Adams: Secret burial a Human Rights violation

Two things worth noting in today’s Irish Times. The first is Gerry Adams’ framing of the IRA’s attempt to find the bodies (subs needed) of those it took away and buried. “I don’t think republicans deserve any credit for any of what they are trying to do. I think it is a simple straightforward case of being a human rights violation, of being an injustice, of being a wrong, and us trying to do our best to correct that in so far as we can.”

  • Pete Baker

    A couple of other quotes from Gerry Adams worth highlighting in that article, Mick.

    Ties in with the post I noted yesterday

    Clarification on what Adams sees as the “human rights violation”:

    “It is a human rights violation that they didn’t have their remains to be buried,” he said, also making reference to “the whole other issue of the 3,000 people who were killed in the course of the conflict”.

    And his refusal to answer Gerry Moriarty’s questions on Jean McConville:

    He was further asked by The Irish Times was he not avoiding what many believed was a key question: was the IRA justified in killing Jean McConville? Mr Adams replied: “I am not going to answer the question. I don’t trust the way you would carry such an interview.”

  • Stephen Copeland

    The following quote from Ed Moloney is his piece in today’s Irish Times (subs needed as well) is also interesting:

    The Jean McConville affair, along with other instances of the Belfast IRA “disappearing” people during these years, also raises legitimate questions about the fitness of such people to hold public office today.

    My reading of the recent events, and GA’s statements in connection with them, is that Sinn Féin are accepting Moloney’s point, and are accepting that that particular generation of SF leaders are ‘tainted’ in the eyes of unionists, and to a lesser extent other people. This, combined with the clear refusal of the current generation of DUP leaders to cut a deal, may have led SF to a fairly strategic decision – to ‘sacrifice’ the current generation of leaders, who are too closely linked to the ‘war’, and who are hate figures to unionism, and to let them act as whipping boys for the movement as a whole. There isn’t going to be real power-sharing during the political lives of the current leadership anyway, so little is really lost.

    With the passage of time, all of the current leadership will be replaced by ‘clean’ people – i.e. people without a significant (or at least Army Council) record. By the time this happens IKP will be long gone, and so will many of the leaders of the UUP etc. Not only that, but the population will have continued to ‘green’ some more, and a higher proportion will have come of age ‘post-war’ and thus without as much personal baggage.

    So the thinking may be, that it is better to have the catharsis now, with an ‘expendible’ leadership, than to put it off too long, and see it taint the next generation.

  • Keith M

    Stephen “This, combined with the clear refusal of the current generation of DUP leaders to cut a deal, may have led SF to a fairly strategic decision – to ‘sacrifice’ the current generation of leaders, who are too closely linked to the ‘war’, and who are hate figures to unionism, and to let them act as whipping boys for the movement as a whole.”

    So when is Adams likely to finally admit the truth to the “big lie” he’s been telling for over a decade (that he was never in the IRA)?

    Until he does, no one (esp. Unionists) are going to believe a word out of his mouth.

    Don’t get me wrong, if this is SF/IRA stategy, then it is welcome because it’s another way of getting over the decontamination/trust building period.

    “Not only that, but the population will have continued to ‘green’ some more, and a higher proportion will have come of age ‘post-war’ and thus without as much personal baggage.”

    There are two different issues here and they need to be detached. Firstly I would agree that a “post war” generation of nationalists would be more likely to vote for SF rather than SDLP and as such playing it long only serves to cement SF’s dominence on the nationalist side.

    However quite separate from this is the idea that the electorate a whole is becoming “greener”. If anything the combined nationalist vote over the past decade has declined. Apathy which has always understated the unionist electoate at elections may now be coming into play on the nationalist side. This will be especially true as lonng as SF/IRA don’t take their seats at Westminster and there is no local assembly.

    Also demographics which once projected the Catholic population being numerically equal to the Protestant one are now showing that this will never happen. The growth of those that classify themselves as having no religeon and the lower birth are combining to mean that Protestants are always likely to outnumber Catholics in N.I.

    No matter how many politicians with blood on their hands that SF/IRA can produce, it’s hard to see where they are going in the longer term.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Keith M,

    … If anything the combined nationalist vote over the past decade has declined.

    If we take the past decade to mean 1996-2005, then I think you’re wrong.

    In the 1996 Forum election nationists polled 278,090 votes, or 37% of the total.

    In 2005 they polled 300,156, or 41.8%

    In between there is a bit of bobbing up and down but the trend is upward.

    Also demographics which once projected the Catholic population being numerically equal to the Protestant one are now showing that this will never happen.

    Again, I disagree. Amongst all groups under about 30 the proportion of Catholics is higher than Protestants. You cannot assume that the ‘not-stated’ are non-nationalist, because they could just as easily be nationalist as unionist. The long-term future for NI is a ‘cultural Catholic’ majority.

    It is this group, those too young to have really known the ‘war’, or at least the darkest days of it, who will be most open to a new leadership team in Sinn Féin. I’m not assuming that many young unionists will vote for them, but given thee census results, even without them nationalism will continue to grow.

  • Keith M

    First off, a correction. The last line on my first post should read “No matter how many politicians withOUT blood on their hands that SF/IRA can produce, it’s hard to see where they are going in the longer term.”

    Stephen, there is no question but that the nationalist vote has stalled and if anything is in decline. If you take the Belfast Agreement as the major watershed event of the last decade (and whether you do or don’t support the Agreement, there is no question, that it was the start of a new political period for N.I.) and then look at all the elections since this is what you get (combining the votes of the SDLP and SF);

    General elections;
    2001 : 42.7%
    2005 : 41.8%.
    DOWN : 0.9%

    European elections;
    1999 : 45.4%
    2003 : 42.2%
    DOWN : 3.2%

    Local elections;
    1999 : 40.1%
    2003 : 40.5%
    UP : 0.4%

    Regional/Assembly elections
    1999 : 39.6%
    2003 : 40.5%
    UP : 0.9%

    If for the sake of arguement you aggregate the four elections (to eliminate any outliers from any particular polln), the trend is down .2%. Not a huge decrease, but certainly blowing the idea that the nationalist vote is increasing out of the water.

    If you weight the more recent election results the trend is even more strongly down.

    “You cannot assume that the ‘not-stated’ are non-nationalist, because they could just as easily be nationalist as unionist. The long-term future for NI is a ‘cultural Catholic’ majority.”

    I’m doing no such thing I simply compared the ACTUAL census results of hard information on Catholic/Protestant/Others+none. I make no assumption on political affiliation. That information comes from the ballot box.

    The fact is that those that define themselves as “Catholic” will never overtake those that define themselves as Protestant, based on current trends. (Something that I note that you do not dispute).

    If people were born and raised as Catholics, but now define themselves as “no religeon”), how much more easy is it for them to break out of the “nationalist” camp?

    Whether these are the “pro-union” Catholics that poll after poll show exist is harder to tell.

    “I’m not assuming that many young unionists will vote for them, but given thee census results, even without them nationalism will continue to grow.” But nationalism ISN’T growing (at least in the last eight years). Whether you believe the census information, the ballot box or opinon polls, there is no indication that Northern Ireland will have anything othe than a pro-union majority for generations to come.

    Until SF are honest enough to admit that (and I can see why it would not be politically expedient for them to admit it) they are heading into a political dead end.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Keith M,

    As I said, there is bobbing around in all the figures. If you chose your baseline in one year, or another, you can ‘prove’ different things.

    Firstly, you cannot mix different types of election. I think we agree on that. So if you look at (initially) just the Westminster elections, you will see:

    1983: 31.3%
    1987: 32.6%
    1992: 33.1%
    1997: 40.2%
    2001: 42.7%
    2005: 41.5%

    Now, of course the period 2001-2005 saw a slight drop in the nationalist % (as indeed it did in the unionist % – from 52.9% to 51.9%), but the over-riding reason for the nationalist drop was the candidacy of Kieran Deeny in West Tyrone, which will, I presume, not be repeated. We’ll have to wait until 2009 to see.

    For District Council elections the picture is similar, but without rge Deeny-effect:

    1993: 34.1%
    1997: 38.1%
    2001: 40.6%
    2005: 41.5%

    For Forums and Assemblies:

    1996: 37.0%
    1998: 39.7%
    2003: 40.7%

    For the European Parliament:

    1989: 34.6%
    1994: 38.8%
    1999: 45.4%
    2003: 42.1%

    The election in 1999 was an exception – nationalist outvoted its share of the adult population, which impled some serious dancing. I suspect there was a huge attempt by Hume’s fans to get his vote above Paisley’s. It failed, of course, and in 2003 the election reverted to its ‘normal’ trend.

    But if you look at the results over a slightly longer period you can see a real increase in the nationalist proportion, from the low-30s in the 1980s, up to the low-40s now. The fact that young cohorts are more Catholic than their parents generation means that this must continue upwards.

    Your comment ‘how much more easy is it for them to break out of the “nationalist” camp? is a bit puerile. Nationalism isn’t a cage, it is a freely chosen political philosophy. Its supporters do so by choice, and are no more likely to change their opinions than unionists are.

    … there is no indication that Northern Ireland will have anything othe than a pro-union majority for generations to come

    Actually, the only measure of a ‘pro-union’ population is the ballot box. And at present trends (barely over 50%, and falling), unionism’s majority status does not appear tto have a long life expectancy at all. Maybe another one or two elections, but no more. They already dipped below 50% (but it wasn’t much commented on) in the 1997 and 2001 local elections. That ‘dipping’ will start to become mmore frequent, until it is permanent.

  • Keith M

    Stephen “But if you look at the results over a slightly longer period you can see a real increase in the nationalist proportion, from the low-30s in the 1980s, up to the low-40s now.”

    The problem with going back as far as 1983 is that you are going back to when a significant number of nationalists/republicans did not vote. SF was not engaged in the political process. Therefore starting a trend from there is just nonsense.

    The reason I start with 1998 was that it is an agreed political watershed. Since then all parties have have been fully envolved in trying to get their candidates elected. This starting point may not yet be the perfect for judging trends, but it should be after the next round of elections.

    “Nationalism isn’t a cage, it is a freely chosen political philosophy. Its supporters do so by choice, and are no more likely to change their opinions than unionists are.”

    I never said anything else. What I’m simply saying is that proprtionally more Catholic born people are moving into the “no religeon” category than Protestants (a similar trend is happening in this country). When people start to challenge their religeous belief structure, there is evidence that other beliefs are also challenged. In the past this has affected the Protestant/Unonism population more than the Catholic/Nationalist one, now it’s going the other way.

    “Actually, the only measure of a ‘pro-union’ population is the ballot box. And at present trends (barely over 50%, and falling), unionism’s majority status does not appear tto have a long life expectancy at all.”

    Please understand the diffeence between “Unionist” and “Pro Union”. Unionists are those that vote for expressly Unionist parties like the DUP and the UUP. “Pro Union” people are those that wish N.I. to remain in the U.K. The only way of measuring their number is in a referendum. It can however be estimated by opinion polls, especially if these polls are conducted over a period of time and using different verified methodology.

    The polls suggest no significant decrease in the pro-union population share. However (probably like you) I believe that the best way of getting at the real share is through a referendum.

    I am confident that such a referendum will produce a roughly 60% pro-union share. When you consider that the nationalist share in N.I. at partition was 30%-35%, that would be a very insignificant change over 80+ years. Then consider that the population growth rate is slowing down considerably.

    The old idea that a “united Ireland” could be achieved by Catholics out-breeding Protestants, has had its day.

  • I’d like to know who’s human rights exactly Mr Adams thinks the IRA has violated. It may be that he has violated the right of the McConville family to have a private and family life, in terms of burying one of their dead. He may be saying that the IRA violated Mrs McConville’s right to life, or to a fair trial, by killing her in the street, though its unlikely. However, the most obvious take on his words, that the IRA violated Mrs McConville’s human rights by not allowing her to be buried, is of course nonsense. You can’t have human rights when you’re dead. It all seems to be Sinn Fein spin, attempting to make good headlines whilst not actually acknowledging that the IRA have breached any international laws of warfare, lest one of the victim’s families actually take the republican movement to a human rights court. Another sickening example of politicians using the phrase “human rights” out of context for their own ends.

  • nationalist

    after 1916 the IRA decided that collaberation with british forces was punishable by death to serve as a major deterent.