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Disappeared documentary shows Adams’ baggage is too much for Sinn Fein to bear

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World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

The power of television to have a massive impact on the world of politics can never be underestimated.

The Birmingham Six won their eventual freedom because of the impact of an investigative documentary on ITV made by Chris Mullin, which questioned the evidence that led to their convictions for the pub bombings of 1974. 

The Beef Tribunal came about because of a documentary made by journalist Susan O’Keeffe for World in Action also on ITV. Ditto for the State inquiries into sexual and phsyical abuse in Ireland’s State and religious-run institutions, which were established after the powerful investigative documentary ‘Suffer Little Children’ made by the late Mary Raftery.

Darragh MacIntyre was responsible for ‘The Disappeared’, an equally compelling and important documentary for the BBC in recent weeks that examined in detail the plight of those poor victims who were ‘disappeared’ by the IRA during the Troubles.

There was nothing particularly new in the documentary. Its great skill was in compiling and stranding together all the available evidence into separate narratives, each telling the story of a person who was murdered by the IRA, and the terrible effect it had on their loved ones. 

And the third element that really catapulted it into the public consciousness was the investigative stuff about Gerry Adams’ role in those who disappeared from Belfast when he was in charge of the IRA there, including an interview with the Sinn Fein leader in which he failed to dispel the whiff of sulphur that surrounds him on this issue.

There is no doubt that the documentary and subsequent reaction to it in the public sphere has damaged Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams. The Sinn Fein leader was repeatedly challenged and criticised by political opponents during the week – both in the Dáil and outside – to admit his role in the disappearance of Belfast woman Jean McConivlle in the early 1970s.

Two former colleagues of his, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes (both now dead), alleged that he was centrally involved in the abduction and ‘disappearance’ of McConville, a widow whose death left a large family of mainly young children to fend, essentially, for themselves.

Of all the heartless killings done in the name of Irish freedom, this was one of the very worst.

Adams made no admission during the programme and reacted to the allegations in the same calm implacable manner he has reacted to countless similar allegations over the years. But his protestations – that he was not the leader of the IRA in Belfast; that Hughes and Price were lying because they had fallen out with him – just rang hollow to the ears of just about everybody who saw the programme. The reflex defence of “We are all to blame” just doesn’t do it anymore.

That this was so was evident by the reaction of Sinn Féin during the course of the week. Adams issued a long statement on Tuesday and followed it up with a blog at the weekend when he again defended himself against the allegations, and argued that he, his party and its shadow (the Provos) had done everything possible to help relatives.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Trimble leaves a legacy of peace to be proud of

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David Trimble...lasting legacy.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The death of David Trimble brought back memories of the time he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost a quarter of a century ago, along with John Hume, for their efforts in securing the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It could be argued that others should have been also on the plane to Oslo that winter, namely Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness also played an important role by steering the hard men of the IRA on a path that saw them end their campaign of violence and accept a political solution achieved by solely democratic means.

Of course, it would have been a blatant contradiction to award a peace prize to Adams and McGuinness given their instrumental roles in a republican movement that prosecuted a ruthless armed strategy for almost 30 years right up to that time. The Damascene conversion in 1998 did not erase what had gone before.

Certainly, Hume and those around him from the SDLP – particularly Séamus Mallon – deserved all the praise they got for their selfless pursuit of a political pathway and their brave eschewal of all forms of violence as they grappled with the unique set of circumstances of Northern Ireland.

That said, Trimble showed a huge degree of personal courage and resilience in facing down his critics and enemies – and there were many loud and bitter voices condemning him on the unionist side – and persevering with the talks that culminated with the historic agreement in Hillsborough Castle on that Good Friday in early April in 1998.

But it would have been unimaginable for him to be in that position three years before hand or even three years afterwards when the UUP began imploding around him. The important thing was that he stayed the course during that crucial period.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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