The Blanket

The Shadow Before The Don

Seaghan O Murchu


In 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 action."

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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