Sunday 4 December 2016

Adams can't stay in character as a statesman for long

The Sinn Fein leader can only keep up the act for a short time before letting the mask slip

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 11/05/2014 | 02:30

Nationalists attend the unveiling of a mural in honour of Gerry Adams in the Falls Road, Belfast
Nationalists attend the unveiling of a mural in honour of Gerry Adams in the Falls Road, Belfast

If there was ever any appetite in Sinn Fein south of the border for trading in its leader for a younger model with less baggage, it's gone now.

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Since his arrest for questioning over the abduction, murder and disappearance of Jean McConville 40 years ago, the position of Gerry Adams has become unassailable. In the eyes of many of the party's fanboys and girls, he's almost become Nelson Mandela, unjustly jailed by a brutal regime, albeit for four nights rather than 27 years. Adams emerged to a hero's welcome as if he had escaped from Robben Island, nowhere nearer to being the "father to the nation" Mandela became, but certainly a more powerful patriarch of his party.

Fittingly so, because Adams is a microcosm of the republican movement, in both its best and worst aspects. The best was shown in his initial response after being released by police in Northern Ireland pending a later decision on prosecution. Adams made all the right noises. At first. He bore no bitterness. He supported the new policing regime in the North. The IRA, he even said, was finished. He was channelling his inner Mandela; and, it has to be said, after the previous few days when the republican movement slipped back into old habits, it was a welcome relief.

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