Not Letting Go

Anthony McIntyre writing for the Belfast Telegraph takes the view that Gerry Adams is intent on extending his political career rather than truncating it.

When Richard Blevins of Sky News tweeted Tuesday morning that Gerry Adams was due to make a significant statement at a party gathering in Meath, my terse tweet of a response was “he will not lead Sinn Fein into the 2050 general election”. It was a flippant but candid remark forged by decades of having observed both the political and military odyssey of Adams. 

Despite his dexterous yoking of the two Provisional horses, he has never shirked from cracking the whip in ruthless furtherance of his own longevity coupled with a relentless drive to the top of the greasy pole.

It would have been truly stunning had yesterday’s statement been of authentic significance, the occasion used by the corrosive old caudillo to usher in a creative young leader. Instead he primed the media with the announcement of something significant to come and then leapt onto the podium eagerly provided from where he stamped the party presidential imprimatur on an extension of his political career.

Yesterday’s speech was never about heralding any change at the top. It was simply spun that way with language like “planned process of generational change." The thing about Adams and processes is that they can take quite a long time coming to fruition and they are always conducive to his political career.

There has been no Sinn Fein policy shift in thirty-four years that was not at the same time advantageous to his political fortunes. His leadership skill rests in persuading his followers that his career interests are indistinguishable from the party’s. Somewhere in there lies Karl Kraus’s secret of the demagogue which is “to make himself as stupid as his audience, so they believe they are as clever as he."

Moreover, an iron grip on power is concomitant with the pleasure of command. People do not build up the type of political stamina that Gerry Adams has just for someone else to steal the thunder. In thirteen months’ time, when he shall be 70, he will have led Sinn Fein for half his lifetime.

Democratic parties where power is routinely transferred do not accommodate such uninhibited ambition. A plurality of thinking and interests, egos and sleights, invariably give rise to leadership challenges. The last leadership bid was made three and half decades ago by Adams. Since then, zippo. A party is in a state of torpor if it believes it is so talentless that only one person can lead it for almost forty years. 

Adams facilitated by such deference will see no advantage in standing aside. He has never yet addressed the underachievement of the IRA armed struggle, feigning in one newspaper interview that the Provisional IRA’s was the only campaign not to have ended in failure. His strategising has resulted in republicanism rather than the Northern state achieving the status of “failed political entity.”

To manipulate the historical record, tart up the republican failure as a success, and have his career placed on a victory plinth, no matter how poxy, Adams needs to showcase Sinn Fein in government North and South. In that way, he can spin it as some form of united Ireland, just not the one traditionally envisioned. Such chicanery is best served if Adams, the clandestine revolutionary, is Tánaiste rather than some former Fianna Fail member, like Mary Lou McDonald.

A gamble but not an unwise one. The likely calculation is that come the next election, given Sinn Fein’s willingness to play prop-up, Micheal Martin will come under intense internal pressure within Fianna Fail to row back on his no-coalition-with-Sinn-Fein stance. Presented with the tantalizing prospect of leading the government opposition to Sinn Fein will be much weaker than opposition to the Opposition benches.

At such a juncture, Adams would be foolish not to chance another spin on the merry-go-round. Sinn Fein might do better under another leader, but Adams does not need Sinn Fein to do very well, just well enough to get into coalition with him at its head. 

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

19 comments to ''Not Letting Go"

  1. Is it an iron grip he holds? I see a similar mentalities effect in the electorate of England, a lethargy and cynicism that there are alternatives to our current course. Douglas Murrays new (May 17) book actually details this from a Europe wide perspective on immigration, but I think his analysis on identity could equally apply to the Irish attitude to partition.

  2. DaithiD,

    I think it is an iron grip. It is underlined to some extent to recent references to the culture of bullying within the party. That culture comes as no surprise to us. You need merely look at the online bullying party members engage in to give you a feel for that.

    The party is clogged with top down control, is nit porous and does not breathe life into new ideas from below.

    Your perspective would have more traction if the same applied to every party - but SF alone have been led by one person for a third of a century.

  3. The Sinn Fein party is unlike any other political party on these islands, they don’t do democracy very well, and Adams is at the top of the tree because he is the leader full stop. Adams controls them in much the same way as someone controlled the Provo’s, it’s his way or the highway (pardon the pun).
    Adams and the Belfast hierarchy of the party control everything about the way the party functions, who else could control the party.
    Adams, since his trusted partner Martin Mc died has become something of a loose canon, Mc Guinness would have reeled him in but who is there to do that same job
    Observing Adams recently at their think in I closely watched his apparent successor Mary Lou as she sat there nodding in agreement as he told lie after lie, could she do the same job???
    Michele 0 Neill was selected to replace an ailing Mc Guinness who was thought to be an ideal heir to the throne but in reality she is only a mouth piece for Adams.
    So who will replace him , could Mary Lou stand in front of cameras and say that no one should be brought to justice for the murder of Tom Oliver, could she withstand the onslaught time after time when a new revelation came to light about what the Provo’s had done , someway I don’t think so .
    It would not be a surprise if Mary Lou was shafted fairly soon, she really doesn’t fit the Belfast criteria
    So in reality they don’t have many options, who could do the job Adams has done, when Adams finally goes I do believe Sinn Fein will implode they don’t seem to have anyone who could lead the party into modern politics, they are stuck with their militaristic system of which no one in the party could cope with except Adams because it was his creation, as the old saying goes, Its Gerry’s pitch ball and referee
    Or there again maybe Gerry has looked at his new found friends in the Monarchy and said well if my friend the Queen can keep her position for years and years then why not I her trusty loyal subject

  4. AM, its very conveniant for SF to have others point to a lack of progress on partition due to inertia at the top, whilst simultaneously promoting that inertia so the process never ends. Running with the hare and the hounds as someone once put it (haha), is not unknown to SF.

    I dont doubt the iron grip was true for much of my life (he was made president approx one year after I was born), and it suits those under his patronage to act as though this is so, but a lack of ideas and a forgetting an indentity amongs SF and the Irish public explain this cheerless march to mediocrity better in my view.

    If he left the stage, a disruption to the inert pursuit might be introduced, hence the process to establishing a process talk.

    It wouldnt surprise me if they do what my old Uni did with their founder, UCL still bring Jeremy Bentham (deceased) out to chair their faculty meetings (allegedly), he is kept on display in glass box for the students to observe otherwise (true story).

  5. Gerry and Big Ian shared the love of power. Or maybe they actually believed they were the best/only messiah of their people. Either way, Ozymandias comes to mind.

  6. PS Anthony, I say all this with the caveat the betting man should put there money on you being correct. But if we didnt tease these things out, then it wouldnt be as interesting for you. There is legitimate scope for different opinions on this, its an in exact science. I merely draw a parrallel with whats occuring across Europe with many leaders claiming to want to initiate policies different to what they implement, there is always some reason why they claim their hands are tied (for GA's iron grip in Ireland read EU regulations and bureaucracy on the continent).

  7. When you build a party on a cult of personality (although in GA's case, that almost sounds like an oxymoron given his lack of personality) succession or grooming leaders of tomorrow is rarely a priority - in fact it is a hinderance because they might decide to step up sooner than the demagogue would like.

    It is a testament to weak people who continue to surround GA who have never had the guts to stand up to him or oppose anything he has done but remain pathetic sycophants that his leadership seems as assured today as any time before and he continues to easily pupetteer his party faithful.

    I watched an interesting documentary on the former German Democratic Republic the other day and it strikes me that GA & PSF as they are today could give the Stasi a run for their money when it comes to manipulation & sowing the kind of mistrust that prevents leadership challenges or indeed any challenge to party orthodoxy.

  8. DaithiD,

    there is totally a legitimate scope for differing views on this issue. But I doubt the cult of personality is so strong in the other spheres you mention or the dissent so weak.

  9. AM, Douglas Murray lays out better than myself (faint praise indeed!), agreed there isnt really the cult of one personality parallel , but would disagree on the dissent one.Its very clear the way the worlds biggest ever censors in facebook and google wish to serve the European projects diversity aims, and essentially flag outlliers for assasination (character or otherwise), and this is the process by which limits to our discussion are agreed upon by our porcine overlords. Stunted language results in stunted analysis and ideas. This mirrors the SF republican death spiral I would think. Its like the west is walking around with sleeping dust in their eyes, blindly accepting the authority of institutions that work against their interests.

  10. wolfsbane, if you look at the rationale he used with respect to the catholic church as an institution in Ireland, Ian Paisley suffered from being ahead of conventional opinion on the island. Certainly many former republicans today have a harsher critique than he did, especially when it comes to evaluating child abuse or corpse disposal revelations (Tuam). (Clearly he didnt just stop at institutional critique, he used terms like 'breeding rats' to describe the Irish , I am not referencing or comparing these terms)

  11. DaithiD,

    it is a pity that Douglas Murray did not make the university debate with Medhi Hassan.

  12. The social heuristic "Don't break ranks" tends to be strongest in uniformed groups and in cults.

    When we consider Sinn Féin's links to militarism and with so many of the more active membership still proudly attached to those past connections then its not so difficult to understand why dissent is so weak and why such deference to the leader abounds.

    The tragedy is that the course of history seems so often determined by such unthinking 'moral' rules of thumb.

  13. AM, I wasnt aware he was due a debate, did he duck it? But from previous debates I have seen on the probable topic (Islam and the West), these debates are near useless. Those that argue in Islams favour follow a basic pattern with either some or all of :
    -denying the content of their books outright,
    -proposing there is a context by which problematic verses are misunderstood without,
    -proposing that the translation of the Koran a non-arabic speaker would need is a bogus version dismissed by most Muslims.
    - claiming their opponents have the same interpretation as ISIS that is not shared by most Muslims
    -claiming that Islam is no different in doctrine or practice that Christianity has been at various stages
    - claiming they want an open debate on Islam but claiming the bigotry of their opponents make it impossible for them, and they rely on the basic ignorance and need to be seen as non-racist in the audience.

    One thing I would love to ask Mehdi Hassan (or other) : can you give an example of a non-Muslims criticism of Islam that was appropriate in tone and content?
    Such that us idiots that cannot grasp the beauty of Islam might learn how we can begin this conversation that claim to desperately want. I would humbly submit I would wipe the floor with my opponent in any such debate (McGregror style confidence!), if employment afterwards was not an issue.

  14. DaithiD,

    he didn't make it but I doubt he ducked it. Don't know what the reason was. Medhi Hassan was powerful but I think it is really only against the likes of Douglas Murray can we test the strength of his position.

  15. DaithiD,

    Did you ever see Dawkins being interviewed by Hassan? Dawkins wiped the floor with him and still had a job!

    Get to it!!

  16. Steve, I think Dawkins has established a certain niche, Im just a nobody who would be swallowed whole by the SJW crowd. They contact peoples employers and their clients to smear them by association with the apparent transgressor, its very successful in getting people fired. Additionally, I want things to go wrong and reveal the truth now, and I want those SJW bastards to lie in the pyre they so assiduously constructed for others. It was 9/11 the other day, its worth reflecting on the progressive narratives trying to explain that event, highlighting that Canada & Europe were not hit therefore its American foreign policy that is their probable motive.Now even Finland is attacked, and we are told it might be because of lack of diversity on TV! The same bastards telling different lies and never having it put on them for doing so. I hate them so much, they have made themselves unlovable.

  17. DaithiD, to your request for 'an example of a non-Muslims criticism of Islam that was appropriate in tone and content?'.

    Dr. James White is totally open about his (Evangelical, Reformed) view that Islam is a false religion - but he has maintained a loving approach to Muslims. This is recognised and respected by many Muslims - as the imams who are willing to debate with him show.

    An example of the debates: Is the Quran the Word of God? A Christian vs Islamic Discussion

  18. DaithiD

    Yes, Paisley shared with the mass of Protestants in NI the belief that the RCC is a very corrupt institution, as well as being apostate religiously. We feared a UI above all on that basis. Those of us who grew up among our Catholic friends in the 50s and 60s saw the power the priest had over them.

    But as you say, Paisley responded to the Catholic people in a crude and fear-driven way - where he should have gone out of his way to advise and lead the Protestant community to move out of their defensive mentality and show the Catholic community that NI could really be for us all right now. To leave the UI/Union question for another day, to be resolved by purely peaceful means. Instead, he moved us to deeper fear, of a sell-out and the need to street politics and the violence that sprang from that. A tragedy.

  19. ps steve i should add, there isnt a political opinion I wouldnt disavow if it became to difficult to hold.Im loyal to my small number of friends, and my missus but there the only reason I would endure something for.
    Im just not of the same type as AM for example, he didnt learn from pulling back the curtain to reveal the republican Oz, he had to do the same in academia and a lesser extent journalism too! Im not that brave, and the bigger the political system, the more degrees of freedom (in the maths sense) it possesses, thus its harder to develop an emotional attachment to such things if not manifest through people.


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