Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gerry the moral gymnast

Developing yesterday's post, and focussing solely on Gerry Adams, I write about a moral vacuum, in today's Belfast Telegraph.

The decision to schedule the documentary on Sunday proved unerring. This week the Old Bailey bomber, Dolours Price, is scheduled to present vital information to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR).

She alleges that Adams was the officer commanding the Provisional IRA in Belfast, directly responsible for setting up two secret cells, 'the Unknowns', tasked with 'disappearing' suspected informers.

These allegations implicate Adams in the killing of Jean McConville, who was abducted, shot and buried on a beach in Co Louth, during the 1970s. The murder is a notorious example of IRA brutality and fanaticism.

During The Bible, Adams talked about forgiveness and said that, after three decades of 'war', "all of us have plenty to forgive and be forgiven for".

Perhaps. But anyone with a shred of decency would concede that some are more guilty than others. McConville's daughter has called for Adams' arrest in light of Price's claims.

The issue of 'the Disappeared' is particularly emotive, because many of the victims were drawn from the very communities which the IRA now claims it engaged in conflict to protect.

On a handful of occasions during the documentary, the producer did attempt to tease out of the Sinn Fein president some meaningful reflections on his own contribution to the sum of human misery in Northern Ireland. He was largely unsuccessful and the documentary was Adams' story, in his own words, coloured by his all-pervading revisionism.

Therefore we had "stupid operation" rather than barbarous mass-murder, "political activist" rather than terror chief. The Shinners' lexicon always bristles with euphemism, but even by their Orwellian standards, Adams is the moral gymnast extraordinaire.

Faced with a victim bereaved by the IRA, Adams emphasised 'corporate' rather than individual responsibility. Alan McBride's wife and father-in-law were killed, along with seven other civilians, in the Shankill Road bombing. The Sinn Fein leader infamously acted as pall-bearer for Thomas Begley, who planted the explosives, along with his colleague Sean Kelly, and died after they went off prematurely.

Adams, and other figures within Provisional Sinn Fein, claim that McBride's victimhood, and the victimhood of his wife Sharon, are precisely equivalent to that of Begley and his family.

The fact that the IRA operative knowingly planted a bomb, in a busy shop on a Saturday afternoon is, effectively, irrelevant.

This logic, which insists that everyone is equally to blame and implies that individuals cannot be held responsible for their actions during a 'conflict', is seductive for paramilitaries and their representatives, but it is also a dangerous, immoral, unacceptable notion.

Not one of the 'actions' carried out by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland was justified or justifiable. There was not a single terrorist here, no matter how young, no matter how benighted his/her personal circumstances, who had no other option.

However loud the clamour from revisionists and apologists becomes, the truth remains that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland did not support or participate in terrorist activities.

The hundreds of thousands who were not involved, who were actually repulsed by the murder and mayhem unfolding around them, were not part of some privileged elite, nor were they immune from the communal pressures and political forces of the day.

Likewise, those who did murder and maim cannot wheedle out of responsibility for their actions by claiming special dispensation. It wasn't the fault of the 'Orange state', it wasn't due to their youth or naivety, it wasn't because of 'the Brits'. The blame lies squarely with them and with them alone.


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