It’s time for Irish Americans to become involved again in the peace process.
The elephants in the room during the debacle of Gerry Adams’ arrest are the dissident Republicans and their Unionist opposite numbers who oppose the process. They are the beneficiaries of the well-laid plot to destroy both Adams and the process he did so much to create.
The arrest would not have taken place had Tony Blair still been Prime Minister in London or had there been a Fianna Fail Government in Dublin.
But both the present administrations initially supported the action. In fairness it may be, to judge from his later comments, that David Cameron may have come to regard the arrest as a mistake after being briefed on the background, but the reaction of the two Dublin coalition leaders – Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore – was simply to attempt to make political capital out of an opponent’s arrest.
Dublin’s focus these days is not on Northern Ireland, but on the scourging of its poor and its taxpayers so as to be thought well of in Europe.
It’s time for Irish Americans to bestir themselves again and mobilize to save the peace process,
To give an idea of the forces at work let me remind readers of the provenance of this affair. It goes back to well before 2008 when a book appeared, called “Voices from the Grave” compiled by Ed Moloney, based on an allegedly agenda free oral history project sponsored by Boston College. It appears that the university, at best, may be judged to have acted with very little knowledge of Six County politics and, at worst, as we shall see, under Unionist tutelage.
In his introduction, to "Voices," Moloney, who is unquestionably both a courageous and a skillful journalist, sets forth the background to the book, which is based on taped interviews with some leading figures from opposite sides of the Northern struggle, most notably the Republican Brendan Hughes who died in 2008, estranged from his former friend Gerry Adams.
Moloney’s introduction says that the interviewers for the program’s archive have followed the example of the Irish Bureau of Military History, which collected statements from war of independence veterans.
But the Bureau program was purely a historical record. It safeguarded the living by guaranteeing no publication until the last interviewee to receive a military pension had died. The Boston operation only stipulates that nothing be published until the interviewee concerned had either died or given their consent. As soon as Hughes died, however, "Voices" was rushed into print.
Moloney’s introduction thanks his two researchers, Wilson McArthur and Anthony McIntyre, for “their individual objectivity and commitment to the truth.” McIntyre is described as “a Ballymurphy republican and Ph D.” Moloney does not indicate that both himself, and McIntyre, an ex-IRA prisoner and 'blanket man,' are two of Gerry Adams’s most prominent and relentless critics.
McIntyre left the Republican movement after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement. He argued, if I understand him correctly, that it smacks too much of an internal settlement and consistently attacked it, and the Adams leadership, in his (now concluded) online journal of dissent The Blanket, to which his friend Brendan Hughes also contributed in similar vein. McIntyre has since continued his criticisms in other outlets.
Moloney, for his part, had produced an earlier book to "Voices," "A Secret History of the IRA," in which it was suggested that Adams could have had something to do with the betrayal of IRA active service units, such as those which perished at Loughgall and at Gibraltar.
For whatever reason, and even before writing this book and prior to moving to America, where he now lives, Moloney had become persona non grata with the Adams camp and there are no interviews with this side of the Republican family included in "Voices from the Grave." Only anti-peace process dissidents are represented.
Another significant factor in the book’s provenance is the fact that it and the Boston College oral history project owes much to Paul Bew, now Lord Bew, David Trimble’s former advisor. In his introduction Moloney thanks Bew for his assistance.
This book then was no mere academic exercise. Moloney and McIntyre have shed copious crocodile tears on radio and television over the fact that Boston College handed over the tapes of the interviews on which the book was based to the Six County authorities. The move to secure the tapes was both inevitable and entirely predictable.
But before there was any question of court proceedings being taken to enforce the tapes hand-over, the Moloney/McIntyre book, based on the words of a dead man, constituted a journalistic hand grenade hurled into contemporary Six County politics.
The explosion has not merely taken place during election campaigns, north and south of the border, it has also taken place in an unusually heightened period of loyalist emotion. We have already had the anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant swearing to resist the introduction of Home Rule and this year's centenary commemoration of the Larne gun-running. Taken with the effect of the flags controversy stemming from restrictions on flying the union flag in the Six Counties, Dublin’s lack of initiative, and the failure of the Haass mission, the North already felt as though a continuous twelfth of July snake-headedness was in progress.
The black ops swoop on Adams was part of a larger scene – probably masterminded by Belfast and London securocrats – and it has heightened tensions. The depressing scene needs to be alleviated by the addition of some counter-balancing figures from the Irish American world.
The peace process is in trouble.
Tim Pat Coogan is Ireland’s best- known historian who has written many best sellers including definitive biographies on Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera and on the IRA.