Old Revolutionaries Do Not Retire They Just Fade Away With Age And Die

In November Mick Hall shared his views on:

Gerry Adams speech to Sinn Féin's Ard Fheis in which he announced he was standing down as the leader of Sinn Féin.

Without any doubt, Gerry Adams like him or hate him as many do is a remarkable man. He has been at the fore of the struggle to reunite Ireland and put right the wrong of partition for his entire adult life.

Not a man to place a noose around his own neck, the decades long insistence by his enemies that he admits his membership of Óglaigh na hÉireann(IRA) was always going to fall on deaf ears.

Nevertheless no matter what he has claimed, he has commanded the IRA at battalion level and served on and headed its army council.

His critics within the army made much of his lack of experience as a volunteer fighting in the front line. Adams' main talent was as a strategist. He uses large brush strokes: he doesn't do fine detail as
he had little talent for it, as was demonstrated when he stumbled over questions about the economy in the last Irish general election.

Armies need strategists in command positions as much they need grunts in the frontline. One of the greatest generals of the 20th century, Dwight D. Eisenhower, went through his whole military career without firing a weapon against an enemy. Like Ike, Adams also displayed excellent organizational skills, although I'm not comparing the two men's achievements. One put an army ashore in Normandy and plotted it's road to Berlin, the other stood an army down after he believed it had passed its sell by date.

An affable man by all accounts he has the ability to mix in yet stay aloof, which stood him in good stead when he was interned, and later as the Irish republican movement's leader. He possesses two virtues which are an asset to both politicians and generals, he is not a vindictive man and has great patience.

Adams unlike Zuma and Mugabe, both contemporaries of his, doesn't pick up trinkets and gold, he has little need of them to boost his ego as he is extremely comfortable in his own shoes.

While his critics within republicanism believe he betrayed the movement by ending the military campaign, when you ask them what would have been their alternative strategy - bar the one more heave brigade - most reflect the view of Kieran Conway, a former head of the IRA's intelligence department when he wrote in his book Southside Provisional:

In the end the IRA was unable to deliver the reunification of Ireland and it wasn't for the want of trying, yes Adams is a mendacious lying bastard. but what else could he be? For the movement could never have been taken in the direction he took without a bit of dissembling.

The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk, says Hegel, only when a shape of life has grown old can it be understood. Perhaps Adams; genius was to see it had grown old before the rest of us and to then to have taken things in the sole direction left. It must have taken courage and great self belief to choose the road which Adams took, because he of all people knew what awaited members of the organisation who were regarded as traitors, no matter their rank and service to the movement in the past. After all as an army council member he himself must have sanctioned a number of death warrants for just that.

When a former chief of staff Ivor Bell plotted a coup against the Adams leadership in the 1980s he was court martialled and dismissed from the Movement and told to stay silent under the threat of death. That Bell had once been close to Adams - some say he was his mentor in the early days of the war - didn't mean diddly-squat to Gerry Adams.

How will history judge Gerry Adams? It depends who writes it, but to my mind he was a freedom fighter in the Irish tradition whose time had past. It was to his great credit he recognised this and acted according. He knew this would stir up rage from within his own ranks, but he had in mind a far more pliable fellow who was willing and able to lie and manipulate the ranks of the IRA into accepting what Adams regarded as inevitable. Without Martin McGuinness's mendacity it's doubtful if Gerry Adams would have succeeded in turning the Provos away from war, war, to jaw, jaw.

One cannot help thinking if Gerry Adams were to write a 'truthful account of his life,' what a tale it would be, one cannot but hope he will do just that and leave it in safe keeping to be published after his death.

Revolutionaries do not retire when they grow old they fade away and die.

Mick Hall blogs @ Organized Rage.

Follow Mick Hall on Twitter @organizedrage

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Anthony McIntyre

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

6 comments to ''Old Revolutionaries Do Not Retire They Just Fade Away With Age And Die"

  1. AM,

    What do you make of Adams? I know your thoughts on MMG and Pinocchio Morrison but can't recall what you made of Adams?

  2. "...It must have taken courage and great self belief to choose the road which Adams took, because he of all people knew what awaited members of the organisation who were regarded as traitors..."

    It would appear those that crossed him had greater reason to ponder what awaited them than he did in this period.

  3. I find it difficult to square words like 'remarkable', 'talented', 'strategist', 'greatest generals', 'affable', 'great patience', 'not vindictive', 'extremely comfortable', 'genius', 'courage', 'great self belief','to his great credit', etc, with Adams. Perhaps he was ruthless in his self preservation.

  4. Mick

    apologies for initially diverging somewhat from the focus of your piece yet I feel I must take issue with the popular supposition of your opening paragraph. It is not a given that partition is or was a wrong that needed to be righted.
    The behavior of Unionists, before and after partition, was the essential problem rather than partition per se. Partition had been almost inevitable for over a decade before its creation but the British Establishment's ceding to a six rather than a nine county State seeded the discriminatory and supremacist regime that was to follow.

    In the larger political context, and as borne out by the historical time-line, the British Government had been unlikely to, and didn't actually, make concessions to southern Nationalists until northern Unionists were placated. And those concessions to southern Nationalist were broadly accepted as evidenced by elections in June 1922, which revealed the popularity of the treaty (78 per cent of the first-preference votes were for candidates who supported it).
    In the 11 months subsequent to that election the Irish Civil War ensued. It is significant that the treaty split centered on questions of sovereignty and the oath of fidelity (‘allegiance’) to the king rather than on the question of partition. (See The emergence of the ‘Two Irelands’, 1912–25: Michael Laffan, History Ireland).

    That Republicans persisted in their denial of a two nations type solution and enmeshed themselves in an emergent civil rights movement was and remains a grievous error which continues to cost the people of Ireland dearly. That Adams has led Republicanism away from this erroneous path however has to be welcomed. Welcomed no matter how reluctantly and no matter his motives. That said though, and as evidenced by the handling of the Barry McElduff controversy, I wouldn't be too inclined to pay much heed to anyone over-egging Gerry Adams' political nous!

  5. Anyone who mistakes Adams for an ‘affable sort’ can only be going on what they see on the tv. Behind the facade of ‘cuddly Gerry’, you are dealing with a highly dangerous and deviant narcissist, wholly devoid of empathy. That might sound over the top but it is a fact, as anyone who knows him would agree.


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