Gerry Adams And The Public Interest Factor

Ed Moloney with a piece on the Gerrry Adams arrest. It initially featured on The Broken Elbow on 4 May 2014.

While we do not know, and probably will never find out, why the PSNI referred Gerry Adams’ file to the prosecution service for a decision on whether to charge him, it is very possible that ‘public interest’ considerations were high on the list of factors.

This is because of Adams’ post as an elected representative, the leader of one of Ireland’s largest political parties and because of his key role as the IRA broker of the peace process. Since his prosecution and/or conviction could have serious implications for the peace process, and therefore for British government policy, this may qualify his case for the ‘public interest’ argument and a government intervention to stop any prosecution.

It may also be the case that the decision was made solely or mainly because the police are unsure whether the evidence they have gathered would be sufficient to secure a conviction at trial and decided to pass the ball to the prosecution service’s lawyers to decide. But common sense suggests that ‘public interest’ is likely to be an element in the decision.

The doctrine of ‘public interest’ was devised by Sir Hartley Shawcross QC, a Labour Attorney-General in the first post-war British government who later became chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg war trials.
The doctrine was outline in a statement to the British House of Commons on January 29th 1951 from Shawcross which read:
It is the duty of an Attorney-General, in deciding whether or not to authorise the prosecution, to acquaint himself with all the relevant facts, including, for instance, the effect which the prosecution, successful or unsuccessful as the case may be, would have upon public morale and order, and with any other considerations affecting public policy.
In order so to inform himself, he may, although I do not think he is obliged to, consult with any of his colleagues in the Government; and indeed, as Lord Simon once said, he would in some cases be a fool if he did not. On the other hand, the assistance of his colleagues is confined to informing him of particular considerations which might affect his own decision, and does not consist, and must not consist, in telling him what that decision ought to be. The responsibility for the eventual decision rests with the Attorney-General, and he is not to be put, and is not put, under pressure by his colleagues in the matter.

Given the profile and sensitivity of the case it seems unlikely that a decision of this gravity would be left to Barra McGrory’s deputy, assuming he recuses himself from the case. Instead she is likely to refer the case to the British Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve MP. In effect the British government will decide whether Gerry Adams ends up in the dock.

So in a nutshell Gerry Adams might end up a beneficiary of a rule which permits dropping a prosecution which might have an adverse impact on 'public morale and order, and with any other considerations affecting public policy.'

Stand by for the mother and father of political rows if that happens.


  1. I don't believe there is a snowball's chance in hell of Adams getting charged with anything. Ian Hayne has publicly set out the establishment gratitude towards Gerry and Martin both. Paula Mackin in her sensationalist garbage in the Sunday World is moving the issue from Gerry Adams whom not to many empathise with, to the ordinary volunteers of the 1970s. This is all simply an attempt to raise the temperature and insight the SF mob in my view.

    I've said on another thread, are we to condemn David Nelligan, Ernie O'Mallie and Tom Barry for writing books and naming names now? Perhaps we are to be permitted to only read Gerry Adams history of the Provos. The version from he who was never a member. Perhaps it will be called Mein Kampf?

    People need to slow down, this whole nonsense is going exactly where the PSNI wanted it to. I see Mr McConville and the family are considering taking a case against the PSNI and the Attorney General or someone like that. All I can say to that is I got the impression he was a thoughtful, considered sort of man. Seems he has more sese than the ex Provos running about roaring on tv and name calling at this point.

    Why doesn't Gerry take a case for wrongful arrest.... or a lie detector test and be done with it? Or simply retire and go rent a room off Scap. God knows they both earned millions I'd hazard a guess at this stage.

  2. Larry,
    About 2yrs ago on TPQ I floated the idea for Gerry Adams to take a lie detector test and i was told "Fankie it wont work, not worth the paper etc". Last week in an interview with Nolan, Michael McConville said he is willing to take a lie detector test to prove his claims and he asked the question "Will Adams take one?"...

    I believe the PSNI had more than enough to charge Gerry Adams with membership if nothing else but figured it is too much of a hot potatoe and passed the buck to PPS. I also believe a phone call came into Antrim crime suite after the extention was granted and they were told to let him go. I said as much last week..,

    Today, there are the 1916 societies who are explaining what republicanism is actually about. Independant republicans, RUN & Eirígí: who are opposing PSF in areas where once anyone who broke ranks got their legs broke. The tide is turning. Maybe this time around you wont fill all your quota's. it wasn't that long ago that PSF couldn't fill theirs either. What I do know is the voice of dissent is getting louder every day and PSF will be exposed for what they are, a one man party..Once Adams leaves they stage, as Marty said, Mary lou wont hold the same control over PSF..

  3. Why should he take a lie detector test? I don't understand the logic behind such a request. As for the McConville family...your mother wasn't the innocent little old mum that she is made out to be....the aspect of this whole sorry affair is the role of Britain's security forces who once again have simply walked away with their hands clean...several times they enticed her in to spying, most likely with the offer of money...touch bringing 11 kids up...but they knew the danger she was in and time and time again they enticed her....they may not have pulled the trigger but they certainly pointed the gun in her direction.
    It's time that the focus of this affair was on them.