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An empty apology is even worse than none at all, Gerry

GERRY ADAMS can stick his apology. The Sinn Fein leader has had almost 17 years to say sorry for his comrades' part in the slaying of Jerry McCabe.

By doing so in the aftermath of a similar atrocity, he is simply confirming his status as the most cynical man in Leinster House -- and shown why his retirement from Irish politics cannot come soon enough.

Why did Adams wait until this week before making his act of contrition? One theory is he wanted to smooth things over with the Garda Siochana before attending Det Gda Adrian Donohoe's funeral. Another is he knew nobody would challenge him, for fear of causing a political row that might look disrespectful to the dead man's family.

Adams's track record means that nothing he says or does can be taken at face value.

He continues to insist with a straight face that he was never in the IRA -- but he is apologising on behalf of Provo killers.

He implies that some of his associates might have got a bit trigger-happy, but he ignores his own responsibility for the deaths of so many at the hands of his comrades.

While Gerry's pals were responsible for almost 2,000 deaths during their vicious campaign, few cast as long a shadow as that of Det Gda Jerry McCabe in 1996.

The 52-year-old father of five, died in a hail of fifteen bullets after IRA raiders rammed his unmarked patrol car. He and his colleague Ben O'Sullivan, who was badly wounded, had been escorting a post office van delivering money to post offices in the tourist village of Adare.

It was a brutal, senseless killing -- and yet, incredibly, no murder convictions have been secured. Thanks to the intimidation of witnesses by the IRA, the four culprits ended up being convicted of manslaughter.

Gerry Adams's response to this was truly sickening. First, he tried to deny that Republicans were involved. When that collapsed, he tried to defend the guilty men by pointing out that at least they hadn't wanted the money for themselves.

However, the biggest insults of all were yet to come. Adams lobbied hard to have McCabe's killers released from Castlerea Prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, despite the Irish Government's insistence that they were specifically excluded from the deal.

Sinn Fein politicians were photographed laughing with the gunmen in jail, while the beaming face of TD Martin Ferris (himself an ex-IRA jailbird) was there to greet them when they finally got out in 2009.

While there is no evidence yet that republicans were involved in the Donohoe murder, he and Jerry McCabe died in very similar circumstances.

They were men who truly deserved to be called patriots -- unlike the balaclava-wearing thugs who funded the IRA.

Perhaps Gerry is feeling spooked by the thought of a skeleton falling out of his own closet. Dolours Price, the Old Bailey bomber who died last week, recently claimed that he was the IRA godfather who ordered the abduction and slaying of mother-of-ten Jean McConville in 1972, a claim Adams denies. She is also believed to have given details in an interview with Boston College -- and if those tapes are released shortly they could prove to be political dynamite.

If Adams is truly sorry, there is one thing he could do -- tell the full truth about his IRA role and the lives he helped to destroy. Until then, he should keep his breath to cool his porridge because all he has achieved this week is to prove that an empty apology is even worse than none at all.