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“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” (Abraham Lincoln)
The John Boyle O’Reilly summer school in Drogheda Co Louth 2012 was a chance meeting place between political adversaries Eoghan Hams (Sunday Independent columnist) and former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison. The two men had been invited there to participate in the lectures for the annual event. Mr. Morrison felt that it was the ideal opportunity for him to ‘educate’ Mr. Hams on how a man like Gerry Adams doesn’t deserve to be vilified by him in his weekly column.
The issue of the Boston tapes was a hot topic in the media at the time, so it presented an ideal opportunity for Morrison to broaden the dialogue and include the tapes issue. It wasn’t long before the discussion focused on the ‘unfounded’ allegations against Mr Adams contained in some of the tapes. Morrison described how the participants in the Boston project were opponents of the peace process and their ultimate aim was to discredit Adams in particular.
In reality, the objective of the project was designed to provide researchers and academics with an insight into the ‘troubles’ and the participants were also anxious to avoid revisionism of their personal narrative. Admittedly, some of the participants are opponents of Sinn Fein and they felt the need to tell their story to an independent source and have it placed away for safekeeping. On Adams own admission some of the individuals involved in the Boston project felt that he had ‘sold out’ and on that issue alone it is in his interest to ensure that such people’s views are kept from the public domain.
However, Morrison certainly underestimated Harris, and his attempt to convince him that Adams was now ‘a good guy’ failed, although he cunningly listened to what Morrison had to say with a view to extracting as much detail as possible for his own information.
Much to the annoyance of Morrison, the following week in his Sunday Independent column Hams wrote a brief outline of the discussion from the previous week. The article described how Morrison outlined that Adams opponents were out to discredit him by using the Jean McConville issue from the Boston tapes against him when in fact he knew nothing about Jean McConville’s death.
Eogan Hams was/is a regular critic of Irish republicanism and had regularly been castigating Adams and his cohorts through his newspaper column and Morrison was anxious to try and convince him that his views on Adams was unfair and by damaging him would by extension cause irreparable damage to the peace process. For some time Hams was aware that Morrison had been canvassing other journalists and attempting to cleanse some pro Adams republicans, while at the same time castigating those who opposed the move into constitutional politics. The position of Eoghan Hams has always been unswerving, he is pro-union and anti-republican and that position will not be diluted, regardless.
Almost a year on to April 2013 RTE’s Prime Time programme with the host Miriam O’Callaghan interviewing Gerry Adams, where the ageless lady confronted Adams on the issue of the deaths of members of Irish state forces allegedly at the hands of republicans. The interview was nothing short of a scolding for Mr Adams, which could be best described as an embarrassment for the usually ‘polished’ Gerry Adams. The Louth TD found it difficult to talk Ms 0’ Callaghan down and by all accounts, she ‘finally’ left him questioning his own ability to deal with that particular type of examination? Throughout the interview, Adams took refuge in abstractions about the peace process, which has been his usual tactic for many years during uncomfortable interviews. Seasoned political observers have now finally succumbed to the position that Mr Adams may eventually fall from grace over some past unsavoury issues that have surfaced in recent times. However, they believe that the peace process will stay on course and will not falter even with his departure; in fact, many now feel that it may flourish without him, as it appears he is becoming a liability to the party.
Within hours of the programme Sinn Fein spokespersons were indicating that Mr Adams would take a civil action against RTE and Ms O’Callaghan for libellous allegations. It wasn’t long before it was ‘leaked’ to the media that Mr Adams didn’t have the resources to embark on such a course. The suggestion of a civil action was both hollow and foolhardy and no one at the national station or indeed Ms O’Callagahan took it serious. They realised that it would never happen for one tangible reason, because Mr Adams would lose easily and no one knew that better than Mr Adams himself, so it was never an option from the outset and it was a serious miscalculation to even make the suggestion.
Sunday 5th May 2013, the Eoghan Hams column was dedicated and complimentary to Ms O’Callaghan’s interview earlier in the week, where Hams outlined how Mr Adams ‘charm’ and fork tongue speak completely collapsed to O’Callaghan’s line of direct questioning. Harris pointed out that it was evident where she had her strategy well prepared in advance of the interview. It appears that the Morrison approach to cajole Harris a year earlier had failed miserably, which wasn’t surprising. Nothing would convince Hams to be complimentary towards Adams or indeed anyone with even a hint of Irish republicanism and he makes no secret of his stance.
Back to Danny Morrison’s covert engaging with the media and the smear campaign against political opponents, which appears to be slowing down. The deceitful propaganda approach has for some time now become general knowledge within journalistic circles and many now listen to his ‘leaks’ with a degree of scepticism. This is also due to the fact that the Sinn Fein party is being exposed for its bare political strategy including abandonment of the National Question. The unfufilled promises made to the supporters, whereby conditions would be created to advance towards a united Ireland, is unfolding as the big con trick. Their impotent political careers are slipping into the twilight and they are now being viewed as a weak political entity not competent of delivering on the manifestos including the reunification promises outlined pre Good Friday Agreement (GFA). In the post GFA era with persistent encouragement from pro-British elements, they publicly portrayed their opponents as ‘dissidents’ with no political ideology, or strategy, shamefully describing such people as ‘militarists and traitors’. When it wasn’t politically suitable for party spokespersons to reveal themselves as sources, the propagandist Danny Morrison willingly popped forward, distributing the media leaks. Occasionally, much of the language used purporting to come from the party left many activists unhappy with some appealing to the leadership to desist from using such language against former comrades.
It is now becoming abundantly clear from a republican perspective, that the opponents of the Good Friday Agreement were the people with the foresight, honesty, and integrity who stood up despite all the adversity and said ‘this was wrong for republicans’? It is now evident that those who described themselves as ‘the mainstream republicans’ were totally dishonest in their rhetoric.
The approach deployed by Adams and co, deliberately or otherwise, appears to have played into a British government counterinsurgency policy described as ‘normalisation’. The Sinn Fein strategy moved many one-time radical republican activists away from revolutionary politics and turned them into paid community activists, playing to a reformist agenda, while at the same time becoming totally dependent on the British paymasters.
Presently, while Sinn Fein representatives appear comfortable telling the world that this is a new phase of struggle towards a United Ireland, they are being dishonest with such deceitful language. It is wholly false for them to describe the abandonment of republican principles as a transitional period towards a United Ireland. Unquestionably, they have abandoned the National Question and they are more comfortable pressing for the creation of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and various other Commissions. This never-ending mantra is a clear deflection from the promised goal. Indeed the one component lacking in their own vocabulary is truth and honesty. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission means that every participant must be honest about their past involvement in the troubles and on the face of it that looks like a far off reality at present?