Gerry Adams on David Frost who came at his guests “as if it were a summer’s day…”

Gerry Adams has taken a little time out on the occasion of the passing of David Frost to share his further thoughts on what constitutes good journalism

I was interviewed by David many times. He was always courteous, good humoured, well researched and keenly interested in Ireland and the peace process. There was always a depth to his interviews that is frequently missing in others.

David’s style of interview was unique and effective. He once explained to me that there are two types of interview. One in which the interviewer attacks like a blizzard, a storm, and the response of the guest is to button up, put on the big overcoat and go into protective mode. The other is to come at the guest like a sunny day. This encourages the guest to take off their jacket and relax. In this way you get the more informed and interesting interview. Consequently he was the master of the great interview.

A sunny day is pushing it a bit, but it’s long been my own contention that the slow ball interview is by far the more effective… Not unlike Gerry’s civil interrogation by Marian Finucane earlier in the year…

At the end of the day style matters less than the honesty of the engagement (and the issue of partial disclosure), either way… Here’s another slow ball from the late Dr Anthony Clare, who I fear fares less well than Finucane…

Here’s a recent example of a Frost/Adams interview from 2011 on Al Jazeera (“Peace isn’t always about the absence of conflict…”)

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  • gendjinn

    It’s so unfair that bastard Adams won’t indict himself out of his own mouth so he can be imprisoned for a couple of years.

    Mick, you’ve only beaten that drum a couple of hundred times already. Perhaps on the death of one of the preeminant interviewers of our time you could let your hobby horse go unridden and focus on the event at hand.

    Comparing Marian Finucane to David Frost is an absolute and categorical insult. Next up Seamus Heaney and Pat Ingolsby.

  • FDM


    Congratulations once again to the OP.

    A marvellous opportunity to turn the passing of David Frost into an attack on Gerry Adams.

    Jesus skipped the metaphor and literally wept.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry guys, but I was intrigued by Gerry’s analysis of what constitutes good media and bad media… Couldn’t let such a clear dig at the Irish media pass without comment…

  • derrydave

    Mick, are you even conscious of what you keep doing ? It seems very obvious to everyone else.

  • babyface finlayson

    Shock News
    Blogger blogs on subject which interests him!
    Mick I think Walden used to take a similar approach, more conversational than confrontational.
    Less showy than Paxman but maybe more effective.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dave, my ‘working out’ is already in the post.

    What I’ve laid out above is a fair and balanced view of an issue Gerry himself raises.

    And the matter has little to do with the memory of David Frost. It’s a clear dig at Miriam (less so Marian, since she is decent and Walden like the whole way through), whom the party has really struggled to put manners on in the past.

    In fact what Adams praises in Frost measures in fairly closely with my own view of how interviews should be done (check out the date on the ‘long contention’ link), and how I generally conduct them (when given the chance).

    But in my view, when a politician makes contentious remarks, those remarks should be measured up precisely rather than just conveniently (or for a decency already spurned) ignored.


    Walden had both the luxury of time, and a very talented research team. Interestingly John Birt was the producer on both the Nixon interviews, and Weekend World.

    What made the Nixon interviews compelling was the time, the research and the gradual build up of trust/tension.

    Few modern interviewers have the time and the space to push an interlocutor to such a highly charged confession. But it also helped that Nixon’s political bolt was already shot.

    Here’s a snippet of Nixon, and then Burt talking about the process in the Nixon interview ( Worthy of note is the point at which Nixon’s team stops the tape and intervenes with him:

    “‘You have to ‘fess up, this is your moment’. America then turned the page. What he said was considered enough”.

  • cynic2

    “came at his guests “as if it were a summer’s day…”

    …. better than with a blast incendiary then”

  • FDM

    Perhaps slugger might consider a name change to “The Virtual Pillory”?

  • Mick Fealty

    Come on FDM, what on earth is wrong with the piece?

  • FDM

    “Stone sir?”

    “No they got the lot there lyin’ around on the ground”

    “Oh not like these sir. Look at this… Feel the quality of that, thats craftmanship sir!”

    Certainly always well crafted the stones Mick, no doubt quality workmanship, but it is still an invitation to the virtual stoning of a local boy.

    “And so as a blasphemer…”

  • Morpheus

    This reminds me of Uncle Albert in Only fools and Horses with his “duwing the woah” speeches. Uncle Albert too had the ability to turn any situation around to talk about what he wanted to talk about and he did it so often it came with a groan even when he had something valid to say.

  • Mick Fealty

    To which: 😉

  • SDLP supporter

    Adams would have liked Frost’s interviewing technique because Frost wouldn’t have been well briefed on the nuances of the situation. Even Marian Finucane’s interview, through sharper, let some things past like Adams saying “there wouldn’t have been a family that wouldn’t have had someone in prison”.

    Complete, total and utter bollocks from Adams, even in a West Belfast context.

    Reminds me of a few years ago when Caitriona Ruane, wearing her Columbia Three campaigner hat, claimed in an interview with Pat Kenny that “a lot of people had second passports in another name”. Kenny, because he was well briefed and knew the situation, skewered her instantly and pointed out that he knew no-one who had a second passport.

    People like Adams, would always have preferred to be interviewed by so-called London Big Beasts like Frost and Paxman, who are only dipping into the situation, rather than a Seamus McKee or Noel Thompson who know the situation on the ground.

  • FDM

    I remember the last controversial interview with members of the SDLP when they were asked difficult questions under pressure.

    Careful now.

  • son of sam

    Of course it’s all about Gerry.Look forward to further contributions——“My role in Seamus Heaneys poetry” and ” David Jacobs and me— the unknown story”!

  • “It’s so unfair that bastard Adams won’t indict himself out of his own mouth so he can be imprisoned for a couple of years.”


    At about 11:30 into the Frost interview he makes this point rather quickly basically saying that he will tell the truth once there will no longer be legal consequences for doing so.


    The real trick when dealing with someone like Adams whose followers consider whatever lies he tells to be of no consequence, is for a local reporter to forensically examine his statements for contradictions. A Western reporter proved that Yasir Arafat was born in Cairo, rather than in Jerusalem or Gaza as he variously claimed by simply going to the Cairo records office and asking for Arafat’s birth certificate under his real name in the al-Husseini clan. Jim Cusack or Brian Rowan did a similar thing by comparing the Brownie letters from Cage 11, in which Brownie admits that he is an IRA member, with Adams’s personal details to highlight a number of amazing “coincidences” between Brownie and Adams.

    But British or Irish interviewers from London or Dublin cannot do this because they lack the in-depth knowledge that someone who is the security correspondent or political correspondent or Northern/Irish editor of one of the quality outlets would have. Someone like the above-mentioned correspondents or Ken Reid, or Henry McDonald, or David McKittrick.

  • Kevsterino

    As long as the IRA is listed as a proscribed organisation, Gerry Adams will not admit to ever belonging to the IRA.

    In my opinion, that is the crux of the matter.

  • SDLP supporter

    Kevsterino, you are possibly right. The extension of that argument is that he has denied it for so long that if he did a reverse ferret after all these years he would be making a complete tit of himself, even to his dumbest supporters.

    I recollect that he also once said he had legal advice from the late Paddy McGrory that he couldn’t sue because he had no reputation to lose.

    Anyway, a lot of people think the guy lies as easily as breathing. Two other examples:

    -he ‘thanked God’ he was in jail when Jean McConville was disappeared; he wasn’t;

    -Slugger has several times covered the story of Gerry and the volunteers lying battered and bruised in the Long Kesh cages after the screws beat the crap out of them and a small voice starting up somewhere singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life…” until it built up to a mighty tear-jerker to rival ‘Va, pensiero’, aka The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco.

    Problem was, it didn’t happen. ‘Life of Brian’ only came out after Gerry was released.

  • Kevsterino

    I remember reading in one of his books that some things could only be explained after the struggle was over and the risk of arrest had passed.

    I know a great deal was made about the ‘Life of Brian’ reference before the movie was produced. And being in jail when McConville was abducted/murdered. Both gaffes, to be sure. I would think he would have at least looked up the dates involved to avoid being caught out in a lie. Totally careless from a normally careful man.

    But to point out that an underground political leader lies has all the probity of “Texas has a whore house in it”

  • gendjinn



    Everybody knows the score. No one is unaware of the facts of the situation.

    So the question becomes, what is the value in raising the issue again and again and again? What objective is serviced with this approach? What agenda is advanced with this? It’s certainly not informing the public.

  • “What objective is serviced with this approach? What agenda is advanced with this? It’s certainly not informing the public.”


    As long as Adams remains a senior figure in Sinn Fein, unionists will never believe any promises or reassurances about their future from a party led a man who lies about his most basic biographical details. The fact that he still remains a senior figure shows how seriously SF takes its outreach mission to unionists.

  • FDM

    tmitch57 4 September 2013 at 5:22 am

    “As long as Adams remains a senior figure in Sinn Fein, unionists will never believe any promises or reassurances about their future from a party…”

    However it hasn’t been SF reneging on deals lately has it? Step forward the DUP and UUP on the Maze. The UUP were signed up to the deal when they were the lead party. U-turn. The DUP were signed up to it up until the letter-bomb from America a few weeks ago. Not a shred of integrity in “mainstream” unionism by their own actions.

    “The fact that he still remains a senior figure shows how seriously SF takes its outreach mission to unionists.”

    This is one of the big lies unionists tell. The semantics are this. If Sinn Fein wasn’t led by decommissioned IRA types and ex-prisoners then we would be able to work with them. Sinn Fein has many “clean skin” elected representatives who have no links to the troubles. If they led the party would it make any difference? Would it bollox. Why? Watch unionists role out “did you support the armed campaign” questions going on for 20 years after the war is over. You know the first one-sided war in history with the one combatant force, namely the IRA. The war where the good ole Britisher types never set a foot wrong, murdered no-one, covered-up nothing and were proper “legal” forces [using their own law of course] standing stiff-upper-Dunkirk-spirited-lipped against the traitorous rebelloius onslaught of the Irish terrorists.

    Unionists see NO difference between any type of republican/nationalist. Many people in the PUL community make no differentiation between Catholic/Irish/Irish Nationalist/Republican.

    Would their hostility to Sinn Fein ease if they were led and front bench staffed by “clean skins”? Would it bollox. Hence the complete childish vindictiveness of the constant attacks on Adams, MMcG, G Kelly etc… on this site. It serves no purpose other than to pillory said individuals so that those involved can vent their spleen and invective in this non-man-playing environment.

    Grow up and it is 2013 by the way.

  • Neil

    Would their hostility to Sinn Fein ease if they were led and front bench staffed by “clean skins”?

    For example:

    Ruth Patterson’s behaviour; an embarrassment to us all.
    No matter her reason or excuse, there is no justification for the behaviour of the DUP councillor Ruth Patterson.

    Patterson was elected Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast last night and was offered congratulations by the newly elected Lord Mayor, Niall Ó Donnghaile of Sinn Fein. Patterson ignored the Lord Mayor refusing to acknowledge his gracious gesture.

    The basis of this insult (for that is what it is) appears to be that Niall is from Sinn Fein. Patterson has form for being disrespectful – in the past she has made a show of coughing loudly when Irish is spoken in the chamber.

    The DUP have, inexplicably, decided to defend her. It’s inexplicable because her party are fully in bed with Sinn Fein in govt. What they should be doing is reprimanding her for displaying such appalling behaviour.

    Niall would have been ten years old at the time of the IRA ceasefire.

  • FDM

    Neil 4 September 2013 at 10:09 am

    Niall would have been ten years old at the time of the IRA ceasefire.

    Ruth knows he was intelligence gathering for Fisher Price at the time.

  • Clanky

    WOW, a thread on slugger about journalistic style turning into SF / DUP whataboutery, quel surprise.

    At the risk of dragging things remotely back on topic, there is surely a place for both styles of journalism, as much as I agree with Gerry (or I suppose more accurately with David Frost as quoted by Gerry) that a non-confrontational interview can get closer to the heart of a matter than Paxman’s apparent need to get close to physical violence with his interviewees, I think that this has to be balanced by a willingness to confront obvious lies and spin.

    As has been pointed out above only a knowledge of the facts, either through research or preferably through a genuine, unbiased knowledge of the situation can really expose lies during an interview, and while lies being exposed after the fact show the interviewee for what he / she is, they don’t get any closer to the truth.

    Unfortunately too much television journalism today is about simply creating controversy and confrontation for the sake of it, rather than an attempt to inform viewers.

    Paxman’s interviews in particular are more about Paxman than they are about either the interviewee or the topics at hand. Sadly many watch the interviews more for the enjoyment of seeing politicians squirm than to find out any kind of truth, when the news is treated by broadcasters as entertainment then like war, the first casualty is truth.

  • Reader

    gendjinn: So the question becomes, what is the value in raising the issue again and again and again? What objective is serviced with this approach? What agenda is advanced with this? It’s certainly not informing the public.
    I think you’re too optimistic. While you and I will have our views about what Gerry may have done during the troubles, there are new generations coming along all the time who will think he just an old guy with a beard. His past is still relevant while he is still looking for votes.
    Just as you wouldn’t rely on the UUP to tell the whole truth about their past, it is important not to let SF have a free run with their story either.
    Until there is an agreed narrative (any predictions?) everyone is just going to have to get used to being part of a contested narrative.

  • FDM

    Clanky 4 September 2013 at 10:27 am

    WOW, a thread on slugger about journalistic style turning into SF / DUP whataboutery, quel surprise.

    WOW a “thread on slugger” which had been dressed up to look like it was “about journalistic style” but was actually just a poorly veiled attempt to provide a platform to pillory the leader of Sinn Fein.

    There fixed it for you Clanky.

    The reason above is why so few took to engage with the topic, stoning fatigue?

  • Clanky

    So what exactly does that have to do with Roof then?

  • Mick Fealty


    Who pray tell, keeps raising the issue of the past over and over again?


    Paxman, O’Callaghan et al all act under the constraint of time, which I think adds to the pressure and urgency of the moment. It’s a condition of their work lives.

    Look at the case of the bogus tweet, for how a politician can get destroyed when one false fact is thrown at him without the least opportunity to prepare.

    I didn’t hear anyone from SF bemoaning the lack of Pat Kenny’s lack of sunny disposition at the time… 🙂

  • Clanky

    How exactly are they more constrained by time than other interviewers other than by the way that they schedule their interviews?

    As I said above, there is a place for confrontational interviews where someone is obviously trying to twist the truth, but when interviewees are permanently on the defensive against being caught out in some minor contradiction then all you will get is spin from them.

    We complain when politicians try to gloss over the truth and wriggle out of awkward questions, but when they are treated like hostile witnesses or like the defendant in a court room in front of a National TV audience then they will be permanently on the defensive.

  • Kevsterino

    I hate it when Marian interrupts each and every answer for such a prolonged period. It’s one thing to call bullshit on an interviewee, but if you never let them complete their response, how can you tell?

  • Clanky

    Exactly Kevsterino