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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: December, 2014|
The Máiría Cahill case was debated in the Dail. The debate took the form of a denunciation of Sinn Fein, by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail, as a sinister terrorist organisation. In the Radio Eireann discussion of the debate that evening the representative of the (formerly Fascist) Fine Gael party referred to Gerry Adams as Il Duce. A couple of days later the Labour Party leader and Tanaiste, who had been vituperative against Sinn Fein in the debate, was terrorised in Tallaght, a working class area of Dublin, when she ventured into it on an engagement. The crowd was angered by Water Charges. The terrorising had nothing whatever to do with Sinn Fein, whose role in opposing the Water Charge was studiously moderate.
The instigators of direct action against the water chargers were the independent socialist TDs who have sprouted up under the austerity regime, which the Labour Party insisted on going into Government with Fine Gael to operate, instead of seizing the opportunity presented by the collapse of Fianna Fail at the last General Election to become the main Opposition Party.
RTE's interviewing of Sinn Fein members about the strange Máiría Cahill affair took the form of heckling, but interviews of the Independents who advocated direct action against Government members was respectful. The Government was frightened by the rage which its mode of governing had aroused in the section of the populace to which it had done the most damage. Feeling the ground move under it, it discarded ideology and policy and capitulated to the extremists, not daring to denounce them as extremists. It put one in mind of the great Homeless agitation of the Winter of 1968-9—a few months before the civil rights insurrection in the North in support of equal rights proved to be the Trojan Horse that penetrated the Unionist defence.
In the course of the Máiría Cahill denunciations Sinn Fein was accused of "hijacking the civil rights issue" in the North. The Southern parties display an impressive ability to forget their enthusiasm at that time for the overthrow of Unionism by a combination or moral and physical force. They now speak as if they had recognised the old Stormont regime as legitimate and democratic and had urged the Northern minority, on whom they had a fair degree of influence, to submit to it peacefully and willingly; and as if they had never seen the Republican upsurge as anything but an outbreak of criminality.
In the course of the Cahill dispute somebody told Gerry Adams that he was no Michael Collins—as if he had ever claimed to be. What Adams and his colleagues did in the North from the early eighties onwards was far more impressive than what Collins did, and it is apparent that they were determined not to do what Collins did. They made a settlement while holding together the movement that had fought the War that had made that settlement possible. Collins split the movement and made war on the military core of it on Britain's insistence and with British arms.
British law ceased to be functional in the North in 1969. It was not the IRA but the Civil Rights movement that subverted it. The IRA developed within the situation brought about by the Civil Rights movement, which at a certain point did not know how to continue what it had started.
In the absence of State law, an informal system of community law was established. The alternative was anarchy. The Free State parties—given their continuing refusal to accept Sinn Fein as a Constitutional party, what else can we call them?—now describe that informal system of justice as a system of Kangaroo Courts. So be it. Kangaroo Courts were what was available and they were supported by the community in preference to anarchy.
The SDLP made a gesture towards formalising an alternative system with its Dungiven Parliament—funded by Dublin—but it lacked the substance to develop what it had started. So the alternative system on the ground became Republican, even while the SDLP continued to monopolise nationalist electoral representation.
An understood division of labour came about, whereby the community supported Sinn Fein while voting SDLP. Máiría Cahill said at one point, faced with some Dublin misunderstanding, that "the community would understand" her. And the community did understand, and it was entirely out of sympathy with the game she was playing in making accusations on the BBC Spotlight programme with the encouragement of the Dublin Establishment.
It is said that Sinn Fein is not a normal party. That is perfectly true in the North. The Northern system is essentially incompatible with normal political parties. The SDLP is not normal, nor was the UUP, nor is the DUP.
Sinn Fein became the movement of a community, and the things that go on in a community went on in it.
Máiría Cahill came from a prominent Republican family. She was a member of Sinn Fein and became President of its Youth Wing. At the age of 16 she had a sexual relationship with another republican which she concluded after the event had been rape. So she complained to the authorities—the authorities that actually existed on the ground because of the failure of the British State to establish a functional modus vivendi with the nationalist community—and put her case to a Kangaroo Court.
From the articles she has written for the Dublin press, and from the statements of the Taoiseach and the leader of Fianna Fail, one would gather that she had been kidnapped and hauled before an IRA Court of Inquisition where she was grilled because she had dared to lay charges against an alleged IRA member. But this is entirely incredible.
She was a Republican with a grievance against a fellow Republican and she dealt with the matter within the Republican body. The Kangaroo Court heard both sides and could not make a decision. And there the matter rested for some years. The accused left Northern Ireland and eventually ended up in England with a new relationship.
Máiría Cahill later parted company with the Provisional Republican movement because it made a 6 County settlement, of a transitional kind, in 1998, which it consolidated a few years later by recognising the PSNI replacement of the RUC as a legitimate police force. Máiría Cahill left the Provos and joined the Anti-Agreement Republicans.
Then, having rejected the Provos because they recognised the police, she went to those police with her rape allegation. The police took up the case for her, but insisted on bringing two court cases: one against the members of the Kangaroo Court and also the alleged rapist for IRA membership and the other for the rape. They also insisted on bringing the IRA membership case before the rape case, on the alleged grounds that she had a better chance of obtaining a conviction. When the republican membership trial opened, Máiría Cahill refused to give evidence. As the Crown was relying on her evidence, the Court found them Not Guilty.
Then, having aborted the Court action which she had instigated, she went to BBC television, which made a Spotlight programme, presenting her side of the case without any rebuttal evidence. Then the Dublin parties, who were all losing votes to Sinn Fein, took up the case from Spotlight and averted their minds from all that had preceded it.
Bertie Ahern even came out of retirement to repeat that he knew all about the IRA and knew that Gerry Adams was the leader of it. He had said all this as Taoiseach. He had said that he knew that the IRA had done the multi-million Northern Bank robbery—which remains unsolved. So it appears that the former Taoiseach is withholding evidence from the police.
When Máiría Cahill went to the police she found that they were at least as interested in getting her to give evidence against members of the Kangaroo Court which would be used to prosecute them for IRA membership, as prosecuting her rape allegation. That was the usual police procedure in Belfast and was one of the reasons why the minority community kept their distance from it.
The Kangaroo Court had four members. One of them, Breige Wright, was named in Máiría Cahill's witness statement to the police. When the Dublin Establishment was going strong on the Kangaroo Court hysteria, Ms Wright made public two letters which Máiría Cahill had written to her in 2005 and 2008, expressing gratitude for the kindness and understanding she had shown towards her in the Kangaroo Court episode. The text of these letters is given in this issue of the magazine.
After we had gone to print last month, it was revealed that two other complainants against Máiría Cahill's antagonist had gone to the police, but had eventually dropped their complaints when it became clear that the primary interest of the police was to get Witness Statements from them that could be used in prosecution for IRA membership. These complainants had much better ground for 'paedophile' allegations, as they were 13 and 14 at the time the relevant events occurred. But the police were single-minded in their concerns.
It is clear that, had the police chosen to pursue the rape allegation, given that there were two other cases pending against the same man, there was a good chance that a conviction might have been obtained.
Máiría Cahill's solicitor has issued a challenge to the alleged members of the Kangaroo Court to bring a libel action against her and the television authorities over the Spotlight programme.
We recall a prissy RTE interview with Gerry Adams some years ago in which he was asked why he did not take libel actions against those who were saying he was Chief of Staff of the IRA. The interviewer said that was what she would do if anyone said she was Chief of Staff of the IRA—and on an RTE salary she could have afforded to do it. He explained to her that libel depended on defamation in the eyes of one's peers, and that in the eyes of the nationalist community in the North the accusation of IRA membership does not damage one's reputation. (Proof of it would of course lead to criminal prosecution, even though the clear implication of the 1998 Agreement is that the IRA's war was not an outbreak of 'criminality'.)
The residual anti-Partitionism of the leader of Fianna Fail has now taken the form of the demand for an All-Ireland Inquiry into paedophilia within the IRA. The demand has been taken up by the Taoiseach, but it seems the British won't play.
The water-charges crisis was dealt with by a drastic reduction in the proposed charge, along with the payment of every 100 Euros to every household, whether liable to Water Charges or not. This means a gift of 100 Euros to farmers who have their own water supply systems. This option was chosen instead of a simple 100 Euro reduction for those liable to the charge. Fine Gael looks after its own.
The charges crisis has its source in the abolition of rates by Fianna Fail in 1977, but the Government could make nothing of that because Fine Gael and Labour would have done it if FF hadn't.
The water-supply crisis—real but absurd in a country rich in rain—is left for a future Government to deal with.
In the North the SDLP has rejected a Sinn Fein proposal for an Election Pact in three constituencies in the forthcoming British Election, describing the proposers as Sleeveens. In the absence of a Pact, there is a possibility of these seats being won by the DUP, which the Tory Party has been courting with a view to a possible alliance in the event of a hung Parliament.
The SF proposal was made in the light of the virtual certainty that there will be a pan-Unionist agreement.
The reality of Northern politics is the conflict of two communities. A kind of party politics not tied to community has never been a practical possibility in the NI set-up. It is always a simple case of either/or. But the SDLP, ever since losing electoral ground to SF after 1998, has embarked on an incoherent form of make-believe under the influence of Seamus Mallon, under whose leadership it failed to maintain its position as the promoter of the Agreement.
Sinn Fein won the Fermanagh seat at the last British Election against an agreed Unionist candidate by a handful of votes, despite the SDLP splitting the nationalist vote, and must now try to do so again. There is no possibility of the SDLP taking the seat.
Gerry Adams' remark about "unionist bastards" who obstruct the equality agenda, and the description of the equality agenda as a Trojan Horse which subverts Unionism, were made in a speech in Fermanagh.
The SDLP's characterisation of SF as a Sleeveen party fits well with Gregory Campbell's dismissal of Irish as a "Curry my yoghurt" pseudo language. Forty years ago it seemed that Irish, one of the six and a half thousand languages in the world, was in the half destined for extinction. That, clearly, is no longer the case, and the SDLP would do well to buy an Irish/English dictionary, look up sleeveen in it, and discover itself.
Parliamentary Politics? Editorial
The Meaning Of Kilmichael. Jack Lane (Address at Kilmichael)
From Gay To Grotesque War Games. Manus O'Riordan
Readers' Letters: Drolls. Donal Kennedy
The Civil Rights Trojan Horse. Pat Walsh
Statement Of Breige Wright. (Cahill Case)
Brian Lenihan. John Martin (Book Review)
Principles, Principles Everywhere. John Morgan (Lt. Col. retd.)
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Property Taxes In The Republic; St. Augustine; Home Ownership; Individual Ownership; Property Taxes In N I; Water Taxes; Sinn Fein Budget)
Our War? Brendan Clifford
When Fine Gael Leaders Advocated A Smashing Indo Action. Manus O'Riordan
Index To IPR. 2014
Biteback: Whitewashing Liam Cosgrave. Owen Bennett
Irish Books Ends To WWI. Donal Kennedy
Does It Stack Up? The War Of Independence: Kilmichael Michael Stack (Redmond; Freedom)
Dumb Insolence. Charity Begins At Home. Wilson John Haire (Two Poems)
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney: Re-Evaluation Of The Middle Ages. Mondragon, Part 36
Impact Union On Water Charge