Contrasting views of the Adams arrest for Irish Americans

Jason Walsh grew up in the Upper Falls and witnessed as a child the horrors of the “Death on the Rock” events in Milltown cemetery. Here he presents a more authentic and reasoned assessment of recent days in the Christian Science Monitor than what the American audience is  used to.

 Gerry Adams says he was never a member of the IRA, let alone a member of its ruling army council. Few believe him, and he knows that few believe him, but the question only comes up in the context of other political disputes. Opponents, north and south of the border, scoring points against his growing party. After Adams was arrested, a mural was painted in Belfast hailing him a peacemaker and visionary, cueing much guffawing. It’s not so long ago that he was feted as such by the American, Irish and even British governments. He cuts a grubby figure today, but it is undeniable that he brought the IRA campaign to an end by convincing Irish republicans to support the Belfast Agreement and pursue their goal of Irish unification by the ballot box alone

Sinn Féin frequently equates opposition to its party, whether from commentators, political rivals or disgruntled ex-IRA members, with opposition to peace. In some cases, this is justified. There are plenty of people who opposed the peace process from day one, many on the basis that Sinn Féin were simply not to be tolerated at all.  But the accusation is mostly nonsense. Equating opposition to Sinn Féin with being opposed to peace is not only absurd, it smacks of desperation and an inability to deal with dissent. It also misreads the mood on the streets. Few in the republican heartland of west Belfast where I grew up would have been pleased to see Gerry Adams arrested, and a good proportion probably accept Sinn Féin’s claims of a conspiracy against it, but no one was going to go back to war over Adams’s arrest—or over anything else.

Tim Pat Coogan, fine former editor of the defunct de Valera -owned Irish Press, historian of the IRA and critical biographer of de Valera and Collins, is one of the most civil and civilised of men. His long form work is of high quality but he has always  entertained  the darkest suspicions of Britain and all its works and a particular loathing of unionism that today seems old fashioned. He gives house room to a conspiracy theory that extends from Ed Moloney to Downing St. His conclusion on the peace process differs.

Moloney and McIntyre have shed copious crocodile tears on radio and television over the fact that Boston College handed over the tapes of the interviews on which the book was based to the Six County authorities. The move to secure the tapes was both inevitable and entirely predictable.

But before there was any question of court proceedings being taken to enforce the tapes hand-over, the Moloney/McIntyre book, based on the words of a dead man, constituted a journalistic hand grenade hurled into contemporary Six County politics.

The black ops swoop on Adams was part of a larger scene – probably masterminded by Belfast and London securocrats – and it has heightened tensions. The depressing scene needs to be alleviated by the addition of some counter-balancing figures from the Irish American world.

The peace process is in trouble.





Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London