Danger: these men cannot be interviewed

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I HAVE seen the first Irish television interview with Gerry Adams. The good news is that he was dull; the bad that he was clever; and the worst - confirmed by the two radio interviews about which I have read much - is that professional interviewers seem unable to demolish his dishonest arguments.

Radio Telefis Eireann gave the job to Brian Farrell, their most senior and most respected political interviewer and a professor of politics to boot. It was clear from his face that Farrell saw through Adams's shady distortion, cant and Orwellian language. But seeing through is not cutting up. Adams has very nifty footwork and is almost impossible to pin down. It takes some effrontery to be able to a) complain about the difference between the Downing Street declaration and the Hume/Adams document, while explaining that we were not yet to be allowed to see said document; and b) ask for clarification of the declaration, while refusing to explain what you want clarified.

Farrell was too civilised to be able to deal with an opponent who is single-minded, unscrupulous and brilliant at rising from the terrorist gutter to seize the high moral ground.

Until recently, I opposed on civil liberties grounds the British and Irish broadcasting bans on Sinn Fein. I changed my mind for two reasons. First, reading Walter Bagehot reminded me of the fundamental truth that you have to have order before you can have the luxury of liberty. Second, I realised that the spokesmen of Sinn Fein/IRA seemed too professional for the journalists.

I don't know if they have used image consultants. Between the funding they receive from their entrepreneurial activities - racketeering, bank-robbing and so on - Sinn Fein/IRA can certainly afford them. But I do know they are immensely clever about presentation. Adams's clothes are right; his spectacles are sober without being frumpy; his hair and beard are neatly trimmed.

The words are even more professional, taking me back with a start to the old days of Communist Newspeak. Now it is spoken most fluently by Adams, Martin McGuinness and their many articulate colleagues to persuade liberals in these two islands and in the US that Sinn Fein/IRA is interested in a democratic peace.

For the benefit of those who have failed to do their homework on Provospeak, here are a few translations from recent Adams statements: 'The British government . . . should be saying to the Unionist section of our people, 'your future lies with the rest of the Irish people' ' means 'The British government should rat on the Unionists.'

'Clarification' means 'negotiation'. 'Demilitarisation of the conflict' means 'Brits out'. 'Maximum consent for Unionists' means 'minimum consent for Unionists'. 'Peace' means 'war'.

Should the British broadcasting ban be lifted, now that the Irish have welshed? Probably not. As it stands it is ridiculous, but at least it stops reverential interviews in which apologists for terrorism wipe the floor with their interviewers.

One of the Provos' most effective enemies in southern Ireland, the former senator Professor John Murphy, believes that instead of the present Irish half-way house of insisting on pre-recorded interviews, RTE should go for the jugular.

'These Sinn Fein spokesmen,' he wrote recently, 'should be exposed live to voracious revisionists of whom there is no shortage. I wouldn't mind taking them on myself.' Murphy could do it, because he is part historian, part politician and part boot-boy and he understands the traditional nationalist mentality. I wish I could think of who could do it here.

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