Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Is the truth buried with the dead?

There can be no greater demonstration of the surreal nature of politics in Northern Ireland than the allegations being directed at Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, from beyond the grave by a former friend.

The memoirs of Brendan Hughes claim Mr Adams was directly involved in the death of Jean McConville, the mother-of-ten shot and secretly buried by the IRA; helped plan and approve the Bloody Friday bombings in Belfast in which nine people died, and ordered the death of an IRA man in jail who was suspected of giving information to the police.

It is unimaginable any politician in any other part of the UK could survive such allegations, yet, it is equally unimaginable they will change many people's opinion on Mr Adams. He has his supporters and opponents, with few ambivalent towards him. The claims are not new and there is little hard evidence to make them totally compelling. It is unlikely Mr Adams will suffer any electoral fall-out from the allegations.

Perhaps the most poignant story to emerge from these memoirs was the wasted life of Paddy Crawford, a man abandoned by his mother, brought up in care and then joining the IRA and being interned. There, fellow inmates hanged him because they suspected him of being an informer but his death was made to look like suicide. That was the view taken by his inquest.

His death, like that of Jean McConville and many others, shows how cheap life was during the Troubles and how far terrorists really strayed from their self-styled image of freedom fighters. Mr Hughes' claims may well be true - he was certainly well-placed to know - but they cover only a small part of the Troubles and the operations of one paramilitary group. It raises the question again of the need for a process of truth and reconciliation if we are ever to uncover what really happened during the conflict. But vested interests may well prevent that process ever beginning.

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