The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Supreme Commander
Anthony McIntyre • Other View Spring 2003

Given the interpretation displayed by many reviewers of Ed Moloney’s book on the IRA a certain question acquired shape in my mind in relation to Gerry Adams prior to reading it. It had already been given a verbal form of sorts elsewhere when Lord Alistair McAlpine asked of Jeffrey Archer ‘how this consummate conman managed to take in so many intelligent people for so long?’ Could Moloney have veered too close to the ‘great men of history’ method of constructing our understanding of the past? Misgivings soon melted.

This book is by far the most comprehensive account, if not of the IRA, then certainly of matters central to the IRA. Its primary objective is to establish who kicked the peace process off, when, and what those behind it intended to achieve through it. The strength of this book is that academia cannot ignore it in the disdainful manner which so frequently characterises its approach to ‘journalistic accounts’; and it easily fits in with the page flicking habits of a much wider audience who wish to read rather than study a book. Deep without being academically dry, fast without being journalistically shallow, the book underscores the considerable skill the author has at his command as he obliterates the gulf that demarcates journalism from academia. Moloney breathes life into history and, while not a ‘trained historian’ (whatever that may be), has produced a book on a par with Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad. But more importantly, Moloney stands set to achieve what Beevor did not aim for - the creation of a new paradigm which will for some time to come reset the lens through which the phenomenon of Provisional republicanism will be viewed. This book will shape the discourse on republicanism in a way that no other has.

In A Secret History of The IRA, Ed Moloney sets out to trace the IRA career of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Adams of course refutes any suggestion that he was ever a member of the organisation and has indeed penned an autobiography which does nothing to suggest otherwise.

Moloney shows that Adams’s political skill and his internal management dexterity are to be marvelled at. His ability to present his grassroots with an abysmal failure with bows on it so that they could then wear the bows and shout ‘we won’ must be unrivalled in modern times. Even football supporters know when their team has lost. Moloney traces this process of management, dissembling, duplicity, linguistic mazes, brazen conning and parallel but mutually incompatible discursive frameworks from 1982. That was when Gerry Adams and Alex Reid first sat down in a tête-à-tête which led to the exploration of alternatives to armed struggle and ultimately ended with the British state securing its strategic objectives and the IRA being compelled to acquiesce in that.

This is such a multi-layered book which no reviewer can hope to convey the intricacy of - Eamon McCann and Fintan O'Toole have come closest yet - there is so much that is new in it. There are many people who will be unhappy with it. Although in time to come I suspect that Adams will be content to recommend the book to all and sundry from the chapters where he sat down with Alex Reid. Amongst the most unhappy shall be those who posed as articulate political visionaries or as competent military operatives who swore never to allow anything remotely resembling the Good Friday Agreement to come into being. The manner in which they were outmanoeuvred or worse still bought off through promotion conveys a humiliating image of the ‘big lad’ patting them on the back while laughing up his sleeve at them. For reviewers less generous than this one, the term ‘useful idiots’ jumps to mind.

On finishing the book, the answer to the question I had posed myself when I began reading it was provided again by McAlpine. How did Adams succeed in outwitting so many? ‘The answer in part is that they wanted to believe in this - for it appeared to be to their advantage to believe…’




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

16 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Building an AntiWarMovement: Moving to Action
Davy Carlin


The Genealogy of Power: On Michel Foucault
Liam O Ruairc


Trade Union Bureaucrats Shaft Aldergrove Workers

Sean Smyth


The Supreme Commander

Anthony McIntyre


12 June 2003


Crippling Critique
Anthony McIntyre


Joy or Death
Aine Fox


Telling it like it is

Anna Livia FM, Transcript


The Conveyer Belt of Informers



World Exclusive!
Jimmy Sands


Connolly and Republican Socialist Organisational Strategy
Liam O Ruairc




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