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Secret Victory     

This book poses a simple, but hitherto under examined subject regarding the effectiveness of the RUC Special Branch in combating violent subversion during the Northern Ireland crisis: a challenging topic, surrounded as it is by historical contention, political dispute and the innate secrecy of the Branch’s work. This has conspired to produce a lack of informed commentary on the topic, which this work successfully redresses.
 
The structure is well thought out and the writing itself is presented with great fluency, enabling many original and telling insights into this understudied area.
 
The book presents the notion of  ‘push and pull’, examining the extent to which the Provisional IRA was pulled into the peace process via the activities of the Special Branch. Alongside the push versus pull analysis the other lens through which the book derives much of its insight is the assessment of whether the Special Branch could be said to have constituted an ‘effective and impartial’ force in helping to bring the conflict to a resolution or whether it was a ‘partial and destructive’ player in a so-called dirty war.
 
The author trenchantly, and effectively deconstructs the dirty war thesis, illustrating that much of the narrative is partial, factually flawed or often simply incoherent and contradictory. The systematic critique of this popular orthodoxy through evidence and argumentation, along with the more detailed illumination of the Special Branch’s evolution as a vital arm in the security effort, constitutes a highly original contribution to knowledge and understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict.
    

Professor Michael Rainsborough,
Head of War Studies, King’s College London