“If there was a hierarchy of the victims of the Troubles, #TheDisappeared were at the bottom…”

…So Darragh McIntyre begins a truly haunting evocation of the plight of the families of those killed mostly by the IRA and disappeared… You can pick it up here on the RTE Player and here on the iPlayer…

I’d recommend watching it in full, but for now, two indicative passages. This one, in which former south Armagh IRA man Martin McAllister outs the rumour mill around post execution citings of disappeared victims as a way of stealing some grace for a deed they knew would be indefensible in the eyes of local people…

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And here, where towards the end of being challenged directly on the killing and disappearing of two men McCallister has already admitted were carried out by the local IRA, Adams uses exactly the defence outlined by McCallister above, ie that “people go off. People disappear. People bring back reports of having seen such and such a person”.

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It’s hard to shake off the thought watching #TheDisappeared that living through those distorted times, forced many good people to abandon more settled and generous values that an older generation retained, in spite the trauma of those early years.

In terms of what it means for Gerry Adams, and the rest of us forced to treat his various political fictions as though they were robust statements of truth it is hard to go beyond Fintan O’Toole’s oped in the Irish Times today:

It matters a great deal, on both sides of the Border. In the North, Adams’s stubborn fictions make impossible something that Sinn Féin itself repeatedly and rightly demands – a proper accounting by all the actors in the conflict for the deaths they inflicted.

That right belongs to the families of the 11 people in Ballymurphy killed by the British army in August 1971, to those Catholics murdered as a result of collusion between security forces and loyalist killers, to the families of the Disappeared – to everyone, without distinction.

That accounting simply can’t happen while a key political force is led by a man who refuses even to admit that he is Gerry Adams.
It matters in the South too. Sinn Féin is now a highly significant, and in many ways constructive part of the democratic process.

That process desperately needs a radical renewal based on accountability, honesty and morality. It can’t function if those demands apply to everyone except the leader of a party that insists on holding everyone else to account while maintaining a cult-like adherence to an obvious lie.