Friday 30 September 2016

It makes no sense that Sinn Féin's young guns continue to blindly 'Follow the Leader'

Published 23/10/2015 | 02:30

Pearse Doherty
Pearse Doherty

Follow The Leader is such a simple game that most children grow out of it by the age of seven or eight. The 'chosen one' stands at the top of the line and all the other children mimic their movements.

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Any player who fails to obey the leader's commands, no matter how ludicrous, is out of the game. It really is child's play.

But it's also a simplistic version of what is going on in Sinn Féin right now.

Gerry Adams (67) has served as leader for 32 years without so much as an attempted heave or a sly whisper about his performance.

His closest rivals in modern Irish politics in terms of longevity at the top of a political party are the Labour Party' s Dick Spring (15 years), Fianna Fáil's Bertie Ahern (14 years) and the Progressive Democrats' Mary Harney (14 years).

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been at the helm of Fine Gael since 2002 and said that he hopes to be allowed to continue as leader for five more years before retiring.

All those leaders have faced crises, be they economic, electoral or as in Kenny's case had their leadership capabilities called into question.

When trouble struck, they came under attack at parliamentary party meetings and from grassroots members.

But Gerry Adams has never experienced a similar backlash. Throughout his leadership, Sinn Féin has found itself embroiled in controversies over IRA bombings, bank robberies and beatings. He has personally been accused of being the chief of IRA staff, been arrested in connection with the murder of a mother of 10 and allegedly withheld information relating to the rape and sexual abuse of his niece by his brother.

And yet it doesn't matter. Whether the polls go up or down, Adams comes away unscathed.

Sinn Féin loyalists refuse to speak ill of the leader. They repeat his mantra that the party is against all forms of criminality. That anyone with information about murders and sex assaults should talk to the police.

They also agree that the same police are "mischief making" when they publish an assessment saying that the PIRA believe Sinn Féin's strategy is overseen by the Army Council.

All of which begs the question: why?

Why do young politicians with real potential offer such blind loyalty to a man with so much negative baggage?

In Irish politics it's simply not normal. Do Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald have leadership ambitions? Or are they afraid to even contemplate such thoughts?

Gerry Adams is the past, but they refuse to be the future.

Surely they realise that a Sinn Féin without Gerry Adams in total control would be far more palatable to the ordinary voter.

Irish Independent

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