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Paul Williams: ‘I know who I believe in a toss-up between BBC ‘Spotlight’ team and Gerry Adams

By Paul Williams

Published 22/09/2016

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams and his supporters have always worked off a strategy. During the Troubles that was encapsulated in the Long War - essentially to wear down the Brits in an attritional terror campaign. Militarily, the IRA was unable to match the capacity of the British army but they were willing to sustain more casualties (in terms of people and publicity) than the security forces.

The physical-force plan was twinned with the ambitious political strategy of getting Sinn Féin elected north and south.

You could say the Northern Command of the IRA, which still effectively controls the republican movement and Sinn Féin itself, has been successful in both aims - irrespective of the cost, including all the innocents cut down in the tarnished name of Irish freedom.

This, of course, would be to forget the huge roles played by constitutional nationalists like John Hume and Séamus Mallon, who played gallant and now largely forgotten roles in bringing about peace. Disappointingly, two great Irishmen like Hume and Mallon have become collateral damage in the bid to portray Adams as the man of peace.

More: Furious Gerry Adams threatens to sue BBC and says he will meet with police

Which brings me back to strategy. It's hard not to believe now, having spoken to republicans - some of them former IRA hardmen - that Adams's place in the history books plays a massive role in the strategy of Sinn Féin and the IRA itself.

Adams sees himself as a contemporary Nelson Mandela or Fidel Castro - a strong and undefeated general who now walks the corridors of power. That is to forget that Mandela and Castro never denied being soldiers. Adams still does. He does so because many of the orders he gave to his subordinates involved what could be classified as war crimes - the murder of innocent men, women and children.

Chief amongst those war crimes was the murder of Jean McConville - a killing in which Adams has been implicated by two former subordinates in the IRA.

More: Gerry Adams a liability to Sinn Fein but ego will not let him relinquish post

Mandela and Castro are also distinguishable from the likes of Adams and those who surround him insofar as those two leaders never set out to lie. Adams lies on a consistent basis.

The great lie being that he was never in the IRA. If the BBC is to be believed, he is now lying when he says he did not sanction the cold-blooded killing of his former friend Denis Donaldson.

I know who I believe when it comes to a toss-up between the BBC 'Spotlight' investigative team and the Sinn Féin leader.

More: Denis Donaldson murder: The unanswered questions that bedevil Gerry Adams

File photo of Cuba's President Fidel Castro and former South Africa's President Mandela in Johannesburg during a visit to Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg in this September 2, 2001 file photo.
File photo of Cuba's President Fidel Castro and former South Africa's President Mandela in Johannesburg during a visit to Mandela's home in Houghton, Johannesburg in this September 2, 2001 file photo.

That aside, there is also a fundamental issue here. If Adams did sanction the murder, it happened at a time when the party he led was in power in Northern Ireland; is that therefore a State-sanctioned killing?

Gerry Adams and his courtiers would like to see him leave the stage to a great fanfare. The longer they wait, the more unlikely that is.

I often come into contact with republicans who are now disaffected and wonder about the sacrifices they made. They see Adams's inner court and the success they enjoy and compare it to how they have been jettisoned by the leadership.

That's why I believe many more are now willing to come forward to programmes such as the BBC's 'Spotlight' and point the finger at Adams and what he and his courtiers ordered them to do.

The ultimate irony is that Sinn Féin needs Adams to remain as leader because if he goes, the party and the movement face an inevitable split. Nobody else in the party has the authority to command the IRA's still existing Northern and Southern commands.

Essentially, until a leader who is acceptable to Northern Command and a southern electorate is found, then Adams can't leave, even if he wanted to.

The BBC, which broadcast the potentially ruinous allegations on Tuesday night, would not have done so lightly and is clearly confident that these claims stand on firm ground.

The Sinn Féin leader returned fire with a predictable fusilade, saying: "It's a lie. It's wrong. I repudiate and deny it categorically. I think it's another low point in journalism that an anonymous, unnamed person . . . makes these allegations. I was as shocked and surprised as anyone when Denis Donaldson was shot."

There is of course, one other major difference between Mandela, Castro and Adams. Mandela and Castro were in charge of cohesive military and political organisations.

Adams was in charge of a military organisation that became riven with informers. I can think of no other military structure, where, according to some estimates, as much as half its membership was in the payroll of the enemy.

What does that say about Adams's judgment, intuition and leadership?

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