Sorrowful Gerry joins in call to find IRA victims

Adams was certainly unanimous with himself in his opinion that he was one of the good guys

Did Gerry Adams see the icy-expressions on the faces around him as he spoke? Photograph: Alan Betson

Did Gerry Adams see the icy-expressions on the faces around him as he spoke? Photograph: Alan Betson


It’s a pity the man who was commander of the IRA in west Belfast all those years ago wasn’t in the Dáil chamber yesterday afternoon.

He could have cleared up a few questions.

The harrowing story of those people now known as “the Disappeared” was very much on the minds of party leaders on the day after a television programme was aired about their abduction, murder and secret burial.

An evil, squalid episode epitomised by the fate of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 wrenched from her young family and taken to her death. Her body was found, by chance, decades later. Other families suffered similar grief. And some continue to wait into their old age, hoping they will get the chance to bring their loved ones home to rest.

Palpable hurt
“It’s a long time ago but the hurt is obviously as palpable and as relevant now as it was then,” the Taoiseach told a hushed Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil leader spoke for those families who still didn’t know where their loved ones were hidden or buried. “I would ask that every effort is made to pursue the case of the murder of Jean McConville and that all involved should be in a position to co-operate fully,” said Micheál Martin.

Gerry Adams couldn’t agree more. A sorrowful Sinn Féin leader told the House that he had also seen the documentary. Not only that, but he took part in it. He seemed quite proud of this.

“I took part in the programme in order to focus on the necessary effort to get those whose remains have not been recovered to be retrieved as quickly as possible and returned to their families.”

Did Adams see the icy-expressions on the faces around him as he spoke? Did he hear the cynical sighs of disgust? And if so, did he wonder why?

“I would ask the Taoiseach to join with me in assisting very actively in the work of the commission which was established under the last government . . . and I think the programme last night should be a huge motivation to anyone who has information whatsoever to bring it forward.”

Gerry Adams was certainly unanimous with himself in his opinion that he was one of the good guys.

But judging by the chilly atmosphere in the chamber and the eye-rolling of the vast majority of deputies present, they did not share his assessment of his performance.

The Taoiseach coolly noted that Adams had taken part. He too hoped that some good would come out of the programme.

Looking directly at the Sinn Féin leader, who still insists he wasn’t in the IRA, he mused: “The fact of the matter is that somebody ordered that Jean McConville be murdered. Somebody instructed that people take her away. Somebody instructed that Dolours Price drive that vehicle across the Border and somebody instructed that what happened took place.”

The Sinn Féin leader and TD for Louth listened, sitting back in his seat, arms folded across his body.

Two IRA volunteers, now deceased, named Gerry Adams as that person. He has always vehemently denied this and says they named him because of their opposition to the peace process and the part he played in it.

The Taoiseach didn’t name any names in the Dáil yesterday. Neither did Micheál Martin. And when Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith raised the issue of “the Disappeared” during Topical Questions, he didn’t name anybody either.

However their comments were as much about what went unsaid as what they put on the record.

“It may well be that those people are still around and they know what happened, and your own appeal from this may well have some effect, and I hope it has,” said Enda to Gerry. “I hope the programme stimulates active minds to make their information available. There were some, eh, very direct comments made, indeed, about your own presence on the programme yesterday . . .”

He left it at that.

Brendan Smith, a TD for Cavan-Monaghan, returned to the subject later. In a powerful speech, he retold the bleak tale of the Disappeared

“These are the silent witnesses to some of the grimmest and most cynical crimes of that troubled time,” he said. “Sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and mothers were ruthlessly taken from their families in the dark of night on the orders of self-appointed local warlords. Some were barely old enough to shave before they disappeared into the depths of an IRA conspiracy.”

He named some of the victims and spoke of the agony of those left to mourn them; people like Charlie Armstrong’s widow.

“Mrs Armstrong’s quiet dignity and strength as she visited the grave of her husband stood in stark contrast to the weasel words of Gerry Adams as even now he tries to muddy the waters.”

Very strong words to use on the floor of the Dáil against a sitting deputy. Adams wasn’t in the chamber to hear him.

“The IRA still refuse to accept responsibility for the murders and legitimate questions are not answered by deputy Adams and others.”

Brendan Smith wasn’t pulling any punches.

Resisting terror

“Contrary to what Deputy Adams and others would like now to claim, everyone in the North does not share responsibility for what happened there,” he said, pointing out that nationalist communities across the North

were resisting the IRA’s campaign of terror while trying to rear families and live in peace.

Speaking of those still trying to recover the remains of loved ones he hoped “all members in this House rise to their moral responsibility to help those families”.

He wanted to hear what the IRA leadership at that time had to say now about these murders. But who were those leaders and who was the commander, Brendan?

Gerry Adams can’t help him out there, much as he might want to. As we all know he was never in the IRA . . .