Boston College tapes unlikely to lead Adams to gaol but suggest any truth process is pointless

The arrest and charging of Ivor Bell has been covered already on Slugger and below Mick has mentioned the fact that Gerry Adams has made himself available to questioning by the PSNI. Although the McConville family remain hopeful many have suggested that it is inconceivable that Adams will be prosecuted.

Adams has repeatedly denied that he had anything to do with Jean McConville’s murder just as he has denied that he was ever in the IRA. He has also claimed that he was estranged from his paedophile brother and that he went around gaol singing songs which had not even been written yet. The dogs in the street may know that Adams was involved in Jean McConville’s murder, Bloody Friday and LaMon but that is not evidence and it is most assuredly not a criminal standard of proof. Sinn Fein’s defence of Adams has been that those recently accusing him of involvement in Mrs. McConville’s murder are mad, alcoholics, demented, anti peace process etc. The problem for the many anti SF voices is that regarding those individuals they have a point.

Those most prominent in accusing Adams of the murder of Jean McConville have included Dolours Price who was a convicted terrorist; an alcoholic with a history of mental illness who may well have committed suicide and was latterly vehemently opposed to Adams’s political positions. That does not make her by definition a liar but if she had still been alive it would have given a putative Adams’s defence council a field day in terms of cross examination.

Brendan Hughes on the other hand may not have had the personal mental health issues of Price but was known to be totally opposed to Adams’s political direction. Furthermore even after his death when he could not have been prosecuted he was unwilling to divulge anything of substance about his career as a committed terrorist (freedom fighter in his own terms). In tapes which he believed (correctly in his case) would only be released after his death he had the opportunity to extol (in his analysis) his brilliance as a guerilla fighter to a fellow “soldier”. Given this opportunity, however, Hughes may (very probably correctly) have identified Adams as head of the IRA in Belfast but told nothing of substance about the feared Brendan “The Dark” Hughes and his activities. He appears to have admitted to being little more than Adams’s tea boy. A man who even in death could not tell the truth of his activities is not one whose word on much could have been taken seriously: certainly not in a court of law.

Sinn Fein and Adams even have a point about the interviewer. Anthony McIntyre is again a terrorist murderer who recently came out with the quite spectacular lie that the Shankill fish shop murderers would have been trying to evacuate the Prods they “accidentally” blew up. As such trying to pretend he was or is a beacon of truth or potentially reliable interviewer is complete idiocy. He is an unrepentant murderer and liar and again in court it would hardly need a top QC to demonstrate him a completely unreliable witness. In McIntyre’s case refusing to cooperate with the courts might be as much about preserving what little credibility he can rather than any “higher” motives of loyalty to any academic, journalistic or republican principles.

Many, myself very definitely included, would love to see Adams convicted over criminality and the murder of Mrs. McConville would be an excellent example. However, thus far the revelations of the Boston tapes do not seem to justify any such optimism. The Bell tape may be more useful and enlightening: we will have to wait and see but thus far the precedents are far from encouraging.

What these tapes do expose, however, is the uselessness of any possible truth process. Even when assured that their comments would not be used until after death (incorrectly as it turns out in some cases) terrorists including those apparently most proud of, and loyal to “the armed struggle” were completely incapable of telling the truth of their actions. Apart from admitting to driving Mrs. McConville, Price revealed nothing and Hughes apart from naming his former friend Adams revealed nothing.

The same issue prevails on the loyalist side with David Ervine revealing nothing of substance apart from his antipathy to the likes of Billy Wright (hardly news). In the context of a man who could not tell the truth even with the shroud of death to protect him why should anyone believe his claims about knowing colour of unionist politicians’ wallpaper. Again like Price and Hughes, Ervine had reasons to attack and tell lies about those with whom he disagreed politically.

Self evidently the same analysis also applies to any members of the security forces involved in criminal collusion etc. Presumably it might be slightly easier to obtain information about their activities due to the state keeping records but it is most unlikely that any colluding agents of the state would be any more forthcoming about criminality than the assorted terrorists.

It is in this context of complete dishonesty about their own actions even from beyond the grave by all those who might be able to shed light on the past that any truth process should be considered. Ironically this dishonesty and disingenuousness even extends to those who have tried producing proposals regarding dealing with the past. Dennis Bradley has recently claimed that even whilst he was producing his and Eames’s report which proposed attempted prosecutions (though with a built in failure mechanism) he knew about the effective amnesties for the “on the runs.” Jarlath Burns broke confidences to make scurrilous claims about unionist politicians and when challenged to put up or shut up promptly did the latter. Eames on the other hand has recently crawled back into public view to mouth some meaningless platitudes. It appears that even the process of considering a truth process makes otherwise apparently honest individuals duplicitous, disingenuous and maybe even dishonest. Truly truth and reconciliation seems to corrupt all whom it touches.

The recent arrest of Bell might lead towards some justice for the McConville family though I am dubious that any supporters of the process will be convicted. The Boston College tapes might have some beneficial effect. However, thus far they show the complete uselessness of expecting terrorists to talk openly about their actions even when offered the apparent cast iron guarantee of the amnesty of death. Rather those interviews have continued a life of lies and bigotry to the grave and beyond. In that sense McIntyre’s work as interviewer has been most useful: it has shown that even in front of one of their own with the defence of the grave the three terrorists whose comments have thus far become known have told us nothing about their activities: certainly nothing which might help any victims or society. As such, so far, the tapes demonstrate the utter folly of believing that any truth process would be of any use whatsoever whatever amnesties were offered.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.