If Gerry Adams was ever immune, that immunity has now been lifted. What next?

The Adams arrest raises acute questions about a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past I discussed just before the news broke. Depending on the outcome, the prospects could go either way. The cry of selective or one sided justice from one side produces an inevitable echo. Justice all round is unlikely to become better served, neither are truth or political relations.

If the PSNI draw a blank, we’re where we were. If they don’t, we enter the unknown. A heavy burden is placed  on the  operational  independence of the police, greater, I believe than they should be asked to bear. Gerry Adams is not just another suspect. He was effective precisely because of his links with the IRA. not  in spite of them, even though his  denial of membership exposed him to the bitter criticism of some old comrades which Sinn Fein is having  difficulty in shrugging off.  Perhaps now, his reason for coyness is clearer. The challenge is to prove it.

In purely IRA terms, was the “execution” of Mrs McConville a valid part of the armed struggle? Where is the evidence that she was an informer? The balance of evidence which public opinion seems to have  endorsed, is that she wasn’t. Should whoever was responsible  pay a penalty or continue to be forgiven? Gerry Adams’ reputation with his own supporters is being tested as never before.  Nobody will deny that  he and Martin McGuinness were  granted de facto immunity  in order to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement.  Granted that this was part of constructive ambiguity but it was clear enough. On its own the public line on membership may hold but linked to the McConville  murder it has become a different matter. If Adams was ever immune, that immunity has now been lifted. The next question is whether it is in the public interest to go after others. It can be argued that the very success of the Agreement makes immunity no longer necessary. On the other hand, should tacit  understandings once reached, ever be broken?

I’m glad to see that  the local media haven’t gone into complete purdah over of the arrest.  Courtesy of Newshound, I see the US media have been prepared to speculate on the fall-out. The Boston Globe makes the link with the Boston tapes and carries comment from Ed Moloney:

Moloney said the arrest of Adams was inevitable after Belfast authorities questioned a number of people about McConville’s death in the last couple of months. It was no surprise that this has happened; in fact, I was surprised that it had taken so long,” Moloney said Wednesday in a telephone interview. As for other men and women interviewed by authorities recently about McConville’s death, Moloney said they would have been in their early teens at the time of the killing, too young for the IRA to have trusted them with significant roles.

“The PSNI seem to be plowing fairly sparse ground,” said Moloney.

Adams’s name nevertheless carries significant weight and changes the tenor of the investigation, Moloney said, though he doubts the head of Sinn Féin will face charges. It’s going to be very difficult to level a charge against him, because all the evidence is indirect,” Moloney said. The greater issue for Moloney is that surrender of the oral history tapes will chill similar research in the future.

“The damage is done,” he said. “The whole process of conducting academic research in the United States of America on sensitive subjects with confidential sources has been dealt a death blow by the Obama Department of Justice.”

He later added: “It’s a disaster in Ireland, as well, because it means people are not now willing to sit down in front of a tape recorder and tell the truth about what happened. “

This may well be true foreseeably unless the former IRA belatedly split into factions, one of which turns on Gerry Adams. History suggests that they’ll rally round, whatever happens.

The Washington Post carries “five key questions” from Henry Farrell a political scientist at Georgetown University, beginning with:

What are the consequences for peace in Northern Ireland?

Very hard to say. A lot will depend on how Sinn Fein and the IRA (which is intimately associated with Sinn Fein) react.

You can say that again…and he might have added, on what happens to Mr Adams.

The influential Irish American journalist and lobbyist Niall O’Dowd jumps in at the deep end without any doubts, it seems.

Thanks to the ill-conceived Boston College oral history project the spooks now have another ream of tapes full of allegations from long ago that cannot possibly be proven, mostly from people who are now dead.

Take a bow BC, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre – you have done a wonderful job on behalf of British spookdom allowing them to whip up a whole new round of empty charges.

Meanwhile, nothing on the nationalist side. The Pat Finucane murder? No action.

The Loughinisland Massacre during the 1994 World Cup game between Ireland and Italy? No action.

And so the charge of one sided justice has surfaced already over the Adams case. It will be interesting to see if the Irish American lobby (if such a body still exists) will follow O’Dowd in offering him virtually unconditional support support.

At home, the potential for divisive impact hardly needs stressing.



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  • Son of Strongbow

    Don’t touch the Shinners, or the ‘peace process’ gets it!

  • Charles_Gould

    Have you seen Ed Moloney’s piece here: according to him Gerry Adams wants this arrest, its part of his most audacious move to date:



  • Barnshee

    Its to an extent a slam dunk for Gerry there is no proof -unless someone else coughs up –he is out

    They can’t prove it— so Gerry did not do it
    What do the dogs in the street make of it ?

    Will it affect Gerry Vote in the ROI ? -hardly -will probably improve it

  • between the bridges

    The message to SF/IRA is clear, back off or reap what you sow…Of course there is always the chance that Martyr requested help in his on going battle with Jarry…

  • Morpheus

    GA is not stupid – he knows full well that in every interview during the election cycle he will be asked about Jean McConville. What he has done is go through the process of being arrested and interviewed – more than likely for the maximum number of hours the PSNI can legally hold him for – and at the end of it all he will be able to walk out and say “I was arrested, questioned, helped the police with their inquires and released without charge, next question”

    He probably wanted all this to happen 4 weeks ago

  • zep

    I agree with you Morpheus – but given that Gerry chose to go to Antrim, then we have to assume it’s happening exactly when he wanted it to happen.

  • zep

    As for Niall O’Dowd’s ‘new round of empty charges’ – America is lucky to have such an oracle on their turf who knows the guilty and the innocent without recourse to investigation. It’s a wonder they even need a courts system at all in the US when they have him to adjudicate on who should and should not be arrested.

    Brendan Hughes would probably disagree on the ’empty’ bit too, were he still around.

  • Lionel Hutz

    At the serious crime unit, he could find himself there for a week.

  • Released without charge is not a State declaration that Mr Adams is innocent. It is just an admission that there is not enough evidence to charge him at that point in time. The fact that there was enough evidence to arrest him and then question him is damaging. I cannot see any upside of this for the bearded one who is suffering from chronic amnesia. You can spin all you want but I doubt SF are celebrating.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Sometimes, people talk about Sinn Fein as if they have this supernatural ability to control everything that happens to them. But they don’t. They’re just good at flexibly changing the narrative to accommodate unforeseen events.

    So Sinn Fein will do their best with this but ultimately, their party leader was just arrested in connection with a murder. Some things cannot be spun.

  • Morpheus

    I said the same thing to the Mrs last night zep – why go all the way to Antrim for a pre-arranged appointment when Belfast, as an example, is just up the road.

  • zep

    Of course they are celebrating – it reinforces their credentials in ‘harder’ areas, will generate a sympathy vote from those who don’t know or care about the detail, and (assuming he isn’t charged with anything) will give him the perfect ‘out’ for future awkward questions about the issue.

  • zep

    Morpheus – maybe he had some returns to drop off at Junction One?

  • Mirrorballman

    “Released without charge is not a State declaration that Mr Adams is innocent.”

    Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”??

    GA doesn’t need a declaration of his innocence from the state. Unless they charge and then convict him, he is innocent.

  • To answer, the title of this page “what next?” I would imagine a certain DFM has not slept well last night.

  • Granni Trixie

    Ed Moloney has a brass neck …it is he who has messed up in conducting the research…leading to this outcome.

    Universities in Ni and presumably elsewhere have had to develop ethical rules for dealing with research problems such as turned up in the Boston project. As a journalist he seems to have been ignorant of how academics operate. I think he assumed he was dealing with a special case above the usual law.

  • Morpheus

    I don’t think SF will be celebrating zep, this will be nothing more than a distraction unless the PSNI come up with something concrete. But if they are relying on The Boston Tapes then I am afraid they don’t have very much.

    It will be forgotten this time tomorrow. The PSNI will be able to get the usual suspects off their back who want him hung/drawn/quartered whether there is any evidence or not by showing that they arrested and interviewed him and GA will have a new soundbite for his interviews and the world keeps turning

    The ones who suffer the most are the McConville’s who have been dragged through the ringer AGAIN.

  • Niall O’Dowd rather than play pass the parcel, might ask his democratic party pals within the Obama administration why they allowed a foreign police force to use the US judicial process to score brownie points back home.

  • Morpheus

    It’s a shame that this story took centre stage again today, it took away from The Alliance offices being attacked AGAIN last night. The knuckledraggers won’t be happy until they are burned/intimidated out of Belfast

  • Son of Strongbow

    Martin McGuinness has told the BBC that there is a “dark side” within local policing ( I expect that’s the Prods).

    Anyway it sorts out Matt Baggots’s replacement. Chief Constable Yoda is a shoe in for the job.

  • Neil

    On the plus side Morph the knuckle draggers referred to will be as nonplussed as yourself at the lack of interest.

  • Son of Strongbow

    …..and it gets better. This stuff is gold dust.

    The “dark side” is “colluding” with “republican” enemies of the ‘peace process’. This information has been supplied, directly to Martin I suppose, by “reformers” within the police.

    These “reformers” know who the “dark side” are, Martin now also knows who the “dark side” are.

    Will he tell the public? Will he name names? (Don’t hold your breath)

    The objective is to wreck havoc on Sinn Fein’s chances in the election. Linking the Shinner candidates with past terrorist crimes is all part of a diabolical collusionist plot apparently.

    Has anyone told Martina Anderson?

  • son of sam

    I note on the responses to today’s blog from Jude Collins,that Danny Morrison refers to Anthony Mc Intout and Ed Baloney.Th Sinn Fein knives certainly seem to be out for those two gentlemen! No doubt they are both well able to speak for themselves in due course.

  • Dec

    No doubt they will have something to say but I doubt it will include an apology for setting up all their living interviewees for potential arrest and trial.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: might ask his democratic party pals within the Obama administration why they allowed a foreign police force to use the US judicial process to score brownie points back home.
    So many layers of cynicism and suspicion here! So I’ll just go with the obvious answer:
    “judicial process” – that’s what it says on the tin.

  • Reader

    Treaties signed behind the backs of the people they supposedly represent smacks of no taxation without representation to me.

    Judicial process basically boils down to whom ever is directing the choir. The problem we have today is governments are signing international treaties behind the backs of those they represent, almost exclusively with the USA, which undermines the democratic rights of their citizens.

    I suppose I should add welcome to the 19th century when this type of crap was last all the rage.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: Treaties signed behind the backs of the people they supposedly represent smacks of no taxation without representation to me.
    I don’t get this. My own reservations about the US justice system centre on US exceptionalism and extrajudicial brutality. Since this didn’t fall into either of those pits, I was entirely comfortable. I had guessed your reservations would be about the cost of justice and judicial brutality. Again, not issues in this case.
    But I don’t see what you are bothered about here – a couple of Americans have been told they shouldn’t have made promises they can’t keep. I learned that when I was about 5.
    In this case, a UK police force was looking for information held in the US which they had very strong reasons to believe related to an ongoing murder inquiry. The US courts decided this information was not protected. This is clearly not anything like the Gary MacKinnon or NatWest 3 cases, in case that is what you were getting at.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Like the Monty Python block of flats held up only by the imagination, the delicately Byzantine network of lies and half-truths that is the Republican narrative on the Troubles is always one thought away from utter collapse.

    The illusory structure is only standing still at this stage in the minds of people who have an interest in not calling them on it. It’s a pretty wide alliance of people who imagine themselves to be doing something noble – and some are not bad people – who have kept SF in the game. Incidents like this are a challenge to them because the truth is, they know things were swept under the carpet out of expediency to get an end to the IRA campaign and therefore the Troubles. But the truth will out – a strategy dependent upon perpetual hiding of the truth is doomed. It’s only a matter of time. This current incident may not be the hole that bursts the crumbling Republican dam, but if not there is no shortage of other pressure points. Their narrative is simply unsustainable.

    I support the GFA myself and so to some extent bought into the idea of a fudge. But I didn’t buy into the idea of immunity for IRA members for their crimes and why should I have? It wasn’t part of the GFA. And for good reason. If it had been, the GFA would simply not have happened.

    Since 1998, SF and its apologists have pushed and pushed and have generally got their way. The sheer volume of their activities during the Troubles demands that at some point, reason and truth had to re-assert themselves. The public need for the return of the basic principles of justice – fair to all and free of political deals – is palpable. Even if they dodge this one, they can’t keep dodging for long. The truth is SF has been maintained by British, Irish and US governments and I think by some moderate nationalists because they see propping it up as the only alternative to violence in Northern Ireland. But surely we deserve better than a choice between violence and burying the truth? Have we not moved beyond that choice now? I think we have – but it’s no good a unionist saying this, we need the Irish and the British governments to say it, we need moderate nationalists to say it – and who knows, even some SF supporters may be tired of the guilt and lies by this stage too.

    I’m not holding my breath though. Fear of Republican terrorism is still strong enough I suspect to convince many of the powers that be to keep that SF imaginary tower block standing.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Talking of the exposure of lies – and as I’m in a Budapest cafe as I write – this piece of Central European literature springs to mind in connection with the Shinners’ ‘narrative”: the late Slawomir Mrozek’s short story “The Elephant”. http://polishedtranslations.wordpress.com/the-elephant-by-slawomir-mrozek-translated-from-polish-by-halina-arendt/
    Written about 50s Poland, but it’s embarrassing to note it transfers seamlessly to Northern Ireland in 2014. Is Adams’s arrest our equivalent of the inflatable pachyderm floating skywards? I do wish.

  • tacapall

    If you think things couldn’t get worse


    The government has revealed that more than 350 royal pardons have been issued in Northern Ireland during the past 35 years.

    “Ms Villiers told Kate Hoey that the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) was used on at least 365 occasions between 1979 and 2002 in NI – but she said the actual total could be even higher.

    This is because the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has been unable to find the records for the 10 year period from 1987 to 1997, she continued. She also said there may be cases after 2002.

    Ms Villiers added in her answer: “The department does not hold information which specifically confirms whether individuals who received the RPM were members of prescribed groups.”

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Jesus H Christ