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.

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  • megatron

    I think I agree with nearly all of that Turgon (I wouldn’t use your terminology).

    However, I think at this stage prosecutions should no longer be pursued for political crimes (cue thatcher) prior to 1998.

    Strange night for me – supported man utd in the football and now agree with Turgon. Definitely time for bed.

  • Zig70

    Dogs in the street, groan. The truth is unionists won’t believe anything other than Adam’s guilt. Their pound of flesh for the troubles wrenched on their holy souls. They no little of what went on in West Belfast because they built up a fear of the savages and only now you hear of boul men venturing to the culterlann. We can hear the stories but not pretend to know more without forensic data.

  • Sp12

    Things that the dogs in the street know tend to vary depending on which side of the divide the interviewer hails from.
    We should really get a street dog in to do a guest blog rather than having people speak for them like this particular entry does.

  • Bell is, I’m sure, what Italian-American wiseguys would call a “stand up guy,” who will be happy to do his two years and keep his mouth shut. None of what he says on the tape about anyone else will be admissable unless he repeats it in open court. He won’t.

  • aquifer

    This is a small place to absorb the gory details of 3000 dead, so I would as soon leave these old men to their maker.

    70% voted to move on, the DUP should respect this.

    The Paisleyites sustained the Provos in their own way.

    The intransigent ying for the violent yang.

    Their street bullying and paramilitary posturing and collaboration demonstrated no principled objection to violence.

    Their fake moralism and cynicism on this is sickening.

    They tried to exclude hundreds of thousands of British citizens from government permanently. What do they think might happen in Glasgow or Birmingham if the same trick was attempted?

  • Politico68

    aquifer – your bang on the money there. Unfortunately it is too much for some people to ask them to let it go and move on, they have political agendas or just hate motivated vengence as rocket fuel and have no scruples on preying on the victims to use as a vehicle on their futile odyssey.

  • Morpheus

    What’s the thought process behind the statement that a truth process is pointless? From this piece it looks like that the author believes that because Price and Hughes didn’t say what he wants them to say therefore they are liars and so any truth process would obviously fail. If both Price and Hughes didn’t reveal anything even though they had the assurance that what they said was consequence-free and would not be published until after they are dead (even if that confidence was evidently misplaced) then surely that would have been a perfect opportunity to tell the truth? Is totally beyond the realms of possibility that what they said is true thus proving that a truth process does work?

    This “well I just know it’s true” and the “dog on the street know” argument has to stop in this country because political pressure and the hopes of the victims are unfairly raised by the ‘dogs on the streets’ and then they are dashed when the prosecution services don’t think what the dogs know is enough to secure a conviction.

    If an author has proof that a person is a liar then they must produce it and the anonymity of a fake name doesn’t take that responsibility away. This is one of the foremost political websites in Northern Ireland and it deserves better than what the dogs on the street know.

  • tacapall

    Enlightening post Turgon its an enigma how you can differentiate criminality from terrorism in murder Im sure those state victims families those who were killed in the Ormeau Rd bookies and the Devenish Arms wouldn’t agree with you. Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting murder, what part if any he played in Jean McConvilles murder I dont know, but I do know supplying the weapon or weapons that are used in murder is also aiding and abetting murder yet you claim one is terrorism. How do you work this out ?

  • Turgon

    I will deal with your comments in reverse order:

    On the issue of people telling untruths. Gerry Adams claimed to have sung a song which had not been written yet and also claimed to have had no contact with his brother despite photographs of them appearing together. The first is of no importance the second is. It is also worth noting that at Liam Adams’s second trial Gerry Adams was not called as he was not regarded as a witness of any value by either prosecution or defence.

    Turning to the dogs in the street comment: which is more important to the substance of what I was getting at.

    If you actually read the article you would see that I used the dogs in the street term only to dismiss it and point out that such concepts even if they were to be accurate and true are of no legal value.

    My whole point is that such street knowledge is of limited value and certainly of no value in court. Where it is relevant and of value is that Brendan “The Dark” Hughes is repeatedly celebrated as a successful “soldier” by his supporters with assorted tales of his having killed “the English oppressors” (actually usually working class boys from all over mainland GB).

    Despite these tales of supposed daring do being widely circulated amongst republicans and to an extent coroborated by journalists, when given the chance to tell all with no reprecussions, in actual fact he admitted to little more than being Adams’s tea boy.

    The point is that amnesties, truth processes etc. are shown on current evidence to be utterly useless in getting truth from the former terrorists about their previous actions and I suspect the same would apply to any agents of the state.

    As I said above read the article. That said I suspect you did and simply want to indulge in man playing.

  • Morpheus

    Man playing? Hardly. What I posted was a critique of your article and as far as I am aware that’s OK, that is the reason why you post on this debating website it isn’t it? For reference, I have read it from top to toe, in fact I read it last night and refrained from commenting until i re-read it this morning.

    You say that ‘street knowledge’ has limited value (I would suggest no value whatsoever) but then seem to be upset that Price/Hughes didn’t confirm your street knowledge by saying what you want them to say and go on to dismiss the possibility of a truth process being of any value as a result.

    ‘Street knowledge’ has no value whatsoever when it comes to securing convictions, what does have value is evidence and due process. Take these Boston Tapes for example, even though they were recorded as part of an academic exercise and were not soul-cleansing confessions they will still be used as a political football to say “even when they confess to things they still walk” and absolutely no consideration will be given to the fact that these tapes are next to worthless when it comes to securing convictions because they were not made under caution. The hopes of the McConville’s will be raised, a family which has been through enough and do not deserve it, just to fill column inches and gain political capital.

    My point is that we all, not just you, have a responsibility to leave the unverified and unverifiable ‘street knowledge’ at the door when it comes to publishing articles like this because it unfairly raises expectations. Go nuts after a conviction is secured by all means but in the mean time you do not have enough here to say that a truth process is pointless. It could have enormous benefits to the families of victims who will not see the inside of a courtroom and it should not be disregarded because in an academic project Hughes/Price did not confirm the ‘street knowledge’ that you think you have.

  • socaire

    PoI, turgon. This is not GB so it is misleading to speak of ‘mainland GB’ as opposed to the ‘colony’. And the ‘poor working class lads’ in the English army have always been used as cannon fodder.

  • Kevsterino

    I think that sincere and educated people will be arguing what is the truth about Gerry Adams well into the next century, much like folks in Kansas and Missouri still can’t agree upon the truth about John Brown, Jim Lane and William Quantrill.

    It is never going to be agreed. Get used to it.

  • Congal Claen

    PoI Socaire, what sort of ‘colony’ gets to send MPs to the ‘mother’ parliament?

  • DogInTheStreet

    The reality is, Adams will never be tried let alone convicted. It would be cutting the peace process head off the republican Minotaur. What would the purpose be? He would only serve two years and throw republicanism into spasms. It could even destabilize the state.

  • socaire

    ‘mother parliament’ is not my terminology and it’s only a few days since I saw the OED definition of ‘colony’ on these hallowed pages.So I will not withdraw,sir.

  • Zig70

    While I’d agree that a truth commission would just rake wounds, I still want to hear peoples versions of events. I’m all for a preGFA amnesty. Just because you won’t hear what you want is no reason to shut your ears. Unionists may find history is unkind to them if they allow the live history to die.

  • cynic2

    “Adams will never be tried let alone convicted.”

    Agreed ….he’s far too valuable to the uk so its ‘not in the public interest’ to prosecute

  • I think the paucity of Turgon’s analysis is aptly demonstrated by his claim that Anthony McIntyre told a “spectacular lie” about the 1993 Shankill Road Bombing. Here is the relevant passage from McIntyre’s blog article:

    “As such, there was every intention to kill on the day. The killing was to be restricted to the UFF leadership believed to be above the premises, not the non-combatants going about their daily business. I suspect the volunteers tasked with entering Frizzells were under instruction to be the last to leave the premises. A dodgy fuse put an end to that. Thomas Begley is dead and Sean Kelly, as far as I know, has yet to tell us what the instructions were. In any event, transferred malice secures little in the way of mitigation.”

    Note that McIntyre merely offers his opinion on what the bombers were instructed to do. He offers nothing more than what he “suspects” Begley and Kelly’s instructions were, and he probably bases that judgment on his own experience as an IRA volunteer. Thus, to say that this is a “spectacular lie” is at best an error by Turgon if not a blatant distortion.

    Indeed, the key theme of that particular article by Anthony McIntyre is not to justify the Shankill bombing, but to examine the ruthlessness and futile destructiveness of both the PIRA’s campaign and the British counterinsurgency. This is clear from the following paragraph:

    “Twenty years removed, it seems incredible that political conflict could have induced such destructiveness in us. That even where we did not intend to wipe out a civilian population we chose to risk doing so in pursuit of some short term military objective. I suppose it was something we shared with the RUC and UDR personnel behind many of the 120 Mid Ulster killings between 1972 and 1976.”

    As a regular reader of and contributor to Anthony McIntyre’s Pensive Quill blog, I know that there are few more persuasive critics from within Irish republicanism of the physical force tradition:

    In the end, Turgon’s spurious allegations damages his/her credibility a great deal more than it does Anthony McIntyre’s.

  • Turgon

    Thank you for coming on as it allows us more effectively to detail McIntyre’s lying. Let us remember that the Shankill Fish Shop bombing was exactly that: the bombing of a fish shop on the Shankill Road. Later we had added by the IRA as an explanation / excuse the fact that the UDA or UVF (it matters little which lot) met in a room above the shop.

    Now McIntrye reiterates the claim that the fish shop bomb was to kill loyalists in the room above. However, common sense demonstrates that just because this room was used by loyalists does not mean it was used continuously.

    The chances that loyalist terrorists would have been in the room on a Saturday afternoon would have been low. The chances that a fish shop would on the other hand be full of people on a Saturday afternoon would be 100%. The chances that a fish shop on the Shankill Road would be full of Protestants on a Saturday afternoon would also be 100%.

    Then on the fuse claims none of the witnesses who survived said that the IRA men were trying to evacuate the shop.

    The whole loyalists issue was an attempted smokescreen to try (rather poorly) to hide a sectarian murder bid. McIntyre’s lies are simply an addition of a bit more colour to the lie.

    The point is that this was a sectarian murder bid by a pair of Republican bigots. In his attempts to justify or minimise the culpability of the terrorists McIntyre has shown that he is a liar as well as a sectarian bigot. That said we did not need his lies to demonstrate that he is a sectarian bigot and murderer. He has already provided ample evidence of that.

    What your defence of him suggests about you I will leave others to think on. Still thanks for allowing an opportunity to analyse McIntyre a little further and thanks for demonstrating your own views so well.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Socaire,

    The term COLONIAL is explained by the OED as “Of, belonging to, or relating to a colony, or (spec.) the British colonies; in American history, of or belonging to the thirteen British colonies which became the United States, or to the time while they were still colonies. Now freq. derogatory.”

    The American Revolutionaries claimed their fight was exactly because there was taxation with no representation. Which rather makes my point…

  • Reader

    Alfie: Note that McIntyre merely offers his opinion on what the bombers were instructed to do. He offers nothing more than what he “suspects” Begley and Kelly’s instructions were, and he probably bases that judgment on his own experience as an IRA volunteer.
    In case you doubt Turgon’s analysis of the motives of the bombing, let me point out that the collapse of McIntyre’s credibility doesn’t depend on that – it is sufficient to note that his suggestion that the bombers were to be the last out of the building (and on to the – crowded – Shankill Road!) is utterly incredible, without precedent. Brain dead in fact.
    Goodness knows why McIntyre was willing to sacrifice his reputation for being forthright. Loyalty to a new dissident compadre? A last twitch of the omerta reflex?

  • Turgon,

    Again, you’re missing the point. Anthony McIntyre wrote that he “suspects” the bombers’ instructions were to shout a warning while running from Frizzel’s fish shop after having priming the device. Even if he is wrong in this belief, that does not make him a liar. To demonstrate your claim, you would have to produce at least some evidence that McIntyre believes no such thing at all. You have not done so.

    Indeed, if you had read the comments following the article to which you refer, you would have seen that McIntyre does indeed acknowledge that the PIRA’s carrying out such a high-risk bombing does suggest a wilful disregard for the people of Shankill and perhaps even a degree of sectarianism. Robert, a unionist and member of the Orange Order who regularly posts in the comments section of the Pensive Quill, argued that there was a “deeply sectarian nature” to the Shankill Road bombing. Here is McIntyre’s response:

    “The difficulty with your view is that from an IRA perspective it is conceivable that the operation could have went right. The shop could have been cleared in time and the targets hit (had they ever been in the place to begin with). The people who went into the shop (unless deliberately set up and sacrificed) obviously felt they would get out with their lives. They would have been told (in my experience and understanding) to clear the shop and bolt out, not leave people in it to be killed. It would probably be better for everybody looking at this to have a better understanding of the debates and discussion that were taking place within republicanism at the time, the responses to this operation, the type of constraints imposed on operations. The notion that the volunteers on the day were told to go in and get out and let the devil take the hindmost doesn’t have a purchase with me because I have some knowledge of how these things work. It didn’t suit the Provisional leadership at that time to have that sort of disaster landed on its lap. There is an attitudinal distinction between the Shankill bombing and say Whitecross, where the deliberate intent in the latter was to slaughter an unarmed civilian population.

    “Where the sectarian argument might have a stronger case is in the degree of disregard. Would we have taken the same risk on the Falls? Then again we did manage to kill two Catholics in a bomb attack on the British Army at the Falls baths about 1988. As bad as that was we can hardly describe it as sectarian.”

    Of course, Anthony McIntyre’s judgment on this matter could well be wrong, but that does not make him a liar. Besides, there is some evidence that he is correct. For instance, you claim that “[t]he chances that loyalist terrorists would have been in the room on a Saturday afternoon would have been low.” On the contrary, UDA leaders were known to have had regular meetings on Saturdays in the West Belfast UDA headquarters located in an office above the shop. Indeed, as Andrew Silke notes,

    “[Johnny] Adair himself supports the IRA claims that the bombers genuinely believed he was in the building. He would later recall: ‘I know what happened. They spotted me going in earlier. There was someone on that road . . . who witnessed me and Winkie Dodds going in.'”

    You argue that civilians were deliberately targeted because none of the survivors heard the bombers issue a warning. However, it seems that the bomb detonated just after Thomas Begley placed it on the refrigerated serving counter in Frizzel’s. It is likely that it exploded the instant Begley primed the bomb. Thus, if the bombers had intended to warn the bystanders, they never had an opportunity to do so.

    Finally, the bomb itself seems to have been designed to explode upwards in order to minimise damage beyond the building itself. Indeed, a senior member of the security forces quoted in Eamonn Mallie and David McKittrick’s “The Fight for Peace” claimed that “[t]he difference between that [the Shankill bombing] being a disaster and a stunning success in IRA terms was very marginal. The bomb was designed to direct the blast upwards, and it did—in the fruit shop next door the rows of oranges were hardly disturbed.”

    None of this is to justify the Shankill bombing, an act which I condemn as terrorism. Indeed, I would say the same thing about all of the PIRA’s bombing of commercial targets. I consider myself an opponent of the PIRA’s offensive campaign against British forces, though I do believe that certain defensive actions were justified. I also agree with Anthony McIntyre position that it makes more sense to offer mitigation for the PIRA’s actions rather than justification.

    If that makes either of us sectarian bigots in your eyes, then so be it.

    PS. Here is a link to Andrew Silke’s analysis of the Shankill Road bombing:

    The article was originally published in the journal “Studies In Conflict & Terrorism” in 2003

  • Turgon

    “Again, you’re missing the point.”

    No I see the point entirely: you actually have two points. One is to try to minimise the disgusting sectarian murder of the Shankill Road and the other is an attempt to suggest that McIntrye is anything other than a sectarian extremist, murderer and liar.

    I am not missing the point at all. I am rejecting it as the sectarian lie that it is.

  • Turgon,

    Well, I guess that, in your case, the following adage applies:

    “What was not reasoned in cannot be reasoned out.”

  • Turgon

    No Alfie the case is that here on slugger unlike on the Pretentious Quill a bitter twisted sectarian bigot and murderer can be described for what he is and his lies exposed without him having ability to control the debate.

    Do drop in again next time you feel the need to support the likes of McIntrye or maybe if we are lucky the quill himself might turn up.

  • Turgon,

    Unless your parents were obsessive fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, I presume that you are using a pseudonym. If you are going to call someone a liar without proof, don’t you think you should have the courage of your convictions and do so under your real name?

    Just a thought.

  • Turgon

    “If you are going to call someone a liar without proof”

    From memory in court McIntrye denied murder and IRA membership: things he now admits to. As such I think we have proof from the horse’s mouth that he is a liar. That is long before we get to the novel suggestion to get the Prods out before the Shankill fish shop bomb went off.

    If McIntyre wishes to sue me for libel I would be happy to get a solicitor and arrange instruction of counsel. I doubt I would end up loosing my house.

  • Turgon,

    Wow. So let me get this straight. Having failed miserably to prove your original allegation, you have decided to return to a trial that occurred nearly forty years when Anthony McIntyre was a teenager. Are you that desperate?

    Anyway, your memory is as dodgy as your arguments. As McIntyre himself points out, he and his co-accused refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the British court when they were tried in 1977. Thus, they received much longer sentences than they otherwise would have.

    Alas, I am sure McIntyre’s word is not good enough for you, so feel free to trawl through the court records to prove me wrong.

    Incidentally, I do find it odd for you to foam at the mouth about Anthony McIntyre’s teenage paramilitary activities when you previously tied yourself in knots on Slugger in order to make excuses for double murderer Hazel Stewart.

    Carlsberg don’t do hypocrisy, but you sure as hell do!

  • Raymonds Back

    Does anybody else find it amusing that Gerry Adams has basically asked the PSNI for an OTR letter for himself in relation ot the Jean McConville case? I mean, you have to admire his brass neck …

  • Turgon

    I have not failed to prove my original allegation. McIntrye himself proved it when he started telling his lies. I have pointed out his assorted lies. You can only believe he is telling the truth if you think the IRA routinely tried to avoid casualties. The assorted terrorist outrages demonstrate that those are utter lies.

    Seriously listen to yourself. You are willing to agree with an individual who tried to suggest that the IRA terrorists who committed the Shankill fish shop atrocity tried to get the victims out. You then went on to try to suggest that the bomb was some sort of shaped charge designed to explode upwards and then that Anthony McIntyre is an individual of honesty and integrity.

    I am pointing out that McIntyre is a murderer and a liar. It is also abject nonsense to suggest that a home made bomb placed in a room can be made to produce blast going predominantly upwards.

    McIntyre destroyed his credibility with his ill-advised comments about the IRA murderers. As Reader said above it is unclear why he did this but that is what he did.

    If you wish to continue down this line you are free to do so but all you are doing is highlighting McIntyre’s dishonesty and I am afraid your own.

    What is desperate here is your defence of McIntyre.

  • Turgon,

    “You then went on to try to suggest that the bomb was some sort of shaped charge designed to explode upwards … It is also abject nonsense to suggest that a home made bomb placed in a room can be made to produce blast going predominantly upwards.”

    Clearly you did not read my comments properly. If you had done so, you would know that the claim about the bomb’s design is not my own suggestion; it was made by a senior member of the security services quoted by Eamonn Mallie and David McKittrick on p.198 of their book “The Fight For Peace”. But I guess everyone who disagrees with you is a sectarian, pathological liar.

    Given that you refuse to engage in reasonable debate, this will be my last comment on this matter. Let me finish by expressing my astonishment that someone as daft as yourself has managed to become a regular contributor to Slugger O’Toole.

    Anyway, I do not intend to waste my time on this thread any longer. In retrospect, I really ought to have followed Robert Heinlein’s advice:

    “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

  • Turgon

    I did read the comments and whether or not Mallie or McKittrick made them and whether or not they came from “a senior member of the security services” they make no sense. IEDs (home made bombs) are rudimentary devices. Even if it had been a military bomb carefully placed with some magic ability despite being a hand held bomb to direct blast upwards it would have had the same effect. Even had blast being going predominantly upwards since that would have brought the ceiling, roof etc. of the building down it would have had a lethal effect in the shop. The real world is not a Hollywood movie. If explosions happen people die: often in large numbers.

    I am happy to engage in reasonable debate. That does not mean I will necessarily agree with your assertions. That is a difference you fail to grasp. Further I will not accept fantastic comments whether they come from you, Eammon Mallie or Anthony McIntyre. I certainly will not accept that McIntyre says that he thinks it likely that the IRA terrorists would have tried to evacuate the shop. That is simply so unlikely as to have been silly. That he bases his argument upon it moves his argument from silly to dishonest and lying.

    It is indeed unfortunate for people like you that I have become a regular contributor on slugger. It is a misfortune visited upon you and like minded people for a number of years. Sorry about that.

  • Rab12345

    Anthony McIntyre is a murderer of the worst kind.
    He shot four people outside a bar in Donegall Pass, killing one and seriously inuring three.
    Ken Leneghan, the man he murdered was in the UVF, but that was through chance not by design on McIntyre’s part. The other three fellas were civilians.
    When McIntyre was taken to court he laughed in the face of Ken Leneghan’s wife and young family. This was reported widely in the papers at the time. He was referred to as “the laughing killer”.
    The man is the Provo equivalent of Torrens Knight. How he has built a media career I will never know.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    I don’t write off the possibility of the bomb being designed to blast upwards.

    We all know that the Provos were quite adept at that sort of thing (yes, ‘killing people’, before anyone wants to interject at my short and cold appraisal).

    This competence though is perhaps the undoing of the minimising civilian casualties idea though.

    From what I can gather (through reading this page only, my knowledge on the matter is limited) the plan was PERHAPS in theory a case of:

    1/ Go in

    2/ Prime bomb

    3/ Remove civilians from shop

    4/ Hope that people upstairs (the primary targets of the ‘mission’) don’t notice

    5/ Try not to get torn to pieces by the crowd outside

    i.e.Quite an amateurish plan from such well oiled terrorist machine.

    Point 3 undermines point 4, which is the PRIMARY objective of the mission, so, point 3 is to all intents and purposes ‘collateral damage’.

    Or, depending on the bigotry level of some Provos and their supporters ‘bonus points’.

    My scout leaders were UDR and as such we all had to take precautions such as searching under the car for we all knew that we, children, were considered ‘collateral’ in the eyes of the Provos (a point confirmed when a Scout leader’s toddler nephew fell beside his car which lead to the discovery of a bomb)

    Now I DON’T believe that ALL IRA men were prod hating maniacs.

    I believe that the circumstances and madness of that time and period made ordinary men do horrendous things but I don’t for a minute swallow the ‘military target only’ bullshit that is bandied about by IRA apologists (and I’m not insinuating that you do either BTW I note your condemnation of the act and opposition to the Provos’ campaign).

    The people of NI ‘ are so similar that as some one pointed out recently they are in effect mirror images of each other living in isolation.

    And I know how bigoted some people on one side of this reflection are which makes it impossible for me to believe that their opposite numbers didn’t make their way into a theatre of operations that would provide the opportunity to kill a prod or ten.

    So I have an understandable degree of skepticism regarding anyone’s claim that the IRA were trying to minimise Protestant casualties especially when they can be palmed off as ‘collateral damage’:

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “I certainly will not accept that McIntyre says that he thinks it likely that the IRA terrorists would have tried to evacuate the shop.”


    There, I said it!

  • Am Ghobsmacht,

    Damn. I know I said that my previous comment on this thread would be my final one, but you seem like a reasonable fellow. So here it goes.

    The point I was trying to make is that even if Anthony McIntyre was wrong about the bombers’ intentions, that does not necessarily make him a liar. I have known Anthony for about four years now since I began to comment on TPQ articles in late 2010. Whatever objections one might have against his analyses, I fail to see how one could find them dishonest. Personally, I think it is more likely that the bombers would have shouted a warning rather than attempted to clear the shop at gunpoint. I could be wrong of course, just as Anthony could be wrong. That does not mean we are liars though.

    In relation to the PIRA’s bombing campaign and the statistical certainty of civilians being killed by it, I think you have a point. Indeed, it is one I have made myself in discussions with republicans who still seek to justify those operations. Republican bombing campaigns took unacceptable and unnecessary risks with civilian lives and to target civilians who worked for the British army, such as in Teebane, was reprehensible. Indeed, one could argue that at times the PIRA behaved as indiscriminately as the IDF do in Gaza and the West Bank. Indeed, the Provos accepted a high level of “collateral damage” in many of their bomb attacks – just as the IDF does and has done.

    That being said, the claim that republicans systematically targeted Protestant civilians during the Troubles is problematic. Indeed, taken together with the mounting evidence of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British forces, the following statistics suggest that Republicans generally behaved better than their opponents:

    Civilian Victims from Political Violence, 1969-1998:
    Civilian Deaths as Percentage of Deaths by this Agency:
    Security Forces : 54.4 %
    Republicans: 35.6 %
    Loyalists: 87.2 %
    (Calculated by Liam O Ruairc on the basis of Marie Therese Fay, Mike Morrissey and Marie Smyth, Mapping Troubles-Related Deaths in Northern Ireland 1969-1998, INCORE (University of Ulster & The United Nations University), Second edition with amendments reprinted 1998, Table 1.2 Political Status of Victims by Organisations Responsible for Deaths)

    Going back to the Shankill bombing, it is true that the modus operandi of the bombers does seem astonishingly reckless when viewed in isolation. The PIRA’s rationale only makes sense when one considers the context in which the bombing took place. There was a huge increase in sectarian killings by loyalists in 1993 and the PIRA came under intense pressure from its own supporters to respond. The Shankill Road bombing was actually the fifth attempt by the PIRA to kill Johnny Adair, the most notorious loyalist paramilitary at that time. Indeed, Andrew Silke makes the point that the bombing was “the third attempt the IRA had made in 1993 to kill this man—attempts that had grown increasingly risky (both for the perpetrators and for bystanders) in the face of continuing failure.”

    Certainly the bombers were putting themselves and the civilians on the Shankill Road that day at huge risk. However, given that at least one of the bombers had a handgun, that they benefited from the element of surprise and that a getaway car waited for them just around the corner from Frizzel’s on Berlin St, the claim that they intended to issue some kind of warning before escaping is plausible.

    If the PIRA leaders in Belfast had wanted to blow Frizzel’s and everyone inside it to smithereens, why did they put two of their men in such grave danger when they could easily have planted a massive car bomb right outside the shop and detonated it remotely? Though I doubt very much that Gerry Adams cares about anything other than his own political career, I think Anthony’s point – that it “didn’t suit the Provisional leadership at that time to have that sort of disaster landed on its lap” – is a persuasive one. The Big Lad may not give a shit about civilians on the Shankill Road, but he does not like bad press.

    OK. That really is it for me on this issue. (Christ, I hope it is anyway!)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Howdy Alfie

    Don’t worry, I’ve no intention of turning this into a marathon posting session (believe it or not).

    I understood your point about the difference between not knowing and lying, I’ve no qualms with that.

    “In relation to the PIRA’s bombing campaign and the statistical certainty of civilians being killed by it, I think you have a point. Indeed, it is one I have made myself in discussions with republicans who still seek to justify those operations.”

    Just thought it best to highlight that point as you’ll probably need it, I have a funny feeling this thread won’t finish anytime soon…

    As for the Provos’ campaign, well, I’m sure it’ll pop up again on this site and I’m off to work tomorrow so I’m withdrawing on that front for the time being.

    Your last paragraph is definitely food for thought.

    But as for:
    “OK. That really is it for me on this issue. (Christ, I hope it is anyway!)”

    As my mate from Derry says whenever I try to bail early on a night out: “Here! You’re not going anywhere son!!”

  • Turgon

    You do not get away that easily here on slugger. If you introduce concepts they get challenged. You challenged mine now I challenge yours.

    The list of civilian deaths by the IRA is completely disingenuous. We have had this sort of thing on slugger before.

    The problem is that ex security forces members are counted as security forces in those analyses which includes people who had retired years before. They were civilians.

    Next most of the security forces members murdered were off duty. For example of the people killed at the Enniskillen bomb it reports one as RUC which is technically correct but he was there in his capacity as a civilian.

    Then we have the fact that IRA victims who were members of the mainland GB police are classed as security forces. Were England, Scotland and Wales not allowed policing?

    Also reported as security forces were the soldiers in Germany who were murdered.

    Once those numbers (there were very large numbers of them especially off duty security forces) are removed the numb of times the IRA killed actively engaged security forces was very low.

    The reality is that those statistics “flatter” the IRA. In actual fact murdering Prods was part and parcel of the whole IRA campaign. Also of course most people here of all sides regarded murdering members of the security forces as completely wrong.

    Then on the idea that the IRA wanted to minimise civilian causalities or else they would have used a big car bomb outside the shop. Utter rubbish. If you look at Claudy less people were killed by each bomb. At Omagh despite a very large bomb the mass casualties were only “achieved” by having the people moved towards the car with the bomb.

    To be fair this is a point often misunderstood when talking about the actual mechanics of IRA terrorism. The point is that IRA bombs were usually relatively small and crude even the Semtex ones. The car bombs were large but the explosives not especially powerful as compared to commercial or military explosives. In most bombs most of the deaths were caused not by the blast but by falling rubble etc. These were not military type explosives. For example at Enniskillen the bomb was carefully placed to knock down the building against which the civilian attendees traditionally stood. The bomb blast did not kill the victims it was the wall which the bomb knocked down. The IRA appear to have been well aware of the limitations of their bombs. As such planting the bomb in the shop was a mechanism for maximising not minimising civilian casualties.

  • It is complete and utter tosh to say that the IRA tried to minimize casualties. And it didn’t matter a whit to them were the casualties Catholic, Protestant or any other religion or none. I myself might have been killed in the Oxford Street bus station bomb if it had occurred minutes later.

  • Terry B

    Mister_Joe, your claims above are in fact a load of tosh. Take, for example, your old home town of Strabane which was once described as the most bombed town in the North at one point. How many civilians were killed by IRA bombs during that period in Strabane? One person Joe, of course one person too many but I would suggest that if your claim had any traction the numbers would be significantly higher. If, as you claim, the IRA weren’t interested in minimising civilian casualties why then did they even give bomb warnings. Facts might not sit well with you on this but don’t expect the rest of us to buy into your utter tosh.

  • Charles_Gould

    Good points Turgon.

  • Reader

    Terry B: One person Joe, of course one person too many but I would suggest that if your claim had any traction the numbers would be significantly higher. If, as you claim, the IRA weren’t interested in minimising civilian casualties why then did they even give bomb warnings.
    Sort of correct. “minimising” isn’t really the right word – ‘managing” may be more appropriate. The thing is to keep an eye on the support base – when they are sickened, give better warnings; when they are angry, make the warnings later and more vague. When the potential victims are mostly Prods and the support base is very angry (e.g. La Mon, Enniskillen) then there is no need for any warning at all.
    So, given that the IRA managed their campaign effectively and fine tuned their warnings, the number of civilian casualties in the long run is just what the IRA wanted.
    And when the potential support base was terminally sickened, we got the peace process.