26/11/2013 Spotlight


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


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


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


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


Most notably in a television programme about the Disappeared.


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


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


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


selective memory. Is Gerry Adams' past catching up


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


happen. Tonight on Spotlight, we ask if


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


becoming his liability?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


away. That passed at the very centre of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the conflict. He succeeded in an incredible political manoeuvre.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Adams? First-class, excellent, man for the


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


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


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


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


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


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


denying IRA membership. The situation of my membership of the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


by acknowledging past membership or association and then it would become


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


two people called Gerry and Marton, then finding out


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


around his credibility were crystallised in a documentary on the


Disappeared, people killed and secretly buried by Republicans.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a selective memory and I think he is lying.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


they attract criticism from Republican voices.


They Disappeared under the single biggest, darkest part of the


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


happened that people are finding difficult to deal with.


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


party has a credibility problem another segment of the electorate


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Adams brother. From the very beginning I believed


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


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


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


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


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


According to Gerry Adams, his brother had confessed to one


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


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


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


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


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


Adams over that issue. anybody is wanting to hunt Gerry


hand, Sinn Fein is vulnerable over hypocrisy and everyone remembers


Sinn Fein coming out and demanding that Bishop after Bishop should


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


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


Republicans relationship with the police was not what you would call


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


out. During the trial he was confronted


with evidence that his brother had been more than an occasional


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


days after the allegations about your McConville were broadcast, he


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Republic. Irish Times cartoonist Gerry Turner has been drawing Gerry


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


topic have viewed him. -- Irish public.


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


just did it. Is your own persistent denial of


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


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


IRA in the South. In opinion polls he has consistently


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


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


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


possibly junior partners for a coalition government. That would


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


cabinet. Sinn Fein have been working for


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


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


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


parties but they would go into coalition with old neck


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


write a few wrongs before he moves off the stage.


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


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


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


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


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


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


is making perfectly valid points about the austerity measures but it


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


Disappeared. Perhaps you might someday tell the


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


that should have been shown to Jean McConville.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Republic. The politics are interesting but when you see Gerry


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


Fein. Sinn Fein has fallen slightly in


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


damage is to their potential for growth.


Recent indicators would tend to suggest there has been some damage


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


that he would hope to gain over the coming years.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


obviously, all of this will have a big impact.


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


leadership? It might mean more credible if they


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


think, recognisably what it is today.


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


generational change and the older card will disappear. The people


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


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


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


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


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


politicians from the Republic and some from Northern Ireland. This


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


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


Adams will watch that landmark commemoration as Sinn Fein leader or


as someone standing on the sidelines.


His reputation has been damaged his own handling of his personal


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


vacate the stage before the next general election.


Commentators will talk about Gerry Adams credibility and he remains


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


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


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


largest party in the North and we are probably the predominant


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


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


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


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


why the future leadership of the wider republican movement matters.


Moving into a post Adams scenario creates a challenge for


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


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


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


authority across the spectrum of republican communities in the North


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


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


that Sinn Fein would be mindful of at the moment.


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


attack something acknowledged by his Republican critics.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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