The recent programme on Channel 7 about the murder of two Australians, Stephan Melrose, aged 24 and Nick Spanos, aged 28, by the Irish Republican Army has created considerable interest.
The programme can be seen on the Channel 7 website: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunday-night/video/ . Once on that page, a viewer can go to the “Video Archive”. There are 151 videos stored there. This one is called “Collateral damage”.
Gerry Adams emerged as the only prominent foreigner to intervene on either side in what was a purely domestic matter, the republican referendum.
He came out strongly in favour of the Yes case, and called on Australians to vote that way.
His intervention as a foreigner was of course in itself inappropriate. It was supremely ironical that the republican movement was campaigning on the spurious and wholly incorrect argument that our sovereigns are foreign. Supporters of the existing constitutional system were being accused of being attached to a foreign institution, unpatriotic and un-Australian.
All of this should have been enough for the republicans to distance themselves from this intervention by a foreigner telling Australians how to vote.
But what made it absolutely imperative that the local republican movement publicly reject Adams’ support was the brutal murder of the two Australians by the Irish Republican Army. This was exacerbated by their refusal to hand over their murderers to Netherlands justice.
When the murderers were apprehended they escaped on a technicality.
In the light of this, all Australians, wherever they stand on the constitution, should even now reject any support from Adams.
The republican movement should have followed Bob Hawke’s example when the Irish Republican Army “apologised" for murdering the Australians. He contemptuously rejected that.
In referring to the channel 7 programme, and before, ACM has never attempted to associate the ARM with terrorism.
The issue of Gerry Adams’ role in the republican debate was reveived because of a Channel 7 investigation into the murder of the young Australians by the Irish Republican Army.
Australians were entitled to know of his attempt to affect the future of this country.
I then received this email from the republican movement:-
When did Gerry Adams come to Australia in 1999 and when did he ask Australians to vote yes to the referendum?
No one seems to be able to find any record of either event.
Are you quite mad, a habitual liar or just an idiot?
National Media Director & Queensland Convenor
Australian Republican Movement GPO Box 611, Canberra, ACT, 2601
0403 237 880 (07) 5526 8217
…the facts confirmed…
It is difficult to understand the furious denial by the republican movement, encouraged by the New Zealand republican movement, that:
(a) Gerry Adams came to Australia in 1999,
(b) lent his strong support to the "Yes" case in the referendum, and
(c) the republican movement did not respond to our call to disassociate themselves from his support .
Adams lectured at the University of New South Wales, attended a champagne reception given by the republican Lord Mayor of Brisbane, was interviewed by journalists including ones from the ABC and the Sun-Herald. This included his shrill calls for Australians to support the Yes case in the referendum. All of this is on the public record.
When The Australian revealed that they had easily established that Adams was both here in 1999 and had intervened in the referendum, the republican movement were forced to admit that what I had said was true.
This was followed not by reasoned argument, but further frenzied personal abuse of me by the republican movement spokesman. (I am quite accustomed to republican attempts to ridicule me, but on this occasion they even included a disparaging reference to the colour of my skin, which comes from my obvious Eurasian origins.)
They also relied on a Melbourne based journalist, Barry Everingham, who added to the abuse. Mr Everingham is described in his occasional column on the Crikey website as a ”republican royal watcher".
He claims to be able to reveal private conversations between members of the Royal Family, including the conversation between The Queen and the Duke over the 1999 referendum result. ( So did noted republican Richard Butler, whom readers will recall was briefly Governor 0f Tasmania.)
Readers will be interested in comparing this with th eobservations of someone who was actually with the Queen and the Duke the night of the referendum.
The royal guest was the celebrated Canadian commentator, syndicated around the world, Mark Steyn. He happened to be dining at Buckingham Palace that evening.
As “the only journalist on the planet within six feet of a royal facial expression that day,” he says with complete authority:
I can exclusively reveal that I haven't the foggiest as to the Queen's or the Duke of Edinburgh's feelings.
… 'strong response' to documentary on IRA murders….
[Continued below. Click on "Read more"]
This was the headline in a report of the programme in the Belfast Newsletter (9/9). One of the show's producers, Mick O’Donnell told the Newsletter that the documentary had "rated very well" with around 1.5 million viewers on the night. He said:
There was a strong response from the audience in letters and calls – you can see a mix of comments on the website. Others have contacted us offering more information, so this is a subject we're likely to revisit.
Stephen Melrose's parents Roy and Beverley Melrose made the trip along with their two daughters in the hope of finding "closure.
One of their daughters, Helen Jackson, told the News Letter:
My dad is almost 80 years of age and felt he had to make the trip this year or he might never be able to do it.
Ms Jackson said meeting other victims of the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland was "a source of great comfort" but added:
It's so frustrating to realise that so many others, as well as my family, have never seen anyone face justice for murder.
The report said the gang responsible for the murders in the Netherlands were armed with a Kalashnikov rifle – and a handgun used in a string of terrorist attacks in both Northern Ireland and mainland Europe.
At one point during the trip the TV crew approached a suspected IRA member, Donna Maquire when she sat in her car in Newry. She had been tried and acquitted of the murders, along with three others, in 1991.
Writing on the TV company's website, the producer Ross Coulthart said:
When I finally tap on Donna Maguire's car window and ask her to offer some sympathy to the Australian family of Stephen Melrose, there is a microsecond before Donna realises that her past has caught up with her. Her face initially has a friendly greeting, and she then flashes recognition and turns her head away from our camera. Twenty years on, is it shame? I hope so
One typical comment of support emailed to the Channel 7 website after the screening read:
It has taken an Australian TV company to ask the hard questions and to confront the suspects. Well done Ross and crew.
Incidentally, the programme says that British intelligence were aware there were Irish Republican Army hit squads operating in the Netherlands and Germany. It would be surprising if they were not. The programme suggests the British could have stopped the murder of the Australians.
This argument assumes the British knew the hit squad believed the Australians were British soldiers. It also assumes that the British could kidnap or shoot all suspected terrorists in the Netherlands and Germany.
Both assumptions are obviously untenable.
And finally, it is not too late even now for the Australian Republican Movement to do the decent thing and disown Gerry Adams’ support for their cause.