Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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Spotlight Should Be On C3

It is reported that Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams is set to take legal action against BBC Spotlight over allegations that he was privy to a decision to kill Denis Donaldson in 2006.

Just how far Adams will pursue such a course is a moot point. The acute discomfort he underwent when crossexamined by Eilis McDermott during his brother’s rape trial augurs poorly for any future appearance in the witness box. 

Few will be convinced that Adams will want to face questioning about the authority with which he delivered his 1987 comments on the IRA execution of Charles McIlmurray - broadcast as televised footage on Spotlight - that everybody in West Belfast knows that the penalty for death is informing.

His party will tread trepidatiously in anticipation of other questions likely to be put to him in open court and where waffle about the peace process will be brushed aside as deftly as it was during his brother’s trial. Until he takes the oath in court the safe money is on his legal threat being theatrics aimed at silencing critics in the media, which if stood up to will not progress all that far.

Spotlight since it aired a fortnight ago today has come in for much criticism, most notably for the allegations made in it by an anonymous source, “Martin”, a British state informer who operated on behalf of the RUC and PSNI to spy on both Sinn Fein and the IRA. It was "Martin" who implicated  Adams in the fate of Donaldson in 2006.

The allegation was transparently nebulous, and if not manufactured by "Martin" was at best hearsay. In the wake of its emergence press reports have suggested that both the Garda and PSNI are dismissive of "Martin's" most contentious claim: that the Provisional IRA killed Donaldson. The dead man's family have also refuted the suggestion. Moreover, a member of the Real IRA army council at the time of Donaldson's death reiterated the organisation's 2009 claim of responsibility. None of it is reassuring to the programme makers.

The BBC reporter who narrated the documentary, Jennifer O’Leary, has long been a fine journalist producing high quality work that some powerful people have had cause to dislike.  On this occasion, unless there is an Ace card yet to be played, it would seem that she or her producers erred in allowing the reference to Adams through given how tenuous it appeared to be.

An immediate difficulty with this type of allegation for the media is that because of Mr Adams’s strained relationship with the truth he is something of an easy target. His categorical denials of IRA membership tend to be equated with his many other categorical denials of involvement in politically violent activity. There are people who upon hearing his denials instinctively assume that what is being denied must therefore be true. All the more reason for investigative journalism to proceed with due caution and diligence.

Arguably the most important issue raised by the documentary, but effectively downgraded by much media coverage which with tunnel vision opted to focus on Adams, was made by Sam Pollock, former Chief Executive at the Police Ombudsman. Relatives For Justice spokesperson Mark Thompson drew attention to this:

Sam Pollock, former Chief Executive at the Police Ombudsman, effectively laid an element of culpability for the eventual killing of Denis at the door of the PSNI.

Thompson also hit out at former Special Branch officer Raymond White's contribution, claiming it:

might be better understood in that there is a report due soon by the Police Ombudsman that will include the role of the PSNI’s C3 in deliberately exposing Denis Donaldson, likely in the knowledge that he would eventually be killed.

Veiled by the smoke from the gun that much subsequent media commentary is trying to place in the hand of Gerry Adams is the most salient point in the Spotlight documentary: Denis Donaldson was abandoned by his PSNI handlers in the almost certain knowledge that he would be killed, possibly as pay back for not being as malleable as they might have wished.

12 comments :

Steve R said...

"His categorical denials of IRA membership tend to be equated with his many other categorical denials of involvement in politically violent activity. There are people who upon hearing his denials instinctively assume that what is being denied must therefore be true"

Can't remember who it was but on another TPQ article a few months back they pointed out Adams denial of IRA membership comes about more to do with actually being 'sworn in'.

Back in the late 60's-early 70's were all volunteers 'sworn in'? Or did positions become obtained organically without the process being required?

Donaldson would have had a long list of people ready to do him in, Adams would have known this and not had any need to give the nod either.

Niall said...

AM,
A more eloquent deciphering of the programme's intent than my limited vocabulary and lack of cynical restraint could have mustered! I still have doubts as to his outing by C3 and find it hard to believe that his non-compliance in any matter was the sole reason. It could very well have been but that would have implied that he was more trouble than value. I would tend to believe he was thrown to the wolves to protect by distraction someone(s) else.

AM said...

Niall,

you are right. It would hardly have been the sole reason. And your suggestion that it was to protect somebody else is very valid. I just wonder had he been more malleable than they felt him to be would they have protected somebody else by outing him when they probably had so many ways of protecting that somebody else which did not involve throwing Denis under the bus. The one thing we can be certain of is that the PSNI had a hand in the fate that befell him.

Steve,

that would imply that at the heart of a denial is an honesty. Have you ever listened to Jonathan Pie? "Fuck integrity and honesty - we want power".

Steve R said...

AM,

Had to google the name, made me laugh though. Jokes aside, like the X Files once said, a truth is best hidden between two lies.

Niall said...

AM,
Just a thought but could he have been playing a double agent? Although that would have been very difficult to maintain considering the amount of informers the Brits have in SF/PIRA. The reaction of the leadership to me at his outing was somewhat 'calm' for such a situation as if they had prior knowledge that this would some day happen plus Donaldson didn't run!


Jonathan Pie.....his implied sudden berating of the establishment and their views are brilliant...quite witty to.

AM said...

Niall,

It is not my view, however ... complex webs and deceit run in tandem.

Leaders like Adams (who claims to have instructed Leo/Declan to ask Denis if he was working for the Brits) most certainly knew a high level of penetration was the norm and were probably not surprised at any revelations. They also knew that the agents were furthering his agenda of foreclosing any strengthened IRA which in turn fed the logic of the peace process. When for example Adams floated what might have looked like a heretical idea to many, he hardly deluded himself that it was embraced by so many around him because of its quality. He must have allowed for the possibility that some at least were pushing it because they had been instructed to push it by handlers.

Any one of them who were there during the war years and who signed up for what is in existence now had to go through such a wholescale abandonment of everything they claimed to have motivated them, that to abandon fidelity to the IRA itself is hardly a major step in the overall departure. Can you name one of them who, if outed in the morning as an agent, would make you sit up and shake your head? You could count them on the fingers of your feet.

Niall said...

AM,
"You could count them on the fingers of your feet."......LOL....you're getting worse but you're right, to be honest nothing would surprise me now!
Plausible what you say and I think you sun it up best with,
" ... complex webs and deceit run in tandem."
It's odd that such a small cliche such as Adams' can control so much and yet so much what they control is so far away from their centre of power...very corporate!

Steve R said...

AM,

Padraig Wilson, Seamus Finucane, and I could name a few others that I couldn't believe were touts including you.

Or are you referring to just Shinners?

AM said...

Steve,

if people can jettison so easily and in such wholesale fashion the core ideas that defined them it is a very small step to abandon fidelity to the principle of not touting. I can't think of one of them still with the Provos who if it were to transpire that they were agents, that I could express surprise at. They are people who came to love what they once hated.

That is a far cry from saying they are all agents. I don't believe that. Merely, that there are none left who would have the capacity to surprise.

Steve R said...

Anthony,

Fair enough, though long serving prisoners would still make me surprised.

Little in life is set in stone. While the Shinners have entered a form of Government that they once denounced, the Unionists are also sitting with them. Sinn Fein have evolved, adapted to the times and yes moved away from their traditional position but let's be honest, the war was fucked. A stalemate was the only possible outcome anyway.

What do you make of the 'new' Republican party?

AM said...

Steve,

long serving prisoners are as susceptible to temptation as the next person. Avoid making a virtue of necessity. I'll put it to you like this: a devout Catholic abandons all the key tenets of his religion and despite being a nominal Catholic no longer believes in god. Do you really think he is going to worry about not blessing himself going past the chapel? Why would he hold onto that when he is quite willing to toss the rest? Not being willing to work as an agent is not an isolated act. It has to be rooted in some set of beliefs. And when those beliefs are ditched ....

You are also comparing apples with pears. The great dividing line between republicanism and unionism was the consent principle guaranteeing the constitutional status quo. The size of the room they agree to sit in is what matters not the colour of the wall paper. Republicanism wanted a 32 square metre room and the unionists a 6 square metre room. Unionism got their measurements accepted to the millimetre and a bit of green wall paper was hung on the interior walls to make it seem less cold.

The IRA campaign failed to dent partition. But that is no reason for those on the losing side to start wearing the clothing of the victors.

Steve R said...

long serving prisoners are as susceptible to temptation as the next person. Avoid making a virtue of necessity. I'll put it to you like this: a devout Catholic abandons all the key tenets of his religion and despite being a nominal Catholic no longer believes in god. Do you really think he is going to worry about not blessing himself going past the chapel? Why would he hold onto that when he is quite willing to toss the rest? Not being willing to work as an agent is not an isolated act. It has to be rooted in some set of beliefs. And when those beliefs are ditched ....

I suppose it isn't that big a leap, I stand corrected.



You are also comparing apples with pears. The great dividing line between republicanism and unionism was the consent principle guaranteeing the constitutional status quo. The size of the room they agree to sit in is what matters not the colour of the wall paper. Republicanism wanted a 32 square metre room and the unionists a 6 square metre room. Unionism got their measurements accepted to the millimetre and a bit of green wall paper was hung on the interior walls to make it seem less cold.

But when the painter and decorators outnumber the sparks and plumbers the dimensions may change. Fundamentally isn't that what politics is all about anyway?


The IRA campaign failed to dent partition. But that is no reason for those on the losing side to start wearing the clothing of the victors.

The PUL community do not see the IRA as being the 'losing' side in all of this. They handed over zero weaponry, have had the disbandment of the local regiment plus removal of UK forces, had the cops gutted and changed, and have senior IRA Army Council members in Government on top of unelected quangos dictating on their cultural identity. If anything they fell THEY lost.