Sunday 16 June 2019

Eoghan Harris: Paudie puts Spotlight on Sinn Fein's cult side

Like Alice in Wonderland, Sinn Fein members are asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
Like Alice in Wonderland, Sinn Fein members are asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Paudie McGahon is a profile in courage. His tough testimony will hearten other victims. But he has also done the State some service.

Last week, he moved past his own suffering to make a political point. He described Gerry Adams as "the god of a cult". That's something for parents of Sinn Fein members to ponder.

Why parents? Because parents usually lead the rescue party when family members are in the coils of a cult.

Any idealists still in Sinn Fein after that party's risible reactions to the Mairia Cahill and Paudie McGahon revelations must be deemed to have lost their moral compass and be in need of rescue.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Sinn Fein members are asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast. This ability to instantly change course was pointed up by the frantic about-face of Sinn Fein MP, Francis Molloy.

Molloy's first reaction to Spotlight was brutally dismissive: "Another load of rubbish on Spotlight tonight. Joint Indo bluesh.. production".

Given Molloy's status we can be fairly sure that most Sinn Feiners agreed with his original tweet.

But what is really frightening is that we can be equally sure that they agreed with his abject apology.

So far, Sinn Fein's critics have contented themselves with joking jibes about that party's cultish behaviour. But the cult charge should be taken more seriously.

Dialogue Ireland, which rescues people from religious cults, accepts the definition of a French Government commission on sects in 1998.

"A cult is a totalitarian organisation, whether religious or not, the behaviour of which affects human rights and social stability."

Dialogue Ireland believes any group can develop cult-like characteristics.

So it confines the term to a group which "subjects its members or would-be members to an unusually high degree of psychological pressure, intimidation or deception".

Sinn Fein fits that bill. In the course of trying to make abuse charges go away it has subjected its members to psychological pressure, intimidation and deception.

So far the political and media establishment has failed to protect this gullible generation from the gurus of Sinn Fein. Paralysed by the "peace process", political responses have ranged from the egregious to the ineffectual.

The egregious side is when Enda Kenny jibes at Sinn Fein rather than going for the jugular. The ineffectual side was shown by Joan Burton's reaction to Sinn Fein manufacturing a crisis in Stormont to deflect attention from Spotlight.

Rather than rip into Sinn Fein, Burton coyly said she found the coincidence "interesting".

Back in the 1980s, Burton's colleague Alex White led the anti-Section 31 campaign in RTE radio. At the same time Sinn Fein/IRA was agitating to abolish Section 31 and get access to the airwaves.

The legacy of that common struggle still lies heavily on the culture of RTE radio. Last week, not one RTE radio programme put Sinn Fein under serious pressure about Paudie McGahon.

In contrast, Newstalk's Lunchtime with Jonathan Healy spent the week blowing Sinn Fein's shoddy case to bits.

Last Wednesday, on Lunchtime, Mairia Cahill forensically filleted Sinn Fein's record with a fluency that few senior counsel could match.

Paddy McDonnell, producer of Lunchtime, followed up on Friday with a compelling chronicle of Adams's evasions on abuse, beginning with the case of Liam Adams.

Alas, raw journalism of this sort seldom finds favour with the mandarins who hand out media awards. As I hope to remind them when the time comes.

In fairness, RTE television, as distinct from radio, did not drag its feet as it did with the Mairia Cahill case. A robust Brian Dobson and some penetrating Prime Time reports kept Sinn Fein under scrutiny.

But RTE TV still fell short in giving us the concrete detail. Last Wednesday's 9 o'clock news referred to the search for Joe Lynskey's body. But failed to mention he had been kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

But, of course, it was the Irish Independent's compelling coverage of the McGahon case which set the agenda last week. A coverage which pointed up the lethargy of the Irish Examiner, which did not put Paudie McGahon on its front page until last Thursday.

Last October, the Irish Examiner was equally dilatory in dealing with the Cahill story. A possible clue to this baffling behaviour was provided by a piece published on Wednesday October 22, 2014, under the byline of Executive Editor, Dolan O'Hagan.

Provocatively titled "Political point-scoring does a disservice to Mairia Cahill". O'Hagan penned what reads like a polemic against Irish politicians who were rightly publicising the Mairia Cahill case at her own request.

Recalling his father's fight against drug-dealers in Derry, O'Hagan claims the threat was ended, not by the RUC and the British Army, but by the IRA.

He credits the "direct involvement of community activists / paramilitaries who managed to persuade these dealers - in a series of kangaroo courts, I would presume - that it was time to desist from their activities or move on".

O'Hagan concludes "This issue has, yet again, become a politicised 'who knew what' and 'who knew when' pantomime whose ultimate aim is quite clearly to maximise political damage against this country's fastest growing political party".

The Irish Examiner's Executive Editor may be in touch with a certain tradition in Derry. But he is totally out of touch with Middle Ireland's misgivings about the sordid cult that calls itself Sinn Fein.

* * * * *

So Ireland's favourite poem is When All the Others Were Away at Mass. Poetic fashion is fickle. I suspect a poll next year might choose Easter 1916.

My own favourite is Charles Wolfe's The Burial of Sir John Moore, which I recited at the Lennox Robinson Literary Festival.

Apart from its elegiac power, I have two other reasons to cherish the poem. Charles Wolfe, a Church of Ireland clergyman, was a cousin of Wolfe Tone. Sir John Moore treated the Wexford rebels with humanity in 1798.

But now Catherine Robson, Professor of English at New York University, has published a book called Heartbeat which gives me a fourth reason.

Robson believes the mass memorising and public recitation of three poems, Casabianca, Elegy in a Country Churchyard and The Burial of Sir John Moore, had a profound effect on popular culture.

The Moore poem had the most practical effect. It led to the creation of the great war cemeteries which commemorate the common soldier. Here's the last verse. To be read aloud.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

From the field of his fame, fresh and gory.

We carved not a line and we raised not a stone

But we left him alone in his glory.

Sunday Independent

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