An offer by Gerry Adams to speak to some form of ‘truth commission’ about his IRA past is a tacit admission he is withholding information.
That is the view of the Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie, who said Mr Adams’ comments, made in a televised interview with Sky News on Sunday, should be discounted because he has “already proven” he is “unwilling to tell the truth”.
In the interview, Mr Adams said he would be willing to speak about his past “if there’s a satisfactory arrangement in place”.
The Sinn Fein president said he would also encourage other republicans to come forward.
Mr Beattie told the News Letter: “He has already proven that he won’t tell the truth. What he is really saying is ‘I will come forward and I will tell the truth if there’s an amnesty there so I can’t be prosecuted for what I’m going to say’.
“If it’s not there he’s going to say nothing. I see no credibility in that man whatsoever and I wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth.”
Mr Beattie said the offer to speak ‘under amnesty’ is something of an inadvertent admission that he is holding information back.
“There are two things you’ve got to ask here,” Mr Beattie said. “One is ‘what exactly is he talking about?’
“Is he saying he’s going to tell the truth about his involvement in the IRA, in which case he is admitting that there is something to tell? Secondly, is he saying he will break the code of ‘omerta’, that he will talk about what other people were doing in regards to the IRA?
“The answer to either of those questions is no.”
Asked by Sky News Ireland correspondent David Blevins whether he might talk about “his past and his alleged long involvement in the IRA” under a truth commission, Mr Adams said: “Yes.”
He added: “I have said, and Martin (McGuinness) and I said this together, that we would both do our best and we would also encourage other republicans to come forward if there was a satisfactory arrangement in place. That’s my commitment. Martin’s not here but that’s still my commitment.”
Mr Beattie was scathing in his response.
He said: “I think what he is doing is posturing, trying to present himself as the reasonable man – painting a picture to everybody out there that he is reasonable but the British government and unionists are not reasonable. I’m not falling for that and I don’t think anyone else is falling for that nonsense.
“I do not trust Gerry Adams one bit. I would not trust a word that comes out of his mouth.”
Mr Adams also outlined his party’s position on the legacy of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, saying: “It isn’t about getting British soldiers in the dock. It’s about the victims of British soldiers being treated exactly the same as the victims of the IRA or any other combatant.
“Our position has been for an international, independent truth commission that everybody can make use of – but we compromised on this issue.
“And yes, I believe victims of the IRA or at least their relatives have the right to truth and I believe that those who are victims of British Army violence or state violence also have the right to truth.”
Leaving Mr Adams’ comments aside, Mr Beattie said the UUP was not necessarily opposed to the general idea of a truth commission.
“If people want some sort of truth commission, for those who lost loved ones who simply want to know what happened, then the Ulster Unionist Party would not block it,” he said.
“What we would be very wary of would be making it a case where someone could go into a darkened room and make a confessional and, by doing so, they might be handed some sort of an amnesty.”