Like you I read Smithwick last night, and a lot of today. It’s a fascinating read, and Smithwick is comfortable in drawing conclusions on the validity of evidence.
He is clear in his assessment, and why he decided there was collusion, “on the balance of probabilities”. I don’t seek to dispute this, though it’s undoubtedly true that a different conclusion can be drawn on the basis of that evidence.
This is exactly what Gerry Adams did today. He doubted collusion, essentially on the basis that it was within the capability of the IRA to undertake such an operation without collusion being necessary. This (predictably) is the tone of the IRA’s own submission in evidence.
What happened today though when Adams suggested this? He was roundly condemned by the media, by politicians (witness the joyful accusations thrown by the DUP and the SDLP) and generally on Twitter. No one on Twitter (both SDLP) who I engaged on this with replied.
There was some suggestion that Adams was besmirching the good name of the dead, that he shouldn’t pass comment on their actions. To say this is to miss the point. Smithwick wasn’t investigating their good character, he was investigating collusion. You can agree with Smithwick that there was collusion, or agree with Adams. If you agree with Adams pointing out that the actions of Buchanan aided the IRA in their task is an obvious point. It isn’t to say he deserved to die, it isn’t to cast an aspersion that it was somehow his fault, it is merely to apply a bit of Occam’s Razor, that if Buchanan had a predictable routine, and eschewed tried and tested evasion techniques (the licence plates) then it wouldn’t be outwith the capability of the IRA to observe and target him on that basis. As an argument that could be made to sound more likely than that of an unidentifed collding Garda communicating a message or messages to persons unknown in an unknown format.
The internet loves to shut down debate in this way, picking out individual words and throwing them back in the speaker’s face. It was added to the Guardian speak of “blaming the victim”, usually associated with rape cases. Adams never said he was asking for it, but that wasn’t the question anyway.
Smithwick quoted Harden as giving four possibilities, and they seem reasonable to use. Two were quickly discounted. The remaining were Collusion and Observation. Adams pointed out how observation could (and undoubtedly did) occur.
Gerry Adams may be blamed for many things, and many people may be itching to take him down, but this was a totally unfair way to go about it. He should be debated on the merit of his argument