Skip to main content

Prestigious Irish book prize awarded to Cardiff academic

14 October 2021

The Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) has named a senior lecturer in politics as the recipient of this year’s Brian Farrell book prize.

Dr Thomas Leahy teaches British and Irish Politics/Contemporary History at the School of Law and Politics and his book The Intelligence War Against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) examines whether British intelligence pressurised the IRA into ceasefires during the 1970s and eventually a political compromise in 1998.

Dr Leahy’s book was named the winner of this year’s prize at the annual PSAI conference which took place at University College Dublin on 9/10 October 2021.

Since studying Northern Ireland at university at Kings College London, Dr Leahy has investigated the Northern Ireland peace process. His book is the result of many years of interviewing former Irish republican prisoners and UK security force members plus research into Irish/UK archival materials and memoirs by all sides of the conflict. The book is a regional account of what took place and an account which shows that although UK intelligence had its successes, it also had its failures.

Speaking of the award, Dr Leahy said, “I am absolutely delighted the PSAI Brian Farrell book prize has been kindly awarded to my book. It's a prestigious prize won by many a good book over the years, so to be the recipient for my first book is a great but very welcome surprise.

I'd like to thank again all contributors to the research, be they Cardiff Politics/IR and other academics offering advice and guidance, interviewees or archival staff in Ireland and the UK who made the research on this challenging topic possible. Without their input, the book would never have been possible to create.”

Speaking of Dr Leahy’s achievement, chair of the PSAI Brian Farrell Book Prize Committee Dr Liam Kneafsey said, “The committee identified Dr Leahy’s book as a gripping and richly researched, analytical history of the intelligence war in Northern Ireland. The book was innovative in its use of multiple strands of extensive evidence to consider the value of different explanations of how the conflict developed and the emergence of the peace process, effective in tackling various myths and common misunderstandings of the conflict and the strategic goals of key players. It was written in a rigorous but highly engaging and accessible manner.”

The PSAI awards an annual prize for the best book published in political science by a member of the Political Studies Association of Ireland. The competition is open to single-authored and jointly-authored books written by PSAI members and published in the previous year.

Dr Leahy was also recently highly commended by The Learned Society of Wales/Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru Dillwyn Medal Prize panel. The prize is awarded each year for early career researchers, recognising their achievements and work contributing to Welsh universities.

The Intelligence War Against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is available to buy from Cambridge University Press in paperback and hardback.

Share this story