In this compelling memoir of his early life, the president of Sinn F‚in, the political wing of the IRA, recalls the...


BEFORE THE DAWN: Autobiography

In this compelling memoir of his early life, the president of Sinn F‚in, the political wing of the IRA, recalls the development of the modern ""Troubles"" in Northern Ireland and his own central role in them, culminating in the tragic hunger strike by incarcerated IRA members in 1981. Born in 1948, Adams vividly recalls the Belfast of his early life as a coldly sectarian place. It was polarized between the loyalist majority, many of whose members belonged to anti-Catholic organizations like the Orange Order, and impoverished Catholics, who were unable to speak freely, were not allowed the right to display nationalist symbols, and were often denied equal opportunity in housing and employment. Adams traces his growing political consciousness to routine events in Northern Ireland: The annual parades of unionists on July 12, the banning of republican activities, and the activities of violent unionist paramilitary organizations like the B Specials. Dissatisfaction over a lack of democracy found expression in protests over grim state-sponsored housing units and the banning of nationalist parades. The unionist forces reacted violently, and the situation exploded into civil war. Adams describes his growing radicalization, his leadership role in the political wing of the IRA, and the British use of secret courts to convict republicans. Adams was himself a political prisoner, one of the first in the infamous Long Kesh, and underwent torture at the hands of the British authorities, which he describes graphically. Adams concludes his account by recording the dramatic hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and others in 1980-81, which he initially resisted but which he now recognizes as having revitalized the nationalist movement. Adams was elected a British MP in 1983, part of a pattern of Sinn F‚in electoral success that resulted in the recent Anglo-Irish agreement. An eloquent and persuasive presentation of recent Irish history.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997


Page Count: 356

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996