Wednesday 21 November 2018

Reaction to Adams's IRA 'set-up' tells its own truth

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams Picture: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams Picture: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Perhaps the most striking thing about the reaction to the 1987 State papers is the lack of surprises.

If the world was right, there would have been a stunned outrage at claims the president of the third largest party in the Dáil 'set up' a notorious IRA gang for ambush by the SAS.

In the normal course of politics, ministers and TDs would be out demanding an inquiry, while Sinn Féin TDs would be circling the wagons to dismiss the rumours.

Instead there was a muted response, with little more than a shrug of the shoulders from Sinn Féin, who described the information passed by respected cleric Fr Denis Faul to the Department of Foreign Affairs as "utter nonsense".

The Loughgall operation, which resulted in the deaths of eight members of the Provisionals' East Tyrone Brigade, is one of many stand-out moments from the Troubles.

British army special forces were lying in wait when the IRA men loaded a 200lb bomb on to a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of the RUC barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

The declassified documents suggest the theory doing the rounds was that "the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself" because two of the eight had "threatened to execute Adams".

There are two parts to that sentence. One points to the reality that Mr Adams has spent much of his adult life under threat, while the other suggests he was not averse to having people killed if necessary.

It all feeds a well-established narrative that the Louth TD was not only involved in the IRA, he was of a very high rank.

But the muted response also shows how the public at large have become desensitised to Adams and his ilk.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who shares a constituency with Adams, said: "I'm not surprised by any of it. We know that was going on a long time. He was a senior member of the Republican movement at that time."

Mr O'Dowd talked about the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville and questioned why there has never been a major breakthrough in the investigation into the death of sheep farmer Tom Oliver.

"What happens in other countries, they have a truth commission after the appalling events and people find a way to tell the truth and bring closures to families and communities. That's needed here now," he said.

For years, Adams has publicly backed the idea of an independent international truth commission - but there are reasons to be sceptical.

Another document released this week suggests that Adams was working on a peace strategy in early 1987, which on the surface sounds positive.

However, when you read it, it appears his motives were not black and white. Rather than seeing the error of his ways, he was driven by the realisation that terrorism was hampering his own personal political ambitions.

Bishop Cahal Daly briefed diplomats on the situation, speaking with "some vehemence of Adams's deviousness and fundamental untrust-worthiness".

The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section