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?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty