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Proletarian issue 60 (June 2014)
Sinn Féin advances north and south
In attempting to frame Gerry Adams the British state has picked up a rock only to drop it on its own feet.
The results of the 22 May European elections in Ireland represent a considerable step forward in the struggle for national reunification, one of the oldest anti-colonial struggles in history.

Reflecting support for both its anti-austerity platform and its leadership of the national-liberation struggle, Sinn Féin achieved its strongest result since it swept the 1918 general election, the last before partition. Overall, Sinn Féin is now the largest party, in terms of electoral support, on the island of Ireland, and, with local elections held in both north and south on the same day, it is now the largest party in at least four of Ireland’s major cities – Dublin, Belfast, Derry and Cork.

Sinn Féin has won an MEP seat in each of the island’s four Euro constituencies, easily topping the poll in two of them, with Martina Anderson, party vice president, securing 25 percent in the six counties and Lynn Boylan polling 23 percent in Dublin and winning over 40 percent in some parts of the city. Overall, in the European election, Sinn Féin polled 19.5 percent in the 26 counties and 25.5 percent in the six counties.

In council elections in the 26 counties, where Sinn Féin candidates were standing in every area for the first time, the party’s vote rose to 15.2 percent from 7.8 in 2009. In contrast, the Irish Labour Party paid a well-deserved price for its participation in a viciously anti-working-class government, with its support slumping to 7.8 percent from 14, whilst in the Euro election it fell to 5 percent.

Sinn Féin’s achievement, which opens up a real possibility of the party participating in government on both sides of the British-imposed border by the time of the 2016 centenary of the Easter Rising, was all the more remarkable, in that it came just three weeks after the 30 April arrest of party president Gerry Adams TD, who was then held for nearly five days in a serious crime interrogation unit of Antrim police station. He was repeatedly interrogated for up to 17 hours a day, before being released without charge, although a police file has been passed to the public prosecutors for their consideration.

Comrade Adams had agreed to attend the police station voluntarily to answer questions regarding the 1972 death of Jean McConville, who was killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), who believed her to be an informer. The allegations against Adams stem from spurious and unsubstantiated claims by embittered former comrades, made in taped interviews given to an ‘oral history’ project at a Boston college.

These ‘super-revolutionaries’ are so enraged by Sinn Féin’s success in steering the peace process and in securing the Good Friday Agreement, which creates the possibility of achieving Irish independence and reunification by peaceful and democratic means, that they have become prepared, whatever might be their subjective intentions, to objectively do the British state’s dirty work for it.

Gerry Adams has consistently denied any involvement in the killing of Jean McConville, an action that he has also repeatedly made clear he believes could not be justified. Writing in the Guardian on 7 May, shortly after his release, he stated:

I am innocent of any involvement in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville, or of IRA membership. I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, but I am not uncritical of IRA actions and particularly the terrible injustice inflicted on Mrs McConville and her family. I very much regret what happened to them and their mother and understand the antipathy they feel towards republicans.” (‘The Jean McConville killing: I’m completely innocent. But what were my accusers’ motives?’)

A central thrust of Adams’ interrogation was an attempt to charge him with IRA membership – and thereby link him to the killing of Jean McConville. Adams has always denied having been a member of the IRA, but one thing is for sure – namely, that tens of thousands of working-class men and women did join the IRA at one point or another in the last half century in the face of British imperialist brutality and oppression.

To attempt to recriminalise IRA membership – specifically through targeting the leader of Sinn Féin, one of the most famous figures in contemporary international politics and the most popular party political leader in Ireland, with a 33 percent approval rating in recent opinion polls – can only be seen as a blatant attempt to undermine the peace process as a whole, precisely because it offers a realistic and achievable way forward to an imperialism-free future for the Irish people.

Sinn Féin’s dramatic advances at the polls on 22 May therefore represent a fitting riposte and a resounding slap in the face of British imperialism, as well as of its hangers-on and lickspittles in the right-wing parties both north and south of the border.

Describing his attempted framing, Comrade Adams wrote:

Shortly before the first of 33 taped interviews, I was served with a pre-interview brief. This accused me of IRA membership and conspiracy in the murder of Jean McConville. It also claimed that the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] had new evidential material to put to me. The interview commenced at 10.55pm. Two interrogators – a man and a woman – conducted all the interrogations. All of this was recorded and videotaped. My private consultations with my solicitor may also have been covertly recorded.

I was told that the interrogations were an evidence-gathering process, and that the police would be making the case that I was a member of the IRA; that I had a senior IRA managerial role in Belfast at the time of Jean McConville’s abduction; and that I was therefore bound to know about her killing. I challenged my interrogators to produce the new evidential material. They said that this would happen at a later interview but they wanted to take me through my childhood, family history and so on.

Over the following four days it became clear that the objective of the interviews was to get to the point where they could charge me with IRA membership and thereby link me to the McConville case. The membership charge was clearly their principal goal. The interrogators made no secret of this. At one point the male detective described their plan as ‘a stage-managed approach’. It later transpired that it was a phased strategy, with nine different phases.

The first phases dealt with my family history of republican activism. My own early involvement in Sinn Féin as a teenager – when it was a banned organisation. My time in the 1960s in the civil-rights movement and various housing action groups in west Belfast, the pogroms of 1969 and the start of the Troubles.

It was asserted that I was guilty of IRA membership through association because of my family background – my friends. They referred to countless pieces of ‘open-source’ material that, they said, linked me to the IRA. These were anonymous newspaper articles from 1971 and 1972, photographs of Martin McGuinness and me at republican funerals, and books about the period.

If any of these claimed I was in the IRA, then that was, according to my interrogators, evidence. They consistently cast up my habit of referring to friends as ‘comrades’. This, they said, was evidence of IRA membership ... They also spoke about the peace talks in 1972 and my periods of internment and imprisonment in Long Kesh. This was presented as ‘bad-character evidence’.” (Guardian, op cit)

Gerry Adams’ life-long friend and comrade Martin McGuinness, a fellow Sinn Féin leader and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, exposed the double standards and hypocrisy of the British ruling class as follows:

“Peter Robinson [Northern Ireland first minister and leader of the right-wing, pro-British Democratic Unionist Party] has said that if the police have evidence and don’t act on it that this would be political policing.

“The British secretary of state claims that no one should be above the law.

“I agree with both statements, but the reality is much different.

“There is clear evidence of political policing and of the difference of approach and treatment taken in dealing with those who are members or former members of British state forces and those who are republican and nationalist:

• For example: the British Parachute Regiment murdered 14 people on the streets of Derry in 1972. The PSNI know the soldiers who did this. Have they acted on this evidence? No. Is this political policing? Yes it is.

• The PSNI know who killed 11 civilians in Ballymurphy in 1971. Not one has been arrested. Is this political policing? Yes it is.

• Last week, [Northern Ireland Secretary] Theresa Villiers told the Ballymurphy families there would be no review of their cases. Is this political interference? Yes it is.

• The British government refuses to provide information and evidence it has on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 citizens. Is this political interference in the justice system? Yes it is.

• In a keynote speech two weeks ago, the British secretary of state criticised what she described as the one-sided focus on state killings. Is this political interference in policing and the justice system? Yes it is.

“The indisputable fact is that for 40 years there has been a virtual amnesty for British state forces involved in killing citizens, both directly and through state collusion with unionist death squads.”

Viewed from a strategic and long-term perspective, it must be understood that the British state’s attempted frame-up of Comrade Adams, serious as it undoubtedly is, and remains, is essentially an act of weakness and desperation, born out of Sinn Féin’s successful strategy to step-by-step complete the national-democratic revolution.

Equally, as the election results eloquently testify, it represents the kind of strategic ‘wisdom’ that Comrade Mao Zedong long ago accurately depicted as “lifting a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet”. For the working class in Britain, it is a timely reminder that Ireland’s liberation struggle continues, and that it remains in our class interest to give it our unwavering support and solidarity. In the words of Karl Marx:

The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.” (Letter to F Engels, December 1869)
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