Adams gave succour to an IRA that greatly divided the island
There has been a sharp divergence in the reaction of unionists towards the departure from politics (and then death) of Martin McGuinness and the announcement by Gerry Adams that he will stand down.
Neither republican was ever remotely popular with unionists but Mr McGuinness, while bitterly resented and not forgiven by thousands of people for being evasive about his terrorist past, did have the recognition of many others for seeming to spend many years making the institutions work.
He seemed prepared to accept the reality of Northern Ireland in a way that is not believed of Mr Adams.
The last eight months have reiterated that suspicion of the Sinn Fein president and TD. While Michelle O’Neill is the northern leader of the party, Mr Adams is still widely perceived to be calling the shots.
Given the destabilising way in which Sinn Fein has behaved since the beginning of the year, the resentment of Mr Adams is greater perhaps than it has ever been.
Among those who distrust Mr Adams, his reputation was not helped by the fact that he sometimes seems to project himself as a great thinker or ecologist or enlightened writer. It contrasted so sharply with his critics’ assessment of his political role and personality that it exacerbated their irritation.
Mr Adams has always denied being in the IRA but there is no doubt of his central role in giving succour and credence to that terrorist group, which greatly divided the island.
The violence of the IRA in some tactical respects achieved concessions, but in its ultimate goal, a united Ireland, it not only failed but greatly hardened Protestant feeling against such a prospect.
It remains to be seen whether the successors to Mr McGuinness and Mr Adams will take the party in a more constructive direction, but some of the indications from the younger generation of SF have not been promising.