The Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams yesterday announced that he intends to appeal two convictions dating back to 1975 on charges that he attempted to escape from Long Kesh internment camp, once when he was with a group of prisoners trying to cut through barbed wire and another when he switched places with a visitor.
Mr Adams, who publicly denies ever being in the IRA, said in a statement:
“Following the recovery of a document by the Pat Finucane Centre in October 2009 from the British National Archives in London, I instructed my solicitor to begin proceedings to seek leave to appeal the 1975 convictions.”
So, what is in this document found by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) at the Kew archives in 2009?
Well, Mr Adams is not saying and neither is the PFC.
This was the Centre’s emailed reply today to a request from myself for a copy of the Kew document:
A couple of thoughts. One, regarding this statement: “PFC has a policy whereby if we find document(s) concerning an individual……(W)e only publish or disseminate this information with third parties with the explicit consent of the individual and if they ask us to do so.”
I must have acquired dozens and dozens of files from the Pat Finucane Centre over the years and I was grateful always for the friendly help given by the researchers there.
Many, if not most of the documents that came my way, mention individuals by name and this problem of seeking permission from those individuals before I was given access never raised its head once.
Now, admittedly most of the names were of serving or former members of the security forces and that suggests that if the person or persons named in a Kew document were combatants then the PFC does not apply the rule. But surely Gerry Adams falls into the same category as other combatants in the Troubles and should be treated in the same fashion?
And bear in mind that this is how the PFC defines its aims and identity on its website:
The PFC is a non-party political, anti-sectarian human rights group advocating a non-violent resolution of the conflict on the island of Ireland.
PFC believe that all participants to the conflict have violated human rights.
So, by that definition Gerry Adams and the British military commanders share the same status – as violators of human rights as well as participants in the conflict – and should be treated equally by the ‘non-party political’ PFC.
So if General so-and-so is named without his permission in a document and the document is released by the PFC to journalists like me, then so should a document naming Gerry Adams.
Unless, that is, the PFC is endorsing Mr Adam’s own claim that he was never a participant in the Troubles and thus should be treated like an ordinary, uninvolved civilian.
I can understand the PFC not wishing to embarrass non-involved civilians, but Mr Adams, like his equivalents in the RUC, British Army and UDR, was never a civilian.
The other solution to this is for Gerry Adams to simply make the document public. After all by placing it on the shelves at Kew for academics and researchers to peruse, that is what the Brits have done.