The Blanket

Read It And Weep

Mick Hall

In the early 1990s I was watching the TV news one evening. The main segment was about the funeral of a PIRA volunteer and the chaos brought about by the heavy handed presence of the RUC. As was the custom, Gerry Adams and other Republican leaders were taking their turn to carry the dead volunteer's coffin. I got to thinking about how many funerals and how many dead volunteers' coffins Gerry Adams had carried through out this, the longest single phase of Ireland's tragedy which we call so flippantly, 'The Troubles'. What went through Adam's mind as he took the weight of all those coffins on his shoulder? Was he a callous individual who thought only of war and his own career within the 'Republican family,' no matter what the consequences to the men and women he was responsible for and the communities from which they, like he himself, came?

Ed Moloney's book, 'A Secret History of the IRA' does much to explain the complexities and compartmentism of Adams mind set during this period. This book should be essential reading for not only the volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann, past and present, members and supporters of Sinn Fein, plus those who have an interest in Irelands history, but also anyone who has an interest in the art of politics. Although for many republican activists, this book will I fear not be a satisfying read.

For myself, I found it one of the most sad and disheartening books I have read on Ireland. This is in no way a criticism of the author, who has done an excellent job of collating information from Republican, British, and other sources and turning it into a gripping tale. There are understandable - taking into account the subject - some weak spots and false trails but overall it is a fine piece of work.

Prior to the release of the book it was hinted at in the Irish and English press that it would include the identity of Stakenife, the mysterious British agent/informer who is said to inhabit the upper leadership of the PIRA/Sinn Fein. Moloney drops a number of unsubtle hints, but he cannot produce any thing that resembles a smoking gun, not even an old bolt action rifle that has been hidden in a hay loft since the 1916 rising. There is little doubt that some republicans come out of this book very poorly, not least of them is Martin McGuinness, who according to Moloney has at one time or another lied - or shall we say in today's terminology, 'been uneconomical with the truth' - to just about every one of the governing bodies of the PIRA, the Army Council, IRA Executive and the General Army Convention. There seems little doubt that for many Republicans, McGuinness's reputation has been seriously tarnished by Moloney's revelations about his conduct before the aforementioned PIRA governing bodies, whilst selling the GFA to his comrades.

If I were McGuinness I would keep a check behind me, as Gerry Adams has been ruthless in dispensing with close associates who no longer serve his purpose. The best example in the book is that of Ivor Bell, who was for a decade and more a close associate of Adams, first within the Belfast Brigade and later as they rose through the ranks both became members of the IRA Army Council. Once there differences arose: Bell's feet did not touch the ground on his way out of the 'Republican Family.' Although it is to Adams credit that he did not resort to the bullet to remove permanently, former close comrades like Bell, thus consigning to eternity any unsavoury secrets they may have known (unlike many, perhaps even Ivor Bell if the shoe had been on the other foot). Adams' method was to destroy them politically and to a degree morally. In an organisation like the PIRA and the close communities its activists come from, this was like being exiled to Siberia for life.

Moloney amasses creditable evidence to prove that PIRA was in touch with the British long before the original ceasefire of 1994, at least a decade according to Moloney's sources within the British government of the day and the Provos. This only comes as a surprise because of the public statements put out during that decade by the Conservative government of Mrs Thatcher and leaders of the Republican movement like Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is never to believe anything politicians say in the media, without first cross checking it to see who benefits.

Moloney highlights the contradiction inherent within the Adams camp's strategy. They are positioning Sinn Fein on the left, both north and south of the Irish border. They see their natural constituency as the working classes and the less well off in the countryside. The problem they have got is that to put pressure on the Clinton administration to support what became the GFA they have aligned themselves with the heads of a number of corporations in the US.

In other words at the expense of their old US networks such as NORAID, they have allied themselves with the agents of capital, albeit with a green hue. This has led to Adams having to display some stunning footwork, worthy of a 'Come Dancing' champion to keep these people on side. There was a time when Sinn Fein's anti-imperialist internationalism would be proclaimed via Belfast murals - 'Belfast/Beirut, one struggle, one trench. Palestine, Lebanon, Belfast one struggle, one fight' the murals proudly proclaimed.

When PIRA engineers were captured in Colombia and accused of helping FARC, Adams and other Sinn Fein politicians went on US TV and announced, "Nothing
to do with us Sir". Taking into account the reactionary nature of the Colombian government, this was a nauseating display of hypocrisy. It begs the question if they refuse publicly to defend their own long standing members, how can they defend the rights of the working class?

Moloney describes in detail all the twists and turns of the Peace Process and the GFA, he is at his best when describing how the Adams camp sold the GFA to a deeply apprehensive IRA. One cannot but reach two conclusions here; one is that in some ways Adams seems to have been infected by the Clinton virus that all
that matters is the deal, and secondly it must be acknowledged to avoid a split on this issue within the Republican movement was a Herculean achievement, however other ex-Provos might say how can you split a corpse?

Finally Moloney does possible clear up one thing: Gerry Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA. How can this be? people ask - he was at one time commander of the Belfast Brigade, and even today sits on the army council. Moloney has talked to hundred, if not thousands of PIRA volunteers over the years and he concludes that no one has ever met any PIRA volunteer who ever went on an op with Adams.

Perhaps in his own mind, as he never participated physically in a military operation, i.e. shooting, bombing, robbery, etc. Adams does not see himself as a full member of the PIRA, perhaps, who knows how his Machiavellian mind works? At one time it looked like Sinn Fein could fill the political void on the Left in Ireland and gradually evolve from armed Republicanism into a radical Socialist Party, that could become the voice of the people Bobby Sands called the wretched of the earth.

The reasons why this seems less likely now can be found within the pages of
Ed Moloney's book. Read it and weep.



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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

24 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Stand Up And Be Counted
Mickey Donnelly


Read It And Weep

Mick Hall


Particularity Or Universality?
Liam O Ruairc


Time Has Run Out For An Armed IRA
Anthony McIntyre


Thoughts On The Coming War
Sean O Torain


The Letters Page has been updated.


20 October 2002


Dancing on the Graves of Ten Men Dead
Anthony McIntyre


The Wily Ways of a Boy From Ballymurphy

Barry White


SF's Ruse Coloured Glasses
Brian Mór


Historic Shirts of the World
Brian Mór


Liam O Ruairc


From Belfast To Genoa - Now Florence
Davy Carlin


An Open Letter to the Democratic National Committee
Jeanie Bauer


The Letters Page has been updated.




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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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