GERRY ADAMS RECEIVED a rapturous round of applause when he entered the room where Sinn Féin were holding a press conference tonight following the release from custody of its president.
Wearing jeans, a suit jacket, white shirt and red tie, the 65-year-old sipped on a blackcurrant drink from a plastic bottle as colleague Mary Lou McDonald welcomed him back into the fold.
Adams began his address in the Irish language and thanked his solicitor and all those people who had sent messages of goodwill to the family.
Here are eight topics the Sinn Féin president broached during the much-anticipated news conference.
“I am innocent of any involvement or conspiracy to abduct, kill or bury Ms McConville,” he said near the top of proceedings.
He noted that he was “conscious” that there was another family – the McConvilles – at the heart of these events. He said he continues to work for the return of the Disappeared, those men and women who were killed by the IRA and secretly buried.
He sent a message to Michael McConville that the death of his mother in 1972 was a “grave injustice”.
Adams said he was “mindful” that tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands in H-Blocks at the Maze prison.
“Sitting in my cell in recent days, I reflected on the dreadful summer of 1981,” he told reporters, adding that we are no longer in those days and that Sinn Féin’s focus is now on peace.
“Peace needs to be built with determination and a focus…that is Sinn Féin’s constant endeavour.”
The Life of an Activist
Adams said that he “bears no animosity to anyone”, although he understands that he has detractors and opponents.
He said he chose to live his life as an activist and, with that, comes events such as the past five days.
I am an activist. This is the life I have. This is part of it.
It could have been done differently
Adams said he did not want to be treated differently to other detainees but he criticised the manner of his detention.
“I did not go expecting special treatment but crucial everyone is treated fairly.
“They did not have to use pernicious, coercive legislation,” he said.
I make the case that those who authorised my arrest and detention could have done it differently. They had discretion.
He also said that those with authority could have chosen a different time – one that was not in the middle of election campaigns.
This event, serious though it was… happened 42 years ago. There was no flight, no risk.
“They opted for a piece of legislation that should have been kicked out…That is my objection. It’s the old guard using old methods.”
Despite his complaints, Adams confirmed his ongoing support for policing and the PSNI in Northern Ireland.
The IRA Question
“I have never disassociated myself with the IRA and I never will,” he said, adding, “The IRA is gone. It’s finished.”
Asked whether the interrogation also involved accusations of being a member of the IRA – something that Adams has always denied – he said the questioning covered everything from the time he was 18 months old.
“I am serious,” he noted after a burst of laughter from the room.
Adams described it as a “phased interrogation” and told reporters that police taped 33 interviews over the five days.
“For all I know, I could still face charges,” he said, telling the room that the suspicions are entirely based on “these Boston tapes, mish-mash of newspaper articles, books, open source material”.
He also said that people should not be “mesmerised” by the Boston Tapes as they were made by what he called “disgruntled, anti-peace process individuals who represent nobody”.
He rejected all the allegations made about him by Brendan Hughes, Dolours Price and others in the Boston Tapes.
He revealed that he was told by police that the accusations were made by interviewees who were characterised by a letter – such as Interviewee R.
What was police detention like?
“It was OK,” Adams answered to a loud laugh from the gathered crowd of supporters and journalists.
However, he later added that the food was inedible and impossible to digest.
Another light-hearted moment came when a young girl asked him if he was OK. Adams replied as Gaeilge, telling her he is wonderful and that it was nice to meet her.
Working with Peter Robinson
Adams insisted that Sinn Féin is ‘wedded’ to the idea of a new political dispensation and that Peter Robinson is a partner in that.
“We have work to do with him and we will continue to do that.”
It is understood that Adams wanted to leave the police station through the front gates early this evening but there were security concerns over the growing number of loyalist protesters gathered outside.
Police in riot gear drove vehicles out the front gate and attempted to move the crowds. In the meantime, the Sinn Féin president left through another entrance.
In a separate development, the head of the Public Prosecution Service said he would hand down Adams’s case file to his deputy. Barra McGrory’s ability to decide on whether charges should be brought was questioned because of his previous connections with Adams. He had previously acted as his solicitor.