Adams’s extended RTE interview on political murder turns the southern clock right back for Sinn Fein…

On Twitter last night the jury was split over Gerry Adams’ performance in a Prime Time interview with Miriam O’Callaghan. It wasn’t an elegant affair by any means. But then again, nor was the subject.

No matter how well he handled it, it was always going to go badly with potential future voters and even activists to have Mr Adams interrogated for a twenty minutes on the legacy murders committed by the IRA in the Republic.

That ought have been anticipated in advance. What might not have been anticipated is just how profoundly the rules of engagement have now changed with SF in the Republic.

O’Callaghan refused to take the absence of convictions or a court standard evidential trail as a necessary pretext for assuming that he was in fact a senior figure in the IRA when all of these things were going on. The fact that something is widely believed by a variety of authoritative sources (including victim’s families) is now enough to ask pointed questions.

Apart from the chilling effect on southern viewers/voters, Mr Adams precision in answering questions by not answering them (Unspeak, as Stephen Poole calls it) deserted him at times. There was this particularly telling misspeak when he noted that “I have already denied my role in the IRA…”

There were several pretexts for the programme. The recent generic and ad hoc apology in the Dail by Mr Adams; and the possible release of damaging accounts of Mr Adams actual IRA activities from the archives of Boston. There are several other pieces of unfinished business that continue to enlarge the shadow of the past that is inconvenient for all players in past conflict.

This question of Gerry Adams’ involvement, or otherwise, in past murders is not going to go away. Particularly when he himself has been so prominent in calling for the truth from state actors to the northern conflict.

Some on Twitter have argued that Adams’ story is not his to tell. Well, that may be. But whilst he is attempting to call the southern government to account for its more contemporary actions the issue of Mr Adams’ record remains a matter of critical concern.

Critically, and this may not be fully understood by some commentators in Northern Ireland, Gerry’s generic involvement in the armed campaign does not come priced in in the way that it does with us. We lived with the shocking detail of the campaign both as it unfolded and in the aftermath. Southerners are not so inured.

It will not have escaped the notice of some that the Catholic Church tried to evade questions of individual responsibility for years, and got away with it. That did not turn out at all well. Nor, I suspect, will this.

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  • babyface finlayson

    I see the ever faithful Jude Collins is taking a fairly ironic approach to this, listing reasons why Gerry should come clean.
    Unfortunately for Gerry, he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. The question is unlikely to go away until such times as he resigns or gets ousted as president (has anyone ever stood against him?).
    He should have come clean years ago like Martin. This is a hole he has dug for himself. And that really is ironic.

  • son of sam

    There are few certainties in life,but a constant is the uncritical support of Jude for Gerry and Martin.He seems to feel that the mainstream media are biased against his two heroes and he has to rectify the imbalance .

  • Dixie Elliott

    I love these boyos who come on and say I don’t support SF blah, blah, blah, then proceed to spit venom typical of the average industrial wage earner jumping to the defence of their Dear Leader.

    As an example…

    News_Meister

    “Mick, I’ve grown bored with your endless SF bashing and I say that as someone who’s never given them my vote…

    (yes I’m aware of what’s been said by the likes of disgruntled outcast Hughes and money-making book whore O’Callaghan and none of their musings assist in forming a conclusive view)…”

    Now that was funny.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ahem, returning to the matter in hand… If anyone is thinking that I’m blowing smoke here, Eamonn Delaney in yesterday’s Indo has SF’s political problem in one (http://goo.gl/ApmnN)…

    God knows who was behind the idea for this TV ‘non-confession’. No doubt Sinn Fein want Adams to put clear water between the present and the violent past and clear up some of these mysteries, at least for the victim’s families. But the real way to do this would be for Adams to simply step down as party leader and spend more time with the teddy bear he tweets about.

    He is irredeemably connected with the IRA’s violent past and to come on TV and play around with allegations, in that self-important way he has, is just to insult the victims further. It is also holding his party back just when it should be developing as an opposition to a resurgent Fianna Fail.

    Adams is not the person to do an explanation and recompense for the IRA’s past. He is incapable of answering a question on this without going into evasions, irrelevancies and outright denials. After all, this is a man who still denies that he was in the IRA himself and who denied, at the outset, any IRA involvement in the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe or in the Columbia Three or in the Northern Bank robbery. All these were knee-jerk denials, done instinctively: the tactical reaction of a man at war, where truth is the first casualty.

    It’s worth reading the whole thing…

    Jude is right though. Mr Adams cannot admit he’s lying about this stuff (though one of the results Ms O’Callaghan’s interrogation is to have chipped out the nearest thing to an admission that his denials are fake). If he does, his opponents will have a field day.

    That’s just one reason why the leaders of the southern party’s prefer to keep him right where he is right now.

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    Jude’s right. Can you imagine the amount of “the antigerry” threads you’d get out of a volte face like that. It’s mind boggling! It would keep you in material forever. You’d need an army of Pete Bakers working 24/7 for a year just to get you to internment.

  • Mick Fealty

    Latch,

    Is this the five minute argument, or the full half hour (http://goo.gl/KXKXH)?

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    Very droll-are you saying someone’s funding long silly arguments? And characters pretending to be cops in ill- fitting suits sporting bad taches mindlessly beating a guy at his wit’s end that looks like 1970’s Gerry isn’t helping your case.
    This one might better sum up how silly gerranoia is becoming:

  • latcheeco

    Anyway,
    You’ve read it wrongly. There are only so many silly “were you really not in in the ra” interviews that Miriam et al can get away with now to try and stop SF and the election is a while away anyway so why not just let her waste her ammo while still out of range. She had a shot and got more or less nowhere other than to look like an irritated FF poodle. A repeat would start to look like another sad case of gerranoia and might not actually hurt him anyway when the country has bigger issues

  • Alias

    “That’s just one reason why the leaders of the southern party’s prefer to keep him right where he is right now.”

    Probably true, but the leadership of the Shinners is seen as a matter to be decided by the British in accordance with their security interests so it’s really neither here nor there.

    An Garda Síochána, for instance, could have prosecuted Mr Adams for membership of a proscribed organisation based on the mere opinion of a senior Garda that he is a member just as they prosecuted many other PIRA members. In that context, his denial of membership wouldn’t have protected him from prison. Unlike those other PIRA members, Mr Adams is protected.

    FF were concerned more about establishing themselves as the official opposition in the ‘public’ mind, given that they were positioned in a political no man’s land after their rout. If they can be seen as the opposition then they can be seen as the alternative party of government.

    I don’t think FF see the Shinners as a substantial political threat next time around. It’s the time after that that concerns them. They know that Labour is going to collapse and that the Shinners are going to benefit from former Labour voters. The unknown is whether or not those protest voters will stay with the Shinners or switch back to a Labour party that rehabilitates itself under Colm Keaveney as its new leader (assuming Galway East is kind enough to its new boy).

  • Mick Fealty

    Latch,

    Not at all, it was just a gentle signal that I didn’t want to get into this: http://goo.gl/oKl8c.

    I’m pretty sure that what you’ve said is how the party’s Belfast based leadership look at it too. It is a popular line also with non supporters of the party in Northern Ireland. That’s because they assume what has worked above the border will also work below it. There is even a little part of many of us as Nordies that see SF as our skin in their game and want to see them do well.

    But I take issue with this view because, as I have pointed out in numerous non-GA posts on Sinn Fein, the political market in the south is not the same closed shop like the one created by our institutions in NI. It’s open, and parties only thrive by consistently looking for space and seeking to move into it.

    Whilst Doherty was to the fore, that was happening for them. But, in my view, that needed serious investing in. Running Martin McG on austerity, youth emigration, housing debt and stuff that southerners generally have had to care about might have helped build a fugal effect and signalled the party’s corporate commitment to the people of the southern state.

    I also think we Nordies are so inured to our bloody past (SF Republicans, we remember, were not the only ones doing killing) that we discount its chilling effect on a southern electorate that that apart from these few cases suffered relatively little from the northern conflict.

    This is what is at the core of the political dissonance here. Adams here comes very close to justifying attacks on Irish state forces, not British ones.

    This a self imposed tightrope from his past. His frequent references to “this state” connote his distanced view of any pre 1916 Republic. Given the party’s current democratic exegeses that ‘position’ is reduced to ‘nuance’.

    As such it is poorly understood by the southern electorate. As it drives him to intemperateness, particularly with regard to the killing of an Irish prison guard, he reminds people that he does not quite share their common bond of citizenship.

    Your analogy of the party being out range of Miriam’s fire is fair enough. Yet although you might be proven right, here’s why I doubt it:

    Whilst GA is pinned down over his past (and he, not RTE picked this ground to fight on with that knee jerk, in from nowhere apology in the Dail), Martin has signalled the first departure from his party’s neo Tallaght strategy by arguing that the government must use the effective write down it got re the promissory notes to end austerity.

    That’s an attempt in the first place to park the whole FF machine such as it is, right in front of Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou and take up a position that is becoming more in line with international thinking (and therefore more credible) than it was even six months ago.

    I don’t know if that will be successful. Much depends on whether international markets hold up under the stress of the humungous levels of private and public debt.

    But the first phase of FF’s recovery (take your beating like a man) is certainly over. The theme of ‘we did wrong’ won’t go, of course since it serves to usefully differentiate between old and new FF.

    The second phase is show that despite having a tiny representation in the Dail they are competent and hard working. The third will be to build a broader narrative around an older idea of FF, as far from the bankers and the Galway Tent as it is to imagine.

    SF’s problem is that it thinks it does not have to change its relation with the past. It cannot change that past, of course. But it does need to transform it if it is to make headway in the south. In this interview, Adams betrayed a core attitude that has not really changed since 1972.

  • BarneyT

    Mick

    I scanned the Irish News this morning and found an article from Alex Kane entitled….”Adams must acknowledge his role in the Troubles”. My first thought was, ok here is someone who is going to nail it and provide actual evidence of his IRA memebership…something that many shy away from on this site whilst happily calling him a liar.

    He makes the point that GA personally bears responsibility for some of the troubles. He also states that GA defended the IRA during the “war” and then he dribbles into confusion, conveniently aligning supporting an organisation and its deeds with actual membership and pulling the trigger itself.

    Personally I go along with the notion that GA was (if not officially signed up) an IRA activist and as a strategist, this qualifies effective membership. I think it is political suicide for SF (especially in the south) if they let GA continue this charade. But, membership and close association are technically speaking two different things….and if he was never a signed up member then he was never a member…end of. Perhaps that is the point he pursues.

    The fact is that GA may have “provided cover for the IRA”, or made a case for “terrorism” as Kane revealingly couches it, it is irrelevant to the point of proof I am seeking. At no point does he present the balls to state clearly with evidence of his own, that GA was in the IRA.

    You mentioned that there is a, “plethora of sources, both inside and outside the Republican movement”. Are these sources reliable? Are they precise and grudge free? Can you present something from these sources that cannot be easily dismissed?

    Kane makes a clown of himself in todays Irish News on this mattter in my opinion and his lack of logic is childish. i.e. “its amazing how well informed he is about anything the British, Irish, loyalists or security forces supposedly did to IRA members..”. That demonstrates nothing to me or than the way Kane leans. Many Chelsea fans can give you the low-down on the Lampard contract talks however they have and will never play for Chelsea.

    Perhaps we are redefining membership and entrance criteria for the IRA? If that is the case then the membership was indeed widespread.

  • Mick Fealty

    Kane’s argument is his, it’s not the one I am making here, which is a great deal more subtle and read in the context of the southern market.

    There is currently no political pressure on Adams from the northern end. What little there has been on SF has come from FF (and perhaps, to a very limited extent, FG government ministers on SF’s differentiated stance on the regional rate and the household charge), rather than any of his northern rivals.

    In truth no one in LH actually wants him to come clean or resign.

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    Your analysis of SF seems consistently to be that they’re all by and large Nordies and don’t understand the game in South. This is a fundamental and crucial misreading and misunderstanding of the party and betrays your own perspective, and prejudices more than it does theirs.

  • Mick Fealty

    How so?

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    Because your perspective is partitionist: you’re looking down at the South, they aren’t. They’ve never been detached from the rest of the country despite the exigencies of the Troubles. Look behind the podium and you’ll see their organisation has always been national. The South isn’t terra nova for them. To think they are mostly neophyte Northerners who badly misjudge the market and are seeing everything purely through a damaged Belfast prism is wrong. That they hadn’t been consistently fighting elections in the South since partition like their competition and now need time to catch up with parties already established is the weight in their saddlebags not not knowing the territory, but time is on their side North and South. The political tactic of feigning disgust at what happened in the North half a century ago and man playing hasn’t got long legs given FF’s difficulties.

  • Alias

    And yet they are Northern Ireland’s “skin in the game” as Mick points out. That’s a mentality that doesn’t apply to those already in that game by default.

    Therefore, no one from Ireland would want to see the Shinners gain seats for that reason. It simply isn’t a factor. That’s the exclusively ‘partitionist’ mentality of a section of Northern Ireland’s citizens.

    The Shinners are seen as an irrelevance to Irish politics in Ireland. They’d be seen as a bunch of violent thickoes who are interfering in Irish politics for reasons domestic to Northern Ireland. The sense of entitlement (at other people’s expense) that we associate with ‘northerners’ is what makes them appealing to the underperforming underclass who share a similar sense of entitlement but it repels the majority.

    And as for Adams self-preening as a ‘peacemaker’ the general reaction is “What were you shooting and bombing for in the first place, dipstick?”

  • latcheeco

    Alias
    “The Shinners are seen as an irrelevance to Irish politics in Ireland” I know it’s Friday but if that’s your contribution you should have just gone straight home after work.

  • Kevsterino

    Every time I’ve seen tidings of Sinn Fein’s doom on Slugger, their numbers have gone up. Those who find SF entirely distasteful, have a huge blind-spot with regards for what drives their support either hither or yon, but mostly, yon.

  • Alias

    Two Americans in a row cheerleading for the Shinners? Shillelaghs, green beer, and Aran sweaters. And folks say that is a banal cliché…

    Incidentally, Anthony McIntyre has a good post on his blog on this subject wherein gullible, fawning yanks also get a mention:

    “Rather than get the credit he thinks is his due for his supposed understanding of what constitutes murder Adams merely invites the follow up question of why he directed a murder campaign. He is unable to convince anybody, other than an American groupie in Dublin it seems, that he was never a key IRA leader at the heart of its military strategy.

    What moral difference then is there between him and the late Harold Shipman if murder is murder is murder? Is what may then be termed the ‘stench of murder’, as it was so icily put to Martin McGuinness during his failed presidential campaign, to be allowed to waft through society without as much as a cursory question? What sort of society would Ireland be if Harold Shipman in pursuit of the health ministry portfolio could come on television and object to any questioning about the fate of his patients?”

  • wee buns

    If it’s a contest between FF’s past of rampant nepotism/desecration and SF’s past of rampant disregard for proper war protocol – I’m not sure which the volatile southern electorate shall find most immanently immoral.
    O Callaghan has her strengths but ultimately she is a highly paid RTE hack – pro government naturally – and anyone who digests the full scope of RTE reportage can’t miss the bias – refusal to cover major stories that might not fit with the illusion of FG government –think. Protests are happening regularly outside RTE with regards to their blatant propagandizing. Very much woth a watch is:

    http://youtu.be/ZBme8krcyOU

    On that note – this type of interview with Adams is trite – and of low journalistic quality given the spectrum of current issues which they are oblidged to cover but refuse to.

  • Mick Fealty

    Guys, I made contact with a long standing cultural hero of mine, who it also happens is a longstanding reader of Slugger… he was kind enough to thank me for the ‘infotainment’…

    If that’s all I provide here, I’m happy enough.. argue with it, ignore it, it’s only my own search for meaning in the grand mess of Irish politics… Some stuff, I get right and am happy enough to read again ten years later, some makes me cringe on how badly I get some stuff wrong…

    It’s an honest view, which I try to check against what I think I know… And that’s all.., Kick the crap of out it, point up the weaknesses, of it, the nonesenses of it… I’m off for the May weekend, having said all I think I can say about it…

    Time will prove it right or wrong… In the meantime, those of you who are getting Monday off enjoy… just be nice (especially you alias, I’m not above awarding cards on a weekend off!!)…

  • Alias
  • Kevsterino

    If what I wrote makes me a cheerleader in your eyes, Alias, all I can say is you’ve never seen a real cheerleader. I just call them like I see them.

  • A few years ago there was an article in Fortnight magazine in which one of the security correspondents, I believe it was Brian Rowen, examined the series of newsletters written by “Brownie” from the Republican cage at the camp where the republican internees were being kept in the mid-1970s. Brownie admitted to being an IRA member. Rowen identified a number of “coincidental” personal details between Gerry Adams and Brownie, such as wife’s first name, where he was from, dates of internment, etc. Add this together with all of the former IRA members who have written memoirs and detailed Adams’ role in the organization from Sean O’Callaghan to Martin McGartland to Raymond Gilmour et al. And the fact that both the Garda and Mi-6 and Special Branch all consider Adams to have been a former Belfast Brigade commander. And then consider the fact that Gerry Adams has never sued anyone for libel for claiming that he was in the IRA (or course it might be hard to argue that claiming that the SF president was a former IRA member is defammatory). All this taken together makes a rather convincing circumstantial case that Gerry Adams was a former IRA member. And I think that both Gerry and Sinn Fein understand this quite well. They just overestimate the gullibility of the public and journalists in the Republic.

  • latcheeco

    tmitch57
    “They just overestimate the gullibility of the public and journalists in the Republic.”

    Maybe, or maybe SF have an inkling that enough of the Irish people are sufficiently nuanced and politically literate that they can see through the silly deflection games being played by hypocritical opponents trying to once more get their corrupt paws on the envelopes of power, and that enough of the audience is smart enough to see the latterday concern by the likes of Miriam and the backroom at RTE over events that happened half a century ago in the Troubles for what it is.

  • O’Callaghan ‘not worried’ as Sinn Fein threatens legal bid:

    RTE’s ‘Prime Time’ team has said they are “not in the least concerned” over Sinn Fein threats of legal action following Miriam O’Callaghan’s “robust” interview with party leader Gerry Adams.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gerry never learns. Legal action would inevitably result in a court hearing where all of Miriam’s questions would be now put to him in front of a judge, by the defence barrister, and with the risk of perjury lurking in the background. Everyone knows he won’t and can’t take legal action over accusations he was in the IRA.

  • FDM

    @Comrade Stalin

    “Gerry never learns. Legal action would inevitably result in a court hearing where all of Miriam’s questions would be now put to him in front of a judge, by the defence barrister, and with the risk of perjury lurking in the background. Everyone knows he won’t and can’t take legal action over accusations he was in the IRA.”

    True. Also legal action is risky on many grounds. Courts don’t provide justice. Courts provide the law. The two are not the same thing at all. In this particular accusation Miriam and co. may in fact be completely wrong. Whilst their wider point may have substance [which has never been verified to any civil or criminal watermark of proof] this particular case may be completely unfounded. The courts are also subject to political influence whether people like to accept that or not, so the decision might not go your way due to external pressures. Court proceedings such as these are potentially very expensive and RTE can draw on significant funds to back them. Hence the best of legal representation to boot.

    My points introduce the wider concept of journalistic integrity. RTE through Miriam are spreading accusations which they cannot actually evidence to meet any legally important threshold. Even if Gerry could refute this latest accusation it would be a Pyhrric victory since the other accusations would remain. Additionally taking a celebrity journalist to court might generate ill-feeling amongst the electorate on the general premise of protecting the freedom of the press.

    I think making allegations because you can “get away” with saying them doesn’t really say too much about the level of journalistic integrity at RTE. They are cheap shots against one of the individuals in this society who RTE like to pillory. It boils down to trial by journalism.

    If RTE have evidence against Mr. Adams then let them provide it to the prosecution services and let justice be done on him. Otherwise who do they serve by making allegations that they demonstrably can’t substantiate?

  • Alias

    The Shinners threatening the media is nothing new.

    Adams kind of reminds me of a dog that became a ‘star’ back in the late 70s courtesy of Esther Rantzen’s BBC programme That’s Life!

    The god, a Yorkshire terrier if I recall correctly, appeared to be able to say the words “sausages” and “Esther” (with its owner’s hand actually moving its jaw up and down). The audience thought this was a great laugh. Well, it was a more innocent way of life back then.

    With Adams, the trick is to ask him if he was ever a member of PIRA. Much like the merriment that ensured from the dog saying “sausages”, we’re all invited to laugh at him when he does his little party piece and says “I never was.”

  • Comrade Stalin

    FDM:

    True. Also legal action is risky on many grounds. Courts don’t provide justice. Courts provide the law. The two are not the same thing at all. In this particular accusation Miriam and co. may in fact be completely wrong.

    Yeah, but they’re probably not wrong otherwise, apart from everything else, Gerry would have sued them by now.

    Whilst their wider point may have substance [which has never been verified to any civil or criminal watermark of proof]

    A lot of things have never been verified by civil or criminal watermark, such as for example the various allegations of collusion that republicans like to circulate to this day. That doesn’t mean these matters can’t be discussed. Personally I regard them the same way. I’d say the chances that Gerry Adams was a senior IRA figure are about the same as the chances that PSNI Special Branch and MI5 controlled and supplied elements in the UVF and UDA – ie that it’s hard to see how it could not have been the case.

    this particular case may be completely unfounded. The courts are also subject to political influence whether people like to accept that or not, so the decision might not go your way due to external pressures.

    Not even the Shinners make accusations that the (regular, as opposed to diplock etc. ) courts are stacked against them. It’s an extremely serious charge to make and is a sign of desperation. But even leaving that aside, it generally doesn’t happen. For example an attempt was made to prosecute Gerry Adams for IRA membership in the early 1980s. The court threw it out citing, if I recall correctly, a lack of evidence.

    Martin McGuinness served time in the RoI for his own IRA role. I guess this fact made it easier for him to make a strategic admission of his membership (although my recollection is that he steadfastly denied his membership – just as Adams still does – for a long time up until the Bloody Sunday tribunal hearings).

    Court proceedings such as these are potentially very expensive and RTE can draw on significant funds to back them. Hence the best of legal representation to boot.

    Sinn Féin can draw on significant funds too of course, they are one of the richest parties (per capita) in Western Europe. They were able to recently defend a completely unwinnable defamation case taken against election workers who circulated a libellous leaflet concerning a civil servant, for example.

    My points introduce the wider concept of journalistic integrity. RTE through Miriam are spreading accusations which they cannot actually evidence to meet any legally important threshold.

    I’m not really a big fan of this constantly barracking Shinners about their IRA past, but RTÉ are hardly concocting a conspiracy here. The stories about Adams’ IRA role come from many quarters on various sides of the political divide.

    Even if Gerry could refute this latest accusation it would be a Pyhrric victory since the other accusations would remain. Additionally taking a celebrity journalist to court might generate ill-feeling amongst the electorate on the general premise of protecting the freedom of the press.

    Indeed, which is why it is so curious that Sinn Féin wheel out these threats of legal action that ultimately amount to nothing.

    I think making allegations because you can “get away” with saying them doesn’t really say too much about the level of journalistic integrity at RTE. They are cheap shots against one of the individuals in this society who RTE like to pillory. It boils down to trial by journalism.

    I wouldn’t dispute that part. RTÉ come across here as doing Fianna Fáil’s dirty work. Which, let’s be fair, has been their role for a long time. (note – I just made an accusation of RTÉ without any supporting evidence)

  • seamusot

    Nutshell time – there was a war. Adams and his fellow travellers deemed it better to hit back rather than be brutalised in a sectarian statelet deigned to remove his like. After 40 plus years of viciousness better minds have accepted a political stalemate and Adams scores above 5 out of 10 for his concilatory contribution. He may not feature in Irish politics in say 5 years – age related.

    RTE was a complete hindrance in bringing Adams and pals to conciliation by its utterly misdirected policy of Cruise O’Brien. Rich that his latter day RTE nutter should seek to dance to his failed tune.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Is Richard O’Raw questioning Gerry’s account and actions.

  • Mick Fealty

    Short addendum to previous comments.

    Never heard of a political party telling the press before contacting the suee… Certainly revealing that they thought they had a contract with RTE PT governing what the broadcaster was not allowed to ask them

    The idea that some politicians are above reproach because of what they may have done for us all in the past is a dodgy one. GA’s inability to answer questions about his past is his contemporary problem not the journalists.

    What is acceptable in a backwater region of the UK in order to hold the peace is not necessarily translatable when people like Mr Adams are contesting for power. It is a journalist’s job to put politicians over the coals… even if in the past they have left it far too late…

  • FDM

    @Mick Fealty

    “Certainly revealing that they thought they had a contract with RTE PT governing what the broadcaster was not allowed to ask them… ”

    You don’t believe that at all Mick so I don’t know why you wrote it. From celebs to political types this is the score. If you want an interview you have to play the game or else no interview. Now you know that so what gives? If it was a celeb they would have walked. I think RTE can whistle for the next interview with anybody in a leadership role within Sinn Fein.

    “The idea that some politicians are above reproach because of what they may have done for us all in the past is a dodgy one. GA’s inability to answer questions about his past is his contemporary problem not the journalists… It is a journalist’s job to put politicians over the coals… even if in the past they have left it far too late…”

    I think the bigger part of GAs problem is the other side used the security services, the courts and parliament to protect themselves and their functionaries from taking responsibility for their role in the troubles. Where are soldiers A, B, C, D through to Z in practically every murky killing in the troubles? Covered in a blanket of legislation, bureaucracy and political machination. At least Gerry wasn’t behind a screen, identified as witness X. So who has more integrity? How many Col. Wilfords has Miriam had in the hot seat?

    Sinn Fein have asked for processes to look into the past. However they want everyones role examined for balance. Where is the balance in RTEs coverage here and over time? Do they have a record of asking FRU/MI5/MI6/Special Branch securocrats the difficult questions? Have they a history of asking the questions over the Irish governments role? Have they my ass. No, sure that would be too much like hard work and more so NOT to the agenda. Why not just repeat the same politically motivated attacks on someone who they are openly hostile toward. Lazy spleen-filled hacking.

    “What is acceptable in a backwater region of the UK”

    Ireland isn’t anywheres “backwater” Mick.

  • Mick Fealty

    FDM,

    I’m only saying it’s revealing since whilst we know that this intense negotiation about what is in and what is out holds for all pol parties, I am not sure what good comes from revealing that is how it is done.

    Adams, or McGuinness or anyone in a leadership role will get asked about their past. Folk like Pearse Doherty will not, although the trouble with all of this is that they will then get asked their personal view on SF’s unresolved (unresolveable?) past.

    You also have to ask who does it harm most not to have Mr Adams on the Tele? Marian Finucane on RTE Radio One was way more diplomatic, but she was still forensic in the huge detail she went into regarding his past. It was clear from that conversation that the man has large spaces that are just blank. That is good for a commander in a guerrilla war: not so good in a would be democratic leader.

    I agree with some of what you say about the British. But that’s not the only problem with it. Leave aside the sheer weight of casualties, the Commanders In Chief on the British end were professionals and many of those in charge in those earliest days are now either dead or out of the way. And we aren’t getting any higher than that, because we aren’t getting any higher on the Republican side. Ever.

    Thus Cameron as a man who was barely two when the whole thing kicked off in 1968, can deal with the whole Bloody Sunday thing as the multiple travesty it was since no one of his generation on his side was politically involved at the time.

    Gerry has no such physical or emotional distance. He was there and he was involved, and he shows (nor can he) no inclination or willingness to be more open about his own past. (Paul Mason is well worth a watch on how an unresolved past may have screwed up the present in Spain: http://goo.gl/NRm5k).

    As for RTE, they have a chequered past, to be sure. Section 31 was more invidious than the voice over comedy routine we had to put up with in NI. But who’s to say they are not right to ask questions over the character and history of a man that SF would have as the nation’s Taoiseach?

  • FDM

    “Folk like Pearse Doherty will not”.

    I had the “clean skin” thing on my mind when I wrote my previous contribution. I have thought about it for a while.

    So Miriam says “Okay Pearse. You didn’t kill anyone. You didn’t order anyones death. However Pearse you condone all that. You have killed in your heart…”

    You see its that simple and idiots watching the latest RTE propaganda broadcast will suck it up.

    Yet how would Pearse be any different from any current or past member of Fianna Fail in terms of historical baggage?

    Gerard and Marty still have a responsibility for delivering the decommissioned “bad men” to the process. That’s not a threat just a political necessity. The fact that SF has credible leadership and is moving forward allows the old guard to sit still in their armchairs. Pearse Doherty can’t deliver that.

    It won’t always be thus.

    I look forward to the time when some “clean skin” from SF asks Miriam and the Irish people who are persuaded by her “where were you?”. I think Miriam might have another child at that point.

  • Alias

    “You see its that simple and idiots watching the latest RTE propaganda broadcast will suck it up.” – FDM

    A sublime example of dramatic irony.

  • Mick Fealty

    FDM,

    You have to recognise that in this case the questions were being prompted by SF’s own words and actions. Fianna Fail has a legacy, and a rather nasty one of having been on the bridge when SS Ireland struck the iceberg.

    How has it dealt with it? By and large, by shutting the *&%* up about anything much for 18 months… and then coming up with possible ways forward that don’t invite too much awkward comparison with their ‘difficult’ past.

    The trouble is that justifying (or rehabilitating) its own past is a major project for SF’s leadership. But it is a weak hand for anyone ambitious for leadership in the Republic.

    You can try to shift the blame on to the interviewer for revealing the paper thin nature of Adams’ Dail apology for the IRA’s murder of state forces, but the party’s biggest problem is what it reveals about the character of that leadership to the wider viewership of RTE.

    Which is that it will say stuff it doesn’t actually mean to get itself off any given hook and then change its mind when it thinks the trouble is over… The southern electorate may be ready for a dose of Bertie II, but I would not bet on it…

  • westprog

    “disregard for proper war protocol”

    I like this phrase. When dealing with, say, the kidnapping, torture and murder of a young mother, it’s reasonable to describe that as a breach of protocol – much like wearing a business suit to a black tie dinner.

    “the latterday concern by the likes of Miriam and the backroom at RTE over events that happened half a century ago in the Troubles for what it is.”

    If someone doesn’t quite understand the concept of relativistic time dilation, they can compare how long ago things in NI happened depending on who did them.

  • wee buns

    westprog

    you are not at liberty to edit the content of my comments, which was:
    ‘rampant disregard for proper war protocol’ – suggests no flippancy on the issue.

  • Kevsterino

    Mick, Fianna Fail’s legacy reaches back somewhat further than the financial fiasco, but the combatants from the days of being a ‘slightly Constitutional party’ have since shucked their mortal coils.

    I expect it might take the passing of all those from the days when violence proliferated before these questions come to a halt. And even then, the violence will still be a controversial subject.

  • Mick Fealty

    Kev

    It’s true that the last FF deputies to carry their guns into the Dail were in the 40s, but it was about then they made the decisive break from being slightly constitutional.

    It was about that time that they hung several IRA men and let others go to their deaths on Hunger Strikes. I’d say they have long since paid their constitutional dues.

  • Alias

    It’s a bit like the other oft-spewed Shinner propaganda that their sectarian murder campaign was a war.

    They spew along the lines of “It was a war, and terrible things happen in war. Move on.”

    It omits to mention that only governments of sovereign states are entitled to declare war – and only then if meeting specific conditions under constitutional, parliamentary and international law.

    It was a murder gang, typically sneaking out from behind bushes to shoot unarmed civilians in the back of the head as they returned from work, with the murders planned by the organisers of the gangs – the same gang, as it happens, who are now well paid to assist in the internal administration of the British rule by the sovereign state it supposedly fought its ‘war’ against.

    In the case of the rebellion of 1919, that asserted a right to national self-determination against a colonial power in the absence of national self-determination and is recognised as legitimate under international law. The legitimate political came before national self-determination, had the aim of achieving it, and achieved it. The illegitimate murder gang, the Shinners, came after national self-determination had been achieved by the Irish nation and could not, therefore, have had the aim of achieving it. Indeed, it existed in opposition to it.

    There can be no comparison permitted between that and a murder campaign that asserted a right to share in the internal administration of the British rule.

  • @Mick,
    The Troubles was not a guerrilla war. In a guerrilla war the aim of the guerrilla leadership is to reproduce itself through recruitment to the point that it is eventually strong enough to take on the other side in a conventional war. If this was ever the thinking of the Provos it was abandoned very early on–probably about the time of Operation Motorman in early 1972, about the time that the Stickies were abandoning their armed struggle. The IRA’s strategy was “the long war”–a war of attrition of wearing down the British state through a combined campaign against British soldiers and other state employees and a terrorist campaign against civilian targets. This is particularly true of the English campaign.

    @Alias,

    What you say about only sovereign governments having the power to declare war is only true of international wars. Civil wars are conducted by various groups who do not have sovereign status for various reasons or between a non-sovereign group(s) and a sovereign government. The English Civil War is recognized by most historians as a war–it was fought between two groups both claiming to be the legitimate representative and holder of sovereignty. In the American Civil War there was an attempt at separation by the elected state governments that ceded some power to a new confederal government and that clashed with the old national government. In the Spanish Civil War there was an attempted coup against the elected government that caused a civil war between two separate ideological and sectarian coalitions. Many independence struggles resulted in situations where there were competing liberation movements that resulted in a civil war once the colonial power had departed. Had the British government ceded control of Northern Ireland in 1971 or 1972 there probably would have been a civil war among the UDA, OIRA, PIRA, and UVF.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great contribution tm!!

  • Rory Carr

    Great post indeed Also, I’m afraid, a great deal of nonsense. There is no strict requirement of a strategy as outlined by TMitch above before a war can be described as a “guerilla war”.In order to be so described all that is necessary is that the weaker forces adopt a series of hit and run tactics against the larger enemy forces using its superior knowledge of its homeland terrain and the support of the local populace to its advantage.

    TMitch’s insistence on reducing the definition so that it must of necessity exclude the recent IRA war smacks of the type of silliness espoused by Braziian neo-Marxist self proclaimed revolutionary, Carlos Marighella in his booklet, The Minimanual of Guerilla Warfare without which the shelves of no self-respecting armchair revolutionary of the 60’s and 70’s was complete. Marighella, as memory serves, insisted that each guerilla unit must consist of an exact number of men and must have acquired a precise array of named weaponry including, I seem to recall, Colt .45 automatic pistols, Thompson sub-machine guns…the list goes on and I remember a hotly embarrassed Trotskyite in North London still insisting that a Schmeisser or a Smith and Wesson would not suffice for the revolutionary purist. It was all very Wilfie Smith.

    The idea that the IRA envisioned a point where they would have been able to raise a force large enough to take on the Brits in open warfare is simply pie-in-the sky, of the type of madness last promoted by De Valera and which foundered in the disaster of the attack on the Customs House in which the attacking IRA force was severely depleted, losing 5 dead, 3 wounded and the capture of 70-80 of its total strike force of 120-150 men.

    Essentially TMitch argument is of the straw-man category but, as Mick notes, a great post indeed, albeit of the straw- man camp.

  • wee buns

    Mick – FF were not merely ‘on the bridge’ when SS Ireland struck doom – their cronyism and corruption was completely out of control. The ‘ice berg’ was no tragic mishap but a deliberately created, by unfettered free market corporatism, bubble – which did which bubbles do. FF willfully steered SS Ireland directly into the ‘iceberg’ then transferred huge amounts of private debt into public hands. Inflicting crippling economic crisis on populations – and getting away with it – this is the new domestic terrorism.

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree with most of that, though I would draw the line perhaps at domestic terrorism… I was not trying to diminish their culpability as a party, but rather look to them for a demonstration of how to get over a ‘sinful’ past..

  • Alias

    “What you say about only sovereign governments having the power to declare war is only true of international wars.” – tmitch57

    At what point did the Shinners claim their ‘war’ was not against a foreign state and was, in fact, an internal civil war against fellow Irishmen?

    The spiel about civil war doesn’t have even the slightest iota of relevance to the discussion.

    And even if the Shinners did declare a civil war, so what? Regional murder gangs do not a civil war make.

    The point being that violence used to assert a right to national self-determination is accepted as legitimate under international law where it is used against an occupying power in the absence of alternative peaceful means.

    The crucial point here being that it is used by a nation to achieve national self-determination, and not where national self-determination has already been achieved by that nation. In that circumstance, where it is used against the will of the collective, it explicitly violates the right to national self-determination. This is why the Shinners were a criminal murder gang, and why there is no comparison between them and the men of 1916.

  • Alias

    One other point about this, the purpose of the Shinners claiming to be the legitimate government of Ireland is to claim that they were entitled to declare war on behalf of the nation that they claimed to represent.

    That is how national self-determination operates: the nation chooses its government, and the government uses the sovereign powers invested in it by the nation to determine the affairs of the nation in a manner consistent with how the nation, via selection of policies, parties, manifestoes, etc, has duly self-determined how those affairs should be determined.

    So that is a collective right, not an individual right. It is collective right because you cannot, for example, have a section of the population determining that it should go to war or implement a particular economic policy or other and another section of the population determining the opposite. Hence there is one right, and one right only, to self-determination per nation.

    This is how the Shinners tried to get around the fact that their campaign was an explicit and abject violation of the principle of national self-determination. They simply stole the old defunct historical name Sinn Fein and the old defunct ‘republican’ dogma that came with it.

    So in one stroke you had a small group of sectarian thugs who self-appointed themselves as the legitimate government of Ireland, with a supposed entitlement to declare war, who could then pretend they had some legitimate basis for which to undertake a sectarian murder campaign in a particular region of the island that explicitly violated the principle of national self-determination.

    Did anyone take this idiocy seriously? Well, yes: the Catholics in the affected region saw it as good cover for supporting a sectarian murder campaign against their Protestant neighbours, and the British state saw it as a good means of reaching a “historic compromise” with ‘republicanism’ wherein the former claims to British territory could be constitutional rescinded. Essentially, the British state has learned that you can kill the man but not the idea so it used this farce as the means of killing the idea rather than simply killing the man.

  • Alias

    Rewrite that last line to read “Essentially, the British state has learned that you can kill the man but not the idea so it used this farce as the means of re-defining the idea so that it promotes its national interests via parity of esteem on the island of Ireland.” 😉

  • Alias

    One final point about the civil war spiel: what you had in Northern Ireland was a small number of state-sponsored murder gangs who organised and controlled the violence. The members of these gangs never numbered more than a few hundred at one one time out of a total population of circa 1.6 million, so you’re looking at a rather odd ‘civil war’ where 99.9% of the polulation were not involved in the violence.

  • westprog

    There’s a danger sometimes in referring to the “war” in that it almost implies that the conflict was between two nations, rather than a small not very active gang.

    The IRA were always concerned to avoid a war breaking out, because they were aware that if it did, the consequences to themselves and their community would have been appalling. Their strategy was always to inflict enough pain on the various communities that a political decision would be made to change the status of Northern Ireland – but never so much that a full response from the state or the loyalists would result. That’s why, for example, the IRA kept out of Scotland.

    They realised that the main priority of the Republic was to keep out of trouble. They could make use of that up to a point, but they knew that if the survival of the Southern state depended on their eradication, it would happen very quickly. That if the loyalists went to a full-scale onslaught against the minority community, the rest of Ireland would, in the final analysis, stand idly by.

    So the “war” was kept limited, small-scale – and ultimately futile, because it could never be at the right level to make the British or the Unionists change their minds. When the IRA eventually realised this, we had a peace deal.

  • @Rory,

    My “straw man” argument was actually taken from Walter Lacqueur’s book “Guerrilla”–he, unlike you, actually knows how to spell the word correctly. In opposition to him I would argue that one distinction between guerrillas and terrorists is that the former conform to the laws of warfare that would be practiced by states. But this argument does not help the IRA at all.

    @Alias,

    You seem to be trying to save nationalist mythology by arguing that the IRA of the Tan War conformed with the rights of a nation and the IRA of The Troubles did not. Well this argument might be important for nationalists, I think it is ultimately a losing one–the IRA’s permission for the war came ex post facto rather than antebellum. It also finds little support among historians and intellectuals like Liam Clarke. It was the mythology of the IRA of the Tan War that made possible the later IRA campaigns like the Border War and The Troubles.

    “The members of these gangs never numbered more than a few hundred at one one time out of a total population of circa 1.6 million, so you’re looking at a rather odd ‘civil war’ where 99.9% of the polulation were not involved in the violence.”

    Show me any definition of war that sets out a precise criterion of a percentage of the population that is necessary. What is important is that it consists of a period of sustained violence and that the violence is ideologically or politically motivated rather than profit motivated. I realize that the loyalist paramilitaries certainly used The Troubles as an opportunity to make money through protection racketeering, but that was mainly during a period when the loyalist contribution to the war was at a low point. For most of the war the major parties were the Provisional IRA and the British security forces. Minor parties included the INLA, the UDA, the UVF, the Red Hand Commandos and initially the Official IRA.

    Your math also works as far as the IRA’s claim that in every generation there was a nationalist uprising. What percent of the people rose in 1867? Or in 1919-21? There were probably as many republicans involved during The Troubles, if not more, than in the 1919-21 war, it is just that they were not involved at the same time. And what percentage is 2,000 out of a total population of 2.5 million?

  • Rory Carr

    I’m afraid, TMitch, that your response to my earlier post is getting us nowhere fast.

    This false distinction between guerrilla and terrorist only serves to reinforce the crude propaganda of elements of, usually expansionist, states which uses terrorist as a pejorative term to describe any movement opposed to their own terror, repression, denial of rights.

    It has been wisely said that “Terrorism is war waged by the oppressed against the powerful. War is terrorism waged by the powerful against the oppressed.” Since the powerful have control of all, including language, we then have a Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland situation where, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.“.

    Guerrilla warfare has been employed by established nation-states including Britain and the USA, what else were the Desert Rats, or the Weathermen, Wellington’s tactics in Spain in the Peninsular war ? And, as for terrorism, what else was Blitzkrieg, the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima but terrorism on a mammoth scale ?

    In short, guerrilla warfare is a form of tactical battle that is employed where the situation demands it it and is not limited to any party. We could argue about terrorism till the cows come home but one thing is certain – the states of the world, few, if any, of whom have not themselves been guilty of practisng terrorism for their own selfish ends do not have the moral right to determine who or what is a terrorist group when the term is used only as a a crude piece of name-calling designed, ironically, to strike a modicum of terror into its own citizens in order to bolster their support for waging greater terror against such groups and the civilian populations from which they emanate.

  • @Rory,

    Since guerrilla warfare is a military strategy or form of warfare it must have certain characteristics. The same can be said of terrorism. Your definition is simply a tautology. This is why I would prefer to rely on a historian like Lacqueur, rather than an activist, especially one who cannot even correctly spell what it is that he is attempting to define, for a definition.

  • Rory Carr

    Leaving aside your (second) snide and barrel-scraping comment on my earlier typo, Tmitch we can agree that both must have certain characteristics but where does that get us other than to recognise that those characteristics then must be shared by all who practise such form of warfare – state forces and resistance armies alike.

    While an essential characteristic of guerrilla warfare is the use of small, mobile forces capable of operating within territory held by superior enemy forces this is shared by any who employ that method and id not defined by the ideology of the actors.

    Terrorism, on the other hand, is simply defined as employing tactics capable of instilling terror and, similarly is not restricted to any agency.When it comes to questions of scale it is apparent that stae forces in general tend to employ a much greater degree of terrorism than any smaller guerrilla force is capable of commanding. For all the horrors of 9/11 it shrinks in scale by comparison with Shock and Awe and the prolonged aerial bombardment of Baghdad that preceded it, which was its very intention, It is ironic however that there is an inverse ratio between the level of terror employed and the frequency of the label “terrorist” being employed. Why those who set off a single home-made bomb in a Western city should be any more of a terrorist than those who deploy silent drones carrying military ordnance to deploy into wedding parties in Pakistan is beyond my ken which, I think, is why language must be twisted and debased in a devious attempt to justify it. Back to Humpty Dumpty again.

  • @Rory,

    The usual definitions of terrorism are: 1) that it is violence used for a political purpose; 2) violence where the victim targeted is not the real object of the attack but those learning of the attack through publicity; 3) violence where ordinary civilians are targeted rather than those considered to be “legitimate targets.” The first definition is ridiculous as all military actions are supposed to have a political purpose and just demonstrates the intellectual poverty of those making the definition. The second is more useful, but still difficult to determine–this is more an aspect of terrorism than its determining feature. I believe that a combination of the last two definitions is key.

    Usually those who want no limits on violence or want to excuse terrorism take historical examples out of context. In World War II, as in most wars in which both sides consider the war to be one of survival, a tit for tat logic takes hold. This means that if one side violates the laws of warfare on a regular basis the other side will not respect them either. None of the Axis powers respected the laws pertaining to bombing, POWs, and many other aspects. As a result the Allies retaliated by using the same lack of rules. A basic fact of International Relations is anarchy–the lack of an overriding hierarchial authority, which means that international law is enforced through various mechanisms, one of them being self help. Tit for tat is part of this.

    In NI the IRA had a dual strategy of both fighting a guerrilla war against legitimate targets and carrying out terrorist attacks against civilian targets both in NI and in England. It might be said that the Parachute Regiment also behaved as a terrorist unit in both Belfast and Derry, however this was not typical of the British army as a whole nor was it a precipitating action for IRA terrorism. The IRA carried out a terrorist campaign in England in 1939. This was never disavowed. The IRA was also executing prisoners before Bloody Sunday.

  • “however this was not typical of the British army as a whole”

    tmitch57

    The above simply highlights what a muddle we get into when we debate who and who is not a terrorist, the best analysis imo is still one man’s terrorist is anothers freedom fighter.

    Whilst it is certainly true that not all units of the British army engaged in terrorism, the same could be said of the Wehrmacht and indeed the IRA.

    However what can be said about all three, they all used terror as a military tactic and in soe cases a strategy. Especially in the British case during the dog days of the British Empire. Recent revelations which came out in a court case about its conduct in Kenya proves that amongst other abominations a mau mau suspect was murdered by being by being roasted on a spit as if they were a piece of meat.

    Where ever the British army gets its boots on the ground of some poor sods country brutality and torture accompanies it
    In recent years it has been the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered, forgive me for saying so, but the whole point of war is to inflict terror on the enemy and that includes the civilian population

    By the way I would recommend the book Cruel Britannia to get an understanding of how ‘our boys’ really behave.