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Gerry Adams has to change the record

By Brian Rowan

Published 10/04/2015

Jean McConville, a 37-year-old mother-of-10, was taken from her Belfast home in front of her children and murdered by the IRA in 1972
Jean McConville, a 37-year-old mother-of-10, was taken from her Belfast home in front of her children and murdered by the IRA in 1972

Easter sounded like a broken record. The Gerry Adams interview for the CBS 60 Minutes programme could have been recorded 60 weeks ago, or even 60 months ago.

We heard the answers before he spoke them. The still-unconvincing, "I was not a member of the IRA." And, then, his response to the question about the Jean McConville killing and disappearance of her body: "That's what happens in wars." However, it was intended to sound, it came across as cold and uncaring. Republicans should just say it was wrong that they took Jean McConville away from her children and put a bullet in her head.

And at Easter, when republicans remember their dead, they need also to understand that they remind others about what happened to their loved ones; a reminder of what the IRA did.

The broken record has to change. And that's not just a challenge for republicans, but for all the sides.

What happened here was more complex than the script lines of the CBS commentary; the 30-year Troubles when "Catholics and Protestants murdered one another in Northern Ireland".

Yes, as usual, some of the Adams answers dodged into the fog. But there is not yet a context, a circumstance, or a structured process, that will allow for straight talking and straight answers.

And Adams is not the only one who has questions to answer. He and republicans will have questions that will challenge others.

But the absence of a process to allow that exploration and explanation of past orders and actions means the record remains stuck.

The proposals in the Stormont House Agreement are, for now, just that: proposals. They are not the truth and justice, or truth and reconciliation, commissions that have been talked about and talked around. Rather, they still include an investigative element alongside an information-retrieval process. They will only work with proper co-operation from all sides.

And levels of co-operation, or indeed hindrance, are the topics for the "uncomfortable conversations" that now need to happen. Can you get the information that is being sought while investigations continue? Not if Easter is anything to go by.

Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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