Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams visited the Holy Land for a television documentary last night — but his |exploration of the Jesus story delivered few fresh insights into the son of God.
But the hour-long programme, part of a Channel 4 series on the history of the Bible, did see Mr Adams dip his tired feet into the River Jordan, read from the Gospels, discuss Jesus’ story with experts and justify his own approach to Jesus’ teaching.
“My friends might describe me as a staunch Catholic,” he began.
“In prison I was one of the minority who went to Mass...
“Then, when in my fifties, I helped along with others to bring peace to Ireland. Looking back on two decades of war, I want to explore Jesus’ message of forgiveness and how this has affected me and victims of the |conflict.”
Quizzed about his own adherence to the teachings of Jesus, Mr Adams, who denies being in the IRA, said he acted “by my own lights”.
“I am a political activist. My religious beliefs may sometimes percolate and influence my political thinking, sometimes in tune with Jesus’ message, sometimes not. We all do it in different aspects of our lives.
“But we are human. We are not perfect... I feel that I have done my best by my own lights but I don’t for one second step back from my responsibilities as a leader of a struggle that has caused both hurt and damage to other human beings. I don’t walk away from that.”
Mr Adams, who was reportedly paid £10,000 for the programme, discussed forgiveness. “Bad things have been done to me and I have forgiven those who did it... I had to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement that got the people who shot me out of prison.”
He was reminded the IRA was |behind 600 civilian deaths.
“Well, I don’t attempt to justify the actions — in fact, I have been very critical of some of the actions but I did believe that it was legitimate to resort to armed actions and that that was politically defensible.”
In a face-to-face meeting with Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon was killed in the Shankill bombing of 1993, the Sinn Fein leader said the |attack was “stupid” and that it had been a “corporate decision” for the IRA, as well as the individual responsibility of the bombers, Sean Kelly and Thomas Begley, who was also killed when the bomb exploded prematurely. Mr Adams carried his coffin.
Mr McBride said he had sympathy for Thomas Begley’s mother, who lived with the knowledge that her dead son murdered eight people.
The IRA bomb exploded prematurely in the fish shop below its intended target, a UDA meeting the IRA believed was taking place upstairs. However, the office was empty.
“It was a stupid operation,” Mr Adams said. “It didn’t take into account the safety of civilians... It was an operation which was just fundamentally flawed and fundamentally wrong.”
Mr McBride said: “For many years I blamed you not for the bombing but for being part of an organisation which felt they could do that.”
He said he would not forgive the IRA.
“My family would never forgive me if I forgave them.”