Testimony of renegade Provos just won’t go away, you know
Sinn Fein should brace for a veritable tsunami of claims by former IRA members
Sunday July 15 2012
The dispute between Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre and the US government is in many ways a classic peace process set-piece.
Moloney and McIntyre taped interviews with senior loyalist and republican paramilitaries, and they recently lost in their attempt to keep these tapes in the treasure room of Boston College’s Burns Library.
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Boston told them that they cannot get around a mutual assistance treaty signed by the Americans and the British which mandates full co-operation in criminal investigations.
The judges insisted Boston College must hand over interviews with ex-IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price because these might help an investigation into the IRA’s abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
We already know what Hughes thought about the McConville murder.
In an interview published in Moloney’s book, Voices from the Grave (2010), Hughes asserted that Gerry Adams ordered the abduction, murder and disappearance of McConville — a widow and mother of 10 — on the grounds that she was an informer.
This charge is vigorously denied to this day by Jean McConville’s children who insist their mother was murdered for comforting a wounded soldier.
Adams himself denies any involvement with the Jean McConville murder.
Hughes was unequivocal though and he told Moloney in an interview: “There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman — he did. And yet he went to see her kids to promise an investigation into her death. I never carried out a major [IRA] operation without the OK or the order from Gerry [Adams]. And for him to sit in his plush office in Westminster or Stormont or wherever and deny it, I mean it’s like Hitler denying that there ever was a Holocaust.”
Hughes was embittered towards the end of his life because he felt that Adams settled for the kind of political agreement that had been available in essence since 1973, a kind of modernised and refurbished partition with a light green tinge.
The modesty of the Good Friday Agreement made Brendan Hughes’s paramilitary activities sit heavily on his shoulders.
Power-sharing can’t quite blot out the emotional and moral toll extracted by the IRA’s murder campaign against working class Protestants after the Ulsterisation of the security situation in the Seventies.
Hughes attacked Adams’s Mandela-like rhetoric, telling Moloney: “If Gerry had told me that tomorrow was Sunday when I knew it was Monday I would have thought twice that maybe it was Sunday because he said it. Now if he told me today was Friday even though it was Friday … I’d call him a f***ing liar.”
There’s probably lots more where these allegations came from on the Boston College tapes and now that the federal appeals court has made it clear that a murder investigation must take priority over academic confidentiality agreements, there’s probably a veritable tsunami of this stuff on its way towards Sinn Fein.
There are various ways to parse this kind of testimony, of course.
You could get all Law Library about it and dismiss it as uncorroborated character assassination from one of Adams’s internal critics.
You could also mourn the fact that influential analysts of the IRA campaign like Anthony McIntyre still feel the need to tell federal judges that he fears being murdered if the contents of these tapes are ever made public.
Such fears make a mockery of recent claims about the peace process being firmly “bedded down”.
But there’s another way to frame this as well.
We can connect Hughes’s allegations to older in-house indictments of the “armed struggle”.
Hughes is not the first person to make grave allegations against his former IRA colleagues.
We must remember the work of other IRA apostates like Sean O’Callaghan and Eamon Collins.
Both men wrote with pitiless clarity about their own immersion in the Provisional cosmos, and their belated attempts to free themselves from the killing.
Collins joined the IRA after his family were brutalised by British army troops and O’Callaghan went north after being indoctrinated by Tralee’s republican underground.
Collins’s way of making amends was to become an informer and to write Killing Rage, a stunning indictment of the sectarianism and sadism at the heart of the “armed struggle”, an indictment that cost him his life in 1999.
O’Callaghan followed the same route, but remains alive.
Both men’s motivations were questioned, just as Hughes’s was and is, but their testimony just won’t go away.
Adams has opted for a blanket denial of his old comrade Hughes’s allegations.
When Moloney’s interviews were published in 2010, Adams said then: “I reject absolutely these various allegations and I find them offensive”.
Not content with that, he even purported to speak for the families who were sundered by IRA atrocities, adding bizarrely “I am sure the families involved find them [Hughes's allegations] deeply offensive”.
Not the kind of language to roll a stone from the collective heart, is it?