Like buses, interviews have a habit of coming in twos. Last Sunday The Sunday Times had a feature interview of Gerry Adams by Justine McCarthy, and RTÉ’s The Week in Politics had Leo Varadkar interviewed by Aine Lawlor.
The headline of the interview in the Sunday Times was ‘I’m very much at peace with myself’. The statement comes in response to Justine McCarthy’s question as to whether Adams and McGuinness “ever talked about making peace with themselves or their God after the Troubles.” You see the implication behind the question: McGuinness and Adams must need to come to terms with the terrible things they did during the Troubles.
I’m putting together a book of interviews with those who knew Martin McGuinness and a recurring theme is that Martin McGuinness, like many of those who joined the IRA in the 1970s, never saw that action as immoral. If anything, they believed those who didn’t stand up against the oppression of the RUC and the British army were the ones with questions to answer. Likewise with Gerry Adams. You only have to look at or listen to the man for five seconds to know that this is a long, long way from a tormented soul.
Aine Lawlor didn’t ask Leo Varadkar if he’d made peace with himself or his God for wearing his poppy in the Dail a week or so ago. That would not have been respectful. She didn’t challenge him either on his constant use of the word “Ireland” to describe the state of which he is Taoiseach. As Adams said in his Justone McCarthy interview: “One thing northerners would feel offended about is when the word ‘Ireland’ is used to describe the twenty-six counties, or ‘national’ is used to describe the state”. In his interview with Aine Lawlor, Varadkar Irelanded again and again without a peep from Aine. No wonder Adams told Justine that he saw the southern establiushment as “deeply partitionist.” Right, Gerry. You and tens of thousands of others.
Aine Lawlor did press Varadkar about was his stance on the border. Would he be prepared to exercise the south’s veto if other member states in the EU settled for anything less than an invisible border here? Leo replied that he “wouldn’t threaten to use a veto”, which was his way of not answering the question. But was he being tough on the border question because he was nervous of Sinn Féin outflanking him? Leo responded by chuckling in that easy, comfortable way he has with him, and said he considered that a very “eccentric interpretation” of his stance on the border. What he was concerned about was not other political parties but the welfare of the Irish people – “including those north of the border”. Gee thanks, Leo. Does that mean we can now say we live in Ireland?
Perhaps the most significant piece of information Justine extracted from Gerry was that he’d announce at next weekend’s Ard Fheis the plans he’d agreed with Martin McGuinness about retiring. Justine figures it’ll be next November. Either way, it’s going to leave an appalling gap for those media pundits (like Justine) who never tire of reminding us that Gerry has been President of Sinn Féin for thirty-four years. Just as Donald Trump says he’d never describe Kim Jong Un as shortand fat, I’d never accuse Justine of being ageist or incapable of seeing the qualities Adams has brought to Sinn Féin over that period of time.
A Taoiseach and a President (of Sinn Féin, that is – he’s ruled out running for Irish President): once they shared a Pilates class, but they share little else. One has led a life of privilege and comfort (‘Tory Posh-boy’ the FFers call him, the interview revealed), the other comes from a working class background and has coped with death threats and death attempts all his life. One thinks it’s OK to talk as though everyone north of the border aren’t Irish, the other has made it his life’s work to insist on the exact opposite.
Maybe in thirty-one years time, Irish people (yes, Virginia, including us) may hail Leo Varadkar as a man who spent his life in selfless commitment to their welfare. Who knows – someone may even interview him and ask him if he’s at peace with himself and his God.