Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Gerry Adams fallout: Crisis is over for now, so let's try to rebuild peace

PACEMAKER BELFAST   04/05/2014
Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams and Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a press conference at the Balmoral Hotel in West Belfast this evening. Adams was released this evening after 4 days of questioning by the PSNI in relation to the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.  Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/05/2014 Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams and Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a press conference at the Balmoral Hotel in West Belfast this evening. Adams was released this evening after 4 days of questioning by the PSNI in relation to the murder of Jean McConville in 1972. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
4/5/2014. Adams Release. Dramatic scenes outside Antrim Police Station as the PSNI try to escort Sinn Fein President out of the station after they had questioned him for four day. Loyalist protesters blocked the police escort while the riot squad took up positions. Eventuall Mr. Adams was escorted to his Belfast press conference out the back door of the station. Photo Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
4/5/2014. Adams Release. Dramatic scenes outside Antrim Police Station as the PSNI try to escort Sinn Fein President out of the station after they had questioned him for four day. Loyalist protesters blocked the police escort while the riot squad took up positions. Eventuall Mr. Adams was escorted to his Belfast press conference out the back door of the station. Photo Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 03:  Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Martina Anderson address a crowd gathered on the Falls Road in support of Gerry Adams on May 3, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fein leader has spent a third night in police custody in connection with the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 03: Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Martina Anderson address a crowd gathered on the Falls Road in support of Gerry Adams on May 3, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fein leader has spent a third night in police custody in connection with the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

We now need damage limitation measures from Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Gerry Kelly was smiling and in the best of humour as he bounded out of Antrim police station to report that Gerry Adams was in good form, had been well treated by the custody staff and was now "worried about the damage that it may be doing to the image of policing".

Mr Adams is right: there had been wild claims from Sinn Fein of Mr Adams being questioned for 17 hours a day, when he is entitled to eight hours sleep and regular breaks of refreshment and rest, which he should correct.

This isn't the first instance of overt political pressure being put on the PSNI to release suspects or bend to apolitical agenda, but it is the most blatant, and it was paraded before global TV audiences.

Martin McGuinness sounded like the witchfinder general as he spoke of a murky cabal which hated republicans and was directing a political policing campaign.

Only members of the PSNI top team could mount a conspiracy like this. Mr McGuinness should pull back if he cannot substantiate his claims.

Perhaps he was just letting off steam. Yesterday he seemed to have cooled down. In the afternoon he tweeted a picture of his dog Buttons running over the words 'Vote Matt Carthy' (a Sinn Fein Euro candidate ) written on a beach. "It's the elections stupid," Mr McGuinness joked, even as Mr Adams languished in his cell.

Jim Allister, the TUV leader, is already accusing the police of buckling to Sinn Fein pressure by not charging Mr Adams.

"The authorities blinked in the face of Sinn Fein threats and tantrums," he averred.

The danger is that loyalist paramilitaries and republican dissidents will take the same view and act on it. The next time a UVF veteran is pulled in for an historical offence, can we expect his supporters to pile the pressure on police with threats to public order or worse?

Politicians need to recognise that the world does not stop spinning because there is an election on; police investigations still run their course. Nothing is to be gained by building conspiracy theories around every police action.

In fact, Sinn Fein's reputation, and Mr Adams' too, has suffered internationally where the atrocious McConville murder has been linked to them on the world's TV screens without anything being proven. Mud sticks.

It is in everybody's interests to take the heat out of this situation and pull back from the hair-raising comments that were made on Friday and Saturday and allow the office of the DPP to take its decision.

More than the image of policing is at risk – our political system cannot function unless politicians learn to behave more responsibly.

The DUP should help Sinn Fein find a way out of this corner they have painted themselves into.

Both parties should resolve that, next time one of their politicians is under investigation, they will bite their lips and say something more constructive.

Further reading

Gerry Adams mural paint-bombed - community divided over arrest 

Gerry Adams slams 'sinister, malicious, untruthful campaign' following release by police 

Gerry Adams release will not make fallout go away, you know

Gerry Adams fallout: Crisis is over for now, so let's try to rebuild peace

IRA's omerta is not as watertight as it used to be...  

Sinn Fein's reaction to Adams arrest sending wrong message

 Sinn Fein will not blackmail police, warns Peter Robinson