Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Adams' TV non-confession leaves us further from truth

Denials: Gerry Adams is as evasive about his past relationship with the IRA as he is about the disappearance of Charlie Armstrong
Denials: Gerry Adams is as evasive about his past relationship with the IRA as he is about the disappearance of Charlie Armstrong

Just why did Gerry Adams do the big RTE interview this week – allegedly to talk about the IRA's past? Instead of coming clean on cases which remain unsolved, the dissembling Adams ended up giving us more denials, more evasions and digging more holes for himself (if you'll forgive the rather unfortunate pun).

God only knows who was behind the idea for this TV non-confession. No doubt, Sinn Fein want Adams to put clear water between the present and the violent past and clear up some of these mysteries – at least for the victims' surviving families.

But the real way to do this would be for Adams simply to step down as Sinn Fein president and spend more time with the teddy bear he tweets about.

Adams is irredeemably connected with the IRA's violent past and to go on TV and play around with allegations in that self-important way that he has is just to insult the victims even further.

It is also holding his party back just when it should be developing as an opposition to a resurgent Fianna Fail in the Republic.

Gerry Adams is not the person to do an explanation and recompense for the IRA's past. He is incapable of answering a question on this without going into evasions, irrelevancies and outright denials.

After all, this is a man who still denies that he was in the IRA himself and who denied, at least at the outset, any IRA involvement in the killing of garda Jerry McCabe, or in the Columbia Three, or in the Northern Bank robbery.

All these were knee-jerk denials, done instinctively: the tactical reaction of a man at war, where truth is the first casualty. And this is why Gerry Adams is incapable of bringing clarity here – even if we accept the sincerity of his apology in the Dail to the families of republican victims. Specifically, this was to the families of Garda Jerry McCabe and other members of the Republic's security forces.

"I'm very sorry for the pain and loss inflicted upon those families," Adams said then – and he probably is. The IRA didn't intend to kill Garda officers, after all, and it brought them a lot of unwelcome publicity and odium.

But there was no apology forthcoming for the killing of policemen in Northern Ireland. Those deaths presumably didn't cause Adams as much trouble.

Gerry Adams' apologies over the years have been selective and his attitude to the truth is even more so. Thus, this week, he denied any knowledge about a string of suspected IRA murders in a way that was, at times, farcical.

He denied being the final 'court of appeal' in the killing of Co Louth farmer Tom Oliver in 1991. He "didn't know" who killed the Portlaoise prison officer Brian Stack, or who killed Garda Samuel Donegan in 1972.

He also accused those who said that he had ordered the killing of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972 of "telling lies" and wanting him dead.

He did, at least, say he believed that any killing of any human being was "murder" and that the killing of agents of the state was wrong. But he said that such violence was part of war. Adams didn't distance himself from the IRA. (He said he never would.) Fair enough. It is unreasonable to expect IRA or Sinn Fein people to repent of their past.

But then please stop going into the public domain to play evasive Mastermind with the public's legitimate questions – and with the victims' families' heart-rending cry for closure. Better to say nothing at all.

Instead, Gerry Adams does worse. In 2010, for example, he "welcomed" the discovery of the body of Charlie Armstrong, who was 'disappeared' by the IRA in 1981.

Except that Adams said that there was "no evidence" that the IRA had killed Mr Armstrong and added that, anyway, "who killed him is of secondary importance".

Of secondary importance? Well, not to Charlie Armstrong's widow, it's not, who waited 29 years to find her husband's remains and who would very much like to know how he died.

But we still don't know. And we'll never know – unless the IRA tells us.

Because Adams, the serial evader and denier – who denies that he was even in the IRA – is certainly not the man to tell us.

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