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Adams puts foot in mouth as he fails to answer €18bn question

SINN Fein president Gerry Adams' lack of basic knowledge of economic policy yesterday damaged his high flying party's credibility -- again.

Mr Adams latest intervention in the 2011 General Election was a repeat performance of the 2007 campaign where he was badly exposed on the economy.

Riding high in the opinion polls, level with Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein was building up a head of steam heading into the election campaign, largely off the back of strong performances in debates by its new finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.

But Mr Adams managed to create a €14bn black hole in the Sinn Fein economic plans by failing to say where the party would get the money from to run the country this year, as he proposed to abandon the EU-IMF bailout.

Mr Adams was repeatedly tangled up on whether he was proposing to act "unilaterally" on the banking crisis or "negotiate" with bondholders.

Sinn Fein voted for the bank guarantee in September 2008, meaning the money owed is now sovereign debt.

The Sinn Fein president was badly exposed during a line on intense questions on his constituency's local radio station, LMFM radio, yesterday morning. He shifted his position on how he would make up the deficit to fund the country's spending this year -- a shortfall of €18bn.

"Well the sum total of what we would be able to do this year is to reduce the deficit by €4.6bn that's been costed by economists," he said. "The other €14bn is about paying off this private banking debt," he added.

Mr Adams repeatedly brought in separate issues such as Fine Gael's plans for public sector redundancies and otherwise dodged the detail. "Well first of all we could argue around these figures and we will lose your audience. The fact is the biggest burden on the state at the moment is that which is being brought about by the greed of private bankers and the golden circle," he said.

Later in the day, Mr Adams said he would fund the State through the €30bn in pension reserve fund and exchequer reserve funds.

But the Department of Finance points out the majority of any funding held by the National Treasury Management Agency are already committed to the capitalisation of the banks and for spending on infrastructure.

"All cash we hold is to fund the State. It won't ever fund us to the end of the year," a spokesman said. And Mr Adams proposed to renege on commitments to stabilise the banking sector.

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"That is a matter for the banks to sort out," he said. Mr Adams denied he was weak on the economy and he had damaged his party in 2007. "This is 2011," he said.

Meanwhile, Helen McKendry, one of the daughters of Jean McConville, who was abducted and murdered by the IRA, is not going to stand as a candidate in Louth.

Mr Adams has always denied he gave the order for her murder.

Jean McConville, a widow, was abducted from her Belfast home in December 1972 and accused of being an informer. She was one of the so-called IRA Disappeared and her secret grave was not found until 2003. Ms McKendry's husband, Seamus, confirmed that while they would like to do everything they can to reduce support for Mr Adams, Helen will not be a candidate.

He said that while they had met some "beautiful people in Louth" during the searches for Jean's remains, he appealed for voters not to vote for Sinn Fein. "I would ask the people and voters in Louth to give a moments thought to Tom Oliver and Jean McConville before they ruin their future with a protest vote," he added.