Wednesday 26 October 2016

Adams' antics soured that sweet royal Irish visit

Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

The first duty of a political columnist is tell the truth and shame the devil. Let me do both by saying the sweet visit of Prince Charles was soured by the antics of Gerry Adams.

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To flesh that out, here is what I felt watching the RTE coverage of Prince Charles: shame and savage indignation.

Shame that this decent man should have been subjected to the hassling handshake of Gerry Adams.

Savage indignation that Sinn Fein were allowed to shamelessly hijack the visit while the leaders of other political parties were forced to stand around like extras.

What added to my anger was the certainty that most Irish people have a special affection for Prince Charles, judging by the reaction to the positive pieces I wrote about his previous visits in 1995 and 2005.

Much of this affection arises from his happy second marriage to Camilla, a cheerful change from the narcissistic Diana.

Like most Irish people I was confident his third trip would go well. Indeed, I had mentally ticked off the high points in advance.

He would be warmly welcomed in Galway, would be bowled over by the Burren, and the people of Sligo would pour balm on the wounds he suffered after the murder of Earl Mountbatten.

Like most people, I assumed that Prince Charles and the families of the bereaved would be allowed to mourn in peace at Mullaghmore, letting the locals do the healing.

But no. From the first day the television coverage was subordinated to the Gerry Adams agenda of hassling handshakes and hammy histrionics.

Cheap, naff and needy were the words that came to mind as I watched a Channel 4 News shot of Adams at the back of the crowd in NUIG, craning his neck, like a groupie waiting to grab an autograph.

On RTE News we saw the stomach-churning sight of Adams and Sinn Fein Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh popping mints in their mouths preparatory to pouncing on Prince Charles.

Then the whole world watched as Adams put his minted mouth close to Charles's bowed head, making sure the cameras missed nothing.

Later, after a private meeting, which did not include an abject apology, Adams was off to hold a press conference.

Prince Charles did his duty. But contrast his stiff body language during the NUIG reception and the happy gait as he headed across the Burren to meet the Nagle family and the real people of the Irish Republic.

But the beauty of that day at the Burren was still shadowed by the memory of the sickening shots of Adams pulling off a publicity coup for Sinn Fein that eclipsed all previous PR stunts.

Because, of course, all the Republic's political leaders were reduced to the role of bit players. One Fine Gael stalwart summed up the whole sordid circus in this tough text to me.

"Adams was surrounded by media flunkies, all dancing Flatley-like to the SF tune. All positives from the visit to Galway and Burren were buried under a wave of sycophantic media blubbering."

Let me make two points that prove the truth of that harsh judgement. First, let's have no hype about the healing hand of history.

The people of the Irish Republic did not murder Earl Mountbatten and his party. The Provisionals did.

Adams was a senior figure in the Provisionals in that period. He bears at least moral responsibility. But he did not take the blame.

Any blame going around was shunted onto the shoulders of the footsoldier, Thomas McMahon.

Second, let nobody try to justify Adams's antics by claiming, as some commentators did, that the handshake contributes to the "peace process" and helps shore up Sinn Fein against dissidents.

The dissidents do not have the capacity to create the kind of crisis that can lead to havoc north and south. Sinn Fein does.

Sinn Fein's political project is to hold political hegemony, north and south, preparatory to a final push for a united Ireland.

Central to that project is continually creating political crises in the two parts of the island while at the same time looking legitimate.

In the North it holds hegemony over northern nationalists. In the Republic it plans to replace the Coalition after the next General election. The handshake with Prince Charles was an important step in the Sinn Fein process. It made Adams look like an All-Ireland leader. And other leaders like also-rans.

Time for the old question. Cui bono? Who benefits most from the Royal visit?

The answer was all over our screens. Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein stole the show. So what group of geniuses set up the Gerry Adams handshake, thus rescuing Sinn Fein which had been licking its wounds in the North after the UK elections and was four points down in the Republic?

So far none of our mandarins have stepped forward proudly to claim credit for Sinn Fein's biggest publicity coup so far.

But my sources say that Sinn Fein had been pushing for an Adams handshake for many months so as to make up for its PR mistake in not welcoming the Queen during her visit in 2011.

The recent reverses in the UK elections and in Irish polls made the need for a handshake more urgent. So Sinn Fein started knocking hard on the doors of Irish and British mandarins.

The result was an Anglo-Irish heavy gang, throwing its weight around and leaning on NUIG to issue Adams with an invitation.

Naturally NUIG do not want to comment. Furthermore, none of the main parties has publicly complained about Adams taking centre stage in case they look sceptical of the peace process. This fear is not well founded. More and more people share my scepticism about what John Bruton once prophetically termed the "fucking peace process".

The Sinn Fein peace process is a trojan horse that debases anything it catches in its coils. Just as it debased Prince Charles's visit to Ireland.

It also degrades political and media discourse. A climate of self-censorship prevented criticism of Adams's hijacking handshake.

Consider how Enda Kenny, Micheal Martin and Joan Burton were reduced to bit players during the Royal visit. But they still felt forced to stay silent.

They did so out of a distorted sense of duty to the peace process. But they will be betrayed.

Sinn Fein, smarting from its setback in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, will soon pull the plug on the Northern Executive. But what Sinn Fein does in Northern Ireland comes down to what northern nationalists will let them do. Time we let them live with their choice.

We should be minding our own Republic. So here are three things whose time has come.

Time we told gullible mandarins to get a grip on reality and reject future Sinn Fein ploys.

Time we told the Green Golems to get their expensive American grinders out of the frame the next time Royals are in town.

Time we told Gerry Adams to go away.

Sunday Independent

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