Tag Archives: Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams And Charles Windsor: A Photo Caption Contest

Great photo of Gerry Adams and Prince Charles about to shake hands by Brian Lawless of PA.

2000A free lifetime subscription to thebrokenelbow.com to the reader who composes the best bubble captions capturing the thoughts going through the heads of the two men as they are about to meet.

Why Gerry Adams Should Give Prince Charles A Big Thank-You Hug!

As I write this, the jungle telegraph from Ireland is signalling that Gerry Adams might shake the hand of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, at some point during his controversial visit to Ireland, which begins tomorrow (Tuesday).

Should that happen he really ought to consider adding a thank-you hug, for reasons I will explain below.

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Prince Charles with ‘Uncle Dickie’, Lord Louis Mountbatten

The high point of the Prince’s visit will, of course, be his trip to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo where Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin but known to Charles as ‘Uncle Dickie’, was blown to pieces by an IRA ‘line of sight’ radio-controlled bomb hidden on his holiday boat on August 27th, 1979.

Some hours later on the other side of Ireland, at a place called Narrow Water not far from Warrenpoint on the shores of Carlingford Lough, eighteen British soldiers, many of them members of the Parachute Regiment of which Prince Charles, as Gerry Adams reminded us recently, is Colonel-in-Chief, were blown to pieces in a double explosion.

The remains of the Commanding Officer of the Queens Own Highlanders, Lt Col David Blair, who flew in a helicopter with his soldiers to rescue the ambushed Paras, were never recovered. His body is believed to have been vaporised in the blast. A member of special RUC undercover unit tasked with collecting the remains of the dead told me in an interview that he found a hand embedded in a nearby tree by its fingernails.

The scene of the Warrenpoint ambush

The scene of the Warrenpoint ambush

It was, arguably, the most traumatic and violent day experienced by the British state during the Troubles and it immediately pitched the North into a security and political crisis, the first of many for the newly elected British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

But, for the recently installed new leadership of the IRA and especially their leader and strategy guru, Gerry Adams, the two strikes that day meant that it was an occasion for celebration and not just for the obvious reasons.

The events that day served to vindicate completely their toppling of the previous leadership, often simplistically identified with Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Connail, the 1975 ceasefire and the near-defeat then experienced by the IRA, and validated the military changes, and by extension the political re-orientation introduced by what would soon be known as ‘the Adams’ leadership’. The symbol of these changes was the introduction of a cellular system into IRA structures, although it was far more complicated than that.

Gerry Adams, circa 1979

Gerry Adams, circa 1979

However the real significance of that bloody day in August 1979 was that it transformed Adams and all his allies into an untouchable leadership which, in the eyes of the Provo grassroots, could do no wrong. They had said the old leadership had been disastrously wrong, that they had the ideas to revive the IRA and the deaths of Mountbatten and the 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint proved them right.

Thatcher

Now I have come to believe that this narrative is in many important ways flawed and simplistic – but that is a subject for another day. But there is no doubt that the consequence of that day was that as far as the grassroots was concerned, from thereon the Adams’ leadership could do no wrong.

Now is it possible that even without Mountbatten and Warrenpoint, Adams and his allies could have pushed the Provos down the road of electoral politics and from there ultimately into the peace process. But I don’t think there is any doubt that the assassination of Lord Mountbatten made it all a whole lot easier.

Mounbatten on his boat with friends on a happier day

Mounbatten on his boat with friends on a happier day

That’s why if, or when, Gerry Adams shakes hands with Prince Charles he might consider also giving him a hug of gratitude, for having an ‘Uncle Dickie’ that the IRA could dispatch to eternity.

Without him, Gerry Adams might not now be where he is.

This is what I wrote about the assassination of Mountbatten and Warrenpoint in ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, second edition. Enjoy:

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Beware! Michael Gove, King Of The Neocons, Is Back

I can’t now remember the precise date but it would have been some time after the Good Friday deal had been struck when the phone rang in my Belfast home cum office and Michael Gove was at the other end.

A few years later Gove would become an MP and then a member of the set that congregated around Tory party leader David Cameron, but back then he was a leader writer for The Times newspaper, charged with writing editorials about issues of topical concern.

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Michael Gove – an idiot with power is a dangerous thing!

The matter he wanted to talk to me about was the peace process in Northern Ireland and specifically Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader and principal republican architect of the peace strategy. What I didn’t know at the time was that Gove was not looking for background for a Times‘ editorial but material for ‘The Price of Peace’, a pamphlet he was writing denouncing the peace process as a sell out of Unionism and a surrender to the IRA.

This extract from his conclusion, outlining his alternative to the GFA, will give you a taster of his views in this regard:

Therefore, the best guarantee for stability is the assertion by the Westminster Government that it will defend, with all vigour, the right of the democratic majority in Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. Ulster could then be governed with an Assembly elected on the same basis as Wales, and an administration constituted in the same way. Minority rights should be protected by the same legal apparatus which exists across the UK. The legislative framework which has guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Roman Catholics and ethnic minorities in Liverpool and London should apply equally in Belfast and Belleek.

To say that there was no meeting of minds on either the nature of the peace process or Gerry Adams would be a gross under-measurement of the gulf exposed by our rather bad-tempered exchange.

To Gove, the peace process was a Trojan horse, a piece of trickery and sleight of hand by republicans to achieve what the use of violence could not.

For me, already well into researching what would become, ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, the peace process was what it appeared to be, a massive ideological compromise by Provisional leaders which would, inevitably, lead to IRA decommissioning, the end of armed struggle and the transformation of Sinn Fein into a constitutional Nationalist party, not terribly different from the SDLP.

Not only did we not see the world in the same way but it soon became clear that we detested each other. As far as I was concerned, he was a complete idiot, and I don’t think I hid my view very well. So, unsurprisingly but very thankfully, I didn’t rate a mention in Gove’s pamphlet.

You can’t get a real flavour of how badly wrong, in almost all respects, Gove was about the peace process and even the nature of the Northern Ireland problem unless you read the full pamphlet but one striking aspect of his modus operandi is worth a comment.

That was his habit of forcing facts to fit his political world view even when eminently sensible and fairly obvious alternative explanations were at hand; for instance the IRA’s failure to start arms decommissioning by 2000 could only be explained by terrorist guile, bad faith and deceit because that is how all terrorists behaved. The idea that Adams was taking his followers down a road they would not ordinarily choose and had to step slowly and carefully, didn’t and couldn’t enter his mind, so completely closed was it to other possibilities.

I did not know until the Iraq war three or more years later that forcing the facts to fit the theory was a classic trait of neo-conservative reasoning. In Iraq the same thought process went like this: the Iraqi people were ruled by a dictator; most people dislike dictators, therefore US tanks would travel along rose-petal strewn streets lined with cheering crowds when they invaded.

Nor did I know until later that Gove was a leading light in the British version of the neo-conservative movement, in fact the leading light in the view of some. British neo-cons congregate under the banner of something called the Henry Jackson Society, so named after a right-wing, fiercely hawkish, Cold War-era US Democratic Senator.

Mostly composed of Tories, a smattering of Labour, LibDem and UKIP politicians have also signed up to the society. The former Unionist leader David Trimble is a prominent supporter.

While neo-conservatism is usually associated with American politics, thanks mostly to the role such people played in staging the Iraq war, its British manifestation is thriving and that is no accident. Neo-conservatism is just another word for imperialism and to that form of rule the British have not a little affection.

I reproduce below an excellent review of the influence of neo-conservatism in the Tory party from a Guardian article written by Richard Seymour at the time of the NATO-led invasion of Libya in 2011, a disaster in no small measure encouraged by Cameron and the neo-conservatives in his Cabinet.

Michael Gove was, needless to say, a vocal advocate of the Libyan adventure but not long afterwards lost his post as Education Minister and was dispatched to the Whips office. A less than charismatic figure with a pomposity that often alienates, Gove was seen as an electoral liability by some and it seemed his political career might be over.

But not so. Cameron has just made Gove the Justice Minister in his new cabinet where he will wield a predictably malign influence over human rights – he plans to scrap the Human Rights Act for example – sentencing policy and criminal justice. It is unlikely that he will directly influence affairs in Northern Ireland but influence can be exercised in all sorts of ways.

If I was a policy maker in Sinn Fein and I saw this man regain power and influence with the ability, perhaps, to put in place even a fraction of the attitudes and thoughts present in ‘The Price of Peace’, I would be very worried. If I was in the same position in the DUP, I would be greatly cheered.

Here is Richard Seymour’s March 2011 Guardian piece on the Tory neo-cons:

David Cameron’s recent offer to intervene in Libya, arming insurgents and enforcing a no-fly zone, was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was articulated. Objections from the US and France sank the idea. But it seems that the idea had enjoyed support from the cabinet, most of all from the hawkish faction around the education secretary Michael Gove – who is a signatory to the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society‘s statement of principles. Cameron, though no neocon, is a traditional Atlanticist, and has energetically promoted a small fraternity of foreign policy hawks since gaining the Tory leadership in 2005.

They first emerged in defence of Tony Blair and his unpopular foreign policies. Cameron himself, though he only reluctantly voted for the Iraq war, greatly admired Blair’s stance in the debacle. Even he, though, could hardly match Gove’s gushing praise for Blair in the runup to the Iraq war, in a column for the Times entitled “I can’t fight my feelings any more: I love Tony”. This passion for Blair was not restricted to his stance on foreign policy – it included Blair’s position on the firefighters’ strike, asylum seekers and tuition fees – but it was on Iraq that Gove maintained Blair was “behaving like a true Thatcherite”. Indeed, for many Tories , Blair is neocon rex.

Gove is the author of a number of neoconservative tracts. These include Celsius 7/7, which argues that Islamists are waging “total war” against the west, not because of imperialism but because of their root-and-branch rejection of “western values”. A more pointed intervention, though, was the essay “The Very British Roots of Neoconservatism and Its Lessons for British Conservatives”. In it, Gove was trying to persuade Tory allies sceptical of the adventurism of Rumsfeld and Bush that their policies were ones that the great patriarchs of conservatism would approve of. He argued that neoconservatism had strongly British roots that could be traced back to the statecraft of the Anglo-Irish Tory leader George Canning, whose pre-emptive battles with Bonapartism helped “advance the cause of freedom”. Palmerston and Churchill were also given their due as precursors to modern neoconservatism. Significantly, Gove’s trinity was entirely composed of Tories with some connections to Liberalism – if a neoconservative is a liberal who has been “mugged by reality”, many Tory luminaries from Burke onward have been instinctive Whigs turned counter-revolutionary.

Alongside Gove in the neoconservative faction are Ed Vaizey, the under-secretary of state who is, like Gove, has also signed up to the Henry Jackson Society’s principles. Similarly, George Osborne, the chancellor, is a “signed up, card-carrying Bush fan“, persuaded of the “excellent neoconservative case” for war with Iraq. His PPS, Greg Hands MP, is also a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society. Neoconservative ideas are also propagated in a number of thinktanks such as Policy Exchange whose director, Nicholas Boles MP, is another Henry Jackson Society signatory. The magazine Standpoint provides monthly ballast to this tendency.

Despite often crucial tactical differences, such as those which have emerged over Libya, there is a shared vocabulary between neoconservatives and those, like William Hague, who articulate a “liberal conservative” foreign policy. Hague has vocally supported “humanitarian intervention”, and was reluctant to criticise even the more controversial stances of Blair, such as his support for the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This gave the Tories few opportunities to land any damaging blows against New Labour. Indeed, the “liberal interventionist” stance devised by Hague and Cameron amounts to reheated Blairism.

The neoconservative agenda is not restricted to foreign policy, but includes a securitarian drive to contain Islamism and propagate “British values”. Cameron’s recent speech announcing the failure of multiculturalism can be seen as a tilt toward the neoconservatives in his cabinet. Yet the neoconservative temptation is a dangerous one for Cameron to succumb to. It offers moral and intellectual definition to an aggressive but vacillating government lacking legitimacy. If Cameron is a poorly defined leader, neoconservative belligerence can provide a far more robust political direction than the “big society”. But Cameron still needs his Liberal allies, and the electoral base for neoconservatism is smaller even than for the aggressive Thatcherism he jettisoned in opposition. If Cameron were to openly embrace the neoconservative agenda, it would be a retreat from the electoral coalition-building that has temporarily saved the Tories from irrelevance.

Gerry Adams Tells CBS: ‘I Never Pulled A Trigger, Ordered A Murder Or Set Off A Bomb’. Well, Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad!

60 mins

According to a publicity release from CBS’ Sixty Minutes programme, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has told the show’s presenter Scott Pelley during an interview scheduled for airing this coming Sunday, that he was never in the IRA, adding that he never “pulled a trigger, ordered a murder or set off a bomb.”

You can watch a preview here.

Well, two of those claims are true or at least mostly true. During all the years that I covered the IRA for various newspapers in Ireland, I came across only two instances when Adams could be said to have pulled a trigger or implied himself that he had done so – both happened very early on in the Troubles – and absolutely no evidence that he had ever set off a bomb.

The Scott Pelley interview has inadvertently thrown into relief a rarely discussed aspect of Gerry Adams’ life in the IRA. He may have been the IRA’s most able strategist – in fact I would rate him alongside Michael Collins in that regard – but he never got his hands dirty. He never went on operations, he never really fired a shot in anger but he did spend most of his IRA life issuing orders, including orders that led to loss of life.

During the IRA’s lengthy war against the British, Gerry Adams was often like the Generals in the First World War. Living well behind the front lines and the danger they presented, they devised the strategies and issued the orders to implement them – although to be fair and accurate none of those Generals lived on the run, sleeping in different houses, wearing disguises and always in fear of arrest or worse at the hands of the enemy, which was the life Adams certainly lived, especially post-1970.

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The two incidents when Gerry Adams may have pulled a trigger happened right at the outset of the Troubles. One incident he wrote about in one of the short stories that he published in the 1980’s. In the story he tells the tale of two IRA Volunteers firing shots over the grave of a recently interred comrade.

This story is a thinly disguised account of the controversy over the death of Liam McParland in November 1969, then the pre-split IRA leader in Ballymurphy who died in a car accident on MI motorway en route to Belfast. There are conflicting explanations for the journey. One says McParland was on the way back from an unauthorised training camp in Donegal. Adams, who was in the car with McParland when it crashed, was also at the same camp but neither had the permission of the leadership to attend. Another version, from Brian Feeney, says they were returning from Leitrim and were transporting weapons. Needless to say Adams himself has not shed any more light on the matter.

Adams was suspended from the IRA, according to Brian Feeney’s account of the episode, and the IRA leadership refused to afford McParland the usual republican funeral trappings, including a volley of shots over his coffin/grave. Adams’ fictionalised account has a young man, clearly himself, and an older man (Joe/Tom Cahill?) stealing into Milltown cemetery in darkness to fire some revolver shots over the grave.

So he may have pulled the trigger in this instance even if the shots fired were not in anger.

A contemporary of his in the pre-split IRA, the late Jim Hargey who kept friendly relations despite the subsequent parting of the ways, once told me that he knew that Adams had fired shots at the British Army’s base in Ballymurphy, the Henry Taggart hall, very early on in the Troubles. The hall, a local community centre, had been taken over by British troops who used it as their headquarters in the district. That was at a time when there were nightly incidents like that.

Gerry Adams’ lack of operational experience was well known within the IRA and a serious handicap when he began steering the Provos in a political direction. Adams was widely credited within the movement for rescuing the IRA from defeat after the 1975 ceasefire but nonetheless was viewed with suspicion by some for holding views that sometimes echoed those of former comrades in the Officials.

Hence the partnerships with figures whose military credentials were beyond question. Brendan Hughes and Ivor Bell were key allies when Adams began chipping away at the Provisionals’ abstentionist roots from Long Kesh by advocating ‘active abstentionism’ – i.e. the involvement of Sinn Fein in community politics as a way of building a long-term support base for the IRA’s military campaign. In practice though ‘active abstentionism’ signalled the beginning of a journey in the opposite direction, towards the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The fact that figures like Hughes and Bell supported these ideas at their outset was crucial in settling nerves internally.

Adams’ relationship with Martin McGuinness was another and much more important example of this stratagem.

McGuinness suffered none of the military shortcomings of Adams and was well known throughout the IRA as an enthusiastic operator, always ready and willing for action. The Bloody Sunday tribunal, for instance, has an utterly believable account of McGuinness on the day of the killings wandering the Bogside toting a Thomson sub-machine gun, something that Adams would never have done.

Both Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price describe a Gerry Adams during this time who was always very careful to keep a safe distance from weapons, for instance on the day in 1972 when Armalite rifles were first delivered to the IRA in the lower Falls.

The role played by McGuinness during the dropping of Dail abstention in 1986 and later as the IRA was edged ever closer to the 1994 ceasefire was absolutely crucial. His constant re-assurances to the rank and file, his promise, for example, that no ceasefire would happen without an IRA Convention meeting to endorse it, settled nerves. Activists were just not ready to believe that McGuinness would sell them short while many were ready to think the worst of Adams.

There is no doubt that Gerry Adams was in the IRA and that he gave orders that led to others pulling triggers or setting off bombs and, of course, killing people. But he was not an operator by any stretch of the imagination. And this is a crucial and defining aspect of the story of how he brought the IRA from war to peace.

New Yorker Discussion On Northern Ireland’s Past

An interesting conversation here between the New Yorker magazine’s Patrick Keefe, who wrote the recently published, much discussed, much praised and lengthy piece on Jean McConville and Gerry Adams, and Philip Gourevitch, a writer for the magazine who has specialised in covering the conflict in Rwanda. The discussion is moderated by Amy Davison.

Here is the audio preceded by the website’s intro:

The murder, in 1972, of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten living in Belfast, is one of the most notorious crimes committed by the I.R.A. during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Patrick Radden Keefe wrote about the McConville killing, and about the alleged involvement of the prominent Irish politician Gerry Adams, in a recent issue of the magazine. On this week’s Out Loud podcast, Keefe and Philip Gourevitch join Amy Davidson to talk about the aftermath of the Troubles and the path to peace in Northern Ireland.

There’s a common misconception in the United States, Keefe says, that the Irish conflict was largely resolved by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. “I was really shocked,” he says, “when I spent time in Belfast for this story, to find a society that’s still really profoundly divided, and in which some of the terrible things that have happened in the past stubbornly refuse to stay in the past.” Some politicians, including Gerry Adams, talk about the dangers of scratching at old wounds, but Gourevitch, who has written extensively about reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, contends that unless past traumas are acknowledged, it’s almost impossible for torn societies to heal. “In terms of the historical process,” he says, “there has to be a sense that they’re living inside the same story.”

The Irish General Election

In the wake of the economic collapse in Ireland, the Fianna Fail-led coalition government headed by prime minister Brian Cowen has crumbled amid allegations of widespread lying and corruption in Irish political life. A general election will be held within weeks.

Gerry Adams Action Hero

Gerry Adams has quit his West Belfast seat to stand in Louth, and if elected will lead Sinn Fein in the Dail, the Irish parliament. Many observers believe Sinn Fein could do well, possibly well enough to become a partner in the next government. In the coming election the dishonesty of politicians and the extent to which their words and promises can be believed, will be major issues in voters’ minds. Here are some extracts from reports and interviews dealing with the central issue in Adams’ political life, the achievement of a united Ireland via the peace process. No comment from me is necessary.

BBC, 14th January 2000

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has predicted there could be a united Ireland in 16 years time.

Mr Adams made the comment to rousing applause at a rally for party supporters in New York on Thursday night.

He said the logic of the peace process would lead to unification – perhaps by the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, which was seen a turning point for Irish nationalism.

“If we want to make progress then there is no reason whatsoever, from someone who has dealt with the unionists close up, who has dealt with the British close up, no reason why we cannot celebrate the 1916 Rising in the year 2016, in a free and united Ireland.”

Irish Independent, 18th November 2003

A UNITED Ireland by 2016 is on the cards, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness  predicted last night.

With nine days left to the North’s Assembly Election, the Mid Ulster MP said at his party’s manifesto launch republicans could attain their goal by the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

“As we develop the north-south implementation bodies and people co-operate and work together, I think people will see more and more the logic of that,” Mr McGuinness said.

“Certainly it is our view that it can be accomplished over a short period. Gerry Adams has said 2016 and I think that is achievable.”

Guardian, 15th September 2007 — Gerry Adams interviewed by Nick Stadlen,

NS: You said that a united Ireland could be achievable by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising …

GA: Well I didn’t quite say that. A colleague of mine said that and then when I was asked the question I said: “But if we don’t get it, don’t blame us”. Because it will not happen inevitably, it will only happen if we continue to pursue proper strategies, and if we’re able to develop the political strength and the political support … if we’re able to create the political conditions to bring that about, and I think that we have got the ability to create those conditions, but I wouldn’t be precious about it’s going to happen at such and such a date.

University Times (paper of Trinity College, Dublin), 26th January 2011 — Gerry Adams interviewed by Eugene Reavey

Q – It now seems that the party’s goal of achieving Irish unity by 2016 will not come to fruition. Are you still hopeful of achieving unity in your lifetime, or do you feel the political will amongst the other parties no longer exists?

A – The party’s primary political objective is to attain Irish reunification. I believe that it is a doable and achievable project. I want it to happen sooner rather than later.

The party never had a position of achieving this by 2016. It will happen when sufficient political and public support has been attained. Bear in mind that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the Government of Ireland Act was scrapped and replaced with a new constitutional arrangement. The British government is now committed to legislating for a United Ireland if a majority of citizens in the north want it.

That places a huge challenge before all of us who want Irish unity. We have to win support for it. We have to especially reach out to unionists. But we also need to make the border irrelevant by building on the all-Ireland dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement and harmonising relations between north and south.