For the benefit of those of my readers who haven’t got access to the Irish edition of The Sunday Times, which lurks behind a paywall, here is Gerry Adams being interviewed by Justine McCarthy in today’s edition.
The person who alerted me to it described the interview as ‘arslikhan’. Read below and you can decide for yourselves. This was the takeaway line for me, but make your own minds up on that as well:
‘If you said you were in the IRA, what would happen? “I’d probably be jailed for telling lies.”‘
Hmmmm. Don’t think so.
The Sunday Times (London)
November 12, 2017 Sunday
“You’ve a hole in your jumper,” says Gerry Adams, “and I can’t avoid looking at it.” He’s not the only one distracted. A framed slogan on the wall of his fifth floor office in Leinster House proclaims: “I believe in justice. I haven’t a liberal bone in my body.” The words were Fidel Castro’s, or so he’s been told.
The Irish proclamation – which he calls “my mission statement” – also hangs on the wall, along with a photo of the Sinn Fein president schmoozing the Dalai Lama.
At next weekend’s ard fheis in Dublin’s RDS, he will announce the date he agreed with Martin McGuinness for his retirement as Sinn Fein’s leader. Next November seems a likely date. By then, Adams will have been the party’s president for 35 years and will be 70. “I’m a bit tired this evening,” he says, “from going up and down to the [Stormont] talks but I’m feeling good, yeah, touch wood.”
He has a squint in his right eye and recurring pain in his left arm, from when a bullet was removed in 1984 after he was shot several times in a Ulster Defence Association (UDA) assassination attempt. How did being shot feel? “Sore. I was blessed by very incompetent assassins.”
Another time, a grenade was thrown at his home. After the Royal Ulster Constabulary searched the driveway, he found the grenade lever – part of a shipment from South Africa organised by Brian Nelson, the UDA’s head of intelligence and a British informer. Adams made the grenade lever into a key ring and still uses it. More recent death threats have emanated from dissident republicans. He calls them “micro groups”. He doesn’t carry a weapon for protection, on either side of the border. He keeps fit by walking a minimum of five miles a day.
“I’ve lots of things to do, if God spares me. I want to win the poc fada championship again. I want to write books, read books, plant the garden. Live to see the grandchildren grow to a good age.”
Such pleasant plan-making may ring cruel to IRA victims and the bereaved, such as those of the Enniskillen bomb attack 30 years ago. Of course Adams denies ever belonging to the organisation. He would, though, wouldn’t he, knowing he would be arrested if he said otherwise? If you said you were in the IRA, what would happen? “I’d probably be jailed for telling lies.” Did he and McGuinness, a former IRA commander, ever talk about making their peace with themselves or their God after the Troubles? “We never had that type of discussion. I’m very much at peace with myself. Martin was very much at peace with himself.”
Wasn’t McGuinness religious? “Like any of us who came from a Catholic background, he may have moved a bit away from the rituals of all that. That isn’t to say he didn’t go to mass. He did, regularly, but I think he’d have described himself as spiritual in recent years.”
Adams says he thinks about the north’s former deputy first minister “every day” since his death in March. He had resigned as deputy first minister in protest over the “cash for ash” scandal in January.
“Being sick had nothing to do with him resigning. The night he resigned he was in the hospital in Derry getting really strenuous, invasive treatment. He’d already decided to resign. I argued, ‘Martin, you should do it in Derry.’ He wouldn’t. He wanted to come and see Arlene [Foster, the first minister] himself, which I think is a mark of the man.
“I said to him, ‘You need to fight for yourself now because you’ve fought for everyone else.’ And he said, ‘The doctors have told me I’ll either be OK or I’ll be dead in three months.'” The Stormont executive has remained suspended since McGuinness quit. Might it be restored by Christmas? “It’s very unlikely,” Adams says, unless there’s “a step change in the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP’s) position” on Irish language policy, legacy issues and same-sex marriage.
He also predicts that the DUP’s supply and confidence agreement with the Tories “will end up in tears for the DUP – because it always has. British governments always act in their own interest”. Does he accept Sinn Fein has no chance of getting into government in Dublin after the next election, with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael refusing to countenance coalition with them? “We don’t want to go into .government with them. But there’s a difference between incompatibility of policy and saying these folks aren’t fit for government, these are the untouchables. So it’s OK in the north but it’s not OK here.”
The establishment in the southern state, he says, is “deeply partitionist”.
“Moving north to south is like moving between two different planets, mostly because of the media. You saw the social media uproar about the map that was used on The Late Late Show that showed just 26 counties. We’re told what traffic is like in Patrick Street in Cork and Fairview but never what it’s like in Omagh. Northerners really resent that.
“Dana once said northerners always look to the south but southerners rarely look to the north. One thing northerners would feel offended about is when the word ‘Ireland’ is used to describe the 26 counties, or ‘national’ is used to describe the state.”
He recalls staying at a campsite in Co Mayo when his children were young and being registered as “Northern Irish”. He challenged the woman checking him in if she would describe herself as western Irish. “The partitionist view is reflected in the media, especially in the state media,” he says. “The biggest offenders are the Independent group of newspapers.”
Also on Adams’s bucket list is a successful referendum on Irish unification by 2022. “I trace a lot of the ills on this island to partition and to the process of colonisation we endured as a people. We had two really conservative, patriarchal states that were anti-women and anti-intellectual. Writers that are celebrated throughout the world were banned.
“Think of the dynamic that would be created by uniting orange and green. I think we will have a united Ireland. It’s an ongoing process of regeneration.
“We had two really conservative, patriarchal states, anti-women and anti-intellectual.”