Tag Archives: Gerry Adams

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.

Adams_60

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.