The Independent Panel Report has provided Sinn Féin with a unique opportunity to break the political deadlock by just telling the truth.
The Panel is to be commended for a straight-talking report in areas which have produced far too much fudge in the past. First of all it provides no comfort for anyone who would seek to deny Sinn Féin’s mandate by excluding the party from government. It has hard words to say about loyalism which unionism will need to address. But secondly and more importantly right now, this report issues a challenge to the whole nationalist community north and south because it pulls the rug out from under all the bluster and spin that has followed each Provo killing, beating or robbery over the last 20 years.
It shows that the Provisional IRA went away all right, but confirms that they didn’t go too far. They went around the corner and joined Sinn Féin as they had been told to do, and now they are leafleting and electioneering. That’s good, and certainly better than killing, and overall the whole Provisional movement is now solidly behind its political leadership in Sinn Féin. But that also means that people who are presently in the party and knocking on our doors have intimate knowledge of the crimes of the dirty war. Older members know who shot Jean McConville in the head, who mowed down the factory workers at Kingsmill. Younger ones know who killed Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn, who robbed Makro and the Gallahers cigarette lorries and the Northern Bank. It doesn’t really matter now whether Gerry Adams was ever in the Provisional IRA. A whole lot of his members definitely were and they don’t even bother to deny it.
It is a pity the Panel did not follow the money trail a bit further. The money from those robberies did not just evaporate, it was invested in front businesses and it funded further illegal activities such as diesel laundering which is being carried out with PIRA personnel, infrastructure and muscle.
The Sinn Féin leadership say there is no evidence for all this and of course they are right. There is no evidence because a considerable proportion of their members are still bound by the secrecy oath they swore when they joined the IRA. If in fact the party is not controlled by the Army Council, which all the old Provos seem to believe it is, then why does the party not simply tell the truth?
When we hear them saying in public that people should come forward and tell the police or Gardai what they know, what are they saying to their own people? How come none of them has come forward, never once? Is it because of the IRA oath? Gerry Adams could set them all free, if it is true that the party does not take orders from anyone else. Sinn Fein needs to turn its back on its dirty past and its dirty war and tell its own people to come forward and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is what the people of Ireland want them to do.