Dublin, Ireland (TFC) – Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams caused a stir when he publicly commented on the court proceedings of alleged IRA figure Thomas “Slab” Murphy. Murphy was recently convicted of tax evasion.
Sinn Fein is a prominent and legal politically party in Ireland, but is widely seen as the political arm of the Irish Republican Army. The party has tried to distance itself from this reputation since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but these statements are likely to be seen as a closing of the ranks between the political activists and the militants.
It should be noted that Murphy was not allowed a trial by a jury of his peers, but was instead convicted by three judges. Adams stated: “I think judges can make mistakes.” He also referred to Murphy as a “good republican”. Adams was asked about Murphy’s alleged involvement with the IRA and the fact that the judges had found Murphy to be a criminal. Adams stated:
“I don’t believe that people who were involved in the IRA, if he was involved in the IRA, are criminals.”
Opposing politicians seized on the statement and exhumed the names of those killed in a struggle that has been going on for centuries. They cast Sinn Fein as insincere in its desire for peace. They also brought up older statements by Adams. The most explosive statement by Adams came in 2013 when it was reported he said those behind the killings of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were “doing their duty”. The outrage over the statement was manufactured by pro-British press. When read in context, the statement is that of a peacemaker not a killer.
“I also have commended these officers, these RUC officers Buchanan and Breen as men who were doing their duty as they saw it, in the same way as it is my belief the IRA volunteers were doing their duty as they saw it.”
He followed that by saying:
“We keep re-fighting the war and some people fight and re-fight the war at the behest of their editors and some people from the safety of the plinth or the seats in the Oireachtas. The war is over, we should be fighting for peace,”
The list of people with blood on their hands from the troubles of the latter half of the 20th century goes on forever. However, Adams went out of his way to commend the two RUC officers. It should be noted the RUC was responsible for torture, collusion with loyalist paramilitary groups, and outright murder. Comparing the RUC officers with the IRA volunteers was an olive branch the British press manipulated and used to attack Adams. This political grandstanding on the part of Unionists is likely to make republicans who have laid down their arms believe that peace is not an option. With the current spike in Republican activity in Ireland, perhaps now is not the time for politics as usual.