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Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams in happier times PA Wire/Press Association Images

Gerry Adams and Micheál Martin had a big row on Morning Ireland

A sign of things to come…

Updated 8pm

IN WHAT IS sure to be the first of many debates in the lead-up to the next general election, the leaders of the two main opposition parties did battle on Morning Ireland just before 9am this morning.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams were on the programme in the wake of some pretty strong remarks from Martin in a speech at Arbour Hill over the weekend.

Martin accused Sinn Féin of promoting a false claim that it has some connection to the Rising and said the party was trying to falsify recent Irish history. In response, Adams said Martin’s comments were a “historical rant” and a clear sign of desperation.

So the good folk at RTÉ decided to set up Martin in a studio from Cork and Adams on the phone from Belfast and the pair went at it for around 10 minutes.

Morning Ireland / SoundCloud

Here’s what happened….


Martin repeatedly used the word “fundamentally” in trying to, er, fundamentally make the point that Adams was continuing to promote and protect the idea that the Provisional IRA was legitimate. He said that Adams was trying to promote a connection between the 1916 leaders and the PIRA campaign.

We saw that recently in the CBS interview where he again legitimised essentially the abduction and murder of Jean McConville and the orphaning of 10 children by his statement that ‘this is what happens in war.’

Martin said that Adams refuses to disassociate himself from those who murdered gardaí, members of the army and prison officers.

“There’s an ongoing campaign and project by the Provisional IRA to essentially legitimise what was an appalling campaign,” Martin said, adding that the comparisons with 1916 were “obscene” and rendered Sinn Féin “unfit for government”.

“Going to be mighty”

Adams, unsurprisingly, did not agree. He noted that the people will decide who’s fit for government. He believed there was desperation from Fianna Fáil in seeing a party like Sinn Féin as being a “genuine republican party organised in all 32 counties”.

Adams said that far from claiming ownership of 1916, his party wanted to “popularise 1916″.

Even if Fianna Fáil didn’t exist, even if Sinn Féin didn’t exist, 1916 and the commemoration is going to be mighty because patriotic people want to commemorate, to celebrate and also to see the unfulfilled promise of the Proclamation fulfilled in our time.”

Sinn Fein Gay Marriage Equality Referendums Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

North v South

Interviewer Fran McNulty made the point that if Fianna Fáil recognised power-sharing in the North how could it therefore believe that Sinn Féin is unfit for government in the South. Before he responded to that, Martin accused Adams of using the same tactic all the time.

“He attacks the messenger but doesn’t deal with the substance of the argument,” he said, before again returning to the McConville case, accusing Adams of trying to legitimise her abduction and murder.

To this day those who did that are being protected by a movement that Gerry was a member of.

1916 Programme of Events Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

On McNulty’s point, Martin said that there is a “fundamental difference” between the Constitution in Ireland and the situation in the North.

A form of government had to be established that involved cross-community input, but even in that context the parties would not wear Sinn Féin being responsible for issues like justice.

Then he went back to Adams “legitimising” the murder of officers of this State, and noted the case of Austin Stack, whose father was murdered by the IRA.

“I’ll respond to Micheál Martin, as I have done on programmes like this a hundred times.”

Adams said he would “of course” accept that the IRA response to what was happening in the North “was legitimate” in the same way that what happened in 1916 and subsequently was legitimate. However, he added that he has been “hugely critical” of aspects of the IRA campaign, including McConville’s murder.

Asked if he regretted saying “that’s what happens in a war” in relation to McConville’s murder, he responded:

Well, you see, the fact is that war should not be glamorised. War is desperate. Part of what we need to look at is that fact that we ended the war and that we have peace and that Sinn Féin have been central to that.

Adams then went around the houses on the history of Fianna Fáil in government including, amongst many other things, the “bankrupting of the state”, “the brown envelope culture” and “the Galway tent”.

As this was happening someone, presumably Martin, was furiously scribbling notes. Adams was said that Martin and Fianna Fáíl were “all about about desperation”.

“I don’t want to get into any debates…”

McNulty then asked Adams if Jean McConville’s murder was a war crime. Adams said he didn’t want to get into any debates “around these hugely emotive issues” saying it would not be fair to do so.

The Sinn Féin leader said these issues were being used to “distract attention” from Fianna Fáil and what it did in government .

“I’ve been making these points consistently.”

When it was put to Martin that he was using attacks on Sinn Féin to distract from his party’s own poor performance and the electoral threat that Adams and co are presenting, he said: ”I’ve been making these points consistently over the last four years.”

It was at that point, with the debate coming to an end, that Martin launched into a stinging attack on Adams:

Gerry, in terms of legacy, I wasn’t responsible for the murder of anybody. I don’t have to legitimise the murder of anybody…

As the Sinn Féin leader attempted to get a word in down the phone from Belfast, Martin could not be stopped:

No, Gerry, I don’t have to legitimise the murder of anybody. You do and you continue to do it. Until the day I am left in public life I will never allow you, Gerry, to whitewash away the atrocities that were committed by your movement. There was no war, Gerry, and there shouldn’t have been a war.

Martin said that he accepted Fianna Fáil had done wrong in government, but that Adams doesn’t not accept that he did wrong in the past.

Unfortunately, for everyone, Fran McNulty had to leave it there.

Read more: Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are battling to lead the 1916 celebrations

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