GERRY ADAMS WAS subjected to a robust interview by veteran Cork radio host Neil Prendeville this morning, with the Red FM presenter essentially throwing the kitchen sink at the Sinn Féin leader as he grilled him on his past and on his party’s current policies.
The presenter raised controversy after controversy over a 40 minute phone interview, as he pressed the Louth TD on his party’s ‘Gerry problem’ – asking whether it would be better for his colleagues if he stepped down from his leadership role.
Everything from the killing of Jean McConville and his alleged membership of the IRA to Sinn Féin’s handling of the Mairia Cahill case was brought up.
It’s the second time in less than a week that Prendeville has conducted a robust interview with a party leader. On Friday, he had a number of tense exchanges with Taoiseach Enda Kenny:
Towards the end of the interview, the broadcaster told Kenny and listeners:
Taoiseach, I’ve been put under fierce pressure by your people. They’re all standing behind me waving their hands and telling me to stop.
In his interview with Adams this morning, Prendeville also attempted to highlight the perception that the Sinn Féin leader is often sketchy on detail by repeatedly asking specific questions about areas like pensions and PRSI.
The conversation became heated as the host pressed the Sinn Féin leader on the sexual assaults carried out by his brother Liam Adams against his daughter Áine, the TD’s niece. The questioning focused on the timeline of events, and when Gerry had first known of the abuse…
Adams: There were a number of inquiries into all of these issues. And whatever my political opponents might want to make of this, the outcome of all of those inquiries was that I did nothing wrong. And God forbid, Neil, that you find an abuse situation in your own home. I just wish you well in trying to deal with it.
Prendeville: No I understand that, and it’s wrong of you to personalise it with me Gerry.
Adams: You’re personalising it with me.
Prendeville: I’m not, I’m talking about something that was on the record.
Adams: You’re talking about something that’s a deeply wounding family situation for all involved.
Prendeville: I understand that and there’s no point trying to turn it around and trying to make me the enemy, I’m just dealing with things that you’ve taken fire for.
Adams: I’m answering the question Neil don’t be so… You expect me to sit here thick-skinned listening to all of this and when I say I wish you well if unfortunately you have to deal with one of these situations, you get ultra-sensitive.
Prendeville: No I’m not, I’m just saying you’re personalising it against me.
Adams: And you’re not?
Prendeville: You’re the one that’s running for government.
Earlier in the interview, Prendeville had referred to Adams’ tenure as leader as Sinn Féin as “almost like a dictatorship” asking “is it ego that keeps you there?”.
Adams, before talking up the team he had build up around him, responded:
This isn’t really about me because if I’d any sense I’d go get a life.
He said he would remain in charge as long as his party wanted him to, and that he would place his name before his colleagues again at their next Ard Fheis in April.
Quizzing the Sinn Féin leader on policy details, he attempted to pin Adams down on issues like pensions and the minimum wage.
“Fianna Fáil will increase the state pension by €30 over five years. Will you match or better that?” Prendeville asked.
Pressed several times to answer with specifics Adams said ”we will do our very, very best to relieve the burden on elderly people”.
“You don’t have a figure though,” the host responded, cutting him off.
Asked about the minimum wage, Adams said his party would increase it before admonishing the presenter for his characterisation of the election, insisting that people are “not looking at this as if this is a horse race”.
When Micheál Martin’s comment to the Irish Independent that “of course” Adams was in the IRA was brought up, the Sinn Féin TD responded:
Well why doesn’t he go to the Garda Síochána and report me?
As the interview came to a close the presenter again grilled his guest on policy specifics, this time regarding business – with Adams arguing that Sinn Féin intended to introduce a suite of measures and insisting it was inappropriate to focus on just one.
Prendeville: Are you going to double PRSI for SMEs?
Adams: We are going to bring in a cocktail of measures – we’re going to get rid of upwards-only rents…
Prendeville: I didn’t ask you about upward-only rents I asked you about doubling…
Adams: Neil, please.
Prendeville: No you please, I asked you about…
Adams: Don’t be combative just for the sake of it.
Prendeville: I’m not being combative. I asked you are you going to double employers’ PRSI for SMEs and you went on about upward-only rents.
Allowed to answer, Adams said the party was “looking at this in the round”. He insisted that small and medium enterprises would be better off under Sinn Féin, referring to the current tax system as “very unfair and unequal”.
The interview generated a huge response online, with some praising Prendeville for his tough questioning and others maintaining Adams performed well under pressure.
Despite the fireworks, the exchange ended in a civil manner.