The Independent has a long history of dishing out anti-republican invective. During the Northern conflict the paper’s editorial line excoriated republican political violence but was quiescent in the face of British state political violence. It was also a cheerleader for the draconian powers often utilised by the Dublin government. A frequent contributor to the paper was Ireland’s chief censor, the late Conor Cruise O’Brien, an inveterate hater of Sinn Fein, who often plied his pen to the propagation of spurious nonsense whereby he would predict the resumption of a full blown IRA campaign.
Republican anathema towards The Indo predated the emergence of the Provisional Movement. The paper’s founder William Martin Murphy was a demonic figure in the republican mindset, an evil nemesis representing the forces of darkness pitted against the iconic luminary, James Connolly. Murphy’s role in the Great Dublin Lockout was reviled while Connolly’s was lauded. Republicans believed that when The Independent called for the execution of James Connolly in the wake of the 1916 Rising, it was Murphy’s revenge.
In recent years the paper has vigorously and vociferously challenged Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams sought to legally muzzle it because it outlined what it said was his role in covering up for a child rapist. It was a retrograde step. The paper is no more hostile to Sinn Fein than An Phoblacht/Republican News is to Fine Gael. Yet there are no grounds that would merit the muzzling of AP/RN. The question that can be levelled at The Independent is why it fails to scrutinise other parties to the same extent that it does Sinn Fein. The answer is to have more, not fewer, papers questioning more, not fewer, political parties.
Adams, ironically citing the actions of one of the progenitors of Fine Gael, Michael Collins who favoured a Napoleonic dictatorship in Ireland, said that Collins’ attitude to The Independent was that:
He went in, sent volunteers in, to the offices, held the editor at gunpoint, and destroyed the entire printing press. That’s what he did. Now I can just see the headline in The Independent tomorrow, I’m obviously not advocating that.
Perhaps he is not inciting violence against the paper, just conveying hostility in a plausibly deniable way with little intention of following through. Alternatively he could be exhorting some disposable disciple to consider ridding him of turbulent priests. One reason perhaps for his claim not to be advocating physical violence against The Indo is that to do so would see him hauled before the courts, just as one reason for him not admitting his membership of the IRA would also see him in the dock. What he is very much seeking to do is create an incendiary atmosphere, really telling the paper in language pregnant with menace, what he would like to see done to it. Ultimately he is using the legitimacy of the Easter Rising to bully The Independent.
Again Adams has placed his devoted deputy Mary Lou McDonald in a position where she would prefer not to be, firefighting the blazes his napalm toxicity ignites. She said her commander:
was scathingly critical of Independent Newspaper and little wonder that he would be. I think any objective assessment of the editorial line or standard or should I say sub-standard of journalism, particularly within Sunday Independent would explain why Gerry made those comments ... I understand that he referred back to Michael Collins who was the person in question who had the confrontation with the editor of the Irish Independent. I think he was making it clear that he was not suggesting an appropriate course of action now ... He was referencing a turn of events many, many moons ago that Michael Collins, an Irish patriot took that particular action. It was a comment as simple as that, it certainly does not constitute a threat in any shape or form ... If you are going to be relentlessly abusive of elected representatives of Sinn Féin or abusive of people who vote or support Sinn Féin then you shouldn’t be so sensitive when people criticise you back.Cautioning against inflated sensitivity is a fine point which Sinn Fein invariably fails to get. More than any party on the island it has railed at criticism, seeking in the manner of scientologists to smear all and sundry who engage in it.
Ian McEwan in his novel Amsterdam has one of his characters, a newspaper editor, thinking ‘in some respects journalism resembled science: the best ideas were the ones that survived, and were strengthened by intelligent opposition.’
Sinn Fein should address The Independent with intelligent opposition not the crude language of fascism.