If the IRA was fighting a war, then this was a war crime – along with all their war crimes from Kingsmill to the Birmingham pub bombs.
Mr Adams has come under attack from a number of politicians and commentators for his comments on the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal. He said that Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan had a laissez-faire attitude to their safety. It was an insensitive remark, but what if someone else had made thatt point, would it have been acceptable? As it happens, someone else did make that remark – more or less. Quoted in Toby Harnden‘s book “Bandit Country” Sir John said of the late Bob Buchanan‘s activities on the day he died: “He did not follow basic, elementary security procedures.” Hermon claimed that Mr Buchanan did not beleive in taking precautions because, as a devout Christian, he beleived God was in control. If Sir John was right, so was Mr Adams – although Sir John does not appear to have been vilified. Reaction to the Adams comments tells us three things: any inquiry into the past is interpreted as political ammunition for the present; too many politicians do not want the truth about the past, they just want their prejudices confirmed and, thirdly, personalising our politics tends to suffocate valid political tends to suffocate valid political comment.
With due respect to the two dead RUC officers and their families, Smithwick’s significance is political rather than legal. Using the word “collusion” has major political implications. It is a heavily loaded word, which would probably be worth a million points in Irish political Scrabble. But the possible existence of one or even two Garda informants does not represent collusion. Gerry Adams said that Smithwick’s idea of collusion is very different in form and scale from the collusion that occoured in the North. Mr Adams is right. The IRA presumbly had moles in many organnisations, possibly even the RUC. But Smithwick’s findings allow unionists to use the word collusion (without firm evidence) thereby giving them a higher moral ground than previously. Unionists suggest there was also collusion in 1969 when the Provisional IRA was founded. There was certainly an attempt by some elements in Fianna Fail, the Irish intelligence service and assorted Catholics to take control of the Civil Rights Movement and to direct the then IRA away from socialism. Some of those involved at the time say as early as Sunday August 24 1969 – just over a week after the burning of Bombay Street – older, non-active IRA men meet these elements and agreed to break away from the existing IRA leadership in Belfast in return for money from Dublin.
There were two founds for Northern relief – the official Irish government fund for refugees and a Fianna Fail fund. The two may well have become intermingled, but there is no evidence that the government as a corporate body was intent on anything more of that was a political window dressing. However, the lack of evidence on collusion then and 1989 does not vindicate the Provisional IRA campaign of violence. It was unnecessary, sectarian, brutal and futile. The deaths of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, for example, broke the Geneva Convention by killing unarmed men and, in particular, by killing one who was injured and trying to surrender. If the IRA was fighting a war, then this was a war crime – along with all their other war crimes from Kingsmill to the Birmigham pub bombs. That is where Sinn Fein is open to critcism. What was the Provisional IRA campaign for? Pearse Doherty TD said this week that the campaign was to defend local communities. (Whom does he think the 21 dead in the Birmingham pub bombs were going to attack?) However, also this week, John O’Dowd described it as ” a conflict between nations and communities”. This largely confirms that Sinn Fein has finally abandoned Irish Republicanism and opted instead for Britain’s two nations theory, by suggesting that only Catholics can be Irish. The political impact of Smithwick’s is that it nudges our history towards the erroneous veiw that the violence here was carried out by two sets of paramilitaries, each backed through collusion by different national governments. The two nations theory is slowly becoming official which, oddly, suits Sinn Fein. The above comments represent valid veiws on Sinn Fein policies, past and present. You can agree or disagree with them. In that the context you can agree or disagree with Mr Adams, but no one has the right to disagree with the truth just because they dislike the person speaking it. Personal attacks are no substitute for political analysis.
With many thanks to: Patrick Murphy, The Irish News.
A letter that appeared in The Irish News – Tuesday December 10 2013.
THE CONCLUSION of the Smithwick Tribunal that Garda officers colluded in the murder of superintendent Breen and Buchanan is deeply disturbing and if true that one or more members of An Garda Siochana ( the guardians of the peace) colluded with the IRA in the murders of superintendents Breen and Buchanan then not only are they guilty of murder but they let down an entire police force.
Unfortunatley there are now unionist politicians who remained silent or indeed excused compelling evidence of collusion in the North over the years but delighted to rush to the media to smear the entire Garda Siochana and that is not only unjustified but it must not be allowed to happen. Garda officers, many of them now retired, were stationed in the border areas during the best part of their lives to protect life and limb. Is history now to be rewtitten, as it often is, to misrepresent those officers as villains involved in collusion leading to the murder of police in the north? I should think not. During the period from the 1970s to the 1990s the Republic, with very limited resources, spent more per head of population on security than the British did, much of that in the border areas. Often Garda stations on the southern side of the border had more manpower than their counterparts on the northern side and they worked for a fraction of the salary their RUC conterparts but they did it not for money but to protect the lives of people.
They were noble officers who were not influenced by the IRA or any other illegal organisation. Is this now to be dismissed because there may have been one or perhaps more rotten apples in the barrel? Like police forces all over the world the Garda have had their problems and the need for reform but they do not deserve the kind of abuse which is now emanating from the usual suspects who ignored, dismissed or excused widespread collusion in the north but now want to present themselves as the voice of perfection ignoring the fact that Garda officers made a massive contribution to limiting the number of people who may otherwise have died in those days of total madness.
With thanks to: John Dallat MLA, SDLP, East Derry.
- Late Garda commissioner criticised over handling of collusion warnings (irishtimes.com)
- Breen family say ‘fears realised’ by Smithwick report findings (irishtimes.com)
- McDonald plays down row over Adams’s Smithwick remarks (irishtimes.com)
- Widow of former police chief defends Hermon (newsletter.co.uk)
- Corrigan rejects findings of Smithwick Tribunal (irishtimes.com)
- Smithwick Tribunal: Fury over Gerry Adams’ ‘vile’ efforts to justify RUC murders (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)