“again, he names them, but for legal reasons I can’t.”

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.