his excellent review of Ed Moloney's "A Secret
History of the IRA," Eamonn
McCann of Gerry Adams comments that: "In
his 1996 autobiography, Before the Dawn, he
provides a sometimes lyrical account of his day-to-day
political involvement from the 1960s to the '90s without
mention of even passing entanglement in paramilitary
True enough. Yet, maddeningly enough, you can find
within Adams' book a coy "lyrical" interlude.
It's the killing of a British soldier by an IRA sniper.
Grippingly described. Almost as if you're turning
the pages of, say, Ernie O'Malley's memoirs or Liam
O'Flaherty's Civil War story "The Sniper."
We know that O'Malley and O'Flaherty saw combat. But
Adams, in a chapter occuring in the middle of his
factual recounting of the war in the 1970s, suddenly
adopts the persona of a fictional character. Readers,
taken with the power of his description of being behind
the rifle sight, I suppose are merely meant to marvel
at Adams' fictional abilities without warning being
displayed in what otherwise sells itself as an autobiography.
The mention of entanglement shadows "Behind
the Dawn," but it's as if the armalite never
was toted by the "real" Gerry Adams, Sinn
Fein party activist with the ballot box who serendipitously
keeps sitting at the negotiating tables next to the
Brits and the Provos, the Falls' own Zelig or Forrest
Gump stumbling into the company of the (in)famous.
We don't have any incriminating mugshots, however,
for the "Big Lad," as Maloney tells us the
future MP liked to be called by his more militant
admirers. Only photos of his trends in eyewear, hairstyles,
t-shirt slogans, and now suits.
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