In the wake of the North’s Public Prosecution Service having yesterday stated the obvious, that it would not charge Gerry Adams in respect of the abduction and homicide of Jean McConville, the spotlight has once again fallen on the former Provisional IRA chief of staff in a way he would rather it did not.
Given that Adams has consistently disputed the logic of claims that he headed up an organisation of which he was not even a member, he prefers the beam to focus on his role as a peacemaker, a visionary, a leader of a political party, not a guerrilla army.
Adams claims to have “played no act or part in Jean McConville’s death.” As he also insists on having played no act or part in the IRA his denials about McConville immediately lose buoyancy. The anchor of IRA membership pulls all else beneath the surface of credibility.
The task of protecting him from such vulnerability is imaginably the remit of his party colleagues whose own political fortunes are intertwined with their leader's political career. It is certainly not the responsibility of the national media flagship, RTE. Yet its Northern editor, Tommie Gorman, last night stepped into the breach in a bid not merely to explain the Adams denial. In filtering out options available to Adams other than a denial, he funneled that denial into a plea of mitigation.
Gorman told television viewers that for Adams to admit having been a member of the IRA for even one day the PSNI would charge him. That is most likely true, and Adams would be a fool to admit it under such circumstances.
That poses no reason for Gorman to refrain from explaining that Adams had an option other than denial. Adams, with no great effort, could very easily say “no comment” and that he will be totally forthcoming at some as yet unspecified point in the future when there is no possibility of arrest. He does not have to say he was a member, but merely refrain from pushing the lie that he was not. That would remove the threat of arrest no less effectively than denial.
Moreover, and more insidiously, in Gorman’s report the point was made that the allegation against Adams being considered by the PPS prior to yesterday’s announcement was that as a 24 year old he had engineered the fate of Jean McConville.
There are two things about this. Firstly, people looking at the current 66 year old mature politician might be tempted to contrast that with a youthful and rash 24 year old, like many others caught up in a conflict not of his making: a heady year in which the British massacred an unarmed civilian population marching for civil rights ~ a atmosphere not conducive to level headed thinking amongst the young.
The Adams foray into the dark arts of totalitarianism might therefore be all the more mitigatory because it came at a youthful age, unlike Pinochet who a year later practiced the same dark arts, but he was 57 and a much more mature character.
Secondly, the inference the public is invited to draw from this reasoning is that other older men, of whom there were many in the Provisional IRA in 1972, were the real power behind the throne, the people who ultimately delivered the pollice verso to Jean McConville. With Ivor Bell, 12 years older than Adams, facing trial for alleged involvement in the fate of McConville, it is not hard to work out to which conclusion this is being nudged.
The purpose behind the Adams false narrative is not, as Tommie Gorman would have us believe, one of simply seeking to avoid a vindictive prosecution for his role in an armed conflict he helped bring to an end. A simple “nothing to say” would suffice for that. The assertive and repetitive denials from the Sinn Fein president are about deception, not protection. Adams is intent on deceiving as much of the electorate as possible in the hope that such deceit will shield his political career from any potential adverse effect.
Current dissembling by leading politicians deliberately pitched to mislead the public is current affairs, not history. You would imagine Tommie Gorman would have a duty to explain to RTE viewers that the Adams narrative is an attempt to bamboozle them, rather than offer up a context which is nothing short of alibi ... but if it is Redemption Telefis Eireann.