People ... Know Liars When They Hear Them

Courtesy of The Transcripts Jonathan Healy (JH) speaks to former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon (SM) about the raging controversy between Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the Stack Brothers concerning the 1983 death of Brian Stack.

The Pat Kenny Show
Newstalk 106-108FM
9 December 2016

** Note: Where’s the audio? Please click on the hyperlink in the title to hear the audio as you read along. Thank you.

JH: Gerry Adams is standing firm on the Brian Stack murder controversy and to handing over information to Gardaí in connection with the case. A little while ago he was speaking to Audrey Carville on Morning Ireland where he reiterated what he has said since all of this began.

Audio: Portion of Gerry Adams’ 9 December 2016 Morning Ireland interview is played.

JH: It’s interesting listening to that because – let’s just put the proper context on it: A man was shot and he died and he was murdered. And Gerry Adams entered a process with the Stack Brothers that led to them being bundled in the back of a van and meeting somebody who told them that yes, the IRA, someone in the IRA had done it. And Gerry Adams is now talking about the process, that process. Does that not overlook the fact that a man was murdered? And surely that’s the priority now and that’s what The Stacks want but now Gerry Adams is turning it back on The Stacks by the sounds of it for not respecting that process.

But why is that process all of a sudden so important? Why is that a thing? When the basic reality is that somebody was murdered and it’s a matter for An Garda Siochána to investigate that. And if there’s information out there why can’t it be handed to the Gardaí? Why can’t they deal with that? And why can’t we see a prosecution, or at least attempts made to prosecute somebody, for something that happened admittedly in 1982 and the death in 1983? All of this, once again, has left the country wondering how much the legacy of Mr. Adams and the IRA is holding back his party and how long his colleagues will stand by him because of now, as of right now, they are standing by him, full behind him. To look at this further we’re joined on the line by the former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon. Seamus, what do you make of what we’ve been hearing from Gerry Adams and the Stack Brothers in the last few days?

SM: The first thing I’d say is: I’m not surprised. There’s a history there of manipulating information, of telling what are blatant lies and expect it to be believed. And I think in this instance that the family have decided – and they have seen him at first hand, spoke to him at first hand – realised how he was operating and what he was doing and they have rightly decided that’s enough – we can’t take this or not going to take this anymore. And I think the other remarkable thing about it is this: You have to, when you’re listening to the debate about it, when you see him being interviewed or hear him being interviewed, you have to consciously remind yourself that this man is a member of Dáil Éireann, that he’s a leader of a political party, that he is a member of a party that is in government in Northern Ireland and that it doesn’t seem that he recognises the incongruity of where he is and what he’s doing. And for the political process it is a very, very bad thing. People listening and watching – they know liars when they hear them and it is pitiful in the way in which the only person RTÉ could free-out last night to speak Provo-Speak with someone who is not central to the whole argument.

JH: Seamus, is what Gerry Adams has said – does that make his position untenable, in your opinion, because he has faced storms like this before and he has weathered them?

SM: I would be reluctant to predict. We have seen the way in which he ducked in and out of the truth in relation to Jean McConville’s terrible murder. We have seen the way in which his organisation have denied involvement in some of the most high profile killings and then, when they think the opinion has subsided, they then reluctantly say that – and this is the stock reply: Yes, it was someone from our organisation but it wasn’t sanctioned – that is not a position that could be and should be tenable by the leader of a political party, a member of Dáil Éireann and someone who is, as of now, is bringing the political process, damaging the political process and…

JH: …Gerry Adams made the point yesterday, Seamus, in a statement that the dealings with Austin Stack were handled in the way they were handled in the absence of a proper truth recovery process. And that brings us back to the Good Friday Agreement and it brings us back to how we should deal with these things post-that agreement. Do you think there are implications, as has been suggested, for the peace process from all of this?

SM: I think very much so. How can you, in any way, make murdering someone – shooting him in the back – how do you make that compatible with peace and the creation of peace and the development of peace? The reality of the situation is that truth, whatever type of organisation it might be, I’d simply pose two questions: If it existed and if it exists in the future does one expect the British government to tell the truth? And does one expect the Provisional IRA, Sinn Féin, to tell the truth? Can anybody put his hand on his heart and say: Yes, I think that we’d get to the truth that way. I don’t believe it. I cannot see the British government, the way it has squirmed on the Pat Finucane case and the way it has refused to face down the people in their organisation who are colluding with murderers, so I don’t have any great belief that such-and-such a process is going to get to the truth. Now, it may help victims. It may be something that would be advantageous for victims but I don’t think it will ever get to this small word and that is the ‘truth’ of what had happened both by the paramilitary organisations and the British government.

JH: Austin Stack says he thinks he knows who the man he met from the IRA was in a meeting that he says was facilitated by Gerry Adams. Do you believe that Gerry Adams knows the identity of that man and what should he do with that information?

SM: I find it incredible that Gerry Adams doesn’t know the information of a man having taken people in a dark van, on a dark night, up a dark road to meet this person. I find it incredible that he says he doesn’t know and it is part of his ploy here, and this is to again, put the onus back on the family. This fella was murdered by them and in the sense that trying to absolve himself he has created another hard fiction in relation to this. Is it conceivably acceptable in any way that a member of Dáil Éireann, the leader of a political party, didn’t know what he was doing? Didn’t know who he was going to see? And yet, tries to pursue the lie that he doesn’t. I find it absolutely unbelievable that he set out to be collected in a van to go on the road to meet somebody that he didn’t know. Those who set the meeting up? I have no doubt that Gerry Adams knew as well.

JH: Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

SM: Thank you. (ends)


  1. Not a big fan of Mallon at all....the term weasel comes to mind every time he is resurrected......never hear of him when the Finucanes need him!

  2. Niall

    Yes, Mallon irked a lot of people over a long period of time with his pronouncements.In the end of the day though his voice of reason called things more accurately than most others and especially more so than Adams and crew.
    There were and are loads of more slippery weasels in the political sphere than Seamus.
    And sadly loads of very slow learners too!

  3. My lasting memory of Seamus Mallon is in the documentary crying tears for an armed RUC man friend of his who was shot manning a check-point in Armagh shortly after two unarmed INLA volunteers had been shot dead by the RUC at a 'road block' that never existed. How sad SF are now totally 'out - doing' the SDLP at stooping.

    Gerry Adams endless scandals and lies are contaminating the other elected SF top brass to the degree that in the future that reputation for being a stranger to the truth (Billy Liar) will be the biggest thing they inherit when he does finally go. No other political party would have such a 'liarbility' as a leader let alone its messiah.

  4. It's funny Niall should think of the term "weasel" because whenever I saw the late
    Cardinal Cathal Daly years ago on TV the phrase "weasel" always popped into my head.
    Bertie is attempting to make a comeback. Maybe that also applies to Mallon.

  5. Henry Joy,

    we despised Mallon, Hume, Faul, Devlin ... basically anybody who would not acquiesce in our view of the world. The irony is that so many who lived in our world then eagerly moved into the world Mallon and company inhabited.

    The SDLP for all sins we might attribute to it was remarkably consistent. Nor did the party crap on us like our own leadership did.

  6. AM

    if I may be somewhat Camusean on this: Mallon and hiis ilk chose life. We being young and foolish chose death.
    That many now have made that leap to choosing life is to be greatly welcomed. What's questionable is their dishonesty about the process.

  7. Henry Joy,

    not so sure it is about them choosing life. I think Mallon et al actually believed in their brand of politics. I don't see these people believing in anything. In many ways, they more than any criminalisation strategy have negated the herculean efforts of Bobby Sands. He was a political person whereas these people are anything but.

  8. Weasels are consistent in their behavior....still doesn't endear you to them!

  9. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet-engines - Steven Wright

  10. I remember back during the Hume Adams talks that the newspapers were reporting Seamus Mallon as being upset, unsupportive and criticising the talks.

    In fact in Eamonn Mallie and David McKittrick's book they write "The party's other three MPs - Seamus Mallon, Eddie McGrady and Dr Joe Hendron - had both publicly and privately made no secret of the fact that they did not share Humes commitment to the process."

    There was a "direct contradiction to Humes approach when Mallon said Republicans should be "removed from further involvement in the process of creating peace" if they didn't end their violence.

    An SDLP meeting was described as being "very, very charged" with Seamus Mallon described as agitated and declaring they were being "taken for a ride, being mocked and laughed at".

    I remember the public tensions within the SDLP at the time of the Hume Adams talks with Hume being described as going on "solo runs" by Mallon.

    Mallon might have been correct in his analysis but in a recent RTE documentary he claimed he supported the Hume Adams talks fully from the start. Maybe the contemporary reports were incorrect and Mallon's memory is accurate. Maybe the description of an SDLP meeting at the time being almost like a leadership challenge was wrong as well.

    I would have more faith in what Mallon said if his words on the RTE documentary matched the reports and public perception of the time. That's not to say he's dishonest. Journalists are often misleading but I would rate McKittrick and Mallie highly. Probably says more about my cynicism than anything else.

  11. AM

    fair point, crapping on people isn't exactly life affirming.
    As Christie Walsh has pointed out in some of his articles questioning as to whom is the rightful beneficiary of proceeds from Bobby's writings these Sinn Féin pretenders have no problem riding on poor Bobby's back. They have stolen the SDLP's clothes too but lack the integrity of the likes of Hume or Mallon.


    I too seem to recall reports of frictions between Hume and his colleagues during this period. Maybe some of these 'tensions' were fabricated to enhance Hume's negotiating hand but I'm more inclined to accept Mallie's and McKittrick's take on it. Hume, to his credit, was very single-minded in his pursuit of peace. His single-mindedness no doubt irked McGrady, Hendron and Mallon at times but this does not necessarily imply that they weren't for the largest part reluctant supporters too. I think they just didn't have the same intensity of belief in Hume and the benefits of dialogue compared with that which John had in the process with Adams and in himself too.

  12. Henry JoY, John Hume certainly thought the other MPs were against it and asked them if they were putting the party before peace. I guess Hume, himself, suspected it was electoral suicide for the SDLP.

    The rest of the SDLP in pure de Valera style were making sure Hume and Hume alone signed the SDLP's death warrant.

    Now Mallon appreciates the relative absence of violence and he did play a part in that but according to Mallie and McKittrick he thought that Sinn Fein were taking the SDLP for a ride.

    Now many believe, as you know, that it wasn't the SDLP who were being taken for a ride.

  13. AM

    "we despised Mallon, Hume, Faul, Devlin"

    Surely despised is too strong a word? When their goal was the same?

  14. Steve R,

    it is hardly unusual for people to despise rivals. Their goal was unity by consent which Adams described as a partitionist fudge. Our goal was unity by coercion.

  15. Simon

    at this stage of my life I'm now of the opinion that most people at any given point in time are doing the best that they can with the resources they have available to them. Insofar as I can appraise our history and the various players I have now come to believe that Hume was exceptionally resourced in terms of his moral courage and political leadership. Like AM I once loathed the utterances of Hume et al. But to paraphrase JM Keynes, when the circumstances or information changes my position changes too.

    Hume led us away from carnage and all the others followed; some much more reluctantly than others.

  16. Henry JoY, I never despised Hume. He wasn't the sort to focus on Republican violence and ignore British state violence. I can quite like a politician who attacks Republican violence and at the same time attacks British state violence. That's a principled stance and a logical one. You don't necessarily have to agree with it. When politicians fervently attack Republicans and ignore British state violence that's when I start to loathe. It isn't principled or rational.

    Saying that I had a few friends who loathed Hume but they couldn't articulate why. They pointed to his peaceful methods but that was a shallow argument for me.

    People like Bishop Cathal Daly, many in the SDLP, irked me. But not Hume. He was as you say exceptionally resourced in courage and resources. His politics wasn't my politics but he was a decent sort.

    I don't know about your point about most people doing the best they can with the resources available to them at any given time. There are many selfish, corrupt people out there and they only do their best when it's for themselves. A few more selfless and principled politicians and the bread and butter issues would be less of a problem.

  17. Simon

    your comments about selfishness and corruption are well made.

    There are however considerations to be made about each individual's unique socialisation process too: what differences in upbringing, education and access to a comfortable standard of living contributes to formation of character and personality? What forces converge in the making of a 'Hume' as compared with those that came together in the creation of an 'Adams'?

    That is not to imply that we are totally at the mercy of our socialisation processes. Life itself has the tendency to knock some of the rough edges of even the most coarse among us. In that sense I think its more useful to assume or presuppose that most people are doing the best that they can with the resources they have to hand. It at least allows potential for persuasion, influence and change.
    The alternative is that horns remain locked with adversaries writing each other off as cnuts!

    Hume had the capacity to act from this more informed and compassionate position. Much more so it seems than his other colleagues in the SDLP ... but surely from this perspective we must allow them their humanity and attempt to understand their initial reservations about Hume's risky actions for peace?

    Yes, Mallon did come across as somewhat more abrasive than Hume but in the round I think we ought allow he was a decent enough sort too (at least when compared to Curry ^_^)

  18. Henry JoY,

    You have made interesting comments which are difficult to find fault with. Food for thought.