Battle of the Memoirs

Just got my copy of the book about Gerry Bradley’s life in the IRA returned to me. A friend who had borrowed it dropped it back in when he had finished. His view: worth the reading. For those who don’t know Bradley, a former IRA prisoner, is the subject of a biography by Brian Feeney. How reliable the book is I cannot say, not yet having read it. Never a wise move to judge a book by its cover or the clowns it provokes. Feeney is no fool and would be unlikely to produce work that failed to stand up. Having written a lengthy history of Sinn Fein, he has a fair understanding of the subject matter.

My wife bought me the book as a present when it was first published. That I had no intention of reading it any time soon was not down to failing to appreciate her choice of books for me; they are always good. Just too much in front of me to be ploughed through for now. On top of that I have overdosed on republican historiography this past while back including engaging works by Kevin Bean, Rogelio Alonso, Timothy Shanahan and Martyn Frampton, all of which I intend to review at some point. Having not yet managed to finish reviewing Jonathan Powell’s memoirs, I wonder from where the time can be plucked.

As for Gerry Bradley, I never met him although I did attend the closing day of his trial back in the mid 1990s. My reason – I was friends with two of his co accused, having spent much time in prison with both. Watching them go down for big time was irritating. Why they were ever sent out on an operation as part of a war that the leadership had by then decided to abandon didn’t rest easy with me.

When Feeney’s book on Bradley was first published it was said to be clearing the shelves like fresh cream. A bit like the type of thing we are hearing in relation to the rate at which Ed Moloney’s Voices From The Grave is moving. Books like that shift so quickly because they offer something the officially approved narrative does not. If you like your history fictionalised go flick through the authorised pages. They will provide you with lots of what never happened. If you prefer something closer to the bone look elsewhere.

I will read the book on Bradley as soon as. What prompts me to pick it up rather than put it on the long finger is the bitter opposition in some quarters to it being read at all. Irate censors have reportedly taken to making it difficult for Bradley. Potential book burners were approaching him to vent their anger over his refusal to submit to censorship. I recall reading that the censors were daubing ‘tout’ on the wall in North Belfast beside his name. The same sort of smear tactic that was put in use outside the home of Blanketmen author Richard O’Rawe. The peace in the peace process is not to be afforded to republicans like Gerry Bradley.

The censors are irony-blind considering the current penchant for touting among many of Gerry Bradley’s former comrades. Going directly to the British police with information on republicans seems to be the limit of the revolutionary imagination these days. If Bradley were to take part in an armed republican assault on armed British police today in East Belfast the mob would be scrawling ‘traitor’ on the walls. And any modern day Kevin Fulton who ran to the nearest cop shop to squeal on him would be lauded as a hero of the peace process.

Moreover, in an interview with The Independent, the Sinn Fein president was said by interviewer Johan Hari to have claimed ‘that several figures in the Real IRA – again, he names them, but for legal reasons I can't – are in the pay of the British.’ While not touting as such it is hardly any different from what Bradley is alleged to have done.

The upshot of it all is that Bradley at some point supposedly headed for Dublin to escape the hassle. But from the outset he could hardly have remained oblivious to censorship being par for the course in the stable he hails from. Independent comment frightens the horses. When Richard O’Rawe first published his mould breaking work Blanketmen the professional growlers stalked everywhere but the libraries or bookshops. O’Rawe was determined and they failed to have their censorious way with him. It will be likewise for Bradley if he continues to hold his nerve. Given the amount of dissatisfaction amongst republicans at the Sinn Fein managed collapse of the republican project, he will hardy be doing solitary.

At the end of the day there is nothing like the good old censor to ensure the forbidden book is sought after and digested like no other. Words from a recent film spring to mind: sometimes we meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it. The more a work is censored the more it is likely to be read.

It would be a sad subversion of history if the memoirs of those involved were not to make it to the surface at some point. Coalface participants in any conflict who remain unashamed of their involvement will always serve the historical narrative much better than those leaders embarrassed into pretending they had no part in it all.

In his great work on the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, The Road To Stalingrad, John Erickson referred to the post war ‘battle of the memoirs.’ What happened, why it happened, who decided it would happen are all questions that invariably and relentlessly drain the censor’s blotter in the wake of any serious conflict. The role of the censor is to prevent people arriving at informed judgements about events that impacted on their lives. Those who seek to blot out what we wish to read can fume and rail all they want but the chips will fall where they will and readers shall make up their own minds.


  1. Mackers, read this book and it is well worth reading. Yes they wrote all sorts of stuff about him, but I don't think anybody gives a s--t about them anymore.
    Speaking of censorship, has anybody tried to get a post on Big G's blog, its a no, no.
    He had a very touching piece on his blog about the very sad and disgusting murder of Seamus Fox.
    I asked him, "did he not think it was horrendous that we (ordinary people) can no longer walk our own streets with a degree of safety.
    After all, it was not that long ago he told us we never had it so good."
    On the same blog, he had written a piece about the bomb in Newtonhamiliton, something along the lines that they had no support, no mandate etc etc.
    I reminded him, how often we had that said about us, then I asked him, "why it was alright to be a thug, hood, fraudster, parasite or gangster" as long as you speak the speak and nod when he speaks. I asked him " Do you only commit a crime thses days if you have an alternative view," Guess what he never put the post up.
    Albert said it's a case of "Blog off."
    Back to Gerry Bradley's book, tells his story, speaks his mind and fills in a lot of gaps.
    Have also something to say about the Jonathon Powell book but not tonight.

  2. Something that I forgot to write last night in relation to Big G's blog. He said the people who carried out the bomb in Newtonhamilton had totally dishonoured the republican cause.
    Clearly he has gone mad and he must think the rest of us are all mad as well.
    He sounds like a butcher trying to educate people on the benefits of a veggie lifestyle.
    Then a cavalcade of posts appear on his blog (well censored of course) All from his adoring fans, telling him wonderful he is and how their miserable lives would be if he wasn't part of them.
    I am beginning to think that you can fool all of the people all of the time or at least he can.
    Marty I know you love all this but I really need an escape route.

  3. There's neither principle, logic or consistency in SF comments. It will be a disaster if the electorate still buy into them.

  4. Hi Nuala I read that book when it was published ,and I,d need to revisit it as it has left no lasting memories,as for you attempting to get a post on Adams shite well hon you must be a masochist, more chance your Albert buying a round, He walked up to Thatcher house this morning after parking the helicopter in Casement Park,its the only way to travel you know ,One can really look down on the people, Anyway the psf president for life m.p mla and would be Irish president and double nobel prize winner one for literature the other for his outstanding contribution for world peace, went into Thatcher house with a face on him like a wet good Friday in Bundoran."I need a cup of tea" he said to Bob doh brains, so they went into the kitchen,Gerry Itwasntme put the kettle on and then opens the fridge "Bob" he says"This may sound like a daft question ,but why do you keep an empty milk bottle in the fridge"Bob doh brains replied"Ya daft git,its in case someone takes their tea black,""You dont look to happy today boss still no sign of the knighthood?" Gerry Itwasntme said"Dont go there you know it upsets me, anyway its not that I was at the doctors this morning and he said I was paranoid........well he didnt actually say that but that what he was thinking" cheer up Nuala we will witness the demise of those gits, ffs when the bear Gildernew gives ya a hug ,things must be bad

  5. As for an escape Nuala I hit the Leitrim hills where I engage in the local pastime of sheep shaggin, great exercise and plenty of fresh air,Albert should try it ,it,l take his mind of leggo bricks,

  6. just bought voices from the grave and ordered your book online there today Mackers...quite dangerous really in the midst of exam study. Anyhow i'll let yer know what i think when i've it read.

  7. Marty,is it because Marie has went for a younger model that you are misbehaving in Leitrim? Somehow I don't think Leitrims for us, animal lovers yes!
    But very much in the Animal Rights sense.

    Went on Adams blog initially to read the "Ides Of March" post.
    He wrote the piece to coincide with the launch of the Ed Moloney book.
    In the piece he compares himself sadly and quite dramtically to the murdered Roman Emperor, betrayed and finally stabbed in the back by former friends. (Don't read it unless you have loads of loo roll at your side, failing that a bucket will suffice."
    The story begins with Gerry speaking quite eloquently about his former pal. He touchingly reveals how he, Big G, "felt sorry" for his former associate. (afraid to write the word comrade here in case they write something on my wall! And Albert can't clean it off with his bad back) who was so consumed with guilt and sickness that he (Brendan Hughes) succumbed to revealing deep, dark and very sinister secrets about Big G.
    All of which are absolutely and totally untrue, as they were made, "Bizarrly by an accuser who is not here to stand over the claims"
    However, as the sad tale unfolds the reader soon discovers that true to form, it is the Big fellah himself who is twisting and turning the knife and not the reverse.
    All is not lost though, for those who like a happy ending Gerry provides it.
    Everyone, yes everyone including Big G himself (providing he isn't wired up to a lie detector) is now allowed to tell the truth about all sorts.
    Just a few stipulations, " You must have the courage to tell it while you are alive." (provided you have a quick getaway car and a safe hideaway)
    Never mention Big G's name.
    And you must tell it to an International Truth Commission.
    If you can't really be bothered with all of this, I'm sure it would be fine just to go and tell the local PSNI or some of the "Free Agents" (who now roam about with impunity as well as immunity) They would happily oblige by telling the cops for you.
    (Oops, sorry only information about the "dissidents" goes to the PSNI)
    Understandably this can all get very confusing! Can't remember what we can tell or must not tell! Or if we are allowed to tell, who do we tell it to????
    (PSNI? Yes, Handlers? Yes, Any Commissions? Yes, Books? Must be a Sinn Fein member,Journalists? No, Confession? Not Sure, Historic enquiry team? depends on who you are, Historic researchers? depends on who they are ????.
    Apologies, that this has all gotten really confusing, have to go back and re-read Big G's blog.
    Lets hope I can get it sussed ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  8. Hi Nuala I wont be to long here, just to let you know psf are out and about at the mo canvassing, in the of chance that one of the fuckers knocks at my door I,m in the process (psf speak) of wiring my door up to the mains, ,I wanna see how many colours these fuckers can really turn,Marie said thats shocking,

  9. I have yet to read any of Kevin Bean's but "Talking to Terrorists" by Frampton, et al is on my bookshelf waiting. I have read Alonso's "The IRA and Armed Struggle", Timothy Shanahan's "The PIRA and the Morality of Terrorism", and "Insider". They are all interesting although Alonso and Shanahan have more in common than most commentators if my memory serves me correctly. I liked them all and enjoyed challenging some of the theories and comments in the books. I prefer reading an intelligent critique of Republicanism rather than the puerile rants of the likes of Ruth Dudley Edwards, Kevin Myers or Conor Cruise O'Brien. Something to stimulate the mind not put it to sleep. The Alonso and Shanahan books are extremely thorough and thought-provoking and Insider is interesting also. I remember reading it when it came out and wondering about his comments on paedophiles. Of course, that general comment was explained specifically, a few weeks later, in the media. Horrific.

  10. Nuala correct me if I,m wrong,but didnt Caesar believe he was a god, no wonder Adams was upset us gods should be for going back to his blog hon dont do it you will end up canvassing for the fucker.

  11. I have just read ranger 1640,s post on Anthony,s last blog re psf telling Eamonn Mc Cann to remove his election poster from the rear of Free Derry wall, you can catch this on Slugger the assholes really need manners put on them as the bearded one once said

  12. I'm glad I found your website. I just finished reading "Voices from the Grave". I'm Irish American and have always had an interest in Irish Republicanism. I certainly am old enough to remember the early years of the Troubles and the prison protests and hunger strike. It was difficult getting the information here in the States. I have done a lot of catching up on the history through books and internet reading.
    You'll be hearing from me. Thanks.

  13. Marty, Barred from Gerry's blog won't let me utter a word.
    No free speech!!!!
    Very touching piece though "His Ides Of March" If you are slightly touched yourself.
    Talk about egomania, this man who not so long ago advocated we all should inform on our own people, portrays and equates himself with the downfall of Caesar. (stabbed in the back )
    Personally I think he has more in common with the Macbeth type character.Someone who destroys all in his path for greed and ambition.(Gerry doth murder free speech)

  14. Ah Nuala me darling girl, dont let that egomaniac annoy you rise up mo cara, Adams sould have listened to Shakespear.When that the poor have cried,Caesar hath wept,ambition should have been made of sterner stuff,Julius Caesar, though I think Adams probably loves the quote ,As he was valiant,Ihonour him,but as he was ambitious ,I slew him. again from Caesar.I like If you prick us do we not bleed?if you tickle us ,do we not laugh?if you poison us do we not die?and if you wrong us.Shall we not revenge.and finally a warning for all those in psf, All that glitters is not gold . merchant of venice

  15. Marty, very impressive!
    Big Julius was up in Clonard today on the quest for votes.
    Apparently Paul Maskey thinks (well he doesn't, but) the Falls Road could mimic the "Cafe Culture of Paris" do you think it's the Traitorade thats the cause of all this?

  16. Having just finished ready "Voices from the Grave", I can only come to the conclusion that a book can only be considered contriversial, if one doesn't agree with the conclusions being drawn. To me there was nothing particularly revealing in The Darks portion, only confirmation of opinions which I already held. And to be honest I was a bit disappointed in the David Ervine portion as I did not think that he was particularly forthcoming. But I think that Gerry and Co. need to remember that the truth sometimes hurts. In reading about the upcoming elections, it makes me glad to be well out of it!! The behaviour of so called Republicans in West Belfast only helped to copper fasten our decision to move to the States. Now it brings me great joy to turn up to events here where Big G's sycophants think they have an audience that doesn't know any better and ask them them the questions that need to be asked. Most recently me and my other half made Bobby Lavery and Terry Kirby just a tad uncomfortable, but I just can't stand people spouting nonsense. Besides their big boys, they'll get over it.

  17. ffs get on to Brian Mor Nuala grab as many cases of the stuff as you can get,Maskey thinks the Falls can become the new west bank eh, could be true hon all the psf shite artists are called toloose

  18. Kathy, hope you find happiness and prosperity in your knew home, as it is highly unlikely that you would have ever found it here, unless you could have maybe gotten yourself into the higher echelons of the "mainstream republican movement"

    A sad reality of peoples' lives here is, they now have to watch former so called "revolutionaries"
    stride about in the clothes of the emperor.(Not just Big G in the Caesar gear) Some of the them are millionaires and the stiil have the sheer audacity to come to our homes at election time and peddle the some old shit.

    It must have been absolute torture for people like Brendan Hughes to have had to watch this day and daily. Is it any wonder his physical health degenerated to the extent it did.
    Someone like the "Dark" could now be sitting wealthy with his own housing portfolio. Heroes are still big business for Sinn Fein. They can still be rolled out like the red carpet for the odd prestigious occassion.

    Anyone who honestly believes that they can ever speak out, really speak out and get away with it are either demented or getting there.

    Gerry Bradley had to upsticks and leave when his book was published.
    Brendan Hughes's fate I dare say would have been a damn sight worse.
    Considering they had already been swimming around him like pariahs for years.

    Recently Gerry Adams advocated if you are going to speak out!
    At least do it when you are alive,
    clearly he was thinking, "We can't kill you if you are already dead"

  19. Mackers, can I just correct my own mistake before Marty spots it.
    I actually meant to say that they had been swimming around the "Dark"
    like piranhas for years.
    None of them can be classed as pariahs. No social outcasts amongst that lot, you tow the line and your part of Gerry's big melting pot, speak out and you are more likely to find yourself in it.

  20. Tut tut Nuala its not often you make a mistake hon ,but your last post should have read" mainland republican movement"I,m away to find our Albert and he can join with me in that old Irish tradition of giving the walls a talkin Slainte

  21. Just before I go Nuala re your comments about the boyos striding about in funny clothes, Hermann Goreing was fond of wearing funny clothes and look how he ended up, now where the hell did I leave my tights

  22. I'm sure it's been noted that the day after this post appeared, Fulton clearly implied that Bradley was an informer - or at least loose-lipped - on his own blog.

  23. Gonzo,

    just read this after you sent your comment through. Was not aware of it until then. That said I am of the opinion that it means absolutely nothing.

  24. Hi, I don't know if Alonso's book on IRA is good, but his articles on spanish papers about irish conflict (and basque conflict) are extremely reactionary and pro-State propaganda. I cannot imagine a man with his securocrat approach making an honest and insightful essay on IRA and the political conflict in Northern ireland, when he basically denies it's mere existence.

  25. Eileen, feel free. I hope we do here from you. All opinion is welcome

  26. Kathy,

    good to see your post. You did right to ask the awkward questions. They can only deal with blind adherence not vision. You are as well out of the place. So glad to be out of it myself. Small wonder it is one of the most deprived areas within any British administered area.

  27. Liam32c, it is a very good book by a penetrating analyst. His arguments and conclusions may rub many of us up the wrong way but we don't have a monopoly on interpretation. A few friends interviewed for the book were irritated by his conclusions. But he never pulled his punches and was always straight about his view of things. Didn't think anybody other than Shinners believed in securocrats!!

  28. Liam32c- for all my opinion is worth, I thought Alonso's book was an intelligent and well argued case but you're right he is very pro-state, authoritarian and reactionary. The book was an interesting read in that it had a large number of interviews with republicans and he interpreted and analysed them in his own anti-republican way. He got quite fervent and vitriolic in his rubbishing of republican ideology and methods but it provoked a lot of thought on my part. I played a game trying to see if I could come up with a decent counter-argument to all his opinions (he obviously portrays them as very sound and concrete opinions) and although it wasn't impossible it provoked a lot of thought. But although I am only a layman I would say, political slants aside, he is quite astute. An interesting read. Hopefully you can find a better, more coherent review than mine before you get the book.

  29. Anybody know of Timothy Shanahan's "PIRA & the Morality of Terrorism"? Pricy academic book via U of Edinburgh Press 2009, sounds stodgy, but perhaps AM or others read this given Alonso tie-ins here; many thanks for these as I have a photocopy of Alonso (pricy too!) waiting for my study. Suggestions in pursuing the morality angle to RM welcome.

  30. Fionnchu, I have read Shanahan's book and if my memory serves me correctly he has a similar viewpoint politically to Alonso's. An indepth philosophical debate on the morality of the conflict looking at the IRA's actions alone I think. He goes through a number of possible philosophical theories as to when violence is justified, compares them to the IRA's situation and states that the IRA's situation doesn't come under any of the theories of a moral or just war.

  31. Nice circle back to the Cahal Daly piece AM posted, as Daly's 'Price of Peace' argued the same conclusions re: 'just war theory' it seems as Shanahan. Thanks for this, Simon.

  32. Fionnchu, Yeah he has the same perspective as Daly but he not only deals with St.Augustine's 'Just War' theory but exhausts all other theories as well which can be used to support or defend armed action. He uses sometimes concrete reasoning to explain why there was an immoral war here by the IRA (he focuses on them) and also uses specious reasoning, often in equal measure. I would recommend it to anyone as the philosophical bases for a moral war which he considers are comprehensive, interesting and intelligently explained. As to his specious interpretation of his well explained philosophies, that only allows you to come to different, obvious conclusions. For example a lot of his arguments for some of the theories could be used to say that any army's actions, anywhere in the past, present or arguably future are essentially immoral. He doesn't say that of course. He assumes that some military campaigns could pass the moral tests. They couldn't possibly escape all of his criticisms for any one of the tests.

  33. Strange how the "Just War Theory" Never seemed to matter, when Christianity was butchering wholesale on a global scale.
    They used elements of this theory it to justify the wanton murder and destruction during the Crusades. They used the odd quote from old "Hippo" for their murder and torture campaign during the Inquisitions, and knowing his opinions on women I'm sure they regurged some of his old dogma for the Witch-Hunts.
    Hard to believe that people can use this sort of guff as a yardstick to measure the morality of war.

  34. Beware of the leader, who strikes the war drum in order to transfer the citizens into patriotic glow,patriotism is indeed a double sided sword,it makes the blood so boldly,like it constricts the intellect,and if striking the war drum reached a firebridge height and the blood is choking and hateingand the intellect is dismissed, the leader doesnt need to reject the citizens rights,the citizens caught by anxiety and blinded through patriotism will subordinate all their rights to the leader and this even with happy courage,why do I know that?I know it because this is what I did and I am Gajus Julius Caesar,A change of names and dates and nothing really changes

  35. Eileen,

    hope we do hear more from you whatever your views. All manner of opinion is welcome here. Censors are not made to feel at home.


  36. Nuala,

    the Just War is a challenging theory. Anything that has a religious input I am immediately suspicious of, for the type of reasons you have pointed out. War is one of the worst things that can happen to a society and the question has to be asked: how just it is to wage one? If we look back on our own serious questions are posed. Many of us are troubled about the ease with which we went to war and then the ease with which we celebrated our defeat; the total lack of questioning from those sent out to bear the brunt. History is not going to be kind to our struggle. I think that is one reason some of our leaders are intent on denying their role, useless as such denials are. It will be kind to Bobby and the boys who lost their lives but not those who led us into it and then stood shoulder to shoulder with us the way a hangman does to get the noose around the neck