Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Sinn Fein's reaction to Adams arrest sending wrong message

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams during a press conference at Balmoral Hotel after he was released from Antrim PSNI Station without charge
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams during a press conference at Balmoral Hotel after he was released from Antrim PSNI Station without charge
Loyalists gather outside Antrim PSNI Station after it was announced that Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams was to be released without charge following questioning over the Jean McConville murder on May 4, 2014 in Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Loyalists gather outside Antrim PSNI Station after it was announced that Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams was to be released without charge following questioning over the Jean McConville murder on May 4, 2014 in Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Michael McConville called for an independent investigation into his mother's death
Michael McConville called for an independent investigation into his mother's death

The release of the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams without charge after four days of questioning by the PSNI into the murder of Jean McConville and membership of the Provisional IRA will take the heat out of the situation for the time being.

However, the story is far from over and the fact that a report has been sent for consideration to the Public Prosecutions Service means that this high profile matter could surface again at any time.

Nevertheless, the questioning of Adams has exposed some of the major fault lines in the political process here, and it has raised fundamental questions about the attitude of Sinn Fein to the PSNI.

Some days ago, a loyalist was held in connection with the bombing of McGurk's Bar in 1971 in which 15 people died, and this arrest was seen as part of the never-ending efforts of the police to seek prosecutions for heinous crimes of many years ago.

Given the reaction of Sinn Fein in recent days, should we regard this, too, as an example of "dark forces" within the police who are trying to undermine loyalist-backed parties in the upcoming elections?

Furthermore, should we accept the "conspiracy" fantasies about all the ongoing arrests harking back to those grim days, particularly as Sinn Fein is still pressing for criminal charges to be brought against the troops involved in Bloody Sunday?

Ironically, in the Sinn Fein rush to blame certain "biased" police, they have conveniently forgotten the controversial pardons given to the "on-the-runs", which appear to outsiders as if the British were bending backwards to facilitate their former combatant republican comrades.

The simple reply is that nobody should for a moment be taken in by such fantasies, and Sinn Fein in taking us through their narrow "looking-glass" of life in their terms have done themselves no favours.

This is particularly so in Dublin, where their attempt to disassociate themselves from the Troubles seemed to be paying off. However, the remarks of Mary Lou McDonald, seen as Adams' heir in the Republic, together with the predictable reaction of Gerry Kelly and others in the North, have put forward a familiar line that might have been believed 30 years ago, but which totally embarrasses them now.

Sinn Fein has been an effective party and has contributed to the peace process and government in Northern Ireland, but they must not be allowed to mythologise the recent Adams questioning into the old narratives of State might and the "dark arts" of the police against plucky underdogs who simply believed in the republican cause.

In the meantime, poor Jean McConville and her family still have no peace, nor justice. Today Gerry Adams remains a free man, and it is for the proper authorities to consider whether or not he is culpable of anything.

The decision to refer his case to the DPP was the right one, and it will give time and space for a proper consideration of a complex and extremely important issue which strikes at the heart of justice and of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

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