Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill has defended her former party leader's "very Gerry Christmas" video and card initiative, and said she does not feel Mr Adams has anything to apologise for.
The video featured Mr Adams in a comedy sketch in which he sings: “Tis the season to be jolly, tiocfaidh ár lá, lá, lá, lá.” It also shows him visiting a house as a carol singer and the homeowner repeats a slogan used by Mr Adams in August 1995 in relation to the Provisional IRA: “They haven’t gone away, you know.”
Ms O'Neill said on Wednesday: "Gerry Adams regularly does videos, light-hearted videos, to support charities. In this instance it was about supporting a charity and I don't think he has anything to apologise for. He would never have set out to intentionally harm or hurt anyone.
“I am the vice-president of the party and I am saying that I think that Gerry set out to do a light-hearted video to support a charity, he’s retracted the video and I think that’s enough said.”
The comments came after a senior Sinn Féin TD said the party’s position is that Gerry Adams should not have to apologise for his role in the video following complaints from victims of the Provisional IRA.
Waterford TD David Cullinane previously said that Mr Adams had nothing to apologise for. On Wednesday he said the issue had "moved on" and the organisation that made the video had withdrawn it.
“I gave my view when I was asked yesterday. I stand by what I said yesterday,” he said. “The party position is Gerry Adams did not set out to cause any offence. He did what he did with a good heart and ultimately I think this video was withdrawn and that was the right thing.”
Asked if it is Sinn Féin’s position that Mr Adams should not have to apologise, Mr Cullinane said: “Yes.”
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has been silent on the issue. Dublin Mid-West Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said in a WLR radio interview that Mr Adams should apologise for the offence caused. Other TDs including Mr Cullinane, Matt Carthy and Pa Daly have disagreed with this.
Mr Cullinane was asked if Mr Ó Broin will face a sanction for his opinion on the matter. He replied: “I think you know the answer to that question which is no. Eoin Ó Broin is perfectly entitled to speak his mind and give his own opinion which he did.”
Mr Cullinane said Ms McDonald could speak for herself on the matter.
The video sketch featuring Mr Adams had appeared as an online Christmas card. Ferry Clever, the Derry-based company behind the video and Christmas card, later withdrew the video, saying its business is based around "satirical comedy" and that it was "never our intention to offend anyone".
Mr Cullinane was speaking at the launch of a report on the cause of hospital waiting lists drawn up after his engagement with hospitals, patient groups and unions.
Sinn Féin apology
Earlier Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was asked if he had a view on Mr Adams’s video during an interview on Newstalk Radio. He said: “Gerry Adams apologising about a video that went viral is not the apology that I’d like to hear from Sinn Féin.
“The apology I’d like to hear form Sinn Féin is them accepting that the killing of children and civilians by the IRA in our lifetime was wrong. That’s the apology we need to hear.”
He referred to an apology by Basque terror group ETA and said: “We’ve yet to hear that from any Sinn Féin representative.
“Not only do they not say that that was wrong, not only will they not apologise for the killing of children and civilians throughout the Troubles, they still celebrate those who committed those crimes and that sickens me quite frankly. That’s why we can never form a Government with them.”
Mr Cullinane was asked if Sinn Féin will ever apologise for the killing of children and civilians by the IRA during the Troubles but did not answer the question directly.
He said: “The IRA is gone. Sin é, end of story. The IRA is gone.”
Mr Cullinane said Sinn Féin has “done a huge amount of heavy lifting on legacy issues in all of the negotiations over the last number of years”. He criticised the British and Irish governments for not delivering on agreements on legacy issues.
Mr Cullinane said his focus is on the future and on what he would do if he was the minister for health in a future Sinn Féin government.
He also said: “I’ll finish by saying this – what Bobby Sands said – the only revenge that he sought is the laughter of our children. And I want to see that, a better future for everybody and what our project is about.”
Pressed on whether Sinn Féin should consider an apology, he said: “What we need to do is deliver on the agreements that were reached. The IRA spoke for itself already, and the IRA is gone . . . It’s gone and in my view won’t be coming back. We have a very successful peace process.”
He said in his view the public are “more interested in housing, health, childcare, all of those issues”.
Mr Cullinane said they are interested in the peace process and legacy issues, “but the way to deal with it is not to politicise them as some in Government have done but actually to collectively commit to delivering on the agreement that was reached”. – Additional reporting PA