Gerry Adams: From 'interrogation' to rapturous welcome
AFTER spending four days being what he described as "interrogated", Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams emerged blinking into a storm.
Yet it was only a matter of seconds before Adams slipped into the patter of the usual self-assured politician as he proceeded, as Gaeilge, to deliver a carefully choreographed response.
Flanked by his right-hand woman Mary Lou McDonald and long-time friend Martin McGuinness, Mr Adams swiftly moved to declare his innocence and explained he'd offered himself up for questioning two months ago.
And any claims that he was involved in the disappearance of mother-of-10 Jean McConville were part of a "sustained, malicious, untruthful and sinister campaign".
The rapturous welcome, with a standing ovation from his supporters, that greeted the republican veteran in a Balmoral Hotel in Belfast was in stark contrast to the angry loyalist protest staged outside Antrim police station when news of his release filtered through.
Mr Adams deliberately made a point of emphasising that the IRA is "gone – finished" and that the entire focus is now on building peace.
Now, Mr Adams said the only way is forward, adding that there will be "diversions".
"Most importantly there are elements out there who are actively erecting obstacles, actively seeking to put up diversions, so we know that.
"I thank everyone for their support," he said, as laughter and applause broke out in the room as he tried to keep a level tone.
"I extend sympathy once again to the McConville family, and to all those who have suffered, especially at the hands of republicans."
Mr Adams said his resolve remains "as strong as ever", and said that resolve was "to build the peace".
He discussed the number of interviews police recorded with him – 33 in total. He did not expect "special treatment" at Antrim police station, but while he criticised the food as awful, he commended the custodial staff on how he was treated.
And, during his questioning, he had reflected on the death of his friend, hunger striker Bobby Sands, whose anniversary fell over the weekend.
Earlier, tense scenes unfolded as at least 100 loyalist protesters gathered in front of Antrim police station, armed with Union Jack flags and angry cries.
Word filtered through to the crowd shortly before 6pm that he had officially been released from police custody.
But the Sinn Fein president slipped out a back exit and made a beeline for the welcoming bosom of his party colleagues.