The controversial autobiography of the man at the heart of Irish Republican politics. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams offers his own unique, intimate account of the early years of his career, from his childhood in working-class Belfast to the more turbulent years of social activism that followed. An engaging and revealing self-portrait.
Born in West Belfast in 1948 into a family with close ties to both the trade union and republican movements, his childhood, despite its material poverty, he has described in glowing and humorous terms.
For many years his voice was banned from radio and television by both the British and Irish governments, while commentators and politicians condemned him and all he stood for. But through those years Brandon published a succession of books which made an important contribution to an understanding of the true circumstances of life and politics in the north of Ireland.
In his autobiography, Before the Dawn, Gerry Adams brings a unique perspective to the years of conflict, insurrection and bitter struggle which ensued when peaceful political agitation was met with hysterical reaction and the sectarian tinderbox of Britain's last colony erupted. From the pogroms of 1969 to the hunger strikes of 1981, from the streets of West Belfast to the cages of Long Kesh, his powerful memoir is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand modern Ireland.
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 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.