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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Provisional Pushover

Tom Luby • 26 November 2004

They are two of the most intriguing questions swirling around Gerry Adams. Why does he keep on denying that he was and is in the Provisional IRA, something that the proverbial dogs in the street, from Ballymurphy to Ballyholme, know full well? And why does he keep attacking those in the media with the temerity to say so?

The first of those questions is the more difficult to answer for it requires a journey deep into a mind that not every investigator would wish to explore, an expedition not for the faint-hearted!

It can’t be because of fear of self-incrimination, for those days have gone forever. Indeed it would not be stretching credulity too far to suggest that if tomorrow the British or Irish governments were to stumble upon a filing cabinet stuffed with signed confessions of IRA membership, the Great Bearded One would never have to stand in front of a judge and the filing cabinet would be disappeared as quickly and completely as.......well, Jean McConville.

The reason the GBO denies any connection to the IRA, that he disavows responsibility and deeds that other comrades are obliged, and occasionally happy to admit, can only be speculated upon but there can be little doubt that he does so because it suits his interests.

It enables him to lie during negotiations with Unionists and the British about his influence over issues like decommissioning and to take refuge in the fiction that he must "go to the IRA” to get approval for every concession.

As important, it creates a public relations-friendly image of a peaceful political activist who intervened to escort misguided colleagues out of the cul-de-sac of violence, an image that goes down well with the “useful idiots” who fawn over him in places like Hollywood. Would Martin Sheen and Fionnuala Flanagan be so eager to host cocktail parties for the GBO in their Beverly Hills homes if they thought this is the man under whose leadership the Belfast IRA developed and perfected the car bomb now used by Jihadists around the world? Or that this is the man who was disappearing people when General Pinochet was only a faint glint in Henry Kissinger’s eye?

And it sets the stage for that day, perhaps in seven years or so, when he makes his bid to become tenant of that mansion in Phoenix Park currently occupied by Mary McAleese. To win the presidency of Ireland, to take his place alongside Dev as the modern giant of peace, the GBO must by then have completely bleached his image of any association with Jean McConville or the devices that wrought such carnage in Donegall Street or on Bloody Friday.

That’s where the second question comes in, the reason why he bullies the media every time one of its number raises the issue of his links with the Provisional IRA. He does this, quite simply, because bullying the media per se in these days of the peace process works. It works because the Irish media are terrified of being labelled “unhelpful” to the process, terrified of being accused of aiding dissidents or weakening the Provisionals’ peace camp by asking awkward questions.

A startling example of the GBO’s growing ability to bend the Irish media to his will has come in a dispute between Gerry Adams and the Irish Times’ Northern Editor, Gerry Moriarty over that journalist’s use of the tag “Provisional” when writing about Sinn Fein and/or the IRA.

Last July 20th, Adams sent an angry letter to the paper’s editor, Geraldine Kennedy, protesting Moriarty and the paper’s practice. He wrote: “My position is straightforward and consistent. A paper of record should be just that. There is no such organisation as Provisional Sinn Fein. Gerry Kelly is not a Provisional Republican. He is a republican, full stop. He is also a North Belfast MLA. A paper of record should reflect that.”

Leaving aside the fact that if the Irish Times were truly a paper of record it would also report that Adams sits on the Provisional IRA's Army Council and that Gerry Kelly is a very recent Adjutant-General of that body, it is clear that Adams’ admonition of the paper and its Northern Editor had a quite remarkable effect.

The evidence is there in a simple Lexis-Nexis search of the Irish Times before and after Adams’ wrote his ill-tempered missive.

In the three months before Adams’ letter, that is between April 20th and July 20th 2004, Moriarty, either by himself or in a joint byline, wrote 56 articles about Sinn Fein and/or the IRA of which 9 used the term “Provisional” or “Provisionals” - that is 16 per cent of the time.

Now the dispassionate observer might wonder what Adams was making all this fuss about, after all using the “P” word in sixteen out of every hundred articles is not exactly excessive.

But nonetheless the Irish Times reacted as if it had been accused of advocating the planting of firebombs in Clery’s department store in O’Connell Street. In the three months following the receipt of Adams’ letter Moriarty, either by himself or in a joint byline, wrote 55 pieces about Sinn Fein and/or the IRA - about the same as in the three months prior - and guess how many times the “P” word was used?

It appeared exactly once - that is 1.8 per cent of the time. Adams’ angry letter had produced a near ninefold decrease in the paper’s use of the term which had so offended the president of Provisional Sinn Fein.

The story doesn’t end there. The sole occasion on which the word “Provisional” was employed was in a piece on the life of the recently deceased former Chief of Staff and Belfast Commander, Joe Cahill. Now, it would be pretty difficult not to use the "P" word in a credible account of Cahill’s IRA career. I mean how would you describe what Cahill did at the time of the 1969 split in a way that would not offend Gerry Adams? Like this, perhaps: “When the IRA and Sinn Fein split into the IRA and Sinn Fein, Joe Cahill went with the IRA and Sinn Fein”? I think not. What that article demonstrates is that if Cahill had not died the word “Provisional” would have been totally erased from the Irish Times’ lexicon.

A sad chapter for the Irish Times (perhaps the paper should tell us whether such a decision has indeed been made and if so where, in Belfast or Dublin?) but a significant feather in the cap for Gerry Adams. Anyone willing to put money on the chances that by the time the Provisional Sinn Fein and Provisional IRA leader is running for the Park not a journalist in Ireland will dare breathe a word about you know what?




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

28 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Anthony McIntyre

The Cost of the Failure of Politicians is Immeasurable
Mick Hall

A Provisional Pushover
Tom Luby

Seeing What You Want to See
Eoin O Broin

Puritan Death Ethic: Ronan Bennett’s Havoc, in its third year
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Mairtin O Cadhain
Liam O Ruairc

Please Help Put A Smile On The Faces Of Palestine’s Poorest Children This Christmas
Margaret Quinn

23 November 2004

Dropping the Last Veil
Tommy Gorman

No Place for Silence
Anthony McIntyre

The Vacuum

The Unpopular Front: James T. Farrell then, Margaret Hassan now
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Reflection on an Election
Patrick Hurley

New Work on Perry Anderson
Liam O Ruairc

I, a Collaborator
Dorothy Naor

The Murder of Margaret Hassan
Ghali Hassan

The Orange Order and the KKK
Richard Wallace



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