And so it continues. On RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’ last Thursday, Martina Devlin (Irish Independent) and Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael) expressed horror that any parallels might be drawn between Nelson Mandela and Gerry Adams. The fact that Nelson Mandela was central to the founding of the ANC, that he was kept in prison as long as he was because he refused to renounce the ANC and violence was airbrushed out of their assessment. Gerry Adams had talked about a ‘laissez faire’ attitude by the RUC to their own safety in visiting Dundalk and that was outrageous. On the programme I conceded that the term was badly chosen and Adams’s subsequent statement apologised for saying anything that might add to the hurt of the families. But could somebody tell me this: does the Smithwick report use the phrase “laissez faire” about RUC officers’ attitude to their own security? If so, shouldn’t the ire be aimed at Smithwick rather than Adams?
But what did I mean by “And so it continues”, Virginia? I mean the southern political/media blitzkrieg against Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin goes on and on and on. In today’s Sindo, the paper’s group political editor Fionnan Sheahan pronounces the Sinn Féin party as “untouchable”. Fine Gael Junior Minister Brian Hayes says Sinn Féin is a “fanatical, quasi-political outfit” with its TDs mounting a “relentless, zombie-like defence” of their leader. The leader of Fianna Fail (translation: “Soldiers of Destiny”), Micheal Martin says Sinn Féin’s “mask has slipped”. The Labour Party’s Ged Nash slips in with his helpful observation: “For most people in the south, the Troubles meant the IRA killing children in shopping centres in England and blowing up people while they were at prayer”.
All this because Gerry Adams mentioned that the RUC officers who were killed by the IRA were careless of their own security. So here’s two thoughts which strike me:
- Superintendent Bob Buchanan, one of the two men killed, travelled to Dundalk Garda station from the north in the same car with the same registration plates over twenty times in the months preceding his death, and the car was parked where it was visible to all.
- Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen were shot dead on a stretch of road in South Armagh where the road dips and screened the area from British army observation towers. They had no back-up and, I’m told, no weapons with them.
Both those facts I find totally baffling, if the men were alert to their own security. There may be an explanation but on the face of it, it does look as though their attitude to security was indeed laissez faire. That doesn’t mean their deaths were justified – au contraire, since we’re using French. But it does suggest that Gerry Adams’s description was accurate, even if the Smithwick report didn’t use that particular phrase. And that the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments is for the benefit of the onlooking constituents.
Let me be blunt. In the priorities list of southern politicians like Hayes and Martin, any hurt inflicted by Gerry Adams’s remarks on the RUC men’s families comes low on the list. High on the list – at the top – is a fanatical, relentless determination to do anything and everything to prevent Sinn Féin from becoming a political force to be reckoned with in the south. Because if they do, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, who’ve ruled the state virtually from its foundation, will have their neatly arranged apple-cart upended. And to prevent that, they’ll join the zombie-like procession of those in the south’s politics and media who throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Shinners while drawing their moral garments closer around them for fear of contamination.
Let me make a prediction: if the figures after a general election in the south stack up, Fianna Fail and even Fine Gael will enter coalition with any party. And that includes Sinn Féin.
Finally, for the benefit of Ged Nash, Eamon Gilmore, Charlie Flanagan and others who see events in the north during the 1970s and 1980s as the IRA killing children and blowing up worshippers, perhaps a look at this document might help impress on them that the conflict was maybe a bit more complicated than that: