LAST week I spent a day in Croke Park. I have been there many times before. Usually for GAA fixtures or the occasional concert. But last week was different. Some of the courts service in Dublin, including defamation cases, are currently being heard there. The Covid restrictions meant shifting some cases out of the Four Courts. Croke Park is an unusual setting for court business, looking out of the window on level five at the green pitch down below while lawyers, potential jurists, court officials and others were busily rushing about their business.
My case had to do with an article in the Sunday World in September 2015. In May that year Jock Davison was killed as he walked to work. Several months later on August 13 Kevin McGuigan was shot dead outside his home. As a result there was a huge political storm as some politicians tried to link republicans to these events. The DUP wanted Sinn Féin expelled from the institutions and threatened to leave the Executive. On September 10 Peter Robinson announced that he was standing aside as First Minister along with other DUP Ministers and leaving Arlene Foster as their sole Ministerial representative in the Executive. He said that he had “stepped aside but technically not resigned”.
Three days later the Sunday World published a story under the heading ‘Gerry’s Secret McGuigan Meeting – Adams met murdered Provo over hit-threat fears’ which claimed that I had met Kevin McGuigan in July and assured him that he was not “under any threat from Sinn Féin members.”
The story was untrue. I had not met Kevin McGuigan. I said so publicly and immediately contacted my solicitor and commenced proceedings against the Sunday World. That was six years ago. Last Tuesday the Sunday World’s legal representative read out an apology in the court. It said: “Although the Sunday World reported the existence of such a meeting in good faith, we now accept Mr Adams’s position that no such meeting or conversation ever took place and have agreed to publish this apology for the record.”
Outside Croke Park my solicitor Paul Tweed described the front page story and the two prominent pages inside the paper as sensationalised and “making totally false and spurious claims”. Paul Tweed said: “Not only had this allegation been totally untrue but the defendant (Sunday World) failed to come up with any evidence or basis for the unfounded story. The publishers of the Sunday World have finally and belatedly acknowledged what they have done and retracted the allegations and unreservedly apologised to Mr. Adams before the court this afternoon.”
I took the opportunity to thank Paul Tweed and Johnsons and the senior counsel.
I told the waiting media: “For a long time now some elements of the media have reported or published or made very false and vicious and offensive claims about me and about other republicans. I am satisfied in this case that the Sunday World has apologised for this deeply offensive and false article. I am also very conscious that at the very centre of it a man, Kevin McGuigan, was murdered and another man, Gerard Davison, was murdered also. Their families like many others are grieving.”
For me this was always about asserting my own integrity and I think the case succeeded in that. It is my intention to donate the proceeds of the settlement to good causes. These will include the Irish language sector, Green Cross, the Bobby Sands Trust, the Moore Street Preservation Trust, the homeless and other projects I have a grá for.
TG4 – here’s to another 25
I DON’T watch television that often but when I do TG4 is usually my first choice. It has everything. It’s an Irish language channel. THE Irish language channel. Great music. Sport. Its GAA coverage is first class. News. History. Culture. Documentaries. Drama. Children’s programmes. And much more. Its series of films telling the stories of the 1916 leaders is among the best ever produced.
Its coverage of the centenary of 1916 was excellent. Dramas like An Klondike have attracted world-wide audiences and many awards. Ros na Rún has been running for 26 seasons. The travelogue documentaries which have examined the journeys of the diaspora and their impact on life in the USA and elsewhere have been hugely informative. TG4 has been a creative force in Irish society, encouraging local talent and producing programmes to the best international standards.
25 years ago on Halloween evening 1996 Teilifís na Gaeilge was born in Baile na hAbhann, in Connemara. It was a long time coming. As with all efforts to promote the Irish language, there was fierce resistance within the political establishment to investing in a television station that in their view would only ever service a minority community. Gaeilgeorí had fought long and hard over many years to get it established and its arrival was applauded by Irish speakers as a positive development here and overseas. However, the battle to defend, protect and expand the use of Gaeilge was not ended by the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge. That battle continues today.
Since 1996 Teilifís na Gaeilge, which was rebranded as TG4 in October 1999, has gone from strength to strength. Recently, as part of the celebration of its 25th birthday a new advertising campaign to promote TG4 commenced. As part of this one of the many advertising hoardings on the Andersonstown Road carried a large message announcing ‘Súil Eile’. So, well done to everyone involved in TG4 – past, present and in the future. And whether you have Irish, or just a cúpla focal or none at all, tune in. You won’t be disappointed.
First world problems need fixed
MOST readers of this column, like this columnist, live in the developed world. So, some of our problems are first world problems. Many of us have benefitted from the advances of recent decades.
I am from that generation who spent my childhood in an overcrowded house without basic amenities like a bathroom, inside toilet or hot water. Most of the menfolk in my clann were building labourers, hod carriers, manual workers. Their work was precarious, casual and underpaid. The womenfolk worked in the mills while rearing usually large broods of children. The work was hard, conditions tough and the wages were miserly.
The women were the homemakers, dependent on weekly visits to the pawnshop – Paddy Lavery’s in our case – the support of grannies and the sharing of food with neighbours to supplement meagre incomes. None of our adult family members were educated beyond primary school level. Yet they were intelligent, socially aware human beings. But all of us were poor. Why? I came to question this as I got older and more aware.
There have been many improvements since then. Nowadays many of us have decent homes, a good quality of life and many of our children and grandchildren are university educated. These basic rights were won because people took a stand.
But not all of us are so lucky. Poverty is still widespread. Some citizens are still treated unfairly. Some children do not have the chance to reach their full potential. So we have to be always mindful that they are in the place we used to be in. We have to rise up with our class not out of it. Poverty is not an accident. It is a consequence of public policy or the lack of it. If we cannot eradicate poverty in this part of the developed world how can we hope to do so in the developing world where poverty is widespread and deeply embedded?
In my view we will not eradicate poverty in Ireland while we are governed by Tories in Dublin and London. Of course we need to keep trying to alleviate hardship and we need to support measures to give people economic rights even though our country is partitioned. But when we end partition and have our own national democracy and the opportunity for a real republic then the struggle enters another phase. A poverty-free Ireland has to be the objective of all public policy. That is the best contribution we can make to a poverty-free world. The proposition is straightforward. It is called equality. Anything else is unacceptable.
Here in the so called developed world or in the developing world.
James Connolly put it well: “Our demands, most moderate, are: We only want the earth.”