McDonald plays down row over Adams’s Smithwick remarks

Sinn Féin leader was right to comment on murder of RUC officers, says TD

Mary Lou McDonald said Adams ‘frontloaded his comments with expressions of understanding and sympathy’. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Mary Lou McDonald said Adams ‘frontloaded his comments with expressions of understanding and sympathy’. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 07:12

Sinn Fein Vice President, Mary Lou McDonald yesterday moved to play down the controversy over comments made by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adam about the killings by the IRA of senior RUC officers, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.

Ms McDonald said she believed Mr Adams was correct to comment on the publication of the Smithwick Report but she didn’t believe that the controversy over his remarks about the RUC officer’s “laissez-faire” approach to their own security would have a long term impact on Sinn Fein.

“He had to comment on it - you can’t have a report such as the Smithwick Report and not have a political leader not comment on,” said Ms McDonald who rejected suggestions Mr Adams’s refusal to comment further on the issue on Friday was a recognition he had erred in his original comments.

“I heard that interview on Newstalk in its entirety and that remark (Mr Adams’s reference to the RUC officer’s laissez faire approach to their own security) was just one part of the overall interview,” said Ms McDonald.

“To be absolutely fair about it, Gerry frontloaded his comments with expressions of understanding and sympathy for a grieving family - he knows all about this, he knows about the situations that families such as theirs find themselves in.

“And in terms of the security issues about the men themselves, he was only reflecting some of what was contained in the report and to say that that RUC and the Garda Siochana had a duty of care to these officers is just a statement of fact.”

Ms McDonald said that she believed some sections of the media had focussed in on the particular phrase and she didn’t believe that the media’s highlighting of the issue necessarily reflected how people generally felt about the matter.

“There’s nobody in Sinn Fein who doesn’t understand the position that the Breen and Buchanan families find themselves in and certainly we are very conscious of the hurt that was done to them because they are in the same position that so many other families found themselves in.”

Asked if she believed Mr Adams’s comments reflected badly on his political judgement and acumen Ms McDonald said that Mr Adams’s judgement on political matters was there for all to examine and she didn’t believe it any indicated any lapse of judgement.

“I think Gerry Adams’s political track record in terms of manoeuvring and shaping peace from what seemed like a never ending cycle of violence and conflict is there for all to see, that political acumen stands to Gerry and will stand to him long after a lot of us elected to political office.”

Asked if she believed there would be a political and electoral fallout from Mr Adams’s remarks, Ms McDonald said she didn’t believe there would be any political fallout but there was a more important issue at play than just electoral politics.

“Leaving elections aside for a minute, there’s a bigger issue at play here and the issue is how we deal with and how we speak about things that happened in the past because the war is over and there’s no rhyme or reason for anybody to replay the conflict at this stage.”

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