This is a follow-up to a piece I published last Thursday night in relation to the veracity of a “death-threat” allegation that was made by Regina Doherty of Fine Gael in the aftermath of a controversial radio discussion she had had with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams last Monday. The segment of the conversation that attracted considerable heat and criticism for Doherty centred around victims of the conflict in the north of Ireland.
At the very least, Doherty appeared to blame Adams for the pain (including deaths) he, his family and, seemingly, at least some of his community suffered at the hands of the British army and loyalist paramilitaries.
Many observers concerned – such as Seamus Finucane (brother of collusion-victim Pat Finucane) – however, perceived her to have insensitively dismissed the suffering of victims generally by blaming them for their own deaths simply on account of who they were or because of their possible connections to Sinn Féin.
Doherty certainly did seem to absolve those who carried out such unlawful conduct and mistreatment of responsibility. In her view, Adams and his family could have little valid complaint; after all, “[Adams] started it”, she declared aggressively without a shred of empathy or comprehension of the northern conflict situation and its roots.
Lack of sympathy for, or even explicit hostility towards, Adams isn’t uncommon within mainstream-thinking in the south of Ireland, but to suggest his family might have brought it upon themselves because of their association with him is particularly and unusually vindictive.
Whichever interpretation ought to apply to what Doherty said, I outlined in greater detail the inherent problems with her position – a fundamentally ignorant one – in the previous piece.
I was not aware of it at the time I published it, but, earlier that day, Regina Doherty had participated in another interview – this time, a one-on-one – on LMFM and presenter Michael Reade asked her to clarify whether or not she had any evidence to support a presumption that the alleged death-threat she had received had anything to to with Sinn Féin. Doherty confirmed that there was no evidence to link it to Sinn Féin.
Although she stated that she had reported the matter to her local Garda superintendent, she denied having otherwise spoken to the press about it. She did admit, however, that she had spoken to her Fine Gael “people”, so one would have to assume that it was they who got to work with their allies in the media in order to spin a public story out of it.
This sort of contrived or opportunistic staining of the reputation of a perceived political threat would be nothing new in Irish mainstream politics. Towards the end of 2014, a number of TDs from Fine Gael’s then-governing-coalition partner party, the Labour Party, cynically spun an outlandish bomb-threat into a weapon with which to smear Ireland’s grassroots-popular Right2Water campaign in the national media.
It later transpired that the threat had been phoned in to a Labour Party office by a “lonely” 57-year-old woman who was undergoing psychological treatment whilst living by herself in “sub-human conditions”.
She had no connection to Right2Water whatsoever, yet the Labour representatives had no hesitation in implicating the protest movement within an hour of having received the call in order to tarnish the movement’s reputation and frame its supporters as a “sinister fringe” of lunatics.
Lucinda Creighton of Renua Ireland did much the same earlier this the week. She explicitly associated the name of Sinn Féin with the alleged threat made against Regina Doherty (and was sure to bring up the republican party’s “past” in the process), despite it being unclear as to whether she had even seen the supposed offending message, never mind knowing who might have sent it.
Condemning the threats, Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton says that it is a chilling reminder of Sinn Féin’s past.
“Sinn Féin needs to unreservedly condemn the death threats made against Regina Doherty, which have no place in a democratic republic,” she said in a statement.
She added: “There is growing tendency amongst the media, and even in the larger political parties to shy away from reminding people of Sinn Féin’s past, instead focussing solely on their tax or economic policies.”
“The reality is that that there is no other attack against a political party leader except Sinn Féin which could result in death threats being made against that person, and that’s why it is so important that Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin lead from the front in condemning this threat,” Ms Creighton said.
Creighton was more-or-less suggesting, with little to support her claim besides an anonymous and unverified message, that sending death-threats might be uniquely intrinsic to Sinn Féin and appeared to be drawing a link between the party’s tangential “past” and the present. Was she insinuating that there are elements within or associated with the party still prepared to utilise physical force in pursuit of political aims?
To return to Regina Doherty’s conversation with Michael Reade on Thursday, the question with which Reade opened the discussion also stood out to me as particularly bizarre. It ran as follows:
The IRA has said it wants to kill you… Is it the IRA or is it Sinn Féin that wants to kill you?
I assume its forthright and loaded nature was intentional, so as to force Doherty to confirm or deny whether she was accusing Sinn Féin, one way or the other, but it would appear that some people in the south, such as Reade, are under the impression that Sinn Féin has an active military or criminal wing.
By presenting a false dilemma to Doherty, Reade baldly asserted with presumptuous certainty the existence and possible involvement of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in the making of the threat.
Of course, the decommissioned (P)IRA is no longer militarily active, nor is it involved in criminal activity or violence-direction, according to both the Garda Commissioner and the PSNI‘s Chief Superintendent last year.
Other organisations using the name include various factions who each call themselves the Continuity IRA (a group that originally split as a unit from the Provisional movement in 1986 after a decision was taken by the movement to end the policy of abstentionism in the south of Ireland) and the “Real” or “New” IRA (a group that split from the Provisional movement when a ceasefire was announced by the movement in 1997 after Sinn Féin’s re-admission to peace-talks in the run-up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998).
These organisations have no connection whatsoever to Sinn Féin, a party now committed to employing and supporting constitutional means only. Indeed, “dissidents” reserve especially-bitter enmity for Sinn Féin as they regard the party as having “sold out” on republican principles through formally recognising or “legitimising” partition and the continuation of British rule in the north of Ireland.
For Sinn Féin, however, such acquiescence is pragmatic and is intended as merely temporary, presuming the chosen strategy helps the party realise its ultimate aspiration of re-uniting Ireland.
You won’t find the establishment media making the aforementioned distinctions clear to the Irish public, however. They know that knowledge is power and, in their world, which is built upon spreading and exploiting fear of the “unknown”, the less knowledge the Irish people have, the better.
In fact, as The Phoenix (volume 34, number 3) recently pointed out, the establishment cabal are more than happy to, rather than ensure the public are kept well-informed, themselves partake in making allusions to, in exceptionally tenuous and contrived fashion, the existence of associations or links between Sinn Féin and the alleged actions of unrelated “dissident” groups.