In any conversation a person nearly always reveals what is on their mind within a few moments. All you have to do is listen. It is instructive, therefore, to analyse the reaction of Sinn Fein to the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.
The Detective Garda was murdered at 9.30pm on Friday last.
News that a garda had been murdered began to circulate within half an hour or an hour at most, that is, by 10pm or 10.30pm; it is fair to say that news of the murder was not made known to the public at large until an RTE News bulletin after the Late Late Show at around 11pm.
Shortly after that broadcast, before midnight – at precisely 11.53pm – Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein both issued statements which seemed to be similar but which were markedly different in tone and content.
It was not until after midnight, at 1.22am, that the Minister for Justice confirmed: "I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner of the dreadful news of the brutal murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe who was on duty in Co Louth last night."
Shatter went on to state the "great respect and admiration" the people of Ireland had for members of the Garda Siochana and spoke of his "revulsion and horror" at what he had called a "brutal murder".
He also said he knew the gardai would spare no effort to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice; in doing so, he said, the gardai had the "unswerving support" of the Government.
When both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein issued their initial statements, therefore, the identity of Det Gda Donohoe had not been formally announced, although that is not relevant to this analysis.
Their statements were issued in the names of Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Niall Collins and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, a TD from Co Louth.
A nephew of Gerry Collins – a former Minister for Justice – Niall Collins did not equivocate. He expressed "shock and sympathy" following what he also, like Shatter, called the "murder" of Detective Garda Donohoe.
Collins said he had spoken to the Garda Commissioner and had offered him the "solidarity" of Fianna Fail and had reassured him of "all support necessary in the pursuit and prosecution of those responsible".
Now to the statement of Gerry Adams.
The Sinn Fein President also expressed his "shock" and "sympathies" at the "shooting dead" of Det Gda Donohoe.
Adams did not refer to the murder of Det Gda Donohoe for what it was – murder.
In fact, in that statement, and in his every public utterance since, Adams has never referred to the murder of Det Gda Donohoe as "murder"; he has only ever referred to the "shooting dead" or "killing" or the "death" of the garda.
In his statement, Adams said he was "shocked" at this "crime"; the word crime must be regarded as too small to describe what the Minister for Justice had referred to as a "revulsion" and a "horror".
An analysis of the Adams statement contains further revelations as to what was on his mind before midnight on Friday last.
At that stage, it is apparent that Sinn Fein believed, or suspected, the murder was carried out by a 'dissident' paramilitary group, the so-called Real IRA most likely.
In his statement Adams issued an "appeal to those with information about this crime to co-operate with the gardai".
By any stretch, that was an extraordinary statement.
Shatter was to state that the gardai would "spare no effort" to bring to justice those responsible for the "brutal murder" and had promised the "unswerving support" of the Government.
Collins had spoken to the Garda Commissioner and had offered him "solidarity" and all the "support necessary" in the "pursuit and prosecution" of those responsible for the "murder".
But Adams merely appealed to those with information about this "crime" – not this murder, but
this crime – the "shooting dead" of a garda, to "co-operate" with the gardai.
Here is the point: in Adams's statement, there is an implicit assumption that the IRA, whether the Provos or so-called Real IRA, do not naturally co-operate with the forces of law and order in the State, even when a garda is murdered.
At two minutes past midnight on Friday, the Sinn Fein Justice spokesman, Padraig Mac Lochlainn, also issued a statement – but neither did he refer to the murder as murder, but of a garda who had been "shot dead".
In fact, the tone of Mac Lochlainn's statement could equally have been applied to a garda killed in a hit-and-run car accident.
He spoke of it as "yet another tragic reminder" of the "immense risks" gardai take, and of how "we can only hope" those responsible were speedily brought to justice.
In any event, the initial reaction of Gerry Adams is an insight into what appears to be the continued ambivalence of Sinn Fein to the murder of security force members by so-called 'dissident' republicans who claim to act on foot of some form of political motivation, as the Provisional IRA did.
The tone of the Sinn Fein reaction changed overnight, however.
A further statement was issued from the Sinn Fein press office in Leinster House, this time in the names of two Louth County Councillors.
While it referred to "tonight's murder", the statement was not issued until 8.32am on Saturday, that is, a full 11 hours after the murder of Det Gda Donohoe.
This statement "condemned the criminals" who had "murdered" the garda; there was "no excuse for the murder"; those responsible were "dangerous criminals"; they were out to "commit a crime and fully prepared to murder".
Then came the politics: "Serious crime is leaving communities across the country in fear every day."
The question is, what accounted for this change of tone?
Could it be that Sinn Fein became aware, before even the gardai seemed to be aware, that so-called ordinary criminals, and not the Real IRA, were responsible for the murder?
The murder of Det Gda Donohoe immediately brought to mind the killing 17 years earlier of Det Gda Jerry McCabe.
In this instance, it is accurate to refer to the killing of Det Gda McCabe as a "killing", not a murder, as the Provisional IRA members responsible were convicted of manslaughter not murder.
They were convicted only of manslaughter because the Provisional IRA had unleashed a wave of intimidation that ultimately undermined the prosecution. At least three witnesses were too frightened to testify.
In his statement in the Dail last week, Gerry Adams referred only to the "shooting dead", the "killing" and/or the "death" of Det Gda Donohoe, not the murder.
While the word "murder" was contained in a Sinn Fein media release headline on Adams's statement to the Dail, at no stage did the Sinn Fein President put on the record a view that the murder of Det Gda Donohoe was murder.
In choosing not to do so, the Sinn Fein President has left himself open to the accusation that he maintains a belief among republican paramilitaries that the murder of a garda, any garda, is somehow (still) a lesser crime.
In his Dail statement, Adams added: "I want to apologise to Mrs McCabe and the McCabe family, and to Garda Ben O'Sullivan and to the families of other members of the State forces who were killed by republicans in the course of the conflict."
Some significance has been attached to this statement, as though it represents a further step in the evolution of Sinn Fein from the political wing of a terrorist organisation to a constitutional political party.
It does no such thing: the statement was no more than a carefully measured, politically expedient response which went no further than a statement that had been previously made by Sinn Fein/Provisional IRA.
On March 15, 2005, the Provisional IRA members responsible for the killing of Det Gda Jerry McCabe issued a statement to RTE News at a time when Sinn Fein, and Gerry Adams in particular, attempted to have them released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
That statement included: "We deeply regret and apologise for this and the hurt and grief we have caused to their families. There was never any intent to attack any members of the Garda Siochana."
In August 2009, Gerry Adams referred to that statement. He said: "In a public statement some years ago, the IRA members convicted in relation to Jerry McCabe's death and the wounding of Garda Ben O'Sullivan expressed their deep regret and apologised for the 'hurt and grief we have caused to their families'."
For his part, Adams added: "I deeply regret the great loss and hurt suffered by the McCabe and O'Sullivan families."
In relation to the 'apology' of those convicted of the killing of Jerry McCabe, Adams also said: "I believe that this apology was genuine and it echoes the sentiments of republicans everywhere."
Therefore, Adams had accepted as "genuine" the assertion that there had never been any intention to attack either Jerry McCabe or Ben O'Sullivan.
Now let us recall the chilling words of Det Gda Ben O'Sullivan during the trial: "I saw two men armed with guns... They were wearing dark balaclavas, dressed in black and green camouflage battle-dress. They carried what appeared to be Kalashnikov rifles. They had the guns pointed at us. They trained them on our car, but they were still moving, moving very energetically. In an instant without any warning, without any opportunity for us to protect the SDS van, one of them opened fire.
"The first blast struck me on the right shoulder. The second blast blew my hands off the steering wheel and I was forced on to the handbrake. The driver's window blew in around me. I saw Jerry's hands going into a spasm. His hand was contorting, his arm was blue and white. When the shooting ceased I heard shouting but I had no idea what was being said. I called Jerry three or four times. I said, 'Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.' There was no response."