Not for the first time Gerry Adams’ memory’s fails him in interesting and creative ways…

I’ve interviewed a fair few politicians in my time, but never Gerry Adams. I asked for him a couple of times, but then took the hint that he wasn’t keen and stopped asking. His was the last of the southern leader’s interviews with Fran McNulty on This Week at 1pm today.

He’s a tough cookie, mostly because if he doesn’t want to answer your question he just won’t. On policy, he talked about the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ being about “if nothing else, democracy and equality”.

On Twitter the interview brought two reactions. One, claims from supporters that Mr Adams was unfairly treated by the interviewer, and from others that alone of all the leader’s interviews he was let get away with not answering the questions put him.

There’s truth in both criticisms. Certainly no one else was asked such a personal question as ‘were you relieved’ at the death of Dolours Price. Yet there’s no other political leader in Ireland in a position where that is actually a reasonable and proportionate question.

Yet, since the departure of ‘The Bert’ from Irish politics no one quite avoids a question with the confidence of Gerry Adams, who then took the opportunity of such a direct question to talk for over a minute about the imprisonment of Dolours’ sister Marion.

Then about five minutes in, he declares that “the Irish government of the day would not act to repeal the Government of Ireland Act, I had to work with Tony Blair myself on behalf of Sinn Fein”.

Martin Mansergh this evening, who was part of the Irish Government’s negotiating team notes that:

“Albert Reynolds on the day he was elected leader of Fianna Fáil on 6 February 1992 made it clear at his first press conference that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 would have to be on the table along with Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. He also raised it forcefully at his first meeting with the British Prime Minister John Major, as recorded in his autobiography.”

This commitment ends up in the Frameworks Document agree by both Governments just three years later on 22 February 1995:

The British Government will discharge their responsibilities in a way which does not prejudice the freedom of the people of Northern Ireland to determine, by peaceful and democratic means, its future constitutional status, whether in remaining a part of the United Kingdom or in forming part of a united Ireland. They will be equally cognizant of either option and open to its democratic realisation, and will not impede the latter option, their primary interest being to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among the people who inhabit the island.

This new approach for Northern Ireland, based on the continuing willingness to accept the will of a majority of the people there, will be enshrined in British constitutional legislation embodying the principles and commitments in the Joint Declaration and this Framework Document, either by amendment of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 or by its replacement by appropriate new legislation, and appropriate new provisions entrenched by agreement.

Hmmm…. it’s not the first time Gerry’s memory’s failed him in interesting and creative ways

Still no answer on the NHS in a united Ireland, and no real answer to the fact that party is administering cuts in disability benefits in Northern Ireland but opposing them in the south. And on schools, he’s right to say the education minister has not cut schools. Nor will he be. The question of cutting schools has been put to the schools themselves, much as CEO puts out X number of offers of voluntary redundancies in order to downsize.

I was pleased to hear that Mr Adams did not contradict my assertion last week that business in OFMdFM was hampered by the fact that Martin McGuinness has to refer most of its democratic decisions to a collective leadership group of the party (outside the democratic institutions) before anything could be agreed inside the democratic institutions. Apparently, that’s not the reason OFMdFM have not got round to advertising a chair for the ILEX in six months.

He also says he’s up at Stormont every fortnight, and likes to get home to Belfast every weekend. [NHS good, HSE bad? – Ed]. Eh, no, he seemed not to want to say. There’s some interesting ideological stuff at the back, though reconciliation of green and orange seems little in evidence. And a testimony to the fact that he would “follow Martin McGuinness, and have often in the course of the conflict, to hell and back”.

Quite so Gerry. May be one day, eh?

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  • Interesting penultimate sentence. I have thought for quite some time that McGuinness was the real leader of SF but chose to allow Adams to take the credit.

  • HammerTime

    Always look on the bright side of life….!

  • socaire

    You have to try and get away from the gutter press mentality of the personality cult. Why shouldn’t important decisions be referred to a ‘higher power’? Do you think that the Tories or the washed out pinks don’t do it? This ‘taking credit’ is a very slippery road to go down.

  • Socaire,

    I assume you are referring to me. Perhaps you misunderstand me. I don’t have the least problem with a political group discussing an item and making a collective decision. Perhaps I should have said “limelight” rather than “credit”.

  • sherdy

    Mick, did you learn your trade from Frank Kitson?

  • Comrade Stalin

    There’s truth in both criticisms. Certainly no one else was asked such a personal question as ‘were you relieved’ at the death of Dolours Price

    That is a shameful and disgraceful question to ask of Adams or anyone else. Quite outrageous.

    There are other examples of failing memory in the interview. For example, Adams incorrectly suggests that David Ford has the power to release Marian Price. This is wrong; it is in fact a matter for the Parole Commissioners and the Secretary of State as delineated by the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 sections 6 and 7 respectively. In the Northern Ireland Act 2009, which devolved policing and justice powers, this legislation was not modified and hence the Secretary of State reserves the power of compassionate release. We went over all of this ground a year and a half ago during the campaign for the release of Brendan Lillis.

    You are right to point out that Adams’ recall is incorrect in claiming that there was no interest in repealing the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It was long standing Alliance Party policy, for a slightly different reason – ie that it granted the British government the authority to impose changes to the constitutional status without first consulting the people of NI. I’m fairly sure the unionists would have wanted to see the GoI act abolished too.

  • Mick Fealty


    There’s a perfectly proper concern about poor delivery, as highlighted by the Irish News last Monday.

    Martin McGuinness is a perfectly capable politician. On occasions he has shown tangible leadership. Yet we have the equivalent of the British Labour Party’s NEC checking all his work before he can even okay a job advert?

    It couldnt fly anywhere else.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick, what’s this collective leadership group and at what point do you reckon Martin was required to start consulting it over decisions ?

  • 6crealist


    I bet you he was a very relieved man. I thought McNulty’s interview as excellent. It’s a pity that the likes of Mallett, Mills etc. in the north don’t seem to have the stomach or ability to lay a glove on Sinn Féin reps.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I find that aggressive interviewing tactic calling. You wouldn’t hear it on the BBC.

  • Comrade Stalin

    “galling” I meant. Time for bed.

  • Henry94

    i remember John Hume being interviewed on RTE and the interviewer accused him of not answering the question. Hume replied that he knew exactly what he wanted to say in the interview and he wasn’t going to wait for the guy to ask the right question. I thought he was dead right. Adams is faced with the same boring agenda by every RTE interviewer trying to win the in-house prize for asking the most offensive question. I’m sure it’s interesting for them but I’m also sure that a lot of us would actually like to hear what Adams has to say beyond that agenda.

    By the way are we still taking the reaction on twitter as something worth considering? Maybe there is another six months in that but not much more.

  • David Crookes

    I don’t like the baigle myself, but loads of people get things wrong in interviews, and the point can come when an excess of dissection is actually unreasonable.

  • Mick Fealty

    With you up to a point Henry. That’s exactly what you’d expect from Alpha males like Hume and Adams.

    I liked some of the more far sighted stuff about trying to make Republican values relevant to the lives of ordinary citizens.

    But you also need some proof of what that means in terms of your actual record to get you through a sixteen minute interview.

    The party blocked water charges six years ago!

  • Alias

    It looks McGuinness needs to decide if continuing to act as a messenger boy for a committee is in the best interests of the people or NI or whether he should make executive decisions and duly dispense with the Adams ‘control freak’ nonsense. He is far more capable than Adams at practicing real politics.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alias (profile) 28 January 2013 at 3:16 am

    “It looks McGuinness needs to decide if continuing to act as a messenger boy for a committee ”

    I find this particular spin a bit funny. I do not see any sign that Mc Guinness is any way a messenger boy or under Adams control. As for the need to keep a party informed and moving together is something I would think makes perfect sense. I just wish the sdlp had been doing it when they was the main Nationalist party.

  • megatron

    Henry has it exactly right. Its a bit like sports interviews where the same question gets asked again and again – the difference being most sporting people dont want to give answers so its suits everyone involved.

    However, given the world we live in the time might be arriving where SF must see that a (for example) Pearse Doherty led party might get an additional 15 seats at the next GE which might make all the difference. It might be unfair that Gerry gets interviewed ridiculously but time to see the world as it is not how it should be.

  • BarneyT

    Hold on a minute! Think about this. If Gerry opts for the NHS, his enemies will tear him apart..even more. One would hopefully assume that he leans more towards a national health than the HSE model, but if he even hints at this, it will be translated by the sniggering journalistic classes as an endorsement of the NI links to Britain, rather than an aspiration for an all-Ireland national health service, which I would expect (hope).

    The reality is that we will have neither in the long term, however SF would surely see this and other matters as something which is to be “self determined” and that the health system disparity is a victim of partition and should be afforded reunification as part of the solution rather than an impediment?

    Many of the economic arguments against a united Ireland are valid, but they, along with the NHS\HSE question are short term.

    Look at it this way. Politically most northerners lie to the right of centre in terms of their politics. Surely some form of privately funded health insurance based approach is sadly going to appeal?

    Failing that, any party that proposes an NHS model will have 1.8 million voters straight away will they not?

    Finally, if a party like SF operate on both sides of the border, conduct themselves as an all-Ireland party (contesting seats in two jurisdictions that they hope to merge), would it not make sense for Martin to toe the party line and refer matters to a higher authority for all-Ireland strategic purposes….or perhaps Martin should be allowed to branch from the idealogical trunk to undergo repatriation at a suitable point in the future? Dont think so.

    It’s the DUPs job to make something out of this, however perhaps they are staying out of it as they see it as entirely consistent with SF ambitions?

  • I’ve never been tempted to read any of Gerry Adams’ books as I don’t believe on principle in reading fiction written by someone who isn’t a novelist. Novelists, with the possible exception of science fiction authors, at least attempt to make their inventions credible.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    The negative spin in every question put by the interviewer was noticeable.

    Even turning the increase in Sinn Fein’s popularity by 5% in a recent opinion poll into a negative.

    It was also inappropriate to ask, before the funeral of Delours Price took place, if Gerry was relieved by her passing.

  • Henry94

    Inappropriate certainly but the kind of thing that passes for tough interviewing in the RTE bubble. Sinn Fein should have a long memory when it comes to RTE. A cut to the licence fee would be a popular move.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Sinn Fein should have a long memory when it comes to RTE. A cut to the licence fee would be a popular move.

    And entirely consistent with their transformation into the new Fiana Fail.

  • Mick Fealty

    Worth sharing this from P O’Neill, who says that the 1920 Act barely had any force by the time 1998 came around and was little more than fig leaf for the changing of Articles 2 and 3.

    In other words not only is Gerry blowing mythical smoke, so’s Dr Mansergh: