From top: Gerry Adams at the Dublin Wax Museum last Summer; Derek Mooney

The drama and untruth surrounding Gerry Adams handling of the Stack family will not topple Adams as leader, but it points us towards the fault line under his leadership that will.

Derek Mooney writes:

One of the most cherished tactics of the ever harder working army of Gerry Adams defenders is the “whataboutery” argument.

It is deployed, almost as regularly and speedily as the online shinnerbots, whenever Adams comes under attack. Indeed, whataboutery has so become the modern-day Provo’s weapon of choice that we may yet see a range of whataboutery trinkets and t-shirts available for online sale alongside the old Kalashnikov pins and ‘sniper at work’ t-shirts

The whataboutery tactic is a form of ad hominem attack, where you attack your critic, but you make it seem like you are expressing concern for others.

We saw it used a lot last week as the troops rushed forward to defend Adams in his dealings with the Stack family.

Asked why Adams would not give the Gardaí the name of the person he took a blindfolded Austin and Oliver Stack to meet; they answer: what about all the other victims? Why do you only want to talk about Brian Stack? Why are we not talking about all the others?

The point that they very conveniently forget is that Brian Stack was one of those “other” victims about whom they themselves have not spoken for years, if not decades. He was one of the unnamed others when we spoke about other named victims.

Adams and, by extension, Sinn Féin likes its victims in the abstract. In theory Sinn Féin has huge sympathy for all victims. Its rhetoric on victims – as a collective – is close to faultless.

A major problem emerges however when it comes to putting that rhetoric into practise for individual victims, particularly the victims of the Provos. Then the sympathy comes more slowly and rarely stretches beyond a few tired old phrases.

The Stack family has been quietly and patiently seeking the truth for decades. Brian Stack’s name and his memory is being spoken about now, not because Michéal Martin or Enda Kenny have brought it up, but rather because Austin Stack and the Stack family have.

I should at this point declare that Austin Stack is a friend of mine and that I have known him for very many years. I know that Austin has been working quietly and constructively with victims’ groups, North and South, for several years.

I know this partly due to my past involvement with the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. As the centre operates under Chatham House rules I will not identify any of the people I have encountered there, but I can say that I have seen victims and former combatants from all sides to the conflict in Northern Ireland reach out to help each other. This includes people with provisional IRA connections.

The other assertion that Adam’s apologists make is that the rest of us are trying to hold Sinn Féin to a higher standard than others. What they really mean is that we are wrong not to hold them to a lesser one.

As part of this process they consistently and persistently attempt to re-write the history of the past fifty years on this island. They try to portray the IRA as arising seamlessly out of the Civil Rights movement of Hume and Cooper as a popular army fighting on behalf of all of us against a British aggressor.

It is this concoction of a false past and a fake narrative that creates a responsibility, if not an imperative, on the rest of us to call Sinn Féin out. We all have a particular duty to hold the Provos, the INLA and all the other self-styled republican terror groups to account as they claimed to be carrying out their campaign of terror in our name.

They sought to embroil us all in their actions, so they and their apologists must face the opprobrium of those whose mandate they erroneously claimed.

Holding the Provos and the others to account does not stop us from doing right by all sides. The whataboutery is wrong. So, we should and we must also pursue the British government and security forces and hold them to account too for their excesses, their dirty tactics and abuses of human rights during the conflict.

The drama and untruth surrounding Gerry Adams handling of the Stack family will not topple Adams as leader, but it points us towards the fault line under his leadership that will.

One of the smartest and most consistent voices of reason in Northern Ireland is that of Derry man, Denis Bradley. Writing in the Irish News just before the latest phase in the Stack drama unfolded, Denis said:

“Gerry Adams should ride off into the sunset. That day has arrived. No matter what good or important contribution already made, his presence is now a hindrance.”

He is right. Adams has stayed on for far too long. Over the past few years, perhaps since winning his seat in Dáil Éireann, Adams has focused more on turning Sinn Féin into an organ for promoting the myth and legacy of Adams than a political party looking to change Ireland.

As I have written here before, Sinn Féin is not so much a “party in transition” as it is “transitioning into a party”. Adams handling of the Stack killing and his apparent insistence that the next generation of Sinn Féin put their fingerprints over his defence can only slowdown that transition process, if not reverse it.

The eagerness of Mary Lou McDonald to be one of those championing her floundering leader may help her gain the support of the Sinn Féin grandees in Belfast, but it may render her hoped for leadership banjaxed before it starts.

And so, I end this week’s Broadsheet post. Now, let the tirade below the line commence…

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

33 thoughts on “Whataboutgerry

  1. Cot

    Hi Derek – would you like to apologize for the poverty, misery, emigration and suicides that Fianna Fail caused through the great crash?

    1. rotide

      Cot, proving once again that reading the very first paragraph of a post is completely unnessecary for commenting on it.

    2. Rob_G

      Suicide in Ireland peaked in 2001 (which was under FF’s watch, of course; just demonstrating that there isn’t a straight line between a decline in economic prosperity and an increase in the suicide rate).

      Forced suicide bombings in Ireland peaked in the early 90s under SF/IRA…

  2. Harry Molloy

    Gerry, naturally, was in Cuba to represent Ireland and the struggle of its people. Naturally, he flew business class home, I would too if I was travelling with work to be fair.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Hilarious TV altogether, great review of that sketch show! I thought the scene in the sketch where Mary Lou lectures others on abuse of ‘Dáil privilege’ was a cracker!

      * tap-tap *

      But, but…. What do you mean that was the news… that level of stupidity can’t be real, it looked like a sketch show!

      1. Abaddon

        The difference between what Farrell did and Mary Lou is that there is a ledger that was discovered by a civil servant in the Revenue commissioners that listed their names as having accounts that wasn’t investigated, which is why Mary Lou used her privilege. There’s nothing to back up what Farrell did.

  3. Kenny Plank

    Broadsheet – are you accepting money to publish material from this guy and the other one from the Greens?

  4. bisted

    …so that’s where Gerry went wrong…he didn’t invoke the Chatham House Rules…now if the shinners would only invest in good spin-doctor like Derek…

  5. RuilleBuille

    Derek accuses Adams of ad hominem and then goes on to play the man himself. Stack has changed his position numerous times from accusing the state of killing his father to accusing non-existent people to accusing Ellis who has a cast iron alibi. But that’s alright because Austin is Derek’s friend. I wonder did they meet when they were both members of FF?



    1. shitferbrains

      ” Ellis who has a cast iron alibi “. The old ones are the best ! Since when was being in prison an obstacle to organising events outside ?

  6. Seth Cohen

    Great piece Derek.
    Hits the nail on the head.

    Isn’t it ironic that the first comment here is wit self “whataboutery”

  7. Abaddon

    More rubbish and unsubstantiated allegations from an FFer. A FF advisor involved in probably the worst government this state has ever had. How much of your advice landed the country in the state it’s in now Derek?

    Derek Mooney feigning concern about this issue? Ha! One FFer using another FFer (Stack) .

    The only thing Derek cares about is getting his advisor snout back in the trough when FF pull this FG government down.

    Doesn’t RTE and IN&M give these clowns enough column space and air time as it is without Broadsheet adding to this mountain of tripe being pumped out?

    This whole episode has been engineered by IN&M with the willing help of FF and FG.

    IN&M ‘Journalists ‘running around outside the Dail trying to get a TD to read an email addressed directly to the Garda Commissioner under privilege? (How many people have access to that account?) They found their willing patsy in Farrell. Even Stack’s confronting of Adams looked awkward and staged as he waited to make sure IN&M’s photographer recorded it!

    Let’s see what they didn’t cover this week using this non story as a cover –

    Garda whistle-blowers
    Denis O’Brien Judgement

    Just another manufactured controversy by FF, FG and IN&M used to attack SF and Gerry Adams. After all these years the best any of these people can manage is accusations without the slightest bit of evidence to back it up. Nothing. Nada.

    A willing media lapping it up.

    Are you now part of that media Broadsheet?

      1. Abaddon

        The term ‘whataboutery’ is used as a standard dodge by anyone not wanting to be shown up as a hypocrite when a comparable case is put to them.

        You probably didn’t absorb that.

        1. Rob_G

          “The term ‘whataboutery’ is used as a standard dodge by anyone not wanting to be shown up as a hypocrite when a comparable case is put to them.”

          – the media ganging up on SF (if that was the point that you were making above; tbh it was a bit confusing) is hardly comparable to shooting a man in the back of the head and rendering him a paraplegic for the rest of his very short and miserable life.

    1. nellyb

      Chill, man! We must uphold freedom of speech, excellent or poor. Treat DMooney as Breda O’Brien and peace will return to you.

    1. Frilly Keane


      Or whataboutary this

      Feckers are finally polling away from the Kennys and the Shinners …..

      Now they’re making sure ov’it

      Making a tit of Farrell while Jurry is being dragged back inta shyte

      BTW Mr Stack may well regret digging up his Dad

      I wonder what he was promised

      An ff’er pal of yours Mooney? ….no surprise

      What I’d love’ta know now is who is the latest FF conniver in chief ….

  8. CousinJack

    I don’t understand why they would even ask Gerry Adams about this, after all he was never in the IRA, let alone a member of its leadership or its leader.

    1. Abaddon

      Sure why would they even bother to ask him? Austin Stack and Michael Martin had already given names to the Gardaí, hadn’t they?

  9. Cot

    Yeah, Brian Stack was a saint. He didn’t preside over torture at Portlaoise prison. He should be canonized.

      1. Rob_G

        Just trying to justify one of the IRA’s murders.

        Go on Cot, tell us how that 14 year-old kid on Mountbatten’s boat was asking for it, too.

  10. Kolmo

    Nice, anyone who disagrees with this shrill narrative is now a paranoid Shinnerbot?

    Awful things happened in the conflict – nobody, not one person on this Island denies that.

    FG don’t give one sh!t about the unfortunate Stack family, no less than FF. Same with Labour in their attempt at linking Adams to a sex abuse case, a case that was investigated by Gardaí and PSNI, more than once…stomach churningly cynical.

    It’s so sickeningly cynical, it’s such a manufactured circus, the Stack family are only pawns in this game of scumbag careerist politicians in the South – this “questions have to be answered” nonsense is being pumped out 24/7 by willing “media partners” every few months..if questions have to be answered – well the Gardai or the PSNI would have asked, and have asked, not repeated implications and innuendo by hacks trying to score a bullseye hit against Adams.

  11. The Downes Side

    I’ll care about Fianna fail or Fine Gael’s opinions on murders when they answer for the state sponsored murders of women and children in catholic institutions. Until then, they’re just the pot calling the kettle black.

    1. Harry Molloy

      People love blaming the state and the church for that one, and rightly so, but you should also blame your own parents and grandparents. The entire society was complicit…

      Anyway, standard deflections

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