Throughout this terrible period, the British and Irish
governments and most people on the island longed for
the peace both sets of paramilitaries denied them.
Then, in the late 1980s, Sinn Fein/IRA realized they
were defeated and decided to pretend they had won
and seek the best deal possible. Adams's work of propaganda
describes in mind-numbing detail and with an ungenerous
spirit the meetings and démarches and telephone
calls and visits and papers and arguments and setbacks
of the peace process.
Much as I despise Adams for his cruelty, dishonesty,
and hypocrisy, there is no doubt that he and his allies
deserve some credit for eventually grasping that their
squalid, sectarian war was getting nowhere. Nor can
one doubt their energy, commitment, and cunning over
the past several years as they fought their corner;
they are ruthless and brilliant negotiators. Overall,
however, theirs is a terrible legacy. Operating like
Stalinists, they taught generations of children to
hate their neighbors and have caused dreadful suffering
to their own community as well as to those they see
as the enemy. Even now, as Adams is fêted abroad
as a peacemaker by idiots like Martin Sheen and cynics
like the Clintons, back home republicans challenging
his line are intimidated, beaten, and sometimes murdered.
On top of all that, this nauseating man has reinvented
himself as a charismatic, philosophical, politically
correct tree-hugger: "Dialogue happens every
day in all our lives," he tells us. "Equality
is good for everybody." He also passes himself
off as a writer. Well, when I got to page 271, from
sheer boredom I counted the clichés and on
that solitary page netted these: "Unionist hackles
were raised"; "No easy task"; "We
had an ace up our sleeves"; "the slippery
slope"; "the Sinn Fein organization was
at full stretch"; and "we had to go for
it." Anyone who encourages this man to write
should be ashamed of himself.
Farther Shore: Ireland's Long Road to Peace by
Gerry Adams. (Random House, 448 pp., $25.95)
Dudley Edwards is a historian, journalist, and mystery
writer. Her books include The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate
Portrait of the Loyal Institutions.
article recently appeared in the US National Review'
and was submitted to The Blanket by the author.
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