Gerry Adams interview: ‘Lend your vote to Sinn Féin’
Sinn Féin leader calls on disillusioned voters to ‘take charge’ and claims ‘IRA has gone’
Neither would like to admit it, but Gerry Adams and Phil Hogan have at least one thing in common. In 2011, Hogan asked “decent” Fianna Fáil voters to lend their support to Fine Gael for the sake of stable government. In an interview with The Irish Times, Adams makes a similar pitch for the forthcoming contest.
“You may be disillusioned with Fine Gael and Labour and their performance, or Fianna Fáil before that, so I would say to those people: lend your vote to Sinn Féin. If we don’t come up to scratch, then that’s fair enough. You don’t have to give it to us the second time.”
At the same time, the Sinn Féin leader acknowledges people who say they support Sinn Féin sometimes do not turn up on polling day. Historically, it has regularly performed worse at elections than opinion polls predicted.
A weekend poll put it at 16 per cent, bearing out anecdotal evidence from various TDs the party has been flatlining in recent months.
An appeal to that shy cohort of the electorate could mean the party believes its must stabilise its support, if it is falling from the higher peaks of recent years.
He says he has never been “mesmerised” by polls and insists Sinn Féin wants to be in government, but only as the senior party. If they achieve that, water charges and the property tax would be abolished, and a significant number of welfare cutbacks would be reversed. Some of these policies have been costed; the details of how others will be paid for are to follow.
Perhaps the political crisis north of the Border is taking its toll on the Sinn Féin’s southern support. Perhaps the past 18 months, in which the party dealt with issues such as the Maíria Cahill controversy and Adams’s arrest as part of the investigation into the murder of Jean McConville, have finally caught up with it.
Its past has again come back to haunt it in recent weeks following the assessment of the PSNI that the IRA still exists, but for peaceful means, and that members may have been involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast. The statement from the PSNI has brought the Northern Institutions to the verge of collapse.
The Sinn Féin leader sticks to his insistence the IRA does not exist and to the language that it is “gone away”.
But what of its Army Council: does it exist?
“If The Irish Times disappeared tomorrow, you might still meet your colleagues for a pint and you might have a reunion every so often. That doesn’t mean The Irish Times exists.
“Are there still people masquerading as IRA people? Are there former IRA people who people may think are the IRA? Yes. The only republican organisation leading the republican struggle is the Sinn Féin party, and the only republican leadership there is the Ard Chomhairle of our party.
“I don’t know how many times we have to answer the same question or how many variations of the same question you can find. How do you prove something doesn’t exist?”
Adams does not accept the views of former minister for justice Michael McDowell and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, that an unarmed IRA structure was left in place to guard against a power vacuum being filled by dissidents.
“All I am telling you, in the negotiations that I was a part of, it was about bringing an end to armed conflict and presenting an alternative way.”
The British and Irish Governments have convened all-party talks on Northern Ireland, and unionists have hinted some new form of monitoring commission is needed to prove the IRA has gone away.
Do they need a “fig leaf”, as Adams characterises it, or some sort of reassurance?
“Well, they don’t actually. What they need to do is honour their obligations. The more important question: does the issue of armed groups need to be dealt with? Yes.
“Is Sinn Féin open to looking at ways of doing that? Yes.”