Apology greeted by icy silence in chamber
Dáil SketchThat’s that, so.
It took nearly two decades for him to do it, but Gerry Adams has finally apologised for the shooting dead by republicans of Det Garda Jerry McCabe in Limerick in 1996.
Another box ticked on the road, going forward.
The Sinn Féin leader won’t have been expecting any thanks for this unexpected declaration in the Dáil yesterday afternoon, welcome as it might be.
Which is just as well, as his words were greeted by icy silence in the chamber.
The House had been hearing expressions of sympathy on the murder last Friday in Dundalk of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe. He died in similar circumstances to Jerry McCabe: one man gunned down by criminals robbing a post office, the other by thugs raiding a credit union branch.
The Dáil benches quickly filled as deputies came to the chamber to express their solidarity in the face of this heinous crime. The depth of their revulsion was almost palpable.
The party leaders were first to speak. The Taoiseach, then the Tánaiste, then the Fianna Fáil leader, eloquent in their expressions of anger and condemnation as they echoed the thoughts of a nation sickened by the murder of a serving garda and family man.
“Today I know I speak for everybody in this country and in this House, because today our nation speaks as one,” said Enda Kenny.
He pledged that everything possible will be done to hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. “We cannot and will not rest until we have done so.”
There was a brittle tension in the air as he spoke, a raw edge to the proceedings. Like people were holding their breath, waiting.
“An attack on a member of the Garda Síochána is an attack on all of us,” said Eamon Gilmore, speaking of “a man who lived for the ideals of public service and service to the community”.
Micheál Martin spoke of the nation’s deep shock at the news of “the cold-blooded slaying” of Det Garda Donohoe. “The State has suffered a direct attack. There is something truly harrowing about young children being robbed of their father at such a fragile age.”
Many of the politicians had experienced this situation before. Some were experiencing that communal feeling of shock and sorrow for the first time as public representatives.
And yet, there was something deeper about what was taking place in the Dáil chamber. You could feel it.
It was because of the presence of Sinn Féin, and in particular, its leader Gerry Adams and, sitting behind him, the TD for Kerry South, Martin Ferris.
Down through the years, through a miasma of double-speak and refusals to condemn, Adams had refused to apologise outright for the IRA’s murder of Det Garda McCabe in Adare. And when his killers were released from Castlereagh jail in 2009, a smiling Ferris was waiting at the gates to drive them away.