Yesterday as my wife and I left Leinster House we bumped into my former IRA chief of staff Gerry Adams. He was entering the doorway we were exiting through so it was a tight space. He grunted ‘maith thú’ only for us to blank him. It hardly annoyed him, he has faced worse disdain than being ignored. Whether through chance or something else he appeared to be in the company of Pat Rabbitte. That sight triggered alive the last lines of George Orwell’s Animal Farm as I looked from Provo to Stick, from Stick to Provo and back again, realising that it was no longer possible to tell any difference.
It was in the same building a week earlier that Adams took to the floor in his ever floundering bid to float the lie that he had no role in the IRA. It never flies but doesn’t stop him trying. The Minister for the Disappeared seems to have misheard the old motivational saying ‘god loves a trier’ somehow thinking it was ‘god loves a liar.’
It is onerous enough having to frustrate the desires of victims even where that is a by product of action but not intent. It is something else to watch laughing and sneering in parliament when the case of a victim is raised. It must be even more galling to the families of the victim when the representative, leering hyena-like, is the person the family suspect of being behind the death of their loved one.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin with no scarcity of aplomb made his points in respect of the Boston College tapes. Both he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny might have been criticised for their contributions on the day in an otherwise excellent article in the Irish Examiner, but Harold Shipman would never have been be allowed to enter the chamber and insist on no discussion of his patients. And if he did it would be derelict of both the leader of the government and the leader of the opposition to acquiesce in the demand for the silence of the unmarked grave.
Adams did himself few favours. His response at one point was to guffaw. For the old caudillo the victim here is not Jean McConville but himself: he is the victim of Micheal Martin seeking to sabotage his chances at office. With such a level of narcissism on display it is small wonder that the victims are galvanised into pursuing their case and their quarry come hell or high water.
For long enough Mr Adams championed a culture of violence, once promising to leave Sinn Fein were it to disown armed struggle. Much mitigation can be offered. But time has moved on and that culture has been usurped by a culture of rights. As Sinn Fein’s power to rewrite history diminishes the ability of the victims to have it more thoroughly examined grows. Rather than the laughter of our children being emblematic of our victory as envisaged by Bobby Sands, it is the wails of our victims reaching a crescendo that has come to symbolise both our defeat and our moral bankruptcy.