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Sunday 8 November 2015


Gerry Adams: grievances, spies, spooks and the lies

In accusing others of lying about his party, Adams misrepresented an old man

Gerry Adams: 'Contrary to the Wild West image portrayed by some elements in the media and others in this chamber, the people of the border region are decent law-abiding citizens'

I had an invigorating few days in Indiana last week, talking about crime fiction at a convention for writers and readers, and at a university, talking about the stark problems facing Europe.

The world of crime readers and writers is full of good cheer and laughter and while the discussion about Europe with a different audience was serious, I was heartened by the wide perspective of Americans and their inveterate optimism about the future.

Then, midweek, I got back home and, catching up on Irish news, was in a world of recriminations and grievances and victimhood as I watched a recording of Gerry Adams addressing the Dail on Tuesday.

He dwelt on the shortcomings of all political parties other than Sinn Fein.

"Our opponents here lecture us on the need to build trust", he said angrily. "At the same time, you patronise, insult, engage in the most vile, offensive and untruthful invective against us and our party.

"Let me assure the House that Irish republicans need no lectures from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the Labour Party."

He was particularly cross about the "deliberate effort to criminalise and demonise republicans, Sinn Fein activists and other citizens, especially those in cross-border communities in places like south Armagh and north Louth.

"Contrary to the Wild West image portrayed by some elements in the media and others in this chamber, the people of the border region are decent law-abiding citizens," he said.

Er, not all of them, Deputy Adams. I know you feel that being a republican means never having to say you're sorry, but democratic politicians can't overlook the Provo smugglers, frauds, polluters, robbers, murderers and other criminals who still terrify their own communities with apparent impunity.

Adams was fuming about the Taoiseach's "political opportunism and cynicism" and his failure - like his British counterpart - to give enough priority to nurturing the peace process, which is now an adult in its early twenties but still can't let go of its Mum and Dad, who, apart from anything else, are callously refusing to increase its pocket money.

"Irish Government undermining Peace Process to halt growth of Sinn Fein" was the headline of the report of his speech in Sinn Fein's An Phoblacht, which was brightened up by a photograph of Adams outside Leinster House, standing between respectable Mary Lou McDonald and, for balance, Martin Ferris, who spent 10 years in jail as an arms importer and was alleged in 2005 by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, using parliamentary privilege, to be a member of the IRA army council.

Sinn Fein has been grievously embarrassed by the recent report on the continued existence of the IRA army council and when Adams is in that kind of tight spot, he blames dark forces. The Irish Government was apparently "cosying up to MI5 and the British Government" and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was choosing "to swallow MI5 propaganda", for, of course, the revelations had been concocted by MI5 and "the old guard of the RUC".

(For the benefit of anyone under 30, the Northern Ireland police - more than 300 of whom were murdered by paramilitaries (mostly republican) - were known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They were the thin blue line that saved Ulster from descending into civil war before they were reconstituted in 2001 as the Police Service of Northern Ireland.)

"These folks are locked into the conflicts of the past," he said, without a hint of irony. "They are the same people who directed agents, informers and paramilitary organisations that killed hundreds of citizens, including citizens in this city, with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and stirred sectarian violence and colluded in murder."

It is, of course, an article of faith with the Provos that no loyalist paramilitary ever murdered anyone unless the security forces had put a gun in their hand and driven them to their target.

Actually, if you were to go on Adams's more recent pronouncements, you'd think that all the deaths in the Troubles were the fault of the MI5 or the cops.

They had their failings, and some of them were bad apples, but they were trying to defeat terrorism. Along the way, they used spies and informers to save lives and therefore sometimes turned a blind eye to the crimes they were committing.

But we're now in a lunatic world where if anyone who tortured or murdered at the behest of the IRA turns out also to have provided information to the security forces, it is they, not the IRA, who are responsible for his crimes.

Adams's blog on the subject was headed 'Spies and Spooks: the same old story' and this time Adams wrote of informers since 1641, all of whom were obviously bad guys since they worked for the state against people who were trying to overthrow it violently.

The blog also showed his continuing obsession with Sir Frank Kitson, a British army strategist and Brigadier in Northern Ireland between September 1970 and April 1972, who in 1971 published a book on counter-insurgency called Low Intensity Operations.

In his blog, Adams said Kitson "rationalised the use of death squads and the corruption of justice" and quoted him thus: "Everything done by a government and its agents in combating insurgency must be legitimate. But this does not mean that the government must work within exactly the same set of laws during an emergency as existed beforehand. The law should be used as just another weapon in the government's arsenal, in which case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public."

Sir Frank is still alive and he should be consulting his lawyers, for Adams left out that he had written that this was one of "two possible alternatives", the other being the one he thought vital, which was that "the laws should remain impartial".

Of course, Kitson said, government could change laws to cope with insurgency, but as he put it in his 1977 memoir: "No country which relies on the law of the land to regulate the lives of its citizens can afford to see that law flouted by its own government, even in an insurgency situation."

Adams went to America as I was leaving it and told a $500-a-plate fundraising dinner that the report about the existence of the army council was "a lot of baloney".

He also re-tweeted "today's hottest tweet among the people I follow", which was Hillary Clinton's call for gun control. Truly, the man doesn't do irony.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards