Seriously, have people lost all sense of reality in relation to the admittedly bitter divisions within the broad Republican movement stemming from the Boston College Oral History controversy? Yesterday the Pensive Quill, the personal website of writer and Boston Tapes’ researcher Anthony McIntyre, posted an article featuring an interview by the New York-based Radio Free Éireann with the veteran Irish journalist Suzanne Breen, which focuses on the fascinating claim by Gerry Adams that the PSNI accused him of being an agent of MI5, the British security service, during his recent arrest and detention. The allegation focused on 1972, the year the suspected British Army informer Jean McConville was murdered, and some people are now treating this like some sort of revelatory confession by Adams. Even worse Breen needlessly gilded her reporting lilly by repeating the risible second-hand claims by the British “super-spy” Martin Ingram that the bullets used in the attempted assassination of the Sinn Féin leader in 1984 by British terrorists had been rendered less effective by the British military to prevent his death.
If Sinn Féin have been hoisted by their own petard in relation to the politicised enquiries by the RUC Dissidents within the PSNI in the form of the aptly dubbed “Get Adams!” campaign and generally emerged with we-told-you-so egg all over their faces, then those Republicans who oppose SF’s current leadership are descending into the territory of “Fenians in Wonderland“. While those who benefit from Republican in-fighting sit back and rub their hands in front of the self-immolating conflagration that has become Ireland’s revolutionary tradition activists and supporters from across our island nation – and beyond – are happily piling more fuel on the fire. The British state did not bring about the “defeat” of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army. It did not “win” the war. The role of spies and informers, agents and traitors, in the conflict has been blown completely out of proportion. Yes, by the early 1990s the British had done a good job of penetrating the ranks of (P)IRA. Of course they did. But penetration does not equate with absolute control or even influence. More was gained from emergent “Big Brother” technologies in that era than was ever gained through human assets. By all means understand one’s enemy but don’t transform him into an unstoppable Hercules when he was – and is – nothing more than a Goliath waiting for his David, a Balar ready to fall to a Lúgh.
If Gerry Adams was recruited in 1972 as an agent for MI5 inside (P)IRA and the cessation by (P)IRA took place in 2005 that means it took 33 years for MI5’s secret plan to “defeat” the (P)IRA to work. Surely that would make MI5 the most incompetent bunch of spooks in human history? In truth Adams is no more a “tout” than Anthony McIntyre, however much one may disagree with either or both. And if a former generation of Republican activists wish to tell their story in their own words then who has the right to stop them, even if the manner in which it was done was flawed or mishandled (or contaminated by as yet unclear political agendas)?
No one I suppose, has the right to stop a former generation of Republican activists from telling their story in their own words. Indeed, many need to. As otherwise normal citizens living under extraordinary circumstances they were traumatized by violence, imprisonment, sectarian murders etc They need to make sense of what happened to them and their families and friends.
But they did a lot of things that were against the law.
And since the GFA did not encompass an amnesty then their stories (if true) could incriminate themselves and other people.
Are the tapes just Hearsay? Political and personal axes to grind? No use in a court of law? Probably.
So just press storm in a teacup time before an important election?
However, many who spoke and spoke about other people are afraid.
And speculation is rife.
Even former Republicans who remembered that old Belfast adage “whatever you say, say nahim” are scared. They could have been talked about.
And so disclosure has to be explained, preferably by a conspiracy theory rather than a series of errors.
And someone has to be blamed. That’s the easy bit.
The hard bit is overcoming the distrust that has been generated among former comrades
Richard O’Rawe may be trying to do that as he sues Boston College
“But they did a lot of things that were against the law.”
The law in the six counties was a very pliable thing, the British State manipulated it into becoming part of their counter insurgency strategy, just as they did throughout the British Empire.
Even then the British ‘security forces’ failed to uphold what they claimed was the rule of law, Bloody Sunday, etc, the bloody list is endless.
Having said that I agree with much of what you wrote and the article offers sound advice
totally agree organized rage about the double standards of law-abiding. Was trying to look at things from an establishment point of view there as this is the point of view that will be applied when/if more veteran Republicans are hauled before the courts for what they allegedly did years and years ago. Sad business all round
With NBC New now in the mix it could soon get much sadder. Historians of the future may rue this day.
I agree that the anti-Adams stance of Anthony McIntyre, Suzanne Breen, Ed Moloney and others often perversely leads them to become an unwitting echo chamber for revisionist/Unionist propaganda. However I think your argument that the length it took the PIRA to declare a ceasefire makes it implausible that Adams was Mi5 is based on the premise that the British secret state always wanted peace. But that need not necessarily be the case. The war in the north, and more importantly the way it was spun in the 26 counties, played a decisive role in undermining a sense of national self-hood in the south. In a sense whether Adams was or was not a British agent is something of a red herring – the real issue is that his brand of Republicanism seemed unwilling or unable to engage with the highly effective unionist/revisionist ideological onslaught, particularly in southern Ireland. I remember reading an interview Adams gave to the late Derek Dunne in Magill, in which Dunne tried repeatedly to cajole Adams into condemning an Eoghan Harris lecture which argued that the Irish media should be used to wage a propaganda war against Republicans. Adams seemed disinterested in the whole issue, and refused to be drawn. Yet, arguably Workers Party dominated media outlets like the Sunday Indo, the Irish Times, and RTE did more to undermine Irish national self-esteem over the last forty years than had been achieved by the Black and Tans, the RUC and the B Specials combined. Hence the failure of Irish people to fight the de facto takeover of their country by international bankers. They have have had it drummed into their heads for years by the Sunday Indo and RTE that they have no right to regard themselves as a proper nation, so it’s not surprising that they seem so servile in the face of City of London larceny. There’s an unfortunate tendency of Irish Republicans to see the “national question” as purely relating to the six counties, but what good is reuniting Ireland if the united country is not free, sovereign and self-respecting? Whatever about the Provos being directed by Mi5, the evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable that the WP/ Official IRA was at its core a British intelligence black operation. If that’s “conspiracy theory” so be it . After all, human beings do conspire – it is indeed one of their most pronounced characteristics.
Some excellent points, Colm. Certainly elements of “OSF-WP/OIRA-Group B” became uncomfortably close to the British, whether as agents or more often simply allies (as in my enemy’s enemy is my friend, with PSF/PIRA as the enemy to be defeated). There were some WP who were unhappy with that but most had jumped ship by the mid to late 1980s.
Very good points about the Dublin media establishment. Even now the “Redmondite” culture of the press overwhelming. A reunited Ireland that is “West Britain” in everything but a few token names is not worth having. As you say reunification should not be the only tenet of contemporary Irish Republicanism, just one among many.
Thanks Seamas: re your point about some Sticky grassroots dissatisfaction with WP/OIRA’s close relations with the British establishment: as “The Lost Revolution” makes clear, the party leadership’s decision to back globalist insider (and ardent Unionist – she even voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the Seanad) Mary Robinson’s bid for the 1990 presidency was taken without consulting the membership – or even informing them. They learned about this decision through an announcement in The Irish Times! Robinson was exactly the type of bourgeois upper middle class feminist the supposed Stalinist class warriors of WP might have been expected to despise. Likewise WP hacks like Gerry Gregg and Eoghan Harris expressed unbounded admiration for Dessie O’Malley and the PDs – another ostensible contradiction that only made sense if one knew that both the WP and the PDs were part of a pincer movement on left and right to marginalise nationalists and republicans.
Excellent site by the way – only discovered it recently. Don’t always agree with everything on it – but a great antidote to the robotic media consensus in Ireland.
Demographically I should have been in Robinson’s target audience but I could never take to her, possibly for some of the reasons above. There was just something about her and her notorious clique that I found off-putting. They were “Celtic Tiger” before the tiger and everything that was wrong about it. I well remember meeting some of those who claimed to be in her orbit who would beat their breasts at the thoughts of the poor oppressed Palestinians of the intifada while ignoring their fellow oppressed Irish fifty miles up the road (and not half-way around the planet!). BAH! I got annoyed just thinking about them. And those Dublin Forrre accents. ARRRGH!
Thanks for the good words about ASF. It reflects the (occasionally random) thoughts in my head so I hope I don’t annoy too many people with them 😉