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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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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