Will we ever know the truth about Gerry Adams and the roles he played during the Troubles? Perhaps the more important question is whether we want to know.
The publication in the Sunday Times of the first part in a serialisation of journalist Ed Moloney’s new book, Voices from the Grave, contains quotations from a sensational interview with Brendan Hughes, a former commander of the IRA in Belfast.
Hughes, who spoke on the condition that the interviews would not be made public till after his death, said that Adams ordered the murder and disappearance of mother-of-ten Jean McConville, the hanging of a 22-year-old republican in Long Kesh, and was the benefit of voting personation campaigns in 1987 and 1989.
In a trenchant column in today’s Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole says that Adams should resign immediately:
Gerry Adams should go, but it would be best if he did not go quietly. He has a story to tell – an ugly and brutal one that is also about taking responsibility for change. Those he has harmed, as well as those he has saved, have a right to hear it.
O’Toole has three reasons for this:
- He makes a mockery of public accountability standards for politicians on this island
- His denials affect our understanding of the past and have real consequences for the families of those who were murdered and/or disappeared
- His lack of honesty gives succour to the militants of the Real IRA, who can claim that the peace process has been a sham
O’Toole’s calls for Adams to tell the truth and to get out of public life raise some important questions for just how we want to ‘deal with the past’ in Northern Ireland.
Clearly, in some cases victims and families of victims want information, and they want their pain publicly acknowledged by those who inflicted it, or issued the orders for it to be inflicted.
For instance, it was reported yesterday that Helen McKendry, daughter of McConville, wants to sue Gerry Adams. She said,
“I don’t want money from Adams, I want him to admit that he ordered my mother’s murder, I just want him to tell the truth.”
Voices like those of McKendry remind us that Northern Ireland has not had a comprehensive truth process. The recommendations of the Eames-Bradley report seem to have been shelved, including the proposal for a five-year Legacy Commission that might provide some opportunities for victims and survivors to hear the truth.
Our politicians are reluctant to implement a truth recovery process here. Especially for some of our local politicians, there are obvious reasons for this. But while some victims and survivors like McKendry have said they want to hear the truth about what happened to their loved ones, it is not certain if our general population would support them in this.
There seems to be an assumption that it would be easier, or even more beneficial to our society, to let sleeping dogs lie and get on with our lives.
This is a question that is bigger than knowing about the actions of one man, albeit a pivotal and controversial one such as Adams.
This latest controversy surrounding Adams reminds us:
Unless it is dealt with, the past doesn’t ever go away, you know.