Monday night’s Primetime interview with Gerry Adams was a reminder that RTE is well capable of doing thorough, professional and researched public service broadcasting.
It did much to dispel the doubts cast about the station’s reputation by both the Frontline presidential debate and “Mission to Prey” debacles.
It also showed that Sinn Féin is not as clever, strategic and skilled in the political dark art of spin as many in other political parties and the media presume.
Watching the programme last night, and again today on Youtube, raises the obvious question: why did Gerry Adams agree to do this 24 minute interview in which he essentially spent his time talking about murder?
In part the interview was the consequence of the remarks he made in the Dáil on January 29th last during the expressions of sympathy on the killing of Garda Adrian Donohue.
He used that occasion to offer his condolences and solidarity with the family of Garda Donohue, but also to broaden that expression of sympathy to include others murdered in the line of duty; saying: “I apologise to Mrs. McCabe and the McCabe family, Garda Ben O’Sullivan and the families of other members of the State forces who were killed by republicans in the course of the conflict.”
But, having offered that apology in the Dáil, why did he seem so incapable last night to expand on that and adequately apologise, sympathise and console those who had lost relatives to so called republican paramilitaries over the years?
Why go on to the programme and give such an interview, when you know you are either unable or unprepared to answer the questions and offer the information that is going to be asked of you?
Could it be that the reason for his appearance was less to do with expanding upon his comments of January 29th and more to do with trying to pre-empt what he fears may be revealed when the Boston Tapes are released?
Could it also be an attempt to deflect attention away from the recent Belfast court case involving Adam’s brother Liam?
Deflecting attention away from one difficult story by opening up about another one is not a tactic unfamiliar to Mr Adams and Sinn Féin. Recall how Gerry Adams revealed how his own was father was both a paedophile and a thug while he was being criticised for his handling of the allegations of abuse made to him by his niece Aine Tyrell about her father, Liam Adams.
The revelation about his father came around the time that he acknowledged that he not dealt well with the allegations and that his actions when he discovered that Liam Adams was working with children were wrong – he had approached his brother rather than his employers.
While Adams’ performance last night will do little to diminish his standing with the bulk of Sinn Féin activists, it may cause some of the newer and younger intake people who considered Sinn Féin as an idealistic alternative to mainstream politics to think again.
Adams’ supporters will justify their continuing support with claims that this is all a smear against their leader – echoes of what we have heard in recent days from UKIP, but the defence used by some that this is all a very long time ago does not hold water.
Another defence offered online by defenders of Adams is that this is all RTÉ bias against their party. Why, they asked, wasn’t RTE asking Labour party leaders if they were in Official IRA?
Frankly, I have no problem with RTÉ asking them that, at least it suggests that some in Sinn Féin may unconsciously realise that Miriam O’Callaghan’s questioning of their leader last night was both fair and legitimate