Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Strange Detention of Gerry Adams

It’s the old guard using the old methods

Gerry Adams, 5 May, 2014

The link between the gun and the boardroom, the grenade and the meeting resolution, may seem tenuous.  In reality, they are often progressions. Those links between Sinn Féin and the IRA have always been intimate, dark, and even toxic.  When the killing stops, the talking must begin. Some are simply better at doing one thing than the other.

The Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, has been released by Northern Ireland police after he voluntarily checked in for four days of questioning.   “While I have concerns about the timing, I am voluntarily meeting with the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Island]” (Boston Globe, May 1).  He left an Antrim police station by the rear exit to evade noisy Loyalists who had gathered outside the station.  The cloud over proceedings had one overarching theme: whether Adams had a role behind the abduction and murder of alleged informant and mother of ten, Jean McConville, in 1972.

The point being made by Adams’s opponents is that the party animal of diplomacy was once a killing animal, signing off on lives he scant knew.  Various members of the IRA have insisted that Adams was not the angelic sort, let alone the sort who kept all matters of blood at a distance.  Some critics, such as an ill-tempered Kevin Toolis, simply regard anything Adams’s says as balderdash, the behaviour of an instinctive liar (Daily Mail, 3 May).

Much of the material that has made it into Adams’s file is based on the Boston College oral history program known as the Belfast Project.  It is filled with hearsay reflections and observations over those violent times in Northern Ireland that have come to be called The Troubles.  Two participants, in particular, pointed the finger at Adams: Brendan Hughes, something of a legend in IRA circles, who had a torrid falling out with Adams over the latter’s peace program, and Dolours Price, who claimed Adams ordered her to drive McConville to her fate.

Bureaucrats connected with that project have not covered themselves in glory, capitulating to requests to obtain information that had been provided under strict conditions of confidentiality.  There was one proviso: that the information remain confidential till the death of the interviewees.  Federal prosecutors executed subpoenas in 2011, less an issue for Hughes, whose confidentiality clause ceased being as important after his death in 2008, than Price, who only died in 2013.  Boston College did fight the Price application, but decided to cave in and hand the material to British authorities.

This legal tussle has left researcher Ed Moloney, a journalist with the BC Belfast Project, suitably unimpressed.  “The whole process of conducting academic research in the United States of America on sensitive subjects with confidential sources has been dealt a blow by the Obama Department of Justice” (Boston Globe, 1 May).  The broader result in Northern Ireland is that everybody will lie before the tape recorder on matters connected with The Troubles, certain that any testimony is bound to be scoured by subpoena and claim.

The entire Adams case centres on linking individual tragedy with a historical movement.  McConville’s death in 1972 still lingers in its grief, a heart wrenching throb about the political object can become lost in the blood mist of revenge.  Sadly, it also seems to linger as an object of political gain for Adams’s opponents, who have only tolerated his political presence begrudgingly.  First Minister Peter Robinson of the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is not atypical, suggesting that Adams had made a “thuggish attempt at blackmail” against the police forces.

For Robinson, the arrest, which is more accurately a formal submission to police custody by Adams, should be determinative, lest his side of the aisle lose face.  “The threat now means that ordinary decent citizens will conclude that the PSNI and the PPS have succumbed to a crude and overt political threat if Adams is not charged.  I warn Sinn Féin that they have crossed the line.”  To gain a march on your political opponents, always throw the fait accompli back at them.

The policy of the Northern Ireland police has been suspect in this regard. Why make a line for Adams now?  According to Maloney, the PSNI were already conducting inquiries about McConville’s deaths some months ago, though they were on rather shallow ground in seeking evidence from those who were teens at the time of McConville’s death.  “The PSNI seem to be ploughing fairly sparse ground.”

Adams’s loyal deputy Martin McGuinness is in no doubt: it stinks of electoral expediency, the handiwork of “dark forces” in the PSNI.  Sinn Féin is, after all, running in European and local elections later this month.  Nor is the file that is in the hands of Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions likely to go far – after all, Barra McGrory, head of the prosecution service, is Adams’ former solicitor.  The question cannot be answered with any certainly till a decision is made, and even then, a trial is most likely to acquit in the absence of vital living witnesses.

These moves on the part of the PSNI do not inspire confidence in good policing. If stirring a hornet’s nest was what was intended, they certainly have had the desired effect.  The political balance in Northern Ireland remains precarious, an unnaturally imposed understanding that still imports the threat of terror to keep people in their place.  A dance of sorts has been initiated, and the only effect once everyone resumes their chairs is the hope that politics as normal and abnormal, resumes.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail