“again, he names them, but for legal reasons I can’t.”

It’s worth sticking with the Johann Hari interview of Gerry Adams in the Independent. Despite an apparent over-reliance on Adams’ autobiography, amidst the story-telling and the myths, Hari, to his credit, leaves in the “smirks at his press officer”, “the feel of being in a smoky bar in the paranoid world of 1970s paramilitarism”, the mis-rememberances, and the awkward silences.

I don’t want to get into a sterile round of defensive denial, so I try asking a different question. If there was a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland – one where all sides, including the British military, admit what they did – are there things you would like to get off your chest that you can’t talk about to me now? At first he wriggles. “Well, South Africa’s different, you see, because … in South Africa, it was a matter of domestic policy. The South Africans were in charge. So, so … ” Yes, yes. But would you want to talk to it? “I don’t quite know whether ‘commission’ would be the right word … ” Oh come on! “If there was an international-run, neutral, objective process with terms of reference that could be agreed, then I think everybody has a responsibility to talk to it.”

Adams will talk freely about the period up to 1968, and the period after 1998. But when I ask about the 30-year gap in between, his flowing sentences often dry into staccato clichés. Did you do anything in this conflict you later regretted? “Well, I didn’t have to do things, but I do think that there are actions that were carried out, and not even retrospectively, but at the time, that I knew instinctively were wrong, and were surely wrong, and where I could, I said so. I either said so privately, or I said so publicly, if that was the appropriate thing to do.” It is an answer designed to shut down the issue, rather than open it up – an attempt to seal the memory dump with steel.

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  • Mayoman

    Good interview. I was especially interested in this bit.

    “Adams grew up in a Protestant supremacist state where there was discrimination against his people. When they tried to organise peacefully for equality, they were beaten and savaged.”

  • Don Scotus

    Adam’s continuing refusal to admit even membership of the Provos let alone his leadership of them is simply baffling. Martin McGuinness freely admits his involvement and arguably that stance has enhanced his credibility, it certainly has done him no harm politically – after all it is he, not Adams is the Deputy First Minister! In his own terms as a presumably proud Republican he should be happy to proclaim his involvement and his stance can almost be seen as an insult to his fellow PIRA volunteers, like McGuinness and many others, who have stood up and been counted. For the wider non Republican world (whether unionist, in the South or in the rest of the world) Adams refusal to admit PIRA membership makes his look both silly and dishonest. Why trust the word of a man who cannot even own up to his own leadership role in Provos? Such a man can never have any credibility in any matter involving “truth and reconciliation.” Don Scotus

  • First, the headline. Unrepentant Irishman causes problems. Should people repent for being Irish? Are Irish people now generally understood to be repentant?

    Second, Hari’s remarks about ‘the smoky bar in the paranoid world of 1970s paramilitarism’ come immediately after Adams’s claim that several Real IRA members are paid British agents, and it appears that Hari is trying to characterise these remarks as outlandish. But are they? It is a matter of fact that the Provisional IRA was infiltrated, as in the case of Denis Donaldson and many others. If the Real IRA is not infiltrated, one can only conclude that the British security forces no longer have an interest in, or are no longer capable of doing their job. However, if we assume that the British security forces are indeed doing their job, and that the Real IRA is infiltrated, a consequent question is the nature of the work performed by security force agents in the Real IRA.

  • don irishus

    dont believe everything the media tell you. gerry probably never was a member. why is that so hard to accept?

  • Ghosts from the past

    No humorous asides from his trip around Belfast on 21 July 1972?

  • Brit

    “Adams grew up in a Protestant supremacist state where there was discrimination against his people. When they tried to organise peacefully for equality, they were beaten and savaged”

    You forget the rest:-

    “And in response to the beatings Adams did not organise cross-community civil rights campaigns for equality before the law, instead he supported a sectarian murder campaign against the British soldiers brought in to protect the Catholics and against any Protestant who was connected with the state and against unrelated innocents having a drink in Birmingham etc, the aim of which was to force the majority community to join the Republic of Ireland an renounce their hundreds of years of British citizenship. He finally realised that this wasnt working so he arranged for the surrender of the murderers but ensured that most were released from prison. He also lacked the intellectual courage and honesty to realise that the fruitless murder campaign was as immoral as it was ineffective”

  • Brit

    Hugh

    This whole Republican thing about British running loyalist terrorists and infiltrating Republicans and acting as agent provocetuer reminds me of when Islamists tell us that 9/11 was a Zionist plot or American plot.

    Yes British secret services infiltrated terror groups as one way of getting information on them. Rightly so. Hope they are doing this with the Real IRA with the same level of succes as they did with the PIRA. This is a million miles away from the idea that the Real IRA are just a black flag operation of the British state to destablish the GFA. The dissident Republicans are those who remain true to the undemocratic, totalitarian and murderous ideology that Gerry and his pals supported for decades before they surrendered. They represent a genuine constituency of Irish Catholic politics in NI and are not the invention of some MI5 bloke,

  • Driftwood

    reading that interview, you really have to wonder if Adams has Alzheimers.

  • barnshee

    Ger is no fool– he now has a pound or two. No way will he admit to anthing that might produce an Omagh style claim

  • grannie trixie

    In some ways I found the Independant piece refreshing mainly because of the puzzled perspective of an outsider.

    I take issue however with the statement taken from Ed Moloney (“most respected journalist in NI”…what a joke)that Mrs McConville was an informer. Her family convincingly deny this and that is good enough for me although Moloney refused to correct this when they pointed it out to them in a newer edition of his book.

    The book written by Seamus mcKendry,husband of Mrs McConville’s daughter Helen however tells the story of their campaign and interactions with SF/IRA,including Adams, to have her body returned. Its such a shame that this lie repeated in the Independant is repeated on Slugger. I’m glad I went to Mrs McConvilles funeral – may she rest in peace now.

  • Scaramoosh

    Admas, did not know of spies within the ranks of Sinn Fein, never mind the IRA, and he expects us to believe that he knows who the spies are within the Real IRA. Who are his sources? And will he be passing the names onto the PSNI (sic)?

    There are three groups of people that know the truth about Adams – the man himself and his cohorts; the intelligence community and their paymasters, and those that consider themselves to be the upholders of the physical force tradition. Somehwat perversely, it is not in the interest of any of these groups that the truth should come out.

  • Mayoman

    Oh Brit, Brit, Brit. You fell into my obvious trap. Any fool can selectively take passages from an interview! Do you see, do you see?? The same messenger, different message. You chose yours, I chose mine. WHich message is invalid Brit? The evil GA or the evil Empire? To me it that statement sums up the squalid little sectarian statelet that was born out of the threat of violence. But if you’re willing to believe the ‘truth’ in one segment, are you really that bigoted to not accept as ‘truth’ words from the same pen, in the same article? Just wondering how many people agree with the statement I highlighted. And if not, why agree with anything else in the piece?

  • Brian MacAodh

    “This whole Republican thing about British running loyalist terrorists and infiltrating Republicans and acting as agent provocetuer reminds me of when Islamists tell us that 9/11 was a Zionist plot or American plot.”

    Hardly. “Running” loyalist terrorists maybe not. But supplying them with arms and intelligence on targets taht the BA wanted eliminated and helping them logistically to execute those targets-you bet. To what extent, the truth will never be revealed.

  • DerTer

    I am stunned. It would be breath-taking enough if this Independent article simply gave an account of SF/IRA revisionism and purging of the truth, as voiced by Adams; but to witness a journalist accepting without demur so much of SF republican myth-making shocks me quite deeply. The really worrying thing is that the occasional scepticism expressed by Hari may give the false impression that this is a balanced and objective piece of work. Intimidated – at least at the moment – by the challenge of dealing with all of this line by line, I will confine myself to one fairly simple point. As we know, and as implicitly confirmed by Adams, people in the leadership of SF republicanism realised by the mid-80’s that they were engaged on an enterprise that not only was not going to succeed, but that was morally dubious as well. The truly honourable thing then to do would have been to stand up and say so – as deValera did in the 1920s. Instead, ostensibly to ensure the unity of the movement, they began to make moves towards a change of approach, but allowed the IRA to continue its violent campaign.

  • This whole Republican thing about British running loyalist terrorists and infiltrating Republicans and acting as agent provocetuer reminds me of when Islamists tell us that 9/11 was a Zionist plot or American plot.

    The main difference to my mind is that that the former actually happened, whereas the latter did not.

    This is a million miles away from the idea that the Real IRA are just a black flag operation of the British state to destablish the GFA.

    Well, I didn’t propose that it was a black flag operation, nor that the purpose of the operations would be to destabilise the GFA. On the contrary, it seems to me that if there were any degree of influence or control exercised by the British government over paramilitary organisations, it would be with a view to bolstering the GFA.

    They represent a genuine constituency of Irish Catholic politics in NI and are not the invention of some MI5 bloke,

    Which is of course true. But this of itself does not mean that the Real IRA is not controlled by the British security forces to some degree. What degree that is, I have no idea. But there was the case of the firebomb attacks on DIY superstores a few years back.

    ‘The subsequent trial collapsed when defence solicitor Peter Corrigan applied for the disclosure of all security-force documents relating to (prominent dissident republican) Paddy Murray‘s alleged role as an agent. Following that disclosure request the PPS took the unusual step of seeking a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to prevent Murray being identified as an alleged agent.’

    So my point is, rather than being some sort of darkly paranoid flare-trousered fantasy, it is an eminent possibility.

  • Pete Baker

    grannie trixie

    It wasn’t “repeated on Slugger.”

    I linked to the article.

    I could have chosen to attempt to counter each and every one of the inaccurate statements made by the interviewer, but that wasn’t the point.

    What makes the article interesting, and worth linking/reading, is the observations – of the “talking to the wall”, the “odd gesture of pride”, the “smirks at his press officer”, “the feel of being in a smoky bar in the paranoid world of 1970s paramilitarism”, the mis-rememberances, and the awkward silences – by an interviewer who was clearly sympathetic to Adams and his account of “a surreal world, where he was the bearded Pimpernel of Belfast”.

    Is this ghost still there in his mind? Can we trust him on this, or anything? How much of his account of his life should be subject to the clause he slips so ruefully into this tale: “Just another story? You never know.”

  • Dixie

    Ah but Don Scotus McGuinness did lie about his involvement in the IRA, he lied to the Saville Inquiry when he stated that he left the IRA in the early part of the 1970s.

  • barnshhe

    (prominent dissident republican) Paddy Murray‘s alleged role as an agent
    Jasus boys is there NOBODY who is not a british agent?

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Why ‘must’ have El Presidente been in the Provisional Alliance and Dixie how do YOU know that the DFM was lying?

  • Dixie

    Pancho’s Horse, because I’m obviously not as naive as yourself…

  • borderline

    I don’t give two shits about what Hari thinks, feels, deduces or infers.

    His baseline is a British gay-rights anglo-saxon liberal outlook. And the cheeky twat wants to see how Gerry measures up against that.

    GTF Johann, this is Ireland. Our country, our people, our culture, our values.

    Of which you know nothing.

    Fuck off.

  • grannie trixie

    Pete:Surely the Mrs McConville lie (“inaccurate statements”)called out to be highlighted above others. Plus I think it is quibbling to say that it was not repeated on Slugger. Otherwise I agree with you regarding the interesting aspects of the piece. (see below)

    Borderline:is your tirade a wind up?
    It amounts to racicism not to mention homophobia. You do not seem to appreciate at all how ‘outsiders’ such as Hari on this occasion can immediatly see the twisted (im)moral logic which has developed here.I you are so insular as not to see that when it is presented to you, I rest my case.