Will Alan Rusbridger apologise for the Guardian's Republican cell?

5 March 2021

6:00 PM

5 March 2021

6:00 PM

Subscribers will know that I wrote in my column for the magazine this week about the revelations by former journalist Roy Greenslade that he was an active supporter of the IRA throughout the Troubles.

But there are a number of people who we should still hear from on this, and have not. One is Greenslade’s long-term editor and defender at the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, now the Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

As I mentioned in my column, in 2000 The Spectator ran a piece by Stephen Glover identifying a Republican cell within the Guardian. Rusbridger responded furiously to this, denouncing the piece, The Spectator, the magazine’s then-editor Boris Johnson, and demanding an apology. Naturally the piece was completely right. Ronan Bennett’s IRA sympathies have always been well known. He was the partner of Rusbridger’s deputy editor, Georgina Henry. Greenslade has now outed himself. The 2000 accusations against Jonathan Freedland still stand unanswered. Freedland – who is still at the Guardian – stands accused of being naïve and ignorant. It would still be interesting to hear from him.

Still more interesting would be to hear from Rusbridger, who in 2000 ran a newspaper editorial saying the accusations were ‘half-baked gossip’.

Let us take Rusbridger at his word that he did not know Greenslade was a supporter of the IRA. Yet even if he did not know this in 2000, he must have known it 14 years later. Among many other actions, in March 2014 Greenslade stood surety for the Hyde Park bomber John Downey. By then there could have been no doubt, even in the mind of Alan Rusbridger, that his colleague was on the side of the IRA. As I say, this is March 2014.

In October of that year Maíria Cahill came forward to reveal that she had been raped by an IRA member. The claims rang through the Republican movement and had the possibility of causing the organisation some strife. By 2014 even the IRA had worked out that rape and its cover-up were not good things. So they went for their usual tactic – which was to smear the accuser. As ever the Guardian under Alan Rusbridger could be relied upon to try to help the IRA out in this scrape. The newspaper ran a piece that was nothing more than an attempt to smear, shame and otherwise deny the brave revelations made by Maíria Cahill. It was a journalistic hit-piece on a woman who had accused a murderous gang of harbouring a rapist. And who was the author of this hit-piece? Why Roy Greenslade of course.

As Cahill has described here, the piece contained so many falsehoods that in any normal editorial process they would have been discovered and the piece would not have been published in the form it was. Rusbridger must by now have known that Greenslade was a supporter of the IRA, and yet he allowed his pro-IRA colleague to be the one let loose on an IRA rape-victim.

By 2014 Rusbridger had known of claims about Greenslade’s IRA sympathies for at least 14 years. Why then did Alan Rusbridger allow Roy Greenslade to try to silence and intimidate a rape-victim – a brave woman who under the circumstances was even braver than most other rape-victims in coming forward? Did Rusbridger not care that there appeared to be a special motivation for Greenslade’s hit-piece? Did he not notice? Was he still pleading ignorance? If he even suspected, then how on earth did he allow it?

The question is pertinent not just because of the position Rusbridger once held, but because of the position he holds today. I wonder what the students under Rusbridger’s care at Lady Margaret Hall should make of the fact that their Principal not only allowed a Republican cell to operate under him, but allowed one of them to take the side of an IRA rapist against a young woman? Is Rusbridger a suitable person to have charge over any young person, especially young women?

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