London must stand up to threats from Gerry Adams

Morning View
Morning View

Last night Gerry Adams upped the ante in the Stormont political negotiations with an inflammatory and uncompromising speech.

The Sinn Fein president insisted, among other points, that the party would not allow any extension in Monday’s deadline for agreement.

Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams with the late Martin McGuinness

Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams with the late Martin McGuinness

This was extraordinary in the context of the death of Martin McGuinness. Some voices within nationalism or republicanism have either implied or said that people of the unionist tradition should react sensitively to the death.

Largely that respect has been shown, despite the fact that Mr McGuinness for much of his life sent people to early graves.

The British government and unionist leaders issued statements that either contained only fleeting reference to Mr McGuinness’s violent past, or no reference at all. There are serious arguments to be made, believed even by many moderate unionists, that to neglect the immense suffering that he caused was a betrayal of his victims, and indeed an approach that could give succour to those who use violence now (such as the terrorists who just tried to kill police in Strabane).

Nonetheless, such respect was shown.

Yet before Mr McGuinness is even buried, his long-time associate Mr Adams is talking in such uncompromising terms.

British governments of every hue are inclined to appease republicans, such is their fear that they will return to terror.The prospect of direct rule faces the added obstacle of opposition from an Irish government that shows indications of thinking it has as much say over Northern Ireland as London does.

An obvious response to threatening talk from Mr Adams is for Downing Street to make clear that direct rule might be the outcome of stalemate, whether Dublin or Mr Adams like it.

When Sinn Fein then scream discrimination, unionists and the UK must patiently and repeatedly remind the world that our reservations in fact stem from the IRA’s heritage.

Amid attacks on places such as Westminster, terrorism has low stock at the moment.