Secret History Of Internal Revenue Auditing

Steven Are has just finished reading A Secret History Of The IRA. 

A Secret History of the IRA

I’ve just finished reading Ed Moloney’s comprehensive and illuminating tome regarding the Republican Movement under the guidance of the Adams faction and I thought I’d share a few opinions.

The book is a cracking read and sheds light on the internal workings of the both wings of the same beast, the military and the political, and how the Adams Group guided/coaxed/coerced/threatened/
bribed the Republican monolith to the point where not only was a ceasefire inevitable, but decommissioning of weaponry was the last outworking of a torturous process.

Coming from a Unionist perspective, Ed’s work lays bare the machinations of a machine that we were in mortal fear of, but remarkably he manages to put a very human face on those people behind the scenes. No easy feat.

Adams clearly had foreseen that the military campaign would be unsuccessful as far back as the mid-eighties, and as such gathered around him those who could wield significant authority over the militarists but who in his estimation also had strategic acumen. The “Think Tank” within the Adams Group navigated the often dangerous path between the ‘Council’ and the ‘Executive’.

Why on Earth there was so much bureaucracy even within the ‘military’ wing is beyond me. At times the quibbling is more reminiscent of a popularity contest, and made all the more confusing by people being able to sit on both boards! But I suppose this is also one of the reasons the Adams Group was successful in guiding the movement to exclusively peaceful means.

Interestingly, the author strongly suggests but without obviously saying so that treachery at a very high level scuppered major arms importations and the Loughall Ambush. One wonders if British Intelligence ‘cleared the path’ for the early Adams Group to grow, given the East Tyrone PIRA were opposed to peaceful action and lukewarm to Adams at best. It is clear now that penetration at every level by British Intelligence plagued the Provisionals.

But a curious thread woven in behind all of the political manoeuvrings caught my eye, namely that for an organisation of the size and sophistication of the Provisionals they cried poor at every opportunity.

But fast forward on from the cessation of military hostilities, with what we know of Slab’s creative approach to self-financing and various heists, where has the money gone?

In the book Ed mentions a very diverse global portfolio of business interests that the Finance Department managed, one that 20 years ago was estimated at 200 million Sterling!

I read a while ago that Brendan Hughes had to go and argue for money for ex-prisoners to feed themselves while working, while nowadays the Armani shinners don’t seem to be strapped. How can they justify this? I’ve read articles on TPQ of former volunteers succumbing to alcoholism and more than a few have taken their own lives after the conflict.

How about freeing up some of this capital to look after those who gave a lot, and I’m saying this from across the divide!


  1. Steve
    It is a great book to be sure. I couldn't put it down. I read it back to back with Godson's biography of Trimble. When you read them both together you realise that from the early to mid 80s the whole process was an elaborate dance of give and take to manoeuvre republicanism and unionism into a place of peace, choreographed in London with help from Dublin and Washington. It is fascinating reading. The whole way through the process hawks were "removed" and doves kept in place.

  2. Steve,

    thanks for this. Good review.


    when people sometimes ask for reading recommendations on the conflict the same two books are what I refer them to.

  3. It’s such an important book. Steve , Given the information in it, do you think the Unionist community need to reassess their hostility to Adams ? He certainly delivered the IRA for them, then scorched the Republican earth to ensure nothing else could grow in its absence.

  4. Peter/AM



    That's a tough one. As a Unionist I don't view it as Adams having 'delivered' the Provos, more that he had foreseen what was going to be necessary. It was a fluid time and I think pressure globally after 9/11 was probably the final straw that broke the camels back regarding the need for the IRA to decommission. We certainly didn't view it as a defeat of the Provisionals.

    Not sure what you mean about a scorched earth? The militarists in the North were majority pro-peace so no continuation of armed conflict was likely. Adams strength was knowing that a taste of peace would leave people wanting more, and provided the British/Unionists didn't do anything daft then the momentum would be behind him. The occasional action by "dissident" groups could be mitigated against to a large degree.

    But for this to happen a blind eye needed to be turned not just by the Governments but also the Unionists, at least for a spell.

  5. Steve R,
    re-read the bit about the Mitchell Principles and the Green Book. Among many critical junctures, the overt abandonment of the Army Constitution seems a key one, and its hard to think of another person with the political capital to carry it. In terms of scorched earth, I mean infiltration of every community group (except GARC it seems), and targeted assassination of others who rejected their internal settlement solution.

    As bad as the GFA has been for Republicans, and as intransigent as the Unionists have been after it, nothing has been fashioned to remotely challenge this situation.

    Infact the Irish now are so cucked that now accept any indignity forced on them by additional foreign rulers (the EU) as seen in Lisdoonvarna most recently. They have learned to love their oppressors if the media are to be believed at least.

  6. Steve
    "We certainly didn't view it as a defeat of the Provisionals". In the Trimble biography it claims that the UUP were put under intense pressure to play down the significance of what Adams was doing lest republicans don't swallow the GFA. The Provos were well and truely beaten but no-one could say it. Instead Adams was allowed to have his "victory parade" with cars driving around republican areas with tricolours flying and Adams claiming a UI within 10 years. All optics to get the GFA over the line. Those optics are still resonating today in people's perceptions of the agreement.

  7. DaithiD,

    The overlap between the Council and Executive at times seemed bizarre, top heavy and set up to fail. I agree that Adams molded his desired outcome through weight of his reputation, but despite that, he still needed a consensus. He stacked the deck in his favour by shifting around his loyalists to positions of strategic importance. The Green Book was abandon by vote in the GAC. Like it or not that's how it played out.


    That's an interesting comment, I will have to read Trimble's Bio though I wonder if its not a touch revisionist?

    I remember the parade, and the word filtering through the RIR was to disband. There were even rumours the RIR was about to mutiny as it was felt we'd been 'sold out'. If this truly was a game of high stakes brinkmanship Trimble had us all fooled. Experience tells me the truth lays somewhere in the middle.