There is no justification for supporting the IRA

6 March 2021

9:00 AM

6 March 2021

9:00 AM

Roy Greenslade held a number of prominent positions in Fleet Street over the course of a long career. But he spent the largest part of it at the Guardian, where he berated other journalists for their writings. A similar stance was adopted by him from his position as professor of journalism at City, University of London, from where he lectured students on media ethics and gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

At the same time he became slightly notorious outside of Islington for his support of the IRA. Whenever Gerry Adams had something self-pitying or self–exculpating to say, Roy was there as his loyal mouthpiece.

In 2000 this magazine ran a piece by Stephen Glover which identified ‘a pro-Republican cell within the Guardian’. Those identified included the open IRA supporter Ronan Bennett and Roy Greenslade. At the time the article brought down furious denunciations on The Spectator. The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, expressed outrage at the suggestion that his paper harboured IRA sympathisers. He condemned the then editor of this magazine, Boris Johnson, and called for an apology. A subsequent Guardian leader column criticised any suggestion that Greenslade had sympathies for the IRA.

Happily, Greenslade has now closed this debate himself. In a piece republished in the Sunday Times last weekend, Greenslade came clean. The impetus, he explained, came from the fact that he has given up journalism and now has grandsons and he wants them to be able to understand how he came to the views he did.

Even now Greenslade shows himself to be a fool as well as a coward. In his piece he explains that he got into supporting the IRA after the briefest possible introduction to the Troubles. Greenslade admits to being wholly ignorant of Irish politics and history until, as a young journalist, he was given a couple of whistle-stop tours, including a couple of hours in Londonderry. The historically warped account he was given immediately persuaded this sleuth to throw in his lot in with the worst Republican para-military group. If Greenslade would only read a book such as Professor Liam Kennedy’s excellent recent Who Was Responsible for the Troubles?he would recognise that he wasted his own life as well as helping to waste the lives of so many others. But like all fanatics, Greenslade is a man of only partial intelligence, who ignores things if they do not accord with his own prejudices.

He now admits that he was supporting the IRA and writing for the group’s propaganda paper under a pseudonym. But he explains that he decided to live this double life while working inside a range of papers because ‘I was on the verge of taking on a mortgage’. He presents this as though it is the most understandable thing. Whereas when I needed a mortgage I went with the Woolwich, Roy Greenslade went to the IRA. But he chose ‘to button my lip and carry on’.

He also buttoned up whatever conscience he ever had. He admits now that he always believed that the IRA’s slaughter of innocent civilians as well as RUC policemen and British soldiers was entirely justified. It was justified to shoot farmers in the back of the head. It was justified to turn the La Mon hotel into a charnel house. All of it was justified: Enniskillen, Harrods, Warrington — the whole long and bloody alphabet of IRA depravity. Yet even now, like all cowards, Greenslade cannot look honestly at the actions of his friends or himself. He acknowledges that after the Birmingham pub bombings he had ‘concerns’ about the ‘bombing tactics’. But what he condemns most is ‘the deliberate failure of the authorities to act quickly enough in response to phone calls warning of bomb placements’. That’s right — Roy’s friends just put bombs into trash cans, pubs, shopping centres, pubs, cars, etc. How disgraceful of the authorities to not always find them in time. Especially on the numberless occasions when — as with Hyde Park — the IRA called in no warning at all.

What does Greenslade feel about that atrocity, to take just one? Well, when John Downey was briefly arrested in 2014 for perpetrating the Hyde Park bombing, the Guardian’s man stood surety for him. Greenslade now says of the Hyde Park bomber: ‘John was, and is, a Donegal neighbour. All I know of him is his dedication to peace.’ An especially morally warped statement from an especially morally warped man.

Thanks to the Guardian’s protection of him, Greenslade was allowed to continue vendettas for decades against those critics who correctly identified him for being what he now admits he was. As late as 2016 he was using the paper to attack Stephen Glover for using a word which was ‘xenophobic’. As though Greenslade needs smelling salts when an offence is verbal, but has no problem when the offence is murder. The reaction of some of the commentariat to these revelations was similarly telling. Other people who spend their days trying to sniff out errant words from others in their trade had a ‘Roy is being Roy’ reaction to his revelations.

Doubtless Alan Rusbridger — now the fragrant principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford — will claim to have known nothing of his colleague’s actions. Perhaps he thought it was just another coincidence when in 2014 Greenslade used the pages of Rusbridger’s Guardian to smear and attack a woman — Máiría Cahill — who came forward to reveal the rape and sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of Greenslade’s IRA friends.

Perhaps Rusbridger and his ilk will do the usual thing and try to draw equivalences. As though Charles Moore, Ruth Dudley Edwards and Greenslade’s other critics ever supported a ‘loyalist’ paramilitary group committing acts as bloody as the IRA did.

Even now Greenslade writes begrudgingly of these critics. They were on to him before he was willing to be on to himself. Yet now all of this, he says, ‘enables me to provide coherent answers to those questions asked by my grandsons’. He is lucky to have grandsons. One of those killed in Hyde Park, Lieutenant Anthony Daly, was 23 and had been married for less than a month when he was murdered. Jean McConville has grandchildren; but the IRA made sure she didn’t live to see her ten children, let alone grandchildren, grow up. So yes, Roy’s grandsons can know who their grandfather was: a second-rate coward; a friend to killers; a disgusting human being.

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