I LIKE to think I'm quite good at understanding human motivations: I'm a biographer and a crime novelist, dammit. But after much brow-furrowing, I remain pretty flummoxed by the findings of the Sunday
Independent/Millward Brown IMS Poll about a significant number of my fellow-citizens.
Consider how the following figures stack up: Mary Harney, Pat Rabbitte and Enda Kenny are regarded as trustworthy by 56 per cent, 56 per cent and 52 per cent respectively, but are seen as satisfactory party leaders by only 45 per cent, 46 per cent and 32 per cent; 65 per cent of those polled think Gerry Adams is lying about his IRA membership, yet only 47 per cent think him untrustworthy and 50 per cent are satisfied with him; 65 per cent believe the IRA is still heavily involved in criminal activity, yet only 38 per cent think Sinn Fein should not be included in a coalition government.
Is there any explanation for this - other than that a substantial number of Irish people recognise decency but don't think it important, think truth is for the birds, the constitution shouldn't be taken too seriously and that unpunished and unrepentant murderers are OK guys?
For starters, let's have a look at the seriousness of the lies.
I can quite see that it would be embarrassing for Adams and Martin McGuinness to admit that they are currently on the IRA Army Council, as it would show them to be the thundering hypocrites they are.
Still, for Adams to deny ever having been a member of the IRA and for McGuinness to pretend he left the organisation in 1974 insults the intelligence of those they are lying to.
A few weeks back, Bertie Ahern pointed out that in 1976, in a article in a series he wrote in Republican News from Long Kesh under the pseudonym of 'Brownie', Adams wrote:
"Rightly or wrongly, I'm an IRA volunteer".
No, no, announced Adams's press secretary, Richard McAuley, last week. Gerry hadn't written that week's Brownie column: he, Richard, had.
Some mistake, surely. As Chris Thornton pointed out in Friday's Belfast Telegraph, the said article opens with a message for Brownie's "good wife and young son". McAulay had neither wife nor child at the time, but guess who did? Yep. Gerry Adams.
Incidentally, I detect that Adams is getting rattled and is preparing Plan B if complete denial stops working. Last week, at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, he explained that calling him a terrorist was "name-calling. It's not a big issue for me." After all, he explained, Nelson Mandela and George Washington were also called terrorists.
As for Martin McGuinness . . . In the last week, one Freddie Scapattici, who used to be a leading light in the nutting squad and is reputed to be the informer Stakeknife, has confirmed that a secret 1993 tape in which he told journalists about some of McGuinness's horrendous IRA activities is genuine. Scapattici has wisely left the country without leaving a forwarding address.
But perhaps there are those who think these lies just don't matter. If so, I wonder if they feel the same way about the lies of Ray Burke and other merry FF rogues, who, it has to be said in mitigation, were just ripping people off - not killing them.
Now, for the Irish constitution. Last time I looked, it stated specifically: 'No military or armed force, other than a military or armed force raised and maintained by Parliament, shall be raised or maintained for any purpose whatsoever.' So just by existing, the IRA is behaving unconstitutionally. Yet 47 per cent of Southern Irish people are happy to have in government a political party inextricably linked with such a private army. A private army that killed Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996; that murders, mutilates and intimidates, and - according to 65 per cent of us - is still involved in criminal activity.
Maybe the constitution just doesn't matter anymore.
Let's look at the unpunished and unrepentant murderers. Republicans have managed to brainwash many in the South to believe that they suffered terribly at the hands of oppressive British security forces. Here are a few statistics worth bearing in mind. In Northern Ireland, over the last 35 years, republican paramilitaries killed 2,157 and lost 397; loyalists killed 1,100 and lost 171. It was the other way round with the security forces: the British army killed 301 and lost 503; local defence forces (Ulster Defence Regiment/Royal Irish Regiment) killed 8 and lost 206; and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, viciously traduced by black republican propaganda, killed 50 and lost 303.
Republicans, who inflicted most pain and grief, never shut up about their own victims and expect everyone else to move on. Well, as Sinn Fein/IRA drone on about Bloody Sunday and alleged collusion over Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson and so on and on, could we just remind them of a few events that occurred under the leadership of Adams and McGuinness?
There was Bloody Friday in 1972 (10 dead in Belfast), 1974 (21 dead in Birmingham), 1978 (12 dog-breeders burned to death at a dinner dance in Castlereagh), 1987 (11 dead in Enniskillen), 1990 (a catering worker, Patsy Gillespie, had his family kidnapped, was forced to become a 'human bomb' and was blown to bits along with five soldiers), 1992 (8 Protestant building workers dead in Teebane - an atrocity explained by Adams as "a horrific reminder of the failure of British policy in Ireland"), 1993 (11 dead in a Shankill Road fish shop), 1996 (two newsagents killed at Canary Wharf), 1997 (two community policemen shot dead).
Are they sorry? Not a bit of it. Their revisionist line, as they seek to distance themselves from the current unpopularity of terrorism, is, as Malachi O'Doherty pointed out recently, the concept of the "cuddly bomb", the preferred weapon of those who intend to terrorise rather than to kill. IRA good terrorists: Al-Qaeda bad.
What these vicious clowns achieved with all that murder and mayhem was to alienate the Protestant population so thoroughly that a United Ireland became impossible and to ensure that the British army had to stay when it wanted to go. Those that accomplished all that still lead an armed republican movement that 47 per cent of us are happy to see in government.
Sometimes I feel quite kind about Ray Burke.