“Adams did not count on policemen thinking like policemen and not politicians”

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There’s been a lot of talk, as there always is, around how any of this controversy will or will not affect the political fortunes of the main protagonist, ie Sinn Fein. As with the PSNI investigation into the murder of Jean McConville itself, we simply don’t know.

If the demeanour of the activists I know is anything to go by it won’t be want of spirit or fight. That’s looking determinedly at the story of what was done to Mrs McConville (you can now follow a campaign Twitter feed for her cause) and her family as a political problem.

Tom Kelly in yesterday’s Irish News (should appear here later) hit several nails on the head:

…there is a poem contributed by the Derry born poet Seamus Deane called Phantoms 1968-2001 and within the verse are the lines “Phantoms are beating on the door. Beating to get out.”

Prescient lines for these days of uncertainty as the phantoms of McGurk’s Bar, La Mon, Ballymurphy and Jean McConville are beating at our doors waiting to be heard.

The failure to deliver justice for families of victims from across the divide has come back to haunt the political process like the ghost of Jacob Marley.

And up to date…

Nowhere is this clearer than with the PSNI incarceration of the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and the confused thinking within Sinn Fein in reaction to the arrest. It was not brave either to don balaclavas and abduct and murder vulnerable young adults or shoot teachers in front of a classroom of children or gun down a family on the steps of a church.

Too often in the recent narrative the protagonists of our dirty war only see victimhood through their own narrow prism of green or orange. That is why the voices of the innocent dead are now howling from beyond their graveyards and why, as Seamus Deane said, they are “beating at our doors”.

And…

Sinn Fein has been frenetically screaming at anyone who will listen that the arrest of Mr Adams and its timing was politically motivated, conveniently ignoring that it was Mr Adams who offered to speak with the PSNI and who chose the timing.

Given that investigative policing has failed Jean McConville and her family for over 40 years, there can have been nothing urgent or pressing that meant Mr Adams should present himself during an election.

It is hard not to think that his choice of timing was a PR stunt aimed at improving the electoral prospects of Sinn Fein. What he did not count on was policemen thinking like policemen and not politicians. The police unsurprisingly then went through the formality of arrest for questioning in connection with a serious investigation into a murder.

Adams arrest was routine in serious police in serious investigations…

There are no dark forces at work here, only the need for light to be shone into some dark corners and Sinn Fein is right to look for that light to be shone into the dark corners of security force collusion also. But they can’t have it both ways. No-one is or should be above the law and the risks for the police in arresting any politician are high.

In the 1970s British police arrested and charged the then leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, for conspiracy to murder – charges he was acquitted of.

More recently the deputy speaker of the house of Commons, the Tory MP Nigel Evans, was also arrested, charged and acquitted of sexual assault. Operation Yewtree, set up in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile revelations, has investigated nearly 600 historical cases and has involved the arrest and charging of many high profile individuals, some of whom have been acquitted whilst others like Max Clifford have been found guilty.

And he concludes with a key to the peace process politics of all of this…

The process of justice is not intended to simply move on. It exists to give a voice to victims – nothing more, nothing less.

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  • cynic2

    200 secret OTR letters
    350 secret pardons
    Northern Bank
    Fuel Smuggling

    No wonder the Shinenrs have a sense of immunity

  • Comrade Stalin

    As a related point it’s notable that Robinson has announced, in public, that he will be meeting Michael McConville.

    Robinson made this public because he knows that this will provoke Sinn Féin into attacking the McConvilles for meeting unionists, in the same way that they attacked Ann Travers for meeting/working with Jim Allister. I think Robinson is hoping that SF’s kneejerk reaction will blow back on them.

    It’s all pretty dirty stuff. I hope Michael and the rest of the family seek out some sort of advice on dealing with politicians and the PR. Otherwise they’re going to get played by people who have absolutely no scruples about using the crime committed against them for political purposes.

  • tuatha

    Cynic2 – double plus agreement.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    CS

    I couldn’t agree more. I have little time for SF to put it mildly but the sudden overwhelming “concern” of Robinson for the McConville family (who are the real victims here!) is frankly sickening.

    It’s probably unrealistic but I truly hope that this family get the justice they deserve (as do many others).

    I do hope that Michael McConville can see beyond Unionist politicians who are simply trying to use him and his family as a means to attack SF.

    What this family has been through is truly heartbreaking – to see some Unionist politicians (who didn’t have a word to say about hundreds of other innocent victims) try to use them for their own ends makes me puke.

    Its the same with Allister – usually I have a lot of time for Mick – but his attempt to get everyone to applaud Allister (as if we were all going to conveniently forget his one-sided condemnations during the 80s) was pathetic.

    I agree with you – I hope the McConvilles get some professional and apolitical advice from professionals and aren’t taken advantage of by people who have no scruples whatsoever.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Stalin

    ‘…Sinn Féin (attacked) … Ann Travers for meeting/working with Jim Allister.’

    Did they?

    Who did? What did they say?

  • tacapall

    “Cynic – 350 secret pardons”

    Only 350 pardons ? And you know for a fact that they all went to republicans ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting there seemed to be some leakage on the DPP’s views to the BBC yesterday. It also happens that Gerry used the DPP’s own old law firm to take him through the interrogation… (and as RDME also points out below) the DPP has recused himself…

    http://goo.gl/KgSzmJ

    This is one big glass house… and there’s a lot of stones being fired in all sorts of directions…

  • cynic2

    “And you know for a fact that they all went to republicans ?”

    No its an assumption but a well founded one on the basis that we know

    * all 200 OTR letters went to SF
    * they were secret
    * the pardons were secret
    * the truth as only dragged out on a Friday Afternoon on a Bank Holiday while Adams was in custody – what a good day to buy bad news
    * the SOS was at pains to show that since they came to power this Government hasn’t granted any
    * records pre 1997 have been lost – so there may be even more murders bombers and gunmen roaming the streets who were pardoned and the victims and their relatives have never been told

  • Dec

    ‘No its an assumption but a well founded one on the basis that we know…blah blah blah’

    Sorry to spoil a lazy, predictable whinge but the NIO have stated the vast majority were not ‘terrorism-related’.

  • tacapall

    So your assuming no loyalists or former members of the security forces who were convicted of crimes received any pardons ?

    The pardons were not secret some woman called Mrs Windsor issued them.

  • RDME

    “It also happens that Gerry used the DPP’s own law firm to take him through the interrogation…”

    You didn’t read that very closely.

    What it says is that Barra McGrory, the DPP, used to work at the same law firm as Adams’ current lawyer. Since McGrory himself used to be Adams’ lawyer, all that means is that Gerry Adams is still using the same law firm he always has. Hardly shocking.

    Regardless, McGrory has already recused himself, as confirmed on BBC News before Adams’ had even left Antrim station.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Interesting selection of criminal cases, gay blackmail, gay rape, and child abuse, can’t argue that a crime is a crime is a crime but I can’t help but feel (as a republican, that is) that your’s and others repeatedly trying to connect Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein to stuff like this and also to people like Peter Sutcliffe and Ian Brady is really counterproductive, I winch at it’s approach, taking an ideological power drill to the publics skull to drive your message home ie Gerry’s the bogeyman. All in all it’s a bit OTT.

    Anyhoos to keep on topic the reason I mentioned it was because I thought possibly Peter Hains encounters with the police was more apt

    It’s got the ‘sinister bit’

    ” He said it was possible South African agents may have used a “double” to frame him because of his anti-apartheid activities.

    “I think there is plenty of reason to suspect that there might have been a frame-up but it is nothing substantial,” he said.”

    And it’s got the political policing bit

    “In the House of Commons six MPs, led by Liberal David Steel, called for the resignation of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn, over the Hain case.”

    BTW does anyone know if the Government have handed over the war dairies\operational log for the First Gloucesters yet, they where station in the area during the period of the abduction, and it probably has significant details of what was going on in the area at the time, normally released after 30 years but these ones are part of a select few that have a 100 year release date.

    I know investigations like this take a while but surely the cops shouldn’t have to wait a whole century to find out what the Government knows!

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll correct that directly RDME…

  • Reader

    cynic2: No its an assumption but a well founded one on the basis that we know…
    I have already supplied tacapall with a link to the effect that the government suggests almost all of the pardons were not troubles related at all. At this stage, it looks like the two of you are just feeding each other’s suspicions.
    Cynicism is all very well, but you can take it too far…

  • Morpheus

    Something is not quite right here.

    SF and GA know that The Boston Tapes are not enough to get GA anywhere near a courtroom but that he still had questions to answer. He used the situation to maximum effect by volunteering himself for arrest – knowing dam well that arrest is standard procedure in cases of murder – at Antrim Police Station – again knowing dam well that this is standard procedure.

    The end result was that the PSNI saved face by showing that the did everything in their power, the wind was temporarily taken out of the sails of the baying politicians/commentators and GA walked away with a soundbite of ‘I helped the PSNI with their inquiries’ to use after every question about Jean McConville from now on.

    So all in all nothing more than a carefully constructed piece of theater in time for the elections.

    So what was Martin McGuinness playing at?

    If there is still a ‘dark side’ to the PSNI then that is a reflection on the body charged with overseeing it – a body in which SFs plays a role. It sounds like someone went off script unless this was a piece of theater as well to appease the hardliners.

    Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland, attempting to milk the McConvilles is nauseating – are there no depths to which he won’t sink?

  • tacapall

    “I have already supplied tacapall with a link to the effect that the government suggests almost all of the pardons were not troubles related at all”

    With all due respect Reader how do you know this when the government itself is not able to answer how many were actually handed out and who got them.

  • GEF
  • Kevsterino

    All these folks who express the desire to help the children of Mrs. McConville might reflect on what the hell they were doing when the family was bounced out of East Belfast, then left fatherless in a state of dire poverty, then orphaned into a feral existence for weeks.

    I think it is shocking that nobody has said, in print at least, just how wrong it was to run that family out of East Belfast.

    Was it not wrong?

  • looneygas

    Morpheus,

    It may be that the point of the exercise was that Gerry couldn’t just say “dunno”, “can’t recall” over and over for four days, so the coppers were trying to get him on record saying something they could later prove was false.
    In 1973 he could pick a spot on the wall and stare, not so much now.
    Even if they can’t catch him in a lie, there’s a lot of value in making him sweat for four days. I think a lot of NI’ers enjoyed seeing Gerry detained and Marty acting silly.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus,

    I think SF were caught off guard with the arrest.

  • Reader

    tacapall: With all due respect Reader how do you know this when the government itself is not able to answer how many were actually handed out and who got them.
    I don’t know how many corners I have been round in my car, nor could I find them all again, but I do know that I have almost always indicated.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “I think it is shocking that nobody has said, in print at least, just how wrong it was to run that family out of East Belfast.

    Was it not wrong?”

    @Kevsterino,

    By 1972 mixed neighborhoods in working-class Belfast had largely been a thing of the past for two years. First the loyalists drove the Catholics out of their neighborhoods and then the republicans reciprocated by driving Protestants out of nationalist neighborhoods. In those circumstances it appears that Mrs. McConville was too Catholic for East Belfast and too Protestant for West Belfast.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Reader

    “the government suggests ”

    Who trusts the British government??? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSieUhqIR6k

    In the link you provided to me:

    “It is not clear how many of those pardoned were members of paramilitary groups, or what proportion, if any, were members of the security forces.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27260596

  • Morpheus

    looneygas

    You paint a picture of smoke-filled windowless rooms , complete with spotlight, good cop bad copy, two-way mirrors, spook in the corner, the whole 9 yards.

    I see it more of 2 officers doing their best with next to no evidence over Cappuccino and bagels between sessions on PS3 and Facebook.

    This was all choreographed to get the monkeys off their backs, the questions had to be asked – as I said the PSNI tried their best with next to no evidence, GA gets to say he helped the PSNI with their inquiries but was not charged with anything and the politicians/commentators have nothing

    I just don’t understand Marty’s angle.

  • Morpheus

    “I think SF were caught off guard with the arrest.”

    You seriously think that SF and their legal team didn’t know that arrest was standard procedure in cases of murder? C’mon CS, is that even slightly plausible? Of course they knew…just as the PSNI knew they had next to no evidence but still had to be seen to be doing something anyway.

  • looneygas

    Morpheus,

    The picture I have in mind is one of Gerry, his lawyer, and a couple of detectives sitting in a well-lit non-descript room, and of the video recorder mounted on a tripod.
    I’ll bet that Gerry had to choose his words very, very carefully, knowing that any slip-up could come back to haunt him.
    Sorry if I gave a different impression.
    Even for someone with Gerry’s experience at dodging questions, it probably wasn’t tea and crumpets or cappuccino and bagels.

  • Kevsterino

    Morpheus, I think the angle could be to give voice to the general indignation of the Sinn Fein base that the authorities could see it as appropriate that the leader of their party was behind bars while an election was going on, when everybody knew there wasn’t a case he had to answer for. Maybe.

  • babyface finlayson

    Reader
    “I don’t know how many corners I have been round in my car, nor could I find them all again, but I do know that I have almost always indicated.”
    It’s not necessary to indicate when going round a corner.
    I’m not sure what that means in terms of your metaphor though.

  • Morpheus

    Looneygas
    Both the PSNI and GA knew that this was nothing more than a glorified box-ticking exercise. The assumption is that he is guilty but that assumption is based on nothing more than the word of people who would not be trusted when they were alive yet their word is gospel when they are dead. I wonder how many minds it has crossed, even for a fleeting few seconds, that maybe he wasn’t involved?

    Kevsterino
    Maybe. But publicly attacking the PSNI is not a good way of securing the moderate nationalist vote in the upcoming elections. If anything the fact that they say that there are dark forces in an organisation over which they have oversight says more about them.

    This whole thing, like the OTR debacle, is not the smoking gun that some quarters are praying for either.

  • mrmrman

    I’ve never seen SF in such dis-array – I think there was a genuine fear he could be charged and face trial.

    I very much doubt this has done SF and Adams any favours. Sure it might shore up the vote in grass root areas but that’s not the demographic they were after.

    It’s middle class, particularly women voters that SF need to make it to the big time. Non of this recent murkiness will have helped their appeal with those sections.

    There are a lot of questions to answer regarding GA past and indeed the police motivations. I doubt any of it can be answered objectively and will ultimately boil down to how much you like/dislike GA and SF.

  • looneygas

    Morpheus,

    It has crossed my mind that Gerry Adams may not have ordered that Jean McConville be executed.
    I agree with you that both GA and the police knew beforehand that the outcome of the exercise would be release without charge.
    I’m just sayin that two possible motives on the authorities’ part were to make Gerry squirm a little and take a longshot that he might slip up.
    Son of Strongbow composed a nice poem about Gerry’s sides and Mainland Ulsterman claimed to be in clover over the Shinner’s general disarray(not an exact quote), so the theatrics were well-received, it seems.

  • Morpheus

    LOL, very true looneygas. Hysterics is nothing new but poetry? Respect where it is due

  • Reader

    babyface finlayson: It’s not necessary to indicate when going round a corner.
    I would call that a bend…
    I was concerned that this confusion would leave my metaphor indecipherable, so I had a look through the highway code.
    The HC doesn’t seem to do definitions, but does use the terms: bend, corner, junction. From context, it looks like a corner is the bendy bit of a junction.

  • Reader

    Mc Slaggart: Who trusts the British government???
    If you don’t trust the British Government, then you needn’t believe in the existence of any pardons at all, let alone a specific number. But in case you will pay any attention to them, from the link we both used: “The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said the vast majority of pardons were not terrorism related.”, which agrees rather well with my own version: “almost all of the pardons were not troubles related at all” and is also entirely compatible with your quote from the BBC report.

  • Politico68

    RDME

    Good catch there in checking Mick on his ‘error’. He seems to be making a lot of ‘errors’ in his ops these days meaning we all have to be on guard.

    Tom Kelly’s piece is actually very moving in my view, he gives a good overview of how many people see the issue of victims but find it difficult to put into reasonable and rational words.

    I also agree with Mick on his point that Tom Kelly hit a number of nails on the head, particularly this one …

    ” …Mr Adams is entitled to his own mature reflections. He is also entitled to a presumption of innocence something lost amongst some of the media and political commentary.”

    Mr Kelly suggests that Adams chose the timing of his arrest deliberately as a ‘PR Stunt’ but this does not really stand up to scrutiny. Adams Solicitor was contacted last Monday requesting to see GA. I don’t think it is reasonable to suggest that he could have said ‘yes, but after the elections’. Given the force of media and political attacks on Adams he would have been torn to shreds. ….. ” Adams refuses to meet PSNI” …..”Adams refuses to meet PSNI until after elections”….” Adams delays meeting PSNI – Has he something to hide?” etc etc ad infinitum.

    It is far more likely that the police were ‘encouraged’ to contact Adams when they did in the HOPE that he would ask to put it off until after the elections. Thereby handing the establishment a gift box full of potential accusations. As it happens he did exactly the right thing; he went to see them as soon as possible after they made the request.

    However, the police knowing that he was in midst of campaigning could have waited another three weeks for the poll to be concluded before requesting to see him. They waited long enough, another three weeks would hardly have made a difference. Unless of course they were under direct pressure from some quarters to do it at that particular time.

    Kelly points to the crimes committed by British public figures and their subsequent charging as examples of how the system is supposed to operate. And he is quite right in the examples he gives. People regardless of hew, living in a functioning, democratic, civil society who commit crimes against the person should indeed be dealt with by the full force of the law.

    But Kelly is making an incomparable comparison. The thousands of killings during the troubles occurred in a society mired in conflict which was disfunctional, undemocratic, uncivilised and socially deeply divided. A bubbling cauldron of sectarian hatred.

    The modern society at relative peace with itself justifies applying the judicial standards outlined by Kelly. But trying to apply them retrospectively through a modern lense looking back 30 or 40 years is simply unrealistic and doomed to fail.The process of justice must give a voice to victims and that process must be shaped to reflect the reality of time and circumstance. It should not be used to reflect the selfish interests of political opponents or their media stooges.

  • BarneyT

    nds like Michael mcconville is already being played. He’s gone from fearful to resolved. Maybe he gained strength from his sisters “you know where I live” stance but I’m not so sure

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus,

    It’s not clear to me that an arrest is standard procedure, although it doesn’t surprise me that it happened. Moreover, I think Adams believed the Brits wouldn’t dare arrest him. Sinn Féin have been intimidating the British for well over two decades now with threats of how any false moves on their part could derail the process.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Politico68:

    But trying to apply them retrospectively through a modern lense looking back 30 or 40 years is simply unrealistic and doomed to fail

    But that isn’t what Sinn Féin believe, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for justice over Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy, both of which happened at around the same time.

  • Politico68

    Comrade, ballymurphy etc is an issue between victims and the state which is an entirely different matter.

  • Morpheus

    “It’s not clear to me that an arrest is standard procedure, although it doesn’t surprise me that it happened. Moreover, I think Adams believed the Brits wouldn’t dare arrest him. Sinn Féin have been intimidating the British for well over two decades now with threats of how any false moves on their part could derail the process.”

    I am no expert on the inner workings of the PSNI but the issue was discussed with the BBC’s News NI Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kerney on Evening Extra on May 1st and it appears that arrest in cases of murder is indeed standard procedure….the relevant bit starts at 35 minutes

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0421hjs/Evening_Extra_01_05_2014/

    This whole thing was nothing more than a glorified box-ticking exercise.

    The difference between Ballymurphy/Bloody Sunday and this is that there is evidence (logs, records, paperwork etc) in the former – which is being suppressed – and next to none (other than he-said-she-said) in the later.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Reader
    ““The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said the vast majority of pardons were not terrorism related.”, ”

    Jesus The Missing Years

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Inr-jskxm1I

    “There are no figures for ten years between 1987 and 1997, as the records have apparently been lost.”

  • keano10

    Tremendous to see Slugger O’Toole in virtual meltdown because of Gerry’s release. How Mick and Pete’s hearts must have sank when Gerry ambled out of the back door in Antrim without any charge. The most anti-Sinn Fein website anywhere has had to take a backseat once again.

    Erin go bragh chaps…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Keano10

    “How Mick and Pete’s hearts must have sank when Gerry ambled out of the back door in Antrim without any charge”

    Was that not the scenario predicted by most people on here?

    As such, I doubt their hearts sank at the realisation of a highly probable and widely predicted event.

  • BarneyT

    So what’s next? Will this negatively affect SF in the southern polls (lets face it, thats where it counts most).

    Let assume that SF was responsible for the timing and they foresaw an arrest being made…and lets go one step further and suggest they also envisaged a release without charge. Granted they may not have anticipated the additional stay, however if all the rest is correct, surely that plays further into SF hands.

    He was not charged with IRA membership, presumably because there was insufficient evidence? If SF were riding high in the polls, despite most taking the view that his role in the IRA was irrefutable, then surely this will make folks think before they again pursue the accusation of his membership (true or false). It will at least sound tired. He can turn around and state that he presented himself for examination on this and other matters and he has been exonerated (assuming there are no PPS surprises)

    I don’t believe this will do SF any arm at all. If this has been orchestrated by SF, it was a clever stunt, but surely a risky one. Could they really have expected to see no charges sustained against Gerry?

    What if this is not a SF initiative? .Was this an attempt to derail SF in the south (elections et al?) Was Westminster and Leinster house behind this? Was this history repeating itself with regard to potential unpalatable SF electoral success?

    Can anyone else see SF losing from this episode? I cant.

  • Morpheus

    Barney, I would say that the only aspect of this that surprised SF- maybe – was the judge extending the period for which he was held because that decision was outside the control of both SF and the PSNI. The time, the location, the arrest etc. were all easily known beforehand.

    As for the questioning itself then the PSNI obviously handled it very professionally with their best guys in Antrim’s Serious Crime Suite doing the questioning but with next to no verifiable, reliable evidence there wasn’t much they could do.

    This box has been well and truly ticked, time to move to the next episode of ‘Get Gerry’ – let’s just hope innocent victims who deserve much, much better than this are not dragged through the ringer yet again in that one.

  • Charles_Gould

    All credit to PSNI in all of this – but boy did SF *act* guilty!

  • Politico68

    Lol, act guilty ! Funny

  • Politico68
  • Comrade Stalin

    Politico68,

    You confirmed what I said. Sinn Féin do not believe that the requirements for justice should be set in the context of when the attacks or killings occurred.

    Instead, their requirement, as you so clearly articulated, is that your access to justice should be determined by who carried out the crime. If the killers wore a uniform then you get justice; if they didn’t wear a uniform you don’t. The game here is obvious, and it is about creating a hierarchy of victims and discriminating against those who were unfortunate enough to have been shot by someone who wasn’t wearing a balaclava when he did it; it’s about ensuring that your mates, or the people you sympathize with politically, get away with what they did. Bollocks to that.

  • Politico68

    Comrade,

    I never said any of that, i think u are mixing me up with someone else.

  • Reader

    Politico68 : The modern society at relative peace with itself justifies applying the judicial standards outlined by Kelly. But trying to apply them retrospectively through a modern lense looking back 30 or 40 years is simply unrealistic and doomed to fail.
    Politico68 : Comrade, ballymurphy etc is an issue between victims and the state which is an entirely different matter.
    I’m pretty sure that is what he means. Double standards, hierarchy of victims, special treatment. Everything you accuse the loyalists and Brits of, but which you take for granted when demanded by Sinn Fein. It’s as though plods and squaddies were not also real people acting in the highly charged circumstances of the time.
    Maybe what would sort this out for you is an amnesty for the foot soldiers, but for the leadership on all sides to be held accountable for all time.
    Or maybe that is the wrong way round. Is it the leadership who must be shielded at all costs? I was in Glenarm on Saturday. A bus went along the road heading towards Belfast (maybe heading for the party rally), and a shout came from the window of the bus: “Free Gerry Adams”. I don’t remember ever hearing the call: “Free Ivor Bell”