Voices from the Grave is the topic of the day, or rather another result of its existence is. The bestselling book made headlines when it was published and not just because it was a gripping, page turner. It made headlines because almost as soon as it was published, it sparked off terrible controversy, a multitude of investigations, and court battles that continue to this day. In fact, now there’s a whole new chapter.
On this day in 1948, Brendan “The Dark” Hughes was born. He came from a long line of Republican fighters, and as he grew up, he knew that his own entry into the IRA was inevitable. He was right and he was an effective soldier. Later in life he often talked about peace, reconciliation, tearing down the peace walls, and improving relations in the North of Ireland – but he knew he was being idealistic. That peaceful existence may have been what he ultimately wanted, but his life was filled with violence, prison, hunger, and retribution.
He’s been called a murderer, a terrorist, and an evil ringleader. He’s been banned from travel and speech, and he’s been flown around the world to give speeches. He’s been reviled and celebrated, and has been protected by many even as he is threatened by his own people, in addition to the threats from his enemies. He’s divisive and unifying, a liar and a speaker of truth, a politician and a probable paramilitary leader, although he denies that second part. He’s been labeled as Machiavellian and diabolical, or a man of peace and kindness, depending on who you ask. He’s been a prisoner and now rules as a politician – one who some have compared to Nelson Mandela. Many thought he should have shared the glory of Hume’s Nobel Peace Prize, even as others accuse him (then and now) of atrocities and war crimes. Gerry Adams has been many things to many people and it’s hard to know whose impressions are right, but one thing is apparent to everyone. He is not going away.
The New Yorker has just published a surprisingly in-depth article on Jean McConville and Irish history in the North – just in time to take advantage of the 15 minutes that most Americans devote annually to Ireland around St. Patrick’s Day. It’s brilliant timing and the article is very well done, even if it does rehash a lot of old information and it is certainly another strike at Gerry Adams and his past. It is clear yet again that this case will continue to haunt those who may be involved in it. No matter what side of the spectrum politically that you may fall on, this case was undeniably brutal. A single mother of ten, Jean McConville, was dragged out of her home at Divis Flats in front of her children, and wasn’t seen again until her body was discovered decades later. She is one of the “Disappeared” – people who were murdered by the Irish Republican Army whose bodies were never supposed to be discovered. Her story is the albatross around Gerry Adams’ neck and one that will never disappear again.
Remember the idea that the Good Friday Agreement would end the Troubles and bring peace in the North? It’s a tenuous peace at best, and certainly not as tranquil as most Americans believe. There are still shootings, bombs, and more every day in the region. We don’t hear about it in America most of the time because the Good Friday agreement was the jewel of the Clinton administration but it happens more than anyone would hope. In the last week or so, there were at least four pipe bombs planted under cars resulting in mass evacuations and one explosion. There were also at least two “paramilitary-style” shootings, two large protests, a vandalized memorial, another bomb scare in Derry, and an article on the people who are already amassing tires and pallets for their bonfires in July. A Catholic church was spray painted with Sectarian graffiti that supports the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and in other areas you can see an ever increasing number of tags supporting the IRA. The Union Jack will fly on some government buildings for the first time in nearly a decade. Martin McGuinness has been warned of a serious assassination plot against him where he’d be killed with a rocket – not a gun or a bomb, but a rocket. How peaceful does this sound to you?
Here’s one that on the face of it, might not normally fit in my blog. I usually rail against the PUP and many loyalist factions and traditions but I always try to give credit where credit is due. David Ervine is one person who deserves that credit and I write that without hesitation, if only to show how similar both sides of the divide in the North of Ireland may be. At the end of the day, I am a firm believer in peace, empathy, and understanding. I also believe that while fundamental change is incredibly difficult, some people can accomplish it. I may be naive, hippy-ish, or simply too far removed from the first-hand experience but I believe David Ervine managed to pull it off.
Gerry Adams is getting a lot of flak for saying that his arrest was politically motivated and that the Boston Tapes were biased and not ever going to be used as evidence. Propaganda machines are churning on both sides since his initial arrest, trying to spin current events and the legitimacy of the Boston College Oral history tapes. Interestingly enough, the matter was decided by a judge long before – and Gerry Adams may have been putting it mildly. The only surprise here is that the judge’s findings are not being reported….oh wait, I guess that’s no surprise at all