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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Disturbing Secrets

Liam O Ruairc • March 18, 2003

Over the last thirty years, a significant number of books have been published on the Irish Republican Army. Ed Moloney's A Secret History of the IRA (Penguin, 2002) is likely to become the standard if not the definitive work on the history of the Provisional IRA. Ed Moloney is a serious journalist who has covered the conflict in the North of Ireland for over twenty years, and has proved himself not afraid of asking difficult questions. Challenging the orthodoxies of Northern Ireland journalistic coverage recently resulted in him parting ways with the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune for which he had worked as Northern Ireland editor. Moloney's history of the Provisional IRA is an authoritative work of investigative journalism and political analysis based on the author's privileged access to inside information both with the IRA and the British and Irish government. Never before have the internal workings of the IRA been so well described.

The Secret History of the IRA could have better been titled A Secret History of Gerry Adams as the book's narrative is centred on Adams's political trajectory. Moloney shows how Gerry Adams led the Republican Movement for more than twenty years, during which volunteers killed, died, were tortured and imprisoned for a British declaration of intent to withdraw and a 32-county Irish Democratic Socialist Republic; while having agreed as early as 1982, in secret talks behind the backs of the IRA leadership with the Redemptorist priest Alec Reid and the Catholic Church - a Church that had just helped to defeat the H-Block struggle - a programme that negated everything Republican militants thought they were fighting for. Moloney then shows how Adams made a secret deal with Fianna Fail and the SDLP - on Fianna Fail and the SDLP's terms before cutting with the British government - with whom he was already in contact with in 1986/87 - what amounted to more or less the same sort of deal that was on offer during the Sunningdale Conference in 1973 and which had then totally been rejected by Republicans. Those secret deals were made sometimes behind the back of the leadership and most often behind the backs of the grass roots members of the Provisional Republican movement, to whom the actual contents of those deals were not made public. One just has to remember how Republicans were called by their leadership to demonstrate in support of the 'Hume-Adams Document' while ignoring the actual content of that document. Moloney provides the best description published so far of the development of the Peace Process and is at his best when describing how the Adams faction sold the Good Friday Agreement to a sceptical Provisional IRA. The strength of the book is not so much the author's description of the dishonesty of the Provisional leadership and their betrayal of the fundamental principles of Irish Republicanism, but Moloney's detailed depiction of the actual mechanism of the Provisional leadership's sell-out and surrender.

The media was quick to jump on the more sensationalist aspects of Moloney's book: that Adams has prior knowledge of IRA involvement in the killing of Jane McConville and other "disappeared" (A group of alleged informers kidnapped and executed by the IRA. The organisation until recently had always denied involvement in those disappearances.), that a double agent placed at the highest level in the leadership of the IRA was responsible for the capture of the Eskund arms shipment that would have allowed the Provisional to launch an Irish equivalent of the Tet Offensive, the failure of which significantly strengthened Adams's strategy. Moloney hints that British intelligence might have helped remove those in the IRA - like Jim Lynagh and those killed at Lough all - that could have caused problems to Adams and used their agents within their organisation to push the movement towards the peace strategy.

Moloney portrays the IRA as being brought down by treachery and British onslaught rather than as the 'undefeated and defiant army' presented by the Provisionals. Moloney gives valuable insights into the various individuals who lead the IRA. For example, he shows that the way Brian Keenan is presented as some 'hard line radical Marxist' is just a myth. The book is a good antidote to many of the self-deluding myths vehiculated by the Provos. Moloney's mixture of good investigative journalism and high standard political analysis makes The Secret History of the IRA an indispensable book for anyone interested in Irish politics.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

21 March 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


War In Our Time But Not In Our Name
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast Schools Against War
Davy Carlin


Not Your Father's Socialism

Kevin Donegan


Disturbing Secrets
Liam O Ruairc


17 March 2003

Death of an IRA Volunteer
Anthony McIntyre


Sinn Fein @ The Bush Party
John Meehan


Not In Our Name, Bertie and Gerry

Brendan Young


Republicans' Big Risk
Paul Fitzsimmons


The Good Friday Agreement? What About the St. Patrick's Day War?
Eamonn McCann


St. Patrick's Day Message
Jimmy Sands

Only Another Eleven Palestinians
Margaret Quinn




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