Wednesday 21 August 2019

Adams and Sinn Féin trying to have it both ways on the continuing Troubles legacy

Calls have been made for Gerry Adams to step aside as Sinn Féin leader. Photo: Tom Burke
Calls have been made for Gerry Adams to step aside as Sinn Féin leader. Photo: Tom Burke

Eamon Delaney

Calls for Gerry Adams to step aside as Sinn Féin leader, so that the party can maturely prepare for Government, are wide of the mark. In fact, it is worth having Mr Adams still there as a reminder of the incredible ability of the party's double think. Not just on economics where the party implements Tory policy up North but is somehow a left-wing down South - but also on the thing that produced Sinn Fein in the first place, which is the Troubles and their legacy.

They haven't gone away, you know. Not a bit of it. The effects of the recent period of violence in our country will be with us for many years to come, as will, it seems, Gerry's weasly words when it comes to describing them.

Thus, when Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four died in 2014, Mr Adams was double-quick to express his great sorrow and remind us of the British government's wrongful jailing of Mr Conlon for 15 years for a bombing he never committed. But Mr Conlon was in jail because the IRA bombed Guildford, just as the Birmingham Six, who were also wrongfully convicted, were in jail because the IRA decided to bomb pubs in Birmingham.

If Mr Adams felt so strongly about the incarceration of these men, he and the IRA could have just named or produced the actual bombers. That would have solved it, surely.

But Mr Adams wants to have it all ways. Yes, what the British government did to Mr Conlon and others was very wrong, but it is nothing short of perverse to have Sinn Féin protesting about it. Would it have preferred that the real IRA bombers were arrested? Hardly.

Or would it have preferred that nobody at all was arrested and convicted for the Guildford bombings, which killed five people in two pubs, and injured scores? Perhaps. But then, with a wrongful conviction, you've got something better - a big human rights stick to beat the British with.

As it happens, in 1977, the 'Balcombe Street gang', an IRA unit which was about to receive huge sentences for other bombings, half-claimed that it was also responsible for the Guildford bombings. Could it be believed? As SF leader, Mr Adams could have confirmed its claim. But on that occasion he was strangely and understandably mute, and the claim wasn't followed up on.

It would be better now if Mr Adams remained mute when such cases are discussed. But, of course, this is not his way. He still insists on speculating about IRA's Disappeared, for example, in a way that further offends the families and blurs the lines of responsibility for who was actually responsible for these people's murder.

Mr Adams acts not only as if he is not part of Sinn Féin and the IRA, but also as if neither of these bodies is actually connected to the consequences of its actions. It is a fiction that reassures some of the SF base but which the wider public completely sees through.

For decades, they saw how the IRA carried out atrocities, and then profited from the reaction, and over-reaction, of the authorities, such as when it resulted in wrongful arrests and convictions. Or in the case of the Guildford bombings, led to the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Republican movement could then seize on the mistakes and abuses of the authorities as more weapons in its propaganda war.

Thus, Sinn Féin has been highly vocal in seeking, as we all do, a full picture on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. Except that SF and the IRA are partly responsible for the bombings, as the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave said in a brilliant and brave statement on the very day of those bombings.

The IRA led by example, he said, with its relentless bombings, in the North and in Britain. So SF didn't just create the conditions for these atrocities, and for injustices like that done to Mr Conlon, but it then profited from them and made them part of its agenda.

Mr Adams then acts as if he's doing us a great service by offering advice and help on finding the disappeared, as if he was not part of the machine that actually disappeared them.

Granted, there was atrocities done on both sides, but these victims would not have been disappeared, and Mr Conlon would not have been jailed, if the IRA hadn't prosecuted its murderous campaign.

Having been the cause of Mr Conlon getting wrongfully locked up, Sinn Féin might at least have done more to free him, instead coming in now to remind us of how he was mistried. After all, Mr Conlon did the time for the IRA's crime, and that's the real injustice.

Irish Independent

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