Comment: Outrage at Adams arrest? Most of west Belfast didn’t care

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Bobby Storey address Sinn Fein supporters attending the unveiling of Gerry Adams in the Falls Road, Belfast.
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Bobby Storey address Sinn Fein supporters attending the unveiling of Gerry Adams in the Falls Road, Belfast.

There was no wave of anger at Gerry Adams’ arrest sweeping across nationalist areas.

That was only Sinn Fein propaganda, unfortunately reported as fact by some writers.

Suzanne Breen

Suzanne Breen

This was not a return to a 1981 scenario where a community, genuinely full of fury as the hunger-strike unfolded, took to the streets in their tens of thousands.

And for Gerry Adams to last night draw any sort of comparison between his four night stint in Antrim PSNI station with allegedly poorly cooked food, to Bobby Sands’ 67 day hunger-strike, will anger many veteran republicans.

To note as he did that his detention came as Sands’ anniversary approached, is chasing martyrdom to a nonsensical extreme. This is the cult of leadership gone crazy.

Nothing about his arrest or the response to it in republican areas mirrored the hunger-strike. It wasn’t that Sinn Fein had to hold the masses back from blocking roads, rioting, or worse. Nobody had the slightest interest in doing that anyway.

The displeasure this time was restricted to Sinn Fein ranks. It was mainly well-known faces from the party and the Provos who turned out at Saturday’s rally to express their annoyance, not the plain people of west Belfast.

That was obvious from even An Phoblacht’s own video of the event. Indeed, the low turnout at the demonstration was surprising. The crowd was at maximum 800-strong which is hardly impressive given that some were bussed in from Dublin and Derry.

The vast majority of men and women in Mr Adams’ home turf opted for the football on the telly or Saturday shopping over a rally to free him. Certainly most of them didn’t support the PSNI arresting their former MP and they hoped he’d be soon freed. But they weren’t outraged enough to protest. Sinn Fein’s claim that anger was “growing by the hour” in nationalist areas shouldn’t have been reported as fact.

“There was no need for “cool heads” because, in terms of grassroots fire, there was nothing to extinguish in the first place.

We were told in hushed tones that Bobby Storey, Padraic Wilson, Martin Lynch and a whole host of others had congregated at Sinn Fein offices. So what? That’s where you’d expect them to be after Adams’ arrest.

Had the Sinn Fein president been charged last night, there was never any chance of a return to conflict by the Provos. Much as they worship him, to restart the war to “free Gerry” would make them laughing stocks across the world.

But Sinn Fein’s commitment to policing and the rule of law has certainly been exposed as skin deep.

Just six weeks earlier, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams personally intervened to ensure the PSNI could march in New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade amidst Irish-American opposition.

Those who opposed the police presence were branded “dissident dinosaurs”. With Sinn Fein’s talk of the “dark side” of the police now conspiring to “get Gerry”, they showed they can do prehistoric as good as anybody when it suits them.