“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party?”
For many people this infamous question immediately brings to mind the period of the 1950s and ’60s in the United States and the wave of anti-communist fear and paranoia which swept the country. Promoted by an influential class of right-wing ideologues in the spheres of politics, the press and law enforcement, persecution and opprobrium became the order of the day, destroying the lives of countless ordinary Americans and their families. In reality of the tens of thousands of people investigated, arrested and interrogated only a handful had any provable association with communism or the USSR. In fact the common characteristic of most suspects was their liberalism or left-leaning views – or simply being socially “unconventional”. This of course was the era of Joseph McCarthy, the feared senator from Wisconsin, and his public trials of alleged subversives in Washington, granting us the term McCarthyism: the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.
Reading some of today’s newspapers in Ireland I couldn’t help but be reminded of that age of ideological fanaticism gone mad. From the Sunday Independent’s controversial security correspondent Jim Cusack come these claims in the wake of the murder of garda Tony Golden by petty criminal “Adrian” Crevan Mackin in Louth:
“The term ‘subversive’ rather than ‘dissident’ is being again used by gardai to cover a wide range of criminal-political activity along the Border…
The ‘subversive’ term, commonly used in the early part of the Troubles to describe broad IRA activity, is being used again because, alongside the actual criminal activity, there is also the infiltration and corruption of government on both sides of the Border.
The Garda Special Branch is aware of the identities of the moles the IRA has infiltrated into government – from local authorities up to senior positions in key government departments. Most are non-IRA figures, who have either been bribed or otherwise coerced into working for the IRA but some are actual IRA members or ‘volunteers’.
The Special Branch has never held with the notion that the IRA has ‘gone away’ but merely that it has changed its modus operandi and is seeking the subversion of the Republic by different methods – using its huge criminal earnings and influence inside the structures of the State, the media, trade unions and academia to undermine and eventually overthrow what they still term the ’26-county State’. This has been greatly assisted by the pursuance of a policy referred to under the 1998 and other agreements as ‘security normalisation’.”
If you think the above allegations fly in the face of known history since the late 1990s, there is more elsewhere in the same publication:
“Gardai are facing a nightmare scenario that one of its own members has worked as a mole for the Provisional IRA-controlled ‘mafia’ in the Border area, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
A top-level Garda review is under way into a number of its investigations as concern heightens that evidence in several sensitive cases may have been tampered with.”
There is a nightmare scenario here, certainly, but it has nothing to do with An Garda Síochána or a fictional army of underground revolutionaries ready to overthrow the state.