Gerry Adams has been doing a few interesting things of late. As Pete has noted below, he has been in a form of correspondence with the Orange Order. In addition he has implied that he would support a truth commission with comments including this:
Republicans have clearly acknowledged many times the hurt they inflicted during the conflict.
I have expressed my personal and sincere regret and apologised for that hurt.
The IRA has also acknowledged what it has done. That is the right and proper thing to do.
Of course unless Mr. Adams has had some form of Damascus Road conversion all this interest must be seen as his previous wish for what might be called a quarter truth process. He is prepared to admit that the IRA killed people (difficult to avoid that one) but of course explains that unfortunately bad Prods or Brits (depending on the audience and often he seems not to distinguish between them) drove the IRA to it and that that explains and essentially forgives the unfortunate times when the IRA did things which cannot be seen as anything other than sectarian. When a given crime is utterly and completely impossible to explain away it becomes a one off or a mistake: a mistake for which they have already apologised. Except of course those one offs do tend to mount up.
Adams himself of course does not want to tell us what he truly knows about any of the murders here. He has certainly threatened legal action in the past. Equally McGuinness hardly wants a discussion of the circumstances surrounding the murder of a number of people in Londonderry such as Frank Hegarty. Were they not so sickening, the denials of any significant IRA involvement by Adams and McGuinness would be comical. They do, however, make belief in any truth from them completely impossible.
In contrast of course Adams wants to castigate the British, unionists and everyone else for a supposed vast conspiracy against the nationalist population and make a truth of the lie that practically all the loyalist murders involved collusion and that practically all the security forces were involved in this collusion. That of course helps explain away a good many more murders: suddenly the policeman on patrol was actually colluding with loyalists rather than trying to stop general crime or that the UDR man was colluding whilst milking the cows. Of course if the British government did detail all the loyalist / security force collusion there would be some significant pain for the British government and security forces. However, since such collusion was very limited, it is extremely likely that Adams would be able to denounce the Brits as still holding information back. A position which would be helped by the vast conspiracy Brit / loyalist conspiracy the republican movement has created as one of its favourite Shibboleths.
The reason why I call it a quarter truth process is that as well as not wanting to tell the whole IRA truth Adams clearly does not want the Brits to tell the whole truth. He wants no comments on the security forces penetration of the IRA. Not for him the possibility that those who died in the hail of SAS bullets at Loughgall had been set up by one of their own number: worse still if it had been done by the IRA leadership to get rid of inconvenient people. Certainly not the possibility that leading republicans and SF leaders were actually giving information to the British: that would never do.
The question does of course arise as to why Adams is doing this now? Clearly he may have a number of motivations. The apparent failure thus far to force the DUPs hand on policing and justice along with the failure to make progress on the Irish language and the Maze stadium may both be playing fairly ill in republican circles. To up the ante with these sorts of issues which can be guaranteed to antagonise unionists and please republicans is of course a good idea. In addition when the DUP et al. inevitably denounce his latest manoeuvrings Adams can play one of his favourite roles: that of the thoughtful intellectual trying to hold out the hand of friendship to his former enemies and being rebuffed. In addition any slight wavering by any unionist in their approach to Adams can be heralded as an example of the walls of unionism beginning to splinter and a sign of imminent further republican victory.
An additional motivation for Adams is likely to be the soon to come Eames Bradley report. Eames Bradley have of course been repeatedly attacked from many quarters but to begin now to appear to support a report which is very likely to be well received everywhere outside Northern Ireland (as any supposedly moving forward typed initiative is) would be a good idea. Furthermore a pretended willingness to participate in a truth and reconciliation typed event would help divert attention away from republicans failure to cooperate with Eames Bradley. It would allow Adams to say effectively: Look we are interested in such things and I said it as long ago as September 2008, months before Eames Bradley came out. The fact that this would be utter nonsense would most likely be lost on many outsiders and of course ignored by republicans.
To an extent this is absolutely classic of the Adams / McGuinness approach of the last couple of decades: whilst McGuinness gets on with the day to day political fight with the DUP et al. Adams continues to prepare the ground further in the future especially with international opinion. One has to admit that they are extremely good at their work. The question remains, however, have they factored in the possibility of the DUP continuing to hold the line on P&J etc. and grass roots republican reaction to this. I strongly suspect they have and whether or not the executive is collapsed; I have little doubt the republican movement has a number of strategies prepared for each and every eventuality.