Friday 17 January 2020

Adams' weak rebuke buoys Provo fairy tale

Eilish O'Hanlon

The cowards who gunned down prison officer David Black got a slap on wrists from the Sinn Fein leader, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

'SINN Fein slams prison officer's assassins' ran the stirring headline in the Belfast Telegraph. Unfortunately, it belonged more in a work of fiction than a newspaper.

When Shinners slam, they don't hold back. Mary Lou McDonald in the Dail eats government ministers for breakfast. Martin McGuinness chews up female RTE presenters and spits them out. Gerry Adams has spent a lifetime in the republican movement metaphorically mowing down those who oppose him with the machine gun fire of grandiloquent hyperbole.

If he wanted to slam dissident republicans following the murder of prison officer David Black in a shooting on the M1 motorway, he would have slammed them and they would have been in no doubt that they'd been slammed.

What the Sinn Fein president actually delivered last week was the rhetorical equivalent of a slap on the wrist rather than a knockout blow.

"Whatever position individuals may hold on the efficacy or otherwise of armed struggle in the past, there is no rationale for it in the present circumstances" -- ouch, take that, dissidents. "Those involved have no popular support or political strategy" -- so it would be all right to murder police or prison officers if they did? As for those who support or shelter such groups, "they need to reflect on what they are doing." Well, that's them told.

Most feebly of all, Adams actually had the gall to say that the killing of David Black was wrong because such actions "play into the hands of those in the British system who are opposed to the peace process". How in the name of decency did Gerry Adams get, in a few short sentences, from the murder of a prison officer by those who share the warped political strategy that he preached at them for decades to some snide, amorphous, meaningless, mealy-mouthed attack on "the British system"?

The British system, whatever that even means, did not kill David Black. The mongrel children of Adams's beloved republican movement did. Just because the Provos have now decided to disown their offspring doesn't mean the DNA test won't find traces of their shared genetic abnormalities. Instead of honestly disentangling the role of Irish republican ideology in the continuation of violence, Adams starts dragging up ludicrous and offensive conspiracy theories about elements in the British who are "opposed to the peace process". Seriously? This is a man who purports to believe that he should be Tanaiste -- at the very least -- after the next election?

The Sinn Fein leader then made it worse by declaring to the dissidents that their actions "undermine the potential for achieving a united Ireland".

Yes, Gerry, you're absolutely right. The worst thing about David Black's murder was not that a grandfather was brutally taken from his family weeks before his retirement. Not at all. The worst thing about it was the fact that his death might be a possible setback for a united Ireland. The only thing that ever matters is whether it brings a united Ireland closer or not closer. The rest is detail.

The underlying implication to everything Adams says is that, if it was -- "in the present circumstances" (and what a revolting phrase that was) -- advancing the cause of a united Ireland to gun down a prison officer on the motorway, then Gerry might be prepared to reconsider. This pathological obsession with what will or will not bring forward the day when Ireland is politically united is the very root of the cancer of violence. It's the same delusion which drives the dissidents to keep it up.

You could sum up the entirety of what Adams said last week as: "Aw, come on now, lads, this isn't helping." It

was mild schoolmasterly botheration at the disruptive messing of a few bad boys at the back of the class rather than a genuine determination to oppose moral delinquency at every turn.

This half-hearted response to atrocity would matter at any time. In the run up to the centenary of 1916, it matters more than ever. Republican dissidents draw their strength from a distorted mythology about the IRA and, however long those myths continue to be promulgated, they'll be emboldened to keep doing it. Far from challenging the Provo fairy tale, Adams and McGuinness take every opportunity to repeat it. They're basically boasting "look what we got from violence" then act surprised when others want to see what they can get from it too.

Sinn Fein's entire position with regard to the North is that power-sharing and equality would never have happened without the IRA.

It's a lie. IRA violence made a settlement harder. But if you perpetuate a lie, you're in no position to blame others for swallowing it. They're trying to have their cake and eat it. Condemning violence while also celebrating it.

Pretending a united Ireland is an achievable short-term aim, while demanding that others stop pursuing just that.

The contradictions of republicanism were starkly illustrated last week. On the one hand, there was Sinn Fein making the right noises about respecting the law, urging those with information about David Black's killing to come forward and share it with the police. On the other, there was Sinn Fein demanding the release of Padraic Wilson, former head of IRA prisoners in the Maze, who has been arrested in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney outside a bar in Belfast city centre in 2002.

"These charges are politically motivated and driven by an old agenda within the PSNI," said Gerry Kelly -- a man who himself once shot a prison officer in the head, making him surely the least suitable person to send out in this of all weeks.

Either republicans are too wrapped up in their own importance to see the mixed signals which they are sending out to dissidents with that kind of antediluvian fighting talk, or else they just don't care.

Adams and McGuinness cannot stop dissident republicans from killing anyone, but they could stop giving dissidents intellectual sustenance by peddling makey-uppy versions of history which can only ever play into the hands of fanatics.

Though to be blunt, why should they?

They have the North sewn up, and a growing presence in the Republic, and Sinn Fein even managed to swing the last Presidential election with some well-placed black propaganda.

It's all been made so easy for them that Gerry Adams now only has to give the mildest rebuke to his erstwhile ideological kith and kin for even moderate newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph to spin his words into some resounding condemnation. Slam indeed. Scam, more like.

Sunday Independent

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