I HAVE never been able to shake off the conviction that Gerry Adams is so steeped in cynicism, hypocrisy, re-invention and self-delusion that he has lost all contact with reality.
He reminds me of the leader of a cult rather than of a political party: a bit like one of those beardy end-of-days gurus who convinces himself, and a band of tunnel-vision followers, that the long-awaited prophecy of Irish unity is imminent.
On the surface there’s some vague resemblance to a coherent argument, but look closer and you discover it’s mere join-up-the-dots wish fulfilment. And for all of his wordy, woolly attempts to sound like a seeker of peace, in the back of my mind I’m pretty sure that there’s an attic somewhere with a portrait of the real Gerry Adams – a portrait that no one has ever been allowed to see.
When he says he was never in the IRA I don’t believe him. He’s been at the very core of Sinn Fein for most of his life and his public profile was built on the assumption that when he spoke he did so with the authority of the IRA army council. In 1972 he was one of the people chosen to represent the IRA at negotiations with the British Government – a role he retained, even as others came and went.
He was the wordsmith who provided the language to justify terror. The man who carried the coffins of terrorists. The man entrusted to produce the strategy which determined the rate at which violence would be turned on and off.
He was as much a part of the IRA terror campaign as everyone who provided a safe house and false alibi, or who turned a selective blind eye to the blood and bits of bodies on Belfast’s streets.
So I found it extraordinary when I heard him offer advice to those ‘who are usually described as dissident’. This is what he said: “I would urge all republicans and nationalists, whatever their opinion of the peace process, and irrespective of which political party or tendency they support, to seize this opportunity to advance republican and nationalist objectives.”
I wonder how Adams would have responded to that advice back in 1969, when the Provisionals broke away and began their own terror campaign? Back then Adams, McGuinness and Kelly were the dissidents. They were the ones arguing that the old IRA had given up and been bought off and were undermining the cause of unity by recognising the Dail and the de facto legitimacy of Northern Ireland.
They were the ones arguing that the violence needed to be intensified: in effect, insisting the ‘Brits’ be bombed into leaving as ‘our unionist neighbours’ were bombed into submission.
Today it is those ‘dissidents’ who regard the Provisionals and Sinn Fein as the traitors: they are the ones sitting in Stormont and in the Dail, signed up to an Agreement that defines Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and placing the future of Northern Ireland in the hands of unionists. If I were a republican ‘dissident’ I would probably take the view that it was the stupidity of Sinn Fein which had led to them being outmanoeuvred by the British and which, in turn, had resulted in so many supposed Irish nationalists being content to remain within the United Kingdom.
So they are not going to listen to a single word of advice from Gerry Adams. Why would they? Why would they listen to a man who was at the very heart of a terror campaign, yet ended up as the member of a ‘Northern parliament’ and then a member of a ‘Southern parliament’?
Just because you wear an Aran sweater when you catch the eye of the Speaker on both sides of the border doesn’t mean that you’ve actually made a button of difference or brought unity a step closer. The young Gerry Adams would not have listened to, let alone taken the advice he is giving to this new generation of armed republicanism. And the old Gerry Adams will not be assisting the PSNI or Garda when it comes to breaking the dissidents. Because, when all is said and done, Gerry Adams and the ‘dissidents’ are from the same family: blood brothers, if you like.
His advice to them, like his manufactured apology to the families of those Garda killed by the IRA, is part of what is, to all intents and purposes, a clean-up campaign by Sinn Fein/IRA. They want to convince voters across Ireland that they have put the past behind them and embarked on a new path. But they haven’t. It’s just another phase of the same old campaign.
Adams admitted it on Friday: “This is a phase of political activity that is about persuasion; it’s about democratic conversations and winning support for Irish unity. Violent actions will not assist this process.
“Violent actions will make the task of achieving a yes vote more difficult. So, consider the options. Examine the possibilities. And don’t miss this opportunity.”
Yet back in 1969 Adams and others concluded that ‘violent actions’ would assist the process. On March 8, 1973 – the day of the last border poll – the IRA left four car bombs in London. Two detonated, one outside the Old Bailey and the other at Scotland Yard, injuring almost 200 people.
Gerry Kelly, one of the people convicted of those bombs, is now in favour of a border poll. Marian Price, also convicted of the bombings, named Adams as an IRA member and her family didn’t want him at her funeral. Back in 1973 Adams and others did ‘consider the options’ and the option they chose was naked, bloody terror.
His advice to the ‘dissidents’ didn’t consist of something along the lines of ‘what you are doing is wrong, stupid, immoral and pointless. Give up now. Look what happened to us. Violence is not the way to unite Ireland’.
No, his advice was that this was a new phase of the campaign, a phase centred on political persuasion rather than a bullet in the head or a bomb under the car of a policeman taking his family to Sunday lunch.
His advice was stark and brutally cynical: ‘violent actions will not assist this process.’ So clearly he still believes that violence assisted other stages of the process? That’s the real Gerry Adams. Voters across Ireland forget that reality at their peril.
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