Sunday 18 August 2019

Adams is no loss to this island's political future

Gerry Adams. Photo: PA
Gerry Adams. Photo: PA


Gerry Adams and his adoring Sinn Féin fans argue that he played a big role in leading the IRA out of 30 years of death and destruction on this island. But amid all the dewy-eyed euphoria of his carefully choreographed 'long goodbye', let us never forget that Mr Adams also played an equally huge role in leading republicans into that three-decade vortex of violence.

His specious attempts to rewrite the history of these islands cannot be allowed to overshadow three basic facts.

Fact 1: Almost half of the 3,636 people who lost their lives in what we euphemistically call the 'Troubles' were killed by the IRA. That incontrovertible reality is best summed by the invaluable book 'Lost Lives', which dispassionately chronicled the relentless taking of human life in Ireland for the years 1969-1999.

"The greatest single taker of lives was the Provisional IRA, which alone accounted for half of all the deaths," it recorded.

Fact 2: This slaughter was by no means inevitable. Yes, huge basic errors were made in the London government's response to a legitimate and overdue campaign for civil rights by the nationalist population in Northern Ireland. True also, the Dublin government was slow and inept in carrying out its duty to act.

But there were other constitutional options to avoid those decades of sickening death and destruction. Those other options were spurned by Mr Adams and his republican colleagues until they deemed the time propitious, some 20 years after all the other political entities in these islands.

Fact 3: Mr Adams compounds this long avoidance of peaceful options to resolve the conflict by leading the IRA and Sinn Féin in brushing aside their responsibility for death and destruction. In that fantasy world, good people were caught up in terrible events and left with no option beyond the bomb and the bullet. Equally, the myth that the IRA was 'defending Catholics' persists, when it should long ago have been debunked. The IRA was never structured to defend Catholic areas and it actually killed some 400 people from its own communities.


Much is also made by Mr Adams's disciples of his vision and spiritual journey. So let's spool back to a few days after his first election to the presidency of Sinn Féin in mid-November 1983.

Commenting on the brutal murder of Armagh unionist councillor Charlie Armstrong in an IRA car bomb on November 14, 1983, Mr Adams stressed the dead man's role as a part-time UDR soldier. For the new Sinn Féin president, that murder "was perfectly legitimate in a state of war".

Asked if he would personally kill soldiers and police officers, Mr Adams answered: "If my role lay within the IRA and within an armed struggle, I would have no compunction at all."

During his bravura valedictory speech to the adoring delegates on Saturday night in the RDS, there was no mention of people murdered and maimed by the IRA that he always so staunchly defended. Later, asked about this omission, he offered more of the weasel words that he had mastered over the decades.

"There have been many victims. I have a particular affinity with those who were victims of the IRA because obviously throughout my political life I have defended the IRA. But I understand how people feel," Mr Adams said. Surely, that was not much of a spiritual journey over 34 years, getting to understand what it was like to have a loved one murdered and/or maimed.

Apart from all that sheer awfulness, linked to death and wanton maiming and destruction, there are Mr Adams's utterly preposterous claims that he "was never in the IRA" and his and his colleagues' woefully inadequate responses to sex abuse in the ranks of their own movement, which sharply contrasted with their castigation of the same reprehensible activity within other organisations, notably the Catholic Church.

For these, and myriad other reasons, we can file Mr Adams's upcoming departure under "small loss".

Irish Independent

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