ON BEING RELEASED from police custody yesterday, Gerry Adams met with his Sinn Féin colleagues to co-ordinate his return to the current political sphere.
His first port of call was a news conference in a West Belfast hotel last night, where he received a warm welcome from supporters.
The remarks that he delivered to a group of national and international journalists were written while in his cell at Antrim police station.
During the speech, he confirmed his support for the current policing system in Ireland and renewed Sinn Féin’s commitment to the peace process and political institutions.
Here is that speech, in full.
“Chuaigh mé fhéin chuig an bheairic in Aontroim.
Mar sin níl mé ag gearán faoi sin. Ach bhí rogha ag na péas.
Ní raibh mé ag lorg príbhléid speisialta ar bith.
Ach tá sé go han-tábhachtach go bhfuil daoine sásta go bhfuil na póiliní ag obair go cothrom.
Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil Jean McConville agus a clann ag croílár tragóide.
Tá mise agus Sinn Féin ag déanamh ár ndíchill chun éagóir a chur i gceart.
Tá muid ag tógáil na síochána, ag iarraidh í a chur chun tosaigh.
Míle buíochas do na daoine a chuir beannachtaí do Colette agus dár gclann, do chomrádaithe i Sinn Féin agus do chairde elie.
Is léir go bhfuil naimhde phróiseas na síochána ag obair go fóill.
Ach ní bheidh an bua acu.
Tá muintir na tíre ar bhóthar na síochána agus i dtreo sochaí níos feare. Tá sé de cheart acu.
I came voluntarily from the Dáil in Dublin to Antrim PSNI barracks last Wednesday having contacted the PSNI two months ago through my solicitor Seamus Collins, to tell them that I was available to meet them following yet another spate of media speculation, part of a sustained malicious, untruthful and sinister campaign alleging involvement by me in the killing of Mrs Jean McConville.
When the PSNI contacted my solicitor on Monday afternoon I was concerned about the timing, given that Sinn Féin is involved in very important EU and local government elections across the island of Ireland.
But I quickly made arrangements to come here and I left Leinster House – the Oireachtas – and Leaders Questions with the Taoiseach to do so.
I want to thank my solicitor Mr Seamus Collins for his diligence and professional approach and his colleague Eugene McKenna.
I also want to thank everyone who has sent goodwill messages to Colette and our family and to my comrades in Sinn Féin for their solidarity.
Tá mé fíor bhuíoch daoibhse uilig.
I am conscious that there is another family at the heart of this. That is the family of Mrs Jean McConville.
Let me be very clear.
I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill and bury Mrs McConville.
I have worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of the bodies of others killed and secretly buried by the IRA and I will continue to do so.
The Commission set up by the two governments at the request of myself, and the late Fr Alex Reid, has said that it is receiving 100 per cent support from republicans.
Martin McGuinness and I were actually to meet the Commission around this time as part of this work.
I am mindful also that tomorrow is the anniversary of the death on hunger strike of H Block martyr Bobby Sands MP.
Sitting in my cell here in recent days I reflected on that and on the dreadful summer of 1981.
Of course this is not 1981 or 1972.
The people of this island – with a few exceptions, have carved out a new dispensation.
So while the past needs to be dealt with – and Sinn Féin is up for doing this – including the issue of victims and their families, there can be no going back.
Peace needs to be built with determination and a consistent focus.
That remains my intention and is Sinn Féin’s constant endeavour.
I bear no animosity to anyone. I have no wish to be treated differently from anyone else.
I am an activist – this is my live and I am philosophical and I understand that I have detractors and opponents.
I especially understand that there are sinister elements, who are against the changes Sinn Féin and others are committed to achieving.
I did not come here expecting special treatment but it is crucial that everyone is treated fairly. I seek fair treatment not only for myself but because it is crucially important that everyone knows that these are changed times, that they can and will be treated fairly and that we can all have hope and confidence in the new developing dispensation, including the police service.
To send any other signal is to encourage the bigots.
So I make the case that those who authorised my arrest and detention could have done it differently.
They had discretion.
They did not have to use pernicious coercive legislation to deal with a legacy issue – even one as serious as this, which I was voluntarily prepared to deal with.
They did not have to do this in the middle of an election campaign.
Remember I contacted them two months ago.
Despite this I want to make it clear that I support the PSNI.
I will continue to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service.
The old guard which is against change whether in the PSNI leadership, within unionism or the far fringes of republicanism, or the Dark Side of the British system cannot be allowed to deny any of the people – Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter – from our entitlement to a rights-based, citizen-centred society as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
I am an Irish republican.
I want to live in a peaceful Ireland based on equality.
I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will but I am glad that I, and others, have created a peaceful and democratic way forward for everyone.
The IRA is gone.
During my interrogations much was made by my interrogators about my time in the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s, my arrest and detention in Palace Barracks, in Long Kesh and in the peace talks in 1972.
Newspaper articles, photographs of Martin McGuinness and I at Republican funerals, books and other open source material were used as the basis of the accusations made against me.
Much of the interrogations concerned the so-called Belfast Project conceived by Paul Bew, University lecturer and a former advisor to former Unionist leader David Trimble, and run by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre as part of Boston College.
Both Moloney and McIntyre are opponents of the Sinn Féin leadership and our peace strategy and have interviewed former republicans who are also hostile to me and other Sinn Féin leaders.
These former republicans have accused us of betrayal and sell-out and have said we should be shot because of our support for the Good Friday Agreement and policing.
The allegation of conspiracy in the killing of Mrs McConville is based almost exclusively on hearsay from unnamed alleged Boston College interviewees but mainly from Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes.
Other anonymous alleged Belfast Project interviewees were identified only by a letter of the alphabet, eg interview R or Y.
One of these is claimed by the PSNI to be Ivor Bell although the interrogators told me he has denied the allegations.
I rejected all the allegations made about me in the Boston Tapes.
Finally, let me be clear. There is only one way for our society to go and that is forward.
Yes deal with the past. Yes deal with victims but the focus needs to be on the future.
That is the road we are on. There will be bumps in that road. There will be diversions.
Obstacles will be erected. We know that.
I thank everyone for their support.
I extend sympathy to the McConville family and all those who have suffered especially at the hands of republicans.
My resolve remains as strong as ever. It is to build the peace and see off the sinister forces, who are against equality and justice for everyone.”