Sinn Fein's dismissal of Boston College tapes is utter hypocrisy
SINN Fein is among the many individuals and groups who rightly argue that the contents of the Anglo Irish Bank Tapes, revealed by this newspaper, must be promptly and fully investigated. But the party is not at all as keen to see the contents of another set of tapes – the so-called Boston College tapes – examined and discussed.
Ten days ago, Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald was asking in Dail Eireann why certain, key people around Ireland's banking system 'sang dumb' about the Anglo Tapes. Ms McDonald, Sinn Fein's vice-president, is unlikely to pose the same question to her party president, Gerry Adams. We must assume she accepts her boss's insulting assertion, rejected by most other people, that he was never in the IRA.
The Boston College tapes were part of an oral history project on the Northern Ireland Troubles and involved veteran journalist and author Ed Moloney and others. The original idea was that the tape contents would not be released until after the death of the interviewees because of the explicit content relating to their involvement in some very serious crimes.
But the Northern Ireland authorities, involved in investigating historic serious crimes, began a marathon legal battle to get these tapes which went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Last week the first of the tape contents were handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and it is widely expected that the rest of this material will also be handed over in due course.
The tapes raise serious questions about Mr Adams's role in the IRA – a role he continually insists he never had. They also raise serious questions about his potential links to some heinous crimes in the early 1970s in Belfast which involved the so-called 'Disappeared'.
These were people believed to be helping the British security services in the North and working against the IRA, who were abducted, tortured, murdered and secretly buried. The most notorious case among these was the story of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 children.
Six of her nine children were taken into care after her abduction, torture and murder in December 1972 and many of them grew up with little knowledge of one another. In March 1999, as implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was in crisis over IRA arms decommissioning, the IRA offered to help locate nine of the 'Disappeared'.
At the time the move was seen as an IRA gesture of good faith in the absence of movement on weaponry. But location details about a beach near Carlingford, Co Louth, proved too vague despite extensive searches. Ultimately, Ms McConville's body was found by accident in August 2003, and it appears that winter storms had washed away part of a car park which had later been built over her makeshift grave.
The issue has been periodically in the news for the past three years. In April 2010, Ed Moloney published 'Voices From The Grave' which included the accounts of two paramilitary leaders, Brendan 'Darkie' Hughes of the IRA, and David Ervine of the UVF.
Hughes's account deals with the McConville case and makes serious allegations implicating Mr Adams in what happened. In 2012 another IRA veteran, Dolours Price, gave similar accounts and made comparable allegations against Mr Adams in an interview with a British Sunday newspaper. Both accounts also named Mr Adams as a senior IRA commander at that time.
Mr Adams and Sinn Fein have always denied these allegations – insisting that he had no involvement in what happened to Jean McConville and he further, always and everywhere, insists that he was never in the IRA.
Sinn Fein has said that Mr Hughes, who died in February 2008, and Ms Price, who died last January, were both very ill people who had vehemently opposed the IRA and Sinn Fein's involvement in the Good Friday Agreement. In sum, they had personal and political reasons to try to discredit Mr Adams.
Mr Adams often describes recurrent questions to him about the issue as a media obsession which has no popular resonance. He points to his poll-topping, 15,000-plus votes which saw him elected TD for Louth in February 2011 among evidence for this argument.
In the past week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin again questioned Mr Adams in the Dail on this issue. Some people have since described this questioning as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail just seeking to make political gains and do down an opponent which threatens their vote-share.
Sinn Fein and critics of the main parties question the potential legal validity of these tapes and their dubious status in a court of law. This may be true – but it is hardly an argument for ignoring them.
But Mr Martin's comments last week were interesting as he argued that Mr Adams's denials lacked credibility and then he went on to say: "Were it any other politician who stood accused of what Mr Adams is, they would be facing, at a minimum, a Dail inquiry or a commission of inquiry."
Now, that is rather like what Sinn Fein has to say about the Anglo Tapes.