Book Review: Man of War, Man of Peace? The Unauthorised Biography of Gerry Adams by David Sharrock and Mark Devenport

thursday's book

This book opens with a blast. David Sharrock of The Guardian and the BBC's Mark Devenport have written a meticulously researched tale of the rise and rise of the man who may end Ireland's woes, in particular the "tradition" of physical force-republicanism. Unfortunately, it adds nothing new to the acreage of print about the Adams myth. So the authors begin by pulling our legs. The first chapter opens with a gunfight between Gerry Adams and the RUC, ending with Adams and a policeman injured. The reader thinks: "Wow, this is new"; then comes the punchline: "It was 5 September 1942".

From the "involvement" of Adams's father through to the present Stormont talks, the book sweeps the reader along, mainly by skillful rewriting of other works on the IRA, with a few interviews and highlights of Adams own writings. It's not original, but it spares us trawling through the turgid, folksy prose of Falls Memories or Before the Dawn.

What is very clear is that the knives are out. Every anecdote stressing Adams's aloofness, dourness, scheming and evasiveness is, within the laws of libel, repeated. While this book is a fine introduction to republican politics, any reader with background knowledge will see a pattern emerging from the selection of expert witnesses. The recollections of members of the Official IRA, Republican Sinn Fein, Monsignor Denis Faul, former Tory minister Sir John Wheeler, various British Army officers and some anonymous disenchanted provos are all valid in a comprehensive biography of a man reviled by many, including all the above. It's good copy, but not good history: like researching the life of Lady Thatcher and only talking to sacked miners and ministers.

The book goes into great detail to show that Gerry Adams had been, and probably still is, a senior member of the Provisional IRA. Therefore he is implicated in some of the worse atrocities to strike these islands, from Bloody Friday in 1972 to the 1993 Shankill bomb. In reaching the top of the IRA's command structure, he has stepped on quite a few toes. The reorganisation of the IRA, which he formulated with Martin McGuinness, resulted in a few hundred (mainly) men with no great education holding down almost 20,000 troops, and twice coming within feet of wiping out the entire British cabinet. Provo law is the writ of most nationalist areas in the North, rigorously enforced with threats, blackballing and shattered limbs. Adams allowed ten man to die on hunger strike "for electoral advantage". Clearly, he is not a nice man.

Nevertheless, as one senior RUC man tells the authors, "I would be more concerned if he wasn't on the IRA Army Council". Adams has remoulded the power structure of republicanism in his own image. Almost every key position in Sinn Fein and the IRA is filled by his Northern Irish acolytes. If one follows the logic of Adams's "peace strategy", Irish republicanism may be on the road to an historic compromise. He could be killed for his troubles. So, despite the many, many flaws in Gerry Adams's character and life, he deserves a truer reflection than this book offers.

Macmillan, pounds 16.99

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions