“…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

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