Don’t worry, BBC ... Gerry Adams will not be suing Spotlight any time soon
After yet more shocking allegations, people are again asking why the Sinn Fein leader does not take action, says Ruth Dudley Edwards.
So why doesn’t he sue? People have been asking this for years, as allegations follow allegations about Gerry Adams. Last week’s Spotlight about the murder of Denis Donaldson reignited the debate once again.
Gerry Adams was not best pleased with the programme and slid swiftly into familiar denial/counter-accusation mode.
“I repudiate it, deny it absolutely and categorically and specifically.”
As usual, he pointed the finger at the historic enemy.
“Elements within the British system”, he explained, were to blame, in the form of “an anonymous, unnamed, self-professed agent of the British state.”
As another master spinner, Joseph Goebbels, pointed out many years ago: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly — it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
This is a technique heavily utilised by the generations of nationalist propagandists who plug the MOPE (Most-Oppressed-People-Ever) version of Irish history which republicans have been faithfully repeating at every opportunity for more than 150 years, and which unfailingly blames the Brits for everything.
Adams ended, on this occasion, with another familiar attack on his critics. “This is an attempt to rewrite history.”
Yes, the head of an organisation that has demonised those who saved Northern Ireland from total destruction and still smears all its critics, once more accuses of lying, those who search for the truth.
Because of a biography of Patrick Pearse that they didn’t like, the republican thought-police had denounced me for decades as a Brit-loving revisionist, but it wasn’t until I became a political commentator in the early 1990s that they stepped up the intimidation.
I had begun writing about paramilitary evils because it was increasingly clear behind the scenes that officialdom was discouraging journalists from giving truth priority over what were perceived as the interests of the “peace process”.
And personally, I was particularly riled to be denounced as anti-peace by spokesmen for both loyalist and republican terrorists because I wasn’t prepared to practise self-censorship lest I hurt the feelings of blood-soaked godfathers.
Gradually, lawyers began to replace guns in the paramilitary armoury, and as threats to sue came tumbling through the letter boxes of broadcasters and the press, there was increasing pressure to avoid what might prove to be expensive controversy.
This was particularly true when it came to criticisms of republicans for there were draconian libel laws in the Republic, plenty of money available to frighten people off and small armies of vigilant lawyers ready to threaten lawsuits on the flimsiest grounds.
And yet, it was clear Gerry Adams wouldn’t sue.
I reported on an interview with Mark Simpson on BBC Ulster where Adams had given “a masterclass in mendacity” on the issue of the IRA’s weaselly apology for having killed nine people and injured 130 in Belfast on Bloody Friday 20 years earlier.
“Many people listening to this interview will find it inconceivable, incredible and unbelievable,” Simpson had said, “that somebody like you could hold such a senior position within the republican movement and not ever have served as a member of the IRA.”
“Well,” said Adams blithely, “that’s a matter for them.”
So why, asked Simpson, had he never sued any of the newspapers that alleged he’d been a senior member of the IRA at the time of Bloody Friday?
Because, explained Adams, his legal adviser “always advised against suing for libel because it just wasn’t financially worth it”.
As I pointed out in the article, there was a bit more to it than that, for “there are enough disaffected republicans around who so hate him for his duplicity, ruthlessness, opportunism, arrogance, coldness, sanctimoniousness, vanity, pomposity and pretension that they would queue to appear against him in any libel action”.
And that is still the case, which is why, although from time to time Adams makes a technical complaint to a press complaints body, he will not be suing Spotlight any day soon.