On Twitter last night the jury was split over Gerry Adams’ performance in a Prime Time interview with Miriam O’Callaghan. It wasn’t an elegant affair by any means. But then again, nor was the subject.
No matter how well he handled it, it was always going to go badly with potential future voters and even activists to have Mr Adams interrogated for a twenty minutes on the legacy murders committed by the IRA in the Republic.
That ought have been anticipated in advance. What might not have been anticipated is just how profoundly the rules of engagement have now changed with SF in the Republic.
O’Callaghan refused to take the absence of convictions or a court standard evidential trail as a necessary pretext for assuming that he was in fact a senior figure in the IRA when all of these things were going on. The fact that something is widely believed by a variety of authoritative sources (including victim’s families) is now enough to ask pointed questions.
Apart from the chilling effect on southern viewers/voters, Mr Adams precision in answering questions by not answering them (Unspeak, as Stephen Poole calls it) deserted him at times. There was this particularly telling misspeak when he noted that “I have already denied my role in the IRA…”
There were several pretexts for the programme. The recent generic and ad hoc apology in the Dail by Mr Adams; and the possible release of damaging accounts of Mr Adams actual IRA activities from the archives of Boston. There are several other pieces of unfinished business that continue to enlarge the shadow of the past that is inconvenient for all players in past conflict.
This question of Gerry Adams’ involvement, or otherwise, in past murders is not going to go away. Particularly when he himself has been so prominent in calling for the truth from state actors to the northern conflict.
Some on Twitter have argued that Adams’ story is not his to tell. Well, that may be. But whilst he is attempting to call the southern government to account for its more contemporary actions the issue of Mr Adams’ record remains a matter of critical concern.
Critically, and this may not be fully understood by some commentators in Northern Ireland, Gerry’s generic involvement in the armed campaign does not come priced in in the way that it does with us. We lived with the shocking detail of the campaign both as it unfolded and in the aftermath. Southerners are not so inured.
It will not have escaped the notice of some that the Catholic Church tried to evade questions of individual responsibility for years, and got away with it. That did not turn out at all well. Nor, I suspect, will this.
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