And whether genuine or not, it was also hypocritical. Why wait so long to apologize and then do it in the week after Donohoe was murdered?
Because Adams, a TD (member of the Dail) for Louth where the Donohoe murder happened, could feel the icy wind of revulsion blowing around him.
Not only was it 17 years too late, but those of us with long memories found it hard to take at face value, given what Adams and Martin McGuinness got up to in the aftermath of the McCabe murder.
Back then, cash raids were part of the IRA's “fundraising” and justified as that, even though the gangs who carried them out did not necessarily pass on all of the proceeds to the "movement."
Most of the "fundraising" happened in the North, but there were occasional examples of it in the south as well, the raid in which McCabe died being an example. At the time, Adams and McGuinness refused to admit that the McCabe killing was the responsibility of the IRA, saying that the raid had not been sanctioned, etc.
Mind you, this did not stop them engineering the intimidation of the jury when five men were brought to trial. As a result, at the last minute the charge was changed from murder to manslaughter to get convictions.
Again, mainly because of pressure from Adams and Co the five guilty men were eventually moved to a low security prison where they were housed in units that were more like apartments, for which they had their own door keys and where they were able to organize their own time, enjoy the garden, order in takeaways and so on.
And of course, despite saying all along that these Garda killers would not be freed under the Good Friday Agreement settlement for the North, the Irish authorities eventually gave in to pressure from Adams and Sinn Fein and they were released.
It is in that wider context that we need to weigh up the value of the Adams apology last week to the McCabe family. Given what McCabe's widow Ann went through over the years as a result of the Sinn Fein campaign to get her husband's killers released, it was hard to take. As well as being 17 years too late.
Coincidentally, the murder of Donohoe came at a time when the government is implementing a rationalization and modernization plan for the Gardai. Part of this is the immediate closure of 100 Garda stations in small villages around the country.
This has caused an outcry because of the growing number of attacks and burglaries on vulnerable people in isolated rural areas, often elderly people. As mentioned above, some of these attacks have been carried out with extreme violence, with very disturbing pictures in the papers of old people who have been beaten up as thieves forced them to give up any cash in the house.
This has become a real problem, with criminal gangs roaming the country in powerful cars, using the motorway system to get away quickly. Some traveler gangs were involved, but more recently "ordinary" criminal gangs from the cities have joined in to benefit from the easy pickings. (With all the bad publicity the banks have been getting some old people no longer trust them and prefer to keep their savings hidden in their houses, and the gangs know this.)
The closure of many rural Garda stations is disturbing for people in these areas. But the government has to cut spending and the Gardai cannot be an exception.
The reality is that policing in Ireland has to change to get the most value for tax money and to reflect the changes in Irish society. Most of the Garda stations being closed were one-man operations which were only manned for a few hours in the morning each day. And they gave no protection against the highly mobile gangs which so many old people fear.
We also have far too many Gardai doing clerical work, stamping forms, issuing permits and so on, stuck in their stations instead of being out fighting crime.
Despite all the arguments about keeping rural stations open, the fact is that we have significantly more police stations here per head of population than they have in most European countries, including our nearest neighbors. We also have an overall police force which compares favorably in size with places like Wales and Scotland, although we don't have as many police out on the job because of doing paper work in the stations.
None of this was a factor in the death of Donohoe. That was both a tragedy and an outrage.
It was also a wake-up call. The aftermath of decades of cross-border IRA criminality has left a legacy behind that we still have to confront.
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