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on 22 March 2017
Good stuff
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on 22 July 2003
I found this book to be a daunting read filled with references and appendices which meant that reading had to be carried out at a fairly slow pace. The facts and figures were clearly meticuously researched and the author has tackled a very daunting sublect fairly well. There was no mention at all of the Brighton bombing in the book despite this being one of the pivotal atrocities of armed struggle. The focus of the book is the peace process in Northern Ireland and the evolving policies of the key figures in the process, notably Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams. The author highlights the change in the republican stance over the years and explains how political chicanery and horse trading were employed to expediate the vision of Adams and McGuiness. This book has some fascinating information but requires diligent reading. Overall, worth a read but heavy going.
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on 17 June 2003
Ed Maloney has been renowned in Ireland for his excellent coverage of Northern Ireland affairs. As the Northern Editor for The Irish 'Sunday Tribune' he witnessed some of the landmark events of the regions troubled history. 'The Secret History of the IRA' is an insightful book into the inner workings of the Republican Movement over this period - it shows in all its complexity the political wranglings, the personalities and the differences in ideology that brought the Provisional IRA into the stalemate of the peace process and launched such hardline groups as the Real IRA. In doing so it covers areas of Republican history that so many other books have either been unable or too afraid to analyse. This is a brilliant read, absolutely gripping and enlightening all at once. No bookshelf on Irish affairs should be without this.
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on 17 August 2014
Essential history of the PIRA, made even more urgent by the fallout of the Boston College debacle.
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on 23 November 2013
Having an Irish Catholic father and English protestant mother I have a special interest in the history of the troubles in Ireland. I was only 8 years old in 1969 so was looking forward to reading this book to gain more insight as to what actually occurred.

In general this book gave a comprehensive record of the troubles but was more of a tribute to Gerry Adams than an unbiased account of events. The author pretty much describes Adams as a master strategist and repeatedly claims that events that were born out of chaos and mayhem were the result of Adams strategic planning. Many of these claims are based on hindsight rather than generally accepted facts from the time, and are not acknowledged by other members of the provisional IRA.
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on 16 February 2012
A very insightful book indeed, touching on all major events and incidents which have helped shape the IRA's leadership over the years. In particular focusing on Gerry Adams's roll within the organization and how he and Mcguinness slowly took control from the militants and led the IRA down the arduous path of peace. My only criticsim is perhaps too much focus on Gerry Adams, undoubtedly he played a major role but i'm sure there were many others within the republican movement who played significant roles in helping bring about peace. Nonetheless, a fascinating read.

Y
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on 28 November 2004
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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, 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'! Such contradictions expose his lack of political understanding, judgement and strategic interpretation of political struggle. This book is deeply flawed.
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on 11 September 2005
This is a remarkable book and anyone who claims that it is flawed in any way has an axe to grind, eg they must be members of Sinn Fein and cannot abide their leader, Gerry Adams being criticised. This book reveals Adams to be a manipulative and ruthless figure, albeit one whose strategic talents are considerable. But Adams could not have completed the journey chronicled in this book by himself - he needed the assistance of three governments, in London, Dublin and Washington and of their security agencies. If Moloney's book has one weakness it is that this area is not explored. But it will be one day. Mark my words! In the meantime if you want to know how the IRA ended up as Britain's favourite terrorist organisation read this book.
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on 29 May 2009
One of the best books of the many I've read concerning result Irish history . Superbly detailed & obviously very well researched . Certainly many of the facts contained are not known to the general public although I believe it will be a most useful to future generations .
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on 10 August 2014
Good condition at reasonable price
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