I don’t intend to spill a lot of ink responding to Gerry Adams’ recent statement taking yet another swipe at the motives of those who were interviewed and who did the interviewing for the Boston College oral history archive.
That is because I have already answered a very similar charge from Mary Lou McDonald.
Essentially Gerry Adams is saying that anyone who is interviewed about the Provisionals who is not with his programme and makes allegations about his IRA career and history that he contests and denies, must be making them up for malicious and mendacious reasons.
Implicitly he is also saying that such people should not be allowed an audience and should be ignored or even silenced.
The core issue is the denial of his IRA membership from which all else flows, including the Jean McConville affair. Without that denial of their shared lives, and the shunting of responsibility onto others that it implies, I seriously doubt whether Brendan Hughes would ever have given Boston College an interview and I don’t think Dolours Price would have gone to the Irish News to speak of her role in disappearing Jean McConville (it is conveniently forgotten, incidentally, that she never mentioned Jean McConville in her interviews with Boston College).
And if they hadn’t spoken, the Jean McConville business would never have emerged in the way it has. It is important to remember that Gerry Adams brought all the business about his IRA membership and role in Jean McConville’s death on himself. If he had not denied his IRA past (and that does not mean admitting it either) none of this would have happened.
Personally I do not give a tinkers whether Gerry Adams is, was or ever wanted to be in the IRA. But when a major political leader tells such an obvious falsehood about a defining part of his life – and by extension must be capable of telling lies about other issues of more direct relevance to others’ lives – then I do believe that it the journalist’s job, and the historian’s too, to subject that claim to the most stringent scrutiny.
Let me give an example from the place where I now live, the United States. Let us imagine that as a journalist I had been covering the career of Barack Obama for some years and was intimately familiar his family history. I knew for example all about his White mother from Kansas and his Black father from Kenya.
And let us suppose that when Barack Obama decides to make a run for the White House he suddenly changes his life story. Now he claims, in an effort to maximise the African-American vote, that his mother was actually a Black woman from South Carolina or the Bronx, not a White one.
What should the ethical journalist do? Should he or she just tamely report the claim and leave it there – perhaps at most noting en passant that not everyone accepts his story – or energetically investigate it and if he or she finds that Obama is lying then say so? There is no doubt in my mind what the principled journalist should do.
Well, ignoring the central falsehood in Gerry Adams’ life story would be very much like accepting Barack Obama’s Black mother claim – and equally unacceptable to any journalist with integrity.
Even though the US media is a shadow of what it was pre-9/11, I would like to think that enough journalists there would rise to the challenge and show Obama to be a liar.
Can we say the same about the Irish media in relation to Gerry Adams’ life story? I would like to say yes but I am not sure I can. But I can understand why and I have full sympathy for those in the media so affected.
The reason why Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald attack myself, Anthony McIntyre and the Boston archive in the way they do is not just because they dislike us, or the little bit of the product which they know of, that has come out of the archive.
No, it is to intimidate others in the media so as to discourage them from delving too deeply into the Provisionals’ secrets. The message is clear: dig too deep and we’ll do to you what we have done to Moloney & Co, we’ll call you the same names and behind your backs we’ll blacken your reputation to your colleagues and your employers. Now, see if you like that!
The problem is that it works.
As an American observer sympathetic to Republicanism, I understand why Mr. Adams feels it is necessary to continue telling a lie that once may have had tactical value, what I don’t understand is how he thinks he will continue to get away with it.
The failings of American journalism aside, your example is spot on; if President Obama told an obvious untruth and insisted on repeating it, all evidence to the contrary, he would be exposed by the media. If he repeated the lie under oath, he might very well be indicted. Remember, President Clinton wasn’t impeached for sexual misconduct, but for perjury. My understanding is that multiple former volunteers, including many who held command positions in the PIRA, have identified Mr. Adams as, variously, PIRA Belfast OC, Northern Command OC and as a member of the Army Council. Further, I believe it is public record that the now imprisoned Ivor Bell insisted that Mr. Adams be released from prison to join an IRA delegation meeting the British in the early-70’s. Additionally, my understanding is that various members of the Irish and British government have identified Mr. Adams as holding senior positions in the PIRA.
This is a sincere question; is it a question of libel laws, which I know are more stringent in the UK? Is it a matter of intimidation, either of physical violence or damage to career prospects? Mr. Adams is confident enough in his legal position to offer himself for PSNI questioning. Why is that?
Any insight you can share is much appreciated.
let’s talk in NYC, ok?
Look forward to it.
First rule of being in the IRA: Never admit you are in the IRA ~ NEVER. To anyone, even family, ~ period.
That may have been true during his active service during The Troubles, but even Martin McGuinness has admitted being a PIRA volunteer, albeit claiming he left the Army in the 1970’s.
Most unbiased observers would probably agree that not only is Mr. Adams claim false but also demonstrably so, which brings me back to my question; I’m not attacking Mr. Adams, Sinn Fein, or commenting on what appears to be cases of independent Republicans being selectively targeted for legal prosecution; my question, simply, is why does Mr. Adams feel he can continue to say something that most people believe is untrue without fear of being exposed?
mcguinness is slightly different. he was also denying membership until people remembered that he had appeared in court in dublin and proclaimed his pride in being a member and then someone dug up this old clip of a TV interview which made it impossible to deny membership. i wrote about it here: https://thebrokenelbow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2428&action=edit – afterwards he claimed he left in 1974 which was just as implausible as claiming he had never been a member. so not that different from gerry.
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“The message is clear: dig too deep and we’ll do to you what we have done to Moloney & Co, we’ll call you the same names and behind your backs we’ll blacken your reputation to your colleagues and your employers. Now, see if you like that!”
Having only kept in touch with Irish affairs down the years, I did a double take when I read this. While I guessed Ed felt safer in America, I didn’t (and don’t) know the story. I may the last person alive not to know it but there we are. Nor did I know that his reputation had been blackened with his colleagues and employers. For what it’s worth and although I don’t share all Ed’s sympathies, not blackened with me.
thanks brian. much appreciated. to give you just one example, in the days before ‘a secret history of the ira’ was published, a very senior sinn fein figure toured editors’ offices on both islands to tell them that this forthcoming book had been written by a supporter of IRA dissidents and should therefore be ignored. it apparently worked with the guardian, the only UK newspaper never to review it. i know this because he also visited the sunday tribune, then my employer and where my colleagues worked.
PS TYPO Comment should read “Having only kept in touch with Irish affairs intermittently down the years.. ” etc. Apologies
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Adams is absolutely correct to deny he was in the IRA, if he answered yes, that would lead to another question, then another…at some point he would have to lie again, and back to square one…also he could be arrested and charged…what frustrates all you people is he wont dance to your tune.
i am sorry galloper, you entirely fail to understand the debate. no-one, least of all brendan hughes or dolours price, ever complained that adams had not admitted ira membership. their complaint was that he denied it. no-one in the ira is ever expected to admit membership. to do so would be foolish because it would mean a jail term. but neither do ira members normally ever deny membership, since to do so is to deny comrades, beliefs etc. the way round this conundrum, which adams never took, is merely to say the equivalent of ‘no comment’. so what you say is way off beam, galloper. hope this helps. take care.