26/11/2013 Spotlight


26/11/2013

Gerry Adams has led Sinn Fein to political triumph. In the wake of recent controversies, Jennifer O'Leary assesses whether or not Adams is still a help to the party.


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Gerry Adams. The man who led the IRA into the peace process. Love him or

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loathe him, his impact and influence have been enormous. But is Gerry

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Adams' political future a hostage to his past? The Sinn Fein leader is

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suffering a crisis of credibility after a wave of negative publicity.

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Most notably in a television programme about the Disappeared.

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Did you know Kevin McKee? A young lad in Ballymurphy. Not that I can

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recall. But I may have. But I can't recall He did know Kevin McKee. I

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was with Kevin when he spoke to Kevin. He's either lying, or has a

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selective memory. Is Gerry Adams' past catching up

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with him? I accept I was a war maker as an IRA man. I went through my

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life believing we were led by two men called Gerry and Martin, then

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finding out Gerry was never a member of the IRA. Me and my generation are

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the silliest people in the world for believing this. The assault on Gerry

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Adams' credibility comes just as his political career should be reaching

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its peak. Sinn Fein is within reach of one of its stepping stones to a

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united Ireland, holding power on both sides of the border. Gerry

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Adams led his party to this point in spite of his past. But with Sinn

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Fein dipping in the South's opinion polls, the party has to wrestle with

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a crucial leadership question. Should he stay or should he go?

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He is quite a popular leader. But his political career is over. I'm

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satisfied that there's a campaign to remove Gerry Adams as the leader of

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republicanism in Ireland. And I am telling you that is not going to

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happen. Tonight on Spotlight, we ask if

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Gerry Adams is still Sinn Fein's greatest asset or in danger of

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becoming his liability?

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Gerry Adams' political career began here. The people of West Belfast

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know him best. This is where he grew up, repeatedly led the local unit of

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the Provisional IRA, and eventually became a popular MP. Do you think

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your generation is more political than your parents'? And this is the

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generation raised under his watch, all born after the cease-fire, these

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students on the cusp of voting age, Sinn Fein's newest target audience.

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Was a good leader for Sinn Fein, giving a voice to Catholics in West

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Belfast when we did not have one. Even without being interested in

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politics, you knew who Gerry Adams was, he has tried to lead Sinn Fein

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to be more progressive. He is one of the reasons we have peace in the

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North, we have a lot to thank him for. You are using the past tense

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when talking about Gerry Adams. Is that how you see him? There is time

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for a change. Some leaders are dealing with the past, not what is

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happening now. I think he has overstayed in Sinn Fein. People

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forget to easy. He is trying to spread out Sinn Fein and show it is

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not just for North Island, but throughout Ireland. -- North

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Ireland. In terms of whether he should step down, you kind of has an

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away. That passed at the very centre of

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conflict has emanated Gerry Adams' life. Decades, he has embodied the

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republican movement's revolution, emerging as a figure justifying the

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IRA's campaign of violence. The British normally invade every

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country when it is in their interest to do so. - normally leave every

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country. We make it in their interest to do so. And he helped

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make it a place in the mainstream. His place in history will be pretty

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eminent. He brought republicanism out of the state of conflict into

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politics. That was an incredible achievement, given the ferocity of

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the conflict. He succeeded in an incredible political manoeuvre.

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Whatever you think of the man, the political skills in getting Sinn

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Fein and the IRA to where they are now of the highest order. The path

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to power has been laced with personal triumphs, from Sinn Fein's

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earliest electoral breakthroughs, to a place on the international stage.

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I do not think there would be a peace process without Gerry Adams,

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he is the single most important figure. He took a major political

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gamble two years ago. Leaving one of Westminster's safest seats in West

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Belfast to enter southern politics. He hit the jackpot, topping the poll

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in Louth. At the same time, Sinn Fein rows with him, rocketing to its

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best results in a modern Irish election. This is his new home, the

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constituency of Louth, and in the border town of Dundalk, Gerry Adams

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is a largely popular local politician. How do you rate Gerry

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Adams? First-class, excellent, man for the

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people. Has done a lot for the town, no complaints at all, a great

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supporter. Would you vote for Sinn Fein? Yes, more so than Fianna Fail

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or anything. Would you be a Sinn Fein supporter? Definitely not. Why?

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Well, the record is there, isn't it? It will take them a long

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Well, the record is there, isn't it? themselves of the record that we

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have had. But what is Gerry Adams' own record? For decades, he has been

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denying IRA membership. The situation of my membership of the

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IRA is I am not a member, that is the fact of the situation. Are you

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now or have you ever been a member of the IRA? No. I was not and I am

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not a member. I can explain why he denied it at the beginning. He could

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be prosecuted once he said so. But why does he continue to deny? Once

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he was in that situation, it was difficult to change his mind. To see

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he was actually in the IRA. Now it has got to the point of ridicule. It

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is the height of absurdity would you can produce the minutes of two

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meetings in 1972 that the British had with the IRA and who were the

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two representatives, Daihi O'Connell and Gerry Adams? Unless Gerry Adams

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was making the tea of representing St Vincent de Paul or something!

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Even some who were in the IRA found Gerry Adams' denial is hard to take.

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These days, Gerard Hodgins is a critic of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein,

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but used to be a member of the IRA and a Sinn Fein activist and says he

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was part of Gerry Adams' election team in 1987. Our brief was to get

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him re-elected in the Westminster election for June 1987. We had

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briefing paper on which it was suggested that it would be best to

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put the whole issue of IRA membership to bed once and for all

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by acknowledging past membership or association and then it would become

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a dead issue. Gerry said no, and the issue has become bigger and bigger

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for him as the years go on. Very interesting, because I was electoral

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director until it was shut halfway through the campaign and I saw no

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papers for Gerry Adams and I worked with all of his election since 1982,

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and at no time was there a discussion in Sinn Fein as to

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whether Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA. I went through my life

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believing that we were fighting for the Republic and were being led by

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two people called Gerry and Marton, then finding out

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two people called Gerry and Marton, never a member, that Martin left in

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1974, around when I joined. So me and my generation are really the

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silliest people in the world for believing this, for them not being

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honest with themselves. It does not matter to me whether Gerry Adams was

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in the IRA. I live within the Republican world, and served the

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Republicans every day, and people are not queueing up to as me if he

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was in the IRA or not. In a statement, Gerry Adams said he has

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made his position on membership of the IRA many times, but questions

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around his credibility were crystallised in a documentary on the

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Disappeared, people killed and secretly buried by Republicans.

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Gerry Adams played a crucial role in recovering some of the missing

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bodies, but he allegedly ordered one of the killings, according to the

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late Brendan Hughes, a former close friend and IRA commander who came to

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consider Gerry Adams actuator. This woman was taken away. -- consider

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Gerry Adams actuator. -- traitor. It was Jean McConville, and only one

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man could order the killing, and that was the head of Sinn Fein. Did

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you give the order for the killing of Jean McConville? No, I had no

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part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean

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McConville, or indeed any of the other individuals and Brendan is

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telling lies. But for some, Gerry Adams' remarks raised more

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questions, like Marie McKee, taking part in the joint BBC and RTE

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documentary, watching it in her West Belfast home, her brother Kevin's

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body never being found. Did you know Kevin McKee? Did I know him? I

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cannot say I know him. Person to person. But I know his family. I

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know his siblings. Did you know him as a young lad in Ballymurphy? Not

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that I recall, I may have. Kevin McKee's mother was looking for him,

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entire families looking for him. Bear with me, do you not live in the

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real world? People go off, people disappeared, people have reported

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having seen such and such a person. What do you think of that? What does

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he mean, people disappear? People do not just disappear, someone other

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takes a personal way or the person goes away. That is a manifest lie

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that he did not know Kevin McKee, he did know Kevin McKee, I was with

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Kevin McKee when he spoke to Kevin, I have been asking for 40 years, we

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have is my brother? And if anybody is in a position to find him, it

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will be him. He is the only one that can go to people, that move who was

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there, even if able are dead, someone knows something. And he is

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telling lies! The whole lot is a crock and he knows it. Gerry Adams

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was lying in this programme? Yesterday is either lying or he has

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a selective memory and I think he is lying.

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He says he has gone to people and he is helping.

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No, he is not. He could find my brother. I know he could. He could

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ask questions and find out. Did he walk to his death? Did he look

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around? Did he say anything? Did he ask for money? Did he ask for me? I

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would love to know more. I would love to know where my brother is and

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bring him up and bury him and then there? That would be the end of

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that. Tonight Gerry Adams said he did not lie and has no memory of an

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encounter with Kevin McKee. He told us he regrets the injustice

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done to the family and refute any suggestion Republicans are not doing

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their best to retrieve the remains of all those killed and secretly

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buried. Marie McKee comes from the same streets as Gerry Adams. What

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resonates about reactions to all the stories of the Disappeared is that

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they attract criticism from Republican voices.

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They Disappeared under the single biggest, darkest part of the

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Troubles, really. It is the denial, the dishonesty and not knowing what

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happened that people are finding difficult to deal with.

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People rationalise in food waste but he has a credibility problem and the

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party has a credibility problem another segment of the electorate

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out there within nationalism, which is stifled Sinn Fein's growth. They

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have plateaued in the north and in terms of growing chimp a's -- Sinn

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Fein's appeal will have to wait for new leadership.

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The damage to his reputation is not confined to disputes in the

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Troubles. He is accused of rewriting personal history to protect his

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political career. In October this year, his brother Liam was found

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guilty of raping and sexually assaulting his daughter, Aine. It

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was a tragic family story and a terrible crime committed by Gerry

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Adams brother. From the very beginning I believed

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Aine. I couldn't From the very beginning I believed

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are making up a serious allegation. It was a testing time for Gerry

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Adams not just because a sensitive family issue was aired in public.

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Gerry Adams came here in April for his brother's first trial not to

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offer his support but to testify as a witness for the prosecution.

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According to Gerry Adams, his brother had confessed to one

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incident of sexual abuse more than a decade before the trial. Gerry Adams

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was criticised for not reporting it as soon as he found out and only

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coming forward years later. On the one hand, there is human

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simply because most people would say, this is a horrible thing to

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happen in your family. I don't think anybody is wanting to hunt Gerry

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Adams over that issue. anybody is wanting to hunt Gerry

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hand, Sinn Fein is vulnerable over hypocrisy and everyone remembers

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Sinn Fein coming out and demanding that Bishop after Bishop should

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resign for the same reason, that they knew about child abuse and

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didn't do anything about it. There is damage done in relation to that.

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Republicans relationship with the police was not what you would call

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cordial. Shortly after Sinn Fein fated to accept the new PSNI, that

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is when he went to the police. And a cross examination by his brother's

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barrister, Gerry Adams was accused of testifying to save his political

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skin, an accusation he denied. His credibility was tested in the

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witness box. Gerry Adams came under particular pressure over the extent

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of the contact he had had with his brother after learning of the abuse.

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Gerry Adams claimed that Liam was largely out of his life.

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I saw him occasionally during that time, maybe a period of 15 years,

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when I learned that he was a member of Sinn Fein, and I'm got him dumped

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out. During the trial he was confronted

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with evidence that his brother had been more than an occasional

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presence in his life. Photos of them together, one of his memoirs in

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which he thanked Liam Adams and a signed copy of this speech that he

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presented to his brother. I didn't read the transcript. I have

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read that it was attended but he was in court against his own brother and

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that has to count for something. People have got to understand

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that has to count for something. a very difficult thing to go into

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court and Daniel own brother -- and deny your own brother.

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How much has Gerry Adams reputation really suffered? Earlier this month,

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days after the allegations about your McConville were broadcast, he

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flew to New York for dinner at this hotel. If an annual event, helping

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to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the party.

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Gerry Adams was received very well in New York. He is the best-known

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Irish politician in America because of his work on the peace process.

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Niall O'Dowd has no Gerry Adams since the early 1980s.

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The thing I would say about Gerry Adams is he is a man of his word. He

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was determined to Adams is he is a man of his word. He

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peaceful resolution to the issues in Ireland and he did those things.

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Peace has been achieved in Northern Ireland and we need to build for the

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future. There is not much point dragging out the past on any site.

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But this is where Gerry Adams image matters most these days, in the

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Republic. Irish Times cartoonist Gerry Turner has been drawing Gerry

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Adams for many decades, just one of the many windows through the Irish

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topic have viewed him. -- Irish public.

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When I first drew him, I did it like this and I never thought about it, I

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just did it. Is your own persistent denial of

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being a member of the IRA... He may not give about much but Gerry Adams

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strategic thinking and image have played a huge part in building the

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IRA in the South. In opinion polls he has consistently

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been more popular than his party. His entry into southern politics two

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years ago helped lift Sinn Fein. They now have an opportunity to play

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out the long game and become the Republic's third biggest party and

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possibly junior partners for a coalition government. That would

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make the Sinn Fein leader the second most powerful figure in the Irish

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cabinet. Sinn Fein have been working for

:20:31.:20:34.

years to get to this stage where they are administered in the

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government, North and South. They will deny that and they will deny

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they are even thinking of having a coalition with horrible right-wing

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parties but they would go into coalition with old neck

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could get into government. -- old neck. Gerry Adams has had to

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tackle issues from the Republican past and in getting to grips with

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the past, he has had to make public messages in an attempt to

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disentangle his leadership and party from the past. Brian Stack was the

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only prison officer killed in the Republic during the Troubles. Father

:21:12.:21:16.

of three was shot and left paralysed and brain-damaged before dying from

:21:17.:21:22.

his injuries. After 30 years of denials, Gerry Adams intervened and

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was able to tell Brian Stack's family that the IRA had carried out

:21:28.:21:35.

the killing. I can sleep now. I am not tossing and turning in bed any

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more, wondering did they or didn't they? Even though I knew

:21:38.:21:44.

more, wondering did they or didn't then. A huge sense of relief and it

:21:45.:21:47.

wouldn't have happened if Gerry Adams hadn't agreed to meet us and

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agreed to go and get some information for us. It just wouldn't

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have happened otherwise. He probably feels his political career is in its

:21:58.:22:00.

last stages and I get a sense he wants to help victims. He wants to

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write a few wrongs before he moves off the stage.

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There is no question Gerry Adams has been willing to tackle episodes from

:22:11.:22:18.

the past of the IRA but critics say, he is more likely to get involved

:22:19.:22:21.

when those episodes posed a physical problem for Sinn Fein. The challenge

:22:22.:22:26.

for him now is that his past makes success in the South even more

:22:27.:22:32.

difficult. There is no doubt that Gerry Adams box office in West

:22:33.:22:42.

Belfast and in Louth. He has struggled in Leinster house when he

:22:43.:22:45.

is making perfectly valid points about the austerity measures but it

:22:46.:22:53.

is too easy for them to say, never mind that, tell us about the

:22:54.:22:58.

Disappeared. Perhaps you might someday tell the

:22:59.:23:02.

truth about the tragedy and about the remorse and about the compassion

:23:03.:23:06.

that should have been shown to Jean McConville.

:23:07.:23:10.

The other concern about the recent revelations that Sinn Fein will have

:23:11.:23:15.

is it was a reminder of the conflict and the conflict is a turn-off for

:23:16.:23:19.

the vast majority of people in the South. That diminishes with time but

:23:20.:23:25.

it is a negative for a large number of voters and being

:23:26.:23:28.

it is a negative for a large number is not helpful for Gerry Adams.

:23:29.:23:33.

I think you get in the way of Sinn Fein, to be honest with you, and the

:23:34.:23:37.

Republic. The politics are interesting but when you see Gerry

:23:38.:23:41.

Adams, things come into your mind and it is nothing to do with Sinn

:23:42.:23:44.

Fein. Sinn Fein has fallen slightly in

:23:45.:23:48.

opinion polls since the Disappeared was broadcast but some say the real

:23:49.:23:53.

damage is to their potential for growth.

:23:54.:23:58.

Recent indicators would tend to suggest there has been some damage

:23:59.:24:03.

to the brunt of Adams and not his own supporters but those supporters

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that he would hope to gain over the coming years.

:24:07.:24:09.

Like here in the County Kildare town which classed select did a Sinn Fein

:24:10.:24:16.

TD in the 1920s, but the vote in this town within the Dublin commuter

:24:17.:24:21.

belt is growing. Would you vote for Sinn Fein? Of course I would.

:24:22.:24:27.

No problem. No problem. There is so much frustration here

:24:28.:24:30.

the present government and all the cutbacks we've had that the anger is

:24:31.:24:35.

going to come out in the next election and I think they are going

:24:36.:24:42.

to be net winners because they are just sitting on their hands. There

:24:43.:24:48.

is all the stuff in the news at the moment, bodies and his brother,

:24:49.:24:53.

obviously, all of this will have a big impact.

:24:54.:24:57.

Would you have more time for the party if they changed the

:24:58.:24:59.

leadership? It might mean more credible if they

:25:00.:25:06.

had a different face that was not so attached to the past. Sinn Fein's

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future fortunes lie in the Republic, which may be why Gerry Adams has

:25:13.:25:14.

predicted the next president of Sinn Fein will come from the South.

:25:15.:25:21.

I think there is a geographical but also a generational move within the

:25:22.:25:28.

party. If you look at the next generation of leadership, they are

:25:29.:25:35.

creatures of southern politics and I think if you look at the party

:25:36.:25:42.

development over a longer term, it's real interest is in wielding power

:25:43.:25:48.

in the South. The North, for the foreseeable future, will remain, I

:25:49.:25:52.

think, recognisably what it is today.

:25:53.:25:57.

We are now getting to a stage in Sinn Fein where there has to be a

:25:58.:26:00.

generational change and the older card will disappear. The people

:26:01.:26:04.

involved in the IRA are of an age where they are going to retire so

:26:05.:26:08.

there will be a huge symbolic change and closing the door on the past.

:26:09.:26:14.

Dublin on Sunday. A state ceremony to mark the centenary of the funding

:26:15.:26:22.

of the Irish volunteers. The precursor of the IRA and a

:26:23.:26:26.

forerunner of the current Irish army. A ceremony attended by leading

:26:27.:26:31.

politicians from the Republic and some from Northern Ireland. This

:26:32.:26:37.

ceremony was a preview of the Republic's plans to mark the

:26:38.:26:40.

centenary of the Eastern rising in 2016. The question is whether Gerry

:26:41.:26:49.

Adams will watch that landmark commemoration as Sinn Fein leader or

:26:50.:26:51.

as someone standing on the sidelines.

:26:52.:26:55.

His reputation has been damaged his own handling of his personal

:26:56.:27:04.

situation. His good ability has been damaged and in politics, if you lose

:27:05.:27:08.

your credibility and you are seeing as someone who has not been truthful

:27:09.:27:14.

at all times, you do lose support. He won't go right now because that

:27:15.:27:18.

will appear to be a media campaign to get rid of him and it will look

:27:19.:27:23.

like the media pushed him out. He can't let himself be pushed around

:27:24.:27:29.

like that. But if he is solely concerned with endgame, he ought to

:27:30.:27:37.

be looking for a successor right now and he ought to be preparing to

:27:38.:27:41.

vacate the stage before the next general election.

:27:42.:27:47.

Commentators will talk about Gerry Adams credibility and he remains

:27:48.:27:49.

high in the opinion polls so I am happy to leave this to

:27:50.:27:53.

high in the opinion polls so I am decide. I come from a party, when I

:27:54.:27:57.

joined Sinn Fein, it was an illegal organisation. We are now the second

:27:58.:28:01.

largest party in the North and we are probably the predominant

:28:02.:28:07.

opposition in the counties. We are a growing party and I'm proud of that

:28:08.:28:12.

and I am pleased to have worked with Gerry Adams because he has driven

:28:13.:28:17.

that more than anybody else. Belfast on Sunday night and a

:28:18.:28:20.

dissident republican attempt to bomb the city centre. This is one reason

:28:21.:28:25.

why the future leadership of the wider republican movement matters.

:28:26.:28:33.

Moving into a post Adams scenario creates a challenge for

:28:34.:28:37.

republicanism. They would probably be an ease within Sinn Fein that a

:28:38.:28:40.

southern leadership -- unease be an ease within Sinn Fein that a

:28:41.:28:46.

Sinn Fein that a southern leadership could fail to maintain the same

:28:47.:28:50.

authority across the spectrum of republican communities in the North

:28:51.:28:56.

and there could be a sense that dissidents could manipulate or find

:28:57.:28:59.

room to manoeuvre in if that were the case and that would be something

:29:00.:29:03.

that Sinn Fein would be mindful of at the moment.

:29:04.:29:08.

Gerry Adams moved a generation of Republicans away from this kind of

:29:09.:29:11.

attack something acknowledged by his Republican critics.

:29:12.:29:21.

You have to remember this was... We are never going to go back to war,

:29:22.:29:26.

especially if Gerry Adams goes. It would be ridiculous to say, Gerry is

:29:27.:29:31.

a, let's go back to war. Sinn Fein brought in from the cold. There are

:29:32.:29:37.

systems of power here, salaries and pensions and stuff so they are not

:29:38.:29:41.

going to go back to war. In West Belfast, the peace process offers

:29:42.:29:46.

the next generation the prospect of a better future but for Gerry

:29:47.:29:50.

Adams, who did so much to lead public and into the process, there

:29:51.:29:55.

remain Ross Jones about the past which will not go away.

:29:56.:29:57.

Gerry Adams has led Sinn Fein to political triumph. In the wake of recent controversies, Jennifer O'Leary assesses whether Adams is still a help or if he has become a hindrance to the party's pursuit of power.


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