Adams’ latest Prime Time appearance

There were several noteworthy features of Gerry Adams’ appearance on Prime Time on Monday night.  Miriam O’Callaghan seemed somewhat out of her depth with a very in-form Adams.  It was interesting, however, that she agreed that the nationalist population in the north had been on the receiving end of substantial violence.  There was, after all, a time – a long time – when RTE simply ignored the repression of the nationalist community.  Of course, it’s now safe for the official southern broadcaster to have its personnel agree that what the northern nationalist community was subjected to for so long was horrendous.

Adams seemed more confident than he was a year or two back when under attack for his role in things like the disappearance and killing of Jean McConville.  In fact, for much of the interview he appeared rather statesmanlike, putting O’Callaghan in her place, namely on the back foot.

His continued absurd denial that he was ever in the IRA, which simply makes him look dodgy, was accompanied this time, however, by an attack on Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price.  Both had, in their last years, identified Adams as not simply being Belfast O/C but being specifically responsible for a number of actions including the disappearance and killing of McConville.  He accused both comrades Hughes and Price of lying about this and claimed they had lied about it because they were opposed to the peace process and viewed Adams as selling out.  How odd then, if Adams thought Hughes was a liar on this matter, to have pushed his way to the coffin at Hughes’ funeral and helped shoulder it for a photo op, attempting to create the impression that there had been a reconciliation between him and The Dark.

The interview reminded me that Adams is both the Shinners’ greatest asset and biggest liability.  Even in his mid-60s he is an imposing presence, almost supremely self-confident, presumably believing the myths that he and his closest sycophants have carefully created around him.  No-one else in Sinn Fein comes near him as a wily politician.  In a corrupt little statelet like the 26 Counties, he fits in well, in the same slimey tradition as de Valera.

However, his fantastic denials of even being a member of the IRA, let alone Belfast O/C, veteran (and dominant) member of the Army Council and, briefly, C/S, point up the liability he is for the Shinners, especially in the south.  It creates a credibility gap for Sinn Fein, as it edges closer to junior government status in the twenty-six counties.

Mesmerised by his dominant personality and the carefully-constructed aura of strategic brilliance, nobody in Sinn Fein wants him to step aside.  But the same kinds of questions about past killings, politically and humanly indefensible ones as well as defensible ones, will haunt the Shinners as long as the generation that commanded the Movement during the long war are atop the party.

Should we care?  On one level, no.  Sinn Fein, as an institution, is no longer part of our side.  On the other hand, there are some important lessons for socialist-republicans.  A crucial one is the debilitating influence of militarism and the long fallout from it afterwards.  Even now there is no shortage of republicans who still believe that primary involvement in politics is the source of betrayal and that militant armed struggle is the antidote.  But the reality made clear by the Provo experience is that today’s militarists are frequently tomorrow’s sell-outs.  From armalite to Armani, from guerrilla to Gucchi, is not a big step, if revolutionary politics are absent.


Posted on May 1, 2013, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, British state repression (general), Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Irish politics today, Political education and theory, Provos - then and now, Repression and resistance in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Toadyism. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Adams’ latest Prime Time appearance.

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