Adams is a law unto himself: Sinn Fein's leader wants his civil rights. What hypocrisy, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

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The Independent Online
YESTERDAY, on legal aid from the British state, Gerry Adams, in his capacity an a 'citizen of the European Union' and a 'national of the Republic of Ireland', applied to the High Court to be given the right 'to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States'.

I am forced to admire the chutzpah of the Sinn Fein leader. Were I a frontman for a gang of murdering thugs, I might feel embarrassed about getting involved in a human rights debate. But, as befits a man with Scottish Presbyterian genes, Mr Adams is made of sterner stuff. While condoning the IRA's practice of driving out of Northern Ireland members of its own community whom it has deemed undesirable, he goes to law to appeal against being banned from Britain. And he does so at our expense.

Come to think of it, he does everything at our expense, for Mr Adams, like many of his colleagues in Sinn Fein and the IRA, is on income support. Now why can a man of his gifts not find a job? He is intelligent, well-spoken, clean and tidy. Not only is he an experienced barman, he would be a great tourist attraction in any public house. Why do the bureaucrats at his local Job Centre not insist that he seek work seriously or lose his benefit? Could it be that they are afraid of being killed? Or excluded from Northern Ireland as undesirable?

Notably, in his court case, Mr Adams made no claims as a citizen of the United Kingdom. A point of principle no doubt - but with a side benefit. Under the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, his case, apparently, is stronger as a citizen of any country in the European Union other than the United Kingdom. There's cheering news for the Europhobes.

In October 1993, following an invitation from Tony Benn to Mr Adams to speak to MPs and journalists at the House of Commons, the Home Secretary signed an exclusion order under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. The grounds were that he was 'a person who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland.'

I think it was a bad decision. People should be entitled to make nuisances of themselves equally in all parts of the kingdom. And it is certainly insulting to Ulster Unionists to indicate that it is acceptable for Mr Adams to infest the North of Ireland but not the Home Counties. However, in view of the deaths and mutilations Mr Adams has defended and encouraged over many years, I confess I find it hard to work myself into a state of righteous indignation about his deprivation. But as befits nice English liberals, Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties) is outraged: its legal director is acting as Mr Adams's solicitor.

There are those of us who feel that Liberty might make better use of its slender resources by addressing itself to the human rights abuses by paramilitaries. Rather than representing Mr Adams in the High Court, why not remonstrate with him about, for instance, the IRA exclusion order on the three children of Carmel Treanor? After Brian, 21, and Gary, 17, were given suspended sentences in Banbridge, Co Down, for their part in a robbery, the IRA gave them 48 hours to leave the island of Ireland for two years or face 'direct military action' - Provospeak for mutilation or murder.

For good measure, their sister Cherry, 23, was forced out as well. Because her two- year-old son, Ashley, has such bad asthma that his lungs have to be inflated by a ventilator three times a day, he had to stay with his grandmother. The three Treanors have been in hiding in England since February. Mr Adams has refused to meet Mrs Treanor; Ashley is still motherless.

The Labour MP Harry Barnes - co-chairman of the cross-party organisation New Consensus, which strives to explain to MPs and journalists the realities of life in Northern Ireland - has suggested to Liberty's general secretary, Andrew Puddephatt, that since paramilitaries are responsible for around 90 per cent of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, Liberty's priorities seem somewhat skewed.

Mr Puddephatt explains that Liberty's job is to focus solely on human rights abuses by the state: 'If specific paramilitary practices are criticised, such as intimidation, certain murders, punishment shootings, and so on, it may imply to some that other actions undertaken by paramilitaries are quite legitimate.' So this balderdash permits his organisation to focus on the failings of the British government and let Mr Adams off scot-free. This new evidence of British wimpery must have them rolling in the aisles at Sinn Fein HQ.

Perhaps because they have themselves suffered from paramilitary wickedness, members of the Northern Irish group Families Against Intimidation and Terror are not wimps. Overstretched and poor they may be, but they find the resources to point out what lies behind Mr Adams's plausible exterior. It was their banners that wiped the grin off his face when he returned from his jaunt to the United States. It was their demonstration throughout the Sinn Fein Annual Conference in February that reminded journalists that those who talked about peace were men of violence. Some were standing yesterday with friends outside the High Court protesting about double standards.

I hope Mr Adams's colleagues will not feel it necessary to murder or exile them in retaliation.

(Photograph omitted)