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Sinn Féin hypocrisy on press freedom

(Suzanne Breen, Belfast Telegraph)

Of all our political parties, Sinn Féin is the one least fit to lecture the media on its role and practices.

By calling on the government to regulate the press to ensure "a free and open expression of ideas and comment", the party's hypocrisy is astounding.

Its own history is littered with lies and evasions about the Provisonal IRA's dirty war and much more.

It has the brass neck to urge the state to intervene so "voices of opposition" aren't stifled in the media when it quashes all internal critics and regularly berates journalists for asking "stupid questions" – that is questions Sinn Féin doesn't want to answer.

In terms of truth-telling and transparency, the record of the party's own newspaper An Phoblacht is atrocious.

The Provisionals abducted, killed and secretly buried over a dozen people during the conflict – and lied about it for decades. Sinn Féin stood over those denials.

It took 25 years for the IRA to admit murdering mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy insisted the Provos didn't disappear 24-year-old Gerard Evans even when a member of the South Armagh brigade, haunted by a guilty conscience, told this reporter it did and gave details of where Gerard was buried which led to his remains being found in 2010.

When postal worker Frank Kerr was shot dead in Newry in 1994, Gerry Adams lambasted police for blaming the IRA "in an attempt to damage the peace process". Weeks later, the IRA was forced to admit the murder.

Sinn Féin denied the IRA shot dead Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996. The Provos later admitted that too – An Phoblacht even published a photo of four Sinn Féin TDs meeting the killers in prison.

Party spokesmen denied IRA involvement in Robert McCartney's 2005 murder in Belfast, dismissing it as a "pub brawl". After relentless campaigning by his family, Sinn Féin was forced to suspend 12 members – and three men were expelled from the IRA – over the killing.

With the arrest of the Columbia Three in 2001, Gerry Adams insisted the men had nothing to do with Sinn Féin. Journalists later uncovered that Niall Connolly was the party's Latin American representative; James Monaghan had sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Sinn Féin leaders on the party's ard comhairle; and Martin McCauley had been Upper Bann director of elections.

Sinn Féin MLA John Kelly resigned from the party in protest at its official lies and internal "control dictatorship", saying "no-one is given space to express an opinion".

In Northern Ireland, a fearlessly robust media must challenge lies and ambiguity from all political parties and paramilitary groups. The last thing we need is lessons on how to do our job from Sinn Féin.

December 6, 2012

This article appeared in the December 1, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

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