By Chris Thornton
BELFAST — A former IRA commander and one-time close republican comrade of Gerry Adams has openly criticized the Sinn Féin leadership’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process, saying republicans had become "professional liars."
Brendan "Darkie" Hughes, who was one of the architects of the Provisional IRA in Belfast in the 1970s, accused Sinn Féin of exploiting republicans and settling for less than the republican movement’s goals. In an interview with Fourthwrite, the magazine of the Irish Republican Writers Group in Belfast, Hughes said the peace process had turned into "the same old lies regurgitated week in week out."
"With the war, politics had some substance," Hughes said. "Now it has none. The political process has created a class of professional liars and, unfortunately, it contains many republicans."
Hughes did not single out Adams for criticism, but he questioned why the IRA campaign had continued for the last quarter century only to apparently end for a settlement, including partition, that had been available earlier.
"Think of all the lives that could have been saved had we accepted the 1975 truce. That alone would have justified acceptance. We fought on and for what? What we rejected in 1975," he said.
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He added: "All the questions raised in the course of this struggle have not been answered and the republican struggle has not been concluded. The things that we cherished such as a 32-county democratic socialist republic are no longer mentioned."
Hughes, who has not been active in the republican movement for several years, is not connected with any of the dissident republican organizations which are already critical of Sinn Féin’s "peace strategy." But his comments indicate some mainstream republicans — usually reluctant to publicly air any internal criticism — are increasingly questioning Sinn Féin’s role in the peace process.
Hughes finished the interview with a call to other republicans to "take a good look at what is going on. If they agree, OK. If not, then speak out."
Adams has not commented on the interview, but a source close to the Sinn Féin president brushed off the comments.
"Republicans are entitled to express opinions," the source said. "Brendan Hughes is entitled to think what he thinks and say what he thinks."
But the Sinn Féin source said some of the comments, including the accusation that republican politicians were liars, were "unhelpful."