Re: Secrets From Belfast

1

O'Neill from BC sounds like he shafted the others.

Thirteen years later the three men would have vastly different recollections of their first meeting. The two Irishmen walked away from dinner thinking that Mr. O'Neill would not pursue the project unless he could assure them that its secrecy was legally protected. Mr. O'Neill insists he would never have made such a blanket promise.

Yeah, right. No fucking way that IRA guy went around interviewing his comrades thinking that stuff wasn't protected.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 12:46 PM
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Holy pacing, heeberoni.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:02 PM
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tl;dr.

Is there a summary someplace?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:25 PM
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Well, snarkie sent this in right as I posted Chris's crazy link, and I was about to head to take Hawaii to ballet, and this seemed like breaking news, and no I'm not defensive what's with the third degree anyway.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:26 PM
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3: So far, it's all about Irish people and IRBs. So is my life, but this is more interesting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:28 PM
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I sense a troubling if unarticulated ambivalence about the arrest in much of the coverage that I have seen. I should like to believe that such ambivalence arises out of worry for the stability and peace of Northern Ireland, rather than, say, exhaustion with the region.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:36 PM
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On the basis of being entirely unclear about the details of everything, so I could probably be talked out of this feeling fairly easily, I have a vague sense that there should be some kind of amnesty for crimes committed in relation to the Troubles, given that they're over. Particularly in this sort of context where the arrestee is a famous name who would be a plausible target for someone telling a story in a way that would make themselves sound important.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:47 PM
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Was that last bit clear? I meant that the IRA member who told the story fingering Adams, who knew that there was nothing riding on it because the whole thing was totally confidential, might not implausibly have puffed himself up a bit by saying that the orders came directly from Gerry Adams, as a famous name. Making an arrest on that basis seems sketchy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:50 PM
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I read the thing. The most obvious lesson is that you should probably run your plan/forms by a lawyer if you are going to ask people questions where the answer could get them or somebody else imprisoned. If that seems too much, you should maybe to go the IRB rules, search "confidentiality", and read at least every other paragraph that word appears in.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:53 PM
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There was an oral history project at bc interviewing people associated with the IRA. When one of the subjects died, they wrote a book about his interview. There was some sort of agreement between the us and some other country that resulted in other interviews being subpoenaed by the us.


Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 1:54 PM
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I've been meaning to read this but still haven't but it's always sounded to me like they made promises they did not have the legal authority to keep. I think there's an earlier thread about it in the archives, back before more details came out.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:01 PM
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Yeah, I feel like we've discussed this at least once. 8 certainly seems possible to me but there's certainly more than enough to interrogate, and probably arrest, Gerry Adams. Also 6 has always been true of a lot of US coverage of the IRA, which is too bad because the IRA was/is truly despicable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:04 PM
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11: And there may have been ways to have made the promise in such a way that it could have been kept. I'm not sure they work for history projects, but there's a mechanism in health research.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:08 PM
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7 - not exactly completely over - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01y9syp

And we don't just ignore war crimes because the war is over. I don't think this is different.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:21 PM
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I have a vague sense that there should be some kind of amnesty for crimes committed in relation to the Troubles, given that they're over.

I have to disagree with this. Kidnapping, torture, murder: these are serious crimes. Why should there be amnesty?


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:25 PM
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But it was all in the past, you see. I mean if the peace depended on it is one thing; "that they're over" seems less appealing.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:28 PM
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14, 15: Because civil wars are different?

I mean, I kind of wish that enough Confederates had hung in 1865 to affect the world market for hemp, but I don't know that there's a consensus on that*.

Obviously the IRA was not exactly like the CSAA, but it was also open treason as opposed to national resistance. That is, I think the underlying cause of the IRA is (arguably) enough superior to the CSA's that there's cover for the tactics.

*am I recalling correctly that the superintendent of Andersonville was basically the only Confederate officer or officeholder to be hung?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:33 PM
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am I recalling correctly that the superintendent of Andersonville was basically the only Confederate officer or officeholder to be hung

Pretty much. That's why I stayed with Rhett.


Posted by: Scarlett O'Hara | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:37 PM
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I mean if the peace depended on it is one thing

I don't really see how you can bring Sinn Fein into the government as a legitimate party without an implicit promise of, if not amnesty, then at least a general policy of bygones.

The refusal of Palestinian leaders to acknowledge Israel's legitimacy was always viewed as a deal breaker in those negotiations. Similarly, if Britain and Northern Ireland had been committed too a policy whereby the IRA is beyond the pale, then Sinn Fein is effectively beyond the pale as well. The willingness to negotiate with Sinn Fein came with acceptance of the polite fiction that Sinn Fein≠IRA. But now it turns out that was not accepted, and the UK is committed to decapitating Sinn Fein over 42 year old crimes.

IOW, they shook hands so that they could get a better angle on driving in the knife.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:38 PM
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There were amnesties as part of the peace deal, more or less.


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:39 PM
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17 -- A general amnesty for IRA murderers could have been negotiated as a condition for ending the struggle. Although that would have been unfortunate, it might conceivably have been necessary in service of a higher goal, peace. But it wasn't, and so why wouldn't he be prosecuted. Also, even on the (incorrect) theory that what the IRA was doing was a war, this was a war crime.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:40 PM
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"That is, I think the underlying cause of the IRA is (arguably) enough superior to the CSA's that there's cover for the tactics."

For the IRA:s tactics?


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:42 PM
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Because civil wars are different?

How/why?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:43 PM
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Just to be clear, my point isn't that the IRA were noble freedom fighters; it's that (de facto) amnesty is hardly rare in the aftermath of civil wars, because everyone has to get along, and endless recriminations aren't the path to that. Truth and Reconciliation, sure, but convictions and life sentences? Now you're creating new generations of mistrust and hatred.

Pray, when will Her Majesty's Justice be going after the fuckers who falsely imprisoned the Guildford Four? Oh right, half past never, because their pursuit of justice is no such thing, but rather a pursuit of vengeance.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:50 PM
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My heart sang at this news. And of course it was a war crime, I'd that was a war. Suppose a British general had been accused of this behaviour: the people being all statesmanlike now about Adams would have demanded prosecution,
And, lb, there really isn't any doubt that Adams ran the Belfast ira. He has to be the man who ordered it. It's a very small town,


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:51 PM
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"If that was a war". Autocorrect.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:52 PM
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19 - I think if it turns out that there is proof that e.g. Gerry Adams was in the IRA and ordering murders (rather than just everyone assuming he was), when he's always claimed he wasn't, then no, that can't be ignored. And not ignoring it might fuck up the peace process by upsetting Republicans, but ignoring it will fuck it up by upsetting rather more (though less explodey) people.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:53 PM
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And, lb, there really isn't any doubt that Adams ran the Belfast ira. He has to be the man who ordered it. It's a very small town,

If that's enough to go on, the oral history shouldn't have been necessary to trigger the arrest.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:54 PM
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22: I wasn't clear; my point is that while the CSAA wore uniforms and, at least when they were fighting white people, more or less followed the recognized rules of war, their cause was despicable - not just the slavery, but also the whole treason aspect. Whereas the IRA had a much more justifiable cause, pursued through unacceptable tactics.

I don't know that they balance out, but I'm suggesting that there's no bright line whereby the CSA was totally deserving of amnesty while the IRA was utterly undeserving.

Again, people who want to say that 50,000 Southerners should have hung in 1865, step right up; I probably agree. But it's not a common argument, whereas in this context everyone's like, "Of course they should all be punished, duh."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:55 PM
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If that's enough to go on, the oral history shouldn't have been necessary to trigger the arrest.

Nobody's saying that that's enough to go on. But the oral history project has more than one person claiming it was Adams who ordered the murder.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 2:57 PM
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It seems really bad for the prospect of peace agreements elsewhere in the future to have the precedent that after you make peace and destroy your weapons and go straight, then your enemies go back and prosecute you for 40 year old crimes. It seems underhanded and in bad faith to me.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:07 PM
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Perhaps we need a SA-style Truth and Reconciliation. The peace process has been grudging on both sides, and I have sympathy with the idea that a lot more remorse (which could come in the form of locking up Gerry Adams, I'd be happy enough to see that I guess) might need to be shown before actual peace is reached. If you listen to the link I posted above, the claim that peace has been made and people have gone straight isn't really trusted.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:19 PM
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31: Right. I guess my thinking is sort of that if everyone's state of knowledge about Gerry Adams in the absence of this oral history is that of course he's responsible for ordering murders, then that knowledge should have been baked into the past however many years of treating him as a respectable politician rather than as an as-of-yet unprosecuted war-criminal/pariah. And the peace was originally entered into with the understanding that the Sinn Fein leadership would be treated as politicians rather than war criminals.

Regardless of the actual nature of the crimes Adams is responsible for, this seems like a good rock not to look under.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:19 PM
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Yeah, the exception I see would be if Gerry Adams really had been put forth and accepted as having clean hands (maybe he's a Tutu-like figure, or someone long imprisoned under false pretenses), but then evidence surfaced that he was, well, Gerry Adams.

But this is decidedly not the case here. I do take the point that, if IRA wanted enforceable amnesty, then maybe they should have made it a condition of the treaty, but I'm not sure how realistic that would have been. As it is, it seems that implicit amnesty was the condition of the deal, and the UK is invoking the fingers it had crossed during that part of the discussions.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:31 PM
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Well, he's horrible and we hate him, so, yeah, we had our fingers crossed. I think accepting his position that he wasn't IRA was stupid, tbh, but it stopped people getting blown up. If there's proper evidence that he has literal blood on his hands rather than metaphorical, then fuck him.

(And yes, I do have surprisingly strong feelings about this. Probably from growing up in London being bombed.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:46 PM
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It's all a tradeoff -- how important is it to keep it possible to make a deal to stop people getting blown up the next time it's an issue? I don't have a strong enough sense of the facts to be passionate on one side or the other, but my instincts are on the side of trading amnesty for peace, and making people believe that they can rely on that kind of deal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:53 PM
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But there wasn't an amnesty.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:56 PM
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It was something about people who are in prison at the time, and information given by the IRA? I should read up.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:58 PM
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It wasn't, we'll ignore anything any of you ever did.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 3:59 PM
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Yeah, I'm appealing to an informal understanding which seems very clearly to have been in place. If you want to take the position that no one should get to rely on anything they don't have explicitly in writing, that's defensible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:01 PM
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The prisoners were, essentially, amnestied (technically, given early release on parole). This went for both Republican and Loyalist prisoners. That was controversial, but the issue of prisoners was so important to the IRA side that it amounted to a condition of peace. The Unionists didn't like it, but accepted it.

The more complicated issue was the so-called OTRs for On the Runs, i.e. people who hadn't been convicted of anything, some of whom had been wanted for years and some not even suspected. The Unionists weren't up for just letting them off, neither were their victims, and the British side wasn't keen either. (The terms of the issue implicitly accepted that they did it.) A twist was that the IRA was publicly denying some of the things their people were on the run about, like the McConville case.

So, the solution: the OTRs aren't formally amnestied but the police are told not to pursue them about the cases they have open, and the OTRs get a letter saying so. Important detail: the commitment can only cover the cases as they stand, legally. There is no way and no will to give them a let off from anything else they turn out to have done.

Meanwhile, there are huge, decadal inquiries into things the government did wrong.

Now, roll forward 15 years, like from 1945 to 1960. People have had time to write memoirs, to think about it, to complain about the compromises. The new police force is meant to be a proper investigative force, and not surprisingly people demand investigation from it.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:27 PM
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Seems like the prospect of Gerry Adams going on trial runs a not-negligible risk of more shit being blown up. It strikes me as a bad idea.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:33 PM
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I don't have any sympathy for Gerry Adams who is not just a complete fucker but smug and annoying to boot. I will be very surprised though if there is enough even to put him on trial.
Meanwhile there has been a lot of whinging that the timing has been deliberately chosen to damage SF in the upcoming elections North and South (Euro and local in both but not parliamentary). A lot of younger people in the South especially don't know much about their unsavoury past which has been swept under the carpet. They get a fair share of the protest/leftie/anti-establishment vote and of course they can propose stuff that can't actually add up since they won't have to try and make it work. (There's no decent left social democrat party here since Labour have gone along with their coalition partner's policies. Probably I will vote for people who left that party over "bridge too far" issues.)


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:35 PM
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H Farrell has an interesting piece on monkey cage re the current political situation and degree to which anyone may or may not want to defend or sell out Adams.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:38 PM
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I will be very surprised though if there is enough even to put him on trial.

That's a lot of what's triggering my reaction. Given the circumstances, I'd assume that this isn't going to lead to anyone who's willing to testify against Adams. I don't know Irish hearsay law (and I don't know American hearsay law well), but I can't think of how you'd use this stuff at trial. So what they've got is a good reason to think that Adams gave the orders for a particular murder, which isn't in itself a surprising revelation, without really anything new in the way of usable evidence.

At that point, it's not clear to me what the point of the arrest is, in terms of law enforcement.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:42 PM
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OK, finally read the article in the OP, and I don't see how this outcome doesn't effectively foreclose any comparable project in the future, and that's a real loss. This is totally aside from the actions/motives of the UK or anything about amnesty; I just mean that what happened means that nobody who'd be the subject of such an oral history project would ever take any interviewer's promises at face value, or having any value at all.

I don't know if a better outcome was really possible - the article points to miscommunication and sloppiness, but istm that more diligence simply would have prevented the interviews from happening, not prevented their release under these circumstances. A goddamn shame.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:43 PM
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Somewhere in the archives (everything is in the archives, you know) is a post where Ogged notes that people with non-media-perfect bodytypes often look better naked than clothed. I've seen the same observation made elsewhere.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:51 PM
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Wow, that was really the wrong thread. Whoops.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 4:51 PM
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Important to emphasise that the killing here was the murder and disappearance of a single mother with dependent children for what looks like bigoted reasons, not some kind of resistance measure. It was a disgusting crime that even the IRA were deeply ashamed of, and which they did not do anything to make amends for etc. So it's quite hard to see how this is the kind of thing that we should forget about, as simply part of war, unless we want to have civil wars conducted without reference to any standards of behaviour.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:05 PM
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the murder and disappearance of a single mother with dependent children for what looks like bigoted reasons, not some kind of resistance measure.

This.

It was a vile, despicable act, not some kind of unfortunate but necessary deed that had to be done for the struggle.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:36 PM
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I don't even understand the argument from JRoth and LB. There was no amnesty for these purposes, and no agreement not to investigate crimes of this kind, which incidentally are genuinely horrible war crimes. So you're not supposed to investigate a horrible brutal murder because of some kind of unspecified implied amnesty that was never actually granted? Or you're supposed to feel sad because a bunch of IRA idiots were stupid enough to put their stories on tape as part of what was itself a fairly morally questionable project? As to whether or not they have enough to convict Adams, they may or may not; it certainly seems like they have more than enough to detain him for an investigation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:38 PM
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I mean, there's a lot of crimes from the Troubles that, well, depressingly, are just gone. What can you do now etc. But "dragging single mother from home in front of terrified children, torturing her, and then secretly burying her body on a beach in another country before denying any involvement for decades" doesn't seem like one of them, to me.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:41 PM
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To 45, while of course I don't know the applicable UK evidence rules at all, in the US, I'd think the statement implicating Adams might be admissible under either the co-conspirator or statement against interest hearsay exceptions/exclusions, though this isn't the kind of thing I've ever had to research or deal with.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:57 PM
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And lie about her involvement by saying she was some kind of government informant, which was completely false.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 5:59 PM
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I heard they're going after Gerry Adams because he threatened to go out in public naked.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:01 PM
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part of what was itself a fairly morally questionable project?

WTF is this claim?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:02 PM
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49, etc: Yes, obviously this specific crime is particularly vile, and if that's the reason (well, crossed with Adams' involvement) that it's being dredged up, then fine - given that there was no explicit amnesty (although Rob's 51 seems to pretend 41 doesn't exist), if there's any crime that should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, this is the one. And if nothing more happens along these lines, then I don't have any problem at all.

My concern is that this seems like a decision to open a can of worms, possibly for the prime reason of embarrassing a political opponent, not for achieving justice.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:09 PM
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I think the BC project itself was itself morally questionable. Sure, I get the idea and value of having even really bad guys record their versions of what happened for posterity. On the other hand, you have a university facilitating a confession booth for murderers who got off scot free while making no effort whatsoever to achieve justice for their victims. I'm not saying it's a clear cut issue, but at the very least it's deeply questionable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:10 PM
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57.1 -- No, unlike you I actually read 41 (and 20) and am thus aware that the amnesty which you are pretending for some reason existed did not in fact exist. The IRA had an opportunity to negotiate for a general amnesty as a condition of peace, but it didn't obtain that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:12 PM
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the argument lb is making isn't particularly obscure or unclear - 1) in the process of getting a peace settlement in place there us no way to draw a clear distinction between repulsive unjustifiable murder and sordid deed tragically necessary to the cause, carried out for noble motives; and 2) trying to selectively undo a blanket deal years afterwards risks more death and maiming.

I think the situation at hand doesn't necessarily support this position 100%, eg Adams clearly wasn't within the terms of the prisoners release, and even if it did fit foursquare I'm not completely convinced. But it isn't hard to figure out the argument.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:13 PM
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According to The Guardian there was an attempt by Labour to pass a de facto amnesty for unresolved cases from the Troubles back in 2005, but Sinn Fein vetoed it because it would have also applied to crimes committed by security forces.

Peter Hain, Tony Blair's last Northern Ireland secretary, attempted to deal with the "OTRs" by introducing a bill in 2005 that would have established a judicial tribunal leading to the conviction of those who committed offences during the Troubles. The offenders, who would not have had to appear before the tribunal, would then be freed on licence. But Hain had to withdraw the bill in January 2006 after Sinn Féin withdrew its support for the measure because the law would also have applied to members of the security forces.

Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:14 PM
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60 -- but there was no blanket deal. That seems to e the premise of the argument, but it's false.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:14 PM
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As acknowledged. You must have had a rough day!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:16 PM
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And the IRA couldn't have got an amnesty for McConville, because they wouldn't admit to it at the time of Good Friday --- given that "we tortured and executed single mums in cold blood" was the kind of admission that torpedoes both the peace process and any moral standing you have in the community.

As to the moral standing of the project --- well, eh, "let's interview a bunch of hard men about how hard they were" leaves me cold, to be honest.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:21 PM
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64.last: History's history. Would you prefer we didn't have Speer's book?

I'd feel differently if the framework were different, but I'm not sure how self-aggrandizing it is to give interviews about how great you are that are suppressed until you're dead. I mean, it's a legacy of sorts, but that's pretty faded glory.

Also, from what we know, these aren't (only) low level thugs, but people who were fairly central (albeit, definitionally, not leadership). Capone's #2 was a scumbag, but it would be interesting as hell to know what he had to say for himself.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:42 PM
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"But the oral history project has more than one person claiming it was Adams who ordered the murder." I'm guessing the desire for the tapes is not just that the people are pointing the finger but that they are providing context and details which could have been leads to help crack the case with harder evidence.

My understanding of American law is that the testimony of a dead person is not usable as evidence in court unless it's their own murder. Is this correct? And if so, is this the same in the UK/Northern Ireland? But if that testimony could point to other evidence, then that would still make it useful for investigators--and this archive a pool of evidence they would clearly like to go fishing in.

I'm kind of discombobulated at how incredibly stupid the organizers of this project were. It really never occurred to them the USA might have a mutual assistance treaty with respect to criminal investigations with the United Kingdom? Only our closes ally?

Also, reading about what happend to the victim's kids was absolutely heartbreaking. They are in their 40s and 50s now---I wouldn't be surprised if this as much being spurred on by the fact that they may finally have resources to fight for justice.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:44 PM
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Well, given that Speer's books were written (a) after the judicial process had him, and (b) with at least the pretense of repentance, I don't think they're a great analogy.

More seriously, sure, if there was, say, a group who had come up with a way to put together an archive of oral history with the participation of a broad section of both the communities and had thought deeply about the ethics and legality of this stuff, sure. Whatever. But this looks like a very different kind of project: a vanity project run by ex-paramilitaries and Irish Americans caught up in the glamour of violence and not really thinking through the implications for the victims of atrocities.

In particular, the fact that they were receiving royalties on the sale of the book is obscene, if you're also going to claim the sanctity of research.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 6:51 PM
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Accepting oral histories, especially oral histories collected long after the events in question happened, as evidence of much of anything beyond what the informant (I'm using this in the technical sense, not as a synonym for snitch) has been telling her- or himself about happened is pretty silly and perhaps irresponsible thing to do.

I should add that I don't see the IRA as having been made up of noble freedom fighters, and I think Adams in particular seems to have been a pretty disgusting dude. I should also add that I don't care enough about the particulars to argue; I'm just making an observation about my own sense of the limits or oral history.


Posted by: Den E. Crumb | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 7:33 PM
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is pretty silly and perhaps irresponsible thing to do

I know, right? People write whole books about how complicated this shit gets, and other people even care! What a country!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 7:54 PM
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68 -- I dunno, and maybe this is just quibbling about semantics, but that seems wrong, at least as the term evidence is used in the law. After-the-fact oral histories certainly are unreliable, but they also provide evidence -- they in no way should be accepted as more likely than not to be true without corroboration, but they are evidence nonetheless. Whether or not they're admissible in court, reliable, etc., is another question, but they certainly provide relevant (in the broad legal sense of having some tendency to provide some information about whether a fact is more or less likely to be true) information. In this particular case I can't imagine that they'd try to convict based on the oral history testimony alone, but that testimony might, and maybe has, given what they've done with it, provide clues/leads that can be independently corroborated to provide a fuller picture of what happened.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 8:30 PM
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I guess the thing I dislike about the "what about the consequences of oral history" argument is that I think the decision to create a confidential, protected space is one that's for the community harmed by the crime, not one for a different group of people in a different country. If this mean future oral history projects have to gain consent from the community they are embedded within, is that a loss?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 8:47 PM
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71 is a good point. Indeed, in some ways, this may be even worse than that, since I'd bet (although don't know, which is why this is an irresponsible blog comment) that if you looked closely at some of the Boston College funding for this or related projects, you'd find people who actively supported NORAID and were thus involved, albiet indirectly, in assisting one side of the conflict, making the decision to do the project at that location in that way even more questionable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 8:54 PM
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I don't know if 71 is directed at me. If it is, let me clarify: I'm not actually too worried about the fate of the archive in this case. I'm speaking to the unreliability of memory, and the way in which memory, already fickle, is mediated and further distorted through the act of producing an oral history.

And Halford, I wasn't talking about the law, though I would be exceedingly wary of placing much evidentiary weight on oral histories produced decades after the fact.


Posted by: Den E. Crumb | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 9:30 PM
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Again, though, I don't have any interest at all in fighting about any of this . This felt and lived history for so many people -- which makes memories of the events in question that much more likely to be unreliable -- and I'm not one of them.


Posted by: Den E. Crumb | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 9:32 PM
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71 certainly isn't directed at you! If anything, I guess I would agree that the process of creating the archive is very much not a neutral act and in this case is a decidedly political one.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 9:36 PM
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What worries me is the example this sets for say Hamas. It's good for the world if Hamas's leaders know that they could give up terrorism and become ordinary politicians, and it's bad if they expect that 20 years later Israel will start arresting Palestinian political leaders because they used to be in Hamas.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 9:37 PM
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Worth saying that amnesty (esp for dictators, but more broadly as well) laws are pretty deprecated. There's arguments for Truth and Reconciliation processes, but NI never had one of those, and if it had this would be a very different conversation, as to gain such a process' protection, Adams would have had to publicly admit to his crimes, which is something he won't do. (And can't do if he wants to remain a respectable SF politician in the Republic.)

I'm not going to be sad if the outcome of this is a general belief that criminality will catch up with you, one day or another.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 9:48 PM
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The main takeaway from this thread: Americans are generally pretty sympathetic to terrorists as long as they're white.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 11:18 PM
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Except Halford, for some reason.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 11:23 PM
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79: I assumed Halford's distrust of the Irish was potato-based.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 11:32 PM
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I had considered that as a possibility.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 11:33 PM
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I guess one test would be how he feels about the Shining Path.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 1-14 11:34 PM
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The Boston College project actually came up here in the past: http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_12277.html

And the point's been made that the GFA did include widespread amnesty, but only of people who had actually been convicted and imprisoned.

JRoth doesn't know what he's talking about here.
Pray, when will Her Majesty's Justice be going after the fuckers who falsely imprisoned the Guildford Four? Oh right, half past never, because their pursuit of justice is no such thing, but rather a pursuit of vengeance.

Take thirty seconds on google and you'll see that "Her Majesty's Justice" actually investigated and prosecuted three policemen for the fitup. I notice there was a similar amount of bollocks talked on the other thread as well.

And for all the talk about "The IRA said it was a Civil War", it's notable that they only ever said that with regard to them murdering other people and why it was OK to do so. When their own people got killed in a standup fight, as at Loughgall, it was all "oh brutal SAS murdering the brave volunteers".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:34 AM
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Also, what is supposed to happen, specifically, in this case? NI has a devolved government - a government which has Adams colleague Martin McGuiness as deputy head, I should add - and the PSNI report to them.* Even if the UK government wanted to enforce an amnesty that i) doesn't exist, and ii) Sinn Fein didn't want when they had the chance, as a matter of law, they couldn't. And, I'm sure, many of those above calling for an informal de facto amnesty to be imposed by extra-legal pressure from the UK government would be shocked/outraged by such extra-legal pressure if, say, it was being employed in the service of letting loyalist killers or state forces off the hook.

This is nothing like the UK government pursuing a vendetta. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the UK government would rather it just went away.

The discussion above, with a few (largely UK) exceptions is particularly ill-informed.

* and the Justice Minister is an Alliance party guy, not some raging Orange fanatic.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:54 AM
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I'm quite sure the British government would rather it went away. Successive British governments since at least 1970 have devoutly wished that all six counties would just go away. The trouble is that the "province" was established to have a built in Unionist majority as the result of negotiations between people who are now all firmly dead and we are stuck with the fait accompli. There is no mechanism in the British constitution for expelling from the state a population whose majority wish to remain in it and this is a good thing. The last time anything like that was tried was Edward I expelling the Jews in 1290 and we don't want to go there again. Otherwise ttaM nails it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:12 AM
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I am objectively pro-potato, by the way.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:19 AM
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the IRA had a much more justifiable cause, pursued through unacceptable tactics.

Also, picking up on this: the IRA's cause was to unify Ireland through force. They wanted to create enough carnage in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK that London would either hand over the province to the ROI regardless of its citizens' wishes, or, at least, agree to an all-Ireland referendum on the proposed Anschluss, which (the IRA reckoned) they would win.
I am not sure that "we want to expand our country by annexing territories that don't want to be in it" is a very justifiable cause, to be honest.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:31 AM
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I'm somewhat more sympathetic to the broader 'nationalist' cause, than I think ajay is [based on 87 and comments in the past], but yes, Chris Y's:

There is no mechanism in the British constitution for expelling from the state a population whose majority wish to remain in it and this is a good thing.

is a pretty good point.

I have the sense, from friends who live in Belfast or who have family there, that a couple of years ago, pre-financial crisis, the chances of unification winning on a ballot in Northern Ireland [rather than Ireland as a whole] were looking increasingly good. But that's receded.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:44 AM
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88: I wouldn't have a problem with the 'nationalist' cause if they acted like Plaid Cymru in Wales or indeed the SDLP in Northern Ireland - made it their objective to win a majority of the vote through parliamentary and democratic means for union with the ROI - but that isn't the way that SF has been going. I'm not particularly wedded to the unionist cause. If NI wants to split off from the UK, it should go for it, assuming that they're not going to start an anti-Protestant pogrom or something immediately afterwards.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:01 AM
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Yeah. I'm sympathetic to the peaceful achievement of their aims, and don't think the aims themselves are crazy [with caveats about those aims not necessarily being shared by the majority of people in NI]. I'm not at all sympathetic with the IRA/INLA/SF/Continuity Arsewipe, etc approach.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:07 AM
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Having now read the article, the incompetence of the people running the project is really stunning.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:07 AM
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89. The other side of this is that it's by no means a forgone conclusion that the Republic would be willing to bear the cost of reunification, either in the short term or the long. An independent NI might eventually be able to make a living as a sort of Lichtenstein, but it would take a lot of time and effort to get there and it would involve a massive cultural reorientation.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:17 AM
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@87: I think the comment in question didn't call the IRA's cause "justifiable" full stop, but rather "more justifiable than the cause of the Confederacy". That's an extraordinarily low bar to clear.

My general sense that it's best not to dredge up past atrocities in a case like NI is tempered by the fact that Sinn Fein seems to have turned down an explicit "let's all agree not to dredge up past atrocities" offer (the 2005 proposal mentioned up thread).


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:21 AM
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re: 93.last

Here they are, for example, welcoming a police (i.e. PSNI) investigation into Bloody Sunday:

http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/23761

They can't maintain that that is welcome and desirable,, and that re-opening the investigation into the McConville murder is not. They can't have it both ways.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:26 AM
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92: the joke back in the early nineties was that the best approach would be to insist that China take Northern Ireland as part of a package deal with Hong Kong. The PRC gets a colony in Europe with one of the continent's finest deepwater ports, the nationalists get out from under the Brits, the unionists are at least not put under the rule of a Catholic majority in Dublin, and the headbangers of both sides get to encounter the PLA's robust and vigorous approach to urban pacification and riot control.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:27 AM
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I wouldn't have a problem with the 'nationalist' cause if they acted like Plaid Cymru in Wales or indeed the SDLP in Northern Ireland - made it their objective to win a majority of the vote through parliamentary and democratic means for union with the ROI - but that isn't the way that SF has been going.

Looking back from 2014 the idea that there would be a political and electoral process that was more or less open to their ends seems reasonable. But, the people leading the nationalist cause back then were born in the 30s and 40s. When they joined the nationalists, 1919 was only about as far in the past to them as the start of the trouble is to us. Their parents had seen Sinn Fein win an election by a very large margin. All it did was get them outlawed and start a war.

I think the by the 1960s it was wrong of them to use violence, but it isn't at all hard to understand why violence seemed like the best option given the history of the matter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 5:40 AM
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96 was certainly the impression I got from reading Trinity by Leon Uris when I was ten.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 5:49 AM
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In my ongoing effort to be permanently banned for ludicrous analogies, I propose this:

Gerry Adams is like Donald Sterling. Anyone victimized by Adams, or anyone paying a modest amount of attention to the matter, knows he's despicable. But such people as Adams and Sterling are parties to an implicit pact. Society says: Let us go about our ordinary business and don't rub our faces in your loathsomeness, and we'll leave you alone. Once we are forced to have an opinion, all bets are off.

Neither Sterling nor Adams is at fault for the fact that this pact was broken, but that doesn't matter. Americans, going about their ordinary business, were forced to confront Sterling. Same thing is happening with Adams.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:05 AM
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78, 79: I think Americans are very sympathetic to Halford.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:28 AM
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97: I never knew that existed. Was it explicitly sold as a gentile Exodus?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:31 AM
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100: ten-year-old me does not have an answer for you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:34 AM
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On the other hand I just finished The Giant, O'Brien by Hillary Mantel which is obviously thinly veiled Irish Nationalist propaganda.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:35 AM
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One reason why I get annoyed on this issue is that US ignorance on the IRA wasn't consequence-free. Something between 25 and 50% of the IRA's money was raised in the US, largely from credulous and sentimental Irish-Americans who just weren't thinking about it very hard. Notably, at the time, both the actually-existing government of Ireland and the majority of NI Catholics were saying explicitly "um guys could you please stop sending money to these dangerous assholes who are killing people" but that didn't stop NORAID et al from raising a ton of money. There's been almost no reckoning with the consequences of that; one of the leading US organizers is a sitting US congressman, who ironically chaired the Homeland Security committee.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 6:57 AM
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103, see here too from the Boston thread, remarking on the number of Twitter responses along the lines of "see what it feels like, Boston". http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_12905.html#1574425


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:07 AM
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100 surprises me, but then I remember that not everyone here was dating an Irish-American in 1976.

I definitely get 103. I don't have the same contrarian genes as Halford, though, nor the completely understandable visceral reaction to the IRA that every single Briton commenting seems to have, so it's pretty easy to have been unreflectively in favor of a one state solution back then, and a little omelette/eggs about the process to get there. I wonder how many of us are similarly unreflective about I/P. It's a good cautionary reminder about having unexamned opinions about other people's lives.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:07 AM
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The linked story is explicit on the nature of public knowledge about Adams, and implicitly lays out the deal Adams had reached with society at large:

"Clearly, for some police involved, it's an opportunity to score huge brownie points for solving one of the most atrocious crimes of the Troubles," says Mr. Moloney. "But at the same time, no policeman can start out on this investigation without knowing that it's going to end at the door of Gerry Adams."

I don't suppose GW Bush is every going to have to go to jail, or even face meaningful public opprobrium, but I have to admit that I'm rooting for him to be outed for the crimes everyone knows he committed.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:09 AM
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105.1: I was starting Kindergarten.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:14 AM
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I'd say it isn't just Britons. I haven't commented in this thread but my feelings are close to JPJ's. The anomaly isn't Britons, it's USan/Americans.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:21 AM
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If only we'd all listened to noted political theorist Paul McCartney. 105 seems exactly right about the larger issue.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:21 AM
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I wager that a vanishingly small percentage of American unfogged commenters raised money for the IRA in the '70s.

The reasons people -- and politicians -- in Boston raised money for the IRA are a lot more complicated than "sentimentality" but certainly probably had a lot more to do with, say, busing than they did with Irish/UK politics. Needless to say my town/school/neighbors/representatives were not heavily involved in the effort.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:23 AM
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I totally parsed I/P in 105 as "intellectual property" and thought "gee Carp is really working to get Halford on his side, here."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:24 AM
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110: Probably why I never saw anybody raise money for the IRA (except once, in Ohio, in the mid 1990s) despite being surrounded by people with the same sentimentality. Or maybe because immigration to my area basically stopped 100 years ago so the connection was weaker.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:27 AM
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I grew up around Irish-Americans and neither saw nor heard of collections for N.I.'s plausibly-deniables, but I wasn't spending time in bars or at ethno-political banquets, either.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:34 AM
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109 -- That actually had quite an impact on 13 year old me.

108 -- I didn't mean to exclude Canadians. (And remember now the experience of saying something stupidly hand wavy about Quebec nationalism in the early 70s, to a Canadian friend in BC, and getting a well deserved [verbal -- we're talking about Anglo-Canadians] smackdown. You'd think it wouldn't take 30+ years to actually learn the lesson from that.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:36 AM
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77, 93, 94 are strong points, I think I was wrong about this one.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:45 AM
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112: Same here. I grew up with Irish-American relatives (fresher than yours -- both my maternal grandparents immigrated to the US as adults) who were very ready to bring up anti-English grievances (what's dsquared's line? "Eight hundred years of oppression and now this'?), but I don't recall anyone expressing support for the (then) present-day IRA. Really, no one talked about the Troubles much, I think largely because it was hard to take a position that didn't involve supporting someone distasteful; people talked about historical grievances rather than current violence.

I feel that I should say that to the extent I'm arguing that Adams shouldn't have been arrested, I'm not coming at from a belief that he's been done an injustice. More that as one of the people who was in a position to help bringing the violence to an end, it seems very plausible to me that he did so on the basis of an implicit belief that he would have a certain amount of impunity for related crimes he was involved in. While I know that this sort of thing is, as Keir says, deprecated now, I still think that it's going to have to be easier to resolve ongoing violence in other situations if the people involved think that they'll be able to assure their personal safety after the violence stops, and that arresting Adams is going to make future negotiated resolutions of similar conflicts harder. This is probably an immoral position on some level, but I'm not convinced that it's not pragmatically a good idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:46 AM
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|| Meanwhile, another video re: our Stand Your Ground shooting. |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 7:58 AM
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re: 116

However, as per my 84, there is no mechanism for ensuring that Adams is safe from investigation or prosecution. And part of the reason there isn't one, is because Adams' party actively didn't want one, and have been keen to pursue precisely those kinds of investigations and prosecutions when they aren't directed at people on their side.

There is literally nothing the UK government could do short of bringing extra-legal pressure. And given that it's an issue for the NI government, Adams' own party is _in_ that government. So they can hardly claim to be the victims of evil government chicanery. Furthermore, this is a PSNI investigation, not an RUC investigation. The transformation of the RUC into the PSNI being itself a major demand of Adams' party.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:05 AM
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Yeah, I don't mean to be putting this on the UK government. Just that the arrest seems to me to be ill-advised. (And again, my views on this are colored by my belief that this isn't actually much in the way of evidence, which I might change my mind about if I knew more.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:10 AM
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You could almost certainly assemble a majority of the British electorate behind the principle of a united Ireland, provided it had the consent of a majority in the six counties. Now you could argue, and I would agree with you, that the existence of the NI mini-state is a travesty which should never have come into being. But the people you need to talk to about this are Herbert Asquith, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, who are presently indisposed, having died in the 1920s. You could also argue, and I would agree, that successive British governments were criminally culpable for acquiescing in the systematic abuses perpetrated by the Stormont government before 1970 and that some reparation is desirable. You could also argue, and I would agree with you, that egregious abuses were directly perpetrated by the British state during the Troubles both in the six counties and on the mainland, and that just for starters the survivors of the Guildford and Birmingham fit-ups deserve far more than they have been given.

But we can't give Ireland back to the Irish, because the only part of Ireland that isn't a sovereign, democratic state- whose head of state is, incidentally, a former member of the successor organisation to Official Sinn Fein- won't bloody go.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:10 AM
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On the off chance 120 is directed at 109, I intended the link in 109 as ridicule of the overly simplistic "give back" sentiment, and part of what I meant to endorse in 105 is the idea that the easy one-state view is a lot easier without knowledge of relevant facts.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:15 AM
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on the basis of an implicit belief that he would have a certain amount of impunity

Key words being "implicit" and "a certain amount."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:49 AM
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But the people you need to talk to about this are Herbert Asquith, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, who are presently indisposed, having died in the 1920s.

Lumping them altogether like that seems wrong, given the differences in relative power and goals.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 8:55 AM
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re: 119

Actually, I've always had the impression that there wouldn't be much to tie Adams to anything, since my [possibly not fully informed] understanding of his role in the IRA was that he was a member of the Army Council, and their primary political strategist, and so on, but that he wasn't a hands-on directing-the-gun-men sort of guy. That his input would be at the level of 'we need to keep up the pressure' [understood to involve killing people] but not at the level of 'go to this address, and shoot this person'. I assumed that Adams had 'guys' who worried about the who to kill, and how.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:03 AM
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I lump them together for brevity and because they're historical figures from another age. Likewise I might refer to Napoleon, Bluecher and Wellington, or Grant, Halleck and Lee. Obviously they had enormous differences in relative power and goals.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:07 AM
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124: that was my understanding of his role in the late 80s and 90s, too, but logically he can't have been doing that for his entire career. McConville was murdered in 1972: Adams was only 23 at the time. Pretty junior in both years and status within the IRA. He could well have been, at that stage, the guy you put in charge of a nutting squad.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:08 AM
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Nothing is going to come of this, anyway. The PSNI is already having to ask for extensions to the time available for questioning him. He'll be out by morning and go back to being a TD until the next election.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:10 AM
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re: 126

I don't know. Adams was interned, and the IRA explicitly asked for him to be released to take part in their negotiations with the British government in 1972 and he was part of the IRA delegation what met with Whitelaw. That doesn't seem like something they'd do for a guy who was leading a nutting squad. I always had the impression that he had been a strategy/politics/big-picture sort of guy since the beginning.

Although wiki says that various people have named him as one of the top guys in the (violent) Belfast brigade at the time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:15 AM
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Is there a better link as to what, exactly, the informants said about Adams? The link in the OP isn't clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:22 AM
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Maybe you could get access to the rest of the tapes and let us know?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:24 AM
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More from wiki, on Adams role in the 1970s [tangential to the McConville case]:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_IRA_Belfast_Brigade#Re-organisation


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:26 AM
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Oh, is the exact content of the allegations against Adams not public yet? I'd missed that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:26 AM
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Fair point. He and McGuinness were both on that, both in their mid twenties - a good decade younger than anyone else on the delegation - and McGuinness was alrut, teady a 21-year-old brigade 2IC at that point. The Provos were a young bunch back then. I am probably wrong about his status.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:30 AM
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129: This article today from The Guardian says, "Former IRA members including Adams's former friend, the hunger striker Brendan Hughes, have alleged that the future Sinn Féin president gave the order for McConville to be "disappeared" after she was shot as an informer." That's sort of weirdly written to me, but I am assuming it's saying the the accusation is that he gave the order for her to be shot and disappeared.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:30 AM
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Taken literally (which there's no reason to do, given the multiple levels of removal from the original source) it actually sounds like an allegation limited to the "disappearance" -- hiding the body -- rather than the murder itself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:34 AM
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135: Right. That's what confused me. But that kind of makes no sense (although I am not well-reversed in this kind of thing) -- "Ohhh. You shot her for being an informant? OK, I order you to hide the body and not tell anyone about it."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:36 AM
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Yes. Best case interpretation from GA's point of view is that some understrapper came and said, "Gerry, we've shot McConville for talking" and he said, "Oh shit, you'd better lose the body then." Still doesn't look good for him, but was it ever going to?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:38 AM
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Well, I guess hiding the body as opposed to, say, dumping it as a warning to others. Which would have been much more standard practice.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:38 AM
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136. Makes perfect sense: if there's no body the murder is sorta kinda deniable.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:40 AM
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Without any knowledge of the relevant facts, it doesn't sound that weird to me. Adams gets a call from Gunman X saying "We just killed McConville for being an informant. She's in the trunk of the car. What do we do now?" And Adams replies with instructions on how to go about hiding the body and not getting caught.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:40 AM
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Given what the IRA used to do to people they executed, he probably took the (very sensible) decision that they didn't want her body turning up while you could still make out the soft tissue damage.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:41 AM
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140: "I'm Winston Wolfe. I solve problems."


Posted by: Opinionated Winston Wolfe | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:45 AM
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The post-mortem on McConville suggests she was badly tortured, yeah.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:50 AM
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Take thirty seconds on google and you'll see that "Her Majesty's Justice" actually investigated and prosecuted three policemen for the fit up.

I actually did check before posting that, but it didn't come up (obviously I should have checked better*), so apologies on that.

Also, 61 makes me much, much less adherent to the "implicit amnesty" argument.

*actually, fuck that. The first link to a Google search for both "Guildford Four police" and "Guildford four detectives" is this, which says that the fuckers were cleared, and not a single link saying otherwise on the first 4 pages. Now, that article was back in 1993, so I'm not saying this proves no one was ever punished; I'm saying screw you for saying that a 30 second google search would have found what you claim. If the criminals in the Guildford 4 case were brought to justice, no one told Google about it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:55 AM
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Some guy wrote a memoir of his life as a journalist in the troubles, with a story about sitting in the bar where Adams had his headquarters, and people coming up with problems to him, to which he would reply "shoot him" - meaning, curiously, "kneecap him", rather than kill him. "Watching the Door" was I think the name of the book and the man who wrote it later turned into a major asshole once he had become a respectable journalist with Opinions and all.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:59 AM
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In the linked article, a professor in the Irish Studies program at BC says he was given a few transcripts early on, criticized the interviews for having leading questions and not being properly done the way oral history should be done*, and then the project never contacted him again. If that's the case, there are probably real problems with taking the interviews at face value, over and above the usual caveats about oral history.

*I am not an oral historian, don't know how the methodology has changed, etc.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 10:02 AM
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135, 137, &c.: If all Adams did was give orders about what to do with the body, they might not be able to get him for that thirty years later -- in the US that fact pattern would only support a conviction for being an accessory to murder after the fact, which (at least in the federal system) doesn't get you the special "no statute of limitations" rule that applies to murder and other capital crimes. I don't know whether the rule would be the same under NI law, though.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 10:02 AM
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Seeing as this is the intercommunal violence thread, things just got extremely ugly in Odessa from what I'm reading. A couple thousand pro-Maidan marchers got attacked by several hundred pro-Russian demonstrators. The police mostly stood back as the two sides battled it out and the Maidan people retreated. The pro-Russians seized a big government building as the police stood by and watched. The Maidan people summoned reinforcements, bottles, gasoline and kids to serve as weapon makers (pics of cute little girls in their early teens smashing up stones and filling bottles). The Russians retreated to their seized building and started throwing shit and occasionally shooting at the crowd below, the crowd set the building on fire. There's now a couple hundred pro-Russian demonstrators stuck in a burning building, and those who make it out are being beaten half to death by the Maidan people.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 10:48 AM
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If I'd ever lived in the North I would have been an SDLP voter, perhaps occasionally Alliance. Until a few years ago I kept my voter registration in my original home (border) constituency so I could vote in order of preference for every politician on the list (including nutters) except for Sinn Fein.
whose head of state is, incidentally, a former member of the successor organisation to Official Sinn Fein
Well, yes and no. Labour did absorb the Stickies* but Michael D. was very much an original Labour member. Also there was previously another rump successor party headed by Tomas MacGiolla (once referred to as "a man with all the qualities of leadership except followers"). Official Sinn Féin were so called of course in distinction from the Provos (or Provies, if you want to be authentic).
*the origin of this nickname is real People's Front of Judea stuff.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 11:19 AM
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145; oh, Myers! Complete waste of space, recycles warmed-over US glibertarian talking points as his own strikingly original contrarian thoughts. At one stage years ago it was fun to read him for the annoyance but has long since become too revolting.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 11:24 AM
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140: I see. So if Gerry Adams is Tarantino's character, and not Travolta's character, then the amount of time that has passed is much more relevant. Still, it's some pretty big mega asshole douchery to not somehow let someone reveal the body's location earlier so her children could start to deal with it.

120: I'm curious--is there an extent to which this really is a matter of religion? Would the Protestant majority of NI be more willing to join a united Republic of Ireland if Ireland weren't so overtly, legally Catholic? On one hand I can kind of see a lot of mainland Brits being all, "for fucksakes, just let the island be one country, will you?" After all, over all it seems like Ireland itself is a pretty nice place. On the other hand, when it comes to abortion and gay marriage, it's actually a big deal to be living in an Irish country, no? There was a huge outcry over an Indian woman who was allowed to die of a miscarriage in Ireland b/c a surgery would have been seen as an abortion. Seems like that might give Protestant Northern Irish pause about joining a united Ireland. What's the deal with abortion in Northern Ireland?



Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:17 PM
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Also, how much of the lack of support on the part of the NI Catholics for merging with Ireland is not wanting to let go of *their* British citizenship? I feel like I know an awful lot of Irish Catholics who made their way out of poverty by moving to Scotland or England. Do citizens of the Republic of Ireland have any special rights to emigrate to the UK?


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:20 PM
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Wouldn't the EU sort of take care of that issue?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:23 PM
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I lived in Boston and environs during most of the Troubles (stupid name, when are there not troubles in Ireland?). The general attitude there was very pro-IRA, including (unmarked) cash jars in bars and restaurants, especially in Southie, of course. Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neill were working pretty hard to keep the US as neutral in the conflict as they could manage. People were smuggling weapons, and I recall some were caught doing it. The Boston Globe was pretty much pro-IRA (most of the staff were of Irish descent), though they were also pro-busing.

Responding to some assertions that have been made and questions asked:

I don't think it had much to do with busing, except that attitudes to both were essentially "tribal."

The idea that SF could have run a purely electoral campaign is a fantasy. Catholics were a deliberately gerrymandered minority (an oppressed one, too, in the same way but to a lesser degree than African-Americans were/are oppressed). There was no way they were going to win reunification in an election. As was mentioned, even now it's a distant, unlikely possibility.

Also, until fairly recently I never heard anyone suggest that Adams hadn't been directly involved in ordering a lot of the killing. Even when people did suggest that, it was usually combined with a nudge-nudge wink-wink. The idea that he was purely a political guy was a polite fiction to enable his rehabilitation as a politician and facilitate peace talks (ditto for McGuinness).

At least one place I was reading about the revelations from the archives said that Adams had been present when the decision to kill McConville was made. There was a later discussion during which the merits of leaving her body in public versus "disappearing" it were argued. Adams decided that the latter was better, and her children were told she had deserted them, even though some had been there when she was kidnapped.

Still, prosecuting him at this late date would probably be a mistake, as it tears open wounds that were a tacit part of the deal with the devil that enabled peace. "Everyone" making the deal knew and accepted the polite fictions about Adams. Obviously, some people didn't accept it on either side. I hope nothing horrible results, but I am not optimistic.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:27 PM
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151.2 My impression is that the Unionists are pretty damn socially conservative, but maybe that's outdated.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:31 PM
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153: No, it's definitely not uniformly legal in the EU: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_law#European_Union

and this answered my question and confirmed 155: unionists and nationalists can't agree about much, but they can agree about keeping abortion out of the Emerald isle. Contraception *is* legal and available in the Republic of Ireland, so that can't be a real fear of the unionists. And I'm guessing that as a whole they aren't super pro-gay rights. So I wonder what the big issues are now?

I guess I have this somewhat foolish California girl approach where I feel like moving borders and demographic distributions around is super oldschool and useless and we should just leave jurisdictions alone and work on all our real (global warming, public health, education, poverty, etc) within them. But obviously that's naive.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:58 PM
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153: No, it's definitely not uniformly legal in the EU: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_law#European_Union

and this answered my question and confirmed 155: unionists and nationalists can't agree about much, but they can agree about keeping abortion out of the Emerald isle. Contraception *is* legal and available in the Republic of Ireland, so that can't be a real fear of the unionists. And I'm guessing that as a whole they aren't super pro-gay rights. So I wonder what the big issues are now?

I guess I have this somewhat foolish California girl approach where I feel like moving borders and demographic distributions around is super oldschool and useless and we should just leave jurisdictions alone and work on all our real (global warming, public health, education, poverty, etc) within them. But obviously that's naive.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 12:58 PM
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153 was to 152, not 151.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:03 PM
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155. My about-60 year-old coworker who grew up in an Irish-American enclave in the Bronx remembers that NORAID had actual, honest-to-God storefronts. After the mid-70s, when they couldn't really disassociate NORAID from the IRA, even though they really wanted to, the storefronts disappeared. But until then, people in these neighborhoods grew up treating NORAID like combined the Goodwill+UNESCO(+guns, maybe), but for the oppressed Irish.

Storefronts! I hadn't suspected it was that open.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:08 PM
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I don't think it had much to do with busing, except that attitudes to both were essentially "tribal."

I was using the one as a metonym for the other.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:10 PM
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My reading of the stories coming out on this is very much that Adams directly gave the order for the murder/execution, or at least approved it, and in fact no murder/execution could have occurred in the districts he was responsible for without his approval. I'm not sure why people would think there was a separation between the 'army' part of the IRA and the political part back in the 1970s.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:27 PM
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The extent to which Peter King (jerk Congressman, from Long Island, not Boston) was involved in this stuff really is pretty stunning. The Irish government withdrew its participation from the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade in the 1980s because King was going to be the grand marshall (the actual head of NORAID had been the grand marshall the year previous). Then, he spent his time in the 2000s running the Homeland Security committee having racist hearings investigating US muslims for being potential terrorists. Irony!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:30 PM
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Do citizens of the Republic of Ireland have any special rights to emigrate to the UK?

Don't know, but I'd imagine they're pretty free, given that they even have the right to vote in UK elections.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:31 PM
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and in fact no murder/execution could have occurred in the districts he was responsible for without his approval. I'm not sure why people would think there was a separation between the 'army' part of the IRA and the political part back in the 1970s.

This is the kind of thing that seems weird to me as a basis for arrest at this point, because while probably true, not news. The same could have been said at any time in the past.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:46 PM
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I'm not sure why people would think there was a separation between the 'army' part of the IRA and the political part back in the 1970s.

I've always wondered about that bit of IRA/SF co-branding and how it was supposed to work for either side but never had the energy to read the aforementioned Secret History of the IRA.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 1:51 PM
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Irony!

Perhaps if you took the GWOT at face value. It you saw it as a cynical exercise from the start, not so much.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 2:27 PM
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I'm curious--is there an extent to which this really is a matter of religion?

Not sure if serious...


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:01 PM
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Not sure why the irony depends on taking the GWOT at face value.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:11 PM
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I think the irony depends on being not racist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:14 PM
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58: for murderers who got off scot free

This is hardly accurate. Adams and Hughes were both imprisoned, and Adams interned, as well as being tortured and having plenty of other bad things happen to them.


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:28 PM
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41: Meanwhile, there are huge, decadal inquiries into things the government did wrong.

How many people have been arrested, convicted and imprisoned as a result?


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:29 PM
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"let's interview a bunch of hard men about how hard they were"

And this is different from the project of every military historian from Xenophon on down how, exactly?


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:31 PM
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you'll see that "Her Majesty's Justice" actually investigated and prosecuted three policemen for the fitup

Three British police officers--Thomas Style, John Donaldson, and Vernon Attwell--were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice,[11] but each was found not guilty.

So, three cops were set up as fall guys, but not even convicted. How is this even slightly comparable?


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:38 PM
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if, say, it was being employed in the service of letting loyalist killers or state forces off the hook.

"If" is sure doing a lot of work in that sentence. Loyalist killers and RUC/BA/SAS killers are off the hook, to the extent that there was ever a hook for them anyway.


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:40 PM
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Oh good.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:51 PM
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Re: 174

A lot of loyalist killers did long jail time. So said hook existed and continues to exist. Several prominent UDA and UVF figures have been jailed since the Good Friday agreement. But don't let the facts get in the way ...

State forces, not so much. But that is par for the course and a general issue that very much applies on the mainland UK, not just NI. Cops, unfortunately, as ever, have different rules applied.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 3:54 PM
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Are there numbers on UDA/UVF arrests vs Republican arrests? It certainly sounds like HMG did everything it possibly could to ignore all but the worst outrages.


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:00 PM
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And lest it slip people's attention, again. The PSNI are controlled by the devolved NI government, the executive of which, _includes_ Sinn Fein.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:02 PM
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Re: 177

I think we have already established that the US populace is not the best informed, so how it 'sounds' from there may not be the best evidence.

However, there almost certainly has been blind eyes turned to loyalist killings of prominent Republicans, and even probable collusion with elements of the police and military intelligence. We aren't talking about a picture in which the state either has its hands clean, or has been unbiased. Nevertheless, there have been quite a lot of jailed loyalists. Being a loyalist was not and is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:07 PM
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Best stats I can find suggest about 15,000 republican prisoners, and upto 10,000 loyalists, although estimates of the latter vary as low as 5,000 and as high as 12,000. And they were smaller groups, which doesn't suggest a big disparity in rates of imprisonment.

See: http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/final_literature_review.pdf


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:19 PM
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For what it's worth, the BC project also interviewed loyalists.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:31 PM
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Just to re-clarify: I don't have much use for Adams & McGuinness -- just the Second Coming of De Valera and his gang of crooks. And the Provos wound up betraying most of the ideals of Irish Republicanism at one time or another, pre-1998. I think it is inarguable though, that they had a legitimate grievance in the first place, and they were fighting an enemy that had even worse politics. Does that justify everything they did? Maybe not, but where in the history of violent conflict in human society would that be the case? Were Dresden and Hiroshima justified? Sherman's March to the Sea? North Vietnamese enhanced interrogations? Polish Resistance assassinations of Nazis? Singling out the IRA, merely because it was a non-state actor, or because you have some generalized connection to that particular conflict may be libidinally gratifying, but it's not particularly reasonable.


Posted by: Natilo Paeenim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:38 PM
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Lecturing Scottish lefties about Northern Ireland is a game with pretty limited shelf life.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:46 PM
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Singling out the IRA, merely because it was a non-state actor, or because you have some generalized connection to that particular conflict may be _libidinally gratifying_,but it's not particularly reasonable.

That is really quite profoundly dick-ish. You may think it makes you sound all objective and arc-of-history-yada-yada, but really, it makes you sound like an infant. Like the worst kind of sophomoric ignoramus. Fuck you.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:51 PM
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For all x, I reject and denounce x.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:52 PM
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185 gets it right; 185 to 185.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:55 PM
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I guess there's not really any point in responding to 182, but before moving to "the IRA=the Polish resistance fighting the Nazis" a self-proclaimed anarchist might have at least considered, say, comments 85-89, or the fact that the primary aim of the organization was to force a region, the large majority of whose population wished to remain in one country, into another country.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 4:57 PM
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In a thread about Jean McConville, saying "Does that justify everything they did? Maybe not" is pretty special.

185 to 186 and everything Sifu says ever no backsies.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 5:01 PM
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I was travelling in Northern Ireland with my sister in '99. My sister somehow had a connection with a guy who had been in the RUC for many years. So, we arranged a visit to his house, outside of Derry, and, basically, my sister - who is pretty amazing at getting people to talk - said "please tell us about your experience during the troubles."

And so this hard man told us this entire story about what it had been like for him at that time, including a harrowing episode about a time his unit was under siege in a police station. It was a long, crazy, painful story and I wish we had recorded or taken notes or something. His wife and teenage son were in the room with us while he was telling it. We had the impression the son had never heard the story before.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 5:26 PM
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145 --- there's a case where a man participates in a knee capping (or maybe orders it? can't remember) and the victim dies, and when he's tried for the murder he argue that he's an expert kneecapper, done it heaps before, no one ever dies, it was all because one of the other assailants overstepped the line unbeknownst to him. And so of course he gets off murder and only eats manslaughter/GBH, I forget which.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 5:35 PM
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Does that justify everything they did? Maybe not, but where in the history of violent conflict in human society would that be the case? Were Dresden and Hiroshima justified? Sherman's March to the Sea? North Vietnamese enhanced interrogations? Polish Resistance assassinations of Nazis? Singling out the IRA...

I'm sorry, but this is nonsensical. The discussion here does not pretend to offer a comparative, world-historical survey of violent conflict. This is a thread about a specific actor in a particular sectarian conflict, which has broadened into a conversation about the moral and political dimensions of that particular conflict. Nobody is "singling out" the IRA from a "Greatest Hits" list of 20th-century atrocities (unless any critical discussion of anything or anyone can simply be dismissed as a "singling out"? in which case, we have no grounds for criticizing anything or anyone at all, I suppose).

Let's try this:

Was Hiroshima justified? Maybe not, but where in the history of violent conflict in human society would that be the case? Singling out the US for dropping the atomic bomb, merely because you have some generalized anti-American, anti-militarist sentiment may be libidinally gratifying, but it's not particularly reasonable.

That's actually one of the standard defences of (or rationalizations for) Hiroshima, of course. Is that your position too?

I certainly remember grownups talking about the Troubles when I was a little kid. And being at a pub (in my teens) where someone sang "Four Green Fields" and passed around the hat.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:12 PM
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Sherman's March to the Sea?

I'd vote for that one.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 2-14 9:27 PM
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How about Sand Creek?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 1:28 AM
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144, 173: I know things are run differently in the US, but the British government doesn't get to unilaterally decide whether or not people are guilty of something. They have to have a fair trial. All the government can do is investigate, arrest, charge and prosecute: which it did, and which is what the Northern Irish government is aiming to do in this case. Entirely comparable.

In fact, the British government (or "Her Majesty's Justice" for those of you who seem to think that we live in a combination of Franco's Spain and Westeros) tried them twice; in 1991 the case was dismissed because the court decided that lapsed time and public comment would make it impossible for them to get a fair trial; Her Majesty's Justice (and his band of mail-clad sellswords) then appealed against the dismissal and brought the three to trial again two years later, as a result of which they were cleared.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 3:04 AM
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they were fighting an enemy that had even worse politics

It is 1960s-70s British social democracy* you're referring to here, or did you mean some other enemy? Also, "enhanced interrogation"? I'm afraid it's still torture even if you do it to John McCain...

Do citizens of the Republic of Ireland have any special rights to emigrate to the UK?

Under an agreement from 1949, being an Irish citizen in the UK is legally just like being British - you can vote in general elections, you don't technically need a passport to come and go (although they won't let you on the plane without some sort of ID, there is no formal border control and there was less pre-troubles), you can stand for election, get a job, draw benefits, use the NHS, join the army, go to college**, etc.

*you know, like pretty much everyone would have back in a heartbeat...
**which reminds me that I don't know if Irish students are treated as UK students or European Union ones.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:17 AM
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Also, Watching the Door is a cracking book. I wouldn't rely on it for facts, but that would be beside the point, in the same way as you wouldn't rely on Hunter Thompson for literal accuracy.

I reviewed: http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2008/05/25/review-watching-the-door/


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:21 AM
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You know, I was thinking about this on my way home last night -- I'm way, way closer to AIM than any of you are to the Provos. And AIM members very likely killed Anna Mae Aquash for about the same reason as Jean McConville got killed -- bad jacketing. It's something that happens in that kind of conflict, and yes, of course it's fucked up, but was McConville's life worth more than that of some 19 year old Provo gunsel? Didn't his mother cry? All these deaths were important to the people who lived through them. And the justifications that the killers used were all pretty similar -- "If we kill this person now, it will prevent others dying by violence/being oppressed in the future" RUC, SAS, IRA, UVF, AIM, Sendero, RAF, RAF, USMC, NVA -- whoever. Yes, the Belfast Brigade was wrong about McConville -- was it okay for them to kill all the people who did actually inform against them? What about the other side?

If you're in a desperate situation, as indeed the Provos were at that time, it's easy to make decisions that you'd never make in more sedate circumstances.

It's sure interesting in these discussions to see Brits castigating the IRA as uniquely awful beyond description. Were they worse than the Mau Mau? Omani or Burmese resistance fighters?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:29 AM
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195.1: Yeah, of course it's torture. If someone was carpet-bombing the city your family lived in, you wouldn't be tempted to torture them? St. Alex?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:30 AM
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but was McConville's life worth more than that of some 19 year old Provo gunsel?

Do you mean some random fuck kidnapped and murdered on suspicion of providing info to the Provos, or an actual active member of the IRA. If the latter you might make the analogy to a random member of the British armed forces or RUC, but to McConville. As for McCain, I'll reverse the question. If you were South Vietnamese would you perhaps be tempted to torture Viet Cong or North Vietnamese fighters? I don't see any difference. If atrocities and war crimes committed by the North Vietnamese side were understandable and justifiable, the the ones committed by their enemies were as well. In practice both sides sucked, and as far as the ideals the claimed they were fighting for the North Vietnamese side was worse.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:40 AM
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195: It is 1960s-70s British social democracy* you're referring to here, or did you mean some other enemy?

Oh, this is so stupid. Yes Alex, yes. I think that the IRA was justified in their various actions because British social democratic policy in the late 1960s/early 1970s was so evil. I notice when all of this "Gerry Adams is the Devil" stuff comes up that none of you mention, you know, Ian Paisley, or the other Loyalist leadership, who did just as much, if not more, to create and maintain the conflict as anyone on the Republican side.

How about this: Do you think the civil rights demonstrators in N. Ireland deserved to be brutally repressed? Should they have just turned the other cheek? Why or why not?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:43 AM
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199: Um, yeah, that's pretty much my point. Although it is a bit of a stretch to talk about "Ideals" when referring to the government of South Vietnam. What ideals were those, precisely?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:44 AM
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197: gunsel

Why are we talking about this hypothetical provo's sexual orientation?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:48 AM
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To clarify, this: If atrocities and war crimes committed by the North Vietnamese side were understandable and justifiable, the the ones committed by their enemies were as well.

...is precisely what I'm arguing. All war is an atrocity, an abomination. Look at the low-intensity conflict happening in the Ukraine right now. Is one side or the other "right"? Most people on this blog don't really have an opinion. Most Ukrainians didn't have much of a stake in whether the Tamil Tigers were right either. So what I object to is all the gleeful gloating on the part of some people, making out like Gerry Adams is so uniquely awful, when he was just playing the same game as a hundred other men and women who have just as much blood on their respective hands.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:50 AM
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Were they worse than the Mau Mau? Omani or Burmese resistance fighters?

That's just silly. There's no value whatsoever in attempting to sort organisations of this kind in ascending order of awfulness. Nobody claims the IRA were uniquely bad, or that they were uniformly bad (The IRA almost always tried to issue a warning when they had set a bomb; the INLA did not. I'm not interested whether you can invent a calculus of depravity on which one scores higher than the other). You will not concede that the objectives of the IRA campaign in the late 20th century were anti-democratic under actually existing conditions wherein, perhaps regrettably, a majority of the population of the six counties did not want to join a united Ireland. This is the crux of the issue and on that basis I don't see any basis for further discussion.

If someone was carpet-bombing the city your family lived in, you wouldn't be tempted to torture them?

1. Who was carpet bombing what city when?
2. Yes I would be tempted. II hope I'd resist the temptation. Do you give Donald Rumsfeld because somebody flew a plane into the building he was sitting in?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:51 AM
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+ a pass


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 4:51 AM
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Actually seriously Natilo of course a fucking single mother who's only crime was being married to someone of the wrong fucking religion's life is fucking important. My fucking mum was an Irish Catholic who married a Protestant, and thank fucking god her dad had moved to the West of Scotland when he was a kid. It's not a game of leftier than thou.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 5:31 AM
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I'm not going to lie, Natilo, you sound like Bob, and not in a good way.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 5:32 AM
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194: the British government doesn't get to unilaterally decide whether or not people are guilty of something

Are you joking? So, you admit that there was a gross miscarriage of justice, involving collusion to pervert the process at the highest levels of government, and yet you want me to also believe that, when this was exposed, and a very few of the most minor perpetrators investigated and charged, that this was all carried out with perfect regard for the law and complete impartiality? That's ridiculous.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 5:59 AM
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Let's just assume for a moment that all of these accusations are completely, 100% true. Obviously, none of us have any way of knowing that is the case, but let's assume it is.

What would you have done differently in Adams' place?

You're sitting at the pub, holding your meetings, and one of you lieutenants comes in and says something like "Paddy's sure that Jean McConville is an informant". What's your response?
(a) "Oh, really, that's too bad, I'm sure she'll see the error of her ways eventually."
(b) "Paddy can be kinda paranoid, let's be 100% sure of this before we do anything precipitous."
(c) "Kill her, but do it in a really humane manner, so that her kids are spared any additional grief."
(d) "Let's make an example of her, so that the next time someone thinks about informing on us, they have to wonder what's going to happen to them."

So, the allegation is that Adams chose (d), which he may very well have done. If he'd chosen (a) or (b), what happens when it turns out that she IS informing, and 5 volunteers get killed in an ambush because of it? How much longer does Adams get to sit on the Army Council then? You could pick (c), but again, what's the incentive? If potential informants aren't really scared of you, because they think you're going soft, mightn't that get a lot of other people killed?

When you're in that position, you don't really have a good option. Maybe you'd propose option (e) "Well, that's it then, guess we'll just have to give up the struggle, because we can't kill one more person."

This is all so stupid. Fucked up things happen in wars. (And if it wasn't a war, pray, what were the Army doing there driving tanks and APC's around, hmm?) Gerry Adams is a fucker because he's a lying, sell-out politician, not because he made one tactical decision that was so much worse than what anyone else did. And y'all are the ones who are always trying to convince ME that supporting lying, sell-out politicians is the only mature, reasonable response. Screw that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:10 AM
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Anyhow, I gotta end it here, I've got a bunch of cleaning and stuff to do before the May Day parade tomorrow. (A parade which, let's remember, is going to be mostly ruined for me because a bunch of my former associates decided it was tactically sound to snitch out a bunch of other people in the radical scene last year. Not that I wish them any physical harm, but it does certainly diminish my enthusiasm for pro-informant narratives.)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:17 AM
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"pro informant narratives" mate seriously fucking take your hand off your cock.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:35 AM
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I don't want to be crude, but honestly.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:37 AM
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207 to 209.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:41 AM
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207: Say what?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:47 AM
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209
With the words slightly changed, that's the defense of every war criminal. Just because "fucked up things happen in wars" doesn't mean we should shrug and say they were okay. Is being against war and war crimes just a tactic?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:55 AM
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What would you have done differently in Adams' place?

Probably what the majority of NI Catholics did - not join the IRA. The IRA was backed by a minority of a minority in Northern Ireland.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 6:58 AM
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Is being against war and war crimes just a tactic?

More like a bourgeois imperialist strategy

Let me know when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld hang from a gibbet. Oh noes, not our fault, would if we could, but we can't, because making sure that our own war criminals get prosecuted and punished would cause social disorder, can't have that, somebody might get hurt, and we don't hurt anybody ever.

We hire it out and disclaim responsibility.

38 Burned Alive in Odessa ...WaPo came out today and admitted it was the US supported Right Sector Kievists that set the union building on fire. Kiev really is going after the socialists first interestingly.

But more interesting is a what 30 year crime? Because cult of motherhood, and because...ah hell, who cares.

We do hate our own war crimes and governmental atrocities, we do we do really really we say so loud and clear what do you expect us to do except prosecute the little guys as an example that says...

...violence is the monopoly of the state.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 7:11 AM
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198: it's not me who's using bullshit like "enhanced interrogation".


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 7:25 AM
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If someone was carpet-bombing the city your family lived in, you wouldn't be tempted to torture them?

Why on earth are you channeling Dick Cheney here, Natilo?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 8:50 AM
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217 Adams wasn't a "little guy."

And stuff about the tenuous connection between the Right Sector and the US is right out of Putin's playbook. How about the not-so-tenuous connection between Russia and the Russian Spetznaz actually trying to conquer Ukraine?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 9:00 AM
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I notice when all of this "Gerry Adams is the Devil" stuff comes up that none of you mention, you know, Ian Paisley, or the other Loyalist leadership, who did just as much, if not more, to create and maintain the conflict as anyone on the Republican side.

And indeed, it was in the context of Northern Irish politics that the word "whataboutery" was first coined. So tell us mate, how much worse are demotheruns?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 9:37 AM
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Maybe the true lesson of the Troubles is that what Martin Luther King did was *hard*. The 60s/70s did begin as a civil rights movement, very much inspired by the movement in the U.S. The goals of the civil rights movement in N.I. were not actually a united Ireland. They were representation within N.I., fair housing, and a balanced police force--most of the issues addressed. The movement also started with nonviolent and nonsectarian aims, but the marches for rights quickly turned into riots, because there were armed gangs of loyalists and police ready to shoot at marchers at each and every one of them. Now, yes, the organizers should have shown better leadership, and maintained discipline and the nonviolent directive (and there were surely a handful of IRA-typs instigators among the leadership), but they simply could not control all the participants, some of whom fought back, picked up rocks and so on. This is how the situation deteriorated so quickly in 1968/69.

I think people are being a little bit selective or wishful about the popularity of the IRA. Sometimes they received quite a lot of support - after, say, the implementation of internment. And this was because of mistakes by the British government and the Army in trying to keep order. Internment was a deeply deeply unpopular policy. The trouble, in insurgencies, is that you're trying to keep terrorists/instigators as isolated as possible from the general population. If you implement a policy that treats members of the general population as terrorists, you send them into the terrorists' arms. It's understandable, from the point of view of the British Army, that these places come to seem generally hostile and you can't distinguish neutral party from foe. (Didn't the U.S. have the same problem in Afghanistan?) But you have to make the distinction over and over again, or you create more sympathy for terrorists.

The legitimacy of the IRA didn't derive from a shared desire for a united Ireland, it derived from the perception that they were "protecting" a population under siege.


Posted by: calico | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 10:20 AM
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217 Socialists, seriously? They set the building on fire not because it was the trade union building but because it was the building occupied by their targets. They did so by throwing Molotov cocktails at the pro-Russians, who were throwing Molotov cocktails at them.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 10:24 AM
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Thank you for 222, calico. I'd never heard the comparison/link between the civil rights movement in the US and NI.

(Mostly because I'm generally ignorant of NI politics and history, but still, very interesting.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05- 3-14 11:05 PM
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222 is very good. I forget that most of you are too young for things like this to be seared on your consciousness. The split in the IRA between the "Officials" and the "Provisionals" initially took place because the older leadership were not prepared to provide sufficient support to the civil rights people and if the PIRA had restricted its campaign to that I'd find it difficult to criticise them. But there were a lot more unforced errors on both sides before we got to the stage that most people think about when they think about the Troubles.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 2:44 AM
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And he's released without charges.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 12:16 PM
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Calico!

222 is fucking brillers.

Cried for a long time today because my friend Adam couldn't be here to share in the May Day experience.

If there was one thing I could impart to all of you, one thing that would make my life worthwhile, it is to share with you the brilliance and perfection of my friend Adam. I don't know that I've ever met someone half as good as him. "Everything I have, I would give not to be standing here today."

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/jsonline/obituary.aspx?pid=156636101


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 12:31 PM
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On the topic of 222, why is it that there was so (relatively) little black nationalist terrorism? You can't really attribute it to MLK alone, because the time you'd most expect it would have been after he was assassinated.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 12:38 PM
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227: Two years later, I'm sorry for your, and our, loss, Nat.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 12:51 PM
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Released, for the time being.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 2:09 PM
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Much feelings. Very grief. Wow.

It;s all just a big joke to you, isn't it?

Yes, of course it is.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 2:36 PM
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Not to be a dick but 231 to 209.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 3:14 PM
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His this on Jean McConville, her life and what happened to her and the lives of her orphaned children been linked?

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/susan-mckay/diary

I hope that was a fucking amazing omelette.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 3:43 PM
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222: I think it's a bit overly simplistic to claim that the civil rights movement wasn't looking for a united Ireland. The transitional demands were for fair treatment within NI, but the long run expectation of a lot of the civil rights activists was that the only way that those demands could be meet was within a united Ireland.

(One Ireland was the constitutional if not actual position of the Republic until Good Friday, after all.)

Worth remembering that no matter how popular the IRA/SF got, they were never able to break out of the (roughly and obviously this is an over simplification) Catholic community in terms of popular support. The majority of the population remained unionist, which was the underlying problem. Created the deeply difficult situation where you had Worker's Councils striking for bad things and against nice things, while defying the British Government which would have quite liked nice things.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 3:45 PM
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My impression is that to the extent that civil rights organizers were attempting to keep things nonsectarian, they played down the united Ireland angle. And there were some who would not have counted it as a goal at all. I'm thinking of someone like John Hume, who became a big part of the more recent peace process, but was definitely around during the 68/69 period as well. Voices like his just got drowned out. The period of high ideals was short and ended badly, but it did exist.

Just as an example, there's a newsreel from 1970 on the Bernadette Devlin wikipedia page that presents the grievances of civil rights marchers as problems of representation and policing and housing. It was sort of in their interest to be as sympathetic as possible, and realism about the partition was part of that.

You're probably right that some if not most of the leadership was disingenuous about this, but I was counting that as part of the leadership problem.


Posted by: calico | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 6:03 PM
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234. Your use of "transitional demands" is interesting, given that the rump of PD eventually joined the FI. But in the early days I'm pretty sure calico is right that they were looking to build as broad based a movement as possible on those demands. He's also right that the period of high ideals was short and ended badly.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 6:17 PM
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Michael Farrell was appointed to the Irish Council of State by President Higgins, which is a bit of a jaw dropper for us older folk.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 6:22 PM
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I suspect to some extent I'm attributing the subsequent and more theoretical "Orange State" explanations for the inability of the NI state to meet the pretty basic and non-contentious wants of the Civil Rights movement further back than they were actually articulated.

The later argument that grew out of the CR movement was the NI state was founded on Protestant supremacy and was structurally and intentionally unable to accommodate a Catholic minority, and implicitly therefore the need for a united Ireland where the Protestant supremacy would be dismantled, or some other large and drastic intervention to take power off the Ulster protestant elites. Which to be honest was pretty much true but unfortunately hit a bunch of rocks when it got to the practical implementation.

Definitely the CR movement didn't position itself as a precursor to reunification.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 6:27 PM
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Just checking in on this thread after a while. I guess I should make clear given positions above that I agree with calico and Chris Y (though I suspect they both know more than I do). To some extent it's unquestionably true that the British government had itself to blame for not protecting civil rights in NI when it could have done so. But it's also true (I think) that the IRA itself and its strategy was not only atrocious in itself but also likely helped set back the cause of civil rights in NI by at least 20 years (not that it bears the only blame for this, but it sure helped); in that sense its emergence was really a tragedy.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 4-14 7:19 PM
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222: Calico, let me join the chorus in appreciating your comment. I had zero idea about that bit of it. In my mind the IRA, even with the split, was just a continuation of the circa WWI for an independent Ireland carried out by those left behind in NI, so to speak. Can you recommend a good book on the subject?


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05- 5-14 4:32 PM
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This is very late, sorry, so probably no one will see it, but Michael Farrell's The Orange State is very good and written by a key civil rights activist from the period. Is quite dated now, I suppose.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 6-14 3:12 AM
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I warmly endorse 241, although I haven't read it for 30 years, so I don't know how well it stands the test of time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05- 6-14 3:26 AM
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One thing I took from Farrell (although he may not have intended this reading exactly) is the extent to which the local Ulster Protestant elite were (a) evil, (b) able to evade control by Westminster through a combination of neglect, shamelessness, and a pretty clear willingness by large parts of the UK state apparatus to disobey elected governments at Westminster in favour of the Protestant ascendancy, and (c) terminally shortsighted.

I reread Orange State not that long ago (like, post-GFA) and it seemed to be pretty solid. It has the advantage of stopping before the really depressing grind sets in.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05- 6-14 5:39 AM
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Thanks, Keir. I'll look that up. I really only know bits and pieces of the history.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 6-14 5:40 AM
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