Sinn Féin, as ever, want to have everything both ways

IF IT really was a “war” in the North as Gerry Adams claims, then where were the rules of war?

Sinn Féin, as ever, want to have everything both ways

Why did the IRA men shoot chief superintendent Harry Breen in the back of his head despite the fact he was waving a white handkerchief in a desperate act of surrender? Is that not the epitome of a shoot-to-kill policy?

But, as ever, Sinn Féin want to have everything both ways. Sure, they say, wasn’t it just the heroic manifestation of the legend of 1916?

No. It wasn’t. There is no moral equivalence between the War of Independence and the IRA atrocities of the Troubles. This point needs to be made again in the wake of the Smithwick Tribunal report as Sinn Féin tries to excuse the murder of Mr Breen and his fellow RUC officer Bob Buchanan.

Even a presenter on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland made a spurious link between what happened to Roger Casement and the killing of the RUC men when framing a question trying to catch out a Sinn Féin TD, but such justifications are historically and morally worthless.

Though the 1916 Easter Rising was initially condemned, the vast bulk of the nationalist population across Ireland swung behind its aims and supported the lethal methods of the IRA in its bid to break the country free of Britain.

The post-1969 situation in the North is utterly different. There the splinter Provisional IRA was only ever supported by a minority in one corner of the island, while the vast majority of people in the South, and in the northern nationalist community, were revolted by what was being done in their name.

It was not until after the Provisional IRA stopped being active — and active, of course, means killing people, mainly civilians — that Sinn Féin finally dislodged the SDLP as the main voice of Northern Catholics. It is in this context that the pronouncements of Gerry “Army Council? What Army Council?’ Adams and his yes men and women in Sinn Féin need to be judged.

Rather than try to rein-in the comments from Adams that the two RUC men were effectively asking to be murdered, and drove themselves to their deaths, Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn insisted it was the IRA’s “duty” to kill them.

And Mac Lochlainn’s views matter because he is actually the party’s justice spokesperson, and would presumably be their nominee for Justice Minister in any future Dáil Coalition. So we can only imagine what rough justice he would meet out in such a position if he ever got the chance.

Rather than stop digging and apologise, Adams just made matters worse with meaningless rhetoric which proves he just does not have the emotional political intelligence to understand the outrage he causes.

“It is nonsense to suggest that I was blaming the two RUC officers for their own deaths. Everyone knows the IRA was responsible. That was never in question.”

Of course it was never in question — did he think we suspected the RUC men might have committed suicide?

Adams insisted he was merely echoing the Smithwick findings about their “laissez faire” attitude to security, but the tribunal never used that flippant term.

And anyway, just because they did not have an army of bodyguards around them, does that really mean the IRA had a “duty” to murder them — especially when at least one of them was waving a white flag of mercy?

There was a similar display of twisted ambiguity in the aftermath of the killing of garda Adrian Donohoe at the beginning of the year when Adams finally made a Dáil apology for the IRA murder of Jerry McCabe in 1996.

Adams said he was also apologising to the families of other members of “State forces” killed by republicans in the “course of the conflict”. But Adams never explained on whose behalf he was apologising and what authority he had to do so.

Also, what “conflict” was raging with “State forces” in the sleepy town of Adare, Co Limerick, that Mr McCabe’s killers believed warranted such a vile and needless taking of human life?

That Dáil moment was given added poignancy by the presence of Martin Ferris, sitting behind Adams, in the chamber, as it was a smiling Ferris who collected Mr McCabe’s murderers from Castlereagh prison in 2009.

But, of course, Adams was never on the Army Council, nor indeed in the IRA — he just has huge influence over them and can apologise on their behalf.

It was the same old story at the presidential election when Martin McGuinness dismissed “West Brits” for orchestrating a media conspiracy against him.

The reality was that many people were alarmed at him becoming head of state not because they were pro-British, but because they are anti-terrorism and they define him as a former terrorist.

McGuinness and his supporters would define him as a “freedom fighter”, but it is impossible to have any kind of substantive debate on which definition is correct, or, at any rate, more applicable, when we are only given partial knowledge of what exactly he did, or did not do, in the IRA before he supposedly quit the organisation on a whim in 1974.

Adams and McGuinness both played pivotal roles in the peace process — but before you can make peace, you have to make war.

His mere presence in the presidential race highlighted the shocking otherness of the Sinn Féin leadership. Could you imagine fellow candidates Michael D Higgins or Dana being asked whether there were any suspicious deaths or disappearances they would like to confess too?

And it would seem the next generation is intent on keeping on with the slippery practices of the past, as when deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald refused to apologise for the killing of RUC officers, insisting there was a “clear distinction” between their murders and those of members of An Garda Siochána.

In a prickly performance, Adams came very close to comparing himself to Nelson Mandela yesterday when he said the South African media had to “educate” itself that Mandela was not a terrorist once he became president.

Leaving aside the point that the South African media was crushed under a police state, and the Irish media is generally free to ask legitimate questions of all politicians, education can only come via facts, and Adams has built a career obscuring the facts about his role in the IRA.

Mac Lochlainn and McDonald may not have blood on their own hands, but they see nothing wrong in trying to wipe the blood off the hands of others in the wider organisation.

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