Wednesday 23 January 2019

Adams only ever served interests of IRA and Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein's outgoing President rides off into the sunset still deplorably justifying terrorism, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Gerry Adams. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Gerry Adams. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's only right that Sinn Fein should honour Gerry Adams this weekend. He is much respected and fondly regarded in the party, and has been its leader for 34 years, a length of tenure which may seem more characteristic of autocrats than democrats, but which his supporters consider a source of pride all the same. They're entitled to give him a rousing send-off.

The real question is whether the country itself should join in the plaudits, but why should it when everything that Gerry Adams has done has been for the benefit of either the IRA or Sinn Fein.

Advancing the republican movement's interests has been his abiding preoccupation, and it has only ever been a coincidence when those concerns overlapped with what was best for Ireland.

His admirers will insist that there wouldn't have been peace without Gerry Adams, but this is to fundamentally misunderstand why the Troubles are over. It's not because the West Belfast man worked tirelessly to dissuade the IRA from violence, but because the IRA had run out of options.

"What's sometimes ignored," as former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon reiterated last week, "is the fact that they lost".

Adams's efforts to take the republican movement in a new direction only came about after the nihilistic futility of the IRA campaign was obvious to all but the most terminally stupid.

Any suggestion that, without Gerry's guiding hand, the IRA might still be blowing up Belfast and London in the age of Islamic State is so absurd that it almost beggars belief that anyone has the audacity to make it. Times have changed. Terrorism has changed. Basque terrorists ETA are no longer operational either, a victory achieved with few of the concessions made to the IRA. The game is up for that sort of nonsense, and has been for some time.

It may return again, but the IRA would have withered on the vine through the 1990s and beyond whether Gerry Adams was in the picture or not. The post-9/11 climate was inimical to terrorism of all stamps, domestic and foreign, and security so sophisticated that homegrown subversives could not wipe their noses without State agencies knowing it within minutes.

What happened to ETA is what would have happened to the IRA - a slow slide into irrelevance, rejection, and schism. Basque separatists eventually gave up violence, but they got no political bounce from it because they did not have a comparable figure to Gerry Adams to lead them through that transition period.

Adams's skill was in turning the peace dividend into a political dividend, and he was helped enormously in that aim by a political establishment that was so grateful for an end to violence that it was prepared to offer endless rewards and bribes to keep it going.

Adams was able to persuade the IRA that, not only would violence not bring about a united Ireland, it was actually damaging the republican cause. "He organised that change in a very efficient way," notes Mallon in his understated way. But the outgoing SF President did so, not in pursuit of some abstract peace and fellowship in Northern Ireland, but to save the IRA from utter humiliation. He turned inevitable defeat into a last-minute rescue, and he did it for them, not anyone else.

What he failed to do, or even try to do, and has continually failed to do every day since, was the much harder task of persuading them to change the mindset which drove the violence in the first place.

Instead he reinforced it at every turn, culminating in that moment when unaware there was a reporter in the room, he openly admitted to supporters that SF's promotion of equality was a "Trojan horse" to advance republican war aims, and that the aim with Unionists is to "break these bastards".

This is the mentality which, two decades on from the Belfast Agreement, remains unchallenged by Adams, and which found vivid expression in recent days in SF MLA Alex Maskey's dismissal of Northern Ireland as a "putrid little statelet".

The current ruse of taking credit for the civil rights movement sits on the same spectrum of deception. On no account must those who took no part in violence be allowed any credit for improvements in the lives of Northern nationalists. Twisted logic demands instead that those who, through bloodshed, tragically held up progress for decades, should now be allowed to pretend that, without them, nothing would have changed.

Again, that's all about bolstering the egotistical delusions of the Provisional IRA, whose feelings and interests have ever been foremost in Adams's thinking. That his generation is intent on riding into the sunset still justifying terrorism, whatever poisonous example that leaves behind, says it all about where their loyalties and priorities always lay.

Seamus Mallon is a testament to the good people that the peace process threw over to save a defeated IRA's face - decent centrists, nationalists and unionists alike, without a sectarian bone in their bodies, who never lost sight of the need to respect their shared space, not just during the Troubles, but, perhaps especially, once they were over. They were sacrificed so that men like Gerry Adams could, ludicrously, claim victory.

It was the ultimate in fake news, and it's still being peddled shamelessly this weekend as he heads into retirement.

Sunday Independent

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