Tuesday 20 October 2009

Gerry Adams

The level of personal hatred expressed by unionists towards Gerry Adams is remarkable. He is accused (without proof) of having been responsible for, inter alia, La Mon, Bloody Friday and every other operation of the IRA's Belfast Brigade during the 1970s. His denial of IRA membership is ridiculed and his affectation as a writer is sneered at. The mention of his name, more than any other, is likely to divert rational discussion into bitter recriminations.

While there may be some justification for the accusations, the ridicule, and perhaps even the sneering, it is important to try to understand why Adams, more than any other republican, attracts this type of dislike, and what it signifies. Some unionists will claim to dislike all republicans equally, but yet Adams still raises their temperature more than the others.

Is Adams merely the lightning rod, upon whom unionists vent their anger at the damage that the IRA did to 'their Ulster'? If so, his existence and his prominence, are both useful and damaging for republicans. Useful because it diverts unionist attention away from others who then can work more discreetly; damaging because his existence is a constant reminder of the past – of the 1970s, of internment, of bombs and bullets.

Or is there something about Adams personally that unionists find so galling? Is it the fact that a man widely believed to have been the IRA's Belfast Brigade commander in 1972-73, and subsequently a member of the Army Council, has never been prosecuted for any IRA attack – and now is feted worldwide as a man of peace and as a statesman?

This blog has previously argued for a realignment in nationalist politics in Ireland, north and south, and Sinn Féin is explicitly included. Republicans must be central to any new political formations, but the new formations must be genuinely republican. This means that they must include and represent the interests of all of the people of Ireland, irrespective of class, creed or colour. If the history – perceived, real or partially real – of one man stands in the way of the creation of such new political formation, then that man must give way.

If the future success of Irish nationalism is being impeded by the perceptions that many people have of Gerry Adams – and perhaps others – and if there is some certainty that the interests of nationalism would be furthered by his departure from active politics, then he must be big enough to recognise this, and to do what is best for his country.

There is no doubt that Gerry Adams was a pillar of the republican movement during some of the recent turbulent times, and helped to bring it through relatively unscathed. But times change and the needs of Irish nationalism are different today to those of 1994, or even 1998. Today the need is to build a wider, deeper, more professional and more European movement, and to include within it people who would not before have joined an all-Ireland political movement.

The need for a lightning rod may even be a false need – perhaps it is the rod that is attracting the lightning? The departure from the scene of the 'big players' from the past – both at individual and at party level – may be necessary in order to allow the growth and widening of all-Ireland politics. Gerry Adams is now 61 – he needs to seriously consider whether his retirement might actually do more for Irish nationalism than his continued active participation. The protagonists on the other side of the fence are also getting old, but many probably remain active out of personal enmity towards Sinn Féin and their bête noire, Gerry Adams. By taking a step back, he could encourage a wave of retirements, as the 'war generation' give way to the new 21st century generation. This might open the way for a new type of politics, one more consistent with the governmental arrangements currently in place, and one that recognises that Northern Ireland is but a small part of several overlapping politico-economic areas.

There is a new confident generation of young nationalists growing up – one that knows that when they are adults they will be in a majority, and able to pursue their ambitions peacefully. They need a leadership that represents them, not one that represents the past of their parents and grandparents. This new generation is educated, it has travelled and worked outside Northern Ireland, it is much more cosmopolitan than its parent's generation. It deserves twenty-first century leadership. If the constant heavy presence of 'troubles-era' leadership stifles the growth of such leadership, then nationalism will suffer. It is incumbent on the current leaders of nationalism – and on its pre-eminent leader, Gerry Adams – to recognise this and to draw the correct conclusions.

35 comments:

New times, New approach said...

Your lightning rod analogy for Gerry is clearly apt, but remember that he is only the current lightning rod for diehard unionism. He had many predecessors in this role and, were he to accept your advice and shuffle off then he could only pass the baton to the next electrical conductor, not neutralise the lightning.
Unionism has undoubtedly made many breathtaking compromises in recent years, but these have not come from a new empathy with or respect for their fellow countrymen. They have been bargaining chips employed to protect the holy grail of political association (at whatever degree of integration) with Britain.
It is the nationalist ambitions of SF that must be averted at all costs. Gerry serves only as today's satanic embodiment of that horrific prospect. For SF to hold fashion parades of prospective new lightning rods would surely only be considered a sign of weakness by most of the unionist camp. Weakness is not, in any case, something SF has much of a reputation for.

I am more persuaded by your 'Young nationalists need a leadership that represents them, not one that represents the past of their parents and grandparents' argument and feel that the party must adapt more to the changed times and, rather than relying on birthrates to deliver a nationalistic majority, focus more on attracting moderate unionism and seek to present a less entrenched single focused prospect to them. Remember that the Alliance party had surprising success in this and did so at a time when views were much more polarised than currently. Remember also that many of the founding fathers of Sinn Fein were Protestant Irishmen. Seeking to show the Unionist community the merits of being first class Irishmen rather than second class Brits is surely the way forward. Perhaps Gerry and Martin are incapable of strategic review, of mentally as well as physically hanging up the rifles and of extending a helping hand by seeking to truly understand and deal with the core fears of unionists. A new Ireland could benefit enormously from deploying the skills that this tradition can bring to bear. The first all Ireland party to fully realise and embrace this and, by demonstrating a willingness to engage with unionism, offer a final exit from the vicious polarised cycle of 'No Surrender' will have stolen a march on all other parties. SF through their day to day working with Unionism are best placed to do this and should seize the moment. Whether they do this with or without Gerry is probably not material. It is more mindsets that need changing than personalities.

Anonymous said...

Gerry is not hated because of his "views" it is because he is the mouthpiece for the provisional movement who sectarianly murdered and murdered & lied & destroyed & murdered for more than a generation.

Imagine the absoloute most senior unionist politicians today were Maddog Adair, Billy Wright, the Shankill butchers, Lee Clegg and all the soldiers from bloody sunday together.

And they kept telling you all of society is to blame for what they did, not uniquely them and that it "the systems fault" for anything they did.

And kept telling you that they loved "equality" and "human rights".

While nationalist communities that they freshly organised near too continued to be regularly attacked. And they continued to attempt to erase any trace of Irish culture they could see anywhere using "equality" legislation.

That's the level of offensiveness.

Crudely put I know. But that's the best I can do to parallel what Sinn Fein look like from the other side of the fence, and every time I look at the background of a senior Sinn Fein member they'll have been right up to their armpits in the sectarian murder & violence of the troubles.

To this day I cannot understand why nationalists have turned to them when for the first time in since Terrence O'Neill there was someone in Trimble who genuinely wanted to pursue a controlled reform of Northern Ireland into a more modern society and who managed to bring a majority of unionism with him. Instead Sinn Fein did their up-most to politically destroy him any way which they could. I don't think I'll ever understand that except by interpreting it as a childish power grab and an act of malice. And a majority of nationalists going by voting numbers seem to think it was good???

Anonymous said...

Anon - Don't you mean Paisley did his 'up-most' to politically destroy him? And on the subject why would a Nationalist vote for a man who a couple of years prior to the GFA was doing the victory jig down the Garvaghy road?

Anonymous said...

Paisley did good work on the destroying front too, however it was the "one foot in" approach Sinn Fein repeatedly took every time in the assembly after signing up to decommissioning and then not delivering that really destroyed Trimble and the UUP reforming wing, it was done on purpose and Sinn Fein members have said as much. Garvaghy was a disaster for Trimble where he again attempted not to be outflanked by the DUP to his very great cost, but then the whole dispute there was created by the provisional movement. Just look at the background of their "main man" on the ground.

I never expected nationalists to vote for Trimble, but am shocked to this day that the hardliners on both sides have taken over in Northern Ireland.

bangordub said...

Interesting Debate Lads

Anonymous said...

Maybe their one foot in approach may come back to haunt Sinn Fein, who knows? I think the Duppers are trying this and failing due to the pressure from the 3 Govts and Jimbo of the TUV flanking them on the right.

No matter what the reasons behind the dispute in Drumcree, he was seen by Nationalists and rest of the world as a triumphalist marching through a catholic estate where they were not wanted. His almost dismissive attitude of Bill Craig approach to his "liquidating the enemy" speech I just watched in an interview didn't do him any good either I'm sure.

I think if a border poll goes the wrong way for unionists which it will in my estimate 25 years at the most, I'm left in no doubt that violence will firmly be on the table for them, as it seems the principle of consent only goes one way.

hoboroad said...

Ian Paisley never had anybody attacking the DUP from the right flank of Unionism until the TUV came along. Trimble was not a moderate he even attacked John Bruton who was the most friendly Irish Prime Minister Unionists could hope for. He also took political advice from members of the Workers Party which was a big mistake.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for the evidence of this 'inevitable' nationalist majority.

Anonymous said...

Then you really haven't looked at this blog very well have you? Look at a few of Horseman's billion posts on the matter... Or better still the census in 2011 should be pretty clear. What do you think?

Watcher said...

Aren't Adams and his close friends looking at some sort of court case in the near future?

I think eventually he'll go the way of Pinochet...

Which probably explains his fear of admitting to IRA membership...

Anonymous said...

Andy/watcher do you support the principal of consent?

Anonymous said...

Let's all hope that none of us ever again see the kind of violence here that many of us grew up knowing, whatever Northern Ireland's future position becomes.

However the republican movements apparent ongoing repeat of it's old history of splintering at key turning points is not terribly encouraging just now.

I wouldn't (and didn't) call Trimble a moderate by the usual left / right measure of politics. A lot in his prior life with Vanguard etc. I do not like, however he was committed to reform and he was it seems purposefully done away with.

I don't like Northern Ireland politics in the least and there isn't really a party here who would represent my views, unless the GMB finally succeeds with getting British Labour to organise here.

In the end who did the republicans choose over Trimble by their tactics, if not the man who held his hand on that infamous walk?

hoboroad said...

I read somewhere that David Trimble was known as Minister of Roadblocks by UDA men during the UWC strike of May 1974.

Anonymous said...

'Then you really haven't looked at this blog very well have you?'

I've read the Chronicles of Narnia, too. Doesn't mean Narnia is real, either.

This blog has a complete absence of any academic references to back up the demographic assertion. All we have are graphs and extrapolations created by the blog author and tailored to suit the his own sectarian viewpoint.

That is NOT an empirical assessment.

'Andy/watcher do you support the principal of consent?'

First of all, I'm not 'Watcher' or anyone else. I (A McCann) write under my own name on whatever forum I cast my opinion.

Secondly, I take no lessons from Irish separatism on what constitutes democracy. I support the Union in all circumstances. Period!!

Anonymous said...

So if/when the majority of people in Northern Ireland vote for reunification with the rest of the island, will you accept their wishes?

Anonymous said...

'So if/when the majority of people in Northern Ireland vote for reunification with the rest of the island, will you accept their wishes?'

I've already answered that question. The Union in ALL circumstances.

Anonymous said...

So then what's that your slabberin about democracy then when you show blatant disregard for it?

Anonymous said...

I suppose it doesn't matter the British will force you to accept it anyways :D

MaleStripper said...

Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Etc, etc, etc..................

At least give your selves stage names, you rascals...

Anonymous said...

'So then what's that your slabberin about democracy then when you show blatant disregard for it?'

Like the IRA in particular and Irish nationalism in general did for so many decades? As aforementioned, I take no lessons in democracy from Irish separatists.

'I suppose it doesn't matter the British will force you to accept it anyways :D'

Whatever helps you sleep at night.

anonNY said...

No ones giving you a lesson just asking you to accept the will of the majority of people which you seem to refuse to do.

The Union at all costs? With an attitude like that and when the times comes you'll have to put your money where your mouth is.

Anonymous said...

'No ones giving you a lesson....'

I beg to differ.

'...when the times comes....'

When? (LOL)

'...you'll have to put your money where your mouth is.'

So will the Irish Republic, whose electorate will likely become fans of Augustinian quotes.

Night.

Anonymous said...

I think our unionist friends and neighbours would be pleasantly surprised if they knew how widely shared their feelings of revulsion for Adams were and are south of the border.

I grew up there and felt nothing but contempt and animosity for Sinn Fein's 32 county socialism, its consistent Europhobia and its unbearable cant about Irish languge and culture, not to mention its murdering violent and criminal ways. The ONLY justification for that contemptible organization was what opposed it--the supremacist bigotry of the protestant state.

The South has no use for Sinn Fein. The only thing that keeps it going is the Orange order. Bigotry begets bigotry. It is a reactionary party of the past.

Time for the curtain to close and for perky? the Sinn Fein pig to pop his little face out and say

Sinn abfhuil

(That's all folks)

Pedro said...

So will the Irish Republic, whose electorate will likely become fans of Augustinian quotes.
This means you know nothing about the ROI. As a citizen of the said polity I can assure you that the only quote will be 'carpe diem'.

Pedro said...

I agree with the last 'anonymous' that SFIRA are generally regarded as bad eggs down south. However to be anti-SF does not necessarily mean being anti-UI.

Anonymous said...

'This means you know nothing about the ROI. As a citizen of the said polity I can assure you that the only quote will be 'carpe diem'.'

Which means you know nothing about economics and the issue of self-preservation.

Pedro said...

''Which means you know nothing about economics and the issue of self-preservation.''
Which means that you are one of the self-deceiving wishful thinkers that regularly populate this site.

Anonymous said...

Pedro said

> However to be anti-SF does not necessarily mean being anti-UI.

Indeed, a majority of people on the island would like to see a single football team... and all the rest, without the tribal baggage, as long as it happens peacefully -- which is not to say that the will of majority on both islands can be held hostage by an irredentist minority indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

'Which means that you are one of the self-deceiving wishful thinkers that regularly populate this site.'

...which means that your naievte, tied up with your own prejudices, is almost touching.

hoboroad said...

Anymore news on Fianna Fail setting up in the Six Counties? I see one of the new members from Crossmaglen was on the Spotlight programme on policing and justice. I wonder how many branches they have now.

Watcher said...

From what I understand they'll be moving North completely - lock, stock and barrel!

Anonymous said...

Andy has a sense of humor!

Quelle suprise.


MPG .....

paul said...

to the the free staters on here slagging off sinn fein, 1919, the last time there was any democracy in ireland

hoboroad said...

Sad to hear about Glasgow Rangers in such a mess! Maybe some of there Celebrity fans could raise some money for them in these tough times. Starting with the Queen she could take back some of her sisters empty gin bottles.

Anonymous said...

'Andy has a sense of humor!

Quelle suprise!'

Republicans vote for terrorists and pursue unrealistic, baseless constitutional objectives.

Quelle prévisible!