Miriam Lord’s week: Gerry Adams tries to have it both ways

Rollercoaster week for Sinn Féin leader began in Cuba, ended with being called names

It' s been a rollercoaster week for Gerry Adams. Cock of the walk in Cuba at the start of it and then branded a liar by some and an informer by others at the end of it.

Gerry was in Havana on Sunday, where he attended the funeral of Fidel Castro. In the packed Plaza de la Revolucion, the Sinn Féin president told CNN's Nic Robertson: "I'm here because Fidel was a good friend to Ireland."

Gerry is a big noise in Cuba. He likes it there. But while he was in Havana, news broke of his civic-minded attempt earlier this year to assist the gardaí with their ongoing investigation into the IRA murder of prison officer Brian Stack, who was shot in Dublin in 1983.

A few days before the general election, he emailed Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan with four names of people who might, or might not, have information about the crime. He says he was told the names by the prison officer’s son, who flatly denies this. Gerry hasn’t the foggiest idea if the names – three senior SF politicians and a former senior IRA man – will be of any use, because he knows nothing about the circumstances of the shooting.

However he used his good offices, as a guy who was once well got with the big wigs in the IRA while not being a member himself, to help the dead man’s sons to find closure on who killed him. So nearly three years ago, the TD for Louth took Stack’s sons on a mystery tour of the Border region in a van with blacked out windows.

They visited a senior IRA person Adams can’t identify, and this stranger told them the IRA killed their father but shouldn’t have. Questions about what the Sinn Féin leader knows about this crime surfaced again during this year’s election. When Adams called for criminals involved in Dublin’s murderous gangland feud to be put behind bars, Austin Stack asked would he “say the same about those who gunned down my father in a very similar fashion on a Dublin street?”

Adams promptly urged anyone with information to contact the gardaí. At the time, he was also in a spot of bother over calls for the abolition of the Special Criminal Court and his support for former IRA boss and convicted tax evader Thomas “Slab” Murphy. Against this background, the prolific Tweeter dictated a highly sensitive email to someone in the Sinn Féin office who typed it up and sent it on to the Garda Commissioner. To remove any uncertainty, like.

This is not playing politics. No, this is necessary when people like Micheál Martin keep accusing him in the wrong of withholding information on all sorts of issues. And with the best will in the world, as Gerry has been trying to explain this week, he couldn’t include any details gleaned from the crucial blacked out van episode because he doesn’t have any. But the thing is, because of his past, everybody knows Adams has to tell some lies to keep the political show on the road.

Nobody seriously expects him to inform on those criminals (or “combatants” as SF TDs have been calling them in the last few days) who bombed and murdered their own people down through the years while tens of thousands of citizens were taking to the streets of Dublin and beyond, chanting: “not in our name”.

Dreadful years

People know the score. At least those dreadful years are gone now. Gerry is courageous, particularly as his message to the Garda Commissioner was conveyed in such an open manner. Anyone would think he wanted it to be discovered somewhere down the line, perhaps when opponents were again questioning his bona fides for base political reasons. Nearly 20 years ago, after the murder of a taxi-driver and family man, Adams remarked: “Mr McIlmurray, like anyone else living in West Belfast, knows that the consequence for informing is death.”

Perish the thought that this inconsequential email was sent with the express intention of further burnishing Gerry’s halo. Withhold information? Sure didn’t he contact the commissioner herself, with names and all?

The reimagining of Adams continues. It is infinitely preferable to what went before. But maybe, just maybe, the Sinn Féin president and his advisers have been a bit too clever for their own good with that pre-election confessional to the commissioner. The party leader’s expressed willingness to co-operate in the fight to bring Brian Stack’s killers to justice provoked his sons to speak out, confidentiality agreement or not. They say they know otherwise. He certainly didn’t tell the commissioner the full story and, for obvious reasons, he was never going to.

But Gerry wanted to have it both ways – to look good in public by professing to do one thing while not doing it at all. The Stacks’ version of events, added to Adams’s dud email list of possible suspects and now his admission that he won’t name the IRA man who knows what happened, make his honeyed words seem very hollow indeed. Time to retreat behind the peace process.

Celebrating Fidel via business class

Meanwhile, back to the start of Gerry’s rip-roaring week and this waspish little snippet from the latest edition of British satirical magazine “Private Eye.”

“Flying into Cuba last Monday to attend the funeral of Fidel Castro, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams paid tribute to a great socialist who had ‘called for an end to hunger and poverty’.

“Three days later, in a fine gesture of empathy, St Gerry was seen by travellers at Havana airport, bypassing the long queue for economy and checking in for business class – where hunger and poverty are indeed unknown. El Comandante would be so proud.”

As they like to say in the Eye: Shurely Shome Misthake?

Class swot

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty, who was crossing swords with Sinn Féin this week, embodies the saying: "If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it."

Doherty recently signed up at the Kings Inns for their Advanced Diploma in Corporate, White Collar and Regulatory Crime. “I had a couple of spare hours each Thursday before heading home after the traffic cleared, so I decided to take up studying again. I dropped out of college and sometimes regret I never got that piece of paper.”

She started her course five weeks ago and says she loves it. “It’s two hours a week and I’ve just got my first assignment. 6,000 words, so I’ll be working on it over Christmas.”

1916 sing-song

Doherty, who is a very good singer, couldn't take part a special 1916 commemoration event held by Fine Gael in the Mansion House on Wednesday night. She had a bad back. There were songs and recimitations and lots of speeches. The Taoiseach was guest of honour, party chairman Martin Heydon did master of ceremonies and FG politicians past and present packed into the Round Room, where the Dáil first sat, for the show.

The highlights of the night came from Galway TDs Hildegarde Naughton and Ciarán Cannon who performed “The Foggy Dew” and Kerry’s Brendan Griffin and Limerick’s Tom Neville, who re-enacted two speeches from the Treaty Debate.

Naughton sang magnificently. “The hairs were standing on the back of my neck – she put Sinead O’Connor in the ha’penny place,” marvelled one colleague. Cannon accompanied her on piano.

“Extraordinary talent,” gushed the same man. “Thirty years of experience. He played with his eyes close. You could have been listening to Ray Charles.”

Griffin (Michael Collins) and Neville (Arthur Griffith) memorised their two-minute speeches from the Dáil transcripts. Afterwards, the Taoiseach high fived passersby outside on Dawson Street before heading across the road to Sam’s Bar, where he continued shaking hands, high fiving and affectionately thumping people. He then presented Collins and Griffith with “mini-Oscars” for their acting performances.

“I now know how Fr Ted felt when he won the Golden Cleric,” said Griffin.

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