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)?