Des Long’s decision to call out Gerry Adams for lying about his membership of the IRA and revealing that he was at one point not just a member of the Army Council but its Chairman, comes at a bad time for the retired SF leader, but is good news for the BBC and for one of the production team involved in the TV series marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Troubles.
Early next year, Adams’ legal team, headed by feared litigator Paul Tweed, will launch a libel action in the Dublin courts against BBC’s Spotlight current affairs programme and reporter Jennifer O’Leary, over a claim that Adams’ was defamed during a programme examining the assassination of IRA activist turned RUC Special Branch spy, Denis Donaldson.
Adams’ long time personal lawyer, the late Paddy McGrory always advised Adams never to sue over claims involving his alleged membership of the IRA on the grounds that there was too much evidence to the contrary and on the record, not least publicly available British documents dealing with the 1972 IRA ceasefire.
Paddy’s fear was that Adams would, as the alleged injured party, have to give evidence from the witness stand, his denials of IRA membership wouldn’t stand scrutiny and he would be judged a liar about everything else by most juries.
Now that a senior, former comrade has blown the whistle on him, Gerry could do worse than recall his old advisor’s sagacity.
As worrying for Adams is the possibility that Des Long’s candor will encourage others to follow suit.
Gerry’s constant lies over the year about IRA membership will be very difficult for him to back out of at this stage. Years ago such a lie would have been seen as ‘word games with the Brits’ now he just comes across as a senile old Uncle who can’t recall his own name.
Next he will be denying he ever hard a beard.
The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.
Gerry tried to erase his past; he now thinks the erasure is forgotten, his lie might be truth? Not yet, Gerry, boy. There are a few of us in the barnyard who still know that the “men” in tuxedos are pigs.
Ed, do you know if there was a precise moment or period when he started denying membership? I remember you mentioning how open he was about his military role at one point.
Interesting and important question Nicholas. I first remember Adams openly denying membership during the 1982 Assembly election and I developed a theory that it was based upon an assumption that he was going to be asked about his membership and this was the reply that the media would have the greatest difficulty dealing with. I also thought, later, that it was based on the reality of the moment, which was that his strategists had no idea that SF would grow and grow and that the question would therefore assume greater significance – and therefore difficulties for their leader. I can remember his acolytes taking great satisfaction in the confusion they believed this reply caused in the media, which they assumed had expected an outright denial, thus opening the way for a serious challenge to his credibility. In other words Adams had, in their view, confused, wrong-footed and deflected media hostility. But then a few years later I talked to the late Ruairi O Bradaigh about this and he maintained that Adams had been denying membership to some people long before the 1981 hunger strikes and the launch of SF’s electoralism. If he was right, and I don’t know if he was, then we are entitled to suspect that the germs of electoralism were there long before 1981. Thinking back on what his people were saying to me circa 1979-1981 about their then very modest but still real electoral ambitions I would give that considerable credibility. People in the Think Tank, like Hartley, Morrison and Austin were, I am told, talking about standing for election in 1978/9, when no-one could possibly predict Bobby Sands’ death, and the issue of their leader’s position in the IRA would inevitably have been debated. Thanks for the intelligent question.
Thank you for the detailed answer. Watching the latest episode on Spotlight, they keep playing this clip of Adams from 1977 that I’ve seen excerpted before. In it, he talks about how “we in the Republican Movement must fight for the people” or something to that effect. It’s the earliest speaking clip I’ve seen of him, and seems to predate the strategy you’re talking about. Do you know where these clips are taken from, and if the entire speech is available? Also, the biggest scoop for this series seems to be the “Secret Army” footage shot as a companion piece to J. Bowyer Bell book. Had you heard anything about the existence of this documentary in your reporting?
no, i hadn’t heard of it. Nor do i know of the 1977 speech although that quote does not appear exceptional. IRA attitudes pre-Adams to the issue of membership was simple. For obvious reasons no-one would ever admit membership but equally no-one ever denied it. That meant most responses were in the ‘mind your own business’ category…..’