Sunday 25 August 2019

If bringing peace makes Gerry a hero, what about Bertie?

The Sinn Fein leader can relax. At least one fellow scourge of the establishment is still standing up for him

Vincent Browne
Vincent Browne

Eilis O'Hanlon

The Sinn Fein leader is rapidly turning into Gerry No-Mates. These days, they draw lots in the party to see who has the thankless task of cleaning up after him.

"It's your turn, Mary Lou."

"I did it last time."

"Right then, Peadar. You know what to do. Just lie back and think of Ireland."

There was only one person that Gerry Adams could rely on last week as he faced continued criticism for his handling of the row around the 1983 shooting of prison officer Brian Stack. That was Vincent Browne, Irish Times columnist, late-night TV3 chat-show host, and editor of… wait, is that magazine he ran still going? Who knows? More to the point, who cares?

He used his latest column in Ireland's dullest newspaper to explain why the rules are different for Gerry, and why he alone among elected representatives should be freed from having to divulge what he knows of various murders.

It's all to do with the sacred vow of confidentiality, allegedly. Priests don't have to disclose what they hear in confession, so why should Fr Gerry? Or something like that.

Vinny's made an amazing discovery, you see. Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves. Apparently other parties in the Dail are seeking to take political advantage of Adams's difficulties.

No way? Really? What will the scoundrels think of next?

How reassuring that left-wing and Independent TDs seek no political advantage whatsoever when highlighting the centre parties' differences over rent control, Irish Water, or the pesky promissory notes.

Browne is, of course, right. SF's rivals are exploiting Adams's difficulties. The TV3 star's problem is that he sees this as the end of his thinking rather than the beginning.

Because if parties inevitably gain advantage from highlighting issues which cause their rivals discomfort, then what are they to do when victims come to them for help?

Stay silent? Tell the families to go away? That would appear to be the logic of the argument, yet doesn't SF itself then gain political advantage?

It's equally absurd to say these issues need to be dealt with in a collective and inclusive, rather than a partisan, way, because we are not all equal in the mucky post-Troubles animal farm.

Some are more equal than others. Adams just happens to know more than the rest of us about where, metaphorically speaking, the bodies are buried, and who put them there. So by definition, he bears more responsibility.

But wait, Browne has an answer to get Gerry out of this one, too. Two, in fact.

The first is that Gerry may have been involved in various unsavoury episodes in Northern Ireland, but that, if he hadn't done it, someone else "probably" would have done.

Genius. Please let's pause here for a well-deserved round of applause. Not even Gerry would have dared to try that line of fatuous reasoning.

It's worth asking if Vincent intends to let others off the hook with the same formula.

Do Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail ministers get a free pass for implementing cuts on the grounds that, if they hadn't done it, someone else would? Knowing Browne's well-rehearsed denunciations of austerity, one can only guess not - but it turns out he intends to refine his argument still further.

Ingeniously, Adams should also be forgiven his past crimes and misdemeanours - not that he admits to committing any - because only he could have delivered peace in Northern Ireland.

This is an interesting development, as it's starting to sound as if Adams brought the IRA to the negotiating table out of the goodness of his heart. How many times do we have to go through this?

The IRA came to the table because it was beaten. The game was up. It could have killed a few more people for a few more years, but to all intents and purposes it was finished as a terrorist force. It was only when it had nowhere else to turn that it sued for peace, and, having done so, it got an extremely generous deal. Too generous, some might still contend.

That makes Adams a good negotiator. It doesn't make him Mahatma Gandhi. All the evidence says that, if the IRA was confident of bombing its way to a united Ireland, it would have continued to do so. Provos stopped because they failed.

Besides, if Adams is to get a free pass for all he did wrong because of his part in the Belfast Agreement, then so should Bertie surely?

The three-times Taoiseach played a key role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, too. Yet he's not forgiven.

Indeed, in a column a few weeks ago this same Vincent Browne was berating the former FF leader for "creating a society that is deeply corrupt, not in the sense of backhanders but in the sense of injustice" and insisting: "During his time as Taoiseach the scale of inequality in this society deepened considerably."

Browne did mention Ahern's deft handling of Northern affairs, but it was certainly not presented as mitigation for his less deft handling of the economy.

So the questions remain - why are Bertie's economic mistakes apparently unforgivable, while Adams' transgressions are filed under "go, thou, and sin no more"? Why should Bertie slink away and never show his face again, while Adams is lauded for his - pass the sick bag - "public service"?

Simple. It's because on the left, offences against the economy are always judged more harshly than all others.

Everything can be forgiven as long as you believe in the magic money tree that can solve all society's ills. Browne believes in it. Adams believes in it. So do Mary Lou and Richard Boyd Barrett and Mick Wallace and Joan Collins and all the rest of the magic money tree munchkins in the Dail.

As an interviewer, Browne may give them varying degrees of a hard time in the name of mischief and entertainment, but deep down they see the world in the same limited palette of colours.

Rich people - boo. Independent News and Media -hiss. It's never moving on from this cartoon view of the world that makes Vincent Browne an increasing parody of himself.

Sunday Independent

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