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Why I spoke for Gerry Adams

AS WELL AS starving terrorists of the oxygen of publicity, the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein was instituted, the Government tells us, because it would protect the feelings of victims' relatives. However, as John Major seems to have realised during Commons exchanges this week, the ban has not been entirely successful. It certainly appeared to have flaws two years ago, I can reveal, when Gerry Adams appeared on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme with the voice-over provided by an actor married to a convicted IRA terrorist.

Stephen Rea, a Belfast actor who played an Irish terrorist in the film The Crying Game, did a 16- minute voice-over for Adams, while married to Dolours Price, one of two infamous sisters who were jailed for life in 1973 for their part in the bombings outside the Old Bailey, which injured 170 people and killed one. Both sisters were released after eight years on medical grounds.

Mr Rea, who has been quoted as saying that not every member of the IRA is a barbaric murderer (he has also said his views should not be confused with those of his wife) told me yesterday: 'I don't believe that censorship solves the problem. That is why I was willing to revoice Gerry Adams, because the problems will never be solved unless we are allowed to know what all the elements are.'

The Dispatches programme, 'Terms for Peace', was filmed in 1990 and used a lip-synchronisation technique that some felt defied the spirit of the ban. A Dispatches spokesman said yesterday that Mr Rea had been chosen because 'he is a fine Irish actor. We were not interested in who he was married to'.

DISAPPOINTMENT at Tuesday night's party for the Young Society of Conservative Lawyers, where Sebastian Coe was due to welcome budding Tories to the fold. 'A three-line whip was imposed at the last moment, because of the Railways Bill, so he couldn't make it,' explains the chairman, James Bullock, who was forced to speak instead. 'The irony was that he is probably the only MP who can make it from Chancery Lane to the Commons in the seven minutes between warning bell and deadline - precisely the reason we did not invite Ken Clarke.'

Silence in court ALTHOUGH British justice has been faring badly in recent years, news travels slowly abroad, judging by the desire of 72 Hungarian judges who flew here last week to examine the system in theory and practice, from the public gallery at Oxford Crown Court. The theory bit went well; the four judges delayed court procedure and gave a small lecture. Practice, however, was not so good: the first trial was postponed, and after a promising opening in the second, the defendant pleaded guilty. The judges returned home little the wiser.

SHORTLY after the American journalist Robert McCabe wrote about his love affair with Paris in the International Herald Tribune, the Greek columnist Taki followed suit in the Spectator with several expressions similar to the American's. Mr McCabe arrived in the city by train 40 years ago, while Taki recalls stepping off a Dakota at Orly airport 'exactly (note that word) 35 years ago'. I fear he must be dreaming. Orly airport did not exist until February 1961, two years after the Greek columnist remembers stepping off the plane.

Lonely prince MORE verse from Brian Cox, the former education adviser to Baroness Thatcher, whose lines about her appeared here yesterday. This time, the Prince of Wales following an education seminar.

. . . so when he desired us to take a seat

the armchair beside him remained empty.

Eton's head, trying to make a joke of it,

assumed this space. The Prince murmured sadly:

'At Gordonstoun it was always the same.'


4 November 1909 Hilaire Belloc writes to Maurice Baring: 'I am lying in bed and dictating, because I have been ill. I was well at Knowsley; indeed anyone would be well with such positively charming people. It is always said of Lady Derby that she is worldly, but she was as nice as she could be to me in spite of the fact that people like me only go to houses like that in the character of buffoons. As for Lord Derby, he is the only man living who has given me a complete, immediate and full-hearted run of his library. Everybody else of the many rich people I know, who have libraries, put some sort of little irritating restriction, moral or material, upon the use of it, and they are indeed to be excused. But he gave me the library exactly as though it were my own and that argues all the best qualities that are to be found in a rich man; indeed he almost set me to think that great wealth can in some cases fail to corrupt. I should be glad to think so.'