Before the Dawn: Autobiography of Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams, Author
Gerry Adams, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (356p) ISBN 978-0-688-14312-1
Reviewed on: 12/01/1981
Release date: 12/01/1981
Adams was born in Belfast in 1948 into a devoutly Republican family. He fondly remembers growing up poor in a loving household that included nine brothers and sisters (three siblings died in infancy). He recalls being told the ""facts of life"" by his father: ""...keep [your] wee man clean and stay away from bad women."" He also reminisces about how crucial the pawnshop was to the family's survival and gives a hilarious rendition of his first Communion. After completing secondary school during the mid-'60s, Adams worked in a pub and was politicized by the Catholic civil rights marches in Belfast. He blames much of the problems in the north on the former Six Counties Stormont government, which he says had ""a supremacist credo similar to South Africa's apartheid system."" He points out that ""pogroms"" and gerrymandering have had a devastating effect on the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. He discusses the beginning of the Stormont government policy of internment without trial in 1971 and his own imprisonment on three occasions for IRA activity. He has high praise for President Clinton's pressure on the British government in the peace talks, while he blasts former Irish minister Conor Cruise O'Brien for his ""McCarthyite"" tactics. Except for a mention in a brief epilogue, readers looking for revelations about the peace process in Northern Ireland will be disappointed, because the book ends after the IRA hunger strikes in 1981. It is arguably, however, a definitive history of the Irish struggles of the 1970s, from the nationalist point of view. Adams, a fine writer, presents a straightforward, unapologetic memoir. (Feb.)
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