Dublin: Both Irish newspapers The Irish Times and Irish Independent had front page stories on Friday that Gerry Adams had set up a group of IRA men for death.
The rumor was that Adams had tipped off the British about a major operation and eight IRA men were shot dead as a result. The source of the story, as both newspapers admit, was a “rumor” that a local priest, Father Denis Faul, had heard which he passed on to the Irish government.
When rumors are reported as fact, we know we have truly entered the Trumpian era in Ireland too, where facts are what we make them up to be. No newspaper delved into the reason why Father Faul may have relished passing on the rumor.
I heard a rumor just last week that Donald Trump was actually a Russian spy. Should I now report it as fact?
The reports state that Adams was “rumored” to have set up the East Tyrone IRA Brigade for certain death. The SAS was waiting for the IRA unit when they used a digger to smash through the entrance to an RUC barracks in Loughgall, County Armagh on May 8, 1987.
The reason he supposedly set up these men for death? He wanted them out of the way because they opposed the yet-to-be-born peace process. So he betrayed them for a plan that actually did not exist in any coherent form until January 1988, when his historic first meeting with the other nationalist leader, John Hume, took place.
Father Denis Faul in the newspaper report is given due recognition as a priest who battled hard for human rights and for his own Catholic community. Why then would Faul, with evident satisfaction, report the rumor?
In fact, the relationship between Sinn Fein's Adams and Father Faul was actually a complicated one, something the Irish media chose to ignore. As the 1981 hunger strikes dragged on Faul won the deep enmity of the IRA when he stepped in and encouraged the families to take their sons off the hunger strike.
As Republican News/An Phoblacht reported at the time, that went down very badly in Republican circles: “Earlier that Saturday afternoon, the protesting prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh issued a statement through the Belfast Republican Press Centre sharply condemning the 'Hunger Strike breaking' tactics of Catholic priest Fr Denis Faul, whom they accused of deliberately maximizing pressure on the families and especially mothers to go against their sons’ expressed wishes.”
Faul, An Phoblacht said, “was using the emotional vulnerability of relatives as a powerful lever against the Hunger Strikers and the prisoners’ statement said that Fr Faul had ‘emerged as the best friend the British Government has.’”
Faul, in fact, was right in what he was doing, trying to end what had become the pointless protest long after it became clear the British would not budge on political status.
But undoubtedly there were very sore feelings between Sinn Fein and Faul for some time after, so perhaps it is not surprising the theory doing the rounds that “the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself” caught Faul’s attention to the point where he had reported it to the Irish government.
Fr Faul said he was “intrigued” by the theory. Trump was “intrigued” by Obama’s passport too, but it doesn’t mean our former president was born in Kenya.
Faul may well have been intrigued, but rumors and theories are not facts because, if they are, we have really bolted down the rabbit hole in this post-Trumpian world.
So a rumor that intrigues a priest, who had solid reasons to dislike Adams, has become a major story alleging that Adams set up an IRA unit for massacre for a plan that didn’t exist. It was January 11, 1988 when the first meeting between Gerry Adams and John Hume took place, which to most historians marks the effective first act of what became the Irish peace process.
Amazing in this case a rumor is allowed to be reported as a major story in part because everyone misses the point there was clear tension between the leadership of Sinn Fein and the priest.
Spreading rumors is not the same as presenting facts. The very idea that we have to stress that makes this entire episode even more inane.