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A Secret History of the IRA Hardcover – 30 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (30 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071399665X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713996654
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 574,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Moloney's book stands out as the most compelling and comprehensive account of the organisation to date'. -- Deaglan O'Donghaile, Sunday Times, 27 October, 2002

About the Author

Ed Moloney is currently New York correspondent for the SUNDAY TRIBUNE.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
The Northern Ireland state created by the Anglo-Irish war of 1919-21 and the subsequent settlement agreed by the British prime minister, Lloyd George, and Irish republican leaders was not much more than a quarter of a century old when, on October 6, 1948, Annie Adams gave birth to her first son and christened him Gerry after her husband. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Nagle on 14 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
Haveing bought the book when it first came out I got quickly board with it, and only tackeled it again recently. I read War and Peace and Leonardo da vinci while reading this book to eleviate the boardom and almost fell asleep at seperate stages through it.
The first thing he does is puts all the blame on Gerry Adams, makeing claims that he was even Chief of Staff of the IRA at one stage but quitely and quickly mentions that he never even held a gun. Many more outragous claims like this are made through out the book.
He also trys to make it clear that the IRA could have ended the war at any time, and plays up the atrocities commited by the IRA. While not trying to defend the IRA, the unionists (who lead to the creation of the Provesional IRA) and the British Government and Army are above qustion.
Molloney tries to sell this book on the basis of the earth shattering claims that he makes, which are all too easily accepted by people who want to see Sinn Fein behind bars. If Molloney acctualy belive Adams had the power he gives him in this book, then he really does take what he sees in the papers too seriously!!!
While it is hard to understand where the peace process is going as he constantly switchs from Father Reid to Charles Haughy, then forward 5 years, then back to Reid and then to London, the book is saved only by the way it shows the lead up to and the complexities of the split in 1969. Peter Taylors "Provos, the IRA and Sinn Fein" is a much better book
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading A Secret History of the IRA and have to say it is one of the best books on modern Irish Republican history I have read. Detailed, with firsthand accounts, it tells the history of the Provisional IRA with an insider's knowledge and understanding. If you want to get a handle on what has gone on during the peace process, and how a revolutionary movement such as the IRA and Sinn Fein could have made peace with the British, this is the book to get. It has it all, written in a style that is easy to read and unputdownable. Highly recommended!!!
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By Susan on 18 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
interesting read about the history of the Provos
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10 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a student of contemporary Irish history and a life-time resident in Northern Ireland, the words definitive & authoritative [in relation to history books] usually refer to opinions developed around the bars of the Europa & Culloden, with side visits to the Rock or the Phoenix. This is surely such a book. Mr. Moloney takes the usual step of presenting hearsay as fact and expecting the reader to accept his assurances.
This book was not written as history but rather for that niche market [particularly in the US......gasoline bombs?] who envision Adams as the great Betrayer.........of what Moloney does not make clear!!
A waste of money, a waste of time. Mr. Moloney will now join O'Brien, Dudley-Edwards, Elliot in my Rubbish Shelf
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This book will stand the test of time. 21 Oct. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
With all the books that have been written on the Irish Troubles (Coogan, Bell, Holland, etc), its hard to believe that any new insights or perspectives could be possible, but 'A Secret History' is stunning in this regard. It absorbs all that has been written before and goes deeper, using inside sources in the Republican Movement to offer a view of the Peace Process that is enlightening, to say the least. Gerry Adams, in particular, emerges as a monumental contemporary Irish political figure - cunning, brilliant, ruthless, daring. The story of his engineering an end to the war in Northern Ireland has been told many times, but what is not generally known is that he did so by deliberatly misleading/betraying his own movement. Whether or not you think this is a good thing (it resulted in the Good Friday Accords) is for each individual reader to decide. But the author of this book, Ed Maloney, does a tremendous historical service by giving people a deeper and more informed version of events than anything published so far.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Honest survey of the shift from republican tradition 12 Dec. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps overwhelming for the beginner, but for those informed about the evolution of the IRA and its movement away from the Green Book and the armalite to the British and Irish parliaments, Moloney offers corrective and sobering detail of the Adams and McGuinness-led coterie and their domination of the present Provos in both the IRA and Sinn Fein...Moloney has painstakingly assembled his evidence after long years spent bending the ear of many a hard man. As a native of Belfast and a skilled journalist, he writes without the verve of J. Bowyer Bell or the swagger of Tim Pat Coogan, but his own version of IRA history fills in details previously unreported by mainstream authors or known by the public crucial to a nuanced understanding of how the Provo IRA via SF came to be the acceptable face of republicanism today.
33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Deeply Flawed 6 Nov. 2004
By Douglas - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Masterful and definitive", "authoritative and devastating", "extraordinary", "this dramatic book", "superb ". These descriptions are all taken from the cover of the paperback version of Ed Moloney's No.1 best-seller. Moreover, The Blanket has published a number of largely glowing reviews. Why then did I find the book so disappointing, irritating and ultimately boring?

Much of the book is taken up with the peace process of the 1980s and 1990s and the series of negotiations that took place. Other books have documented these events and this period just as well - Brendan O' Brien, Eamonn Mallie and David McKittrick, Déaglán de Breadún and Peter Taylor. What exactly does Moloney's book add to these earlier accounts apart from the apparent notion that Gerry Adam's ideas about changing Republican strategy dated further back than we were previously led to believe, that Charles Haughey was more involved than previously met the eye, and that the Brits had managed to get touts to senior levels in the Republican movement? None of this seemed to be of earth shattering importance or insight to this reader, and certainly not surprising.

What is new is Moloney's detailed descriptions of the two IRA Conventions in 1996 and 1997. If he is to be believed, and there seems little reason to question the accuracy, Moloney clearly got hold of a very good source, presumably someone opposed to the line that Adams and others were pursuing. Interestingly, these sections of the book have been given little prominence in reviews of the book that I've read.

After trudging my way through over 400 pages, the book suddenly and inexplicably brings the whole story up to the present, or at least 2001, when the IRA made its historic statement about putting weapons "beyond use". Huge chunks of political development are suddenly jumped over. Yet, the late 1990s was a period of immense change, both for the Republican movement and the Irish political situation more generally, a lot of which gets faint if any coverage, and is treated in a highly and strangely truncated manner (do I suspect editorial pressures from the publisher?).

During this more recent period, but also in earlier years, there are some amazing and glaring omissions. The political effects of the Hunger Strikes are not given prominence. No reference is made to the published papers exchanged by Sinn Féin and the SDLP before the Hume-Adams talks - a crucial development from my recollection since it was the first time both parties clearly outlined their positions and differentiated themselves on a number of key constitutional issues. Stunningly, no reference is made to the Brighton bomb! The effect of the Canary Wharf bomb on the negotiating stance of John Major is underplayed - surely a huge success for the IRA in militaristic terms. No reference is made to the formation of the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, and the subsequent Omagh bomb. Finally and inexplicably, given that it amounts to the success of the Adams strategy, there is no discussion of Sinn Féin out-polling the SDLP in the 2001 Westminster elections.

On a stylistic level the book is badly written, lacking fluency and coherence. As I think someone else has said in one of the few criticisms that I have read of the book, its structure is contrived, beginning with the Eskund affair and then returning to it every so often as if to prove something important, when it doesn't. Also, the book jumps suddenly, confusingly and with no obvious reason backwards and forwards in time. Moreover, the author goes off on lengthy tangents to explain, presumably for the popular US and British audience, such issues as the historic background to Irish republicanism, the IRA and the British presence in Ireland more generally, and such things as the specific situation in Derry (it's not at all clear why that's included). For this reader it led to major bouts of skip-reading given their extensive coverage elsewhere and irrelevance to the main subject matter.

Whatever one can say about style and content, the book has one fundamental weakness - the facile interpretation of developments that Moloney puts on the political and strategic changes that Adams took the Republican movement through over the past decade and more. Like so many others, Moloney sees the Good Friday Agreement as the endgame, akin to Fukayama's "End of History"; the idea that somehow because of the acceptance of a transitional way forward and the suspension of armed struggle, it means that political struggle has now finished and that Republicans have given up their long-term aims. He states as early as the preface that "the Troubles have ended" ... "the conclusion of the historic conflict between Ireland and Britain". Really? This is just nonsense. By presenting political developments within Irish Republicanism in this way, never mind broader political developments in Ireland, Moloney shows little understanding of political struggle more generally and how political tactics and means change and develop as circumstances themselves change, both internal and external. Moloney may have years of experience reporting on Ireland, but that doesn't make him an insightful political analyst.

Gerry Adams and his closest allies have clearly had a long-term view on how to proceed the Republican struggle for many years, though probably not as well-defined as Moloney would like us to believe. Given the length of the peace process and the mind-numbing detail in which it has been covered by the media, and followed and pursued by Sinn Féin activists, is what Moloney recounts the least bit surprising, never mind insightful and new? Where have these glowing reviewers been over the last decade and more? Have they really been so blind to strategic changes that have been going on in Republican circles for some time?

What Moloney says is simply not new. The nature of the events he recounts are central and normal to the evolution of any national liberation struggle. Read Nelson Mandela's autobiography where he tells of similar developments, crises, contradictions of strategic means and personal clashes in the ANC's history - for example, the use of armed struggle, speaking to the apartheid government, etc. Similar developments and debates are taking place in the left nationalist movement in the Basque Country, though with arguably less depth and, so far, with less success. Palestine would be another example, with the machinations going on between the range of different political and armed groupings.

If Moloney had produced a straightforward factual account of political and strategic change within the Republican movement, there would be far less of a problem. However, it's his facile account of the strategic meaning of political changes and developments that irritates, together with his journalistic desire to find headlines rather than meaningful and insightful interpretation.

Moloney places himself in a contradictory position. He seems highly cynical of Adams and the Republican movement more generally, yet at the same time applauds Adams for taking the road to 'peace'! For all of Moloney's journalistic experience, such contradictions expose his lack of political understanding, judgement and strategic interpretation of political struggle. This book is deeply flawed and simply not as good as many would have us believe.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Blessed are the peacemakers 3 Jun. 2006
By S. Zayas - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ed Moloney, amazingly, tapped sources deep within the IRA and Sinn Fein command structures to uncover the real story - at least from a Republican point of view - of the birth of the Good Friday Agreement. If even half of what Moloney says in the book is true, Gerry Adams might be one of the most skilled, clever politicians of our time. The book certainly suggests that Mr. Adams and elements in the IRA have not been fairly credited for their roles in negotiating a "peace" in Northern Ireland that seems to be holding eight years on.

Only a minimal understanding of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland is necessary as Moloney gives lots of good background information about the history of the IRA, the rise of the Provisional IRA and its transition from terror organization to a something of a "legitimate" political organization. Moloney does not glorify the IRA or justify its actions, but gives it due credit (at least certain of its members) for kick-starting a peace process which has eased centuries of sectarian strife.

How the IRA moved from an uncompromising demand for a unified (socialist republic) Ireland, to be won by armed struggle, to acceptance of a divided island (albeit one more responsive in the North to the needs of its Catholic/Republican/Nationalist citizenry) is what this book is really about. That this major shift in IRA policy came about due to the actions of one of the group's (former) hardliners is utterly fascinating.

Anyone that is interested in Irish politics or history - or even politics generally - should read this book!
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Behind the mask of violence 18 Nov. 2002
By michael poyser - Published on
Format: Hardcover
'The secret history of the IRA' is an engrossing and revelatory dissection of one of the most infamous terrorist forces in modern Western society and indeed, on the world stage. Never before has the Irish republican army and the republican movement been subjected to a complete autopsy, unearthing the truth behind the myth and unravelling the workings of a shadowy and clandestine organisation.
Unlike previous insights into the IRA, which have centred on purely an outsiders perception of Irish republicanism and the armed struggle, Moloney has successfully infiltrated into the heart of the movement. He has brought to the table an understanding of the IRA's raison d'etre and illustrated how painfully and precariously the mechanisms for achieving their goals have shifted, albeit at a glacial pace, from the smoking barrel of a gun to the electoral political process.
The first few pages set the tone, detailing Gerry Adams atavistic republican sentiments and how support for the armed struggle was passed from generation to generation like a family air loom. From this point on Moloney uses Adam's and in particular his revolutionary approach to the Irish question, as a historical and political barometer with which to measure the movement. He clearly identifies Adam's as a defining figure within Irish republicanism, which is nothing new for many political and social commentators. However, what is intriguing is how Maloney describes the events to which a fragile peace was eventually achieved, with Adam's acting as it's sole initiator. He details the duplicity and secrecy of Adam's strategy to instil change within the IRA and also how he influenced other nationalist political parties to join together to provide a united pan nationalist front. In addition, Moloney provides absorbing material on how two fundamentally different entities, the IRA and the British government, entered into dialogue and how their tempestuous relationship developed with Adams in the middle pulling the strings. There are numerous other interesting insights which weave throughout the book. Most notably, are the continuous, entrenched doctrinal divisions of the republican movement and the development and eventual success of the British intelligence to counter IRA military operations.
Moloney's tome is a detailed, informative account of Anglo -Irish modern history and Irish Republicanism. He brings a humanistic quality to the IRA, which is a seemingly difficult task to do for an organisation whose uncompromising violence is intrinsically inhumane. However, he succeeds were others may have failed as many of the unanswered questions about the IRA are not clouded in mystery and secrecy anymore.
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