Sinn Féin doublespeak and denial re-surface in wake of Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy verdict
Unfinished business remains
A statement by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in support of alleged IRA strongman from South Armagh, Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, was as convoluted as the circumstances required. While Sinn Féin “strongly opposed” tax evasion, Mr Adams said, it was “absolutely opposed” to Special Criminal Courts, where Mr Murphy had been denied his rights. Backing for his long-time colleague came as Martin McGuinness prepared to discuss means of tackling cross-border crime as part of “A Fresh Start” with Northern Ireland Ministers and the two governments.
Everything is open to qualification or denial where Mr Adams is concerned. Just as he denies membership of the IRA, so he refuses to accept responsibility for the bombing campaign; the “disappearance” of victims during the Troubles or the sexual abuse of young men and women by IRA volunteers. He compared the treatment of Mr Murphy for tax evasion with that of other politicians. But he conveniently forgot the raid led by the Criminal Assets Bureau on Mr Murphy’s cross-border farm in 2006 was supported by 400 British and Irish soldiers, officers from the PSNI and Garda Síochána, custom officials and a helicopter.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin regarded the statement as evidence that Sinn Féin was “not fit for government” and was more interested in protecting its own than respecting the rule of law. Rejection of Special Criminal Courts, according to Alan Shatter of Fine Gael, offered impunity to terrorists and criminal gangs by facilitating jury intimidation.
Sinn Féin is not a “normal” political party. And Gerry Adams is not a “normal” party leader. They have their roots in the “armalite and ballot box” strategy that conflated support for the armed struggle with Sinn Féin activity and facilitated dual membership. In spite of the Belfast Agreement and a power-sharing Executive, Provisional IRA structures continue to exist, even if members are committed to peaceful means. That situation is not sustainable in a democratic society. A great deal of unfinished business remains.