It’s worth sticking with the Johann Hari interview of Gerry Adams in the Independent. Despite an apparent over-reliance on Adams’ autobiography, amidst the story-telling and the myths, Hari, to his credit, leaves in the “smirks at his press officer”, “the feel of being in a smoky bar in the paranoid world of 1970s paramilitarism”, the mis-rememberances, and the awkward silences.
I don’t want to get into a sterile round of defensive denial, so I try asking a different question. If there was a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland one where all sides, including the British military, admit what they did are there things you would like to get off your chest that you can’t talk about to me now? At first he wriggles. “Well, South Africa’s different, you see, because … in South Africa, it was a matter of domestic policy. The South Africans were in charge. So, so … ” Yes, yes. But would you want to talk to it? “I don’t quite know whether ‘commission’ would be the right word … ” Oh come on! “If there was an international-run, neutral, objective process with terms of reference that could be agreed, then I think everybody has a responsibility to talk to it.”
Adams will talk freely about the period up to 1968, and the period after 1998. But when I ask about the 30-year gap in between, his flowing sentences often dry into staccato clichés. Did you do anything in this conflict you later regretted? “Well, I didn’t have to do things, but I do think that there are actions that were carried out, and not even retrospectively, but at the time, that I knew instinctively were wrong, and were surely wrong, and where I could, I said so. I either said so privately, or I said so publicly, if that was the appropriate thing to do.” It is an answer designed to shut down the issue, rather than open it up an attempt to seal the memory dump with steel.