First signs of Adams’ trusty Teflon image wearing thin on public
Halt to Sinn Fein surge may signal beginning of the end for the ancient Belfast-centred regime, writes John Drennan
Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30
One of the most intriguing features of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis last month was that a week later the aftershocks of the event were still rippling through Leinster House on the Tuesday after the leader’s speech.
That is a rare occurrence, for such events normally have the lifespan of a Mayfly where the leader’s speech is over at 9, reported on at 9.02 and forgotten by 9.30.
However, what seized people’s attention in Derry was not so much the faded 1960s-style wallpaper of Gerry Adams’ rhetoric.
Instead their interest had been caught by the youthful desire and hunger of the delegates.
One escapee — no Sinn Fein don’t do friendly when it comes to the soft Southern media once they have them up the North — noted “the desire and the hunger were redolent of the Fianna Fail machine from a different age”.
But, obviously not the Fianna Fail of this age.
Those who spoke of the Sinn Fein ‘fine young cannibals’ noted that for all the confident talk, especially from Fianna Fail that Sinn Fein would be outworked on the ground in any election, Sinn Fein was actually gearing up to win the ground war that grinds out seats.
On the evidence of today’s Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll, suddenly all is, if not changed utterly, certainly changed. The decline in support for Sinn Fein from 26pc to 24pc means the surge has been halted.
The status of Mr Adams as the party leader with the highest satisfaction rating means the tide has not turned yet.
But the scenario where his dissatisfaction ratings have risen by twice as much (6pc) as his satisfaction rating means it may well be on the ebb.
As the Phoney War leading up to election 2016 comes to a close, it is Sinn Fein that have suddenly retreated most fretfully behind the Maginot line.
It has all come as a bit of a shock to the clever people who have been criticising those who have been critical of Mr Adams and Sinn Fein.
Increasingly, our intelligent appeaser’s have been suggesting it was time to give up on the grounds that Gerry is made of Teflon, he can’t be damaged.
It was on one level a seductive theory.
In another example of how that party for now is looking more like Fianna Fail than Fianna Fail itself, one of the chief similarities that exists between new Sinn Fein and old Fianna Fail is that both are abundantly supplied with that critical political resource called Teflon.
One of the more delightful features of Teflon in politics is that it is a curiously capricious sort of resource.
The envious Fine Gael and Labour parties are always complaining that no matter how much they mine, they can never get so much as a sniff of it.
Though, Teflon, particularly when combined with abundant supplies of brass, is the most useful of things, there is one problem with it.
Teflon it appears is not a renewable asset.
Instead rather like one of those Eastern fables starring genies and lamps, it always runs low... even for a Bertie Ahern.
Up to now the industrial qualities Mr Adams has been supplied with have disheartened his enemies.
The joy of Teflon has allowed Mr Adams and Sinn Fein to exist beyond history or accountability where their status as all things to all men allows them to turn a Janus face to every crisis.
This meant acts such as historical incidents of sex abuse by the Provos is a matter for the gardai or the IRA, and the role of Sinn Fein is limited to criticising the failures of both to respond to this.
The status of Gerry as a cross between Buddha and Che Guevara where all sins are forgiven — or at least forgotten, which is even better — has allowed Mr Adams to sail away from all difficulties on a magic carpet of non accountability, where issues that would destroy churches or political parties just bounce off him.
In the world of Teflon those issues Gerry has with minor things like fiscal policy and how you might actually run the country can be immediately evaded, for a graven icon like our hero cannot be expected to fuss about minutiae.
Sadly, in a world where Phil Hogan is the sole exception to Enoch Powell’s theories on political failure, in the end though, everyone runs out of Teflon.
Sinn Fein’s West Belfast controllers may still be dreaming of a day of days in Leinster House.
Ultimately, though, Taoiseach Gerry is still too big of a fly for the Irish electorate to swallow.
For now, a substantial number of voters continue to ignore the many fleas hopping on Sinn Fein’s political fur.
But Mr Adams would be wise to realise the Irish voters are as able to indulge in big lies as anyone else... not that we’re thinking of a particular movement.
Gerry would be wise not to be fooled for the wise old Irish voters are only playing with you Gerry. Like another fantasist, Charlie Haughey, our Sinn Fein leader has hung in with an iron will.
But just in the way that apropos of nothing Haughey became a hollow man, in time we may recognise that, finally, last week’s reverse was the beginning of the end for Mr Adams rather than the so-hoped-for end of the beginning.