Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams refuses to retract gun comment about newspaper

Gerry Adams
Image caption Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said he has "no intention" of withdrawing his comments

Gerry Adams has refused to withdraw remarks he made about the IRA holding a newspaper editor at gunpoint during the Irish War of Independence.

The Sinn Féin president claimed the IRA destroyed the Irish Independent's printing presses over 90 years ago in revenge for critical press coverage.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and World Editors Forum have jointly condemned his remarks.

They claimed it could be interpreted as a "veiled threat" against the paper.

'Rape scandal'

The publishers' groups have written an open letter to Mr Adams, calling on him to retract his remarks and to "publicly affirm your abhorrence of all forms of violence against journalists".

The letter stated: "We are seriously concerned that this remark may be viewed as a veiled threat against Independent News and Media journalists and editors, whom you have criticised for investigating the Maíria Cahill rape scandal."

However, the Sinn Féin leader replied that he was "simply referencing a historical fact" and had "no intention" of withdrawing his comments.

Mr Adams first made the remarks during a Sinn Féin fundraising event in New York last week and then repeated them in a blog post entitled The Good Old IRA last Friday.

'Kangaroo courts'

His used part of the blog to address press and political criticism of an alleged IRA kangaroo court, set up 14 years ago, to deal with a rape allegation made by Belfast woman Maíria Cahill.

Ms Cahill claimed she was raped by an alleged IRA member in 1997, and that an IRA gang forced her to confront her attacker, in a bid to determine which of the them was telling the truth.

Five people who were prosecuted as a result of Ms Cahill's allegations were all acquitted by Belfast courts earlier this year, when she withdrew her evidence.

In his blog, Mr Adams accused Sinn Féin's political rivals in the Republic of Ireland of hypocrisy over their differing attitudes towards past IRA violence.

He claimed senior Irish politicians were praising what he termed "the good old IRA" of the pre-partition era, while at the same time, condemning more recent IRA actions during the Troubles.

The Sinn Féin leader claimed IRA tactics around the time of the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence were similar to those used during the Troubles, including the use of "kangaroo courts" and "summary justice".

'Hypocrisy'

Mr Adams claimed his political rivals were now hypocritically ignoring "the brutality and the violence" of the IRA when it was led by Michael Collins and others almost a century ago.

Referring to press criticism of IRA civilian killings, he wrote: "And when the Irish Independent condemned his actions as 'murder most foul' what did Michael Collins do?

"He dispatched his men to the office of the Independent and held the editor at gunpoint as they dismantled the entire printing machinery and destroyed it."

The Irish Independent has condemned Mr Adams' remarks as a "sick murder threat joke" and has also disputed the accuracy of the historical reference.

However, the Sinn Féin said: "I was highlighting the hypocrisy of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders who hail IRA leader Michael Collins as some Gandhi-like figure while condemning modern republicans such as Bobby Sands, Mairéad Farrell, or Máire Drumm as 'terrorists'.

"Anyone who takes the trouble to read my script will understand the absurdity of the Independent News and Media Group's campaign."

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