Thursday 13 December 2018

Mary Lou defends Adams' sick murder threat joke

Mary Lou McDonald with party leader Gerry Adams
Mary Lou McDonald with party leader Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald

Jody Corcoran, John Drennan and Philip Ryan

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has repeated his "veiled threat" about a newspaper editor held at gunpoint.

He made his latest comment about the media without the qualification that he would not advocate such a menacing act now.

It comes as Mr Adams singled out Independent News & Media journalists and editors for the group's probing of his actions in the Mairia Cahill rape scandal.

His deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has also defended her leader's shocking remark which was first made at a fundraising event in New York last week.

Yesterday, she said Mr Adams had "made very clear he was not suggesting it was an appropriate course of action now".

But in a blog post on Friday, in which he sought to compare the terrorism campaign of the Provisional IRA to the actions of War of Independence volunteers, Mr Adams chose to omit the qualification.

Mr Adams' sick joke has been roundly condemned by Opposition leaders as betraying an "extraordinary mindset", "gross insensitivity" and an indication of his "difficulties with the nature of political life in a functioning democracy".

And INM Editor-In-Chief Stephen Rae said: "As a group we have lost two courageous and campaigning reporters to violence in the past. In that light, the Adams remarks are astonishing.

"We take the defence of press freedoms and the personal safety of our journalists very seriously. As a media organisation we will not be cowed by veiled threats."

Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin was shot dead by drug lords in 1996 and Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan was murdered in Northern Ireland by terrorist outfit the Loyalist Volunteer Force in 2001.

At a Sinn Fein fundraising event at the Sheraton Hotel in New York on Thursday night, Mr Adams hit out at media coverage of his handling of the statements made by rape victim Mairia Cahill, reserving particular criticism for this media group.

In reference to Michael Collins, the War of Independence leader, Mr Adams said: "Mick Collins' response to the Independent's criticism of the fight for freedom was to dispatch volunteers to the Independent's offices. They held the editor at gunpoint and then dismantled and destroyed the entire printing machinery! Now I'm obviously not advocating that…"

However, in a republican blog post published on Friday night, under the headline 'The good old IRA', Mr Adams returned to the issue, but omitted to say he was not advocating the holding of a gun to the head of a newspaper editor now.

In that blog, he stated: "And when the Irish Independent condemned his actions as 'murder most foul', what did Michael Collins do? He dispatched his men to the office of the Independent and held the editor at gunpoint as they dismantled the entire printing machinery and destroyed it."

Also in that blog, he sought to defend the Provisional IRA's involvement in the 'disappearance' of people, also attempting to compare that practice to the War of Independence era.

Ironically, there is no evidence that Michael Collins or any of his followers held a gun to the editor of the Irish Independent/Freeman's Journal. In 1919, a crowd of IRA men smashed the printing presses because of the newspaper's criticisms; in 1922, Rory O'Connor, a Republican leader, smashed the presses because the newspaper was pro-Michael Collins.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin said: "Gerry Adams' decision to joke about threatening journalists at gunpoint raises further questions about his judgement. He appears to have difficulties with the nature of political life in a functioning democracy.

"His attack on journalists in a media group that has already seen two brave journalists shot in the line of duty is revealing in a deeply troubling fashion. He should recognise that at the centre of this crisis is a group of sexual victims who were failed historically and continue to be failed.

"The fact that every other party and media outlet sees this is not some vast conspiracy but is evidence instead of a basic moral decency."

Labour leader Joan Burton said Mr Adams' comment "says a great deal about his mindset, that he would use an incident referring to an editor being held at gunpoint to raise a light laugh from an appreciative audience of US millionaires at a fundraising gig".

"He appears to have intractable difficulties with the modern world," she said, adding that Mr Adams' words gave a "real insight" into how he thought differently to the majority of people. "It is a shadowy reminder that the IRA haven't gone away, you know."

Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton said of Mr Adams: "My God, he thinks he's Michael Collins now; whatever next, Mahatma Gandhi?

"At a time of incredible sensitivity, showing such an appalling lack of judgement, comments such as those in New York create unease across all sides of the political divides, North and South.

"Many will see this talk of breaking up printing presses with iron bars as representing a chilling prophecy of how public life would evolve under a Sinn Fein-led government. Right thinking democrats are growing increasingly tired of tiptoeing around Mr Adams' political ego."

Last night, the National Union of Journalists Irish organiser Seamus Dooley said: "As the NUJ opposed Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, we also oppose threats to journalists from politicians.

"The price of seeking election is accepting that you will be held to account. Mr Adams is free to dislike the Sunday Independent but he is not free to threaten or use bullying language towards journalists.

"It is ironic that he should make his comments in America, where freedom of expression is prized. I also would remind Mr Adams that journalists are workers who deserve the right to be treated with dignity in the conduct of their job. If he has a complaint, let him lodge a complaint with the Press Ombudsman."

Sunday Independent

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