Wednesday 21 February 2018

Brass neck aplenty, demagoguery and accusations of false memory syndrome

Ronan Fanning reviews a lively first week in the variously embarrassing and bewildering campaigns of the not so magnificent Seven

THE most revealing moment during the bad-tempered exchanges between Sinn Fein's Danny Morrison and Peter Murtagh of The Irish Times on Friday's Today with Pat Kenny came out of the blue. At issue was Murtagh's powerful and persuasive article in the previous day's Irish Times on the Provisional IRA's murder of Frank Hegarty in Derry in 1986. After describing the lengths to which Martin McGuinness then went to prevent him talking to the Hegarty family, Murtagh concluded that "Martin McGuinness has a prima facie case to answer over the murder of Frank Hegarty. I don't know the extent of his involvement but I do know that McGuinness was unusually interested in dropping by the Hegarty home in June 1986. Interested in shutting up his family."

Morrison insisted that because Murtagh had not filed a story on the episode in 1986, his account must now be dismissed as worthless. Revelation dawned when Pat Kenny read out a question from a puzzled listener who wanted him to ask Mr Morrison what possible reason Mr Murtagh could have for inventing such a story. One explanation, Mr Morrison knowingly suggested, was that it might be a case of False Memory Syndrome.

I was reminded of the joke about a proud mother watching her son marching out of step past the reviewing stand with his battalion and saying to her friends, "Everyone's out of step except our Johnny!" The crass arrogance of Sinn Fein's strategy in the presidential election was suddenly laid bare: everyone's out of step except our poor, misunderstood Martin; anyone who has the bad taste to remember his involvement with the IRA after 1973 must be deluded or suffering from False Memory Syndrome. The bad news for Sinn Fein is that a massive 85 per cent of respondents in today's Sunday Independent poll think Mr McGuinness should give the full details behind Frank Hegarty's murder and 75 per cent don't believe he ceased to be involved with the IRA in 1974.

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