A Secret History of the IRA (2003, 2008)

For decades the British and Irish had “got used to” a situation without parallel in Europe: a cold, ferocious, persistent campaign of bombing and terror of extraordinary duration and inventiveness. At the heart of that campaign lies one man: Gerry Adams. From the outbreak of the troubles to the present day he has been an immensely influential figure. The most compelling question about the IRA is: How did a man who condoned atrocities that resulted in huge numbers of civilian deaths also become the guiding light behind the peace process? Moloney’s book is now updated to encompass the anxious and uneasy peace that has prevailed to 2007.


Observer: “The best history of Ireland’s — and arguably the world’s — most enduring paramilitary movement ever to be written.”  

Independent: “[E]xtraordinary ….Moloney has better sources in the IRA than any other journalist and when he describes Adams as a senior figure in the secret army, along with Martin McGuinness, one is inclined to pay attention.”  

Irish Times: “This dramatic book…spectacularly combines Mr Moloney’s celebrated talent as an expert reporter with some of the ingredients of a Le Carré thriller.” 

Financial Times: “Adams alleged activities as an IRA commander have been written about before, but never as fully.”

Sunday Independent: “Superb…the best insider account of the IRA.” 

Sunday Times: “The most compelling and comprehensive account of the organization to date.”  

Glasgow Herald: “Gripping…a provocative account of the rise of the Provos and of Adams. Moloney’s credentials are impeccable.”

Irish Independent: “An important and impressive book…When the dust has settled it will remain as a valuable commentary on the evolution of the Northern Ireland peace process.”   

The Nation: “Magisterial…the best book yet written about the Provisional Irish Republican Army….This is a close-up picture of one of the most secret organizations on earth.”

Ireland on Sunday: “Magnificent…..Moloney has long been regarded as one of the most reliable reporters on the war in Northern Ireland; 24 years there means his contacts are superb, while a staggering amount of work has gone into this book….This definitive book is studded with salutary reminders of the nonsensical nature of Gerry Adams’ current rose-tinted portrayal of the IRA.”

The Sunday Tribune: “Must be among the most important books of the many thousands which have been written since the start of the Troubles.”

Maclean’s: “[A] superb portrayal of the inner workings of the Irish Republican Army….at the heart of Moloney’s book [is] a convincing portrait of [Gerry Adams] as a bloody-minded Machiavellian who, paradoxically, has for 20 years been at his most ruthless in dragging the fanatically nationalist IRA to the peace table.”

Newsday: “Ed Moloney’s …demonstrates that the path to peace is long and twisting, and that the desire for that peace lurks in even the most violent organization.”

Boston Globe: “Ed Moloney’s penetrating examination of violent Irish nationalism opens like an espionage novel…a remarkably comprehensive yet coolly incisive examination of paramilitary violence and political skullduggery…admirably dry and detached…[A]n extraordinarily courageous and ultimately optimistic book.”

Order the 2007 UK edition at Amazon.uk.

Order the 2007 UK edition at Amazon.com.

Order the 2003 US edition at Amazon.com.

4 responses to “A Secret History of the IRA (2003, 2008)

  1. Hello Mr Moloney, I been rereading your superb “A Secret History of the IRA” – first edition. Did you manage to replace some of the euphemisms, hints and codenames with the genuine names, for the book’s second edition? It’s clear that you were inhibited by libel law from printing certain names, but several of these people have since died (at least, that is my interpretation), and “there can be no libel from beyond the grave”. It would be a great shame if you never got around to printing all that you clearly know, if only on this blog. I am thinking in particular of a Mr JC and his brother Mr TC, both “rumoured” to have been blackmailed over sexual behaviour into becoming informants to the British authorities. Both these men were at the heart of PIRA for decades. Surely the truth (confirmation or disproof) should be printed eventually ?

    • You’ll have to remind me , it has been a long time since I last read it, longer since I wrote it!

      • Well I was thinking in particular of this newspaper article https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-spies-recruited-paedo-ira-4466798
        It seems to me that this story was run ONCE by the Mirror, but has never been referred to since by anyone. The obvious question is: was it true or not ? JC is long dead (and so is his brother), so surely this story can either be confirmed or denied now ?
        In general, I would love to read an updated edition of your book, that “names names”.
        Thank you

      • It hasn’t been referred to by anyone else because it is probably a made up story. I’d need more than anonymous quotes from alleged sources in a story written by someone who has no track record worth talking about before i’d take that at all seriously. I suspect he was piggy backing on the Mairia Cahill story and JC was dead and couldn’t sue.

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