“…what that did was to make telling lies an excusable and acceptable tactic”

Ed Moloney traces Sinn Fein’s failure to meet its own targets in the race for the Aras to the attempt to re write history viz a viz Martin McGuinness’s career with the IRA. In particular he is puzzled as to why something that started as tactic has been elevated to the level of strategic template:

I don’t know why the two men embarked on their lies in the first place. I could never see any advantage to it and so many potential pitfalls it just didn’t make sense. The other thing is that it was unnecessary. Some reporters have taken the view that there was only two choices: lie about their IRA membership or admit it and risk a jail term. Not true. They could have done what a previous generation of Republicans did, men like Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Conail who would reply, when asked if they were in the IRA, “Mind your own business!”, or words to that effect.

Actually, it is not entirely true to say that I can’t think of a reason why they chose to lie because I can – although I don’t have smoking gun proof. Lying about his IRA links was sold internally at the time it started, during the campaign for the 1982 Assembly election, as something Adams had to do to frustrate a hostile media and it was okay because it was just a tactic, nothing more or less than that, just like car bombs or “up and unders” or personating in West Belfast or fixing the vote at the 1986 SF ard-fheis: these were things that had to be done to win the war.

And what that did was to make telling lies an excusable and acceptable tactic, a very handy device when the peace process began and it became necessary to sell one story to the British, Irish and American governments about the ultimate intentions of the Provo leadership and an entirely different version to their own grassroots.

But now the tactic has come back to bite those who devised it in the bum. I can’t say I have much sympathy for them.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • westprog

    There’s a strange kind of myth about the republican movement that claims that they always told the truth. The fact is, if they could excuse shooting young women in the head, they could excuse telling the odd fib.

  • aquifer

    Of course telling lies is acceptable, like the intelligence tricks the Brits played on the Germans in WW2. SF are the representatives of the 1919 provisional Irish state after all, a government in waiting entitled to sign death warrants on whomever opposes their assumption of power.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Uh, Mick, when did Ruari and Daithi ever run for office? Daithi ran for office a single time and rec’d 5.4% of the vote. Apparently, the “mind your own business” meme wasn’t exactly that successful. Ruairi ran for office 2x. Was successful the first time, in ’57, with 14.1% of the vote (was him and 2 FG and 2 FF who won the 5 seats and likely helped that there was otherwise 1 IND, 1 LAB, and 2 FG and 2 FF candidates who did not get elected, i.e., some might have split the vote a bit much there). He lost his bid for re-election in ’61 with but a mere 7.61% of the vote. So hard for Ed to claim that “mind your own business” is a better meme. And note what I posted on your one other thread. In this last GE, Paul Hogan pulled in 7.5% of the FP vote while Marty pulled in 13.1% in the PE. That’s how much David Kelly’s confronting Marty in Athlone hurt Marty over the SF GE result, at least in Longford-Westmeath.

    I understand that as a devotee or fan of the Stoop Down Low Party, that you have no love for SF, but same meme over and over again, with questionable propositions offered in support, is hardly credibility building. Oh, and Mick, the gross hypocrisy here is that the Labor folks get a pass on the blood on your hands meme. Was Mr. Gilmore ever an Official? Apparently, the lives of some Irishmen from the ROI matter more than others, since no one seems to care that the Officials killed Seamus Costello in Dublin in ’77. If I am not mistaken, I believe that someone made just his point here on Turgon’s good, bad, etc., terrorist thread. Oh, and for some crossover, was Seamus who engineered the escape from gaol of both Ruairi and Daithi. Oh, and Mick, how about Pat Rabbitte? As the one soul posted on boards.ie:

    Gerry Adams was asked last night on the Late Late Show by Pat Kenny what becomes of members of the IRA when they are officially retired (or something to that effect).

    Adams answered (or words to this effect): “What became of Eamon De Valera, Sean Lemass (names a couple more historical figures), what did Pat Rabitte do – you can ask him that”

    So you can tell Ed that it’s not like Gerry hasn’t tried going that route. And going back to Turgon’s one thread, and good and bad terrorists, is it bad terrorists = SF and good terrorists = Labor?

    Almost forgot, but I am not, repeat not claiming that Eamon and Pat ever took part in any “militant operation” in any form or manner yet it is the slenderest of reeds that purports to separate the armed from the political wing.

  • Lionel Hutz


    your point about labour is absolute nonsense trolling. Those members of the workers party, tried to jettison all links with the OIRA and even communism. When it didn’t work, they resigned. To try to equate student politics to the political wing of PIRA is ridiculous.

  • Cynic2

    So is Gerry or Marty getting a PIRA pension? If so, has it been declared for tax?

  • Jimmy Sands

    Pat Rabitte in the RA?

    This’ll be good.

  • All the liars went to the same kind of school. That’s where they learned that it’s ok to kill Protestant people in the North because really they are not Irish at all and are an obstacle to the creation of a Catholic socialist utopia. Label them ‘Brits’ and then kill them. And then tell lies about it. Or, as we say in the hierarchy, make a mental reservation while stating the opposite of the truth. If you wear a scapular, you are absolved of all sin all the time you are lying your head off. Available from authorised drug stores.

  • socaire

    Incisive post, Democrat!

  • Alias

    It seems so long ago (song title by L. Cohen) but maybe folks have forgotten the convenient fiction that PSF and PIRA were seperate entities? That was constructed to enable the Shinners to work their Armalite and ballot box strategy, and it also enabled folks to talk to Adams and ilk while maintaining another fiction that they weren’t talking to PIRA. And it allowed Adams and ilk to avoid media questioning about PIRA actrocites when he wanted to propagate a different message.

    That also allowed for a ‘hawk and dove’ negotiating strategy, with the doves needing concessions to convince the hawks that the alternative PSF path was the better one. Of course, Adams and McGuinness were PIRA with the sheep following along, concessions or not…

  • unicorn

    It seems rather silly to focus on Sinn Fein lying about who was in the IRA at what time when almost their entire ideological edifice is predicated on lies. For example lies about the “Orange state” such as Kevin Myers recently put it in the Irish Independent,

    The chief constable of the RUC, Jamie Flanagan, was a Catholic. Catholic judges during this time included William Staunton, Ambrose McGonigal, Michael Nicholson, Turlough O’Donnell, Garret McGrath, William Travers, William Doyle, and Rory Conaghan. Mr Justice Conaghan, despite being a Catholic, had in 1965 become the youngest judge in Northern Ireland, and in 1972, when awarding damages to internees, had vigorously denounced the excesses of the security forces. Two years later, the IRA murdered him, as it murdered the Catholic judges Doyle, Staunton, and Travers, and tried to murder Catholic judges O’Donnell, McGrath and McGonigal. It then declared the absence of Catholic judges was proof of a biased judiciary.

    Lies about what the IRA was about when it was still shooting people.

    Lies about the level of collusion of the state with loyalist terrorists to the point that the UVF and UDA are portrayed as virtual subsidiaries of the British government when killing as a member of such groups was demonstrably a virtual guarantee of going to jail for most members most of the time.

    This is along with things which might charitably be described as delusions rather than lies, such as the constant pretense that they are standing in an all Ireland state rather than a part of the British state which they aspire to one day be part of an all Ireland state (in a way which someone like Alex Salmond would never do), or the idea that unionists are suffering from false consciousness and will be imminently convinced to vote for a united Ireland by their outreach campaign, or the idea that the 40% of the population who vote for nationalist parties would all vote for a united Ireland. I say that these are delusions but I’m sure that at least some members of Sinn Fein, if not perhaps all, know that what they are saying in regard to these things is bull and hence these are for them not merely delusions but lies.

    In comparison McGuinness or Adams lying about being members of the IRA is trivial, understandable from a legal point of view, even amusing.

    More important is the constant Sinn Fein lie machine that poisons discussion about actual political issues that are relevant, such as the things I pointed out above.

  • Cynic2


    The fiction was derived from the PIRA command structure. This provided that the Army and SF were both subordinate to the Army Council but with the Army in the lead and SF subordinate to both