Forget it: in Ireland four decades does not end truth pursuit

Gerry Adams

In recent days Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was taken into custody by Northern Ireland police for questioning in regard to the Irish Republican Army’s kidnapping and execution of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, back in 1972.

Adams, longtime leader of the political arm of the IRA and a current member of the Irish parliament, has reportedly been implicated in the murder via interviews provided by former IRA colleagues in a oral history project sponsored by Boston College.

The crime occurred less than a decade after JFK’s demise, yet authorities are not treating it as an historic relic; they are continuing to pursue the truth — for the sake of the victim’s family and for history. It’s worth pondering, as some who comment on JFKFacts suggest that after more than four decades, no one’s memory is trustworthy and/or reliable in a criminal investigation.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

21 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    I’m not a student of memory, and I venture to say no one here is qualified as an expert in the subject of memory.

    The notion that one’s memory of events 50 years ago cannot possibly be trustworthy is absurd, IMO. I remember clearly, vividly, events in my life going back to at least 1949, when I turned four years old. I can replay my own afternoon and evening of 11-22-63 with no problem.

    Sure, there are plenty of details I can’t recall. What I was wearing on 11-22-63, for example. But I can remember my girlfriend’s name then. And what I had to drink that night. Significant things.

    • Jean Davison says:

      Jonathan and Jeff,

      I’m certainly no expert on memory, but I’ve quoted experts and posted links to their work.

      If you’re referring to me, Jeff, I’m not saying that “after four decades, no one’s memory is trustworthy and/or reliable in a criminal investigation.” Nobody to my knowledge has called for banning eyewitness testimony, but IMO we should be very cautious about believing statements given years later without some good corroboration, because research has established that memories usually get more and more unreliable as time passes. Since, believe it or not, memories can and do change over time, a person can be very certain of his memory, and yet be wrong. (I’m speaking in general here, not about this IRA case, which I’m not familiar with.)

      I’m just the messenger here. Don’t “take it from me” — do some research on memory accuracy and see for yourself what the experts say. There are plenty of resources online.

      • Jonathan says:

        So what, Jean?

        Memory fades in some cases and sticks in others.

        Here’s a personal example, a real-life detailed example, from 1961, when I was a sophomore in high school.

        I can’t remember what I was wearing that day. But I remember it was a balmy summer day in an Illinois housing development. I was next to the house of a guy who was retarded but who was going to the high school. I held a bolt bomb, which I was told to make by my friend Herb. I threw the bolt bomb onto the sidewalk in front of me. It exploded and whined. Part of it slammed into the retarded guy’s houses. Part of it shot through the windshield of the car of a woman carrying two young sons. She was shaken. I was unharmed. Dad’s insurance took care of the windshield.

        I was a youngster. But I remember the event clearly, including the bolts, the nut, and the chemical composition.

        Why if I were in Dealey Plaza would I not remember clearly the assassination?

      • LRG says:

        For many years I have told my daughter who was orn on October 6, 1978, that I wanted to name her Reggie because while he was being born I was watching Reggie Jackson hit three home runs from the “fathers waiting room” during a game in the 1978 World Series. Over the years my daughter has given me a baseball autographed by Reggie Jackson and several autographed baseball cards. Two or three years ago while watching the World Series she heard that Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game in 1977! Oops!! In fact The Yankees did not play in the World Series in 1978. Over the past 35 years I have had in my own mind a different memory and perpetuated that story incorrectly. My point is that over time memories are lost or distorted.

        • leslie sharp says:

          LRG, with respect to your poignant reflection of 1978, I would suggest that the pastoral nature of your particular memory should not be confused with (or compare to) the accuracy of memories when a threatening event has occurred. With all due respect, a baseball record hardly equates with the spectacular daylight murder of a political figurehead on the safe streets of Dallas, Texas.

          I understand that not everyone was eyewitness on 112263, but I think all who heard the news within minutes remember the impact it had on them personally. It wasn’t an event that anyone said “wow I think I’ll name my son John Fitzgerald, or my other son Lee Harvey, or my daughter Caroline or Jacqueline …”

          It was an event that embedded itself into the pscyhe: “our ideal of Democracy is not yet safe.”

        • Fearfaxer says:

          Strike two, w/r/t memory. The Yankees did indeed play in the 1978 World Series, and they defeated the Dodgers 4 games to 2, just as they’d done the previous year. Reggie didn’t duplicated his 3 homers on three consecutive pitches off 3 different pitchers, but did provide one more memorable moment when he was caught in a rundown, and pushed his rear end out to deflect a throw from one Dodger infielder to another. He should have been called out, but the umps apparently didn’t see it, and he got away with it.

  2. PBR says:

    Breaking news from Ireland Gerry Adams is to be released without charge later this evening. Have to agree Jeff. Many of the killings during the conflict here are still being investigated by the authorities and charges have been brought as well as convictions secured, 40 years after the fact in some cases. The killing of 13 innocent civilians in Derry in 1972 by British Paratroopers on what became known as, ” Bloody Sunday” was, after massive public pressure, reinvestigated by a high powered tribunal in the late 1990s. The original investigation in 1972 was deemed to be a whitewash, accusing the civilian marchers who were murdered by the British Army of having fired weapons or thrown nail bombs at British soldiers. It was a political cover up and the public were deeply skeptical about the official story. The new inquiry completely exonerated the murdered men and proved that the British Paratroopers had opened fire without warning or provocation(other than from a few kids throwing stones at them from a street barricade). Hundreds of witnesses were called to testify. All the available ballistic and medical evidence was re-examined. The inquiry took twelve years to complete. The British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised in the House of Commons to the families of all those who had been murdered and wounded that day. The Police Service of Northern Ireland are at present investigating the case with a view to prosecuting the British soldiers who fired on the marchers that day. 42 and a half years after the fact. Would that such a wide ranging, well funded and searching investigation be carried out in the JFK case.

  3. Bogman says:

    I’d be cautious in praising the British sense of justice. Their record in the North is dismal on that account. False imprisonment, state-sponsored murders, sham trials, etc. The British govt and media have gone to great pains to not let that become general knowledge in the States. This is very likely a political move of some kind.

    • PBR says:

      I appreciate that entirely Bogman. I am in no way extolling the virtues of British justice in Ireland. There are, as you rightly note, a legion of other controversial cases involving the British security forces in relation to the conflict in Ireland, not least their long history of proven collusion with pro-British Loyalist paramilitary death squads. I acknowledge that many cases warranting full investigations into state violence during ‘the dirty war’ have been buried, shelved, sabotaged or subject to a whitewashing process through long, inconclusive inquiries and the refusal of successive British Governments to acknowledge the excesses of their undercover war. I was simply demonstrating from this one case how people pressure and political will can get to the truth. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was a textbook public investigation that would serve well as a blueprint for a true attempt to establish the truth surrounding the murder of JFK.

      • Pat Speer says:

        Those interested in the Bloody Sunday Massacre and the JFK assassination should also be interested in something I put together a few years back: the two are connected. Members of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel readily admitted that they’d had little experience with full-metal jacket military ammunition. One might think then that they’d go to a library and read everything they could. But they didn’t. As acknowledged by Dr. Baden at a 1980 Pathology conference in Toronto, he made one phone call to someone he thought knew about military ammo. And this fella just so happened to be Dr. Tom Marshall, the doctor responsible for the Bloody Sunday autopsies. Well, this explains a lot, IMO. Baden thought FMJ bullets shed metal in the skull because Marshall told him they did, and Marshall thought they did because the British soldiers were firing dum-dums and telling him they were standard issue.

      • bogman says:

        Makes sense, PBR. Thanks for the clarification.

  4. leslie sharp says:

    How do those that challenge memory square oral history projects involving key figures in our government and wider society? In spite of access to diaries and official records to prompt their memories, they invariably must rely on their personal, visceral experience to assure accuracy and engender creditbility for future generations. So I now wonder about the method applied in oral history projects, the value of them, and how highly regarded (or not) they are in academe. How often has a former ambassador or lower level diplomat been challenged about his or her recollections of their time in service abroad; i.e. I’m wondering if anyone here would question the recall of victims of Benghaz. Or how often has it been suggested that a former president of the US has misremembered, or a military leader, except when he or she has been accused of outright lying. (Misremembering and lying are obviously two separate dynamics) Of course a publisher/editor/author fact checks, but for the most part, I would argue that the general public takes these people at their word because of the position they hold in life and would not think of questioning their memory, short term or long. However, some engaged in this discussion seem comfortable in questioning the memory of their fellow, ‘average’ citizens. It is a strange phenomenon and speaks to an indoctrination of some kind, perhaps hierarchy.

  5. leslie sharp says:

    I see the critical theme introduced by Jeff with this thread, consciously or not, is the legitimacy of cold case murder investigations. Certainly if Gerry Adams might be indicted for a murder that occurred 40+ years ago, might not others be indicted for the murder of a US president 50 years later? This was not a history project, unless Boston College – another Jesuit institution – can uphold the claim that the Oral Project was solely intended to ‘set the record straight’ rather than a foil to the British Government’s efforts to destroy to Peace Process in Ireland, particularly in light of the significant gains being made by Sinn Fein in the upcoming national an EU elections. Britain’s timing, as always, is impeccable.

    Relating to the Kennedy assassination and to Gerry Adams and The Troubles, I’ve long recognized a shadowy trail to the North of Ireland in my own research into Kennedy’s assassination, and I occasionally come across like minds that support the theory. I believe there is a subtle symbol of this in the video of the history of the Irish Honor Guard that participated in Kennedy’s funeral when one of them opines decades later that “it’s as if we were airbrushed from the pictures.” Why was that?

    • bogman says:

      Not to mention that JFK’s driver, Bill Greer, was a member of the Orange Order, the KKK of Northern Ireland for Catholics.

      http://www.irishcentral.com/news/jfks-irish-driver-in-dallas-was-secret-member-of-anti-catholic-orange-order-232984301-237788871.html

      • Jonathan says:

        Greer and Kellerman are highly suspicious.

        Take Kellerman. He was in charge of the motorcade, not Emory Roberts. Roberts was #2 to Kellerman. Yet Kellerman lets Roberts dictate security for the limo. And Roberts does so with a vengeance, with nary a peep from Kellerman. That’s called, keep your eye on what the left hand’s doing so you ignore the right hand.

        Take Greer. The murder, the crime of murder of JFK, occurred in the limo. Greer was in total control of where the murder occurred. Consciously or not. The fact he slowed the limo and TURNED TO LOOK AT JFK tells me he wasn’t simply interested in knowing what was going on in the rear of the limo. He wanted VERIFICATION. Kellerman never turned, just Greer. And Greer didn’t put pedal to the metal until after he saw JFK’s head blown apart.

        Greer, as you mention Bogman, had religious reasons (and perhaps other reasons) for hating JFK. Greer was an uneducated man; I don’t believe he finished high school. I suspect his religious biases were easily fueled.

      • leslie sharp says:

        My reference to the North of Ireland and the Kennedy assassination was not intended to implicate Greer and Kellerman except as they served as easily manipulated foot soldiers charged with highly compartmentalized duties on 112263.

        I contend that the British element behind the assassination extends beyond the Sponsors with whom Greer and Kellerman were most likely aligned, and all the way to the Deciders who had the true power to authorize such an act and held the capacity to cover it up.

        Everything between the decision to assassinate John Kennedy and the ability to cover up his murder is superfluous except as it relates to a legal trial.

        The legal process is sacrosanct in a Democracy, and I think that’s why many of us are here, to resolve the case in a civilized manner. Otherwise we would resort to pitchforks.

  6. echelon says:

    Peter Voskamp writes:

    “The crime occurred less than a decade after JFK’s demise, yet authorities are not treating it as an historic relic; they are continuing to pursue the truth — for the sake of the victim’s family and for history.”

    Well, yes and no. The authorities are continuing to pursue the truth, but in a somewhat inconsistent way. There are so many unsolved crimes arising out of The Troubles that one wonders why so much attention is being brought to bear on this one. Of course, it was dreadful, but so many many dreadful things were done by all sides in the conflict. And how much real new evidence is there against Adams, given the understandable reluctance of ordinary people to speak out?

    One hopes it has nothing to do with the forthcoming elections, but it’s difficult not to feel cynical about it all.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Echelon, I always respect your comments … anywhere I encounter them. But I must challenge you with this qualified reaction to your understanding of the politics behind the interrogation of Gerry Adams after 40 years. This issue has been festering, I feel qualified to speak directly to the issue because I know several characters involved in the evolution of the Peace Process, and at least one on the ground in the terror dynamics. This is politics pure and simple. Simplistically, significant ground has been gained by Sinn Fein in the last several years, enough so that it could be argued that the British/Northern Ireland government is now pulling out all stops. And they are doing so with the support of a number of disgruntled Irishmen in the South that over the decades had to risk life, limb and family in relation to the guerrilla tactics of both the IRA and the insidious machinations of the Ulster military. Both sides are responsible for an extraordinary subversion of the truth. If Gerry Adams is guilty, there are those holding equivalent posts on behalf of Great Britain that must be held to account as well. This was war. This was not terrorism.

      It’s a very sad scenario because the violence on both sides drove a wedge between true patriots of a United Ireland, and perhaps rightfully so. However, to lose sight of the origins of The Troubles, that being the Easter Uprising of 2016 – the 100th Anniversary of same on our horizon – is to miss the significance of all that is unfolding including the recent visit by Irish President Higgins to the Queen in London. This is all about photo ops and public relations to diffuse the very real fact that Ireland is still divided and should not be. Easter 2016 looms.

  7. echelon says:

    In relation to leslie sharp’s clarification of the political nature of the ongoing Gerry Adams case, I would say that we are singing more or less from the same hymn sheet. I adopted a small-c conservative tone in my post simply because I do not have the inside information (and hence insight) that she appears to have. For me, it is more a matter of instinct and intuition, having watched these events from a distance for many years.

    Obviously, the focus of this forum is not on the difficulties in the northeastern corner of Ireland. However, IMO it is relevant to discuss the ongoing Adams case given the nature of the political (and some would say, deep political) system operating in both Britain and Ireland. From a personal perspective, I see his arrest as a deep-political, opportunistic development whose real objective(s) is/are not those immediately presented to the general public.

    If one deep political brother chooses to learn from another, remains indeed to be seen.

  8. Custody says:

    This shows how the political power is so high as the case is still going on.

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