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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Case Unproven

Anthony McIntyre • 5 June 2006

Speaking five years ago Martin McGuinness made the following prediction:

There's almost an inevitability that within the next five years Sinn Fein then will be the largest party and the first minister will be a Sinn Fein minister. I could certainly see Gerry Adams as first minister.

Today, the prospects of Adams stepping into the shoes of David Trimble must seem light years away. The downturn in Sinn Fein's fortunes has been so dramatic that the party is reduced to calling for Paisley to be the top dog at Stormont. To make matters worse the man who made the Adams prediction is now embroiled in the type of controversy which in itself, even if the accusations levelled against him turn out to be groundless, may have serious consequences for his long-term political future.

Martin McGuinness has been in the media hot seat so often that he must have worn out more than one of them. No matter what was thrown his way he faced it down secure in the knowledge that he was defending his movement from attack and would have the support of the bulk of those within it. On this occasion the authoritative deportment of old seems absent. Persistent leadership lying has shattered the grassroots confidence on which McGuinness could normally have relied. Dismissing as the 'Sunday Liar' the paper that initially named him as agent J118 rings vacuous against the backcloth of Sinn Fein leadership lies.

Although McGuinness prudently avoided being scooped for a 'world exclusive' interview by the one journalist who 'established' the innocence of Freddie Scappaticci, the language used in his defence is remarkably similar to that brought out to cover for Scappaticci. This has generated uncertainty among the usually certain followers. There is a hesitancy to give full throttle to protestations of innocence on McGuinness's behalf. The delayed intervention of Adams, heard but not seen with McGuinness, has done little to allay unease. The BBC's former security correspondent, Brian Rowan, hardly helped the defence case by calling as witness for the accused every 'securocrat' that Sinn Fein claimed was previously working to wreck the peace process. McGuinness's attempts to blame former Special Branch chief, Bill Lowry, are contestable given Lowry's public admission that Special Branch intervened to shape the outcome of IRA army conventions so that they would produce the result desired by McGuinness and Adams.

Against such a backdrop, the goodwill that Martin McGuinness is getting from the republican constituency boils down to a view that he is unlikely to have been an agent. Prior to Scappaticci, 'unlikely' would have been a term that conveyed so much doubt that those using it would have come under suspicion themselves for displaying something less than absolute faith in the leadership.

Many will find this perplexing considering that the evidence against McGuinness thus far amounts to zilch. Some republicans outside of Sinn Finn who know him well and abhor him nevertheless conclude that were he an agent, the Provisional IRA would have been brought to its knees long before the 1994 ceasefire. As Eamonn McCann argued on Radio Free Eireann on Saturday evening, if the accusation against McGuinness is to be taken seriously then it must be Everest like in stature. At the moment it is nothing more than a pebble. It has legs solely because of past leadership deception and a willingness to cover for informers. Outside of that history, the current story would have died the Sunday it emerged. There seems no reason to be any more suspicious of McGuinness now than there was prior to the appearance of the transcript which it is claimed shows he is a British agent but which reveals nothing of the sort.

The transcript at the centre of the McGuinness as agent controversy is increasingly viewed with scepticism. This week's Sunday Times unpicked its authenticity so thoroughly that to continue believing it is not counterfeit requires a huge dose of intellect suppressants. By linking its emergence to the agent Kevin Fulton/Peter Keeley - who denies any involvement - the Sunday Times has obliterated in one surgical strike any potential for the transcript to gather credibility. But like the pace setter in long distance running who drops back long before the finish line, the transcript has brought to the fore new competitors.

This is nowhere more evident than in the Sunday Times. In a masterly piece of manoeuvring the paper took out the man but kept the ball in play. One article hobbled Martin Ingram who brought the transcript into the public domain in the genuine belief that it was authentic, while another judiciously kept the head of steam growing against Martin McGuinness. This has inevitably given rise to speculation on the part of those who know as little as the rest of us, that the Sunday Times at some point will disrobe McGuinness. It helps defibrillate a story that would otherwise have reached the flat line.

An inescapable dilemma for McGuinness is that in denying the accusation he adds to its newsworthiness. That alone, without the slightest proof of any wrongdoing on his part, may ultimately make his position as a prospective deputy first minister untenable. In the sectarian jockeying for position against opponents for public office, rather than in anything disreputable on the part of the Derry nationalist, may lie the origins of the current spy story. Allegations of DUP manipulation of public sentiment could turn out to have more substance than at first imagined.

Martin McGuinness is in an unenviable position. While he should be able to win the debate outright, given the weakness of the case thus far against him, he cannot land the knock out punch and instead labours on the ropes because he is an integral part of a Sinn Fein leadership which has long exhibited disdain for the truth. What a complex web this has turned out to be.




 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Index: Current Articles



14 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Mark of Cain
Anthony McIntyre

Debris of the Dirty War
Mick Hall

More Claims
Martin Ingram

Case Unproven
Anthony McIntyre

Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
Anthony McIntyre

Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
Caroline Fourest

Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index


6 June 2006

We Believe Freddie McGuinness
Anthony McIntyre

Under Scrutiny
John Kennedy

Unionism's New Puppetmasters
Robert Matthews

Omens
Dr John Coulter

Two Peace Processes
Mick Hall

'The Beginning of the End has Past …'
Davy Carlin

How Many Grannies?
Dr John Coulter

Even the Dogs Bark in Irish?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bards for St Brigid's
Paul Dougherty

USA v Iran
John Kennedy

Threat to Iran Based on Duplicity
David Adams

Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism

Profile: Bernard Henry-Levy
Anthony McIntyre

BHL: Bernard Henri-Levy
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index

 

 

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