How can you tell when republicans are telling you lies? Their lips move
Sinn Fein peddle so many lies because it doesn't think the rest of us are even entitled to the truth, writes Eilis O'Hanlon
Of all the disputed words and phrases which incited passions during the Troubles, few were as hotly contested as "Sinn Fein/IRA".
Now those who insisted that grouping IRA volunteers and SF activists together as members of the same indistinguishable movement was the most accurate way of describing the enmeshed relationship between them have been proved right all along.
Who says? Irish republicans. That's the striking thing about the independent report published last week into the current status of paramilitary structures in the North, which was carried out following the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
It's not SF/IRA's opponents saying the two parts of the republican movement are inextricably joined at the hip, but IRA members themselves, who, according to the report, "believe that the PAC (Provisional Army Council) oversees both PIRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy".
So why did they always deny it when confronted with the truth? Because denial is the automatic Pavlovian response of republicans to uncomfortable, inconvenient facts. Lying isn't a strategy, though it may have strategic value. Lying is the republican movement's native language.
For those who don't speak fluent codology, here's a rundown of some of its most barefaced and infamous lies.
Lie No 1: Gerry Adams was never in the IRA.
Ever since he was released from internment in 1972 at the IRA's insistence and flown to London for talks with the British government, Adams has had the authority to speak on behalf of the terrorist group.
The chances of anyone outside the IRA leadership being so entrusted are somewhere between "infinitesimal" and "don't be silly". Adams might fool the gullible, but he can't make those who took their orders from him forget so easily.
Lie No 2: Violence was necessary in order to achieve equality for nationalists.
There is not a shred of evidence that equality and civil rights were advanced by IRA violence. If anything, the terrorist campaign postponed progress by decades. What lifted up Catholics in the North was education, not guns.
Lie No 3: The IRA fought an honourable campaign.
Dead children in shopping centres is not a cause for pride. Honouring the contribution of the IRA to progressive causes is like congratulating Isil for promoting religious tolerance.
Lie No 4: The IRA protected nationalists from attack.
The IRA murdered 338 Catholics during the Troubles. That's more than were killed by the UVF. More than were killed by the British Army. It's eight times more than were killed by the RUC. IRA mythology may pretend republicans took the fight to loyalist paramilitaries terrorising Catholic communities. In fact, the IRA killed fewer than 40 loyalist terrorists, representing less than 2pc of its total victims. Some protection.
Lie No 5: The IRA had the support of nationalists.
Throughout the darkest days of the Troubles, the SDLP was the first choice of a clear majority of Catholic voters. That held true even after the hunger strikes.
It was only following the Belfast Agreement that SF support began to rise, and it was 2003 before it finally eclipsed the SDLP - a grimly predictable outcome to a deal which encouraged voters to align into sectarian blocs.
Lie No 6: The IRA was never defeated.
The IRA's single reason for existence was to break the British connection in Ireland. That didn't happen, and isn't going to happen any time soon. The only circumstances under which it will happen is if the majority in Northern Ireland consents - and that was always the case. The IRA gave up because it had no choice.
Lie No 7: The struggle for Irish freedom is a seamless robe, each part equally valid.
There have been many peaks and troughs in the history of Irish independence movements, from the United Irishmen through 1916 to the War of Independence, some more honourable than others. The campaign which the IRA waged from the 1970s on was the most inglorious of all.
Lie No 8: The IRA is now wholly committed to peace.
This is more a half-truth than an outright lie, but it still needs to be challenged. The IRA is wholly committed to peaceful means … as long as they're working.
This is a threat which SF is happy to dangle over the heads of the Irish people when thwarted.
Lie No 9: The IRA is gone.
See this week's report for further details. If you want to test if the IRA is still around, try challenging its authority in traditional republican areas. You'll soon get an answer.
Lie No 10: SF respects the rights of women.
Tell that to Mairia Cahill, who continues to bear the brunt of its merciless machismo. Women have not only been at the receiving end of some of the worst of the violence, they've also had the added indignity of seeing it defended by republican women with the audacity to call themselves feminists.
Lie No 11: New SF faces are a break from the past.
What, like Mary Lou McDonald? She's the party's great white hope - pushed forward at every opportunity. When the IRA misbehaves, she still goes to ground with the rest. If that fails, she waffles. "Fresh faces, same old excuses" should be the slogan.
Lie No 12: SF fights austerity.
Er, in the Republic, perhaps. That's easy when they're unlikely to be in government in Dublin any time soon.
In the North, where SF is already in office, austerity doesn't appear to have noticed that it's being opposed.
Lie No. 13: IRA had no part in shielding child abusers.
It's a wonder they even bother denying this when Adams himself confirms that sex offenders were spirited secretly around the country. If that isn't a cover-up, what is?
Lie No 14: SF is a bulwark against political corruption.
A recent BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight investigation put paid to that porkie. A brown envelope, "jobs for the boys" culture is very much a part of SF too.
Lie No 15: IRA members are not criminals.
Gerry Adams is particularly fond of this one: "There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality". Say what?
In reality, IRA members are involved in widespread extortion, cross-border smuggling, drug-dealing, fuel-laundering, counterfeiting, and occasional armed robbery.
This is justified by republicans on the grounds that proceeds go towards funding the movement.
"We refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives," is how Adams puts it.
So if Renua starts in a campaign of kidnapping to fund its election campaign, presumably Gerry won't have a problem with it.
Lie No. 16: Sinn Fein is fit for government.
The biggest lie of all. Last week, the party exposed its unfitness for office by going on the attack over the independent report into IRA activity, rather than seeking an honest solution to the current crisis.
Far from bringing people together, SF's first instinct is to drive a wedge between them. Their line is that there is an "Irish view" on such matters and a "British view"; that these two views must, by definition and of necessity, be in constant confrontation; and that the "British view" must ultimately be defeated.
This is not the approach taken by recent British and Irish governments, who have sought to forge common ground, recognising that it is in neither country's interests to let differences be exploited by malign, subversive influences. When backed into a corner, as happened last week, SF deliberately dynamites that consensus, throwing out wild smears about MI5 plots to undo the peace process - and why? To protect the IRA, thereby confirming the very accusation laid against them.
Gerry Adams was right about one thing. "We're not directed by any outside body or organisation," he told RTE's News At One on Thursday. No one ever said you were, Mr Adams. What they said is that there is no distinction between different strands of the republican movement. Thanks for confirming it again.