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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

    £22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

    £13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

    £20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

    Day In a Page

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory