JUST why did Gerry Adams do the big 'Prime Time' TV interview on Monday night to allegedly talk about the IRA's past? Instead of coming clean on cases which remain unsolved, the dissembling Adams ended up giving us more denials, more evasions and digging more holes for himself (if you'll forgive the rather unfortunate pun).
God knows who was behind the idea for this TV 'non-confession'. No doubt Sinn Fein want Adams to put clear water between the present and the violent past and clear up some of these mysteries, at least for the victim's families. But the real way to do this would be for Adams to simply step down as party leader and spend more time with the teddy bear he tweets about.
He is irredeemably connected with the IRA's violent past and to come on TV and play around with allegations, in that self-important way he has, is just to insult the victims further. It is also holding his party back just when it should be developing as an opposition to a resurgent Fianna Fail.
Adams is not the person to do an explanation and recompense for the IRA's past. He is incapable of answering a question on this without going into evasions, irrelevancies and outright denials. After all, this is a man who still denies that he was in the IRA himself and who denied, at the outset, any IRA involvement in the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe or in the Columbia Three or in the Northern Bank robbery. All these were knee-jerk denials, done instinctively: the tactical reaction of a man at war, where truth is the first casualty.
And this is why Adams is incapable of bringing clarity here, even if we accept the sincerity of his Dail apology to the families of republican victims. Specifically, this was to the families of Garda Jerry McCabe and other members of southern state security forces.
"I'm very sorry for the pain and loss inflicted upon those families," he said then and he probably is. The IRA didn't intend to kill gardai, after all, and it brought them a lot of unwelcome publicity and odium. But there was no apology for the killings of Northern policemen. Those deaths presumably didn't cause Adams as much trouble.
His apologies over the years have been selective and his attitude to the truth is even more so. Thus, on Monday night, he denied any knowledge about a string of suspected IRA murders in a way that was at times farcical. He denied being the final 'court of appeal' in the killing of farmer Tom Oliver in 1991. He 'didn't know' who killed the Portlaoise prison officer Brian Stack or who killed Garda Samuel Donegan in 1972.
He also accused those who said that he had ordered the killing of Jean McConville of "telling lies" and wanting him dead. He did, at least, say he believed that any killing of any human being was "murder" and that the killing of agents of the state was wrong. But that such violence was part of war.
He didn't distance myself from the IRA, he said, and never would. Fair enough. It is unreasonable to expect IRA or Sinn Fein people to repent of their past. But then please stop going into the public domain to play evasive 'Mastermind' with the public's legitimate questions – and with the families' heart-rending cry for closure. Better to say nothing.
Instead, Adams does worse. In 2010, for example, he 'welcomed' the discovery of the body of Charlie Armstrong, who was 'disappeared' by the IRA in 1981, except Adams said that there was "no evidence" that the IRA had killed him and added that anyway: "Who killed him is of secondary importance."
Of secondary importance? Well, not to Armstrong's widow, it's not, who waited 29 years to find her husband's remains and who would very much like to know how he died. But we still don't know. And we'll never know unless the IRA tells us.
Because Adams, the serial evader and denier – who denies that he was even in the IRA – is certainly not the man to tell us.